Book 1-Established in the Truth
"ESTABLISHED IN THE TRUTH"
"Do all you can to establish
them in the truth."
(Rev. Nathan Buchnam, 1743)
A REPRINT OF REV. JOHN E. MORGAN'S
"HISTORICAL REVIEW OF THE FIRST CONGREGATIONAL
CHURCH OF BOYLSTON"
First published in 1943
With the kind permission of his wife.
F O R E W O R D
In preparing this Historical Review of the Boylston Church the Pastor has had
the able assistance of Deacons Calvin H. Andrews and George H. Boyden, their
terms of office in the Diaconate having been served uninterruptedly for
forty-five years and twenty-three years, respectively. Their knowledge of
Boylston history and traditions has been acquired through long years of
useful identification with Church and community affairs.
The Pastor has had access to articles and papers of the late George L.
Wright, Town Historian and former Librarian, and has
made use of two historical sermons, preached in 1852, by the Reverend William
H. Sanford. The Church and Parish Records contain a wealth of information and
they have been studied with great delight.
Also, acknowledgment is here made of courtesies received at the New England
Historical-Genealogical Society, Boston, where I was privileged to examine
the historic Record Book kept by Dr. Morse, the first Pastor.
This Review was used as the basis of two historical sermons preached from the
Boylston pulpit September 19 and 26, 1943 on the them:
"The Vanished Past and the Expected Future."
John E. Morgan
The President of Princeton University, in a volume recently published, has
given to the opening chapter a title that might well be the watchword of an
historical record such as is now my purpose to write: "The Road to
Tomorrow Leads Through Yesterday." Keeping that suggestion in the
foreground of our minds will save us from yielding to only a superficial
celebration of so noteworthy an event as the Two Hundredth Anniversary of our
Relating tomorrow's goal to yesterday's achievements will sanctify today's
opportunity and will help to keep aglow the necessary sense of mission,
without which any Church is apt to succumb to the paralyzing malady of
futility and detachment. In reality, there is no
such thing as an isolated Christian, not can there be any such thing as an
isolated Church. A Church can no more detach itself from its past record than
can the individual divorce himself from the family ties and associations that
make up his native background. We are today, to a large extent, the product
of yesterday and tomorrow's Church and tomorrow's Nation, are being moulded today by the ideals, the affections
and the loyalties to which we are now giving ourselves. Thus
the seasoned observation of Dr. Rufus Jones has direct and appropriate
meaning for us as we prepare to review our Church's history: "One way to
prepare for the future is to recover the past and to hold it vividly in mind.
The past is meant to be a guide for the future." That is precisely what
an Anniversary celebration should do. There would be no point to the
observance did we not strive to get a fresh hold upon the past, not alone for
the pride that such retrospection gives but, also, for the inspiration it
imparts as we look forward to the future. So, "remembering the days of
old and considering the years of many generations," we shall tell the
story to our children," writing it upon the doorposts of the house and
binding it as a frontlet between our eyes." When we have done that we shall have made use of one of the safest guides
available for the future, the course having been capably charted out of the
rich treasure-house of the past.
For some the history of the Boylston Church has become a well-loved and
familiar story. There are some families within our constituency who can trace
their lineage directly to the early settlers of this region. Some of the
names on our present Church roll are found among the pioneers who settled the
wilderness hereabouts; they were the men and women who made up the backbone
of yesterday's Church and were identified with every good cause in the
community. "Their bodies are buried in peace; but their name liveth for evermore."
Those who know the story largely through ancestral ties, will agree that the
narrative is a sacred one. Such people will not mistake that they are
"standing upon holy ground" when the tale is retold during these
Anniversary days. We reiterate that a family background with much of God in
it is a heritage not to be equalled by the
inheritance of houses and lands. The holy legacy of a Godly background ought
to be the greatest incentive for seeing to it that the family tree does not
wither and decay and, as we sometimes say, "go to seed."
But there are others for whom the story may not be so familiar. These are
they who have more recently come into the community to live, who are not
connected by blood ties with the ancient and honorable past of Church and
Town. As the years roll by it is to be expected that the company of such in a
community like this will continue to multiply. As these people identify
themselves with the Church they must be made to feel
that the inheritance of the past is theirs also. Unless we can make them so
feel, then the mistaken idea is apt to become prevalent that the Church
belongs exclusively to someone else, somebody who has lived here longer and
whose ancestral line goes back farther. That would make for a serious and
deadly attitude of restriction within the ranks--and none of us wants that
kind of Church. The Church must always be an inclusive community
or it will never be "a blessed community." The Church here in our
midst belongs to every man and woman and youth who is a member of it. While
you are a living member it is your church, regardless of the ancestral or
denominational lineage from which you have come. In its achievements you will
take just pride and in every failure it experiences you will assume your full
share of responsibility.
So, whether our love for the Church is something we have inherited because
our fathers and mothers, for many generations, have been members here, or if
it be a love for this place that has been acquired by adoption, so to speak,
we shall be seeking to further the idea that each of us is a partner in the
great Enterprise, and each one a part owner, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit
FIRST PARISH IS GATHERED
The Church as an organized body had its beginning when, on December 17, 1742,
residents living in what was then known as the North Precinct in Shrewsbury,
became incorporated, on approval of the Great and General Court of
Massachusetts. In 1786 the Precinct was incorporated as The Town of Boylston.
Shortly after the North Precinct of Shrewsbury was established, the Church
was organized, or "gathered," to employ a term then used. The date
was October 6, 1743. Thirteen men received dismission from the Shrewsbury
Church and these, with a few others, became the covenanting members of the
First Parish. About a year later sixteen women, most of them being the wives
of the men who were earlier dismissed, brought their membership from the
First Church in Shrewsbury to the First Parish in the North Precinct.
On February 18, 1743 the Precinct voted to build a meeting-house and after
surveyors had established the most central location, the building was erected
on what was then known as the South Common, near the site of the present Old
The first pastor of the Church was the Reverend Ebenezer Morse, whose name
appears frequently in the annals of the Church. Dr. Morse came from Harvard
Divinity School, was ordained here October 26, 1743
and continued in a happy relationship with the Church until the outbreak of
the Revolutionary War. He was a man of towering intellectual strength, equalled only by his ability to espouse a cause and then
fight uncompromisingly in its defense if that became necessary. Before taking
up the study of theology the young man had studied law and medicine and
during his pastorate had frequent occasion to use his knowledge of both on
behalf of his parishioners. He was not only pastor and teacher but doctor and
lawyer as well. He was only twenty-five years of age at the time of his
settlement in Boylston. Soon he married Persis, the daughter of Ensign John
Bush and built a house on the site of the house now occupied by Deacon Calvin
H. Andrews, part of the present house being the original Morse dwelling.
After a pastorate of nearly thirty years, his relationship with the Church
was severed and by dramatic and somewhat violent means. Dr. Morse was a
Royalist; naturally, most of his people resented the Tory sympathies of their
pastor and objected to his outspoken utterances but the fiery man was not to
be silenced by parishioners' criticisms. He refused to accede to the request
that he resign the pastorate, nor would he agree with the Parish in calling,
in good Congregational fashion, an Ecclesiastical Council to settle the
dispute by amicable means. Finally, the Council was called ex parte and the pastor was relieved of his office. So
insistent was he, however, that it became necessary for the Parish to place
constables at the pulpit stairs to keep him from entering thereto.
