Serving Northfield, Williamstown and surrounding communities

Church History - St. John

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In 1854, Charles Paine, a former governor of the state of Vermont, and son of Elisha Paine, Northfield’s great benefactor, gave the Catholics land at the northern end of King Street for a church building and a burying ground. A year later, the old meeting house at Northfield’s Center Village was purchased and moved to the King Street site where it was remodeled. Father Duron of Montpelier said Mass every other Sunday from 1856 until Northfield’s Catholic settlement was designated a parish in 1865 and The Rev. Francis Clavier was appointed its first pastor.

In October 1870, the newly renovated church was dedicated under the patronage of St. John the Baptist. The parish worshipped in its first church until 1876 when lightning struck and the building burned to the ground.

Following the fire, a small chapel adjoining the rectory at the foot of East Hill was built and served as the parish church while a new church was being built on Vine Street. The new church was dedicated on October 24, 1877 by Bishop Louis DeGoesbriand, the first Catholic Bishop of Vermont, and the parish’s name was changed from St. John the Baptist to St. John the Evangelist.

Over the years, a number of changes were made to improve and enhance the church. The interior was redecorated in 1925 and, in 1952, a second major redecoration occurred including replacement of the three altars, new pews and other appointments made of limed oak.

The current rectory was purchased in 1885 and a parish hall was constructed in 1929 in a house next to the church. The parish hall was razed to provide more parking in 1954 and the basement of the church was converted to a new parish hall with a kitchen and toilet facilities. The rectory was completely renovated in 1955 and an outdoor shrine to the Sacred Heart, carved in granite, was added in 1958 near the parking area.

A set of three-bell chimes was installed in 1886. The largest bell weighed 2200 pounds. Because of the excessive strain imposed on the steeple structure, the two smaller bells were removed in 1900. In 1890, a B.D. Simmons organ, which boasts 900 pipes and a set of 16-ft. open bass pipes for pedal, was purchased.

A steeple was designed, built and presented to St. John by Charles McNamara in 1901. Unfortunately, it was struck by lightning in 1966 and was replaced by a smaller, simpler steeple.

More recent improvements to the church include refurbishment of the windows in 2000 with stained glass replacing the painted glass windows; vinyl siding for the exterior of the church in 2008?; repair and restoration of the slate roof in 2010?; and new concrete floor and ceiling tiles for the parish hall in 2012.

St. John’s priests offered Mass periodically in the surrounding towns of Riverton, Moretown and Waterbury during the early years of the parish. In 1916, Father Lynch began saying Mass in the Roxbury Town Hall and, in 1919, a former Methodist house of worship was purchased. It was named St. Helen and served the Catholic community of Roxbury until 1986 when it closed. Funds from the sale of St. Helen were used to convert the sacristy of St. John church into a chapel in honor of St. Helen.

>> Read a list of St. John the Evangelist pastors here

In 1854, Charles Paine, a former governor of the state of Vermont, and son of Elisha Paine, Northfield’s great benefactor, gave the Catholics land at the northern end of King Street for a church building and a burying ground. A year later, the old meeting house at Northfield’s Center Village was purchased and moved to the King Street site where it was remodeled. Father Duron of Montpelier said Mass every other Sunday from 1856 until Northfield’s Catholic settlement was designated a parish in 1865 and The Rev. Francis Clavier was appointed its first pastor.

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ST. JOHN THE EVANGELIST

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