Sketch of the Methodist Episcopal Church from a newspaper article dated September 16, 1904, newspaper not known.
The Methodist Episcopal Church if Bristol is the second oldest church in town and was organized in 1813, services being held at the residence of Ebenezer Saxton. Rev. Stephen Scovenberger preached the first Methodist sermon in the village and the services were held in a barn and private houses.
In 1819 a chapel was built which did services for twenty years. This chapel was located on what is now a vacant lot near B. A, Atkins’ dwelling house on West street, close by South street and was of very plain design, similar to the Quaker meeting houses. It had no bell and no belfry and was never painted. The chapel had two doors, according to the custom of those days, one being the men’s entrance, the other for women, the sexes being seated on opposite sides of the chapel. It was a very cold building in winter; fronting on the level ground, it extended over the side of the hill so that a space was directly under the floor, which was used by the previous owner of the land as a shelter for his wagons, etc. There was no convenient place for teams and in fact it was a place with very few if any conveniences.
In 1839 it was determined to build a new church building and the chapel was sold, the purchaser being Dadus R. Gage, who had it taken apart and all the material suitable was worked into the dwelling house now occupied by B. A. Atkins. Meetings in the meantime were held in the school housed which stood where the present Catholic rectory now is. The pastor during 1839 was Rev. W. Bullard and he was succeeded in 1840 by Rev. Berea O. Meeker.
The first site chosen for the new church edifice, which was to be built of brick, was where the new Advent church now stands on West street and the brick was drawn on the ground, but the building was not begun.
A more eligible lot was found and purchased where the present church is located on North street. In 1840 the present frame building was completed, the original subscription list showing subscriptions amounting to $1,750, the edifice costing about $3,000, The pews or “slips” as they were designated, were publicly sold at auction, “at the said house: the society reserving the right at the expiration of five years to purchase back all pews if they so chose. By returning the purchase money or cost, and making all seats free. This privilege, however, was not taken advantage of until 1883, when an arrangement was made on the reseating of the church, that “at the expirations of ten years all seats shall be free”.
Sometime in 1867, the original bell, which was of very fine tone, was broken by the use of a common hammer to toll the bell, the regular bell hammer being encased in ice and immovable. The bell was replaced by the present bell the same year.
During the year 1878, a recompense of $300 was received by the sale of church land for the present highway on Church street.
In 1883, during the pastorate of Rev. B. S. Taylor, considerable improvements were made. New pews were put in the church in place of the old “slips” and all were cushioned. The gallery which extended across the east was removes and the floor was built on the present incline, the total cost was $1,100.
In 1899, the present organ was put in place (since removed).
The parsonage was built about the time of the building of the church, having been purchased from the builder, who had intended it for his own residence. It was a story-and-a-half cottage with no front entrance, there being but one door situated at the rear of the house and entered through the woodshed. This was due to the peculiarity of an influential member, who also for some reason would not consent to there being any steps, although the threshold of the door was quite high. In 1854 a fire occurred in the west end of the parsonage near the chimney, the charred timbers being still visible over the present attic floor. In 1892, during the pastorate of Rev. G. J. Kunz, the roof was raised and the parsonage enlarged and improved at the expense of $667.
It is hoped that improvements may soon be made to the church, both on the interior and exterior, making the building of more modern architecture and better adapted to the present requirements of the society and the progress of improvements in the village.
Addendum to the above Article:
The hoped for improvement were forthcoming just two years later, for in 1906 Rev. Purcell L. Dow, presiding elder reported:
At Bristol a great change has been made in the church edifice. It is in fact practically new. The old building was moved 20 feet to the north; an addition for the Sunday school and lecture room built on the south side, with corner tower between the old part and the new; an addition for the choir built on the west side; a new roof with changed pitch; new steel ceiling, beautiful memorial windows; a grade floor in auditorium, new heaters and electric lights. Every line of the structure corresponds and the colors beautifully blend, making a pleasant and attractive place for worship. To the pastor, Rev. George C. Skafte, large credit is due for this enterprise.
In 1913, the debt was liquidated and the mortgage burned. Additional changes were made in 1916 when Dr. Bert M. Kent, District Superintendent, reported: At Bristol, Vt. extensive alterations have taken place in both church and parsonage, totaling a cost of nearly $5,000.
Congregation Singing - from Parade, a weekly newspaper magazine for the
week of October 22, 1942.
In the front row (l to r) Mrs. Irene Wheelock, Mrs. Ruth Wheelock,
unknown man, unknown child. In the second row, second in from the right
Warner Shedrick. Photo courtesy of Debbie Wheelock Zeno.