Vassar Church History

Taken from The History of Tuscola County,Biographical Sketches and Illustrations, H. R. Page Co., Chicago, 1883. Transcribed by Bonnie Petee.

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Methodist Episcopal Church

In the spring of 1849 Townsend North settled in Vassar. The itinerant minister soon followed. The first society was formed by S. P. Lee, preacher in charge of Genesee circuit, October 14, 1851, and consisted of L. W. VanKleeck, Emily VanKleeck, Ebenezer Morse, Elizabeth and Harriet Gibbs, wives of Sabin and Orrin Gibbs. This class was afterward disbanded. In 1854 Charles Haines, preacher in charge of Tuscola circuit, formed a class of six members, which continued to increase in numbers, and has grown into the present large and flourishing church.

Vassar was connected with Tuscola circuit, and had preaching by the pastors appointed.

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to Tuscola, until 1863, when the name of the circuit was changed to Vassar, and J. H. Horton was appointed pastor. The services were held in the school-house until the Presbyterian Church was dedicated, and that church was used most of the time till the present Methodist Episcopal Church was completed. At the conference of 1867, by the unanimous request of the Quarterly Conference, J. O. Bancroft was appointed to Vassar in view of building a church edifice. At this time there were but thirty-five members in the church.

It looked like a great undertaking, but with the main business men of the town on the board of trustees, and the experience and indefatigable labor of the pastor and his wife, a substantial and beautiful brick church was completed and furnished at a cost of $7,400. It was dedicated to the worship on God, July 11, 1869.

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A Sunday-school was organized and has been carried on very successfully under the able superintendency of the Hon. B. W. Huston, for the last thirteen years.

In the winter of 1870 a great revival occurred under the labors of the pastor, Rev. J. O. Bancroft. During this, the last year of his pastorate at Vassar, he received 100 probationers in to the church. By the time of conference for 1870, the church had become strong, and Tuscola and Arbela were set off, and Tuscola became the headquarters for another circuit.

Rev. W. Hagadorn was appointed to Vassar in 1870, served three years; 1873, A. J. Richards; 1874, L. Barnes; 1876, R. Woodams, 1879, H. C. Northup; 1880, W. Hagadorn was returned.   His health failed about the middle of the second year, and at the conference of 1882, H. S. White was appointed.

There have been frequent revivals of religion since the dedication of the church. At the present time the church work is well organized. It has a large membership with ability to support the various institutions and enterprises of the church. The present membership is about 150.

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First Presbyterian Church

This church is one of the pioneer institutions in Tuscola County, dating back, as it does, to the first days of settlement, and its church building being the first regular house of worship in the county. Mr. Frederick Bourns, one of the charter members, furnishes the following very complete history of the society and its work:

"The First Presbyterian Church of Vassar dates back to the spring of 1855. About four years before this time the Methodists had organized a class, and the Rev. Thomas J. Joslin, who is now the presiding elder of the Flint District in this State, was the preacher in charge at this place. But there were a few Presbyterians here, even at that early day who earnestly desired an organization of their own denomination, and who, consequently, warmly welcomed the Rev. Justin Marsh, the synodical missionary of this part of the State, at that time, when he visited us in the spring of 1855. After consultation with those interested, it was decided to organize a church here to be called the ‘First Presbyterian Church of Vassar,’ and on the afternoon of April 12, 1855, the organization was effected, the meeting being held at my house. The names of the persons constituting this church were Mr. Joseph Selden, Mrs. Lucy Maxwell, Mrs. Jerusha White, Mrs. Hannah M. Bourns, Mr. John Johnson and Frederick Bourns. Of these six original members, two have passed from the church militant to the church triumphant, viz: Joseph Selden, who died November 20, 1860; and Lucy Maxwell, who died September 11, 1862. The other four have been spared to the present time. At this meeting Joseph Selden, John Johnson and F. Bourns were ordained as elders; the former holding the sacred office until his death, and the two latter up to the present time."

"Although our organization dates from the time just mentioned, we had no minister of our own denomination till near the middle of October, 1856, when after a correspondence with the Rev. George Winter, then living in the town of Brandon, Oakland County, Mich., he made us a visit and preached to us for the first time in the then frame school-house at the farther end of the village, opposite the tannery, where Mr. Moore now lives, a place that will always be well remembered by the church goers of that early day."

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"At the first meeting of the session of which we have any record, and which occurred on the 12th day of October, 1856, with the Rev. George Winter as moderator, two members were received into the church, viz: Mrs. Olive W. Selden and Mrs. Elizabeth Carr. About this time arrangements were made with Mr. Winter, by which he was to preach for us once in two weeks; we on our part pledging ourselves to pay him whatever we could raise by subscription, and which amounted, on an average to about $250 per year; which, considering he had to travel about fifty miles each way to fill his appointment, was, to say the least, a very reasonable salary. At the communion season on June 14, 1857, three more members were added to our little band, viz: Mrs. Ann Saunders and Mr. George Degroff and wife: and at the October meeting of the Saginaw presbytery in the same year, this church was received and placed under the care of said presbytery."

