by Elizabeth Weichel Moore
In 1827 the Creek Rd. (now Route 15) was surveyed and laid out and it replaced the Hill Road as the County road. The center of gravity was shifting in the Town as the area known as Underhill Flatts along the Creek Rd was growing with commerce and industry. The historic Birge Tavern (now PH271) near the Congregational Meeting House on the Hill Road, which had been a gathering place and the location for Town Meetings, was replaced by the Barney Tavern ( across from the present UJFD) on the new County road. In 1832 it was formally voted to hold the Underhill Town Meetings at William Barney’s Tavern.
The prime movers in the Flatts were the entrepreneurs, John Towers and Henry Oakes, who owned considerable land and had a thriving general store. In 1837 John Towers laid out part of his land for a burial ground and sold lots. In 1838 a “Second Congregational Society” was organized to manage the financial affairs of the Congregational Church and to decide what to do about the original meeting house on the ‘Hill Rd’ which had been severely wind-damaged and was unusable. Tower and Oakes leased to said Society a lot next to their store in the Flatts on which to build a new meetinghouse.
The same year John Towers also deeded his vacant cemetery lots to the same Second Congregational Society. So began The Underhill Cemetery on what is now Park Street. At a yearly meeting a sexton and treasurer were elected for the cemetery care and management. (The cemetery has headstones with dates as early as 1809, which precede the 1837 establishment date.) A structure known as the River Church, which had been located somewhere near the intersection of Sand Hill and River Road, was moved to the new lot next to the Tower and Oakes store. It replaced the wind-damaged original meetinghouse until 1845, when it was damaged by fire. By 1847 The First Congregational Church building had been erected on the same lot by the store and next to the village green .
It is a fine structure which now serves The United Church of Underhill. (Some of the original founders of the ‘Congregational Church of Christ in Underhill undertook to salvage parts from their wind-damaged meetinghouse and use them to build a meetinghouse farther up the Hilt Road, – – near the present intersection of Poker Hill and Page Roads. It was known as North Church and the members actually seceded from the parent church. Shortly thereafter, that building also burned and the few remaining church members rejoined The First Congregational Church in the new building in the Flatts.
Over the years more land along was acquired for the enlargement of the Underhill Cemetery. Along the way The Second Congregational Society was reconstituted as The Congregational Society. Then in 1916 The Congregational Society and The First Congregational Church merged with a new constitution.