Other history articles have talked about the circumstances surrounding the founding of Copper Hill United Methodist Church. In this article we want to ask the question, “Who were the people involved?”
The founding pastor
In the Methodist church, pastors are appointed during the summer and reappointed annually. The summary history that comes down to us from the church’s 50th anniversary tells us that Rev. Billy Hibbard, serving the Granville circuit in the conference year 1816–17, organized Copper Hill Methodist Episcopal Church in 1816, likely in the summer or early fall. According to the East Granby history book, it was soon enough that year for the new church to make a decision to reject the War of 1812 rebate that the Federalists passed down to all the churches in October (p. 108). Apparently the new Methodists were not Federalists in politics!
The founding family group
The history book simply lists the names of the three men involved in that church start-up and includes without names “their wives” as also involved. We wanted to know. Who were these early ladies who were so crucial to our church? Research into the cemetery records of Copper Hill Cemetery (made available by Harrison Griffin) has helped us to understand who the wives were and how the six people were related. The person who was by mutual consent elected as the lay leader of the new congregation was Aristarchus Griffin, a direct descendant of John Griffin, first settler of the town of Granby. The church met at his house. Aristarchus’ wife’s name was Jael (Gillet) Griffin. So she would have been the first hostess for the church. Aristarchus’ father was Seth Griffin, another of the founders. And his wife was Mary (Brown) Griffin. Seth was a Revolutionary war veteran who died in 1817, the year after he helped found Copper Hill church. The third male founder listed in the history records was Calvin Gillett. Research shows that Calvin’s wife’s name was Thankful (Warner) Gillet and they were Aristarchus’ wife Jael’s parents. So it was a family group, a man and his wife, and all four of their parents who founded Copper Hill church.
Classics and Contemporary
Preparations are continuing for an excellent festival of music at Copper Hill UMC this coming Sunday afternoon. Practicing has been ongoing for weeks as instrumentalists and vocalists prepare for this next event in the celebratory series marking the 200th Anniversary of the organization of Copper Hill Church. The repertoire will be diverse with songs ranging from the early 19th century tune “Simple Gifts” to late 20th century and even 21st century worship songs. We’ll also hear renditions of some classics such as “God of our Fathers” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic” both of which will be played in new arrangements by brass quartet.
Vocal and Instrumental
Other instruments represented will include harp, guitars, and flute. Two choirs will perform: the WNA Male Chorus from Third Baptist in Suffield and Copper Hill UMC Choir. The organizer for this event is JoAnne Jones. JoAnne says. “Overall, there will be participants from eight or nine local churches helping us to give praise to God and celebrate this anniversary.”
Free with refreshments
Admission is free; freewill donations toward expenses will be appreciated. Light refreshments will be served in the church fellowship hall following the concert.
After the storms passed on Saturday, September 10, the weather was hot and humid at Suffield on the Green. Thanks go to volunteers Ron Prevost and Judy Holcomb for setting up the booth and to Judy, Joanne Jones, Harrison and Carol Griffin and Pastor Kelvin for manning it for the two day event.
There is more preparation for such an event that one would think. Judy and Joanne had prepared bookmarks, cards to advertise our upcoming celebration concert on Sep. 25, lists of 200th Anniversary Activities and more. Pastor Kelvin had prepared brochures and business cards. Thought was given to items to display such as Bibles (we gave away one), an antique picture of our church, posters advertising the tag sale next Saturday, etc.
On Sunday afternoon, the weather was much cooler and more pleasant. Everyone was more relaxed. We offered children who passed by bracelets or pencils and gave parents info about our church. More than 200 people were touched in some way by our booth volunteers.
Sunday, August, the children at Copper Hill church enjoyed an afternoon Summer Send-off Party. It began with outside games including over-sized clothing races and whiffle-ball. After watermelon snack, it was inside for song and story time led by JoAnne Jones. The pictures show the children in an animated version of “Fruits of the Spirit,” A craft time followed and then a light meal. Here are a few photos to let you know about all the fun.
Do you have old family documents you are wondering how to save? Maybe you are storing organizational and historical records and pictures for a group to which you have belonged and you don’t know what to do with them? I know as we are celebrating our church’s 200th Anniversary, we have found a lot of old pictures as well as a couple very old Bibles and hymnbooks, among other things, that we wonder how to protect for the future.
The next event in our church’s 200th Anniversary Celebration Series may provide just the clues we are all looking for.
Our church is eagerly anticipating the upcoming August 10 visit of the professional archivist of the NY Annual Conference of the UM Church, Beth Patkus. She is educated and trained to help us with just such questions.
During the afternoon of August 10, from 2-5:30 PM, Ms. Patkus will view and discuss items on display in the fellowship hall with members and friends. At 5:30 PM the group will share a pot luck supper. Then at 7 PM Ms. Patkus will make a public presentation complete with visuals titled “Telling Your Stories: Preserving and Sharing Historical Records.” Everyone is invited. Please invite your friends from other churches and organizations to this informative session.
What will be our anniversary memento?
