DerryNews.com, Derry, New Hampshire

Opinion

April 24, 2014

How St. Luke's came to downtown Derry

In 1849, the Manchester and Lowell Railroad laid its tracks through western Derry. At the time, the Broadway area was totally rural, surrounded by open fields and home to perhaps a half dozen farm families.

Soon afterward, a shoe factory was built on Broadway. Next ,the Hood farm moved its creamery there so its butter and milk could be quickly shipped via box car to Boston. The factory and creamery workers, of course, needed homes and stores, and the area began to experience a building boom. Soon, Derry Depot was larger in population then either East Derry or Derry Village.

In time, the Methodist Church in Derry Village realized that many in western Derry were un-churched and that it was too far for these laborers to walk to their Nesmith Street chapel. So, if the West Derry folk can’t or won’t come to the church, then the church will come to West Derry.

In 1871, it was decided to start worship services and Sunday school at the little brick school that stood about where today’s Pillsbury House is sited. This missionary effort was run by the beloved “Mother” Nettie Blye of Boston University’s School of Theology and her student, Charles Tilton. Soon, the team had 76 names on their rolls, but in 1874, the two were called back to Boston and no one came forward to replace them. This ended the first attempt at downtown Derry.

The next attempt at Methodism on Broadway occurred on May 3, 1885, when the Rev. William Ramsden of the Derry Village church began holding Sunday afternoon services at the Odd Fellows hall. Soon, more and more locals began to attend the services. On Feb. 12, 1888, the mission formally became St. Luke’s Methodist Episcopal Church and in April, the Rev. Ramsden was appointed its pastor. Soon, the group decided to build their own church home; a lot was purchased and Ramsden’s brother volunteered to design the building. Construction was by Ellsworth Martin of Derry. The groundbreaking at the lot at 63 East Broadway was on June 27.1888, and the cornerstone was installed in October.

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