Plain Meeting House

Location: The Plain Meeting House is located at the corner of Plain Meeting House Road, Plain Road and Liberty Hill Road, 4 miles from Route 102. The property was donated to the WGLT by the members of the congregation in 2005.

History: The Plain Meeting House is a modest, rectangular, 1-story clapboard structure. It has no belfry or steeple. It faces south and is entered by two doors in the front of the building. It was built, around 1825, by the "Independent and Union Society" as a union meeting house for the use of all Christian congregations. It is one of the earliest church structures of its type still standing in western Rhode Island. It was remodeled in 1856. At one time, there was a long carriage shed behind the church but it was destroyed during a hurricane in 1938.

The church itself was organized around 1750 when steps had been taken to provide an organization for public worship and the West Greenwich Baptist Society had been formed. Members of the society met at private homes and in 1764 Samuel Reynolds donated a piece of land for the society's use but it appears that no building was built on it. Originally a pastor from Connecticut would come to the church to minister and eventually the church had pastors who settled in the area. One of them, Elder Elisha Greene, is said to have been dismissed in 1797 because he was "wavering in faith".

In 1822 a petition was sent to the Mapleroot Church requesting that a branch of that church might be organized for the convenience of those people in West Greenwich who were too far away to conveniently attend services at Mapleroot. The request was granted, a church building erected and William C. Manchester who, the records say, had been preaching in West Greenwich to general acceptance, was called to be the group's first minister. He was the youngest son of Elder Thomas Manchester, who served Mapleroot Church for over half a century.

From J. R. Cole's History of Washington & Kent Counties published in 1889, "Reverend William C. Manchester was the first pastor, and under his administration and one or two of his successors the society was in a flourishing condition. He was succeeded by Elders Daniel and William Slocum and John Gardiner. From that time the society has continued Calvinist Baptist. Elder John Tillinghast was the first and only pastor of the last named society and this venerable preacher continued his labors for many years, until his death, which occurred March 10, 1878."

John A. Bates, Clerk wrote in 1890 "On the 28th of March, 1878, occurred the death of the Rev. John Tillinghast, who for more than thirty-seven consecutive years had been our pastor, and in this providence of God the church met an irreparable loss. Having been born and for the most part reared here among this people, he was thoroughly acquainted with them. Perhaps no man ever knew better than he did the spiritual needs of his people, and certainly none ever labored more diligently to promote the good of all. Possessing great originality and perfect transparency of purpose, his motive was so manifest to all that their confidence was secured from the first. Of his worth as a Christian man, and a minister of the gospel of Christ, to his faithful warnings against the wrath to come, to his earnest pleadings with the people to accept the Savior he loved and served, and who felt the influence of his personal example on their own lives, his memory will always be precious. As has been said of him, the church was his constant delight, and its service his chief joy. The total number of additions to the church during his pastorate was 276.

John Tillinghast served as pastor for thirty seven and a half years. His picture has hung in the church for well over 100 years until January 2009 when the church was burglarized and the picture stolen.

Plain Meeting House is located at what was once West Greenwich Centre. The Centre, even at its height in 1850, consisted of only two houses, a store and the church with its cemetery. Only the church and cemetery remain along with some cellar holes where the buildings once stood. The name "Plain" Meeting House originated because of its location on the "plain" of West Greenwich Centre. The Pardon T. Bates home, one of two located in the Centre, was once used as the West Greenwich Post Office. Pardon T. Bates was appointed as the town's first postmaster and served in that capacity from 1861 until he died in 1896 . His son, John A. Bates, succeeded him as postmaster. He served as postmaster until 1927 when mail service was moved from West Greenwich to Greene. The property was destroyed by fire in 1930. All of the records of the Plain Meeting House were burned in this fire; Mr. John Bates was the church clerk at the time and the records had been stored in his house along with approximately 1600 volumes of books owned by him and his wife.

The West Greenwich Land Trust was awarded a grant in 2009 from the Champlin Foundations for $31,575. This funding has been used for exterior and interior painting, driveway repairs and landscaping. This work was completed in July 2010.

Public Use: The property will be used primarily for events sponsored by the West Greenwich Land Trust.

Note: We are looking for pictures and information about the meeting house and the people associated with it. Please let us know if you have any history that you are willing to share with us.

Volunteers Needed! We need volunteers to maintain the grounds (including cutting the grass, clearing brush, etc.), as well as to perform miscellaneous maintenance. If you would like to help in this worthwhile project, please contact Diana Rotelli at 401-397-9758.

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