Memorial to the Presbyterian Reunion of 1870

In my travels, I’ve seen relatively few physical monuments to the reunion or merger of denominations. But I discovered one last November while visiting family in Bedford, New Hampshire.

In 1837, the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America divided between the more evangelical New School and the more conservative Old School. After the Civil War the two schools reunited along sectional lines. In the north the reunion took place in 1869. The Presbyterian Historical Society has wonderful charts, including an animated one, that explain the complex history of Presbyterian denominations in America.

The Presbyterian church in Bedford, New Hampshire found itself in need of a second, smaller building, in addition to its 1832 meeting house for Sunday school, lectures, and prayer meetings. At a celebration of the Reunion in 1870, it was suggested that such a building would be an appropriate thank-offering for the reunited denomination. The cornerstone for the new building, called “the vestry,” was laid in September 1871, and upon its completion a stone tablet with the inscription “Presbyterian Re-Union Memorial 1870” was placed over the door.

Measuring 30 by 50 feet, it was completed slightly under budget at a cost of $1,475.95. It is a good example of one congregation’s provision of additional space for the more expansive programs that were becoming characteristic of Protestant congregations in the mid-nineteenth century. For more on the history of this congregation and its buildings see the resources on its website.

Bedford Presbyterian Church, Bedford, New Hampshire, November 21, 2018

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