Early church fundraisers
When the "Methodist Episcopal Church at Hill's Grove" was built in the 1880's, the $3000 contribution of Thomas J. Hill seemed a fortune to the villagers. This was a time when wages were very low and the amounts of money raised by the congregation were very small in comparison.
Hill and James were major benefactors
According to the History of the Hillsgrove United Methodist Church, written in 1984, to
commemorate the 100th Anniversary, "The total cost of the lot, building and furnishings came to $8000 which was rapidly paid. "Much of the money raised was from large donations by people such as Thomas J. Hill and William G. James, the Elizabeth Mill Superintendent.
In one of the early church fund raisers, a Washington's Birthday Supper, on February 23, 1899, the cost charged for a meal consisting of "cold meat, brown bread, white bread, doughnuts, cheese, pickles and pies" was 20 cents for adults and 10 cents for children. As might be expected, the receipts of a meal such as this rarely raised more than $20 for the church fund. Perhaps the church found that the children ate more than was anticipated for, during their November Harvest Supper, they raised the price for children to 15 cents. By the turn of the century, the church fund raisers found the economy had worsened for church socials as in 1901, a Bean Supper only netted the group $5.00.
Small projects survive economic difficulties
While receipts from fund raisers were small, so too were the projects attempted by the Ladies' Helping Hand Society, organized by Mrs. Phoebe Westcott. In May, 1898, they voted to furnish curtains for the minister's study and added that the curtains should not cost over 40 cents. Another major project for the Ladies' Helping Hand Society was knitting a comforter for the pastor.
Good food and fun
While there was not a great deal of money that exchanged hands at church activities, there was certainly a great opportunity for a good time. Many of the suppers around the turn of the century boasted both good food and excellent music which was provided by the Hill's Grove Band. The congregation in 1903 held a "Tree of Knowledge Social" which was well attended, and in 1905 chartered a trolley car to take the villagers to Narragansett Pier for the day.
James family generosity
Fortunately, many of the wealthy parishioners provided for the church's needs. Very prominent among the early benefactors was the James family. In 1895, the Elizabeth Mill superintendent, William G. James, donated a church bell which was valued at $150, and later he and his wife gave a "costly and beautiful chandelier and several wall lamps" to the church. Other gifts given by the James' consisted of a pipe organ, communion table, flower stands and chairs for the choir. In 1934, Mrs. W. G. James donated funds to upgrade the organ and provide other improvements.
Twentieth century improvements
Between 1922 and 1925, a new central heating plant and an improved lighting system were installed. A new carpet and pulpit chairs donated by the Ladies' Helping Hand Society helped to redecorate the church. By 1928, gas was installed in the church, city water was soon to appear, trolley cars were beginning to be replaced by buses and the Hillsgrove Airport was soon to be a
reality. In 1930, a parish hall addition to the church was built and, in 1931, a parsonage was erected.
The pastor of the Open Table Of Christ, United Methodist Church, Duane Clinker, brings his message to the children of the congregation in much the same fashion as Hillsgrove pastors have been doing for over one-hundred years.
Photo Don D’Amato 2008