A History of the Hadley Community Church
A high order of civilization was introduced into this new country by the early settlers. They came from a land of churches and schools and brought with them a high appreciation of the worth of a Christian intelligence. The first echo of the woodsman’s ax had scarcely died away before the itinerant preacher arrived and the notes of prayer and praise ascended from a place of worship. The first religious service was held by Rev. Abel Warren of the Methodist Episcopal (M.E) Church, who preached a funeral discourse for an infant son of Mr. Bezahel Bristol of the township of Almont. Rev. Warren was the pioneer preacher of Lapeer and several other counties. He also performed the first marriage ceremony, that of Mr. Cullen and Miss Nancy Elederkin in Almont, January 15, 1832. In 1835 the Lapeer Circuit was formed with Rev. O.F. North as pastor.
To give an idea of what the area was like in the early days of settling the area, E.A. Brownell came to Metamora in 1838. It is stated that “when he came to Lapeer County the townships of Metamora and Hadley were very sparsely settled, containing perhaps nine families to each. Travel was carried on by the aid of marked trees as there were no roads cut out at that time”.
Our source of information for the early history (to 1870) of the M.E. Church in Hadley is the History of Lapeer County (1884). Ministers were many, their terms of office sometimes lasting less than two years. We have attempted to list the pastors before the church federated in order: 1837-Flavel Brittian, 1838-Oran Mitchell, 1839-Ebenezer Steele, 1840-Duncan McGregor (he was here until at least December 1841), 1842-Joseph Jennings, 1843-George F. Hemingway, 1844-Stephen C. Woodard with Nelson Barnum, assistant, 1845-William Mothersill, 1846-John Gray, 1847-Israel Cogshall, 1849 to 1851-Benjamin F. Pritchard who was the first man stationed in Hadley after being cut off from the Lapeer circuit. In 1851-Henry N. Brown was pastor, 1852-Thomas Wakelin, 1853-John Levington, 1854 and 1855-Giles N. Belknap, 1856 Thomas Seeley with Isaac Crawford, assistant, 1858-Samuel P. Vandoozer, 1859 and 1860-William Mothersill, 1861-Alanson Herrick, 1862-Lewis Mitchell, 1863-Curtis Mesier and in 1864-Wesley Haggadorn.
In 1865, Benjamin F. Pritchard returned as pastor and in 1866, the Farmers Creek church separated from Hadley but was reattached in 1867 when Lucius S. Tedman had the charge. In 1869, George W. Owen was appointed pastor, and it was under his administration the present church was erected. Following him in 1872-Charles M. Anderson, 1873 and 1874-George M. Lyon, 1875-D.W. Hammond, 1876-John Wesley, 1877-H.W. Wright, 1880-L.S. Tedman, 1883-T.P. Barnum, 1886-A.B. Wood, 1889-Wm. Newey, 1892-Jno. J. Hodge, 1893-J.E. Ryerson, 1895-J.D. Hubble, 1897-C.W. Butler, 1900-Joshua Bacon, 1901-R.W. Van Alstyne, 1904-A. Balgooyen, 1915-Fred Walker, and in 1918-O.W. Trask. We quote below from the History.
“The first sermon preached in Hadley was delivered by Rev. James Hemingway, July 10, 1835. The sermon was preached in a log shanty standing on the southwest corner of the east half of southwest quarter of section 2 (about 1½ miles east of the village). The house was then owned by Eri Potter and occupied by John Morse. It is said that every person living in the town was present at this meeting.”
Sometime in the month of November 1835, Rev. Oscar North organized the first religious society in Hadley, consisting of four members: Dennis Griggs, Jemima Griggs, William Hart and Polly Hart. William Hart was appointed the first class leader, an office which he continued to hold for several years.
Shortly after the organization of the society, an appointment for preaching was fixed at the residence of William Hart, just at the south side of the present limits of Hadley village (the former farm of Mrs. Elsie Pierson Stimson). Farmer’s Creek, however, continued to be a regular preaching place and at some subsequent period, the class was divided and the part which held its meetings at William Hart’s was thenceforth known as the Hadley Class and the other part as the Farmer’s Creek Class.
