Almont New Church Assembly

Written 1/25/07 by Betty Jean Neuenfeldt, the great-great granddaughter of original pioneers William and Jean Hamilton. Information was taken from writings of William B. Hamilton, son of William and Jean Hamilton and from Eunice Root Hamilton, married to Frank, a grandson of William and Jean Hamilton.

At the corner of Tubspring and Cameron Road, in the corner of St. Clair county, is found a group of historic buildings including a chapel dating to 1870. The church was built to accommodate the worship of Scottish immigrants who formed a society of the New Church.

In the year 1841, William Hamilton and Jean (Downie) Hamilton, his wife, with their family of three (William B., the eldest, nine years old; Janet, seven, and margaret, one), left Scotland and found their way to a piece of land in Section 31, Berlin, St. Clair Co. They settled in a log shanty, 16 ft. by 20 ft., in the midst of a "howling wilderness".

The Hamilton family had been members of the New Church in Paisley and Glasgow, Scotland, and continued to worship in this tradition in Michigan. Two other families from the New Church in Scotland moved to the area- the Allan's and the Marshall's- and their natural clannishness and religious connection brought them together. In 1848, the Morton family came to the area. Mr. Morton was a leader in the Paisley New Church Society, and he had enough charisma to pull other neighbors into their worship community. Soon the meetings became too big to be housed in homes, having added the Robb, Reid, Robertson and Dodge families.

In 1851 the time seemed ripe for organization. The small group in Berlin became aware of the existence of a Michigan Association of the New Church and they made connection with the group. A Rev. Fox came to their meetings on occasion to present a sermon or discussion. They met in neighboring schoolhouses and in the Congregationalist Church of Almont. They formed a society called the Berlin Society of the New Church. This title was later changed to the "Almont Society" due to the fact that most of the members received their mail at the Almont Post Office.

The Mc Arthur and the Ives families from Scotland moved to the area to add to the numbers in the Society. In 1852, the death of Wm. Morton was a great loss to the group. He had been a driving force in their growth, so for some years the only increase was made with the growing up of the young people. A period of comparative stagnation followed up to and through the Civil War. An era of "Reconstruction" followed the war, resulting in the building of the chapel.

Land was given by Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Reid at the intersection of Tubspring and Cameron Roads and a chapel was erected for use by the Society. Services were conducted by ministers serving the Detroit Church, by Missionary ministers visiting the State and by Lay Readers in the Society.

By the late 1890, the older people in the church became concerned about the gradual drifting away of the young people and wished to find a way to keep them interested. The REv. Eugene Schreck of the Detroit Society suggested that they hold a "Summer School" at the church. He and his wife would teach and sleep in the church with their little daughter, the young ladies would sleep at neighboring farms, the boys in tents on the Church grounds. All would help with the meals and two tents were used as a kitchen and a dining hall. The daily attendance ranged from twenty to thirty. Rev Schreck taught them all morning and part of the afternoon, giving lessons in the letter of the Word, in the Doctrines, elements of science, elements of Hebrew, and singing of chants and hymns. Six young ladies formally united with the chucrh in confirmation.