of Ryegate, Vermont
THE REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH. -ORGANIZATION.—REV
ALEXANDER McLEOD.—REV. JAMES MCKINNEY.—WILLIAM GiBSON.—" REFORMED
PRINCIPLES EXHIBITED" —REV. JAMES MILLIGAN.—PUBLICATIONS.—REV. JAMES M.
BEATTIE.—LATER MINISTERS.—THE REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH AT SOUTH
RYEGATE —THE FIRST OR GENERAL ASSEMBLY CHURCH.—REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN
CHURCH OF BARNET.—OBSERVATIONS.—THE RYEGATE AMELIORATING SOCIETY.
THIS church, whose members are locally known as
Covenanters, was, for nearly a century, very prosperous, and for much of
its prosperity it was indebted to the remarkable ability and long service
of its ministers. We have already traced the origin and growth of the
Reformed Presbyterian church in Scotland, and shown that the Covenanters
of Ryegate and Barnet hold as their inheritance the principles for which
their ancestors suffered in the times of the persecution. We have cited
from the town records its relative strength in the votes cast for and
against the settlement of Rev. William Gibson by the town. For some years
before his coming those who held Covenanting views associated themselves
in supplying the lack of gospel ordinances by mutual conversation and
devotional meetings. Among the early Covenanters who came here were Hugh
Gardner, Alexander Miller and probably others who gave their support for
some years to preachers with whom they were not wholly in sympathy.
In 1798, James Whitehill, who has been spoken of as the
father of the Covenanting churches in Ryegate and Barnet, came and settled
on the Witherspoon tract, to which he was followed, two years later, by
his brother Abraham. These brothers, who were men of good education and
deep religious spirit, holding from their youth the principles of the.
Covenanters and able to defend them, were the nucleus of the society.
Near the end of 1797, Rev. William Gibson, who had been
the pastor of a church in the north of Ireland, and who, being suspected
of disloyalty to the British government in the Irish rebellion, and
compelled to flee to America to escape arrest and execution, came to
Ryegate, and ministered to the Covenanting families of the vicinity
through the winter. He was followed by Rev. Alexander McLeod, a native of
Scotland, and an early graduate of Union College, who was destined to
considerable eminence in the ministry. Mr. Miller thinks that he was here
during several months of 1798 and preached in both Ryegate and Barnet, but
he seems to have had no intention of remaining. He appears to have won the
hearts of the people, and Mr. Miller says that in both towns no fewer than
twenty-four children were named for him. Dr. McLeod was long settled over
a Reformed congregation in New York City, whose church occupied the site
on which Stewart’s great store was afterwards built.
Toward the end of the year 1798, Rev. James McKinney,
of whom we have before spoken, came, and preached for some months. He was,
like Mr. Gibson, a refugee from the north of Ireland, and encouraged the
people to settle a pastor. A call, signed by eight communicants and
moderated probably by Mr. McKinney, was extended to Mr. Gibson and
accepted by him. He was installed July 10, 1799, as pastor of the
"Reformed Presbyterian Congregation of Vermont." Mr. Gibson’s settlement
was by the town, and as the first settled minister, he drew the
"Minister’s lot," indicated in the charter of the town by Governor
About the beginning of the century there came to
Ryegate several persons and families who had been compelled to leave the
north of Ireland on account of complicity, or suspected complicity with
the rebellion of 1798, and who were connected with Reformed congregations
in the old country. These proved a valuable accession to the Ryegate
church to which they contributed influential members during many years.
"For some years after Mr. Gibson’s settlement there
were no carriages in town. The only means of locomotion was on foot or on
horseback. It was not uncommon on a Sabbath morning to see the worshippers
some on foot and some on horseback, flocking to the house of God. A man
and his wife, each holding a child, frequently rode one horse.
Notwithstanding these difficulties many who lived four to six miles
distant from the place of worship were seldom absent on the Sabbath."
AUTHORITIES. Sketch by Rev. H. W. Reed.—History of
Presbyterianism in AmerjcaMr Miller’s notes and abstracts.—The
Covenanter.—Life of Col. David Jameson.—Mr. Milligan’s published
Works.—Letters from Rev. J. S. T. Mllligan.- Letters of Revs. Gibson and
Milligan to Gen. Whitelaw.—Personal information.
