First Congregational Church of Ceredo
The First Congregational Church of Ceredo was established in 1874. It is the second oldest church in Ceredo, following the United Methodist Episcopal Church in 1866. It is also said to be one of only three Congregational churches in West Virginia. The current building, located on the northeast corner of First Street West and C Street, has been in continuous use since 1886. Its distinct appearance is modeled after churches in New England as homage to the original congregation’s New England roots.
Backstory and Context
The First Congregational Church of Ceredo, like all Congregationalist churches, has its origins in the Congregationalism movement. Congregationalism developed in England during the 16th and 17th centuries in protest against the Anglican Church. It stressed in particular the importance of freedom. Congregationalists, also known as Independents, believe that individual churches should be autonomous and independent of any outer hierarchy. Suffering persecution, many immigrated to America in the 1600s and established a large presence in New England.
Many of the first inhabitants of Ceredo were New England abolitionists who had been brought by Eli Thayer in the 1850s as part of his project to create a slave-free settlement in a southern slave state. The outbreak of the Civil War and its ensuing destruction resulted in many of these people leaving. A few families did stay however, and the need arose for them to create their own church. The church was officially established on November 14, 1874. The charter members included Dr. John T. Wharton, Nelly Wharton, Capt. Mark Poore, Addie M. Poore, Catherine H. Osgood, George K. Osgood, Harvey Osgood, Emma Osgood, and Madison Bancroft. A Rev. Haines briefly served as the first pastor before being replaced by Rev. John McKeans.
The church originally held services in Crescent Hall (also known as Ceredo House or Thayer Hotel) in the 300 block East of B Street. In January 1883 a building committee was formed to plan construction of a proper church building. The Hoard family was very instrumental in the creation of the church. Charles Brooks Hoard donated the land for the church; Samuel Floyd Hoard was the architect for the church’s design; and Pitt Hoard contributed logs from Twelve Pole Creek to provide lumber for the church’s construction. The church was finished and dedicated on June 27, 1886. Accounts differ as to the origins of the steeple’s bell; some say it was donated by the Congregational Churches of Cincinnati at the dedication, while a few say it was donated from a steamboat by its captain.
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- Morris, Byron T. "Out of the Past." The Wayne County News (Wayne, West Virginia), November 21, 1974.
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- Stewart, Fay Jean. "Ceredo-Kenova: West Virginia's Gateway to the West." Master's thesis, West Virginia University, 1942.