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2005 Champlain Historic Calendar

THE MONTREAL COURT HOUSE FIRE OF 1844
AND ITS RELATION TO THE BUILDING OF THE
TIMOTHY HOYLE HOUSE, SESSION HOUSE AND PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
OF CHAMPLAIN

            What does the Kaufman house on Chestnut Street, the Knights of Columbus Hall on Elm Street, and the former Village Hall on the corner of Main and Church Streets have in common?  They were all built as a result of a fire that burned down Champlainís Presbyterian Church in June of 1844.  The church had stood on the site of the Kaufman house at 16 Chestnut Street since 1829.  The story about this fire and its relation to the Montreal Court House fire and the previously mentioned buildings is intriguing.  It is unlikely that Champlain residents are aware of this history now and the connection the buildings have to each other. 

            For 14 years after the founding of Champlain in 1788, no church existed in the village.  By 1802, with the help of traveling missionaries, a strong religious sentiment had grown in Champlain and some of the residents decided to establish a church.  On July 13, 1802, the Congregational Church and Society was formally organized with the support of Pliny Moore, William Savage, Martha Savage, David Savage, Ebenezer Dunning, Robert Martin, Sarah Martin, Sarah Hamilton, Jonathan Darrow and Samuel Hicks. 

            By 1806, the church had grown to 14 members and services were usually held at one of the memberís houses.  Pliny Mooreís house on the corner of Oak and Elm Streets (today the site of the Clark Funeral Home) was often used as a place of worship.  Other ceremonies were held on the island in the Great Chazy River where a stage had been erected.  After 1816, many services were held in a brick school house which was likely on Oak Street.

            In 1822, Pliny Moore died and left one acre of land to the First Congregational Church and Society for the purpose of building a meeting house and other buildings.  He also gave the society $1,000 to aid in its construction.  Pliny wrote that he wanted the church to be built on the hill where the Americanís East Artillery Battery had been located during the War of 1812.  Today, this location is at the corner of Pine and Spruce Streets overlooking St. Maryís Church.

            In 1829, seven years after Pliny's will was executed, the church trustees decided to build their church.  The one acre plot of land that Pliny gave the church was exchanged for land on the corner of Oak (formerly Moore or Canada) and Chestnut (formerly Church or Matilda) Streets.  This is where the Kaufman house now stands.  The Kaufman house was built by Timothy Hoyle in 1847.

            In a 1902 speech by Charles Freeman Nye on the subject of Champlainís churches, he described the new location:

            There seems to be some doubt whether the lot on which the church was built was the one indicated by the Judge in his will.   Be this as it may, the lot chosen was that on which stands the home of the late Timothy Hoyle, Esq., now owned and occupied by Mr. White.

            The church was built of brick, and the sacred quiet of the place was not disturbed by railway rumblings or whistles.   Even with the present nearness of the railway tracks and the consequent noise at certain times, it is a matter for regret that the church does not now stand on the old lot on the hill. 

            The new Presbyterian Church (as it was now called) stood for 14 years and had three pastors.  During the pastorate of Abraham Brinkerhoff on June 17, 1844, an arsonist burned down the church.



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       [and this continues for several more pages and describes the burning of the church, the building of the Timothy Hoyle house, the Session House (current Knights of Columbus Hall in Champlain) and the newer Presbyterian Church (later the Village Hall starting in the mid-1920s).  Another 16 or so pictures are displayed in this essay]. 

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2005 calendar - village of champlain images
Images courtesy Special Collections Library, Plattsburgh State University College or the author.
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