Editor’s note: The following is a combined two-part series about Almont’s First Baptist Church. The first part was originally published in the Tri-City Times in February 2021. Part two was omitted from this column space inadvertently. To avoid confusion, the story, in it’s entirety, is being reprinted here.
The Baptist Church Society was formed in 1837. Rev. Cyrus Churchill organized eight couples to form the Society. The exact date of this meeting and its location are not known but it probably occurred at Edward Hyde Hough’s home on the corner of Shoemaker and Tubsprings Roads.
The eight couples were Rev. Cyrus Churchill (1804-1857) and his wife Mary Phelps Churchill (1806-1889). Rev. Churchill had come with his father, David Churchill Sr. (1768-1840), to Almont in 1836. Also coming from Canada, were Cyrus’ older brother David (1801-1864) and younger brother, Levi (1806-1891).
David Churchill Jr. and wife Zoe Edgerton Churchill (1811-1877) settled on a farm in Berlin Township at the corner of Almont and Holmes Roads. The West Berlin Methodist Church and Cemetery are on a section of the Churchill homestead. David and Zoe’s son, Norvell, saved the life of General George Armstrong Custer at the Battle of Hunterstown just before the Battle of Gettysburg.
Levi Churchill and wife Mary Pine Churchill (1808- ) settled on property along Howland Road north of Dryden Road.
Walter King Hough (1805-1868)—more commonly called W.K.— and first wife Nancy Backus Hough (1804-1848) came in 1834 and settled on property on Hough Road. W. K. and his cousin Ebenezer Hough (1805-1870) bought property along Hough Road in 1831. They came together to Almont in 1833 and David Churchill Jr. and Zoe Edgerton Churchill bought additional land and then built cabins and barns and cleared land. In the fall they returned home to Connecticut. The next year they brought their families.
Edward Hyde Hough (1807-1854)—brother of W. K.—and his wife Mary Ann Prentice Hough (1809-1896) came to Almont in 1835. Edward came to Almont in 1834 and purchased property at the southwest corner of Shoemaker and Tubsprings Roads.
Joseph Hough (1793-1873)—W. K. and Edward’s older brother— and first wife Lavinia Phelps Wightman (1797-1850) came to Almont about 1836. Joseph was also a minister.
Mr. and Mrs. John Shoemaker and Mr. and Mrs. Amos Stone were the other two couples but nothing more is known about them.
Initially, church services were held at Edward Hough’s home. By 1844 when Mr. William Tuttle of New York was hired as pastor, the services were held in the log schoolhouses, moving from schoolhouse to schoolhouse based on availability. They may have shared the schoolhouse at the corner of General Squier and Shoemaker roads with the First Congregational Church, using it when the Congregational Church held its services at the Townsend schoolhouse on Bordman Road.
In 1846 the Society purchased a lot at 243 East St. Clair Street from Solon T. Spafford for $60.00. Over the next eighteen months they constructed the wood frame structure. It was completed and dedicated in July 1847.
The free and clear deed to the property was handed over to the Trustees of the First Baptist Society on January 11, 1850.
In 1898, the Society added the west addition to the church and remodeled the rest of the building. For eight months while this work was going on, church services were held at Rev. J. H. Paton’s Advent Christian Chapel on North Bristol Street.
In 1936, the church’s dining room, hall, and kitchen were remodeled.
In the early 1960s, the growth of the church’s membership in combination with the age and condition of the church building, led the Society to begin to consider building a new church. The first step in this process occurred in 1964 when the Society purchased a four-acre parcel of land on the west side of Van Dyke just outside of the village limits.
The first step in raising the funds for the building was a tent meeting held in the summer of 1964. Rev. Peter Nortier led the meeting.
By 1967, fundraising had progressed to the point where construction could begin. The Society hired architect Donald Peterson and
building contractor Glen Shoults.
The church cost $190,000 and was built entirely by the church members and friends. The church has 1,400 square feet on each floor. The building was extensively insulated using over eleven thousand pounds of insulation. The building is heated by electric heat which necessitated the extreme insulation. Up through at least the mid 1980s, it was the largest electrically heated church in the state.
The sanctuary was on the upper floor. On the lower level are 12 teaching rooms, a nursery, and preschool room.
At the time of the building’s construction, Rev. Nortier was broadcasting his service over the radio. Adequate radio and recording facilities were incorporated into the construction of the building.
The Society purchased the bell from the fire department. The fire bell had been replaced with the fire siren.
Copies of the Almont Historical Society’s various books can be purchased by contacting Jim Wade at 810-796-3355 or firstname.lastname@example.org or stopping by the museum on Saturdays from 1-4 p.m.