The Move to the Boulevard

On Feb. 12, 1908, the relocation issue was resolved when the congregation authorized (47 in favor, 6 opposed, and 12 not voting) that the Trustees purchase the church building at 18th Street and Baynard Boulevard from the Washington Heights Methodist Church and secure an option on a 100-foot lot next door. Although the details of this purchase are unclear, it is believed that the Methodist congregation was unable to pay its mortgage, which was held by Mr. Baynard. He foreclosed on the mortgage, and the Methodist building became a Presbyterian church.

The old Hanover building at 6th and King Streets, which sold for $39,500, was torn down so that the mercantile business Booker & Sons could erect a new building on the site. In preparation, many of the fixtures were given to Elsmere Presbyterian Church. The move to the building at 18th and The Boulevard — it would be renamed in honor of Samuel Baynard 25 years later — was completed before January 1909. William M. Pyle, who sat on the Board of Trustees of Hanover, was thanked for his perseverance in selling the old church property and purchasing the new property. In September of that year, Hanover granted a request from Miss Ethelda Mullin and hosted its first kindergarten in one of the Sabbath school rooms.

After the move to the new church building, the Hanover congregation renewed its commitment to increasing church membership, forming a “Committee on Strangers” to recruit families from its new neighborhood. The committee worked diligently, conducting a series of evangelical meetings that successfully attracted new members and increased membership. By 1911, Sabbath school attendance increased to approximately 50 children.

The growth of the Sabbath school prompted new debates about space. At congregational meetings in 1911 and 1912, discussions turned toward the need for additional space. The new building had become overcrowded, particularly the Sabbath School facilities. As members of the congregation remarked, “We deem it a most important duty of this church, at this time, to build sufficiently to take better care of the Sabbath School by additional facilities for the efficient carrying on of that important work.”

On Jan. 14, 1914, the congregation authorized the Trustees to secure plans for a new and suitably equipped church and Sabbath school building, the costs of which were not to exceed $60,000. On Sept. 30, 1914, the congregation ratified the Trustees action, awarding a contract to Haddock Brothers for construction of a new church school building at a cost of $45,000. That building, which we now call the Church School Hall, was connected by the passageway to the original church building. It contained a gymnasium in the basement, and a large meeting room with a balcony surrounded by classrooms.

Once the structural growth issues were addressed, Hanover focused on spiritual growth. At a congregational meeting on Nov. 15, 1916, members voiced “that something was evidently wrong, that Hanover was at a standstill.” An “Efficiency Committee of Three” was appointed to study the situation and report back to the congregation. The committee cited the following concerns in their report on Feb. 19, 1919. Much of it sounds as it could have been written in our times:

1-many members were shirking their duties and opposing the pastor;

2-the pastor’s salary was not commensurate with the services performed;

3-the pastor should have administrative assistance; members were not giving liberally enough;

4-the church had a $700 deficit despite an annual budget of $6,000 and a 450-member  congregation;

5-music expenses were too high ($1,200 per year) and a volunteer choir, under appropriate leadership, should be considered;

6-new hymnals were needed;

7-the Trustees and Elders should meet jointly and quarterly to eliminate misunderstandings;

8-efforts to encourage church attendance were needed;

9-church services should be advertised in the newspapers; the janitorial service needed improvement; and

10-a rotation system should be adopted for all officers.

The congregation approved the committee’s recommendations with one exception — the rotation of church officers.

On Nov. 29, 1917, in the midst of this introspective period, the Rev. Robert L. Jackson resigned as pastor of Hanover Church, accepting a call to the First Congregational Church of Mason City, Iowa. Rev. Jackson was praised by the congregation for his intellectual gifts and graces, scholarly attainments, devotion to every interest of the church, gentleness of spirit and kindness, Christlike unselfishness, and constant work in upholding the Kingdom of God. He was recognized for taking “an active, unselfish, and beneficial part in the civic affairs of this community,” making the city a better place to live.

The Rev. Charles H. Bohner of Ocean City, N.J., replaced Rev. Jackson in 1918, serving as pastor at Hanover until 1935. In 1919, the congregation purchased the property at 2312 Baynard Boulevard for use as the manse. That year a flu epidemic forced Hanover to close the church for all services. Then on June 15, the congregation was saddened by the sudden death of Mrs. Bohner. Three years later, in October 1921, members of Hanover responded joyfully to Rev. Bohner’s remarriage, hosting the wedding reception and presenting the couple with $350 in gold.

Change was ever present at Hanover, with the congregation embracing some changes more readily than others. Twice the congregation defeated motions to limit Session terms. The first motion was defeated in 1918, when the congregation voted against increasing the Session by three elders who would serve 3-year terms with other life members. A second motion was defeated in 1919, which would have replaced life membership to Session with term limits. Then in 1921, the Hanover Session refused to grant women a role in church government, opposing a General Assembly overture which recommended election of women as elders.

Changes pertaining to the worship service were accepted more easily. In 1920, Hanover adopted the card signing system for communion, and in 1922, the Session requested that the minister wear a Geneva gown while conducting regular Sunday services at the church. The Temperance Movement found support at Hanover, as evidenced by Session approving the Anti-Saloon League’s use of the church. Also in 1921, a young peoples’ branch of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union was organized at Hanover, with a delegate sent to the National Convention in New York. On April 6, 1930, the pulpit was filled by a representative of Women’s Christian Temperance Union.