Mr. Gibson lived one year in the family of James
Whitehill, and then bought the farm on which John Ritchie, who came from
Scotland in 1784, had settled, and had partly cleared. He was a very
strong muscular man, who usually worked on his farm during the week, and
much of the heavy wall on that farm was laid by him, while he studied his
sermons as he worked. His discourses were carefully prepared, he excelled
in logic, and as a public speaker was thought to have had no superior in
this vicinity. He was a good classical scholar, and had pupils during his
An event of some importance during his ministry was the
ordination in the Ryegate meeting-house, June 25, 1800, of Rev. Samuel B.
Wylie, which was, as we have stated, the first ordination of a covenanting
minister in North America. Unfortunately no record account of this
interesting and historic event has come down to us. Mr. Wylie became very
prominent in the church.
Rev. Mr. McKinney, * who was
certainly present, was also from the north of Ireland, seems to have been
a classmate at college with Mr. Gibson, and they married sisters. He came
to this country in 1793, and in 1804 was installed over a church in
Chester Co.; S. C., where he died suddenly in September of that year. Rev.
Joseph Beattie, a half-brother of Rev. J. M. Beattie, and long a
missionary in Syria, was a grandson of Rev. William McKinney.
So far as is known, Mr. Gibson issued but one
publication while living in Ryegate, which is entitled: The substance of a
sermon preached at Barnet, designed to expose some dangerous Errors
contained in a Sermon lately preached and published in this Neighborhood—
"When the Enemy shall come in like a Flood," etc.
In 1806, Mr. Gibson and Mr. McLeod were appointed by
the Reformed Presbytery as a committee to publish an historical sketch of
the Reformed Presbyterian church, together with a declaration of its
principles. The result was a volume of 240 pages entitled, "Reformed
Principles Exhibited." The last part of the work is called a "Declaration
and Testimony," and consists of thirty-one chapters, in each of which a
doctrinal point is stated and fortified by arguments and scripture
citations, while certain errors under each point are condemned, and
testified against severally. It is, practically, two volumes bound in one,
and we have no means of knowing what portion of either was written by Mr.
McLeod, or Mr. Gibson. The full title of the first part of the work is as
"A Brief Historical View of the Church as a Visible
Covenant with God, in two books, the first exhibiting the Church
Universal, and the second the Reformed Presbyterian Church."
The title of the last part is:
The Declaration and Testimony of the Reformed
Presbyterian Church in America.
Mr. Gibson demitted the charge April 13, 1815. His last
years in Ryegate were not altogether peaceful, and in some letters which
remain he expressed himself with much bitterness against some who had been
at first his warmest friends. He appointed Robert Whitelaw as his agent
who sold his farm to Rev. James Milligan, by whom it was sold in 1819 to
John Hall. Of Mr. Gibson’s later career, and of his remarkable family, a
full account is given in this volume.
Mr. Gibson’s successor was Rev. James Milligan,
probably the most talented and eloquent minister Ryegate ever had. He came
here in the fall of 1816, and received a call, being installed September
Under him the church was very prosperous. He held,
also, the oversight of the societies in Topsham and Craftsbury, which
increased so rapidly that they were organized into separate congregations
in 1818, and 1820, respectively. His congregations in Ryegate and Barnet
doubled within a few years; his eloquence, and the high quality of his
sermons made him widely known. In frame he was large and his complexion
was dark, so that he was said much to resemble Daniel Webster. His
eloquence was of the sledge hammer variety, says Mr Miller, and his
sentences were ponderous and weighty. He was one of the earliest
abolitionists, and his utterances upon the subject of slavery were of no
uncertain kind. Mr. Milligan was a fine classical scholar, and taught
school while in Ryegate, also had private pupils. In his teaching he was
severe and exacting, but thorough. In the pulpit he was at his best, and
he often held his audience for hours. He introduced the order of Deacons,
and attempted to substitute singing of the psalms by rote, for the time
honored practice of "lining out." In this old way the precentor read one
line of the psalm, which the congregation sang after him, then another
line, and so on. This custom originated in old days, when books were few.