As was the custom in those days, church records were kept by the pastor. The
minister was his own clerk and statistician. This record book the dismissed
pastor refused to turn over to the Parish. Repeated efforts were made to
retrieve it but without success. When Dr. Morse died the effort was renewed
with his family but without favorable result. Finally, all trace of the
record was lost and for one hundred and twenty years its whereabouts was a
mystery. In 1922 the volume came to light when it was discovered to be in the
possession of one Tay Edwards, Coney Hill, by Franklin Center, Quebec,
Canada. The book was given by this person to the New England
Historical-Genealogical Society, Boston, and is in their possession now. Only
a few days ago the present pastor had the privilege, through the courtesy of
Library officials, to handle the prized historic volume and was permitted to
make a few notes from it. The book is a rather crudely bound affair and as
might be expected, its contents are quaintly written and fascinating. All
vital statistics are recorded together with certain proceedings pertaining to
the dispute between the pastor and the parish. Also, there is a genealogy of
the Morse family showing that there were eleven children. I think the only
record extant of the covenanting members of the First Parish is that
contained in the ancient volume. It was written as follows by Dr. Morse:
"1743 Octo 6. At a fast solemnized by the covenanting brethren in
Shrewsbury North Prec. & attended by Reveds.
Messrs. Parkman andCushing and his delegates a Cch was gathered in 2nd Prcnct.
The signers of this covenant were as follows, Ebenezer Morse, John Keyes, Senr., Eleazer Taylor, Jacob Hynds,
Cyprian Keyes, Mephibosheth Bixby, Oliver Keyes, Jonathan Keyes, Josiah
Bennet, Joshua Houghton, Ebenezer Taylor, Elisha Maynard, Ephraim Wheeler,
Phinehas How, Jonathan Bennet, David Bixby, John Keyes, Junr.,
Taylor, Hezekiah Walker. (N.B.--P. Walker, 2nd signed on ye Morning of the
ordination of their Pastor and with ye consent of ye before mentioned
Apparently, Dr. Morse deeply resented the procedure employed by the parish in
terminating the pastorate as we find a note in the records of twenty-one
years later, March 9, 1794, as the Church was preparing to ordain a pastor,
"the irrepressible Dr. Morse appeared at the Council, claiming he had
never been regularly dismissed, and demanding that justice be
done him." It is safe to assume that the militant pastor, equipped with
the weapons of a fine intellect and a fiery disposition, was still fighting
for justice and for his Royalist convictions when, on January 3, 1802, at the
great age of eighty-four, he laid down his weapons and joined the Church on
SECOND PASTOR AND THE NEW MEETING-HOUSE
The second pastor called to preside over the Church was the Reverend Eleazer
Fairbanks. For sixteen years Dr. Fairbanks maintained the pastoral office and
it was not until toward the end of his pastorate that fierce dissension arose
among the people over the site of the proposed new meeting-house.
The fact must not be lost sight of that the geographical lines of the North
Precinct of that day were more far-flung than the area which now comprises
the Town of Boylston. The parish was at that time made up of people who came
from as far away as the towns we now know as West Boylston, Sterling, Holden,
and Clinton. When negotiations were started for the constructing of the
second church building, residents living in the westerly end of the town
wanted the Church built nearer their location. The matter of selecting a site
was finally put into the hands of a committee of referees from Lancaster, Northboro and Bolton. It is said that the exact geographical
center, established by a survey made by the committee, was a marshland and
unsuited to a building. The decision was finally made to build the Church on
the site of the present Sawyer Memorial Library. So opposed to the plan were
the residents of the westerly side of the town and so bitter had the
controversy become that these people petitioned the Legislature for
incorporation as a separate precinct. The request, after a battle which
lasted sixteen years, was granted and the Second Precinct proceeded to build
its meeting-house on a site later purchased by the
state at the time of the building of the reservoir. The church stood near the
little stone church that can be seen today, surrounded by water, from the
causeway in West Boylston. The Congregational Church, now standing on the
West Boylston Common, is the daughter Church of the Boylston Parish.
What part, if any, Mr. Fairbanks took in this heated and protracted
controversy is not clearly known but for some reason the pastor became the
object of a dispute. One of the most fascinating documents that has come to
hand during the preparation of this historical narrative is that of the
Ecclesiastical Council called together in Boylston on April 23, 1793. Dr.
Joseph Sumner, pastor of the Shrewsbury Church, was moderator and the
Reverend Reuben Holcomb was scribe. The proceedings are worth recording here:
'The Council after forming and looking up to Heaven for direction took under
their most serious and carefull attention the
peculiar state of the Pastor, Chh, and People in
this place, and endeavourd to collect all the light
possible in order to fix their judgment as to what was wisest, and best to be
done: and after mature deliberation have come to the following result: to
advise a dismission of the Revd. Eleazer Fairbanks from his Pastoral Relation
to this Chh & people.
"It is with sensible pain we view this as most expedient in the present
case. We in justice here say that nothing has been exhibited to this council
to the disadvantage of Mr. Fairbanks's character; and we rejoice to add that
this stands in a fair and amiable point of view: and we can heartily
recommend him as one we hope may greatly subserve the interest of the
Redeemer's Kingdom in the world. And on the other hand
nothing has appeard to set the Chh
& people in a disagreeable light. We sympathize with them in an event
that is in itself gloomy and unpleasant. A
circumstance in Mr. Fairbank's settlement now disagreeable to him, a supposed
coolness in some, and disaffection in others seemed to have been the origen of the expediency of the dissolution of the
Pastoral relation, and given ground to fear his usefullness would not be so great as could be wished for
if he was continued their Pastor. We recommend to this Chh
and People in the strongest manner possible to cultivate mutual love,
friendship and unanimity; to take every wise and prudent step that may
promote peace among themselves, and strive after a
resettlement of the gospel ministry among them. Our earnest desire is that
they may ever know and pursue the things of their true peace, and that the
Pastor and people, may, by grace be ripened for, and finally admitted to that
blessed world where imperfections and disagreements are known no more and
love reigns eternal.
"Voted unanimously as the Result of Council."
An interesting development in connection with church music is recorded during
this period. The hymnal almost universally used up to this time was the old
Bay Psalm Book. Not all the people were adept in reading
so the custom was to have a capable person, usually a deacon, prompt the
congregation by reciting a line which was then sung, then the next line was
recited, and so on until the Psalm was finished. It was during Mr.
Fairbanks's ministry that Dr. Isaac Watts's version of the Psalms was
introduced. While the old Psalm Book contained the ancient Psalms verbatim,
the new book by Watts used the Psalm largely as the inspiration and
background for the hymn and included hymns by other authors. For instance,
the hymn we sometimes sing:
The Heavens declare Thy glory, Lord,
In every star Thy wisdom shines;
But when our eyes behold Thy word,
We read Thy name in fairer lines
is probably based on the familier Nineteenth Psalm
in which the Psalmist asserts:
The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament sheweth his handiwork
Speaking of church music, it is apparent that our forebears were much
interested in this feature of public worship. There is a note under date of
September 16, 1806, in which $60 is appropriated for conducting a Singing
School in Boylston. We can imagine that such schools did a great deal in
familiarizing the people with the hymns of the Church. It has been noted that
"the first instrument used in this Church after the giving up of the
stringed instruments was an old-fashioned melodeon manufactured about 1845.
This instrument was a portable affair, carried in a trunk or case to and from
the church by the player each Sabbath. Most prominent of the choristers was
Caleb S. Crossman, afterwards a well
known professor of music in the West. John B. Gough acted for a
time in this capacity and John A. Wood and Charles I. Longley were long the
choristers." Within the recollection of many Boylston people is Mrs.
Rebecca Garfield, now of Whittier, California, who for many years was choir
director and was succeeded in that office by Mr. Walter A. Morrill who, from
the time of the installing of the Flagg Memorial Organ in 1927 until November
1941, presided at the console. In the old Church Mrs. Mary E. French was for
many years the devoted organist.
One other item out of this period that will have immediate interest for us is
the fact that in 1780, three years after coming to Boylston, the Reverend Mr.
