Unadilla Township Church to mark 175th anniversary Congregation to host outdoor celebration

By Frank Konkel

Livingston County Daily Press & Argus (Howell)

UNADILLA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) -- If only the old wooden walls of Gregory Community Church could talk, oh, the stories they'd tell.

They might tell about how the Baptist congregation in Livingston County's Unadilla Township, west of Pinckney, reacted to Prohibition, or about the church's stance on the Civil War, or even which of the church's 13 founding members had the slickest horse carriage back in 1837, the year it was formed.

"There is a lot of history here, that's for sure," said Gregory Community Church Secretary Connie Kostiuk.

Church officials believe that history warrants public recognition.

At 5 p.m. on Saturday, the church and its congregation will host an outdoor community celebration recognizing its 175th anniversary, providing a free dinner and live music to the public.

"We want to celebrate the people as much as the building because it's the people who've kept the church open as long as it's been," said the Rev. Dan Miller. "In order for a church to exist for so long, it takes a community, so we decided we wanted to give back to the community."

Gregory Community Church held its first service in 1837 in a cooper's shop in Williamsville, a town that no longer exists. In fact, all that's left of Williamsville, about two miles southwest of present-day Gregory, is Williamsville Cemetery, where some of the church's 13 founding members are buried. Its first two pastors, the Revs. James Pyper and David Davis Bird, are buried there, too.

According to church records, the 13 founding members of the church came to the Gregory area by way of Hartford County, Conn., when two men, David Holmes and James Craig, ventured to the "wilderness of Michigan" in 1833 scouting for farmland.

At the time, Michigan was not yet a state, and its land was selling for $1.25 an acre, said Kostiuk.

Kostiuk said two current church members, Rick Howlett and Anne Potts, are Craig's descendants.

In 1852, the church moved to a different location in Williamsville. Then, it moved to its current location in 1886, when a new railroad turned Williamsville into a ghost town.

At the time, the church was called the First Baptist Church of Gregory. It only recently changed its name to Gregory Community Church.

"It really hasn't changed much," Kostiuk said. "It's amazing that it never shut its doors. I have pictures of this church with an actual barn behind it for horse carriages. It was another era, but we're still connected to it through the church and congregation."

The church still holds service every Sunday, and weekly attendance has increased recently, Miller said, with about 40 regular members.

Published: Wed, Jul 11, 2012