Down by the River-Side was written in 1977 by a few church members, and details the history of how United Riverside came to be.
It dates back to 1862 when the Indians rules much of the South side of the river. The Essex Company was formed in 1845, with plans of building a dam. The Essex Company built many homes, boarding houses, the first streets, hotels, reservoirs, Lawrence Common, Bodwell Park, and gave land very freely for religious purposes. The town of Lawrence was incorporated in 1847, and the industrial boom was on its way. With many adults and children working in the factories, many did not have a religious affiliation. In the 1846 the Grace Episcopal Church became the first house of worship. Quickly followed by the Catholic churches Immaculate Conception and St Mary’s in the later 1840’s.
It details the trials and tribulations they had at the time (much like we have today). In 1919 electricity was finally installed.
Picture of the Riverside Church before the stone chapel was built. This same structure remains in the rear of our current property, as it was moved to allow the building of our current Chapel.
It is not until the chapter starting with 1920, do I recognize some of the names. I see the name Mrs. Monroe (who’s family I remember living directly across the street from the church), as taking over as janitor for her husband who used to do the job, but had recently passed away. And how she had to start the coal furnace every Saturday night for Sunday’s services. In 1922, Rev. & Mrs. Langdale came to Riverside. It mentions that Rev. & Mrs. Langdale had done more for the church than any other. It says that the Langdale’s were great organizers, and had formed several groups within the church. There were many new members in the 1920’s, and church fair’s became very popular.
The Christian Endeavor Society was famous for holding many play’s that showed off their numerous talents, and raised a fair amount of money. Those plays were on the same stage that still stands in our upstairs Parish Hall. Even the lighting remains. It mentions the Men’s Society, and how they spent many hours refurbishing and restoring of the property. Many of our churches fixtures were built by those same men. The carvings and detail on a lot of those fixtures is nothing short of amazing. It also mentions the Men’s Bowling Club. I had heard of and seen pictures of the Bowling that went on at the church. I even have a picture of my grandmother at a Bowling event. The church still has the bowling balls and pins that were used.
In 1928, the two story framed building celebrated it’s 50th anniversary. Everything and everyone was abuzz, and excited for the celebration to come. At the anniversary, many thanked the men of which my grandfather’s name was mentioned, and a great deal of woman, two of which was my grandmother and my great aunt. It ends with “these are the woman of Riverside; their spirit will live forever”.
In 1928-1929 the parishioners were called to a special meeting. They were told they would be receiving a brand new chapel. Mr. John E Aldred, wanted to build a memorial to his father, John A. Aldred – the same John Aldred that helped start the original Sunday School, and was a teacher for many years and supporter of the development of Riverside Church. His son John E. was a wealthy banker , was born and raised in Lawrence, MA, and was a leading authority on hydro-electric power, and was Chief Executive of the Shawinigan Water Power of Quebec. This plant was one of the greatest factors in the production of electricity in North America. On January 11 & 12, 1930, the new chapel was dedicated. John Hulme was at the console of the brand new Frazee Organ built by the Frazee Organ Company of Boston. The architect for the chapel, Ashton, Huntress and Alter chose English Gothic for the design. The exterior is split faced Granite. The trim for the windows and door ways is Indiana Limestone.
The book goes on until approx. 1977, where it details the trials and tribulations of churches today. It seems even though the years have changed, the struggles have not. These days the struggles don’t seem to be as much financial struggles, but membership and attendance struggles. I can remember when I was little, the church was packed. But that was in a time when most of it’s members were from the surrounding neighborhood. Today, people have scattered, and going to church doesn’t seem to be a priority anymore. Yet our church still remains beautiful. Yes, I have my memories of the way things used to be, but after reading this history book, I can really appreciate the struggles that our members went through to make this church what it is today.
We will continue to cherish our beautiful church down by the river, and welcome anyone wanting to visit, with open arms.
A reprint of Down By The River-side, can be obtained by sending in a check or money order for $ 13.00 plus $3.00 postage to our mailing address. Please make sure to include your name and mailing address.