"During the winter of 1857 and 1858, we held our first series of revival meetings, which were well attended, the people coming from all parts of the surrounding country; at which time many were converted, so that during the following spring and summer thirty-one persons were received into the church, and nearly all of them on profession of their faith. Mr. Winter continued his labors with us until about the middle of April, 1862, during which time fifty-nine persons in all, were added to the church."

"It was during the ministry of Mr. Winter that we built the church we now occupy. A subscription for the purpose of raising funds was started in the fall of 1857, and met with very general encouragement, some subscribing money, other material, and still others labor. One of the largest donations received, if not the largest subscribed, was that of Hon. Townsend North & Co., who gave two village lots for a site and also $200 in money. Others were equally benevolent, according to their ability, so that in the summer of 1858 we proceeded to build, putting up and enclosing the building that same year. In the spring of 1859 we found that we had not means enough pledged to finish the building, and a second subscription was circulated, which, with a loan for $500 from the church erection fund of our denomination, enabled us to complete the building, which we did about the 1st of August, at a cost of $2,000 all told. On the 9th day of August, 1859, this church was dedicated to the worship of Almighty God. The dedication sermon was preached by the late Rev. William C. Smith, of East Saginaw, from Matthew, twenty-sixth chapter and eighth verse, to a full house. It was a high day for the people of Vassar when the first regular house of worship in Tuscola County was completed and set apart to its sacred use. The money we had borrowed from the church erection fund – and which they very generously lent us without interest- we paid back as fast as it became due, so that we were soon free from the shackles of debt, and with but small exceptions have remained so to this time."

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"After Mr. Winter left us, we were without regular preaching something over a year, when the Rev. Alex. Trotter, now the able editor of the Pioneer, was engaged to preach for us, which he continued to do regularly for more than two years, and occasionally afterward until the spring of 1866, when his labors with us ceased. During Mr. Trotter’s

ministry the church received a fresh impetus in social work, our ‘Ladies Aid Society’ being then organized, by means of which our ladies procured the blinds for our church windows. About the same time, and through the generosity of some of Mr. Trotter’s friends at the East, we were presented with a fine communion service. There were also ten additions made to our membership during Mr. Trotter’s ministry."

"Our next regular preaching was by the Rev. Edward B. Wright, who ministered to this church for a period of three months, in the summer of 1866, and who declined a call to become our pastor. We were then without preaching until August 4, 1868, when the Rev. S. N. Hill then of Birmingham, Michigan, and who is with us on this occasion, commenced his labors with us as our minister, at a salary of $699 per annum, and continued his ministry until about the middle of October, 1874. It was during his pastorate and by his efforts mainly, that a subscription of about $125 was collected, to purchase the first bell that we had for this church; which arrived in town November 16, 1867, and was first rung at the funeral of Frank, a son of Mr. James Gould, three days after its arrival"

"It was also decided, in the summer of 1869, to make some repairs and alterations in our church building, and Mr. Hill assumed the management and oversight of the work until it was completed, and notwithstanding the members of our society had aided our Methodist brethern this year, some $500 or $600 toward the building of their church, we paid out about $700 in repairs and rearranging the pews and pulpit of our own building. There were seventy-one additions made to our membership during Mr. Hill’s ministry. After Mr. Hill’s work closed, we were again without regular preaching until January 1, 1875, when the services of Dr. John F. Atterbury, of Detroit, were secured for a term of six months, which were ended the following July, at which communion season five persons were admitted to membership with us."

"On the first of September, the same year, the Rev. Joseph H. Reid, of Manhattan, Kansas, began his labors with us, at a salary of $1,000 per year. $200 yearly being furnished by the Home Mission Board. He continued to minister to us with very marked success until September 11, 1877, when the Master of the vineyard called him to rest. But truly his works, remain to praise him, as he left an added membership of forty to our numbers."

"After being thus suddenly deprived of a pastor, the Rev. H. H. Northrup, of Flint, very kindly came to our relief and supplied our pulpil until arrangements were made with our present pastor, Rev. E. P. Clark, formerly of Caseville, Huron County, Mich., to become our minister, who, after laboring with us one year with acceptance, received a call from this church and society to become its settled pastor, at a salary of $900 per annum, and to become increased as we should become more able; which call was duly accepted by him, and, on the 9th day of April, 1879, at a meeting of the presbytery held at this place he was duly installed."

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"Our church bell having been broken in 1877, in the autumn of the same year we purchased a new one, weighting 800 pounds, at a cost of $250, of Meneeley & Kimberly, of Troy, New York, which was put into position about the 10th day of December; and this bell, also, was first rung at a funeral, that of Miss Mary Myers, a member of our Sabbath school, who died at the residence of E. H. Taylor, Esq., of this place."

"During the war of the Rebellion eight of our number entered the army, and all returned safely save one, viz: brother Charles Jameson, who died November 16, 1863."

The present membership of the church is about 145.

