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Higganum United Methodist Church: A History

Submitted by Betty Cernan.

(June, 2018) — Below is a short history of the Higganum United Methodist Church, which is located next to Haddam Elementary School. Some of this information was taken from a 1974 HUMC History Booklet.

Rev. Jesse Lee, organizer of Methodism in New England, came to the Old Haddam Court House in 1790. Several preachers soon followed, and Ponsett or West Haddam Class was the first to be formed in the town in 1793, 93 years after the Congregational Church in Haddam. Little is known about the first church but that it was 30 x 40 feet in size and had galleries on three sides. There are references to this church being called “God’s Barn,” yet there is no physical evidence of its whereabouts. Dr. Wilber Fisk of Wesleyan University dedicated the Methodist Church in Haddam (1837). Again, its location is somewhat a mystery because no evidence can be found in the area on Walkley Hill Road where it was reported to have stood across from Hazen Road. In 1850 a revival resulted in a Higganum group of 40 or 50 who met in the red school house. When the school house burned in 1857, the congregation met in private homes until the current church was built. After the organization of the Church in Higganum in 1862, the Haddam Church became inactive.

Brother Allen began building the church of Higganum in the spring of 1862. Land was purchased for $50 and the total cost of the church was $6,000. Brother Alvin Bailey did a large part of the masonry, and the front stone steps were presented by J. S. Scoville & Company of Maromas. George M. Clark donated the work of framing and raising the building, and the steeple was erected the next summer. Jessie Smith superintended the work free of charge with many members donating their time and skills.

In 1867 the audience room was finished at an expense of $1,900, and the church was dedicated on January 25, 1867. The basement was enlarged in 1880 by nearly one-half and a furnace was put in for heat. Later, in 1885, the coalhouse was built near the sheds. The following year, property was bought on Christian Hill Road and the parsonage was built for a total of $3,248.

Some interesting facts found in the booklet are: In 1894, Sunday Service time was changed to 10:30 a.m. from 1:30 p.m. In 1904, they purchased a second hand pipe organ for $215 and paid the shipping fees from the Higganum Depot to the Church. They set up a few hitching posts (1906). They built some horse sheds in 1913 and also put electric lights in the church.

Rev. Walter Pickering was appointed in 1926 and remained for eight years. The next year, a young people’s group, known as The Standard Bearers, raised money through sales, suppers, and catering for the YMCA and purchased the two stained glass windows. In 1928, “The Good Shepherd Window,” which is in the front of the church building, was bought at a cost of $365 and installed free by Mr. Arlington Rich. Our church has become known as “The Church With The Lighted Window.” The second window, which is over the altar, was added in 1931 at a cost of $250, not including installation, which was done by Mr. Charles Treadwell.

We had several ministers through the years and the booklet tells of meetings and decisions made during that time. The Rev. William Christy Craig came in 1954. He was a retired minister, thereby his salary was easier for us to pay. During his stay, the addition of the fellowship hall, including classrooms and bathrooms, was made. It was opened in 1962, with $21,500 raised during a three-year campaign. Several items were placed in a sealed box behind the cornerstone in 1961. Fifty years later, the box was opened, items were reviewed with interest, and we returned the box to the cornerstone – adding a few current items.

I remember that, before the parking lot was enlarged, people also parked on the road. Dick Johnson, the local constable, directed traffic Sunday mornings, because “old route 9” had heavy shoreline traffic.

Dr. Craig retired (1970), and when the Rev. Norma Rust arrived, we became linked with South United Methodist Church of Middletown. She held separate church services, but combined them in the summer. We also shared many programs/events. Years later, in July 2010, SUMC closed their church and merged with HUMC. On that same date Rocky Hill United Methodist Church became our new sister church. Pastor Soon Ahn came in 2015, and, like all our pastors, he has given us spiritual support on Sunday mornings and helped with our personal concerns.

Church is very important in our lives, and HUMC plays a vital role in the community. We do many mission projects, both local and worldwide, and the church is used by AA and Al-Anon. Our Church School students learn about the Bible and they also do many mission projects.

The church is fortunate to have long-time members who are our link from the past to the present to the future. As in the past, our members are presently very active and they continue to work hard to make HUMC a place where all can come to worship and for fellowship.

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