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Antioch’s First Congregational Church Returns Home

by ECT

Antioch’s first church, the First Congregational Church of Antioch, is returning to Antioch from its current location in Pittsburg in the form of the church’s historical records and the church bell being donated to the Antioch Historical Society Museum.

A Deed of Gift for the church’s records arrived at the Museum along with those records  in early August. September 7, 2021, marks the day that Paul Fish, church treasurer, presented the Deed of Gift for the church’s bell to the Museum. The bell was delivered on Labor Day, having been stored by church member Joe Zamora, retired centenarian Antioch school teacher, after the church moved from Antioch to Pittsburg.

The First Congregational Church was organized in 1865 and incorporated in 1875. It’s first building was completed in 1869, but torn down and replaced in 1891 by the building still standing at 6th and F Streets in downtown Antioch. The one ton church bell was cast in bronze in Troy, N.Y., in 1871, then shipped around the Horn. It was the first church bell to be rung in Antioch. Early members of the church included the Reverend W. W. Smith, one of Antioch’s founders, Captain George W. Kimball, one of the church’s founders,  and Thomas Gaines, Antioch’s first Black resident. In late 1968 the church and its bell moved to a new building at 620 East Tregallas, and in 2010 moved to Leland Road in Pittsburg without its bell.

Since receiving the church’s treasure trove of records in August, Theresa Court, the Museum’s Collections Committee Chair, and her team of volunteers have been busily processing the numerous files and papers donated. She discovered that when the bell was cast, it included fifty silver dollars that had been given by church member Helena M. Utter Wilkening for that purpose, resulting in what she believed was the sweetest tone of all Antioch’s church bells. Court welcomes interested volunteers to help with the cataloging.

And the bell?

According to Dwayne Eubanks, president of the Antioch Historical Society, the Museum “will be launching a project to restore and display the bell and the church’s records so that all can enjoy them. We are reaching out to the community to help us.”  When Fish first contacted the museum, Eubanks immediately realised the value of the proposed donations and worked hard to coordinate the acquisitions. He is confident the community’s help will result in a tasteful and aesthetically pleasing structure to support and display the bell so that its sweet tone may once again be heard in Antioch.

Information released from Antioch Historical Society Museum

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