First Congregational Church in Springfield was founded in 1869.
Charles Harwood moved to Springfield from Vermont and went into
the real estate business. Soon his brother James H. Harwood, a Congregational
minister, came to Springfield along with other relatives. Ten members
of the Harwood family and Dr. Edwin T. Robberson, who later became
a prominent Springfield physician, organized a church called the
Union Evangelical Church. James Harwood was pastor. After a year
the church had 38 members. In 1870 members voted to change the name
of the church to First Congregational. Also in 1870 church members
purchased two lots at the northeast corner of Jefferson Avenue and
Locust Street for a church. A small frame structure was built.
In addition to First Congregational Church activities the Springfield
Association of Congregational Churches met. This association included
Congregational churches from Lebanon, Barton City, Carthage, Neosho
and Springfield. This was the group that created Drury College (now University). There was a rivalry among ten
towns wanting the college and Springfield won by a single vote.
After 1900 First Congregational church needed a bigger building.
There was also a desire among the church members to be closer to
Drury College. Two lots at Benton
Avenue and Calhoun Street were purchased and a large red brick
structure was built. This is the church building in the postcard.
The first service was held on May 29, 1904.
On January 12, 1952, a tragic fire struck the church, completely
destroying it. Among the items lost in the fire were a valuable
oil painting, a new organ, walnut doors and a lectern. The church
bell was saved. A new church was built on the site in a contemporary
style. In 1957 the national council of the Congregational Church
merged with the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the name changed
to First Congregational, United Church of Christ. The most recent
article about the church in the Springfield News-Leader is from 1990. The church wanted to publicly invite all members of
the gay community in Springfield to attend the church, where they
would be welcomed.