Fairbanks built the beautiful old house near the Consolidated School, which was
later owned by Mrs. Warren S. Young and is now owned and occupied by the
The terminating of Mr. Fairbanks's pastorate came at the end of the first
half century of the Church's life--fifty years into which had been crowded
the struggle of the colonies against the mother country, which, in turn had
given rise to the embarrassing and unpleasant episode between the Church and
its first pastor, then the constructing of a second meeting-house and its
attendant result of internal strife and division. These were momentous
events, with far-reaching consequences but all of it a part of the unfolding
of a story which we reviewing it from our vantage
ground, are willing to describe as heroic and marked by devotion to the Truth
as those sturdy people saw it and fidelity to the great Institution that
played so important a part in their common life.
The next person to be called to the ministerial office was the Reverend
Hezekiah Hooper. Due to ill health the pastorate was brief. Mr. Hooper, a
graduate of Harvard, was ordained March 9, 1794 and was a native of
Bridgewater where, in the old cemetery, one finds his monument upon which is
engraved the following epitaph:
Beneath are deposited the remains of the Reverend Hezekiah Hooper, late
pastor of the Church of Christ, in Boylston, who departed this life December
2, 1795, in the 25th year of his age, and 2nd of his ministry. Sober and
exemplary, his mind enriched by a liberal education, he was prepared both to
profit and please his fellowmen. Happy in the unanimity and cordial
friendship of a kind, liberal and grateful people, he had a pleasing prospect
of enjoying many days of peace and prosperity. But ah!--how
uncertain are the most flattering hopes; cut down in the morning of life, he
has left his parents to mourn the loss of a beloved son; his people a useful,
affectionate and faithful pastor; and his country a true friend and valuable
citizen. His parents, to preserve his memory, and to express their affection,
have erected this monument.
One of the most distinguished gentlemen ever to hold the pastoral office in
Boylston was the Reverend Ward Cotton. He was descended from a long line of
famous clergymen including the Reverend John Cotton who escaped to this
country from England in 1633, having been summoned before high officials
there to give an account of his Puritan sympathies. The famous ministers,
Increase and Cotton Mather, were of the same family as was John Cotton, Jr.,
who was famous for his knowledge of the Indian tongue and had a responsible
part in revising the second edition of John Eliot's Indian Bible.
Mr. Cotton's pastorate here was a long one, extending from June 7, 1797 to
June 22, 1825, and was marked by a number of
important events. It was during this period that there was waged in the
Congregational Churches of New England the fierce theological debate which
resulted in the establishment in this country of the Unitarian Society. The
question has been sometimes asked as to how the Boylston Church remained
intact as an organization during this period when Congregational Churches
everywhere throughout New England were torn asunder by the debate and a
second church formed in many a community where heretofore there had been only
one. The fact is that the Boylston Church did have its advocates of both
liberalism and orthodoxy and for a time, so we are told, there was a small
Unitarian Society which met in the town but was never strongly established.
The years of greatest difficulty, so far as the local controversy was
concerned, were between 1810 and 1814. Mr. Cotton, who was of the more
liberal theological persuasion, had some supporters of like mind in his
flock, though the pastor was not dogmatic and endeavored to "keep the
unity of the spirit in the bond of peace."
It was inevitable that the pastoral relation should be terminated. With the
request of seven of the brethren, who appealed to him for the calling of a
church meeting to discuss the question of his possible dismission, a good and
regular proceeding in a Congregational Church, the pastor agreed. On June 22,
1825, with the approval of an Ecclesiastical Council, the pastoral relation
was severed. Reference should be made to another side of Mr. Cotton's
ministry. It was not all one of contention and debate and the likelihood is
that had not the doctrinal dispute arisen outside the town the relation of
the pastor with the parish would have continued and ended as pleasantly as it
had begun. Apparently, Mr. Cotton had the respect and admiration of the parish
as there is a reference to his having received from the parish a gift of $400
at the termination of his pastorate. The record also shows that during his
ministry there were ninety-eight admissions to the membership and four
hundred one baptisms.
It should be noted, too, that it was during this period the important work
was begun by what have come to be two of the strongest societies within the
Church. The Female Society for the Aid of Foreign Missions, later named the
Ladies' Benevolent Society, was organized in 1815 and the Sunday School was
formed in 1818. These two organizations have had an uninterrupted existence
since their inception and have fulfilled in their respective endeavors a highly important function in the life of the Church to
It is not to be expected that with the departure of Mr. Cotton everything was
restored to peace and harmony within the Church. The theological debate waged
during his ministry was not a local issue in its inception though the
influence of the controversy, as we have suggested, was felt locally. The
issues were still being fought after Mr. Cotton's retirement. Throughout New
England the doctrinal debate raged, which resulted, as already suggested, in
the rise of another religious denomination. What usually happened was the
seceding of the evangelical or Trinitarian branch to erect another building
on the opposite side of the Common or at the other end of the town to
continue in the established tradition leaving the church building, many of
which were very old and rich with historic associations, together with all
church equipment, to the liberal branch which afterwards became the Unitarian
While the local Church was not confronted with a new church organization, or,
at least, not one that existed for very long, it was faced with the delicate
and almost impossible task of finding a new pastor who would appeal alike to
Trinitarians and Unitarians. Finally, the Reverend Samuel Russell was called
and was ordained June 21, 1826 and remained until 1832. The Council called
together for the Ecclesiastical procedure was agreed to by both parties
within the Church and was composed of representatives from Congregational
Churches in Dunbarton, N.H., the town from which
Mr. Russell came, Berlin, Lancaster, Paxton, Leicester, Rutland, Sterling,
Holden, Shrewsbury, Longmeadow, Northboro, and West
Boylston. The observation has been made that "in this Council were
represented all the isms by which the Congregational Churches of New England
were at that time distracted." We wish we had a complete record of the
proceedings of that Council. What matching of theological wits there must
have been and what posing of doctrinal shibboleths. Ordaining Councils in
those days were vitally interested in what the prospective preacher believed
and what he proposed to preach and the slightest deviation from established
orthodoxy would be the occasion of a stiff and fiery debate. Of late,
examining Councils seem to be less interested in the candidate's religious
and doctrinal views and are more concerned about his "hobbies" and
his "technique" of business administration.
Mr. Russell's ministry continued for six years during which time the Church
enjoyed great prosperity, the records showing that there were 104 accessions
and many baptisms. A fine tribute is paid the man in one record by Dr. John
Todd of Pittsfield:
"His humility was such that he never performed those duties, to which
most ministers soon become professionally hardened, without trembling. As a
preacher, he was plain in manner and plain in matter, but he was uniformly
judicious and practical. His talents in the pulpit were not those which
astonish and dazzle, but his message of life were never from an indifferent
WILLIAM H. SANFORD'S MINISTRY
The state of affairs prevailing in the parish at the time of the Reverend
William H. Sanford's coming is best told in his own words in a sermon
preached on the occasion of the twentieth year of his settlement:
"On the ninth of August 1832, the Church, without a dissenting vote,
invited me to become their pastor. Of the 34 persons who were present at that
church meeting, only 14 remain regular worshippers at this house. The
remaining 20 are either in their graves, out of town, too infirm to attend at
the house of God, or for some other reason, are not with us. The parish
concurred with the Church offering an annual salary of $500. I had just left
a salary of $1000 per annum, promptly paid in quarterly installments, where I
was urged to remain and where all was peace and harmony; but left it because
I felt it to be my duty to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This call I
took under serious and prayerful consideration. There certainly could have
been little that was inviting. A salary that I felt would not give me a full
support; a town torn in fragments by dissension; a meeting-house
by far too spacious for the small congregation of worshippers, inconvenient
and uninviting in its construction, and yet an object of bitter controversy,
and with no prospect, that I could see, of a favorable change. The only
redeeming consideration was the hope and the probability of having a kind and
an affectionate people. In this hope, it gives great pleasure to say, I was
not disappointed. The insufficient salary, I felt that I could, in some way,
make up. The warring elements, which were raging through the town, and which
seemed to threaten the peace of any man who should occupy so prominent a
place as the pastor of the Church, I was sure would yield to the influence of
time, even if all other influences failed; and the meeting-house
could be endured, at least for a season. I resolved, in the beginning, to
take no part in the controversy which was going on in the town. My religious
sympathies were, of course, decidedly with the Church over which I was
installed. My religious principles I never could sacrifice nor compromise.
