Our Rich Heritage

Historic ChurchOnly one year after Michigan was admitted into the Union and four years after the township was incorporated, a group of nine individuals formed the body known as the Almont Congregational Society on December 6, 1838. The first pastor was Rev. Hiram Smith.  As of today, only three of the six churches founded in the 1800s in the Almont area still existed. The original six were the Methodist/Episcopal (1834-1928); Belle Arbor (1836-1847, joined with the Congregational church); Baptist (1837); Congregational (1838); Presbyterian (1846-?); New Church Assembly (1840’s, Swedenborgian); and the Advent Christian Church (1872-~1897). Original services for our church were held in a log schoolhouse one mile west of the present village of Almont and later in a school house about four miles southwest of the village (formerly the site of the Townsend School located on the corner of Fisher and Bordman Roads).

The Congregational Society and the Church were formed as two separate entities. The government of the church was congregational. The officers were a pastor and one or more deacons who had power of receiving members, disciplining them and excluding them according to the directions given in Matthew 18. The Society was composed of trustees and a clerk who had charge of the financial affairs concerning the church. In 1894 the Church voted to submit to the Society the question of consolidation of the Church and Society, but it was not until 1920 that the Society accepted and resolved to turn over to the Church all property controlled by it for the purpose of incorporating the church as organized today.

The Buildings

The first building was constructed in 1847 on the southwest corner of N. Main and Washington Streets. This was a white frame chapel measuring forty by fifty feet costing $1,800. In 1859 an additional fourteen feet were added to the length of the building to expand the seating capacity to 350 persons. A vestry was also built at the same time. On Thanksgiving Day 1871, during a union church service, the building burned to the ground due to an overheated stove.

Oldest Sanctuary PicIt took the members from 1871 to 1873 to raise the funds necessary to start construction of the existing building.  It was completed in November, 1874 at a total cost of $23,000 and was dedicated on January 19, 1875.  The Rev. H. R. Williams wrote the following description of the church in 1875: “The building is of Gothic style, built of brick with water tables, window sills, and buttress caps of cut stone. It is sixty-eight feet long by forty wide with a recess in the rear thirteen feet deep, for the choir and organ. At each of the front corners is a tower, one of them finished with a spire rising one hundred twenty feet. A basement story contains a handsome and convenient lecture room, also rooms for social purposes and for the furnace. The audience room above is reached by stairways in the towers. The doors, pews, wainscot, pulpit, etc. are of ash, trimmed with butternut. The ceiling is finished part way up on the rafters. It is of pine, laid in panels, with pendant posts and brackets. All of the woodwork is finished in oil and varnished. The walls are of a light drab tint; and windows of stained glass. The pews have cushions of scarlet rep, and a carpet of drab and scarlet covers the whole floor. The acoustic properties are perfect. It is a beautiful building, pleasing and satisfying to the eye and the taste, both outside and inside – a very gem of architecture – and is most substantially built.”  A pipe organ was purchased in 1881 from Granville Wood ofDetroit for $875, which replaced the original cottage organ. After the dedication in 1875, church pews began being rented for annual fees of $5 to $35. Clergy were reserved a pew at no charge.

Original SanctuaryLater, in 1878, the clock was installed as a gift to the town by James Thompson, who lived on a farm in the Scotch Settlement south-east of Almont. The tower bell was added in 1938 and rang for the first time at the centennial celebration. This was a delightful surprise and was executed by Mr. C. V. Yoder.

A rededication was held on December 28, 1952 for the remodeled and redecorated sanctuary.  The Sanctuary, approaches to the auditorium, and the new chancel were in honor of the memory of Dean Ralph Bishop, the son of Dr. and Mrs. G. Clare Bishop of Almont. The sanctuary still reflects the changes made in 1952.

What we currently know as the fellowship hall was an addition dedicated December 28, 1958 as the ChristianEducation Building. At that time church membership enrollment was 378 and Sunday school enrollment was 250. The cost of the addition was approximately $75,000. The 7,000 square foot facility was designed to included a large T shaped banquet hall which can be divided into several classrooms, a pastor’s study and office, a very modern-equipped kitchen, a nursery, rest rooms and a bride’s dressing room. The building itself has changed little, but the room usage is now slightly different.

When the fellowship hall was designed, consideration was made for including an elevator at a later time.  In 1963 the elevator was installed by Detroit Elevator Company at a cost of $10,017 including renovations.

The Taylor Memorial Chapel was given by Joseph H. Taylor on June 12, 1968 in memory of his parents Thomas Chalmers and Hannah Fowler Taylor and their children. This room was originally one of the social rooms on the west side of the first floor.

In 1973, the kitchen of the original building was transformed into a most attractive pastor’s study. This room is currently the library.

The Celebrations

There were church-wide celebrations for fifty (1888), seventy-five (1913), one hundred(1938), and one hundred and twenty-five years (1963). Clarence M. Burkholder wrote the following hymn for the centennial celebration in 1938.


Lord bless this church and keep it ever true
Unto Thyself, a house of praise and prayer,
And lead us on as Thou hast hitherto
In paths of Christ like deeds of love and care.

