top of page

History of our Church


Rev. Tracy R. Spencer who was born in Lempster, NH was the first to hold services in St. Johnsbury.  He died in St. Johnsbury, Oct. 2, 1864.  He had pastorates in New Hampshire from 1846 and St. Johnsbury and East Montpelier (1850-1864).

Services were suspended during the Civil War.  After the war, the first services were held in the G. A. R Hall at which Rev. George Severance preached.  Services were held in the town hall by various supplies.


Rev. F.E. Healey organized the Second Universalist Church, St. Johnsbury, Vermont Jan. 23, 1868.  (First Universalist Church was in what is now St. Johnsbury Center)  He lived in Vermont over 30 years yet little is known about him.  From 1864 to about 1890 he served churches in West Burke, Barnet, Lyndon Center, West Burke, Derby Line and Morrisville.

In 1898, he was dismissed "for ministerial labors under other auspices."

The first officers were: moderator Barron Moulton; clerk Auinton Cook; Treasurer E. F. Brown; and trustees E. A. Parks, Hiram Goss and John L. Couch.  The annual meetings of the church were held at the old Passumpsic Hotel managed by O.G. Hale a staunch Universalist.


The Ladies Circle was formed.

1871-1884 Rev. Benjamin Marshall Tillotson accepted a call to be the minister of the St. Johnsbury Church in December of 1871.  He was born in Orford, NH, Mar. 22, 1819. He died in White River Junction, Jan. 17, 1890.  He graduated from Kimball Union Academy & Newton Seminary.  He was ordained in Concord in1843.  His pastorates included Concord & St. Johnsbury Center 1842-43 while teaching school; New Hampshire; Philadelphia; New Hampshire; St. Johnsbury 1871-1884; Woodstock 1884-1889, supplying also at Hartland; North Hartland; South Woodstock; White River Junction; Pomfret; and Enfield 1890.  He was widely known in the denomination as a minister and a temperance worker.  In 1873, having been present at the deathbed of the venerable John E. Palmer, he gave the Convention a touching account of that experience.  He was convention vice-president, then president from 1877 to 1879. He married in 1844 Corilla, daughter of Abel Butler, and organizer of the St. Johnsbury Church. His brother was Rev. O. H. Tillotson. Upon B. M. Tillotson's death, a special train was run from White River Junction to accommodate the mourners who went to Orford for the services.

The land was purchased in September 1871 for $3,000.

The corner stone was laid Aug. 10 1872. A box was inserted including the records of the church, proceedings of centenary meetings at Gloucester MA Sept. 1870, the Ladies Repository, The Winchester1803 Confession of Faith, Denominational papers: The Universalist, The Gospel Banner, The Christian Leader, The New Covenant, The Star in the West; and The Myrtle. Local papers: The Caledonian; the times; the Vermont Union; and the North Star. The Universalist Register, about 70 names of people who contributed one dollar for the cornerstone and the names of the workmen o the building.

The ladies gave an oyster supper Dec. 4th, 1872 to raise money for a carpet for the new church.

The church was dedicated January 23, 1873. Lambert Packard was the architect and John Stevens was the builder. The seating Capacity was 500 (75 pews). At this service the opening prayer was offered by Rev. F.E. Healey, the dedicatory address was given by Rev. Tillotson and the sermons was preached by Rev. Eli Ballou, and the dedicatory prayer was by Rev. Edward Wright followed by a short address by Rev. Healey.

The first Sabbath School concert was held in April 1873.

The St. Johnsbury Church participated in the "Great Awakening" of 1875. On March 28 the church was filled, "deep interest being manifest".

1884-1885 Rev. George W. Jenkins - "A man of rare good nature and of real ability as a scholar. He was a Christian gentleman, who filled a particularly difficult and trying position with genuine grace and success." (Caledonian Record 1/26/08)

A tree was planted at the church in spring 1885 on Vermont's first official Arbor Day.