Later, the precentor read two lines instead of one. Mr. Milligan’s
attempted innovation created an opposition which led, it is said, to his
At a congregational meeting held about that time to
discuss the proposed change, an old Scotch man took the floor and said,
"that he could stand some things which had been done in the church as they
would soon be forgotten, but when it came to singing the psalms out of a
book he drew the line." "If" said he, "we begin to sing the sawms
out of the book, next thing we shall have Watt’s hymns and after that the
This controversy lasted during many years, as the
Barnet Session records contain the following:
A paper being presented with a number of signatures
praying that Session would sanction the mode of singing the psalms in the
congregation without reading the line, a motion being made that it was not
expedient at present to grant that request, and that opportunity be given
to those who are opposed to the above mode, to give in their reasons.
Mr. Milligan, however, persisted in the innovation, but
made enemies by doing so. During his ministry the Walter Harvey
Meeting-house was built in Barnet. Before that time they had worshipped in
private houses, and in a barn in the Roy neighborhood.
Mr. Milligan was a frequent contributor to the
religious press of his time, but only two publications have come down to
"A Narrative of the Late Controversy Between the
Associate and Reformed Presbyterians of Ryegate and Barnet, By James
Milligan. Danville, Ebenezer Eaton, Printer, 1819, p. p. 136."
In the following year he published, from the same
press, "A Plea for Infant Baptism." He resigned his pastorate, May 17,
1839. His extraordinary ability has been transmitted to a brilliant
coterie of sons and grandsons.
After Mr. Milligan left Ryegate, the congregation was
supplied a part of the time by several ministers whose names have not come
down to us. Mr. Milligan’s logical successor was his namesake, Rev. James
MilliganBeattie, who came here late in 1843. He was a graduate of Union
College, completing his theological studies in Scotland. He was ordained
at Coldenham, N. Y., by the New York Presbytery, May 28, 1844, and
installed in the Barnet meeting-house, over the congregations of Ryegate
and Barnet, on the 20th of the next month, by a commission of Presbytery
consisting of Revs. S. M. Willson of Craftsbury,
J. M. Willson of Philadelphia, and Andrew Stevenson of
New York, with ruling elders, William McLaren, Josiah Divoll, and Jonathan
Coburn. "Mr. Beattie was considered as of more than usual ability as a
preacher, pre-eminent in prayer, and an excellent manager of his people.
He was a very close student, writing out his sermons in full, and
committing them to memory. He preached one Sabbath in Ryegate and the next
in Barnet, and did not miss a Sabbath in 38 years, a wonderful record. He
was, for many years, a trustee of Peacham Academy."
Mr. Beattie was identified with Ryegate for forty
years, and enjoyed the confidence and esteem of the entire community, and
the adjoining towns. He contributed largely to the press, but left no
published work, except an historical sketch of the town for Miss
Hemenway’s Gazetteer. His delivery was attractive, his discourses
scholarly and clear, and in the preparation of funeral sermons had few
superiors. [Mr Mifler.]
He was stricken with paralysis in the pulpit on the
Sabbath, Jan. 29, 1882, and failed steadily till his death, March 9, 1883,
having resigned his charge several months before.
In his pastorate the old meeting-house on the hill was
abandoned for a new and more modern edifice, built in 1850, jointly with
the Gibson or Synod party of the Associate church, and which, in 1862,
became the entire property of the Reformed congregation. It contained
fifty-two pews, and made a Sabbath home for the church until destroyed by
Mr. Miller computes that at Mr. Beattie’s accession,
there were 113 members, and that 346 members were connected with the
church during his pastorate, in which he solemnized 102 marriages.
Mr. Beattie’s successor was Rev. Hugh W. Reed, who was
ordained and installed, Jan. 19, 1883, resigning Sept. 21, 1886, to become
principal of an Academy in Alabama. Mr. Reed married his wife in Ryegate
and a more complete account is given elsewhere of his labors and family.
He was succeeded in December, 1888, by Rev. W. A. Pinkerton, who demitted
the charge two years later, and the church has since been attached to the
Barnet congregation, under the charge of Rev. D. C. Faris. On the 16th of
August, 1890, the church edifice, which had been the home of the
congregation for nearly fifty years, was destroyed by fire. The church has
been greatly reduced by deaths, removals, and transfers to other
congregations, and there now remain but seventeen members, a small but
faithful remnant of what was once an active and successful congregation.