Others, O Lord throughout a hundred years
Have loved and labored in this sacred shrine
And sanctified it with their smiles and tears
The children of Thy grace and love divine.

These kept the faith until Thy call they heard
To serve Thee over there as they did here,
And still they keep the promise of Thy word
And speak to us Thy gospel of good cheer.

Help us, O Lord who tarry yet awhile
And share this sanctuary of Thy grace
Still to reflect the sunshine of Thy smile
And send afar Thy gospel from this place.  

A Centennial Birthday Present  

As a birthday present commemorating the 100th anniversary of the organization of the First Congregational Church of Almont, Mrs. Carl Johnson and Fred Morton of Detroit sponsored a gift of “One Cent a Year” for the last 100 years at the centennial celebration of the church on December 6, 1938.  A card was prepared with a drawing of the first church in one corner and the present church in the other with the following inscription below and spaces for one hundred names.  The inscription read: “The One Hundredth Anniversary of the birth of the First Congregational Church of Almont, Michigan, we the residents or former residents of the village of Almont, wishing to perpetuate the memory of the old church, have here unto subscribed our names and contributed for its benevolent work the sum of one cent a year for the last One Hundred Years.” 

The Music

Since 1884 the church has had a church organist. Many of those serving were as follows: 1884 – Emma Hibbler; 1886-Icy Corliss; 1887-Lizzie Hibbler; 1888-J. Floyd Harris; 1893-Estelle Hibbler; 1913-Nina B. Ingalls; 1916-Mrs. J. A. McLaren; 1923-35-Mary Hamilton; 1914-69 (not continuously) Alva Bostick; Elizabeth Halsey; Nancy Geiser, and Terry Themm (1969).  Most recently, Dorothy Gunn has served as our organist from 1982-2006.

Previous directors of the senior choir were Howell Nolan, Beatrice Cochrane, Francis Warren, Dr. G. C. Bishop, Audrey Allan, Carol Walborn and Suzi Ward. 

In the past, the church had a junior choir composed of boys and girls from grades four to seven. Its past directors were Kaye Torney, Dr. G. C. Bishop, Eileen Trott, Phyllis Scheuneman and Rev. Clarke Cochrane.

In memory of Alva Bostick, hand-bells were purchased in 1973 and the senior high boy’s bell choir was first directed by Rev. Richard Dunn. The fifth and sixth grade girl’s choir was first directed by Carol Walborn. 

The Youth

An 1898 Almont Herald newspaper article mentions that the Junior C.E. (Christian Endeavor) and the Y.P.S.C.E. (Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor) met at the church on Sundays at 3:30 pm and 6:15 pm respectively. The Christian Endeavor was founded in Portland, Maine in 1881.

The Pilgrim Fellowship was organized to serve as the youth organization for the Congregational Christian churches in 1934, but with the formation of the United Church of Christ, a new title, Youth Ministry, was chosen in 1962.   

In 1975 the young people were formed into three groups: 5th and 6th graders called the Junior Fellowship group, 7th and 8th graders were called the Junior High Fellowship group, and the 9th through 12th graders were the Senior High Fellowship group. Currently First Congregational Church of Almont has three young people groups. Grades K through 5 are in the AWANA Children’s Program (formerly Kid’s Club), Junior High Youth group (En Fuego) is grades 6 through 8, and Senior High Youth group (The Rock) is grades 9 through 12.  

Rev. C.W. Jones' Bible Class c. 1884

First Ceremonies  

The first church wedding in the village of Almont was held at the First Congregational Church of Almont on August 14, 1916. Rev. Frank Davis officiated the wedding of Miss Mary Farquharson Smith and Albert Carleton Cochrane. Miss Smith was a graduate of Almont High School and U. of M., was a teacher in Wyandotte High School. Mr. Cochrane also an Almont High School graduate, spent several years in Detroit associated with J. L. Cochrane & Co., returning to Almont as a member of the firm of A. Cochrane & Sons.  

In July 2, 1882 Lizzie Ferguson, Helena Savigny, and Miriam Burrows were baptized. Also on September 10, 1892 Frank Childs Kelsey, infant, son of Rev. E. D. Kelsey was baptized.  

Funeral services were held on April 4, 1877 for Allie B. Williams. She was the youngest daughter of Mrs. Leonard Williams and passed away at the age of 13 after just an 11-day illness. The school was present and the music class performed the service song.  

Women’s Fellowship  

In 1880, the Kettledrum Society was organized. A quotation from the Constitution and Bylaws reads: “Preamble-The ladies connected with the Congregational Church and Society of Almont, Michigan designing to cultivate mutual acquaintance and friendship, and to raise funds for the benefit of the Congregational Church, do hereby form themselves into a society for these purposes.” The new name chosen in 1888 was the Guild, and in 1908 the Ladies Guild became the Ladies Circle, later known as the Women’s Fellowship.  The Fellowship was part of a State group that was divided into four circles with council meetings held in the afternoons or evenings. Activities were coordinated and planned with representatives from each circle on the council.  Currently the women of the church are served by Women’s Ministries which seeks to help women reach their full potential in Christ.