1886-1891 Rev. Ezra Almon Hoyt - "probably without question the ablest preacher of all who have filled this pulpit as pastor. But for a serious infirmity of deafness, he would, without doubt, have reached the highest place in our church as pulpit orator." (Caledonian Record 1/26/08)

1892-1894 Rev. Costello Weston - "probably the finest literary scholar and writer of all his associates in this pastorate." (Caledonian Record 1/26/08)

1895- Nov. 1, 1898 Rev. Harvey Hastings Hoyt Came directly from Tufts and after became state missionary for Maine. "Of a most amiable and hopeful disposition, lovable and loving, he greatly endeared himself to the parish and the whole community, and is held in pleasant remembrance by all who knew him.

Nov. 1, 1898- Aug. 16, 1899 Harry Lawrence Veazey was born July 25, 1870 in Haverhill MA, He studied at Lawrence University. He was ordained July 25, 1897.

The annual meeting book noted "August 16, 1899 Our pastor Harry Lawrence Veazey and Miss Ellen Calhoun, his fiancée were drowned in Caspian Lake at Greensboro VT and their remains have not been recovered."

1900 Rev. J.P. Quimby "combined much ready knowledge of a general nature with eloquence and enthusiasm." Caledonian Record 1/26/08)

June 23, 1901-1908 Rev. A. F. Walch - In January 1908, the 40th anniversary of the parish and 30th anniversary of the dedication of the church building was celebrated. The 100th anniversary of the Northern Association of Universalists was held in June.

Also in June extensive repairs were completed. The vestibule, auditorium, and anterooms were frescoed. The chancel and altar were rearranged and a new choir rail was built. The prevailing interior colors were various shades of olive.

1909-1913 Rev. Benjamin F. Butler - In April, the church decided to accept the offer by Mr. and Mrs. B. I. Staples of a lot on Pearl Street for a parsonage. The committee was F. B. Hooker, F. A. Scott, C. J. Gilfillan, Miss Carrie Underwood and Miss Kate Wakefield. The 8-room cottage was finished that fall.

1914- Apr. 24, 1918 Rev. C. L. Eaton - The 84th annual meeting of the Vermont Quebec Convention met in St. Johnsbury Aug 28-31 1916. The Young peoples' Union met the evening of August 28. A praise service was led by Weston A. Cate (Later a minister here) who was at that time a student at St. Lawrence. The welcome address was given by Milton Montgomery.

1918-1920 Rev. Harold Guy Don Scott was born in Newport, Nov. 13, 1892. He died in Kennebunk, Maine, 1965. His education included Tufts, Vanderbilt, and the Univ. of Chicago Th.D 1938. He was ordained in Old Town Maine in1917. His pastorates included Maine, St. Johnsbury, Ohio, Alabama, Colorado, Michigan, Washington, Massachusetts, Utah, Massachusetts, and again Maine. He preached also in St. Johnsbury Center while in Vermont. He married the church organist before going to Ohio.

1920-1922 Rev. Weston Atwood Cate was born in Japan on Feb. 27, 1894. He died in Montpelier, Dec. 6, 1962. His education included Goddard & St. Lawrence 1918; He received an honorary degree from St. Lawrence. He was ordained June 14, 1918. His pastorates included East Montpelier as a student; St. Johnsbury 1920-21; Woodstock, South Woodstock 1922-25; New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine, and New York. He did some summer work at Calais & E. Calais, Felchville, and South Strafford. Dr. Cate served as a trustee of the state YPCU, 1921-25. Mrs. Arlene Jeffords Cate once served as secretary of the state Women's Association and was still living near Montpelier in 1976. The 1921 convention was treated to the news of the birth of Weston Atwood Cate Jr., who became prominent in Vermont education work.

1922-1924 Rev. George Wilson Scudder was born in Poultney, May 3, 1876. He died at Brunswich Maine, May 8, 1956 and was buried at Auburn. He graduated from St. Lawrence. He was ordained in1906. His pastorates included New York; St. Johnsbury and St. Johnsbury Center 1922-24; Maine; and Massachusetts. He retired in the 1930s and with his wife operated a gift shop.

