The Second Congregational church was orga­nized in the autumn of 1849, with forty-seven members. Nearly all had taken letters from the first church under date of October 18th.

The first meeting preliminary to organization was held October 3o, 1849, at the schoolhouse in West Rockford. This building was standing on South Maon street until about two years ago. A committee of three was chosen to present at a future meeting, the articles of faith, covenant and rules of the government for the proposed church. Benjamin A. Rose, Dexter G. Clark and Thomas D. Robertson constituted this committee. It was resolved that the public organization of the church should take place November 14th ; and Samuel J. Russell, Worcester A. Dickerman and Robert Clow were chosen to make the necessary arrangements.

An adjourned meeting was held November 7th. A resolution was adopted, by which the following named persons who were present organized the church: Robert Clow, Burton P. Franklin, David D. Ailing. Rebecca Alling, Alexander Patterson, Helen Patterson. Ellen Patterson, Jane Gordon. Thomas D. Robertson, Goodyear A. Sanford. Elizabeth H. Sanford, Worcester A. Dickerman, Caroline Dickerman, Michael Burns. Deborrah Burns, Samuel J. Russell, Lucy Russell. Dexter G. Clark, Benjamin A. Rose, Antionette W. Rose. Eliza Hanford. Rebecca Spurr, Hariette W. Platt, Rial K. Town, Clarissa Town. Mary Bond, Emily G. Sanford. Susan G. Fuller, Elizabeth B. Field. Mary A. Frink, Lemira L. Meyers, Lucy C. Hyde. Sarah D. Hyde, Esther Ann Hyde. Henry C. Hyde. Gershom C. H yde. Alonzo Gorham. Hannah L. Gorham, Mercy A. Gorham. Ann Levings, Mrs. Elizabeth C. Porter, Anor Woodruff. Mrs. Eliza Woodruff, James Porter. Ebenezer H yde, Mrs. Barbara Porter.

Thomas D. Robertson, from the committee appointed at the former meeting, presented a report of articles of faith, covenant and rules of government. This report was accepted and adopted. The articles of faith were thoroughly orthodox, according to the standard of the time.

This preliminary organization was completed b y the election of officers. Rial K. Town and Alonzo Gorham were chosen deacons Thomas D. Robertson, clerk and treasurer Benjamin A. Rose and Samuel T. Russell, prudential committee : Good year A. Sanford. Worcester A. Dickerman and Dexter G. Clark, assessment committee.

The public organization of this church occurred Wednesday, November 14, 1849. Previous to these formal exercises Mrs. Sarah J. Clark, Mrs. E. W. Spalding and Jane C. Houghton, who had been included in the original letter of dismission from the first church, but were not present at the first meeting, were received also Mrs. Mar y Haskell and Miss Eliza Holmes.

The congregational council was composed of the following gentlemen: Rev. Hutchins Taylor, moderator Rev. Dexter Clary. Beloit Rev. Lewis Benedict, Rockton Rev. R. M. Pearson, Grand DeTour ; Rev. Lansing Porter, Rockford ; Horace Hobart, delegate from Beloit. Rev. R. M. Pearson was chosen scribe of the council ; prayer was offered by Rev. H. Taylor ; and Rev. L. Benedict preached the sermon. The covenant and articles of faith were read by the clerk, and publicly approved by the church. An address to the church and deacons was delivered by Rev. Dexter Clary. The council then formally declared the Second Congregational church of Rockford to be duly and orderly organized.

Since the mother church had vacated its first house of worship on the corner of Church and Green streets for the new brick structure on the east side, the former had been unoccupied. The Second church now returned to the house which man y of its members had abandoned less than four years previous. Messrs. Kent and Brinkerhoff had failed in business, and the old edifice was sold by their assignee to the Second church. It was placed on a rock foundation and refitted for worship.

The first pastor of the new church was Rey. Lansing Porter. This gentleman had served the First church as its pastor a little more than two Years. The records of the Second church do not show that any formal call was extended to Rev. Porter. But he assumed this position as soon as the organization had been effected November 7, 1849. and served four years.

Mr. Porter pursued two years of his college course at Hamilton and two years at Wesleyan college, and was graduated from the latter in the class of 1839. He then took the full three years' course in Yale Theological seminar y, and a year of post-graduate work at Auburn Theological seminary. Mr. Porter went to Chicago in 1843, and from there he came to Rockford. when he was less than thirt y years of age. Mr. Porter's first pastorate was that of the First Congregational church, Rockford. He is now living at Hamburg, New York.

In 1851 the church was found to be too small, and its capacity was increased by the addition of forty feet to its length.

December 31, 1853, Rev. Porter severed his pastoral relation. At a meeting held December 16th of the same year, it was voted to extend a call to Rev. Joseph Emerson. This call was accepted. Ma y 21. 18 .54. a congregational council convened in the church for the transaction of business incident to the settlement of the pastor. The installation services occurred on the following day.

