The Oldest Church in Colebrook

In 1802, the Monadnock Congregational Church was organized under the leadership of Rev. John Willard, a missionary affiliated with the Lancaster Congregational Church. This was the first church founded in Colebrook. For the first eight years, the new church was served by traveling preachers or missionaries. In 1810, they finally were able to call their first Pastor, Rev. Dyer Burge. They held worship services in the log, one-room schoolhouses in Colebrook and Columbia.

Around 1829, the land for the church’s first building on Main Street was purchased. A subscription drive was held by selling pews to raise the capital for construction. It took a couple of years to complete the new building and in 1831 was dedicated to the Lord’s Service.

In 1836, fifteen people from our church migrated west. They settled in Beloit, Wisconsin. Once there, they established the First Congregational Church of Beloit. The original Beloit church copied the architectural style of the Monadnock Congregational Church. In 1936, to celebrate the centennial of this migration, a service of commemoration and dedication was held in Colebrook. The tablet with the seven names of the charter members of the Beloit church was placed on the north wall of our church sanctuary at that service. Rev. and Mrs. Reynolds, Mrs. Mildred Corbett and Mrs. Doris Swail traveled to Beloit that year to bring greetings from their mother church.

In 1858, the original church building was remodeled. The pulpit was changed from a high one to a low one and moved from the front to the rear of the church. The pews were also turned around and the entire building was painted and varnished. Charles Parsons deeded the land on Parsons Street, across from the present day U.S. Post Office, to the church in September 1859, with the agreement that a home for the pastor would be built there. The Congregational Church “Parsonage” has been there ever since. In 1873, more changes were made to the church building. The square tower was taken down, the building raised a story, the present vestry hall was built, and finally, the vestibule and steeple, as they appear today, were erected. The Colebrook Town Clock was placed in the belfry at this time. A furnace was installed too, along with new carpets and chandeliers. In 1925, the present pipe organ was installed.

The work of this church has long been greatly helped by the aid of many different fellowship organizations. The Ladies Social Society was the first recorded one, founded in 1880. The Men’s Club started in January 1936, followed by the Monadnock League (younger women) in May 1936. In 1959, it was voted to merge all three groups to form the Monadnock Unity Club. Through the dedicated work of its faithful members, past and present, our church has been blessed with many gifts of love.

On June 2, 1967, a fire struck our church. The Colebrook Fire Department did a tremendous job and saved the building from serious damage. We pulled together and, over the next few years, reconstructed our physical plant, finishing it off to look like it does today, complete with new Sunday school rooms in the basement.

In 2002, we proudly celebrated our 200th birthday! On August 9, we hosted a public Smorgasbord Dinner, like the ones we held each August from 1957 to 1977. On August 10, we welcomed everyone to an open house at the Church with pictures to look at and time to visit. This was followed by a historical pageant that was written by Ellsworth Bunnell (church organist from 1945-75), directed by Stephanie Lyons, and narrated by Larry Clough. Then on Sunday, August 11, we celebrated a Special Worship Service, with the morning message brought to us by Rev. Shawn Stapleton, Pastor of the First Congregational Church of Beloit, Wisconsin, our daughter church.

Rev. Rebecca Larson accepted our call to be our next Pastor in October 2004. She and her husband Jerry have joined with our church family and the community of Colebrook to make this their new home.

Information provided by Brent W. Lyons, Church Historian