Waterford Preps For 160th Anniversary Of Iconic Church

An engraving of Jonathan Ross

WATERFORD — A celebration to honor the 160-year-old Congregational Church in Lower Waterford is slated for Saturday, June 15.

“For God, Country and Rhubarb!” is the theme of the special, two-part benefit hosted by the church and the Waterford Historical Society.

The Community Room door on Maple Street opens at 5:30 p.m. for a rhubarb-flavored dinner with pizzas donated by Kingdom Crust in St. Johnsbury and cheese from Crooked Mile Farm in Waterford. There will be a gluten-free pizza option.

Two specialty pizzas combining goat cheese from the micro-dairy goat farm, with rhubarb and spinach are on the menu as well.

The dinner includes many different rhubarb desserts organized by WHS treasurer Roberta Smith who also will make a birthday-themed cake for the 160th celebration. The menu includes homemade pasta salad, a fresh garden salad with a variety of dressings, including a rhubarb vinaigrette. For beverages, there will be rhubarb switchel, lemonade, water and hot tea and coffee.

At 6:45 p.m. sanctuary doors open for “Supreme Court Justice Jonathan Ross tells all – or most!” as historical interpreter and St. Johnsbury Academy theater director Bill Vinton brings Waterford farm boy-turned-lawyer back to his hometown with stories about the church, his career in St. Johnsbury, legal opinions in Montpelier, and even his brief stint in the U.S. Congress. Last month, the WHS donated to the Davies Memorial Library “The Law of the Hills,” a concisely organized book that looks at the state’s judicial history by Paul S. Gillies. It includes an entry on Ross.

Proceeds raised from the June 15 benefit are earmarked for the historical society’s oral history project and the church’s much-needed interior restoration.

A disastrous fire on June 30, 1859 levelled the previous Lower Waterford meetinghouse. But parishioners repurposed timbers, pews and deacons’ benches from the 1818 meetinghouse built on a Mad Brook hillside with new materials. They dedicated their Greek Revival-styled church on Jan. 11, 1860.

“Waterford has always had the faith of a mustard seed,” said Rev. Ann Hockridge about the spirit of cooperation between both organizations to build a modern sense of community in a village where most buildings date from the late 18th century.

From 1860 until 1957, when the unified elementary school opened on Duck Pond Road, the current building served as the location for Town Meeting which took place downstairs in the vestry. The sanctuary hosted 8th grade graduation ceremonies from the town’s 14 district schoolhouses. A special Church Town Committee is exploring ways that might allow for a renewing of the building for municipal purposes.

Hallmark photographer Winston Pote of East Lancaster, N.H., brought the Congregational Church and Lower Waterford international fame when he put the village on chrome postcards that were sold and sent by the thousands, beginning in the second half of the 1950s.

There is separate ticket pricing for the dinner and performance and for the performance only. Reservations will be accepted until 8 p.m. Thursday, June 13. For more info, or to RSVP, contact Helen Pike at 802-748-0180.


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