***Historical Perspective: 1837 Michigan became the 26th state
From 1835 to 1850, Hadley was an outlying appointment of the Lapeer Circuit. In 1837, the appointment was removed from William Hart’s residence to a log school house at Greene’s Corners.
In 1838, Oran Mitchell was pastor. During his administration, Hadley was favored with a sweeping revival which commenced at a temperance meeting. At that meeting it is said that with two exceptions all the adult population was converted in the township and the township received the title of “Pious Hadley”. Ebenezer Steele was the minister in 1839, Duncan McGregor in 1840 and he was here until at least December 1841, followed by Rev. Joseph Jennings in 1842.
During the year of 1842, a church building was constructed on the site of the present Hadley M.E. Church (Hadley Community Church). The lot was deeded to the society by Alonzo and Amanda Hart, February 15, 1842. The deed was witnessed by John M. Hemingway and Dr. J.S. Comstock. The first Board of Trustees consisted of James Hemingway, William Hart, Simon T. Hill, Jonathan Cramton and William Hemingway. It appears that our pioneer fathers made haste slowly, for the deed, though executed in February 1842, was not acknowledged until March 26, 1844. It was recorded about a month later. The building frame was 26 x 36 feet.
***Historical Perspective: 1861 American Civil War (1861-1865)
At the Methodist Conference of 1849, Hadley and some other appointments were severed from the Lapeer Charge and formed into a new circuit, and for the first time the name of Hadley appears in the published minutes. Benjamin F. Pritchard was placed in charge of the new circuit and he remained two years. His work included Hadley, Goodrichville (Goodrich), Farmer’s Creek, Thornville, and probably some other appointments. During Brother Pritchard’s second year’s pastorate, the parsonage, located at 3666 Hadley Road, was built. The deed of the parsonage lot was given by William and Polly Hart, and bears the date November 20, 1850.
At the session of the Methodist general conference held in May 1856, the State of Michigan was divided into two annual conferences. The Detroit Conference, which included the Hadley appointment, held its first session in the month of September 1856, at which time Thomas Seeley was appointed pastor of Hadley Circuit. Mr. Seeley’s pastorate continued two years, during which time the church building at Farmer’s Creek was constructed. The deed of the lot on which it was erected, bears the date April 7, 1857. Dr. L.D. Whitney preached the dedicatory sermon. Our present church building was erected at a cost of $4,500. The cornerstone of the church was laid May 12, 1870 by Rev. J.S. Smart with appropriate ceremonies. The following list of articles were deposited in the vault; Methodist Almanac-1870, Michigan Almanac-1870, Christian Advocate-1826 and 1870, Northwestern Christian Advocate-1870, Sunday school Advocate-1870, Bible, hymn book, and Disciple History of the Church, official list of township officers-1870, 5 small coins, handbill for cornerstone laying and a copy of the Lapeer Clarion. Dedicated October 12, 1870, this structure is 36’ x 60’.
The original structure did not have stained glass windows or a front porch. Historical pictures show the windows were clear glass. It was heated by a pot-bellied stove located at the west end of the building as pictures show a chimney there. When it was dark the double chimney kerosene lamps that were mounted between the side windows were lit. Horses were housed in two separate sheds, one on the south side and one on the north side of the lot in front of the cemetery. A chemical toilet was located under the stairway for those who found it necessary. The vent hole on the south side of the church is still visible and is covered with a tin can lid. When the church was new, young maple trees were planted with care in front of the building and the sidewalk was laid out in the form of a cross.
Roll down partitions were added at the east end of the sanctuary to make Sunday School rooms for the children. One side even held a small sand box for them to play in and the other had small tables and chairs.
The balcony upstairs was originally one large room. This was later divided as it is now with two rooms behind the balcony. Windows were added across the front to create a “cry room”.
