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Before 1834.PNG

First Congregational Church

“…the old meeting-house was found to be far too small to accommodate the large audiences that flocked to hear Mr. Sumner preach. It was the custom for everyone to go to church; the town was growing, the inhabitants were enterprising, and ambitious to have their town as progressive as others about them, and they voted in town-meeting to build a new and more commodious meeting-house.

Where it should be erected was a serious question and caused quite a dissension between those who lived on Rocky Plain and the more remote dwellers in the south. The north precinct had been set off as a separate parish and called Boylston.

Those in the south still travelled four miles every Sabbath day to the meeting-house and having done this for twenty years or more, they requested the town to place the new meeting-house nearer to them and thus equalize the distance to it from all parts of the town. If this could not be done they wished to set off as a separate parish like their northern brethren. Feeling hurt that little attention was paid to their protests and entreaties, a lengthy petition was sent to the legislature, in which their woes were set forth and redress prayed for. For some reason they withdrew this petition and the new house was erected on Rocky Plain.

In those times preaching was supported by the town, and consequently a general interest was taken in the new house of worship. A building committee was chosen, whose purpose was to have the work well and thoroughly done, and home labor was to be preferred to any other. The timbers were all selected from the Shrewsbury forests and hewn by the sturdy owners; Shrewsbury blacksmiths made the nails and the architect himself, Mr. Daniel Heminway, was a Shrewsbury man and a famous church builder.

All things being ready, the town voted to raise the building on the thirteenth of May, to provide a good supper and to send to Boston for a barrel of rum, probably the latter to keep up the spirits of the workmen and because it was a day to be remembered to all generations. We are not told that there were any cornerstone ceremonies, or that the supper provoked any after speeches. That was an entirely practical company of men who wiped the drops from their faces that warm afternoon, and sat down to refresh themselves with the sumptuous repast which the willing hands of the wives and sisters had prepared while the work was going on. The men were weary; all day since six o'clock in the morning they had labored hard to fit the mighty timbers into their places and fasten them together with the strong oaken pins that were to hold them for an unknown number of years.

The work for that day was finished and they viewed it with great satisfaction as they were eating their supper on the common in the fresh breeze of the early evening. The setting sun threw a glory over the newly hewn timbers, on that day raised to a new honor, as if the blessing of Heaven were descending upon the labor of their hands. The sturdy yeomen may have felt this, for they had done their work faithfully and well, as the structure itself testifies that has stood through the storms and tempests of more than a century, that even the lightning stroke failed to destroy and is in 1892 apparently good for a hundred years to come.

Mr. Sumner in his journal says, ''July 7, 1766, the old House was taken down. July 13, 1766, being Lord's Day we met ye first time in the new House, upon which occasion I preached from Genesis 2S chapter & ye 17 verse — 'This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of Heaven.'"

The new meeting-house, forty-five feet wide and sixty long, had at first no steeple or bell, they waited forty-two years for those; the ornamentation, though simple, was artistic both inside and out, and all painted white."

Elizabeth Ward, OLD TIMES IN SHREWSBURY MASSACHUSETTS, Gleanings from History and Tradition (The McGeorge Printing Company, 1892)

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