History of Holyoke's Churches

First Baptist Church, Holyoke, 1912

Rev. E.B. Dolan, Pastor

      This church, the second oldest in Holyoke, was formally organized at the home of Caleb Humeston, on Homestead avenue, October 5, 1803, where a society had been organized two years before. The first building was erected opposite the cemetery, near Ely Grange, in 1792, and traveling preachers used it until 1800, when the Congregationalists secured a third interest in it and it was moved north to where the Joseph Metcalf schoolhouse now stands. In 1826 this church felt strong enough to stand alone and erected a frame building on the present site. The church plotted and sold about three acres of land on the south side of South street in 1873, and in 1880 erected the present brick building and parsonage. In 1906 the addition was built. The present property is valued at about $30,000, and there are regular sittings for about 363 persons.
      This church has done its duty towards its neighbors. In 1826 it dismissed 28 members to organize the Northampton Church. Two years later 13 were given letter to organize the Chicopee Falls Church and in 1849 the Second Baptist Church of Holyoke was organized, 17 members going from here. The Beulah Baptist Church at Willimansett is a "granddaughter," being organized by members from the second Church in 1892.
      This was one of the six churches that organized the "Westfield Association" in 1811.

First Baptist Church
First Baptist Church

      The largest addition to the membership in any one year was in 1816 when 73 joined; more than the then total membership of 63—20 were baptized in one day. a record unbroken for 91 years. This was the first of several great revivals which converted practically every person in the district. Following this there were but 15 baptisms in 10 years—there was no one to baptize.
      In 1825 protracted meetings were held and 63 were added; in 1834 there were 48 baptisms and the following year the meetings were continued and 13 more joined, making the largest membership the church ever had—179—a record to remain unbroken for 70 years. In 1849 there were 22 baptisms as a result of revival meetings and in 1857 two laymen made a house-to-house canvass and there were 37 baptisms.
      Before this Holyoke had begun to grow, the Second Church had been organized in 1849, and the people literally "moved down town," not only leaving the church with nothing to grow on, but taking its members away. From 179 members in 1835 there was a steady decrease until 1879 when only 69 were left.

Rev. E.B. Dolan
Rev. E.B. Dolan

      As Elmwood began to grow, the increase has been constant. In 1907 the "Chapman Campaign" resulted in 32 joining the church—28 being baptized in one day—making the membership 220, the largest number since the organization of the church. The present membership is 238.
      This church has sent out five missionaries: Rev. Hosea Howard, to Burma, in 1834; Rev. Chapin H. Carpenter, to Burma, about 1858 (later in Japan); Rev. Stephen B. Rand, to Burma in 1869, where his sister, Mrs. Cornelia Rand Elwell, joined him in 1872, and Miss Lucy R. Gates to South Africa in 1882. It is said there is one missionary for every 77 resident members and 5,000 members. This church has had 17 settled pastors, 909 members, 5 missionaries, and has converted, baptized, ordained, and sent out to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, 8 ministers: Hosea Howard, Asahel Chapin, Dwight Ives, Hiram A. Morgan, Sumner A. Ives, Chapin H. Carpenter, Stephen B. Rand, and Walter R. Bartlett. It is a record to be proud of.
      The early history of the Sunday school is very incomplete. It was probably started in 1817 as a Bible class of men to "study the scriptures" with the pastor, Thomas Rand, as teacher. In 1829 there were 40 members. The first superintendent of record was Henry Archibald in 1832 when there were 10 teachers and 45 scholars—a large school then. This had increased to 60 members in 1862 and to 80 in 1877.
      Other superintendents were Stephen Chapin, William Gamwell, Cyrus Frink, Stephen Rand, James Chapin, Samuel Street, Caleb Humeston, and Newton Day.
      Parley Gilmore was elected in 1861 and served 15 years; Morris Ely served from 1877 to 1883 and John Merrick for ten years afterwards, during which the membership increased from 104 to 183. Thomas R. Humeston was elected in 1893 and served 17 years, and E.M. Osgood succeeded him in 1910.
      For several years Miss Julia Ives had charge of the primary department and in 1894 it was organized as an independent branch with Mrs. Thomas R. Humeston as superintendent, and excepting three years, 1896 to 1899, when Mrs. Mary N. Wilcox served, she acted until 1909, when Miss Lilla C. Ely was elected.
      In 1903 classes for men and women were organized and a year later the Home Department. Upon the completion of the addition in 1907 the Kindergarten and Junior Departments were opened.
      The first "Rally Day" was held September 13, 1903, with 277 present—the largest attendance ever recorded up to that time.
      From its organization up to the close of last year the women of the church have given $1,849,81 for Home and $1,315.08 for Foreign Missions. In 1829 a "Female Society" was organized and gave $7.76 and a pair of socks. Until 1870 the giving was almost entirely for home missions in the new West or Southern States. In 1871 a Women's Foreign Missionary Society was formed to aid in building a school for our missionaries in Burma, and $17.00 was sent them that year.
      The church records have not always kept the women's funds separately, but in the last nine years the women have given $887.09, while the church, Sunday school and various young people's societies have given $1,386.59.
      During its long history the First Baptist Church has been served by the following settled pastors: Rev. Thomas Rand, October, 1803-February, 1828; Rev. Henry Archibald, August, 1830-August, 1832; Rev. Ira Hall, May, 1835-June, 1838; Rev. Horace D. Doolittle, August, 1838—March, 1842; Rev. William L. Brown, October, 1842-April, 1846; Rev. Joel Kenney, August, 1846-May, 1847; Rev. Asahel Chapin, December, 1847-June, 1849; Rev. Mark Carpenter, April, 1850-April, 1859; Rev. George W. Gorham, May, 1859-December, 1863; Rev. J.H. Kent, June, 1864-March, 1866; Rev. J.L.A. Fisk, May, 1868-May, 1872; Rev. W.H. Evans, September, 1872-March, 1879; Rev. E.M. Bartlett, January, 1881-May, 1892; Rev. M.A. Wilcox, D.D., December, 1892-November, 1902; Rev. Jesse A. Hungate, April, 1903-December, 1907; Rev. J. Harrison Thompson, April, 1908-May 30, 1911; Rev. E.B. Dolan, September 1, 1911, until the present time.
      Rev. E.B. Dolan is president of the Holyoke Christian Endeavor Union, and is secretary of the Holyoke Ministerial Association. He was graduated from Brown University.
      Church officers: Clerk, Thomas Nye; deacons, A.K. Wheeler, T.R. Humeston, Alvan S. Clark, W.H. Ross, Henry A. Wheeler, advisory committee, the pastor, deacons, clerk, treasurer, Sunday school superintendent, superintendent of primary department, president of the Ladies' Aid Society, Mrs. T.R. Humeston, Richard Koehler, Roy J. Hunter, Mary A. Wood, Ellen H. Ives, Matthew Hopkinson.
      Society officers: Moderator, W.H. Ross; clerk, A.B. Goodyear; treasurer, T.R. Humeston; collector, E.M. Osgood.
      Prudential committee, H.L. Baldwin, L.F. Peck, W. Van Wagenen.
      Music committee, J.P. Ross, H.J. Hunter, R. Koehler.
      Missionary committee, Thomas Nye, A.S. Clark, R.W. Koehler, Ellen H. Ives, Lila C. Ely.
      Treasurer of benevolent offerings, A. Garside.
      Sunday school: Superintendent, E.M. Osgood.
      Y.P.S.C.E.: President, R.W. Koehler.
      Ladies' Aid Society: President, Mrs. W.J. Dumelow.
      Men's Class: President, Edwin H. Batchelor.

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