Rev. George Ferdinand Fortier, convention superintendent, preached in St. Johnsbury on Oct. 19, 1924. He was born in Somerville, MA, May 19, 1874. He died in Morrisville, May 4, 1928. He graduated from Tufts and was ordained in1897. His pastorates included Massachusetts; Bethel 1903-5; Northfield 1905-10: Rutland 1910-22; St. Albans 1914-17; and Morrisville 1917-1922. He was convention secretary, then superintendent from 1910-1928. He served as president of the Board of Education in Morrisville and was instrumental in getting the law passed by which judges could no longer sentence dependent children to the Industrial school in Vergennes.

Nov. 2, 1924 One early reference of a woman in this pulpit was Harriet Baker Robinson of Oldtown, Maine who preached here on Nov. 2, 1924. George F. Fortier, the Convention superintendent, wrote: "She is better than any $25 man you are likely to get."

Nov. 23, 1924-1930 Rev. Thomas W. Horsfield was born in Manchester England in1889. He died in St., Johnsbury April 30 1965. He graduated from Manchester University and the University of Chicago. He was ordained in Pennsylvania, 1916. His pastorates included California: Massachusetts; St. Johnsbury; Maine; and again St. Johnsbury 1935-63. He was very popular with his congregation.

1930-about 1933 Rev. John Merrill Paige was born in Lincoln, Apr. 22, 1868. He died Feb. 14 1936. He was ordained a Baptist minister, 1893. He was educated at Bates and Tufts 1903. His pastorates included Baptist, Universalist & Unitarian churches in Maine, St. Johnsbury, & Concord. He served both churches from 1930-34 & kept the Concord group until his death.

1934-1935 Rev. Howard Davis Spoerl Ph .D. was born in Brooklyn, New York, Mar 19, 1903. He died at Springfield Mass., April 1957. His education included Tufts, University of Maine, and a Harvard Ph.D. 1934. He was ordained 1927. His pastorates included North Montpelier (summer 1926); Maine; Jeffersonville (Congregational) and St. Johnsbury 1934-5.

He left to teach psychology and philosophy at Northeastern University, then at American International College. A prolific writer, he contributed poems to Driftwind, the publication run by Rev. Walter Coates in North Montpelier.

Howard married Dorothy Tilden Spoerl Ph.D. Besides carrying on a long career in the teaching of psychology and several pastorates; she was editor of the Beacon series in Religious Education (1955-64). She served Woodstock-Hartland 1970-72. Her father was Dr. Joseph Mayo Tilden, president of Lombard College 1916-28.

1935-1963 Rev. Thomas Horsfield again served St. Johnsbury from 1935 to his retirement in1963. (See above).

April 24, 1951 the slate covered church steeple was removed and replaced with a slanting two-way roof. Board Chair John W. Simons said in the paper that Woodbury Memorial Hall was being used for services and the church was being used as a meeting place for the local unit of the U.S. Army Reserve and the Caledonia Law Enforcement Association.

1963-1978 Rev. Warren Nye was ordained June 8, 1969, at St. Johnsbury. Glennis, Warren's wife, lives in Monroe NH. In 1972 the original church was torn down.

1979-1981 Forest Lasnier, a lay preacher

1986-1987 Wendall Keithan, a lay preacher

1990-1997 Stanley Slayton, a Congregational lay preacher, was born in Hardwick Sept. 26, 1915. He graduated from Cornell. He also served the East Barnet Congregational Church 17-18 years

1997-June 30, 2013  Rev. Brendan Douglas Hadash was born in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, April 25, 1951. He graduated from the University of Windsor, and Starr King Theological School M. Div. 1981. He was ordained in 1981 at Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. His pastorates included North Hatley, Quebec; Derby Line, and West Burke 1982-86. He was installed as minister of St. Johnsbury Sept. 14, 1997.  He retired on June 30, 2013, and soon after was named Minister Emeritus.

August 15, 2013 - June 2014 Following a two-and-a-half month search by a specially-appointed Interim Minister Search Committee, the church welcomed Rev. Dr. M'Ellen Kennedy as our interim minister.  M'ellen served our congregation through early June 2014.

bottom of page