Mr. Gibson and Mr. Milligan acted as session clerks
during their pastorates, but the earliest records disappeared many years
ago. It is believed that James Whitehill and Hugh Gardner were the first
elders. Alexander Miller has been mentioned as an elder, but Edward Miller
does not speak of him as one. John Hyndman and James Caldwell, with Mr.
Whitehill are named as elders in 1824, with Samuel Allen "Assistant
Elder." This is the first entry in the earliest existing records. Later,
James Buchanan is mentioned as a "ruling elder." In a notice of Jonathan
Coburn, Rev. Mr. Beattie stated that he had been an elder about forty
years at his death in 1860. John McLam was chosen an elder about 1835, and
William McLaren is mentioned as holding the office about that time, and
for many years afterwards. Robert Dickson was also an elder, but the date
of his ordination does not appear. Robert Dickson, Jr., and James McLam
were ordained Nov. 26, 1867, and John McLam, Jr., ordained deacon. On
Sept. 18, 1886, John, H. Welch and Robert H. Gates were ordained as ruling
elders, and at the same time James M. Doe and James W. Eastman were
Mr. Miller gives as session clerks after Mr. Milligan:
William McLaren, William Bone, Duncan Ritchie and Robert H. Gates.
THE REPORMED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH AT SOUTH
During the pastorate of Rev. James
Mulligan over the Reformed Pres— byterian congregation of Ryegate, a
division arose in that branch of the Presbyterian church with which the
Ryegate congregation was, and is still connected, respecting the use of
the elective franchise. One party maintained that those who took oaths,
under the constitution of the United States, contrary to the expressed
principles of the Covenanters, and voted at town, state, and national
elections, ought to be subjected to the discipline of the church, while
the other party maintained that such exercise should be a matter of
forbearance. Those who held the latter view increased in numbers, arid the
ultimate result was the formation of two separate synods, each claiming to
be the synod of the Reformed Presbyterian church. This division occurred
in the year 1833. The influence was soon felt in Ryegate, and there were
those in Mr.. Milligan’s congregation who dissented from his views
regarding the federal government under the constitution, and after his
removal the division increased, till, in 1843, the congregation was
divided, those who held the more advanced views being called New School
Presbyterians, and, locally, as the "New Lights." This division, like most
religious divisions, was accompanied with some bitterness of feeling and
The new congregation was recognized as
the Reformed Presbyterian Congregation of Ryegate, in connection with the
General Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America.
As nearly as can now be ascertained, the
first meeting of the new session was at Dr. Perry’s house at the Corner,
Aug. 11, 1843. Dr. Perry, who was one of the leaders in the new movement,
had been more than once under censure for having been present at an
election, using his influence in favor of a particular candidate, although
it does not appear that he actually voted. The members present were Dr.
Perry, Robert Symes, John McClure, and William Buchanan. Rev. Dr. Wylie,
who was present, took the chair as moderator. Dr. Perry was chosen clerk.
Rev. Dr. McLeod was present, and took part. Jean Buchanan, James McClure,
Thomas Smith and Martha Jane Donaldson were admitted to membership in the
church. The session was adjourned with prayer by Dr. McLeod. The second
meeting of the session was held Feb. 8, 1844, with Rev. S. C. Beat tie as
moderator. On the 5th of January following, a meeting was held, with Rev.
Gifford Wylie in the chair.
AUTHORITIES. Historical sketch by Rev. John
Bole, in 1861 .—Sketch by Rev. W. A. Pollock.—Mr. Miller’s notes.—Session
records, and personal information, by Rev. Wm. Wylie and others.