When there is a significant anniversary, we search for an appropriate memento. Copper Hill Church has had a medallion made in honor of the 200th Anniversary of its organization in 1816. One side features a line drawing of the church with its old bell tower. (The belfry had to be removed in 1991 because the roof was not supporting the added weight properly.) The other side of the medallion features the key verse for our bicentenary celebration, Psalm 100:5. “The Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” This durable keepsake has a loop at the top so it can be used as a Christmas ornament as well.
How the medallion came about
Chairperson Carol Griffin suggested the idea to the 200th committee. After it was adopted, she gathered ideas from committee members and worked with Woodbury Pewter Co. from Woodbury, CT who designed and manufactured the pewter medallions for the church. The first one of the run is made by hand. Copies of the first are then made and these special souvenirs are now available from 200th Anniversary Chairperson Carol Griffin for a donation of $10.
The ladies of Copper Hill Church are noted for their cooking. Suppers such as the Corned Beef Supper in March and the Roast Pork Dinner in the fall are almost legendary. But once a year the ladies talk a night off to go out together to restaurant. This year the joyful meal was at J & G Italian Restaurant in East Granby on June 14. Pastor Kelvin was invited and took the opportunity to thank the ladies for their many contributions both volunteer and financial to the work of the church. Excellent food, great service, and lots of good friends made for a fun night out.
Bob Stewart has recently discovered and received rights to an historic photo of our church. It was in the care of the “Keeping Society” of Guilford, CT. The photo was taken by a photographer named C. L. Hubbard who traveled around in Connecticut in the 1890’s taking pictures of various churches. The date on our exhibit photo in the fellowship hall is 1905 but that could be a collection date rather than the date it was taken.
Bob Stewart comments about the picture, “It shows the church with the steeple and an unknown gentleman in the foreground. Another object of interest is a telegraph (telephone?) pole in the extreme right of the photo. A possibility is that the telegraph line that was on the railroad right-of-way was extended to the post office across the street from the church. It would make sense to have telegraph service at a post office.”
According to the East Granby history book, the first trunk line of Southern New England Telephone Company came through East Granby in 1887 and the company announced in 1905 that every town in Connecticut finally had service (p. 258). According to that same source, the post office at Copper Hill existed only from 1872-1903 at which time Rural Free Delivery from East Granby began (p. 224).
We also observe that the sheds for the horses are evident in the picture and apparently were located just where we step out of the kitchen door. If so, this might explain why the fellowship hall was built offset from the center of the church. Is the roof behind the horse sheds the “new” lecture room as it was then called? According to our historical record called the Church Register, that was built during the pastorate of Bro. J. H. Knott who served the Copper Hill Methodist Church from 1895-1897. Would this new addition have had anything to do with the reason the picture was being taken? There are no annotations to tell us.
Who is the man who appears to be posing for the picture? Could it be the pastor? If it is and the hall has been built, then according to the register, it is likely one of these four; Bro. Knott previously mentioned or E. P. Alvord who followed him pastoring from 1897-1899, John H. Crane, a local elder who led the church 1899-1901 or Rev. George L. Coburn who pastored from 1901-1906.
Announcing a 200th Anniversary presentation at the Copper Hill United Methodist Church on Monday evening June 13 at 7:00 PM by Dennis D. Picard, Director of Storrowton Village Museum.
“As we attend services on Sunday or on a special holiday during the year, it is easy to look at our surroundings, and imagine our ancestors back through time might well have had the same experience. Come hear how just about everything we know has gradually evolved and changed over the centuries; from theology to even the buildings we call churches. It is an interesting and intriguing story.”
Dennis D. Picard has been a museum professional in the “Living History” field for over thirty-five years. He began his career at Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge Massachusetts, in 1978, where he eventually spent twelve years filling various positions including “lead interpreter” for the Richardson Parsonage, where he researched and designed many public programs which are still offered by that institution today. He also is the recipient of various grants that allowed him to serve as project coordinator for research and implementation of programs and events at different sites.
Dennis, with his background in sociology and museum experience has authored many articles on the lifestyles and folkways of New England and has also served as a consultant for many Historical Societies and Museums.
He has held the position of Assistant Director and Director at several sites including Fort Number Four in Charlestown New Hampshire, the Sheffield Historical Society in the Massachusetts Berkshires and presently at Storrowton Village Museum in West Springfield Massachusetts.
Sunday April 17th was Rail Trail clean-up day in Copper Hill as a part of the larger effort organized by the Farmington Valley Trails Council. While Lisa Griffin and Sheri Mandirola and children had participated last year, this year our church council voted to officially participate as a church and to list it on our church calendar. So this past Sunday after church at least ten volunteers from our church, four adults and six children, helped with the annual clean-up effort. We were assigned to the section from Phelps Road north to the state line. The biggest hazard was from the bicycle traffic since it was a beautiful day. It was a very pleasant section to walk and thankfully the amount of litter was small. Pastor Kelvin spied just enough litter to put some trash in each child’s bag. Nancy took the attached pictures. Griffin, Conner, Shannon, Anna, Ian and Parker did the work.