***Historical Perspective: 1914 World War I (1914-1919)
In 1919 the Methodist Church in Hadley federated with the Baptist Church of Hadley. For some years previous to this, both churches found it difficult to support their own church and Rev. Trask made the remark that, “he was the one who started the ball a’ rolling” to have the two churches united or federated. Services were held in the Methodist (Hadley Community) Church. Furnishings, including the pews (which were more comfortable to sit on than the straight back Methodist pews), were brought from the Baptist Church, located at 4566 Pratt Road. The Baptist Church, now called the Community Hall, was maintained by the federated group. It was used for recreation and Young People’s meetings as well as for dinners, reunions and social events.
With federation in 1919, pastors were alternated between the two denominations. The following is a list of subsequent pastors which was gleaned from church records, notes and memories of times long past.
Rev. George Reeves (Baptist) 1919-1921
Rev. Carey (Methodist) 1922-1924
Rev. Ernest Potter (Baptist) 1925-1928
Rev. Pengelly (Methodist) 1929-1932
Rev. Thompson (Baptist) 1933-1934
Rev. Ralph Brown (Methodist) 1935-1937
Rev. L. A. Townsend (Baptist) 1938-1939
Rev. Marinus J. Remein (Baptist) 1939-1942
Rev. Roy E. Wikander (Methodist) 1943-1949
Rev. Percy Jones filled in as interim pastor. Sister Lucille Robinson was here for two weeks holding evangelistic meetings.
Rev. Merton Spaulding (Methodist) 1950-1951
Rev. John R. Tolly (Baptist) 1952-1958
Rev. Clarence Eavy (Methodist) 1959-1962
Rev. James Morris (Baptist) 1963-1967
Rev. James Sheldrake – June 1968-April 1976
The church’s name was first changed to the Hadley Federated Church in 1919 and then in May 1963 to the Hadley Methodist and Baptist Community Church. A further change to the Hadley Community Church was made in 1963, since it was no longer a member of either conference. In the spring of 1976, the membership voted to join the Independent Fundamental Churches of America (IFCA)
***Historical Perspective: 1939 World War II (1939-1945)
The federation actually lasted thirty years, since in 1949 a group of the Baptist members withdrew from it and returned to the original Baptist church building. This group joined the Conservative Baptists while the American Baptists remained with the federated church. It is noted in the Annual Report of 1965-1966 that the Methodist Conference separated itself from the church. It is stated that “It should be noted there was no action of the church, council or pastor precipitating the action taken by the conference… A copy of the resolution follows: Hadley Methodist Church, of the Flint District. It was reported to the Trustees that the above church has gone through many re-organizations during the past few years. The present minister is a Baptist and has been rather successful in the work, and the church desires to become a community church. It is felt that Methodist work can no longer be carried out successfully in said church. The Cabinet having voted to declare the work abandoned in the Hadley Methodist Church, and upon recommendation of W. Leslie Williams, District Superintendent it is recommended that the following resolution be adapted:
RESOLVED that the Detroit Annual Conference of the Methodist Church do hereby declare the Methodist Church work in Hadley Methodist Church, sometimes known as the Hadley Federated Church in the Flint District, be abandoned in accordance with the provisions of the Discipline; and that the matter of the sale and conveyance of said Church property be and the same hereby referred to the Conference Board of Trustees with full power to sell and convey said property; that upon such sale the net proceeds received from such sale, less 10% retained by the Conference Board of Trustees, be made available for use by the District Superintendent of the Flint district.”
It was moved by M. Shari, supported by D. Parker that the foregoing resolution be adopted. Motion carried.”
The Hadley Community Church later paid the Methodist Conference the sum of $1.00 and became independent of them.
Pastors of the church after joining the IFCA are:
Rev. Frank Ditzler-July 1977-March 1979
Rev. Bruce Craner-Oct. 1979-Sept. 1983
Rev. David Carpenter-Mar. 1985-Dec. 1987
Rev. Robert Winne – Aug. 1988-Jan. 1995
Rev. Richard Geigert – June 1995-Oct. 2010
Interim pastors include Rev. Edmund Leisman, Rev. Ralph Davidson, Rev. Henry Wrobbel and Rev. Orrin (Bud) Van Loon.
Summer youth workers included Bob Hayes, 1970; Don Schelske, 1978; and Don Potocki in 1982.