There is no record of any other meeting
of session until Aug. 30, 1847, when one was held at the house of John
McClure. About a year later, a meeting was attended at the "old meeting
house," of which Rev. Mr. Patterson was moderator. On the 30th there was a
congregational meeting, at which a unanimous call was made to Rev. Robert
A. Hill to become pastor of the church.
It is understood that previous to that time, preaching
had been held in the old meeting house at the Corner, and in school houses
in other parts of the town, and in Newbury and Barnet. Mr. Hill was
ordained and installed in 1848, and remained upwards of three years. He
was an able and devoted pastor, generally esteemed for his excellent
personal qualities, as well as for his ability as a preacher. During his
ministry the present house of worship was built. At that time South
Ryegate contained only five dwelling houses, but there was no church
building in that part of the town, and it was also convenient for the
attendance of several families in Newbury who were connected with the
it would appear that meetings were also held in Barnet,
as the session met in that town, Sept. 29, 1849, when nine persons were
admitted as members, and on June 19, 1851, at the "Union Meeting House in
Ryegate," when "Peter Buchanan and Archibald Bachop, elders from Barnet,"
met with the Ryegate elders. [NOTE. The Barnet congregation was organized
in 1847 and Mr. Bole was ordained pastor of "the congregations of Ryegate
and Barnet." In 1854 Mr. Bole demitted the charge of the Barnet
congregation, which is not now in existence.]
Mr. Hill demitted the charge in 1852, and in 1853, Mr.
John Bole came here from Scotland and began preaching, received a call,
and was ordained and installed December 24th of that year. The
congregation is then mentioned as under the care of the Northern
Presbytery of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. Mr. Bole was very
successful in his ministry, and was considered one of the most able
ministers in this part of the state. A more complete account of Mr. Bole
and his family ap— pears later. He resigned his charge June 2, 1862. At
that time there were 135 members on the church roll.
Rev. Wm. J. McDowell began his labors early in the
following year, and was installed June 17, 1863, and began a faithful and
successful ministry of ten years, resigning in 1873.
During the interval between his resignation and the
installation of Rev. J. H. Kendall, July 13, 1876, the church was supplied
by several ministers, and in that time occurred the disruption and the
formation of another church, to which over 30 members withdrew. Mr.
Kendall’s ministry was a successful one, and closed Jan. 1, 1886. Later
pastors have been: Rev. Samuel A. Jackson, Jan. 1, 1892-May 1, 1901; Rev.
J. H. McArthur, 1901—1905; Rev. Wm. A. Pollock, July, 1907, to date. With
the possible exception of Mr. Hill, more complete sketches of each of
these ministers will be given later.
The first absence of an elder from session meetings in
twelve years was Feb. 12, 1855, when Mr. Synies was absent. In June, 1855,
Wm. McLaughlin and Wm. McClure were chosen elders, and on June 30, 1858,
the name of Andrew Laughlin first appears. Dr. Perry met with the session
for the last time June 1, 1865, having been clerk for 22 years. Rev. Mr.
McDowell served as clerk for three years.
On April 25, 1867, John Smith, Andrew Dunnett, T. J.
McClure and James Dickey were elected. Mr. Dickey was chosen clerk, Aug.
27, 1868, and served seven years, followed by Andrew Dunnett who served
six years. John McClure was a member of the session 32 years, and there is
no record of his being absent from any meeting in that time.
Oct. 27, 1876, Robert Henderson, John A. Miller, James
Renfrew and Andrew Wylie were chosen. The first mentioned was chosen
clerk, Oct. 6, 1881, served about eight years, and was a member of session
On March 24, 1889, Andrew Buchanan, Wm. T. George, and
Wm. A. Gibson were ordained elders, and Mr. Buchanan was chosen clerk,
serving 18 years, having been a member of session 21 years.
Feb. 19, 1876, M. F. McDonald, J. D. Grant, and Wm. N.
Gilfillan were chosen, and on Jan. 27, 1910, Donald A. Morrison, James
Vance and Chas. H. Grant were chosen elders. Mr. Gilfillan was chosen
clerk Aug. 17, 1907, and by his patient research we are informed of the
names of the elders and their dates of accession, as far as they can be
ascertained. The membership of the church is now about 80 and it is
supposed that about 500 persons have been members of the church. At a
meeting called for that purpose Feb. 3, 1909, the church voted to become a
United Presbyterian church and to enter the Vermont Presbytery of the
same. The change was completed June 8, 1909, at a meeting of the U. P.
Presbytery of Vermont which met at St. Johnsbury, W N. Gilfillan being
commissioner acting for the congregation in conjunction with the pastor,
Rev. W. A. Pollock.
The first congregational meeting recorded was held at
South Ryegate, Aug. 13, 1848, at which William and James McClure of
Ryegate, William Graham of Barnet and James Halley of Newbury were chosen
trustees. The present trustees are Tait Ritchie, D. A. Morrison, Edgar
Taplin, George Beaton, F. J. Doe, and George Lackie. William McClure was
clerk of congregation more than eighteen years, his successors being A.