The early history of the Sunday-school is given in another place. The present membership of the school connected with this church is about 200.

The pastors of the church, beginning with the year 1856, have been as follows, in the order given: George Winter, Alexander Trotter, Samuel N. Hill, Joseph H. Reid, Edward P. Clark.

The following named persons have been elders of the church: Joseph Selden, Freedrick Bourns, John Johnson, Joshua D. Smith, Thomas H. Williamson, Adoniram J. Leach, Joseph G. Selden, Lucius A. Park, William Johnson.

An interesting event in the history of this church was the celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of its organization – its silver wedding. These exercises occupied the two days of April 11 and 12, 1880, and were of a highly entertaining character, and participated in by a large number of people.

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Seventh Day Adventists

This denomination, which has now become quite generally known, numbers in Tuscola County about 150 church members. It was first introduced into the county through the labors of Elders I. D. Van Horn and D. M. Cauright, who pitched a fifty-foot tent in Vassar, in May 1865. After six weeks labor a class of some fifty persons was formed, who held meetings for a short time in Johnson’s Hall, and then removed to private dwellings, assembling for a while at the house of H. Decow.

The church was organized March 20, 1866, with twenty-five members; Edwin G. Doud being local elder. Preparations were made to build a house of worship in 1870, but the house was not dedicated until the fall of 1872. It has a seating capacity of from 250-300. It is finished in black ash, which proves to be a neat and durable finish. The house and grounds are free from debt. Meetings and Sabbath-school are held weekly, though there is seldom any minister present. The church has steadily increased in numbers, the present enrollment being forty-three, and the Sabbath-school of forty-one is in good working condition. The trustees of the church are, A. C. O’Reilly, clerk, Mason Smith and E. J. Smith.

There is a tract missionary society of twenty members, which has this year distributed $500 worth of tracts and papers.

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United Brethren

The Vassar Church of the United Brethren in Christ, in connection with the North Michigan Conference, was organized in 1880 by Rev. A. E. Seibert, under whose pastoral care it has continued to the present time. In 1881 a church edifice was erected at a cost of about $1,100. It is a neat, plain building, 32x44 feet in size, with a seating capacity of about 250. The present membership of the church is about sixty. The trustees are Richard Wells, Ezer Stevens and Richard Kibbe. A flourishing Sunday-school of forty members is connected with the church. Richard Wells being its superintendent. There is also a ladies’ nite society, the object of which is to raise funds for the needs of the church.

Mr. Seibert has also in his charge a class of eight members, organized this year, and a Sunday-school, meeting in the school-house in east Vassar, and another five members with Sunday-school, in the north part of the town of Tuscola.

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Episcopal Church

St. John’s Episcopal Society began to have church service in Vassar about August, 1880, having only four members. Rev. Mr. Todd, of Caro, visited the place once a week until the fall of 1882, when he removed from Caro. Since then his successor, Rev. Mr. Beaulien, has continued the work. Services are held in Ripley Hall every Tuesday evening, and Sunday-school every Sunday afternoon. The society is small, numbering only four or five members. A new chapel is being built, however, which it is expected will be completed during the autumn of 1883.

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Early Sunday-Schools

Mr. John Johnson gives the history of the early Sunday-school work as follows:

"It was about two years after the village of Vassar was about fairly started, when steps were first taken to establish a Sabbath-school, that the children of the few families then gathered in the woods might be instructed in the Word of God. It was in the summer of 1852, over thirty-one years ago, that this movement was made. A new school-house was being built, and during its construction the village was canvassed by Mrs. A. W. Sanders (still a member of the school in whose organization she took so active a part), to solicit the attendance of all interested in the Sabbath-school work, and to invite the children of the place to meet at the new school-house on a certain Sabbath, about the lst of August, two o’clock. The school-house was now just completed, and it is believed that this meeting was the first public gathering held within its walls. The number present at the organization is not definitely known, but there were in attendance during the first term of the school eight adults and thirty-one children."

"The name of the Vassar Union Sabbath-school was given to the organization, and Dr. Wm. Johnson was elected superintendent. Prior to the organization a subscription had been circulated for the purpose of raising funds to purchase a library. Five dollars were raised and forwarded to J. G. Selden, of Detroit, our present superintendent, to be expended in the purchase of books. Upon stating his commission to Mr. W. E. Boardman, the agent of the American Sunday-school Union, Mrs. Boardman informed him that she had funds in her hands to aid new schools in such objects, and she added five dollars to the fund. The books were forwarded on the 10th of August 1852."

"As there is no record of the school that I can find, prior to December 1, 1861, a period of nine years, a particular account cannot be given."

"The semi-annual report made April ’69 shows the maximum of the school membership, 205; average attendance, 155; divided into seventeen classes. On July 11th of this year the M. E. Church was dedicated, and from this date the name of Vassar Union Sabbath-school was dropped, each denomination maintaining its own school It is agreeable to reflect that the union had been one of pleasantness and good will to all, and its members have reason to look back and rejoice that they were privileged to have a part in it."

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May 1998

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