But maintaining these principles, it was my heart's desire and prayer to God that peace and harmony might be restored to
One has only to look at the record of the 25 years of Mr. Sanford's ministry
to see that the man exerted a powerful influence upon the whole community.
The theological debate gradually receded into the background and under his
wise and competent leadership many progressive steps were taken. In the twenty-year
period, which Mr. Sanford reviews in his memorable sermon, there were 135
additions to the membership, a considerable number when one remembers that
the requirements for church membership were much more rigid then than at
present. One was expected to give indisputable evidence that all was well
with his soul and that he was a fit subject to be added to the "Body of
Among other advances in the Church's life during this period was the purchase
of a new service for the Communion Table. The cost of the sacred equipment
was about $85.00, the amount being raised by subscription "and the names
of the more liberal subscribers are engraved on several of the articles which
compose the service." We are fortunate in still having part of that
Communion service, the pieces being about the only relics the Church has,
other historic possessions having been destroyed in the fire of 1924. The
Communion service here referred to consisted, originally, of two handsome
polished pewter tankards, two plates and eight chalices and were brought here
from England. All that remains of the service are four chalices, the other
pieces having been destroyed when the third building burned in February 1924.
These four cups, together with a beautiful gold-lined silver chalice are
treasured possessions. The names of three of the "liberal
subscribers" can still be deciphered on the inside base of three of the
cups, the names being, J. Tilton, Judith Bond, and A. White. It so happened
that only four, which we now have, were stored in the house of Mr. and Mrs.
John Andrews, parents of Mrs. Mary E. French and Mr. Calvin H. Andrews and
the house being the one in which Mrs. French now lives on Scar Hill Road. The
ancient and original form of Communion was followed in those days with the
"common cup" being passed to each communicant who partook of it and
then passed the cup to the next person. For the pastor's exclusive use there
was the sterling silver chalice, already referred to, given in 1799 by Ward
N. Boylston, a descendant of the original family of Boylstons,
who lived in Princeton, and for whom this town is named. The silver chalice
was always placed upon the Communion Table at the time of the Sacrament but it was never used by any of the Boylston
pastors they choosing, apparently, to drink from the "common cup."
The first individual communion silver was presented to the Church by Miss
Nettie Tucker, who had been for some years the organist. The record of the
Annual Meeting of January 5, 1910 contains this touching reference: "In
November (1909) a gift planned before her death by 'Out Nettie' was received
by the Church she loved so well and as each member took the cup of the
individual communion service, provided by her loving thought, no eye was
It was during Mr. Sanford's ministry that the third meeting-house
was built. One can do no better than quote his words relating to the need for
the new building:
"The church and the society felt deeply sensible of the evils connected
with their house of worship. It was owned in part by persons who did not
sympathize nor worship with them, who declined occupying their pews, and were
thus deprived of the use of the property which they had vested in the house.
The house itself was therefore a cause of division in the town,
and tended to perpetuate the contentions which existed in this place.
Again, the house would soon need extensive repairs, was too large for the
congregation that worshipped in it, was uncomfortable and cheerless, afforded
no convenient place for weekly meetings, was destitute of all the modern
improvements which were found in other houses of worship in the vicinity, and
destructive, on account of its construction and spaciousness, to ministerial
life. That this source of division might be removed, and that the church and
society might have a house suited to their wants, they determined
, in the spring of 1835, to build a new house on a new spot which they
purchased for that purpose. A contract was made, and early in the spring they
began to prepare the ground, and the building of this beautiful and
convenient house was begun. From beginning to end there was remarkable
harmony in all the movements of the parish in reference to
this undertaking. The spot upon which to build, the plan of the house, and
the style of finish, were all easily agreed upon, and the house went up with
great ease and despatch, because there were unity
and energy among those who were engaged in the work. The house was finished
and furnished, with all its appurtenances, by the 10th of December,
1835, when it was solemnly dedicated to Almighty God."
An interesting insight in the matter of pastoral visitation is found in a
published utterance of the Reverend Mr. Sanford's and we quote it now simply
to contrast the viewpoint with the modern mood as regards this side of a
"In my visits to the sick I have generally confined myself to those who
worshipped in this house, though I have always been happy to visit others in
their sickness when desired, or when I had sufficient evidence that it would
be acceptable. The instruction of the apostle on this point is this: 'Is any
sick among you? Let him call for the elder of the church.' This text makes it
the duty of the sick, or of the families to which they belong, to request the
attendance of the pastor."
That was nearly a hundred years ago. By today, I think no Christian pastor
draws so indelible a line in his pastoral work as between churched and
unchurched. I suppose, if one wanted to oppose the apostolic authority which
Mr. Sanford quotes in this matter, there could be called to mind the words of
Another, and a higher authority, who said something of a praiseworthy nature
about those who ministered freely and with no thought of exclusion when
" I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was sick and ye visited me;
I was in prison, and ye came unto me."
In his preaching Mr. Sanford was possessed of an honesty and forthrightness,
born of deep convictions, that any preacher of the Gospel would do well to
emulate. For a preacher to be able truthfully to say: "I have never
modified the doctrines which I have advanced to suit any man's particular
views" indicates an awareness of divine authority and compulsion which
reached its peak in the uncompromising utterances of the Hebrew Prophets and
must have its parallel in every succeeding school of prophets.
PERIOD OF AD INTERIM PASTORATES
After the retirement of the Reverend Mr. Sanford in 1857, there was a period
of about four years when the pulpit was occupied by supply pastors. Among
these were the Reverend William Murdock, the Reverend Isaac G. Bliss, and the
Reverend Daniel Wight. In September 1861 a call was
extended to the Reverend Abel Hastings Ross and his term of service continued
until 1866. In the meantime, the Civil War had started
and the records show that the pastor, on numerous occasions, was away from
his pulpit and pastoral duties in the interest of the United States Christian
Commission. Mr. Ross went to Springfield, Ohio from this church and later was
a lecturer on Congregationalism at Andover Theological Seminary and for a
time was special lecturer in Church Polity at Oberlin and was finally elected
Moderator of the National Council of Congregational Churches in the United
For seven years, 1866-1873, the Reverend Andrew Bigelow was pastor. Dr.
Bigelow came of an old Boylston family, some descendants of which are still
affiliated with the Church. Among the present invested funds there is a
legacy of $1000 left to the Church by Dr. Bigelow. He died in Southboro in 1882 and later, in writing of their ministry
in Boylston, Mrs. Bigelow says: "The uniform courtesy and kindness
extended to us in so many different ways for nearly seven years, rendered the
relation between pastor and people one of peculiar interest; with heart and
hand both united in labor for the welfare of Zion."
One record mentions extensive improvements being made to the meeting-house and the installing of a fine organ. In the
warrant for a parish meeting under date of March 14, 1870 is an article
"to see what disposition, if any, the parish will make of their organ
harmonium" and it was voted "to leave the matter in the hands of
the Parish Committee in connexion with two other
persons, Charles I. Longley and John A. Wood." What disposition was
finally made of the harmonium the records seem not to show. We could wish
that so quaint an instrument, once used in Sanctuary praise, were now ours to
produce in an historical exhibit at this 200th Anniversary.
Following Dr. Bigelow's retirement the church had another period when the
Pulpit was occupied by ad interim preachers. From 1873 to 1877 the names of
Revs. W. H. S. Packard and Francis P. Williams appear in the records. It is
said that the Reverend Mr. Williams perished when fire destroyed the Weeks
House in Palmer.