Buchanan, John Henderson, F. J. Doe, W. T. George and C. H. Grant. The
present Sunday school superintendent is C. H. Grant; assistant, Tellis
Cole; secretary, I. H. Gillillan; assistant, Edith Lackie; treasurer, Mrs.
C. H. Grant. The Sunday school is comprised of several
departments. Connected with the church is a Christian Endeavor Society,
with a junior department, and a Ladies’ Aid Society, which supplements and
amplifies the general work of the church.
THE FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHtJRCH. [From Historical Sketch
by Rev. W. S. Wallace.]
The youngest church in Ryegate, which is known by the
above name, and locally called the "new" church, was organized by the
Presbytery of Boston, Nov. 11, 1875, and is affiliated with the General
Assembly branch of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, which is
the largest and most influential of the churches in this country which are
embraced under the name Presbyterian.
The foundations of the church in America were laid by
Francis Makenzie, a native of Ireland, but educated in Scotland, who began
his work in America with the organization of the Presbyterian church at
Snow Hill, Maryland. The first Presbytery was formed in 1705—’06, at
Freehold, N. J., the first Synod was instituted in 1717, and the first
General Assembly met at Philadelphia in 1787.
The local church was the organized expression of the
desire on the part of many in the "Old," or Reformed Presbyterian church,
for more personal liberty in worship, especially in the offering of praise
to God in the use of Hymns as well as Psalms The members of the original
session were Samuel Mills, Sr, Robert Dalrymple, James Arthur, Wm John
Nelson, James Davidson and James Dickey. Soon after its organization it
reported 53 members. At that time Rev. F. S. Finney was supplying the
pulpit, and services were held in the depot hall until the erection of the
Rev. John Loyd was pastor from June, 1878 to Sept.
1879; Rev. Mr. Boyd was stated supply for a short time; Rev. James W.
Flagg was installed June, 1882, and resigned in 1887; Rev. Charles K.
Canfield was pastor from 1888 till his death here, March 18, 1891; Rev. J.
J. Hall was installed Nov. 3, 1871, and resigned in the spring of 1899 and
was succeeded in Jan. 1900, by the present pastor, Rev. Wm. Seward
Wallace, who was installed in the May following. More complete accounts of
the life and work of these pastors are given elsewhere.
The present house of worship was erected in the summer
of 1880, and dedicated near the close of the year, the building committee
being Dr. J. B. Darling, George Cochran and James White. In 1885 a
congregational meeting appointed James White, M. F. Sargent and Josiah A.
Keenan a committee to purchase land and erect a parsonage, which was
completed under the direction of William J. Nelson, Mr. White and Mr.
Keenan. In 1895 largely through the instrumentality of the Endeavor
Society, under the direction of a committee composed of J. D. McAllister,
Miss Marion Hall, and George Cochran, a commodious vestry was added to the
church. Within the past twelve years the church has been repainted,
repaired and fitted with electric lights; the vestry has been re-arranged
and re-fitted, the parsonage renovated, and other improvements made.
Two strong auxiliaries of the church have been the
Endeavor Society and the Ladies’ Aid Society. The former was instrumental
in building the vestry, and the latter has raised and expended $3,200,
more than one-half this sum within ten years.
The elders chosen at the organization of the church
were: Samuel Mills, Robert Dalrymple, James Davidson, James Dickey, James
Arthur, Wm. J. Nelson. Those of later election have been: 1879, W. J.
Henderson and Josiah A. Keenan; 1889, Andrew Wylie, A. H. Park; 1890, F.
R. McColl and W. A. Davidson; 1893, H. J. Park; 1896, D. H. Eastman; 1900,
Wm. Stephen; 1901, Alexander Renfrew; 1908, N. A. Park; 1909, A. R. Bone.
The first deacons were: W. J. Henderson, T. W. Smith,
Robert Nelson, W. J. Nelson, Robert Cochran and Josiah A. Keenan. Their
associates and successors have been: 1880, George Cochran, Albert Hall, M.
