Christadelphian History

Introduction to Scripture and God's Purpose

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.( 2 Tim 3:16-17)

The Promise of Redemption

It is in the Word of God that we learn that when God created this earth He had a very definite purpose. He wanted it to be inhabited and filled with his glory (Isa. 45:18; Num 14:21). Unfortunately, the first inhabitants chose to seek instant gratification; they sinned against God and consequently, all of their offspring were sentenced to mortality.  Even though they were sentenced to suffering, pain and death, God’s purpose was unwavering and so He quickly introduced the promise of a redeemer (Gen. 3:15).

Throughout the Old Testament period an opportunity was always provided for men to call on the name of the Lord.  Special promises were made to Abraham, David and other faithful servants that one of their descendants would be the redeemer for mankind.  The Hebrew prophets, through the inspiration of the spirit of Christ, testified beforehand of his suffering and the glory that would follow (1 Pet. 1:11).

Fulfillment Through Jesus Christ

The redeemer would be born of a woman and through a life of obedience and sacrifice he (Jesus) would open up the way back to the tree of life.  His sacrificial death and resurrection confirmed that he was the Christ, the son of the living God, our redeemer and future King over the entire  earth (Zech. 14:9). He confirmed the promises made unto the fathers and provided the way for faithful people to become heirs to these OT promises and a part of the hope of Israel (Gal. 3:27-29) The gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation to all that believe (Rom. 1:16) and this gospel was preached by the apostles unto all nations after his ascension to the right hand of the Father as our mediator. The name of Christ is the only name under heaven given for men to be saved. (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 4:12)

Challenges to Early Christianity

Unfortunately, even as they were forewarned, there would be a falling away from the faith. As early Christianity developed and grew, so did the false teachers who distorted and corrupted the truth of the gospel.  Through the ages many have struggled to remain faithful to the original teachings of Christ. These were the “protesters” and they were persecuted and often put to death by the Apostate Christian church leaders.  In the process of time the Bible was translated into all languages and became available to the common people.

The Quest for Biblical Truth

People (like the Bereans) began searching the Scriptures to see what was really true (Acts 17:11). It was becoming more apparent that only through personal study of God’s word could there be a restoration to Bible truth (2 Tim 2:15) and a renewed understanding of God’s plan and purpose to take out a people for His name (Acts 15:14-17). Several men came to their own conclusions on the interpretation of the Bible; some were sincere in their studies and others simply looked for justification for the fables that they had accepted (2 Tim. 4: 3-4). Many new denominations were born and there was renewed hope, but also confusion.

John Thomas and the Birth of the Christadelphian Movement

One of the pioneers of faith based on the truth of God’s word was a man named John Thomas, MD. During a frightening voyage from England to the US in 1832, he made a prayerful commitment to seek for God’s truth. He was acting as the ship’s surgeon on the eight-week long voyage, which encountered severe storms, and an accident off the coast of Nova Scotia.  It appeared that the ship would sink, and Thomas, whose father was a preacher, knew that he was not ready for death.  Praying earnestly, he vowed that if God would spare his life, he would abandon all pursuits other than the study of religion until he had found the answers. God did spare his life, and so he began a long, dedicated journey of research and discovery that lead eventually to his conclusions that the churches of his day were teaching false doctrines that in effect corrupted and nullified the Word of God. These false doctrines would not lead men to salvation, but instead would give them a false sense of security.  He came to the realization that he needed to be re-baptized, because his former baptism was based on a false hope, not the one true hope of the Gospel.  In confession of his new belief he was baptized as the Bible teaches (Mark 16:15-16). Continuing his Bible studies, he began to share the things he had discovered.  This resulted in much trouble and persecution for him.  But the love of God and obedience to His will was more important to him than the “friendship of the world.” His first work was a book called “Elpis Israel” (The Hope of Israel) which outlines the truths that he discovered that are centered on the Nation of Israel, God’s chosen people.

Soon, through his teaching and his writing, the eyes of many were opened to the teachings of the Bible. Eventually, these believers formed into several “ecclesias”, (a word which means “assemblies of called out ones”). During the time of the civil war, it became necessary to adopt a name, (because of their standing as conscientious objectors); they adopted the name of “Christadelphians”, which means “brethren in Christ.”