During this era names appearing frequently in the proceedings of the parish
are: Deacon H. H. Brigham, who served as Parish Clerk for many years, Lyman
P. Kendall, Montraville Flagg, Charles I. Longley,
A. V. R. Prouty, Horace Kendall, Jotham Hastings, William A. Moore, Herbert
French, William H. Vickery, who for many years was parish tax collector and
janitor of the meeting-house, and John G. Warner.
The present parsonage was built in 1873. Just how the plan for building the
house got under way seems not to be recorded, the first reference to the
building being in the parish warrant for August 25, 1873, Article 2, "To
decide whether or not the Parish will accept the house now being built for a
parsonage together with one quarter of an acre of land upon which it stands
and assume all the responsibilities in connection with said house and
land." The article was voted upon favorably and for seventy years
Boylston pastors and their families have been pleasantly housed under the old
mansard roof on Scar Hill Road.
A HEAVY DEBT PAID
From 1877 to 1882 the Church had the leadership of the Reverend Henry S.
Kimball. The records throughout a long period of the 19th century indicate
that the Church was faced with the perpetual burden of raising funds. In one
parish meeting, under date of March 26, 1877, the debt amounted to $2190
which must have been a staggering sum for a parish that was neither
financially well-to-do nor numerically large. However, the impression we
gather from the aging record books is that the Lord's business was attended
to with great promptness and fidelity by faithful stewards. There was no
hesitancy about "taxing the pews" when money was needed which, of
course, meant taxing the people who sat in them. As time goes on, however it
is interesting to observe how the financial needs are met by appealing to the
voluntary and spontaneous generosity of the people. For a decade or longer a
frequent phrase in the business proceedings is this: "...the money to be
raised by those willing to be taxed." That sounds like the equivalent of
the present-day "Every-Member Canvass."
During the five years of Mr. Kimball's ministry the Church had an era of
financial and spiritual prosperity. One record mentions
that "50 persons united with the Church and the Sabbath School was
nearly doubled in numbers." During this period the debt was paid off and
the names of Joseph Avery White of Framingham, Thomas White of Brooklyn,
N.Y., John B. Gough, and the Rev. Dr. D. O. Mears, pastor of Piedmont Church,
Worcester, are mentioned as having given great assistance in the effort.
At an adjourned parish meeting, under date of March 11, 1878, the attention
of the parish is called to "the condition of the meeting-house that the
steeple was in bad condition that it was so much rotted in consequence of
leakage that it was unsafe to stand longer. Voted that the matter be left in
the hands of the Parish Committee with the addition of two more, Lyman S.
Walker and Alonzo Ball to take down the steeple and supply the place with a
dome or otherwise as they may think best." This action is indicative of
another change that gradually came into the business procedure of the parish.
Matters were more and more being placed in the hands of a Committee for
execution. The steeple here referred to was of very graceful and attractive
proportions, pictures of which are extant and are to be on exhibition during
the present celebration. At this time the steeple
was repaired and reinforced but not noticeably altered. In 1902 or 1903 the
steeple was destroyed during a severe storm and the one that replaced it gave
the building the appearance by which it is most fondly and readily remembered
today by the older people of the community. For the first time a clock was
placed on the Church, the expense being met by the Town.
Through the years from 1882 to 1902 the pastorates were of brief duration.
For about one year, 1882-3, the Reverend Nathaniel S. Moore supplied the
pulpit. He was followed by the Reverend Israel Ainsworth who came to Boylston
from Boston, N. H. in 1884 and was here for a little more than three years
then went to Beachmont, Revere. Next followed the
Reverend Austin Dodge who served in the capacity of supply pastor between
1887 and 1891 and was succeeded by the Reverend Carlos F. Lewis as supply
pastor for one year.
The Reverend D. Emory Burtner had a five-year
pastorate between 1893 and 1898. Mr. Burtner had
only recently come to Boylston when the Church celebrated its One Hundred
Fiftieth Anniversary and the new minister's installation into the office of
pastor and teacher was part of the Anniversary celebration on October 6,
1893. The Reverend Mr. Burtner now resides in Lynn
and we have had correspondence with him relative to this Anniversary
The parish had plans at that time for the building of an addition to the
Church to make room for the organ and choir at the front end of the
sanctuary, bringing the choir down from the rear gallery which, since the
earliest days of New England choirs had been the position from which they
"made a joyful noise unto the Lord." Now the singers were to be
seen as well as heard, the wisdom and fitness of which we must leave to the
individual hearers and, of course, depending upon the quality and extent of
the singers' histrionics, if there were any such in the early days of
The membership of the Church at this time is given as 125 and Lyman P.
Kendall and Lyman S. Walker are mentioned as the deacons.
An interesting record in the first report of Mr. Calvin H. Andrews as Parish
Clerk, under date of April 11, 1894, is an item of "2.60 for blowing the
church organ." Who did the blowing is not mentioned.
The earliest reference to the abandoning of the pew rental system is in an
article date January 6, 1896 when, among other things, "A Committee was
chosen to investigate and report to the Parish what could be done to repair
the meeting-house and to make the church pews free" It must have been
shortly there-after that the free pew system was inaugurated as the records
show that in 1896 extensive repairs were begun on the interior of the Church
at which time new pews were installed and the old ones sold "to persons
living in the town for the sum of $1.00 each." The work got under way in
earnest, judging from the following item in the proceedings of April 5, 1896:
"Motion was made and seconded that the work of tearing out the inside of
the church be commenced the day following the lecture to be given by William
And voted that the side of the new organ facing the pulpit be finished
ornamentally instead of being paneled."
The Reverend Samuel B. Cooper was acting pastor for four years between 1898
and 1902 then became pastor of the First Congregational Church in North
THE REVEREND GEORGE S. DODGE
A long and fruitful pastorate was begun in 1902 when the Reverend George S.
Dodge came to Boylston. Mr. Dodge was the son of the Reverend John Dodge of
Harvard, Massachusetts and it was there that his boyhood days were spent. He
was ordained in Hebron, Connecticut and for many years was pastor of the
Congregational Church at Rutland and later served Emanuel Congregational
Church in Worcester. Both Mr. and Mrs. Dodge were greatly loved and respected
by Boylston people and, since their residence here is within the memory of
many of our people, it is natural that frequent and affectionate reference is
made to them by those who knew them well.
Mr. Dodge was pastor for fifteen years. After his retirement he went to
Rutland to live where he died in 1923. Shortly after leaving his Boylston
pastorate Mr. Dodge was made Pastor-emeritus by vote of the Church on April
6, 1918. The records indicate a period marked by many activities in the
Church and a spirit of willing cooperation and Christian harmony among the people.
During Mr. Dodge's ministry the Church was legally incorporated. Under a
minute of January 5, 1910 is this note:
"On January 25, 1909 our charter for
incorporation arrived with the certificate and that the preparation of the
necessary papers, in compliance with the law, had been complete in all
respects, was very gratifying to the committee to whom the matter was
It is fitting that reference be made at this point to the splendid set of
records of Church meetings preserved from most of the period of Mr. Dodge's
pastorate. For thirteen years, between 1903 and 1916, Mrs. Mabelle L.
Shattuck was Church Clerk and a finer and more
interesting set of minutes was never spread upon a church record book.
Written in clear and steady hand, the proceedings of those years are a
delight to read. Mrs. Shattuck, now in advanced years, is living with a
daughter in Sterling.
A proceeding of great importance was carried through during this period when,
on April 8, 1910, the old Parish Organization which was begun in 1743, was
dissolved and the Church and Parish became one. Mrs. Shattuck describes the
first meeting of the merged organization thus:
"This day has marked a new epoch in the history of this church, known to
so many as the 'little church on the hill,' --in that it has seen the
dissolution of the First Parish, founded in 1743, it being merged into the
organization hereafter to be known as the First Congregational Church, the
charter granting the incorporation being received January 29, 1910 "Though
the trend of the times has made it seem right for those in authority thus to
do, still to many of those remembering the dear ones who labored for the
parish and its good name, and have now gone to their reward, it seemed like
the parting of the ways and in the exercises of the morning, beginning at
eleven o'clock, the reminiscences were most tender."