F. Sargent, M. H. Randall; 1883, F. R. McColl; 1889, J. D. McAllister;
1895, William Terry; 1901, Archibald Park, N. A. Park; 1902, Orange
Morrison, Alex. Beaton, Edwin Henderson; 1905, C. K. Gibson; 1909, Ernest
The Sunday School superintendents, with the year of
assuming service, have been: 1876, James Dickey; 1877, George Cochran;
R. McColl; 1891, Wm. Terry; 1892, N. A. Park; 1894, H.
J. Park; 1900, F. R. McColl; 1906, Wm. Stephen; 1907, F. R. McColl.
The superintendents of the primary department: 1895,
Mrs. J. J. Hall; 1897, Martha J. Park; 1899, Jennie Craigie; 1902, Mrs. G.
H. Roben; 1904, Mabel Hall.
THE REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF BARNET.
This society, locally known as the Walter Harvey
church, is entitled to a place in the annals of Ryegate, as its house of
worship is just across the Barnet line on the Hazen road. Many of its
congregation reside in this town, and it is an offshoot of the Reformed or
Covenanter church at Ryegate Corner. Rev. D. C. Paris, its pastor, has
prepared an historical sketch of the church, and most of the particulars
herein given are from his manuscript.
Before the erection of the church building, services
were held by Revs. Gibson and Milligan in Barnet, sometimes in dwelling
houses and sometimes in a barn in the Roy neighborhood. About 1830, steps
were taken for building a meeting-house and a half acre of land was
secured from Walter Harvey who lived directly opposite, and the building
has since gone by the name of the "Walter Harvey Meeting House," and the
burial giound which is near as, the "Walter Harvey Cemetery."
The building was framed early in the spring of 1831,
much of the work being given. John Hunter was the master workman. A
disaster occurred at the raising, which was about the 1st of April. The
frame of the body of the house was raised without accident, but when the
roof timbers were piled upon the beams, the latter were not sufficiently
propped, and gave way under the weight; all the men who were on the frame
fell to the ground, mingled with the falling timber. Matthew Holmes, a
promising young man in his 21st year, was so badly injured, that he died
from his injuries, and from unskillful treatment of them, six weeks later.
John Stewart, John Laughlin, David Wormwood, Isaac Moore and others were
badly hurt, but recovered. The building was completed in that year. It has
never had steeple or bell. In 1874 and 1891, extensive repairs were made,
the old pews with their doors were removed, a new pulpit set and other
changes were made and the interior modernized.
During the last year of Mr. Milligan’s pastorate, and
for thirty-three years afterward services were held alternately in this
building and in the church at the Corner, the members owning pews and
attending services in both churches, and the congregation was known as
Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ryegate and Barnet. Rev. J. M. Beattie,
who lived at the Corner did not fail an appointment in Barnet for
In the year 1872, a petition for a new organization to
worship in the Walter Harvey Meetinghouse was presented to the session, on
April 29th and transferred to Presbytery, as was, also, on May 12th, a
remonstrance against that petition. The petition was, however, after due
hearing, granted by that body and a commission of Presbytery met in the
church to effect the organization. Seventy persons who, on July 8th were
certified by the session of Ryegate and Barnet, together with three
others, were organized July 9th, into a new society known as the "Barnet
Congregation." Rev. Mr. Beattie remained pastor of the church at Ryegate
till released May 7, 1872.
The elders of the new organization were James and
Robert McLam and Alexander Shields; the deacons were James McLam, William
White-hill and Robert W. Laird. Of the members at least thirty-seven were
residents of Ryegate, twelve of Groton, nine of Peacham, eight of Bar-net,
and five of Monroe, N. H.
The congregation was supplied by the Presbytery for
some months, and in March, 1873, Mr. Daniel C. Fans came, received a call
to become pastor on April 29th, was ordained and installed June 25th, and,
still in charge, has held a longer pastorate than any other minister in
this part of New England. The son of Rev. James and Nancy (Smith) Fans, he
was born near Bloomington, lnd., June 21, 1843, graduated from Indiana
State University, 1863, taught one year in a Freedman’s school near
Natchez, Miss., attended the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary at
Alleghany, Pa., four winters, and was engaged in home missionary work and
the supply of vacant churches till his settlement in Vermont. He married
Nov. 15, 1870, Miss Mary A. Russell of Round Prarie, Minn.
Besides the elders chosen at its organization, the
office has been held by David Lang, William Whitehill, A. W., and J. A.