Youth Pastors, in order, are Ronald Yahr, fall of 1989 to March 1992; Thomas Barron, February 1993-July, 1996; David Richard, Sept. 1996-June 1997; and Daryl Brezee, Sept. 1997-Feb 1999; and Benjamin Nordaas June 2000-Dec. 2010.
Through the years changes have been wrought in the building itself. In 1913, the high steeple was blown down in a windstorm. After 20 years of saving and planning, this was replaced in August 27, 1980 with a new aluminum steeple. Ralph Corey was in charge of the project which included the rebuilding of the belfry on which the steeple sets. The annual report of 1960 mentions that the leaded windows were installed about 1935. Five new braces were added to each window to take out the bulges. The Centennial Sunday program of October 11, 1970 states that “in 1954, the need arose to excavate the basement of the church for Sunday school rooms. Then in 1959 (when Rev. Eavy was pastor), more excavation and remodeling took place, allowing for a kitchen, restrooms (under the front porch), a nursery and more Sunday school rooms.” In 1960, the coal furnace was converted from coal to oil and an additional furnace was added to heat the basement. These furnaces were replaced in 1969, 1996, and 2011. In 1964, the parking lot was expanded and a new front porch and church sign were added. Extensive interior remodeling at a cost of $7,500 was started in 1965 under the direction of Rev. James Morris. The congregation held services at the Hadley School during the summer while the sanctuary was being plastered and paneled, the foyer extended and the balcony stairway enlarged. A dedicatory service was held October 10, 1965.
The congregation voted in November 1971 to purchase the house and lot to the south of the church from Floyd and Nellie Barber for $15,000. With the guidance of Rev. James Sheldrake, ground was broken for a new addition (the Fellowship Hall) on September 16, 1973. The addition, which is the size of the original structure, included a fellowship hall laid out for the AWANA games, kitchen, restrooms and office. The front stained glass windows depicting the three crosses were designed by Kent Copeman. Dedicatory services for the new addition were held April 4, 1976.
In 1991, a large addition under the direction of Jay Adams, was added to the south allowing for a larger office and expanded nursery.
***Historical Perspective: 1969-Man lands on the moon
The carillon, which is heard daily throughout the area, was a memorial gift to the Hadley Community Church in 1971 from Mrs. Mary Williams of Pontiac in memory of her husband and family who were from this area. The mechanical portion was replaced in 1997 with a compact disk player as a memorial to Al Corey and Gene Hartwig. Additional mechanical work was done in 2010 as a memorial to Marge Corey and Beverly Hartwig.
Over the years various work on the parsonage also went on. The present garage was built in 1969 replacing a worn out structure of the same size. In 1976, major remodeling, with Gene Hartwig in charge, took place. It included a new back entrance room and excavation of the basement. A modern kitchen and dining room were created in place of the old ones along with a new electrical service. The parsonage was resided with aluminum siding in July of 1979. In 1985, remodeling again took place under the direction of Robin McIlroy, with the addition of a master bedroom and bath being constructed over the rear section of the house.
Special Moments to Remember
1976 – Awana began with the completion of the new addition.
1978-The Marion Pierson Warren Library: two rooms of the addition were dedicated to be used as a church library in memory of Marion Warren. Ralph Warren handcrafted the desk, end tables and bookcases for the project. The stained glass rose windows and the oak pulpit in the sanctuary are also his work.
1991- At the annual congregational meeting a motion was approved that 25% of the annual budget should be dedicated to the support of missions.
1993-The church purchased the home of Retta Stimson, located at 4685 Spring Street, for use as a Youth Pastor’s parsonage. It was named the ”Stimson Parsonage”. The cost was $76,000. A new roof was put on, new stove and carpeting installed and it was painted throughout.
1997-The church purchased 17.28 acres of land ½ mile east of town from the Sutherland Estate for $80,000. The vision of the congregation is to erect a new church building on the property in the future. As we mentioned before, we have gone “full circle” The first sermon was preached in Hadley by Rev. James Hemingway, July 10, 1835 in a log shanty about 1.5 miles east of Hadley. May it be said again at the dedication of the new church building that “every living person in town was present at that meeting”.
Compiled by Kent and Reta Copeman
October 12, 1997, revised May, 2011