From this same record there are two or three interesting facts concerning
certain persons whose lives were closely associated
with the Church. The fact is brought out that for fifty years as of that
date, April 8, Deacon Lyman P. Kendall had been a member of the Church. In
recognition of the anniversary of his long and faithful membership Mr.
Kendall was presented a bouquet of carnations.
Another interesting item from that meeting is the record established by
"Mrs. Henrietta M. Andrews, the retiring clerk of the parish, who with
her father, the late Deacon Henry H. Brigham, has kept the records of the
parish continuously for 1839 to 1910, with the exception of one year, when
John G. Warner was clerk."
Mention should be made, also, of another illustrious character in the
Church's life. Lyman S. Walker was born in 1840 and died in 1921; for
forty-four years, and until the time of his death, he was a deacon in this
Church. It is a well established
fact that Deacon Walker had not been absent from a Communion Service for
forty years. He was a farmer by occupation and Sunday he arose earlier than
on other days so that the milk route was covered in time to enable him to be
in his pew at service time, then he remained for Sunday School and afternoon
service. He lived four miles from the Church.
RELIGIOUS BEGINNINGS IN MORNINGDALE
The Morningdale Chapel had its beginning during Mr.
Dodge's ministry in Boylston. The first reference in the record to the plan
of constructing a building, for social and religious purposes, in the Morningdale section is contained in the minutes of a
special business meeting, June 19, 1912. Prior to that time a Sunday School
had been conducted in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Allan Stevenson on Cook
Street. The School was under the sponsorship of Old South Church, Worcester,
and Mr. Varnum Curtis, a member of that church, took a leading part in the Morningdale project. Mrs. Jane Cook,
remembered affectionately by many Boylston people made a generous offer in
the form of a gift of $1000 to erect the building and, also, a loan of $1000
for the same purpose, the note never to be called unless she became indigent.
Mrs. Cook's generous offer was accepted by the Trustees and additional funds
for the project were raised among the townspeople. The First Congregational
Church of Boylston agreed to sponsor the religious effort in Morningdale and its pastor, the Rev. Mr. Dodge, and
officers gave constant leadership to the new organization. For twenty-one
years Deacon George H. Boyden was Superintendent of the Sunday School.
A description of the breaking of the ground in preparation for the building
is given in a record under date of July 24, 1912. Deacon Lyman Walker, having
just completed 35 years as Deacon, broke the first piece of soil. Others
having a part in that program were the Pastor, Mrs. Cook, George E. Glazier
and Mrs. Gertrude Brown who played the Billhorn
baby organ while the assembly sang the songs of praise. The Chapel was
dedicated January 10, 1913 and the first Sunday School session in the new
house was on January 12, 1913. As time went on additional activities were
commenced at the Chapel among which was the forming of a Ladies' Aid Society,
which functions prosperously at present and does good work in maintaining the
building and its equipment. Mr. Ralph W. Hager, assisted by a group of loyal
teachers, has been Superintendent of the Sunday School since 1934.
Many a preacher would be happy to have such speedy and concrete results from
a missionary sermon as came to Mr. Dodge when, having preached in October
1911 a certain sermon in which he appealed for missionary support, "a
visitor from Connecticut was so impressed that on Christmas evening of that
year he sent our pastor a check for $500 requesting that he act as scribe in
sending the check to the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions
to be used in supporting a missionary teacher in India for ten years."
Mr. Dodge resigned the pastorate in September 1917 and his doing so was the
cause of sincere regret throughout the community.
The Reverend William G. Poor came to Boylston in 1918 and was here for one
year then became pastor of the Congregational Church in Upton. It is said
that Mr. Poor was unusually gifted as a pulpit orator. " 'In every star
Thy wisdom shines' was no hollow phrase for him as he was an amateur
astronomer well versed in his art. He was a man of fine figure which, with
his snow-white hair, made him seem almost like one of the prophets."
The next pastor was the Reverend George H. Reese, who was called in November
1919 from Ashfield and remained here until October
1925. It was during this period that the great fire destroyed the beautiful
old meeting-house which had stood on Boylston Common
Following the fire and until the Vestry was ready for occupancy the pastor
conducted services in the Town Hall and the record shows that, in spite of
the inconvenience which the disaster created, Church activities went on
without interruption. As a part of the campaign for funds to build the new
Church, the pastor, Mr. Reese, made an appeal by letter to churches
throughout Worcester County and the very generous sum of $3300 was received.
Upon completing his work in Boylston the Reverend Mr. Reese went to a
pastorate in Connecticut.
The Reverend Herman P. Fisher, a retired clergyman living in Westboro, served
the Church as ad interim pastor for one year, 1925-1926. Mr. Fisher, though a
man in advanced years, made a pleasing appeal to both young and old. He
possessed an almost uncanny gift of memory and it is said that in the public
services of the Church he never read the Scripture Lesson but was able to
recite the passage from memory. Mr. Fisher was widely known throughout
Worcester County and was always a welcome member at an Ecclesiastical Council
or wherever his brethren in the ministry met for conference or discussion.
The Reverend Frederic W. Manning came to the pastorate in 1926 from
Manchester-by-the-Sea and was here until the fall of 1936 when failing health
necessitated his retirement. Shortly after his departure the Church very
fittingly voted Mr. Manning the honor of Pastor-emeritus. At present he and
Mrs. Manning make their home in Duxbury.
Within a year of Mr. Manning's arrival the new Church was dedicated, November
6, 1927. Ministers participating in the Service were Revs. Frederic W.
Manning, George H. Reese, Edward D. Disbrow, D. Emory Burtner,
Frederick D. Thayer, and Matthew A. Vance. Mr. Walter A. Morrill was at the
organ and music was given by the choir, directed by Mrs. Rebecca Garfield.
Mrs. Gerald Fales, nee Mabel Carlson sang How Beautiful Upon the Mountains
and a solo, Open the Gates of the Temple was given by Frederick W. Fahlstrom.
The following evening, November 7, the Dedicatory Recital was given of the
Flagg Memorial Organ, Mr. W. A. Goldsworthy of New York City being the
recitalist, assisted by John B. Cadieux, tenor, and Frederic W. Bailey,
The superb instrument, with all its unusual features, is an inspiring aid in
the services of the sanctuary. It has been well said by a friend that
"the real end of worship is to find the mystic chord that vibrates to
the breath of the Unseen." It is the willing testimony of some of us
that "the mystic chord" has, on many a quiet hour in the Church,
been touched and tuned by the sweet strains of the organ.
We can not boast that the Church was dedicated free
of debt. It was a tremendous undertaking for a parish of this size and
without the generous aid of loyal friends beyond the limits of the town the
likelihood is that an edifice of much more modest design and construction
would have been erected. At the time of dedication there was a mortgage
indebtedness of $10,000, the Trustees having made an
arrangement with the Congregational Church Building Society to reduce
the principal by $1000 each year until the obligation was discharged. This
the Church was able to do for a few years. In 1929, however, the economic
depression laid a heavy hand upon families and institutions of every kind.
Money for the ordinary and curtailed running expenses of churches came hard
but the record shows that not a single year passed in that whole difficult
period without the Trustees being able to pay yearly some small amount to
reduce the mortgage.
The present incumbent began his pastorate on March 17, 1937. The Service of
Ordination to the Christian Ministry and Installation in the Office of Pastor
was conducted May 27, 1937 and was the first service of its kind to be held
in Boylston since the Installation of the Reverend Mr. Burtner
in 1893 at the time of the One Hundred Fiftieth Anniversary.
