Congregational Church.–The Congregational Church was organized in Ferrisburgh January 26, 1824, in the town house, where its meetings were held up to the time of the building of the Union Church there. The members numbered at that time forty-four. Mrs. Luther Carpenter thinks Abraham Baldwin was the first minister, and preached in Ferrisburgh and Monkton. Allen Adanis was the first deacon. The first Sabbath-school was organized at the “Gage school house” (district No. 8) about 1828, by William Bixby, William Roberts, and another gentleman, all of Vergennes. The first Sunday-school superintendent was James Hodge. The Congregational Church in this town has never had a pastor, but has been “supplied.” In 1840 the “Union Church” was built by all denominations, at a cost of $2,200. Until the building of the Congregational Church at the Center in 1869, the meetings of the Congregationalists were held in the Union Church. The number of members now is about fifty-two-C. W. Wicker, deacon, J. Q. Adams, Sunday-school superintendent; average attendance at Sunday-school, forty. Mr. Harris (not ordained) preaches to the church at present. The church building cost $7,000.
Of the Baptist Church all that can be learned is that the Rev. John A. Dodge was set apart to the Baptist ministry as pastor over the church and congregation in Ferrisburgh November 15, 1821; a certificate whereof is recorded in the Ferrisburgh Records, volume ten.
September 14, 1827, William Walker, Benjamin Carpenter and Elam Hall, committee of the Baptist Church in Ferrisburgh, “in consideration of the love and affection they bear unto John A. Dodge, quit-claim unto him the whole of the right of land drawn to the first settled gospel minister.”
Meetings were sometimes held in the second story of the tannery building at Walker’s Falls, where Mrs. Ransom Beers remembers hearing Elder Dodge preach. The society never had a meeting-house in town; has but few members, and no minister residing here.
Friends, commonly called Quakers.–“At a Quarterly Meeting held at nine partners [N. Y.] The 14 & 15 of 11 mo. 1792, the Request respecting a Meeting of worship & a Preparitive meeting at Pharisburg on Concideration thereon is united with & establishes these Meetings and Directs that those meeting of worship be held on the First and Fifth days of the week, and those Preparitive be Held on the 2 Fifth Day in each mo. Extracted from the minutes by Aaron Hill, Clark.”
“According to the Direction of the above minutes have met this 10. Day of 1 mo. 1793, & opened our Preparitive meeting.”–(From records of the Society.)
Sarah Barker was the first clerk of the women’s meeting, whose name I find in the records I have had access to. I cannot ascertain the number of members at the time the meeting was established. Child’s Gazetteer says about one hundred, and that they erected a meeting-house that year. Both statements are doubtful. It does not seem probable that there were so many members then, and about that time a marriage ceremony was performed, according to Friends’ usage, in a log barn that stood a little south of the house now occupied and owned by Susan Rogers. If there was a meeting-house then, why was the marriage not in it? On the 5th of 12th month,’1811, “Cornelius Halbut [Hurlburt], of Ferrisburgh, and Timothy Rogers, of the town of Markham, on Duffin’s Creek in Upper Canada, deeded to Nathan C. Hoag, of Charlotte, and Jonathan Holmes, of Monkton, one and one-half acres of land for the sole use, benefit and behoof of the Monkton Monthly Meeting of Friends.” This is where the old Friends’ meeting-house stood, built, perhaps, some years before the land was deeded. It was a barn-like, two-storied structure with shingled sides, if I remember right, with a partition running through the middle, having movable shutters, that were closed during the progress of “meetings for business,” while the men-Friends and the women-Friends, always sitting apart, transacted the business belonging to either sex. The building was bought by the Orthodox Friends and utilized by them in the construction of their meeting-house in 1860. The rough old door-stones still lie in their old places among the many unmarked graves of past generations of Friends. There is nothing on the records that I have examined as to who were “recommended ministers” at this time. Whoever was “moved by the spirit” preached, and it was not uncommon for meetings of worship to be held in perfect silence. Joseph and Huldah Hoag and Clark Stevens were some of the early preachers of the society here. One day, while at work in his fields, Joseph Hoag beheld a “vision” of dire calamities that were to befall this country. It was thought by many then, and is by some now, to have been truly prophetic. Thomas R. Hazard, a prominent Spiritualist, has had it republished several times in the newspapers.
About 1818 a controversy arose concerning matters of Scriptural belief, and was attended by all the bitterness of spirit that religious dissensions usually are. It resulted in a separation. Of the members of this meeting two hundred and eighty-two took the orthodox side, one hundred and ninety-two the “Hicksite,” so called because Elias Hicks was the most prominent preacher of its unorthodox doctrine. It is not to be understood that there were nearly so many Friends resident here, but all were members of this meeting; some lived as far south as Shoreham, some as far north as Canada, some in Lincoln and Starksboro, some in Monkton and Charlotte, and all minors were enumerated, being “birthright members.” Both parties held to the fundamental principles of early Friends, the attendance on the “inner light,” non-resistance, plainness in speech and dress, testimony against hireling ministry, etc. Simply stated, the orthodox Friends were Trinitarians, the others were Unitarians. The latter continued to hold their meetings in the old meeting-house till 1843 or a little later, when their numbers had dwindled to a handful. Thomas Whalley was their last minister. The orthodox Friends built a meeting-house on land afterward, in 1831, deeded to them by Abraham Rogers, and situated near his dwelling house. It was a low and rather long structure, and from its peculiar shape, and perhaps from its holding “the salt of the earth” on First and Fifth-days, was sometimes called the “salt-box.” It is yet standing, but unused. Nathan C. Hoag, son of Joseph and Huldah, was a prominent minister among the orthodox Friends, and so were some of his brothers and at least one sister.
The Society numbers now sixty or more members, still holding to the name of Friends, but not to the forms, and hardly in the spirit that was adhered to and professed by early Friends. Their meetings are regularly held in their meeting-house on the main road, a little south of Lewis Creek lower falls. It was built in 1860 at a cost of $1,000. Seneca Hazard and Elizabeth Dakin are the oldest ministers.