Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Lectures to Raise Money To Build the "Huguenot Memorial Forest Church" Building in Pelham Manor

On July 9, 1876 (the first Sunday after the Fourth of July that year), the Pelham Manor Church we know today as Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church opened the doors of its first church building for worship. The little wooden building was known for decades thereafter as the "Little Red Church". That first Sunday, The Rev. C.E. Lord, D.D. delivered the sermon. He spoke on “The Religious History of the Huguenots in America, and Reasons for the Erection of Huguenot Memorial Church”.

Raising money to build the Little Red Church was difficult given that the nation was in the throes of a financial depression that followed the Financial Panic of 1873. One of the ways that money was raised was through "lectures" during which money was solicited from attendees in support of the construction of what was called at the time the "Huguenot Memorial Forest Church". Such lectures were announced to congregations at churches in the region. Congregants were invited to attend.

One such example appears in a newspaper account of the services held by Plymouth Church on March 21, 1875. According to the account, during the service led by the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher that day, Reverend Beecher announced "a lecture by Hon. David Dudley Field in aid of the Huguenot Memorial Forest Church, now building at Pelham". See Conscience And Its Auxiliaries - Sermon by Rev. Henry Ward Beecher Yesterday, N.Y. Times, Mar. 22, 1875, p. 2.

Only a few days later, an announcement for the same lecture appeared in The New York Times. It read:

"Hon. David Dudley Field will deliver his popular lecture, 'Voyaging Around the World,' to-morrow evening, in the Elm Place Congregational Church, near Fulton avenue [Brooklyn], in aid of the Huguenot Memorial Forest Church, at Pelham."

City and Suburban News . . . Brooklyn, N. Y. Times, Mar. 26, 1875, p. 12.

Such efforts played an important role in the construction of the Little Red Church. The littled wooden church building stood for nearly forty years at Four Corners in the Village of Pelham before it was replaced with the magnificent stone church building that remains today.

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