History of Grafton Community Church
The Baptist Church in Grafton was an offshoot or "daughter church" of the larger Baptist Church in Chester, VT. Originally, there was no meetinghouse for the Baptists here in Grafton, so they met in the schoolhouses, private homes, even in barns. In 1830, however, official papers were drawn up and the Grafton Baptist Church became an entity. The Baptist Church would become the second church in the history of the town, with the Congregational Society, founded in 1785, the oldest.
In 1812, the first Baptist meetinghouse was built on its present site, though it was not as grand as the building you see today. Old records tell us that, at first, the parishioners had to sit on rough boards. However, by 1818 pews - or "slips" as they were called in those days - were built. As you may know, many early church buildings were financed through the sale of pews. Deeds were issued for the pews and were held in the town offices, attesting to the seriousness of the transaction. At the Baptist Church, the most desirable pews sold for $100 and it might surprise us today to learn that the most sought after pews were in the front! Pews further back commanded less money.
The building was changed and improved as the church became more prosperous. In 1832 the building was turned halfway around on its foundation; at that time, a belfry was erected and a bell purchased. In 1850 a completely new building was erected probably because, at that time, the church boasted 300 members and needed more space. A few years after the building was erected, an organ was purchased. After a good deal of detective work, this organ was authenticated as a Nutting organ, probably crafted in Bellows Falls. It is said to be the only Nutting organ still in continual use and has attracted a good deal of attention throughout New England.
Another important feature of the White Church is its marvelous acoustics. Numerous concerts have been held in the church over decades as its brilliant acoustics are known to singers and musicians throughout the region.
The White Church was the site of major renovations in 1969, when an addition was added to the rear of the church, creating space for two bathrooms, storage space, and a pastor's study. At that time the sanctuary was also refurbished and attention paid to restoring the stenciling, the chandeliers, and the sidelights. A few years after this project, the Congregational and Baptist churches officially became one body - the culmination of a process that had taken 50 years of careful consideration. Today the federated church - now simply known as The Grafton Church - holds services in the White Church.
In 2005 the White Church was updated to include a handicapped accessible lift, lavatory and office, as well as redecoration of the Fellowship Hall.
The Grafton Church is affiliated with the United Church of Christ (Congregational) and the American Baptist Churches.
Historical information written by Rev. Lynda Hadley for Grafton's 250th celebration, May 2004.