Rev. Emerson was a son of Rev. Daniel Emerson ; a cousin of Ralph Emerson, of Rockford, and a second cousin of the famous Ralph Waldo Emerson. Joseph Emerson was born in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, in 1806, and died at Andover, Massachusetts, in 1885. Mr. Emerson was graduated from Yale college in 1830, and from Andover Theological seminary, in 1835. He received his ordination in 1836. His pastorate in Rockford was eminently successful. He built the house on North Church street, where Ralph Emerson now resides.

The pastorate of Rev. Emerson was signalized by the erection of the second house of worship on South Church street. July 19. 1855, the society voted that it was expedient to take action toward building a new church. A committee, consisting of D. G. Clark, G. A. Sanford, T. D. Robertson, John Edwards and John S. Coleman was appointed to carry out the same. In 1856 subscrip­ tion papers were circulated. A building com­mittee was composed of John Edwards, D. G. Clark, J. G. Manlove, G. A. Sanford, Ralph Em­erson and T. D. Robertson. A correspondence was opened with Renwick & Auchmutv, a firm of architects in New York, and from them was received in the summer of 1856 plans and specifications for the structure. The committee invited proposals. The most favorable response was received from David and James Keyt, of Piqua, Ohio. The committee, before letting so large a contract. desired to obtain definite information concerning the character and standing of the bidders. John Edwards was sent to Piqua to make an inquiry. The result of his mission was so satisfactor y that the contract was let to the Messrs. Keyt for the sum of twenty-three thousand four hundred and sevent y-eight dollars and seventy-eight cents.

Work was begun on the building May 17. 1857, and was completed in the autumn of 1858. The plans provided for a stone porch in front, and a lecture room in the rear. Upon signing the contract. the rear extension was omitted. because the committee could not depend upon obtaining money to pa y for the same : and still later the porch was also abandoned, which reduced the expense about fourteen hundred dollars. The building committee met great difficulty in prosecuting the work, and during its progress the financial panic of 1857 came upon the country.

It was one of the most severe strains in the money market in the history of the country. October 13th, of that year. the New York banks suspended specie payment. The committee had fortunately negotiated a loan for six thousand dollars, with a gentleman in New Jersey, on the first of October. This loan was made, as were nearly all the loans on the personal notes of the building committee. The loan of four thousand dollars was also secured by a mortgage given by G. A. S anford. T. D. Robertson and W. A. Dickerman, on their individual property. The document was preserved for many years as a memorial of the courage of the builders.

Farewell services were held in the old church on Sunday, Novembr 28th. After this little sanctuary had outlived its usefulness in a growing city, it was donated to the people in Owen township, where it was again used as a house of worship.

The new church was dedicated Thursday, December 2, 1858. The dedicatory sermon was preached by the pastor. This church continued to be the house of worship for nearly thirty-four years, until the spring of 1892. It has been said that P. P. Bliss, the famous gospel singer and composer, wrote his best known song, "Hold the Fort," in this church. Among the distinguished persons who have entertained Rockford audiences from this pulpit are Rev. Lyman Abbott, D. D. and Mrs. Julia Ward Howe.

July 30, 1859, Rev. Emerson tendered his resignation ; and on August 23d an ecclesiastical council convened at the church, and dissolved the pastoral relation. The church did not long remain without an under shepherd. At a regular meeting of the church December 7, 1859, a call was extended to Rev. Jeremiah E. Walton. This call was accepted, although there is no record of his installation. This pastorate continued until December, 1863.

Mr. Walton graduated from Williams college in 1853, and from Hartford seminary in 1856. He came to Rockford from Troy, New York, when a young man, full of hope and enthusiasm. Mr. Walton entertained religious views similar to those held by the late Horace Bushnell, and especially those concerning Christian nurture. After his removal from Rockford Rev. Walton took orders as a priest in the Episcopal church. He subsequently returned to Rockford, and became the rector of Emmanuel church.

The pipe organ was constructed in 1863, at a cost of about two thousand five hundred dollars. Rev. M. P. Kinney was called to the pastorate August 1o, 1864; and an ecclesiastical council was convened November 29th. Rev. Frank B. Woodbury, D. D., was called November 23, 1870. He was succeeded in 1888 by the late Rev. Walter Manning Barrows, D. D. His successors have been Rev. Wesley P. Haskell and Rev. Peter M. Snyder,

A magnificent new temple of worship on North Church street was dedicated May 8, 1892. February 2o, 1894, this church was destroyed by fire. Only the bare walls remained. There were valiant Nehemiahs ready to build a second tem­ple, which was dedicated December 2, 1895.

The longest pastorate was that of the Rev. Frank P. Woodbury, who served eighteen years, from 1870 to 1888. Only two resident charter members are now living ; Mrs. Caroline M. Dickerman and Mrs. Emily G. Sanford-Dodd.

The church property is valued at $100,000. Its membership is about 730.


History of Winnebago County-1877


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