Sunday school meant fun
Villagers in Hill's Grove in the nineteenth century relied upon their Sunday Schools to provide for their recreational as well as their spiritual needs. Among the most cherished memories were those of excursions to Rocky Point. Many church organizations in Rhode Island arranged for a day at the state's most popular resort.
Fun on a Sunday at Rocky Point
A report of Children's Day, July 15, 1876, tells us that a number of Baptist Sunday Schools from Providence united to come to Rocky Point and swell the ranks of people there. The report says, "There were estimated to be 1300 children on the grounds at noon, and their bright faces were seen at every turn.... The majority of the children went down at 9:30...and in a few minutes, ...gathered around the monkeys. If some of the monkeys at Rocky Point were not sick last night, they need never fear indigestion, for the quantity and variety of delicacies which those grave, impish animals consumed yesterday was simply enormous..."
Santa at Hillsgrove
Sunday Schools were also active during the winter season as well. A newspaper report from the Henry A. L. Brown collection, dated December 28, 1876, notes that, "The members of the Hill's Grove Sunday School have been very busy for some time, and Saturday evening found their hall prettily decorated with evergreens, and in front of the platform stood two trees loaded with handsome presents...." There were recitations and singing of carols by the school children and then Santa Claus made his appearance.
A sleigh ride for more fun
The report continues to say, "The numerous gifts were speedily distributed, making glad many hearts." In addition, the following Monday, "a member of the school, who has often contributed to the pleasure of the children, invited the school to take a sleigh ride...twenty eight persons filled the sleigh and formed a merry load for the four horses." The narrative concludes with, "...they visited the Universalist Sunday School ...and passed a pleasant evening, being agreeably entertained, and returned home about 10 o'clock, enlivening the way with cheerful songs, etc. All united in calling this the best time they have had, and its memories will not soon be forgotten."
A Methodist Church is called for
The Hill's Grove Union Evangelical Sunday school met at the old schoolhouse on Kilvert Street and within a few years became affiliated with the East Greenwich Methodist Episcopal Church. For a short time, church services were held on the second floor of the schoolhouse, but it was quickly realized that there was a definite need for a Methodist Church in the village.
On May 7, 1884, the "Methodist Episcopal Church at Hill's Grove" was organized and George E. Dunbar was appointed as the first minister. With the encouragement of the superintendents of the Elizabeth Mill and the R. I. Malleable Iron Works, plans were made to build a church. The first meeting of the building committee was held in the office of the Elizabeth Mill and both the mill owner, Thomas J. Hill, and the mill superintendent, William G. James were on the four man building committee.
The church building was erected on a lot donated by Thomas J. Hill who also gave $3000 toward the cost of the church. His wife, Elizabeth, contributed a great deal to the furnishings for the church, as did the mill superintendent, William G. James.
Today’s Hillsgrove Methodist Church houses the Open Table of Christ, United Methodist Church and the Zion Korean United Methodist Church. Both groups work together on many occasions and share the church proper as well as the surrounding area. Their congregations extend beyond the immediate Hillsgrove area.
Photo Don D’Amato 2008