History of Holyoke's Churches

Second Congregational Church

Rev. E. A. Reed, D.D., Pastor

      Rev. E.A. Reed, D.D., recently completed 25 years of service as pastor of the Second Congregational Church. An appreciative people presented him with $2,000 as a mark of the gratitude which not only the parish, but the whole city feels for the service which Dr. and Mrs. Reed have rendered during their long residence here.

Second Congregational Church
Second Congregational Church

      This parish is the largest Congregational parish in New England and a few figures will prove illuminating. The parish (including Grace Church) has over 1,700 members. Last year in the number of infant baptisms it stood second in Massachusetts Last year $9,879.66 was given by the church in benevolence, and $12,000 was expended on home expenses. The total value of property and trust funds owned by the parish is in the vicinity of $900,000. The Bartlett fund, the income of which is used in the relief of children, amounts to $9,950; the Sarah E. Skinner fund is $5,000 and its income is for the relief of worthy poor; the Eliza Smith fund has a principal of $l0,562.92, and the income from this fund is spent for the relief of aged people, and this summer there was announced a bequest of $5,000 by Miss Nettie Blanding, the interest to he used in swelling both the foreign and home missionary gifts of the Second Congregational Church.
      Now for a glance at its charmed history. Previous to 1848 the Congregationalists residing in this vicinity worshiped with the First Congregational Church. In the summer of that year services were commenced in a schoolhouse on Lyman street, with Rev. A. C. Pierce as the officiating clergyman. The following year these worshipers used the brick schoolhouse on Chestnut street for a brief time, and then removed to Exchange Hall on High street. May 24, 1849, an ecclesiastical council was held to assist in organizing a church called the First Congregational Society of Ireland Depot, and on September 20 Mr. Pierce was ordained and installed. At first the growth was slow. In 1870 the year closed with the total membership numbering but 286.

Rev. E.A. Reed
Rev. E.A. Reed, D.D.

      The church early caught the missionary spirit as is illustrated by the fact that in 1850 money was appropriated to buy missionary maps This giving spirit has not been cramped by sectarian lines. When the Methodist Episcopal Church on Appleton street was built the Second Congregational Church gladly aided to the extent of $2,000, and it was largely through the liberality of certain members of this church that the Presbyterian Church was enabled to build its commodious church edifice. When Holyoke was incorporated as a town the present church name was adopted.
      A council held June 9, 1851, approved the dismissal of Rev. A.C. Pierce, who felt it best to resign on account of the pecuniary embarrassment of the church. Nothing could have sustained the wavering hopes of this church during those years but the timely and generous aid furnished it by the Massachusetts Home Missionary Society. For 15 years that society contributed to the support of the ministry here.
      The Hadley Falls Company gave a site at the northeast corner of High and Dwight streets and the first church building was dedicated July 27, 1853. "One of the finest churches in Western Massachusetts," it was pronounced by the critical. it cost $12,000, and it was patterned after the First Congregational Church of Manchester, N. H.
      Rev. Richard Knight was installed April 20, 1853, and resigned March 29, 1855. Rev. J.B.R. Walker was installed November 8, 1855, and resigned February 7, 1864. Rev. Lucius R. Eastman was installed August 30, 1865 and resigned May 18, 1867 Rev. J.L.R. Trask was installed December 4, 1867, and was retained two years longer than his three predessors combined, but on December 3, 1882, he preached his farewell sermon having established a record for length of service second only to Dr. Reed's quarter-century of noble leadership.

First Meeting House
First Meeting House of
Second Congregational Church
Skinner Chapel
Skinner Chapel

      May 17, 1883, Rev. M.W. Stryker was installed and remained as pastor nearly two years. He held notable mass meetings in the Opera House reaching many of the unchurched and during his pastorate the present meeting house of the he Second Church was built, and it was dedicated January 29, 1885. The cost of building and site was about $100,000. Mr. Stryker closed his work here April 12, 1885, and on October 18 of that year Rev. H.H. Hubbard began a year's pastorate, ever notable, because in that brief time he received 139 new members into the fellowship of the church.
      Dr. Reed, the present pastor, was installed December 28, 1886. Under his wise leadership this church has taken its place among the half dozen largest churches in the denomination. Twice during his pastorate Dr. Reed has welcomed the Massachusetts Conference of Congregational Churches, assembled in annual meeting. At the state meeting at Fitchburg Dr. Reed was the preacher. He has been president of the Connecticut Valley Congregational Club, and all the honors which Hampden County Congregationalism can bestow have come to Dr. Reed as by unquestioned right. No incident in his great pastorate has rejoiced him more than the recent completion of the Skinner Memorial Chapel, which has already justified its great cost, and proved itself a needed blessing to Holyoke.
      The Second Church has among many things stood strongly for the worship of God in noble music. Its organ has no superior in Massachusetts, and its organist, Professor Hammond, has rendered a notable ministry in the realm of sacred music. He has given 560 organ recitals, all open gratuitously to any that would come, and during the last Lenten season held in the Skinner Chapel a most notable series of Saturday afternoon recitals.
      For many years this church has had a city missionary on its staff and the present incumbent is Miss Mary Ruggles.
      The officers are as follows : Deacons, Edward W. Chapin, Wilbur C. Newell, Caleb J. Humeston, William A. Allyn, Edward C. Purrington, Charles A. Prouty, Guy H. Beman, Joseph A. Skinner, Frederick S. Webber, William D. Fortune, Frank B. Towne; church committee, pastor, deacons, Edward P. Bagg, Willis D. Ballard, Sidney E. Whiting, Timothy H. Fowler, William S. Stedman, John G. Clark; superintendent of Sunday school, Joseph A. Skinner; church clerk, Edward C. Purrington; assistant clerk, Guy H. Berman; treasurer, Willia D. Ballard.
      Officers of the parish: the parish committee, Arthur J. Newell, Arthur M. French, Nathan P. Avery; collector, William A. Allyn; treasurer, Henry C. Smith; clerk, Charles P. Lyman; sexton, John B. Haskell.

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