The first Congregational meeting house in Harvard was erected in 1733. This was replaced by a newer and larger structure completed in 1774. A steeple was added in 1786 and a bell was acquired in 1806. The congregation split in 1821, with the more conservative Trinitarians leaving to form the Evangelical Congregational Church. The large old meeting house, which had fallen into disrepair, was replaced with a smaller building in 1840. This was destroyed by fire in 1875 and a fourth meeting house, designed in the Queen Anne style, was soon built. This church was also destroyed by a fire, on December 13th, 1964, after a Sunday service. The current Harvard Unitarian Universalist Church, at 9 Ayer Road, was dedicated on June 18th, 1967.
In 1853, three years after the First Unitarian Society of Clinton was organized the society built at church at 250 Church Street. Now the oldest standing church in Clinton, it was erected on land donated by Henry Fairbanks, one of the partners in the Bigelow Carpet Company. The church was raised in 1872 when the current first level was added underneath the original 1853 church. No longer a Unitarian church, in recent years the building has lost its steeple. It is now the Clinton Spanish Seventh Day Adventist Church.
The Unitarian Universalist Church at 121 North Pleasant Street in Amherst was built in 1894. As related in Hitchcock’s Handbook of Amherst (1894), “The Universalist Society, organized November, 1887, has erected a new church building here. The services were held in Masonic Hall pending the erection of the church, and the Rev. J. H. Holden is pastor.” The Arts and Crafts style building contains stained glass windows by Louis Comfort Tiffany and John LaFarge.
In 1716, parishioners of Marblehead’s Congregational Church who favored the liberal minister, Rev. Edward Holyoke, broke away to form the town’s Second Congregational Church. A church was soon built on New Meetinghouse Lane, now called Mugford Street. The church embraced Unitarianism in 1820, under the leadership of Rev. John Bartlett. A new church was built in 1831-1832, but it was destroyed in a fire in 1910. The current gambrel-roofed Unitarian Universalist Church of Marblehead was built in 1911 and was expanded to the rear in the 1960s, after the ancient graves immediately behind the church had been moved to new locations in the old graveyard.
The First Church in Salem, gathered in 1629, is the oldest church in North America to be continuously governed by congregationalist polity. Until 1923, the First Church congregation used four successive buildings on the same location on Washington Street (the last, built in 1826, is now the Daniel Low Building). The congregation became Unitarian early in the nineteenth century. The congregation split into other churches over the years, most of which later merged again with First Church. East Church was established in 1718 and Barton Square Church in 1824. These two merged in 1899 to form Second Church and reunited with First Church in 1923. The former East/North Church building of 1844-1846 is now the Salem Witch Museum. North Church split from First Church in 1772. Its first meeting house, on the corner of North and Lynde Streets, was used from 1772 to 1836. The second meetinghouse, on Essex Street, was begun in 1835 and completed in 1836. It is made of Quincy granite and is considered an outstanding example of a Gothic Revival stone masonry church. Since North Church reunited with First Church in 1923, the united congregation has used the old North Church building. Read More
This week we will be looking at buildings in South Natick. The Puritan missionary John Eliot first settled Natick in 1651. It was the first of the towns he established for settlement by the Praying Indians, who had converted to Christianity. Eliot, working with Praying Indian translators, produced an Indian grammar and the Natick Bible. The Praying Indian village was in South Natick, along the banks of the Charles River. The Indian church that Eliot established in Natick in 1651 continued under his successor, the first Native American minister, Rev. Daniel Takawambpait. The church suffered through the breakup of the Praying Indian villages during King Philip’s War. By 1699, the original meeting house had fallen into disrepair, and the remaining Christian Indians of Natick petitioned the General Court to allow them to sell a portion of their plantation to John Coller, Jr., a carpenter, in exchange for his building them a new church. This was accomplished by 1702 and Daniel Takawambpait preached in the new church until his death in 1716.
Another new meeting house was built on the same site in 1721 and in 1729 a new church society was established, consisting of both Indians and English settlers, the latter of whom were rapidly migrating into the area. But the experiment of a communal church did not last: Indian membership continued to decline and the church experienced internal conflict over theological issues and the location of the new meeting house. It was begun, on the site of its predecessors, in 1749, but not finished until until 1767. This occurred during the tenure of Rev. Stephen Badger, last missionary to the Natick Praying Indians, whom many English-descended residents refused to accept as their minister. After Rev. Badger’s retirement in 1799 and death in 1803, the South Natick church was abandoned and in 1802, a new First Congregational Church was organized to the north, in what is now the center of Natick. In 1828, the South Parish Congregational Church was organized and built a church on the site of the four earlier Praying Indian meeting houses. The church became Unitarian in 1870, under the ministry of Rev. Horatio Alger, Sr. The building’s clock was installed in 1872 and the vestry was added in 1880. In 1944, the Unitarian church joined with the John Eliot Congregational Church, both of which had been experiencing financial difficulties, and the two churches used the Unitarian meeting house for worship. The congregations merged in 1990, becoming the united Eliot Church of South Natick.