During the six and one-half years of the present ministry your pastor and his
wife have been "happy in the unanimity and cordial friendship of a kind,
liberal and grateful people" and because of the happy cooperation that
has characterized our labors together we believe it to be no indication of
foolish boasting to say that the Kingdom has been advanced, at least a little
in our midst. The facts are mentioned, primarily, in the interest of
completing the record of these two hundred years and that in the eyes of
posterity we may justify our having received "the torch from ancestral
There have been 132 additions to the membership and probably the largest
ingathering at any one time in the Church's history was at the Communion
Service on Thursday evening of Holy Week, April 6, 1939 when there were 43
accessions, 27 on confession of faith and 16 by letters of dismission and recommendation
from other churches. The pastor has had the privilege of baptizing 90 persons
into the Faith and has officiated at 77 funerals and 45 marriages.
Reference has already been made to the heavy indebtedness with which the
Church had been struggling since completion of the building. The Trustees
arranged a meeting of members and interested friends October 31, 1941 for the
avowed purpose of clearing the debt. An inspirational address, with a
deliberate money-raising motive behind it, was given by the Reverend J.
Burford Parry of Wellesley. Then the campaign was launched to raise all we
could "on the spot." $1563.54 was the amount needed "to card
the dead horse away," as the speaker described the mortgage. When the
cash gifts and pledges were totaled at the close of the meeting $1215.54 had
been raised and a few days later, when some absent members had been called
on, the sum was brought up to $1710. By Easter of the following year 95% of
the pledges were paid and plans were made to burn the mortgage. The Church
Clerk, Mr. Forest H. Bump, has inserted in the record the following
description of that event:
"At the morning service on October 4, 1942 an event of great historical
significance in the life of our Church was conducted by the Pastor. After laboring
for 15 years to clear the indebtedness on the building, the people were
privileged to witness the burning of the mortgage. The impressive service was
attended by about 175 members and friends.
"Mr. George H. Boyden, who served as Chairman of the Building Committee,
gave a very interesting resume of the plans for the
great task and of the way in which they were carried through. Many anecdotes
of an intensely interesting nature were related, some of which could be
recalled by the older residents but which had not
been heard by many of the younger people and residents who had more recently
come to Boylston to live.
"Following Mr. Boyden's remarks, the Pastor led the congregation in the
Litany of Dedication which was used in the first service in the new church.
This was followed by the actual burning of the mortgage. The document was
placed by the Pastor in a pewter bowl and while holding it in the sight of
the people, he read the following statement concerning it history; "To
this document, bearing the names of the First Congregational Church of
Boylston, Massachusetts, as mortgagor, and the Congregational Church Building
Society, as Mortgagee, and executed in the City of Worcester, Massachusetts
on the 30th day of June 1927, at three-twelve o'clock p.m., and recorded on
the Statute Books by Chester S. Bavis, Register,
the signers on behalf of the Church being George H. Boyden, Clarence C. Allen
and Ernest M. Fuller, --we apply the flame that shall destroy it, thus
indicating that this House of God is free of financial debt. In doing so, we
call to mind the loyalty and generosity of the hundreds of people, both
within the parish and beyond, the living and dead, who have had a part in
this holy undertaking.
"We now reconsecrate this House of God to all the holy uses for which a
Christian Church is built, in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of
the Holy Spirit.
"Then, with the congregation standing and the Deacons, Mr. Calvin H.
Andrews, Mr. George H. Boyden, Mr. Clarence C. Allen and Mr. Ernest M.
Fuller, together with Mr. Alfred Anderson, age 87, the oldest living member
of the church, and Mr. Wesley M. Fuller, age 10, the youngest member,
gathered in a semi-circle around the Pastor, the document was burned. Wesley
took the paper from the bowl and held it to the flame of one of the candles
on the Communion Table until it became ignited, then placed it in the pewter
bowl and the Pastor handed the bowl to Mr. Anderson, who held the dish until
the document burned and while the congregation sang the Dedicatory Hymn,
"Father, As Once With Earnest Consecration," written for use at the
dedication of the new church by the late Ruth L. Boyden.
The Pastor then administered the Sacrament of Holy Communion, followed by the
Hymn, "Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts" and the Service was
concluded with the Benediction."
THE SERVICE FLAG
Twenty-one members of the Church are now enlisted in the armed services of
the Nation. A beautiful service flag, made of grosgrain rayon silk, bearing a
star for each member, hangs in the Church. Those so honored are: Carl H.
Abrahamson, M.M. 1/C, Pvt. Philip K. Bigelow, A/C Herbert L. Brigham, Pfc.
Elwood F. Brown, Ross E. Burnett, Smn. 2nd Cl.,
Pfc. Stuart C. Burnett, Bradford R. Calhoun, Smn.
2nd Cl., Lt. Marion V. Donaldson, Pvt. Joseph Walter Flagg, A-S Richard A.
French, Pvt. Robert L. Fuller, Vernon B. Garfield, Smn.
2nd Cl., Pfc. J. Donald Jeffrey, 2nd Lt. Alfred N. Joyal,
Edward H. Kimball, A.S., A/C Robert H. Kimball, Corp. Robert H. Nylin, Pvt. Eugene R. Rogers, Lt. (jg)
Howard W. Smith, A/C George P. Stowe, John Gordon Whalen, Smn.
"THE PEOPLE HAD A MIND TO WORK"
It has been thought fitting to incorporate into this
historical narrative incidents connected with the building of the new
edifice of which Boylston people have true cause to be proud. With this
thought in mind, the pastor asked Deacon George H. Boyden to prepare a set of
notes around which we might weave a story. Mr. Boyden was Chairman of the
Building Committee and was a leading spirit in the work of erecting a
sanctuary that would honor the Cause it represents and glorify the God of
Jesus Christ to Whose glory the place has been dedicated.
The fire was discovered at one o'clock in the afternoon of February 4, 1924.
At two the old clock, which the fathers had so proudly placed in the steeple
at the turn of the century, struck for the last time. "Soon after the
beams holding it and the bell burned away on the south side of the belfry and
in some miraculous manner the unburned beams formed a track on which the bell
and clock striking hammer coasted down into the west driveway." The bell
had been placed on the old Church in 1861 and was rung for the first time on
October 13 of that year as Boylston's first contingent left town for the
Civil War. The old bell continues to call us to Sabbath worship just as it
once summoned our predecessors to the place of prayer.
By five o'clock in the afternoon of that bleak February day little was left
of the ninety-year-old meeting-house. The Beth-el
which the fathers had raised to God was gone, but their children and their
children's children were still here and they "had a mind to work."
The following day, while rummaging through the ruins, Mr. Boyden found part
of an unburned hymnal, the book opened at the hymn, The Church's One
Foundation. In describing the scene at the time of the fire Deacon Boyden
"Those of us who were there decided the Church must be rebuilt--just how
we could not then see. But it was the Church where some of us had been
married, where many of our children had been consecrated in baptism and where
we had held the last sad rites over our dead. It must be rebuilt for a town
without a Church is like a ship without a rudder; nothing to hold it to
The Trustees of that day, beside Mr. Boyden, were Miss Annie Benson and Mr.
Calvin H. Andrews. Mrs. Myron Garfield was made financial secretary of the
building fund and through her hands were passed many thousands of dollars.
Mrs. George I. Adams was Church Clerk and of all the meetings and
deliberations carefully prepared records were made and preserved. A meeting
of the townspeople and all interested friends was called Wednesday, February
6 in the Town Hall and the general sentiment was that the House must be
rebuilt. The insurance on the old building amounted to only $5500, a paltry
sum with which to start so great a task as was about to be begun. The Church
soon discovered, however, that standing ready to help were scores of friends,
some having lived here in former years and others being descendants of people
who had labored and worshipped here in the past.