McLarn, William M. Hunter, James Shields and John Gates. The following in
addition to those chosen at the beginning have served as deacons: A. W.
W. S. Orr, J. R. Hunter, W. A. Whitehill, W. J.
Caldwell, J. C. Morrison and E. S. Manchester. Of the present members
thirteen live in Ryegate, fourteen in Barnet, fifteen in Peacham, and the
others in various places. Robert McLam was clerk of session till Dec. 19,
1879, since which date A. W. McLam has been clerk.
A Sunday School has been sustained from the first,
nearly all the congregation being members of the school; David Lang was
superintendent till Nov. 1, 1875, Robert McLam for some time and since
that, the pastor.
This congregation retains more of the customs of the
ancient Covenanter churches in Scotland than any other in this vicinity.
The old Scotch version of the Psalms is sung without accompaniment; the
communion service is held twice in each year, consisting of meetings on
four days besides the Sabbath, and "tokens," as in the old days in
Scotland, are still used on those occasions, in which the pastor is
assisted by a Covenanting minister from another congregation. Some of the
most prominent clergymen in the denomination have been his assistants on
"This congregation has from its beginning always
loyally maintained the dominant principles of the Covenanters faith, viz:
That Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church and Head over all things to
the Church, and that His will as revealed in the Bible, a supreme law for
all mankind, for the individual, the family, the church and the state, and
that the individual cannot be morally bound by any law that requires the
violation or ignoring of the law of God."
Societies and organizations for the advancement of
various causes there have been in Ryegate from early days. The Ryegate and
Barnet Anti-Slavery Society was in existence as early as 1825, Rev. James
Milligan being President. A temperance organization of some kind was
addressed by Rev. David Sutherland in 1817, according to a report of the
occasion in the North Star. But how many people now living ever
heard of the "Ryegate Ameliorating Society?" Yet such a society did exist,
and was formed Sept. 21, 1825, with Rev. James Milligan, President; Rpbert
Whi.telaw, Vice President; James Whitelaw, Secretary; Dr. Eli Perry,
Treasurer; with Hugh Laughlin, Miss Mary Orr, James Esden Pea. James
Whitehill and William Whitelaw as managers. Its records show that
sixty-three persons were members during that year, and $35 was subscribed
for the objects of the society. The title of their organization would seem
to imply that conditions existed in Ryegate at that day which needed
ameliorating, and such conditions may still exist. But we are informed by
the constitution of the Society that the object was the amelioration of
the condition of the Jews, although we are not informed that the Jews in
Ryegate were in especially desperate circumstances at that date. It seems
to have been auxiliary to a parent society, to which the funds were to be
remitted. There is no record of proceedings after April 3d, 1826, by which
we may suppose that the condition of the Jews in Ryegate needed no further
This society was, however, the local manifestation of a
movement which was made about that, time toward the amelioration of the
condition of the Jews in Europe and their conversion to Christianity. A
publication called "Israel’s Advocate," had several subscribers among the
members of the Association.
NOTE. After this chapter was printed the following
concerning the building of the Walter Harvey Meeting House was discovered
in the North Star for Jan. 18, 1831, by Herbert H. Roy of Barnet.
"NOTICE: It is proposed to build a framed Meeting House
near the house of Walter Harvey in Barnet, to be 48 by 40 feet. Any person
wishing to contract for the whole or any part of the building of the same,
can see the plan and terms at the house of the aforesaid Walter Harvey any
time until the 28th day of January, instant, at 11 o’clock, forenoon, at
which time the job will be let. Offers to be made in writing.
WALTER HARVEY, }
WM. OLIVER, } Directors.
WM. HARVEY, J }
Barnet, Jan. 7, 1831."
NOTE. In addition to the elders and. deacons of the
Reformed Presbyterian church records discovers the following: Mr. Miller
mentions William Orr as a "Covenanting elder," James Beattie was a deacon
from a very early date till his death, Charles B. Hazen was ordained
deacon Feb. 2, 1860. and elder Nov. 10, 1872, and at the
latter date William Bane and Samuel W. Clark were made elders. In Jan.,
1877, David Lang was ordained an elder, William Whitchell was also a
deacon and seems to have been chosen in 1869, Duncan Ritchie and John
Davidson were made elders Dec. 5, 1880.