|Rev. Ann Hockridge and Church Trustee/Deacon Kate Piper pose beside the flourishing Memory Garden, a celebratory project Piper began planting three years ago in the historic village of Lower Waterford.|
|Workers for Robert Morgan Steeple & Building Restoration, Littleton, NH, replaced the old sills and repaired the foundation of the 153-year-old church in May of 2014.|
On Sunday, July 9, the Lower Waterford Congregational Church will publicly dedicate a Memory Garden that honors those for whom the town held special meaning.
Descendants of 18th- and 19th-century families who settled the nearly 40-square-mile municipality as well as newcomers attracted by the natural beauty of the Connecticut River hill town are expected to come, some from as far away as Florida. The event is open to the public.
To date, 60 individuals or families have names carved in red brick. In neat rows, they share an elevated, semicircular floral bed with three seasons of colorful perennials. The garden is located next to the church’s Maple Street foundation.
“This truly is Isaiah-worthy to ‘enlarge the place of thy tent’,” said Pastor Ann Hockridge, quoting from the Old Testament. “We’re deeply grateful to Kate Piper for undertaking this project and for the research assistance of Waterford Historical Society member Beth Kanell.”
Mini biographies will be shared in a commemorative program. They include a former pastor who ministered to the needs of Lower Waterford, East Saint Johnsbury, and East Concord; a son who gave his life for his country during the Vietnam War; dairy farmers, summer residents, a blacksmith, a postmistress, teachers, a photographer, an author, a veterinarian, a retired geologist who served on the town’s Planning Commission, a Select Board member, residents of the forgotten village of Upper Waterford, and an avid snowmobiler whose trails through town are still used.
Funds raised from the purchase of the memorial bricks help with the enormous restoration needs of the 153-year-old building. A successful community drive in 2012 brought in $24,000 in donations that were subsequently used to repair 19th-century support beams at both the rear and Maple Street sides of the church.
“It’s the kind of work you can’t see,” Piper explained, “but necessary for holding up the building. A church member then gifted us with money to paint the building’s exterior.
“But not the steeple,” she added. “It was leaking and needed repair, and that now is done.”
Trustee/Deacon Norrine Williams said, “We’re looking for an angel, or two, to help us get the steeple painted and this time install solar-powered lights so travelers on I 93 and Route 18 can use it again as a beacon when they’re driving at night.”
A devastating fire in 1859 leveled the 22-year-old meetinghouse built on what was once the crossroads corner of Lower Waterford Road and Maple Street. A covered bridge at the foot of Maple Street connected this section of Caledonia County to New Hampshire.
Repurposing timber and pews from Deacon Abial Richardson’s 1818 meetinghouse on Old Country Road South near Mad Brook, the edifice was built in the Greek Revival style and dedicated on January 11, 1860. A portrait of the pioneer settler from Royalston, MA, is on view in the church foyer along with notable Waterford artifacts that were once on display in the Fairbanks Museum, and items from the Upper Waterford church that was de-accessioned in 1954 prior to Moore Dam’s construction.
Until 1957, when the new elementary school opened, Town Meeting took place in the Lower Waterford church’s lower level while the sanctuary hosted 8th grade graduation ceremonies from the town’s 14 district schoolhouses.
The work of postcard and Hallmark greeting cards photographer Winston Pote of Lancaster, NH, brought the Congregational Church and the village of Lower Waterford international recognition in the decades after World War II.
Following the 10 a.m. worship service, Pastor Hockridge is scheduled to offer a blessing of the garden at 11:30 a.m. It will be followed by a light lunch for all who attend.
Financial gifts to help meet the Lower Waterford church’s need to restore the sanctuary interior, install a composting toilet on the lower level, and add insulation can be mailed to P.O. Box 111, Lower Waterford, VT 05848.
Yoked with Third Congregational Church on Route 2 in East St. Johnsbury, the two houses of worship share a presence on Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/Lower-WaterfordThird-Congregational-Church
POSTSCRIPT: Here is the July 9, 2017, gathering for the blessing of the garden. What a lovely and loving day! Photo by Helen C. Pike.