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4023 VT Route 15
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As far as can be determined, the Wolcott, Vermont, United Methodist church is the only white United Methodist church in the United States (and perhaps the entire denomination) that was organized by an African American (in 1855), who then oversaw the construction of the church building in 1856. The name of the pastor was the Rev. George S. Brown, the first African American pastor in the former Troy Annual Conference of the UMC.
George S. Brown was born a free man to Amos and Harriet Smith Brown on Newport Island, RI, on July 25, 1801. He was converted in Kingsbury, NY, in 1827 and became a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, eventually receiving a license to preach on July 27, 1833 - the first issued to an African American by the former Troy Annual Conference. Then he began to experience a call to become a missionary to Africa.
He subsequently sailed to Liberia on October 15, 1836, where he was reportedly one of the most successful missionaries in reaching the native Africans. He married twice while in Africa. His first wife, Nancy Wilson, died and he re-married to Harriet Ann Harper with whom he had a daughter, Hannah Ann, who died of whooping cough.
When Brown refused to become a part of a political battle between the white superintendent of the Mission and the Liberian governor over whether or not taxes should be charged on goods being shipped from America to Liberia, Brown was subsequently expelled from the mission and sailed back to America in 1843.
Due to the fact that it took him ten years in America to recover the money owed him and to have his preaching credentials restored, he never did return to Africa, but eventually traveled to Vermont in 1852 with the Rev. Henry Boardman Taylor, who was assigned to Berkshire and Montgomery, Vermont.
In early 1855, Brown was then assigned to the fledgling congregation in Wolcott, Vermont, where he organized within a year a successful congregation that was able, under his leadership the following year, to build the beautiful church building which is still in existence today. If you would like to view a video of Rev. Pat Thompson describing the ministry of the Rev. Brown, go to: http://www.mychamplainvalley.com/news/hidden-history-reverend-george-s-brown/648629943.
George S. Brown only served the church for three years, leaving in January, 1858, due to illness. However, he left a strong congregation that continued to grow and which has always had a strong emphasis on missions - both local and world-wide - continuing to carry on his legacy as a missionary. As early as 1862 it was reported that $7.50 was raised for the denomination's Missionary Society. In June, 1893, Miss Emily Harvey, a returned missionary from India, spoke at the church in an open meeting. The following March it was reported that, “The Epworth League (the young people's group) have recently sent a barrel of clothing to the Deaconess Home, Boston, to be distributed among destitute people.” Another barrel was sent in 1902. "The Junior League have [their] quilt finished, which they are to add to the barrel to be sent to the Deaconess Home, Boston." It was also reported at the same time that, "The Junior League Missionary concert given last week was well rendered and the collection together with the contents of the mite boxes were satisfactory, which means $4.26 added to their funds."
In 1916, under the leadership of the Rev. Fred Keeler, the first free public library was established in Wolcott. It began with a number of volumes being made available at the parsonage and then moved to the W.R.C. (Women's Relief Corps) hall. It is not certain, at this point in time, whether this library survived and eventually became the Glee Merritt Community Library or whether that library grew out of a later effort.
In 1918 the Congregational church which held worship services at the time in what is now the Nazarene church building and the Methodist church joined together to form the Wolcott Community Church. For a few years worship services were held at the former Congregational church building and other events in the Methodist church. In 1927, after the great flood, funds were received from the state to renovate the M.E. church building and ever since that time, all worships services and events have been held in the Methodist church. The church was generally known as the Wolcott Community Church until about 1945 when the church was yoked with the Puffer Methodist church and one pastor served both churches. From that time forward, it has been known, once again, as the Wolcott Methodist (United Methodist since 1968) church.
The emphasis on missions continued. In August, 1920, a special missionary meeting was held which focused on China and a Chinese school was produced by the young people. The following year Miss Elthea Todd, who had served as a missionary in China presented a program to the young people at the church and following her presentation, the girls held an ice cream social to raise money for the preparation of a Christmas box to be sent to India. At the end of the year, the pastor was collecting money for starving children in Russia.
In 1935 the News and Citizen reported that Lillian Hoyt, who was a long-time active member of the WUMC, was collecting clothes and furniture for the poor. In 1936 the Jolly Dozen, one of the Sunday School classes, held a candy sale to benefit the Red Cross.
As noted above, in 1945, after the Rev. Fred Danielson had served the church for 14 years, the church realized that it would not be possible to have another full-time pastor would serve for the salary which Mr. Danielson received. The decision was finally made to yoke the Wolcott Methodist church with the Puffer Methodist church in Morrisville.
In 1952 Ray (from Puffer Methodist Church in Morrisville) and Ruth Smalley, who had served in the Belgian Congo as missionaries, were guest speakers at Sunday morning worship and also met with the WSCS (Women's Society of Christian Service) to talk about their mission work.
In more recent years, a good deal of money has been raised for both local and world-wide missions. In 1952 under the leadership of Catherine Eastman and Ruth Reed $935 was raised to help alleviate hunger in Ethiopia.
Over the past fifteen years and more, missions became the major emphasis of this small congregation which held indoor bake and yard sales and dinners to raise thousands of dollars for the Capstone Community Action's Warmth Fund, the Lamoille Area Lacing Up for Cancer program, the UMC's Imgaine No Malaria program, local programs that provide backpacks and school supplies for students, Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets, the Family Center, the Lamoille Community Food Share and more.
The WUMC and the Puffer UMC were a part of a single charge, sharing a pastor, until October, 2014, when the Puffer church began to worship with the First Congregational, UCC, and Michael Thorpe, came to be our pastor, as a certified candidate for the ministry. In July, 2015, the WUMC became entirely independent from Puffer. Pastor Mike was licensed as a local pastor and appointed 1/4 in April, 2017. Pastor Mike and Rev. Pat Thompson currently co-pastor the church. Pastor Mike is responsible for leading worship and providing pastoral care and Rev. Pat is the church secretary and accompanist on Sunday morning, handling most of the administrative duties for the church.
In 2016, realizing that there were some structural issues with the church foundation, due to the water that seeps into the foundation because we are constructed up against a ledge at the back of the church, the Administrative Council and the Trustees voted to undertake a study to determine the extent of the water damage and attempt to make the needed repairs and find a permanent solution to prevent further damage. This decision was made because it is our strong desire to preserve this historic building which was constructed under the leadership of our founding pastor, the Rev. George S. Brown. It is our intent, if we are able to find the funds to undertake the repairs, to develop a small museum which will be open on some kind of a regular basis, to tell the story of this amazing African American, who was able to organize and grow a white church in an all-white community in Pre-Civil War days.
While we are undertaking repairs to the church building, we will be continuing our emphasis on missions, as well, looking for new ways in which to continue to support the programs that have become so important to us.