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Collection on Plymouth Congregational Church

Identifier: M/A 0252

Description of Contents

Boxes 1 and 1b include newspaper clippings, photographs, programs, and other general material about Plymouth Church and its history. Boxes 2 through 5 consist of funeral records, which document the life and death of parishioners of Plymouth Congregational Church. In it are service records, notes from funeral eulogies, and funeral service programs. Prominent citizens in the collection include radio commentator Cedric Adams and Carleton College President Donald J. Cowling, as well as the Pillsbury Company’s John Sargent Pillsbury, Sr. and Phillip W. Pillsbury, Sr. Accompanying the collection is a partial index to some of the files, prepared presumably by a member or staff of Plymouth Church. Three reel-to-reel tapes contain the funeral services of Cedric Adams, Donald J. Cowling and Elizabeth Cochran. The services were given by or during the office of the Reverend Howard Conn, who was pastor from 1944 to 1976.


  • 1944 - 1987


Access Restrictions

The collection is available for use in Special Collections during the department's open hours.


Plymouth Congregational Church was organized in 1857 by 18 charter members. The Reverend Norman McLeod acted as pastor. They built their first building in 1858 at Nicollet and Fourth Street. On April 3, 1860, the Reverend Harry Nichols preached a sermon on temperance and that night, the church was destroyed in a fire. A new church building was dedicated in 1863 on the same location. The parish continued to grow and eventually outgrew this building; in 1875, they erected a larger church at Nicollet and Eighth. As the city grew, many parishioners moved southward where no church existed within a mile radius. In 1906 the group decided to build a new Plymouth Church at Nicollet and 19th. In 1909 it was completed and Plymouth Church has been at this location ever since. Many additions (starting with the chapel in 1948) and changes have been made since 1948 to the present day, with a new education wing and other improvements completed in 2007. During the church’s first year, a group of parishioners formed a bible class. Church Clerk C.M. Cushman’s 1864 records state that “The Sabbath School connected with the church is in a flourishing condition and has grown rapidly.” 1865 marked the start of young people’s meetings, and 1866, the first Sunday school. These Sunday schools were opened in various locations throughout the city and most of them eventually became schools, mission settlement houses or community centers, including the first free kindergarten in the city. Bethel Mission Sabbath School, was replaced by Pillsbury Settlement House, a donation of John S. and Charles S. Pillsbury as a memorial to their parents.

In 1887 parishioners organized a Society of Christian Endeavor which attracted both adult and youth membership. Their activities included mission work and Bible classes. Their goal was to cultivate members who would go forth and build a Christian foundation in the new city of Minneapolis. The church’s mission work also went beyond the city, as they sent numerous parishioners to foreign countries and hosted the 51st meeting of the American Missionary Association.

In 1937, Park Avenue Congregational Church joined Plymouth. Church membership in 1957 was at 1,955. Today, Plymouth Church maintains many of these activities and promotes itself as a church of liberal theology that provides “mutual encouragement and support for one another’s journeys of faith.”

A comprehensive history of the church from its founding to 1957 can be found in The Centennial Record. Further information on Pastor Howard Conn can be found in his autobiography, A Hand Always Above My Shoulder.


  1. McLeod, Norman
  2. Nichols, Henry Martin
  3. Salter, Charles C.
  4. Stimson, Henry A.
  5. Hutchins, Robert G.
  6. Thwing, Charles F.
  7. Wells, George H.
  8. Beach, David Nelson Sr.
  9. Hallock, Leavitt H.
  10. Dewey, Harry Pinneo
  11. Beach, David Nelson Jr.
  12. Conn, Howard J.

Highlights in the Development of Plymouth Church: 1857 to 1957

Plymouth Congregational Church organized by 18 charter members with Rev. Norman McLeod as pastor.
First church building dedicated at Fourth Street and Nicollet Avenue.
Church destroyed by fire.
New building dedicated on site of the first building.
Young people’s meetings organized.
First reported attendance of Sunday School. Vine Street mission established.
Cornerstone of third church building laid at Eighth and Nicollet Avenue.
Third church building dedicated debt free.
Church parlors added.
Miss Anstice Abbott, first missionary from Plymouth to be appointed to India.
1,500 delegates from American Board of Foreign Missions met at Plymouth Church.
Quasi-military organization, Plymouth Zouaves, organized.
Present church at 19th Street and Nicollet Avenue dedicated.
World War I memorial dedicated.
Park Avenue Congregational Church joined Plymouth with Reverend Bertram B. Hanscomb as co-pastor.
Howard Conn is pastor.
New chapel and religious education building dedicated.
Nicollet Avenue annex purchased and renovated for church school.
Plymouth Congregational Church celebrates its centennial.
Pastor Howard Conn retires.

Charter Members

  1. Bates, Erastus Newton
  2. Bates, Lucy A.
  3. Chase, Mary A.
  4. Clark, Charles
  5. Clark, Prudence
  6. Cross, Anne L
  7. Cross, C.M.
  8. Hartwell, Adelbert
  9. Hartwell, Maria
  10. Jencks, Elmira B.
  11. King, Osmyn B.
  12. Leonard, William H.
  13. McLeod, Esther W.
  14. Saunders, O.B.
  15. Snow, Cyrus
  16. Snow, Eliza M.
  17. Walcott, Albert
  18. Walcott, Martha C.


3.59 Linear Feet (5 boxes, 1 oversize poster)

Language of Materials



Most of the funeral record collection was kept in its original order; documents had been placed in envelopes according to the individual they referenced. The contents of these envelopes were transferred to acid-free envelopes for preservation purposes and the envelopes are now arranged alphabetically by last name. The documents within them were kept in the order they were found in each envelope; metal paper clips and staples were replaced with plastic clips for preservation purposes. The documents cover the time period between 1944 and 1987.

Donor Information

The funeral records of Plymouth Congregational Church parishioners were donated to Special Collections at the Minneapolis Public Library by Greg Aspnes on September 23, 1987.

Related Materials in Hennepin County Library Special Collections

Kenney, Dave. Plymouth Congregational Church, 1857-2007 : walking together in all God's ways. BX7255.M6 P38 2006

Plymouth Church Programs, "Weekly Calendar," 1943-2014 285.8 M66 and BX7255.M6 P4

Collection on Plymouth Congregational Church
Renee C. Willkom
February 2007
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Hennepin County Library Special Collections Repository

Minneapolis Central Library
300 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis MN 55401 U.S.A.