Ecclesial Life and Organization

Christadelphians have no “pastor”, rather baptized brothers in good standing take turns presiding, exhorting, and holding positions of service in the ecclesia.  Brothers and sisters help out in the ecclesia in many ways, depending on their skills.  These services are voluntary and performed out of a willing heart and spirit.  There are many brethren (and sisters) who have devoted many years to the study of the Bible, and so the talks and Sunday school classes are always based in Scripture, incorporating knowledge of history and current events, along with Bible prophecy, etc.,  and both informative and uplifting.

The Hope of the Christadelphians

It is through Bible prophecy that our future hope is in the literal return of Christ and the establishment of God’s Kingdom on this earth (Matt. 6:10). In that day the law will go forth from Zion and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem (Micah 4:1-4). There will be peace on this earth and it will be filled with God’s glory. The faithful will live and reign with Christ over the entire earth (Dan. 7:27).

We have a “statement of faith” which lists our beliefs with supporting Bible verses, and we have a Guide, also based on Scripture, for ecclesial formation and conduct, which was written by one of our early members.   We have no earthly central authority, but rather, our authority is our heavenly Father, and his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.  God’s will, plan and purpose have been revealed to us in the Bible, and therefore the Bible, as originally written, is our authority.   It is God’s will for us to read and meditate on His Word daily, and we strive to do this in order that our natural human thinking and attitudes will be transformed to spiritual thinking and attitudes. In this way we will be strengthened to overcome temptation and to develop godly characteristics pleasing to our heavenly Father.

Today there are Christadelphians in many lands, throughout the world. Their love and compassion for others, and for each other, shines brightly. Through their determined and unselfish efforts working together to share their hope, and to help the poor, many more are being taught these precious truths from the Bible, and many are being baptized daily.

The Schoolhouse at Scrabble Four Corners: A Historical Snapshot

Early Settlement and Community Development

For many years a small school house has stood in the district formerly called “Hard Scrabble,” at the junction of South Street, Parker Hill Road, and Brockway Mills Road, a few miles south of the center of Springfield. This building is now owned and used by the Christadelphians for their worship services and weekly functions.  The building and immediate area around it have a somewhat fascinating history.  “Hard Scrabble” was one of the earliest settlements in the town of Springfield.

The Vibrant Early Years of Hard Scrabble

After two earlier settlements, (Sartwell’s, and Eureka), the next settlement was on Parker Hill in the Rockingham portion, in the 1770’s, (with some settlement as early as 1751).  It became a lively business district before anything was built in the village of Springfield, or Lockwood’s Falls, as it was then called.

It was in the 1780’s that Hard Scrabble became a vibrant settlement in its own right.  There was a tavern at the Four Corners intersection, owned by Phineas White.  An earlier house built for Phineas White was located further south.  The “later” house of stone eventually became known as the “White-Burr-Ginter” homestead and is pictured in “Historic Houses of Springfield” (published by the Miller Art Center.) It is the stone building that still stands directly across the road from the Scrabble “School House.”

In the early 1800’s the small settlement grew significantly, with stores owned by Benjamin Britton and Isaac Reed, and a blacksmith shop owned by Bartlett Damon.  Simeon Damon made chairs.   Daniel Thompson was another blacksmith in “Scrabble.”  There was also a grist mill, and a saw-mill “near Allen Woodward’s” that was owned by Elias Damon.  The Windsor County Gazetteer of 1883-4 tells us: “Woodward’s saw and cider-mill, located at “Hard Scrabble”, was built by John Britton, and bought by the present owner in 1875.  It has an up-and-down saw and cuts 2,000 feet of lumber per day.  The cider-mill was added to the saw mill in 1877, and has the capacity for manufacturing twenty-five barrels of cider per day.   From “Historic Houses of Springfield” we learn about the Burr family of the Scrabble settlement:  “Jonathan Burr was one of the early settlers of Springfield, coming here in 1790. His father, Asahel Burr, lived originally in the little frame house around the corner on Seaver’s Brook Road.  Asahel was a blacksmith and hame (harness section) maker, and also made ox-bows out of hickory.  These were shipped as far as Africa and South America. His son, Henry, and grandson Arthur, continued this business. The Scrabble Cider Mill was owned and operated by the Burr family.  Arthur Burr bought a locomotive boiler from the Rutland Railroad to fire an evaporator, and Mrs. Burr made boiled cider jelly.”

