Laconia Congregational Church, 1931, Historical Sketch
The Congregational Church of Laconia, originally known as the Meredith and Gilford Congregational Church, was organized on July 26, 1824, with nine members, six of whom were named Jewett.
Mr. Francis Norwood, a student at Andover Theological Seminary, had begun preaching on June 28, 1824, in a meeting-house which the Meredith Bridge Religious Society had built in 1811 for the use of Christians of all denominations. This was located on the south, or Gilford, side of the river, between the hotel recently used by the Odd Fellows as a club house and the present Elks Home.
On May 2, 1825, the Meredith and Gilford Congregational Society was incorporated and united in calling Mr. Norwood, then graduating from the Seminary, to become the pastor. The salary was S450, the local organization receiving "liberal aid" from the Massachusetts Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and the New Hampshire Missionary Society.
On the last day of February, 1836 the first meetinghouse was burned, and on June 6 of the same year the Meredith Bridge Religious Society laid the corner-stone of a new building where Church Street now joins Main Street, and issued stock in shares of f25. to pay for the same.
On January 5, 1837. the Meredith Bridge Congregational Society was incorporated and In July the stockholders of the former organization turned the building over to the new society. The lot on which the church stood was given by Stephen C. Lyford at this time. The Congregational Society had the pews appraised at a value high enough to cover the cost of the building, about $5,100. and the pews were sold at auction, the bids being for choice at the appraised value. The former stockholders, in paying for their pews, were credited with the amount which they had previously subscribed.
The name of the corporation was changed to "The Laconia Congregational Society" on November 15. 1860. In 1871 the church was raised about six feet to make room for a vestry underneath, and the tower was replaced by a tall spire. With other alterations and improvements
this meeting-house was used until 1903, when the land on which it stood was condemned by the city, May 25, for the purpose of widening Church Street and squaring the library lot. Then, the pew-owners having surrendered all their rights in the building, it was sold to the Christian Church Society and removed to Depot (now Veterans') Square, where It stands today.
In 1903 the B. M. Sanborn homestead on Church Street was purchased as the site for the new Congregational Church and this house was used during the following winter for parish purposes, the Sunday meetings being held in Moulton Opera House. In June, 1904, a hall on the second floor of Smith's Block was secured and all gatherings were held there for the next two years. In 1904 the Sanborn place was sold and the Harriet Gale homestead on the corner of Pleasant and Depot Streets (now Veterans' Square) purchased in its place as the site for the new edifice, the house being moved opposite the depot for a parsonage. On June 19, 1905, the corner-stone of the new building of seam faced granite was laid and the formal dedication took place a year later, June 3, 1906. The total cost was about $50,000. raised largely by subscription and mainly through the efforts of the pastor. Dr. Swain. From this time on the pews have been free.
On October 3. 1921, the Laconia Congregational Society unanimously voted to dissolve its corporate existence and transfer to the Church when properly incorporated all of the property, real and personal, held by this Society. On the sixth day of the same month the Church voted to become an incorporated body and to transfer to the new corporation thus formed all property in its possession.
The One Hundredth Anniversary of the founding of the Church was observed October 2-5, 1924. a Centennial Pageant, written by Mrs. John S. Shepard of Franklin, N. H., was given October 4th. On October 5th, in connection with these exercises. Dr. Richard LaRue Swain, was made Pastor Emeritus.
The Twentieth Anniversary of the erection of the present Church was observed June 3-10, 1926.
A fire during the night of March 24-25, 1928, did great damage to the interior of the Church. Through the courtesy of the Unitarian people, services were held in their church while repairs were being made. Fire insurance of 540,000 was collected in full. The alterations and improvements were so complete that considerable additional money was pledged by the people. The church building was rededicated on December 16, 1928.
1. "Historical Sketch", Manual of The Congregational Church of Laconia, N. H., February 1931, pages 5-7.
See AlsoLaconia Congregational Church 1931 Manual
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