History of the Rockford
The Congregational Church was organized in Grand Rapids on February 17, 1847 in the home of Dr. and Mrs. C. Blakely which stood where the Prescott home now stands. The Blakeleys came from New England and had planned to settled in Grand Rapids but the need of a doctor in Laphamville caused the family to make their home in this village. The little community had no church but after a conference with Rev. James Ballard, pioneer Congregational missionary, special services were held after which the articles of the church covenant were drawn up and signed by fifteen members including Dr. and Mrs. Blakely, Mr. and Mrs. Stoddard and Mrs. Sears. The names of the other signers are unknown.
There was no regular pastor of the church for several years. Rev. Ballard was a circuit rider and would preach to the congregation when he made his rounds. The first Sunday school and "select" school was organized by the group and met at the Blakely home. On some occasions a minister known as "Father Barker" would preach.
The regular pastor was Rev. J. H. Hard who came in 1854. Records show that in 1860 there were 26 members as Rev. I. Barker became pastor. During the Civil War period no pastor seems to have supplied the church, laymen and occasional clergy conducting the services. Rev. J. S. Kidder was pastor following the war.
On May 1, 1871 the Rev. W. M. Irons became pastor of the church which now numbered 56 members. The desire for a church was great and Rev. Irons, staff in hand so we are told, walked over the countryside raising money with which to build the church. Contributions of money, lumber, farm produce, shingles, labor, etc. were accepted. The building was erected on the corner next to the sidewalk where it now stands on the corner of Bridge and Fremont Streets. It was dedicated on Christmas day 1875.
Later a basement was excavated and the church was moved back to its present position. In 1879 a bell was placed in the church steeple and a year later the church bought a library of books and founded the first public library of the village. In 1880 the church parsonage was built and a Christian Endeavor Society organized, which was among the first in the State. Rev. Jesse Borton was the pastor.
The only minister to hold two pastorates in the church was Rev. C. H. Finister; the first from 1891 to 1903 and the second from 1907-20, the two longest pastorates in the church's history. Between his pastorates Rev. A. Wall, Rev. Seever, Martin and Hancock served the parish. The church auditorium was re-carpeted during the first pastorate of Rev. Finister and the church became entirely self-supporting. Reverend Stephen J. Paull was pastor from 1924-34. During his ministry the church grew in membership and strength. The present pastor, Rev. Paul Mallory, came in January 1935.
During the past four years the membership of the church has nearly doubled, now numbering 225 members. Pews were installed in the auditorium and the church interior was completely redecorated this spring. In 1935 the Dorthea Krause Memorial Organ was purchased. The 90th anniversary was observed in 1937 with appropriate ceremonies. It is with faith and confidence that the "Little White Church in the Valley" looks ahead to the second century of progress in Rockford's history.
Transcriber: Jennifer Godwin
Created: 4 February 2000