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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Little Brown Church in Nashua will celebrate 150th anniversary

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

A church built by volunteers during the Civil War and immortalized in a song will celebrate its 150th anniversary next summer.

The Little Brown Church's congregation began in 1855 as the First Congregational Eccesiastical Society of Bradford. Traveling preachers led services in homes and behind storefronts.

William Pitts, a music teacher, was passing through Nashua and saw an empty lot he thought would be perfect for a church. He wrote the song, "The Church in the Wildwood."

Years later he returned to the area and saw the church had been built at that exact location. Volunteers from as far away as 50 miles came to help build the church, said Rev. Linda Myren.

"This was something normal to do" during war, she said.

Pitts sang the song he wrote at the church's dedication in 1864. The Weatherwax Brothers made the song popular in the early 1900s, Myren said.

"They increased the knowledge of the church," she said.

The late Ray Charles sang at a wedding at the church in 1942. Sen. Chuck Grassley and his wife, Barbara, were married there in 1954.

Between 40,000 and 60,000 people visit the church every year, Myren said. It remains an active congregation with about 100 members.

Pews date to 1870, the podium to at least 1883.

Events to celebrate the church's sesquicentennial in June 2005 will include a Civil War re-enactment and a marriage reunion.

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