Educational History of the Schoolhouse

From various sources we have been able to piece together the following history of the School House at Scrabble.  From “Folklore of Springfield,” by Mary Eva Baker-1922, we learn that in 1795, after several years of discussions, 14 school districts were finally accepted by the town. Schools had to be built as near the geographical center of a district as possible.  Most of them were erected close to a “highway.”  A favorite location was at the meeting point of two or more roads, such as Scrabble Four Corners.

In 1803, a parcel of land was sold by Daniel Graves to Bartlett Damon for the sum of $5.  Around 1848 or 1850 the original log school house which was “a little north of the plank bridge leading to the Siliski property” burned to the ground.  Shortly thereafter, a new schoolhouse was built on Bartlett Damon’s property, and school was held at that site for about three years, at which time it was officially purchased by School District #10, for $90.  (This was the original building that has been renovated and remains at Scrabble Four Corners today.)

In those days, school buildings were usually unpainted, inside or out.  They were generally heated by a fireplace, or , later, a box stove.  There was usually a narrow entry where boys were to hang their hats when they came in.  The seats and desks were usually of pine or oak, rudely fashioned by a local carpenter. And of course, there were no indoor toilet facilities. The schools usually had a winter session and a summer session, so that everyone could work during the spring planting and fall harvesting.  In winter, the children were sometimes transported in a horse-drawn wagon-sleigh, while they attempted to stay warm under bear-skin coverings.  The classes would likely have been large, with one teacher (often a woman in the summer and a man in the winter) whose salary was around $5 per week, with board included.  By 1910, this had increased to between $7 and $8.50.  The Town’s contribution to one room school houses was usually around $60 – $70.   Folklore written about those years reveals that some of the larger boys could be the biggest trial for the school master, they being more willing to “carry him out or drive him away” than to take their studies seriously.

Christadelphian Ownership and Modern Use

The Scrabble one-room schoolhouse was likely used for many years, until classes were moved to a newer building in town.  Later, the school house was used occasionally by other groups.  Around 1930, a small local church group, the Christadelphians, who had been meeting in homes, gained permission to hold their religious services and other functions in the building.  They have met there continuously now for over 80 years.

By 1940, the Christadelphian group had grown, and they were able to install electricity.  The building, at that time, was heated by a pot-belly stove in the center of the room, and there was an “outhouse” up on the hill in the back. In 1950, they applied to purchase the building.  Even though the town school district had previously authorized the sale of the (over 100 year old) building, the school board was not in favor of selling the building at that time.  However, they asked that the Christadelphians, who owned all the furnishings and paid for the electricity, continue to manage it, and that they continue to allow other groups, such as the 4H Club, to conduct reasonable activities there. The other stipulation was the following: “the desire of the school board that activities carried on in the building should not involve dancing or other forms of strenuous activities which might be more than the strength of the floor was able to withstand in its present condition.”

Preservation and Legacy

By 1957, the Christadelphians’ application for purchase was finally accepted, and so the sale was finalized for a sum of $700.  The large bell, with rope pull, which for years had called neighborhood children to school was removed, and believed to have been taken to the telephone business office in town.  Additions which gradually followed, included a furnace room, a large entry room, two bathrooms, a kitchen, and a large parking area in the back, on land owned and formerly used for a garden and a chicken coop by one of the members. Eventually, the well under the building was repaired, and a new floor was put into the newer part of the building, along with other necessary updates.  The Christadelphians still own and maintain the “schoolhouse” or “meetinghouse” as it is affectionately referred to by some of the older members. They are part of a small Bible-based religious body which has been in existence under the Christadelphian name, (meaning “brethren in Christ”) for over 160 years.  They base their hope on the teachings of the gospel of Christ as it was understood in the first century, and look forward to the literal second coming of Christ to judge this world in righteousness, to reward his faithful followers, and set up the everlasting Kingdom of his heavenly Father here on earth.  This  hope is also consistent with the promises that were made to Abraham and David and the writings of the inspired prophets in the Old Testament.