CHANGES TO OUR CHURCH SANCTUARY BUILDING 1740 – 1855

We cherish Paxton as a historical church but we know that its most important mission has always been to be a beacon of light of Christ in a troubled world.  With that in mind, our church complex has been changed almost a dozen times since it was first built to better serve its mission.

We date our stone church’s building time as 1740.  There are some who believe it is a bit later, but in 1852, Rev. John Elder’s son visited Paxton and stated that he had often heard his father say the walls were built in 1740.  Notice he said walls.   The stone church was built about 20 feet from the original log church (near where the small monument sits near the south entrance).  The stones were laid directly on the ground – there is no foundation to our church.  This fact was discovered when workmen tried to run air conditioning ducts under the church about 10 years ago and it was determined to dig under the walls could weaken their integrity.  That is why the planters are along the south wall – they hide the ductwork.    In the 1740’s, the church was just bare stone walls, a dirt floor and seats of logs – except for a settee for some of Rev. Elder’s family.   The oak beams of the roof we sit under today are from the original construction but for nearly fifty years, the beams were exposed.

In 1789, there was a “laying of alleys in the Paxtang meeting house.”  Wooden aisles or sections of flooring were installed over the hard-packed dirt floor and each family built their own pews based on available material and the carpentry skills of the family.  They were also arranged in what we would call today as “stadium seating” as the back pews were slightly higher than the front.  The overall floor plan would be the same as we have now except we would not have the pew uniformity of construction, size, and color that we have today.

In 1808 the beams were enclosed with a ceiling of yellow pine and it was painted white.  Pine partitions were built on each end of the church.  The western vestibule had pews resting on dirt floors with a brick passage from the door.  The eastern side had a wood floor.  Two large wood stoves were placed in the long aisle for heat and the smoke went into the loft.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1847, the interior was gutted and the western partition was removed.  The western door was walled up and a new pulpit was built in front of it.  Rev. Elder’s old pulpit was torn down and keepsakes were made from it –an example of which can be seen in the display case by the elevator entrance.  Additionally, the small window behind the old pulpit was walled up and the ceiling and walls were plastered for the first time.  Wood stoves were exchanged for coal stoves and their pipes were joined to form a wing to enter a chimney.    A picture in the archives room across from the communion plates shows the walled-in door and a chimney.  A new wood floor was laid over the whole building and the seating arrangement was changed and new pews ordered.  Now the pews faced west towards the pulpit.   The north side had one long section of pews and the south side had two smaller sections to allow entrance through the south door.  Additionally, there was a group of “amen” pews on either side of the pulpit.  The pews were straight, wooden, high-back seats painted white with a mahogany rail.  There were reported to be “fearful to sit in.”  Shortly after, a carpet and green Venetian blinds were added to make it up to date for the 1850’s.

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