The decade of the 1920s was a dynamic period in the life of Hanover, with a number of committees and organizations active and gaining momentum. One of the most active organizations at Hanover was the Women’s League, which grew from 105 members in 1921 to 172 members in 1926. In a mission statement presented by the executive committee in 1921, the Women’s League proposed directing efforts “toward charity and the promotion of increasing fellowship as well as membership in our church — at the same time, sparing our present members and congregation demands for financial aid in supporting those aims.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To accomplish this goal, the Women’s League established several committees, including New Membership, Flower, Music, Entertainment, and Institutional Visiting committees. Members of the Flower Committee provided flowers for Sunday services and sent flowers and plants to sick and “sorrowing” members of the congregation. The Entertainment Committee led book discussions and invited speakers who covered an array of topics, such as the “Women of Puerto Rico,” “The Armament Conference,” “Women in Industry,” “China,” and “What the Legislature has Done for the Women and Children of Delaware.”

Members of the Institutional Visiting Committee called on people in “various institutions of suffering and misfortune,” such as the county Work-House, Home of Merciful Rest, the disabled soldiers home, and Home for Aged Women. The Women’s League also contributed money to various Hanover capital campaigns and organizations, and community enterprises, including Delaware Children’s Home, the YWCA Holiday House, and Prisoner Aid association. The Women’s League collected warm garments for the Red Cross, distributed Christmas blankets to needy families, contributed toward the hospital expenses of sick children, and collected shoes and clothing for needy women and children.

International missions included sewing and knitting clothing for Polish orphans and contributing money to Women’s College and Medical Schools in China, the Women’s Missionary Society, and Japanese Relief. The work of the Women’s League was funded in part through their annual Strawberry Festival and sale of Hanover cookbooks. As Mrs. C. E. Yost, president of the Women’s League, stated in her annual report to Session, “We have dreamed unrealized dreams and we have striven for ideals perhaps beyond us É but we feel that we have succeeded in keeping the Women’s League big and broad, with high aims, and at the same time continuing an integral part of the congregation of Hanover Church.”

Two other women’s groups active at Hanover during the 1920s were the Female Harmony Society and the Women’s Missionary Society. The Missionary Society offered home-study programs in both foreign and domestic mission, and in 1923 donated more than $1,000 for missionary work around the world. The Missionary Society was also instrumental in involving youth in the life of Hanover Church by helping to form various young peoples’ associations: the Senior, Intermediate, and Junior Christian Endeavor Societies; the Girls Club and Westminster Guild; and the Little Light Bearers. These associations involved more than 100 youth in the life of Hanover Church.

The Senior, Intermediate, and Junior Christian Endeavor Societies were formed to “promote and support Christian endeavors” among youth. The youth worked in tandem with other Hanover committees on mission projects “in and out of the city.” Among their activities was providing Christmas dinner, toys, and clothing to poor families, and Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets to children’s homes. They also sent delegates to the State Christian Endeavor Convention.

The Girls Club and Westminster Guild of Hanover had between 30 and 40 active members. The organization’s social branch held “several successful and unique parties” that were financial successes. The missionary branch organized study programs and lectures, and participated in local and international mission work, distributing Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets to needy families and shipping toys to children in China.

The Sabbath school grew during the 1920s, offering “beginners, primary, junior, main school, adult, women, and the home department” classes. Two men’s organization were active in the 1920s. The Young Men’s Club, formed in 1925, ushered during Sunday evening services. The Westminster Club, men from Hanover and the community, was formed to “promote a feeling of good fellowship among the men of the community.” They invited “men of prominence” to speak with the organization. Among the speakers were Leroy Harvey, the Mayor of Wilmington; the Honorable Everett C. Johnson, former Secretary of State; Willard Saulsbury, former U.S. Senator, and former Governor Miller.

The Pastor’s Aid Society continued its 12-year history of “the work of loving service for Christ and his church” by donating money to causes within Hanover and the community. For example, the Pastor’s Aid Society contributed to the building fund, purchased a baptismal font and communion trays and plates for church services, and donated money to the Blind Shop and Physicians and Surgeons Hospital. Revenue for these projects was raised through bake, rummage, and “fancy goods” sales.

In those days before television and near-universal access to the automobile, most social life was neighborhood life, and the neighborhood institutions, such as the churches, were vital community centers. Hanover’s gymnasium, built at a time when there were relatively few other public spaces, was a major asset in establishing the church as integral to neighborhood life.

Hanover had various organizations in which members expressed their talents both on stage and on the court. The Hanover Drama club, which fluctuated between 40 and 60 members, performed plays for both private and public audiences. The Athletic Association sponsored programs for women, men, and youth and involved approximately 80 Hanover members who participated in bowling and basketball (boys and girls) church leagues. Gymnastic classes with “drilling and apparatus work” were offered to women and girls. The Athletic Association, which relied heavily on revenue from gymnasium rentals to remain self-supporting, reported to Session that they had difficulty cultivating interest among Hanover men and struggled to “arouse some personal interest among the people of the church in behalf of the Athletic Association.”

During the first three decades of the new century Wilmington continued to grow, and the city began to move into what we might call its modern era. Until 1900 Wilmington had been a typical small Eastern industrial city, with a predominately blue-collar population working to build ships and railroad cars. And some of them worked out along the Brandywine, making gunpowder for the Du Pont Co. In 1902 the Du Pont Co. was reorganized by three cousins, and they began building the modern Du Pont Co., a process that was accelerated by World War I. When the war ended and the nation began a 10-year-old economic boom, the company and its new white-collar employees began changing the face of Wilmington.

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