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Trouble in the Belfry

On the evening of June 29, 1892, the Standing Committee met in the vestry after the prayer meeting. Present were Rev. Elijah Harmon, Deacon C.J. Sargeant and Deacon George Cole, secretary.

The object of this meeting was to adopt some measures that would prevent the unbecoming and dangerous practice of certain unsurely persons forcibly entering the church premises and ringing the bell at midnight preceding the 4th of July, or setting off fireworks on the premises.

It was decided to respectfully request the selectmen to set a watch of two constables on that occasion.
Meeting adjourned.

On June 30, 1892, the following letter was sent to the selectmen according to the decision of the committee:

To the Selectmen of the town of Wilmington
Dear Sirs,

It has been the practice of boys and young men at midnight preceding the fourth of July to enter the church, ring the bell and sometimes doing damage. We feel it is neither safe or wise to allow a continuance of this practice and we are desirous of preventing it. We therefore respectfully ask you to help us in this matter by sending a constable for that purpose.

Yours respectfully,
George Cole
On behalf of the committee of the Congregational Church.


July 4th, 1892:

"the Selectmen sent two constables as requested. The secretary of the committee was also present. No one made an appearance during the night. The bell was rung by the officers present at half past three and there being no sign of any of the “Loyal Youth” putting in an appearance, it was considered safe at four o’clock to close the church doors and deliver the keys to the sexton.
Prevention is better than cure.
George Cole Secretary"

Again in 1893, the selectmen provided two constables to watch the church premises on the night of July 3rd and early morning of the 4th. No disturbance of any kind was made and there is no further mention of this problem in the Standing Committee notes.

The Standing Committee was made up of the minister, three deacons, the clerk, treasurer and two members of the church. They pretty much handled all the business of the church and met as necessary – usually on Wednesday evenings after the prayer meeting. Their meeting place varied according to the weather – on cold winter nights the meetings were often held at the parsonage where it would be a bit warmer than the church, although the church did have a wood stove in the vestry.

George Cole may have been Marion Cole Connor’s uncle.
Deacon C.J. Sargeant (Charles J. Sargeant m. Abbie F. Sheldon) could have been Ed Sargeant’s father.


More Trouble in the Belfry

This time it was the clock.

While Rev. Harmon was pastor (1885-1900), the great weights of the clock gave way and crashed down through the choir loft destroying the organ. Thankfully, no one was in the church at the time. In the history written by Mrs. Clara Simmons in 1933, the exact date of the accident was unknown.

Upon reading the Standing Committee notes, there was a meeting held on Thursday evening, May 17, 1893. This was unusual as they usually met after the Wednesday evening prayer meeting. The meeting was called to consider what course should be adopted toward repairing the spire of the church. Mr. Eames read the architect's report on repairs of the spire, also his ideas of placing the organ at the front of the congregation. It was moved and seconded that a special meeting be called for the purpose that the church may adopt such measures as they think best for the immediate repairing of the same. Unanimously carried.

Thus the date of the accident would have been sometime between Sunday afternoon May 13th and Wednesday, May 16th, 1893 - the night of the prayer service when the damage surely would have been noticed.

The organ, once repaired, was shortly thereafter moved down to the front of the sanctuary. The choir followed.

It was always supposed that it was Rev. Harmon's idea to move the organ and choir down to the front of the sanctuary out of harm's way. When in fact in seems, it was Mr. Eames'!

The organ and choir remained in the northwest corner at the front of the sanctuary until the summer of 1940, when a complete restoration of the church took place. At that time, both were returned to their present position in the loft, where they were originally intended to be located. The great clock weights no longer a threat as the clock has been electrified.

At the town meeting of 1956:

Article 48. To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate a sum of money for the repair and reconditioning of the town clock or do anything in relation thereto. On petition of Harland V. Whittredge and others. 

On a motion by Mr. Donald C. Kidder it was voted to raise by taxation the sum of Two Thousand Six Hundred Dollars ($2,600.00) for the repair or reconditioning of the Town clock. Yes - 153, N - 46.

A new clock was purchased.

It is believed the town gave the clock to the church sometime around 2001.

Researched and written by Andrea Houser