Submitted by United Church of Ludlow Photo by David Hearne
On a recent Sunday before worship, the United Church of Ludlow received a visit from Rev. Peter Read, first pastor of the Ludlow Congregational Church. Read was important in the history of Ludlow and its first church. Born in Massachusetts in 1751, in 1776 he married Mary Pitcher, who died in child birth. He married Lydia Gilbert in 1786. In 1792, the year after Vermont became the 14th state, the Reads moved with three children from New Haven, CT to Ludlow. Upon arrival, Read immediately took up activity in organizing the town and religious affairs. He served as selectman in 1793 and 1795-1799 and in 1795 was Ludlow’s first Representative to the Vermont Legislature. Pictured above is Rev. Read (aka Bob Kottkamp) holding 1806 book describing church origin in his handwriting.
In 1792 Peter also organized Ludlow’s first religious meetings, which continued in homes and in the open until the organization of the First Congregational Meeting House Society and the building of a church in 1806. At the first church meeting, Read was elected Deacon. In 1808 the congregation requested that he be licensed to preach, and by unanimous vote in 1810, Rev. Read was called as the Congregational Church’s first pastor, which office he held until October, 1826.
By 1802, Lydia Read had born the last of their eight children. She died in 1815 at age of 56, only five years into her husband’s pastorate. In 1817, Rev. Read married Elizabeth Baldwin of Dorset, Vermont. Read saw the start of the second, much larger meeting house in 1839; he died in October at age 88. Both meeting houses were located on the same lot on the north side of High Street directly across from the Roman Catholic Church.
What kind of man was he? Joseph Harris, author of History of Ludlow Vermont, provided this description: “He was considered an able preacher…and was esteemed as a good Christian man, but he was odd in many expressions, and more strict in his orthodoxy than would be appreciated in these days….”
Rev. Read ended this short visit by saying he would be back, with Lydia, on May 5 and 6 for the 220th and 120th Birthday Celebration of the United Church of Ludlow. Peter and Lydia will be present to interact with celebrants and answer questions. He might even bring the 1806 book (in the photo) with his description of the church’s founding.