On Wednesday, August 28, 2013, eight members of the United Church of Ludlow gathered around the church’s bell rope in preparation to “ring out freedom” in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of a the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington, D. C. and the “I Have a Dream” speech delivered by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. A call went out for bells of all kinds to be rung across the nation at 3:00 pm local time. At precisely 3:00, the eight members began ringing the bell and continued for five minutes, handing off the rope in rotation as they tired pulling on the 1200 lb. bell. Church secretary, Sandra Russo, joined in the ringing.
Research in the United Church of Ludlow’s archive in preparation for its May 2012 Birthday Celebration resulted in the surprise discovery of the original marriage record of Peter Thatcher Washburn, Esq. and Almira E. Ferris in 1839. Peter Washburn is important in Vermont history as an attorney, a Civil War hero, and the 33rd governor.
Hon. Daniel A. and Sarah E. Heald appeared at the United Church of Ludlow on Sunday, April 29 to give a sketch of their lives and importance in the church’s history. The visitors created excitement about the public Birthday Party of the church on Saturday, May 5th and Sunday, May 6th to which all are invited.
Daniel A. Heald was born in Chester in 1818 and grew up on a farm. He attended Chester Academy and Kimball Union Academy of Meriden, NH, and graduated from Yale in 1841. After moving to Ludlow, Heald was admitted to the bar in 1843. While in Ludlow, he practiced law, was a Representative and Senator in the Vermont Legislature, and built a large lumber mill in Healdville.
On Sunday, April 15, Dr. Daniel and Viola Cooledge visited the United Church of Ludlow to invite all present to join them at the church’s public Birthday Party May 5th and 6th.
Daniel was born in Ludlow in 1839. He matriculated in Black River Academy in 1858 but interrupted his studies to volunteer for the Civil War, where he was wounded, taken prisoner, and exchanged. He returned to B. R. A. and met Miss Alice Viola Marsh born in Plymouth in 1847. Viola said they fell in love, then Daniel began medical school at UVM, and they married in 1866. She was excited to experience New York City during his residency at Bellevue Medical. Dr. Cooledge opened a Ludlow medical practice in 1868. Later, the Cooledges opened a drug store on Main Street. Viola assisted in the store while raising five children. She became the first woman registered pharmacist in Vermont, and following her husband’s death in 1911, she managed the store herself until her death in 1934 at the age of 87. The store kept the Cooledge name for 75 years.
On January 28, 2004, the National Park Service of the U.S. Department of the Interior added the United Church of Ludlow to its august listing known as the National Register of Historic Places, an honor accorded to only a handful of Ludlow structures. The Church building was completed in May 1892, and this year is the 120th anniversary of its construction. By coincidence, it also is the 220th anniversary of the founding of the Church in 1792.
The Church’s bell was cast by the Holbrook Bell Foundry of East Medway (Massachusetts) in 1839, just 50 years after the US Constitution was ratified by the 13 states. The Holbrook Bell Foundry was established in1816, by Major George Holbrook. Major Holbrook earlier had established a bell foundry in Brookfield, Massachusetts in 1797. That business was successful but Holbrook had made the error of guaranteeing a “friend’s” borrowings and was obliged to make the payments and was financially ruined. Broken in spirit, he returned to his home town of Wrentham, Massachusetts, and, while there, he learned that a new bell was wanted for a new meeting house in East Medway and he secured a contract to cast it.
On a recent Sunday before worship, the United Church of Ludlow received a visit from Rev. Peter Read, first pastor of the Ludlow Congregational Church. Read was important in the history of Ludlow and its first church. Born in Massachusetts in 1751, in 1776 he married Mary Pitcher, who died in child birth. He married Lydia Gilbert in 1786. In 1792, the year after Vermont became the 14th state, the Reads moved with three children from New Haven, CT to Ludlow. Upon arrival, Read immediately took up activity in organizing the town and religious affairs. He served as selectman in 1793 and 1795-1799 and in 1795 was Ludlow’s first Representative to the Vermont Legislature. Pictured above is Rev. Read (aka Bob Kottkamp) holding 1806 book describing church origin in his handwriting.
Ludlow’s first free library opened its doors in 1892. Known as the Florence Memorial Library, it occupied about 20 percent of the first floor of the United Church of Ludlow building. The library was accessed by two outside doors, one of which has since been replaced by a window. The furnishings of the library were donated by James S. Gill and his wife Rachel, of Ludlow and Boston, in memory of their daughter Florence. Originally a public library, free and open to local citizens, it was closed after the Fletcher Memorial Library was opened in 1900. A plaque over the original fireplace in the library still commemorates the Gill’s gift to the community.
Included in the obvious treasures of the United Church of Ludlow are fifteen stained-glass windows that grace its sanctuary. Many of the Church’s less obvious treasures are in the form of information – such as birthdates, baptisms, marriages and deaths, among others. The Church’s May 5 and May 6, 2012 Birthday Party – the 120th for the Church’s Building and the 220th for the Church’s founding – will include many free activities available to the public. The Birthday Party activities will take place from 3 to 5 pm on Saturday, May 5th (followed by a scrumptious dinner at a ridiculously low price) and on Sunday, May 6th from 2 to 4 pm (concurrently with a free Ice Cream Social). The Church’s primary stained-glass window (see above) can be back lit, making it especially beautiful at night when the lights are on – a real treasure. This window is unusual due to its focus on women
On February 8 about 4:30 pm, the belfry of the United Church of Ludlow resounded with the pealing of the 1839 bell for a full three minutes. What was all the commotion about? The bell announced the victory of the United Church and thirteen other nonprofit organizations in the lawsuit brought against them by relatives of Phyllis Agan to nullify provisions in her trust, which left a total of $1.5 million to the collection of Ludlow institutions. Phyllis and Bill Agan were married by the United Church pastor in 1946; Phyllis was a dedicated and vitally active church member for over 50 years.
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