By February of 1925 the vestry was ready to house the congregation and take
care of all the activities of the Church organizations. The exterior of the
building was finished in toto but only the lower Church was equipped and
prepared for use. In the spring of 1926 work was commenced on the unfinished
portion and by November 1927 the people were ready to "raise their
Ebenezer unto the Lord for hither by His help had they come."
We wish the size of volume set for this published story allowed the recording
now of all the glad donors who came forward to have a part in the work at
hand. A very lengthy list appears in the record showing how the gifts came.
Some had horses they could harness to help with the labor, others had sturdy
trucks they could use to carry away the debris; some had physical strength
they could use in the manual work, and others some special talent that was
needed. The culinary skill of the devoted women was put to
use in the old Town Hall where they prepared hot dinners for the
workmen. Many there were who had money to give--and gave it. Even the
"widow's mite" of the Gospel story was represented in a gift of one
gold dollar brought by that saintly woman, the late Mrs. Carrie Williams, of
whom it could always be said, "She hath done what she could." That
dollar the Trustees thought too sacred to spend so they stored it away with
the Church's few historic possessions as a memorial to the good woman.
Mr. Edwin T. Chapin, Worcester, was the architect and the contract for
completing the sanctuary was awarded Robbins and Company of Worcester. The
present valuation of the edifice, including the organ, is $75,000.
The beautiful Doric pillars in the portico were purchased for the very small
sum of $75 from the Baptist Church of Sterling, that organization having
merged with the Congregational Church of the same town.
To our friends, Mr. and Mrs. George F. Fuller, we can never amply pay our
thanks, not only for the beautiful Flagg Memorial Organ and the many
additional dollars given, but also for the capable leadership of Mr. Fuller
in seeing to it that the Church received full value for every dollar spent
and his thoughtful planning in getting us a Church beautiful in design, perfect
in every proportion, well suited to our needs and architecturally correct.
Aside from the organ there are numerous memorials in the Sanctuary. The six
clear glass windows, so gracefully arched, are in pleasing harmony with the
colonial design of the Church. On the east side, beginning at the pulpit end,
the windows memorialize the following: Mr. and Mrs. John Gould Warner, Deacon
and Mrs. William Holland Moore, Levi L. and Caroline
E. Barnes; and on the west side, The Stark Family, Henrietta Brigham Andrews,
Henry and Lucy Hastings.
Many of the pews were given as memorials and others simply presented as the
gift of an individual or an organization. The bronze plaques on the pews bear
the following inscriptions:
Sumner and Harriet Moore, Rev. Andrew Bigelow, Millie B. Hopkins, Bigelow
Family Pew, Wesley Houghton Hathaway, Aaron Avery White, Senior Young
People's Society of Morningdale, John B. and Mary
Gough, The Fred E. Clark Family, The Bray Family, The John F. Bartlett
Family, Loring G. Fuller, The George I. Adams Family, Amanda K. Hyde, Rebecca
Garfield, Maroe E. Ball, Sanford C. Kendall, Horace
Kendall, Men's Club of First Congregational Church of West Boylston, The Dean
Family, Troop 1 Girl Scouts, Montraville and Parney Parker Flagg, Deacon Henry H. Brigham, The Andrews
Family Pew, The Pastor's Pew, John Gould Warner, Charles G. and Ella M.
Allen, The Frank P. Bates Family, Dolly Houghton Andrews, Calvin H. Hastings,
Rev. George Shepard, The Walker Pew, The David Tilton Moore Family, Montraville and Abbie Davis Flagg, Joel B. and Elizabeth
Cutler, Mrs. Katrina Closson, Willard Andrews,
Robert Kessell and Daughter Helen, and The Reed
The clock on the face of the gallery is a memorial to the Reverend and Mrs.
George S. Dodge. The pulpit appointments were placed in memory of Deacon and
Mrs. Lyman P. Kendall. The pulpit Bible is in memory of Montraville
and Abbie Davis Flagg. On the west end of the pulpit is the Pastor's Room,
pleasantly furnished, in memory of Alvin S. Dearth. The two most recent
memorials placed in the Church are a beautiful brass Cross for the Communion
Table in memory of William Monigle and a pew in
memory of the Henry White Family.
Through the years the Church has received certain bequests from which a
modest annual income is derived. It is unfortunate that due to destruction by
fire many years ago of certain records, the identity of the oldest of the
legacies is not known and efforts in recent years to establish the names of
the donors have brought no satisfying results. Bequests of which we do have
record are: The Abigail Holcombe Fund, The Maynard Fund, The Andrew Bigelow
Fund, The Penniman Brigham Fund, The Loring H. Reed Fund, The Carrie Williams
Fund, and The Abbie P. Dearth Fund, now in process of being established. An
outright cash bequest, from the late Peter Stewart, was received in 1941.
This brings us to the end of our story. If the narrative inspires in us and
in our children gratitude to God for our rich heritage, "holding it
vividly in mind," the future of the Church will secure even though, from
time to time, "earthquake shocks may threaten her." With that
thought in mind, let us continue to pray Kipling's prayer:
"Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget, lest we forget."
John Ellsworth Morgan, Pastor
Frederic W. Manning, Pastor-Emeritus
C. Clifton Hosmer, Organist and Choir Director
Calvin H. Andrews
George H. Boyden
Clarence C. Allen
Ernest M. Fuller
Ernest M. Fuller, Chairman
Mrs. Robert F. Gilson
Ralph W. Hager
William G. Keck
Arthur E. Nylin
Mrs. H. Sherwin Reed
Clerk: Ruth M. Donaldson
Treasurer: Ralph W. Adams
Assistant Treasurer: Mrs. Ralph W. Adams
Auditor: Lieut. (jg) Howard W. Smith
Sunday School Superintendent: George H. Boyden
Assistant Superintendent: Mrs. Royall J. Gillander
Superintendent at Chapel: Ralph W. Hager
Assistant at Chapel: Mrs. Herbert Ekblom
Church Committee: The Pastor, Deacons, Clerk, Treasurer, Assistant
Treasurer, Sunday School Superintendents and Assistants, with Mrs. Mabel Cross,
Mrs. Arthur E. Nylin and Mrs. Fred C. Stark,
SUCCESSION OF PASTORS
William H. Sanford--1832-1857
William Murdock, Isaac G. Bliss and
Daniel Wight (ad interim)--1857-1861
Abel H. Ross--1861-1866
W. H. S. Packard, Francis P. Williams
Henry S. Kimball--1877-1882
Nathaniel S. Moore (ad interim)--1882-1883
Carlos F. Lewis (ad interim)--1892-1893
D. Emory Burtner--1893-1898
Samuel B. Cooper (ad interim)--1898-1902
George S. Dodge--1902-1917
William G. Poor--1918-1919
George H. Reese--1919-1925
Herman P. Fisher (ad interim)--1926
Frederic W. Manning (pastor emeritus) 1926-1936
John E. Morgan--1937
SUCCESSION OF DEACONS
John Keyes, Sr.--1743 (Deacon in Shrewsbury Church)
Cyprian Keyes--1743 (Deacon in Shrewsbury Church)
Amariah Bigelow-- ?
Daniel Andrews--1794- ?
Jonathon Bond, Jr. --1797-1821
Dr. John Andrews--1829-1837
William H. Moore--1837-1846
Jotham Bush, Jr.--1837-1844
Henry H. Brigham--1846-1888
Harvey A. Stowell--1871-1876
Preston P. Lane--1876-1881
Lyman S. Walker--1876-1922
Alexander V. R. Prouty--1888-1892
Lyman P. Kendall--1892-1898
Calvin H. Andrews--1898- (now serving)
George H. Boyden--1920- (now serving
George I. Adams--1920-1935
Clarence C. Allen--1924- (now serving)
Ernest M. Fuller--1936- (now serving)