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.
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.