“by Mrs. Anna Gilman, with valuable assistance given by Mr. Frank Nash
and Mrs. Elsie M. Durling, in the preparation. This history was written for the dedication service held on March 9, 1930, following the remodeling of our church building.”
As we gather on this memorable day (Sunday, March 9, 1930) to dedicate this
remodeled building of the First Baptist Church of Hingham, Massachusetts, and sit comfortably, thoughtfully, and reverently looking upon the finished product of months of
careful planning and intensive work and listening to the wonderful tones from the organ, which we welcome with so much joy of anticipation and realization, we quite naturally
turn our thoughts backward as far as we can remember and then say to ourselves, “I wonder what came before that.”
It is to help each and all, older and younger, to the knowledge of the beginnings of history of Baptist faith, as represented by this church in its century of residence in
Hingham, with the helps and hindrances which came to the faithful ministers and laymen, who have carried on so unfalteringly, and because of whose labor we are able
to realize this last and most glorious achievement, that we present this record of facts.
We believe the thought was planted of God in the hearts of those few, who agreed in
prayer, to make a beginning of a church of this faith in the community of Hingham.
As we follow the history we shall see how this plant, though its growth was slow, was
ever under the sunshine of God’s spirit and that even the adverse winds which blew upon it, tended to strengthen so that it grew sturdily and has ever pointed straight upward to Him who planted it.
Prior to 1814, there is no knowledge that an individual, professing Baptist sentiments, resided in Hingham. In this year, 1814, Mr. Nathaniel T. Davis moved to this town
and he, with his wife, and Miss Hannah Beal were the only people of the Baptist denomination, found here for several years.
Then a few people, who had been attending other churches of the town, “were
convicted of their sin and their need of a Saviour and were hopefully brought to believe in Christ as their only and all-sufficient Saviour.”
The first prayer meeting was held at the home of Brother Davis, in 1818. Mr. Asa Wilbur
, who was visiting in town, was present at the meeting. He was a member of the Second Baptist Church of Boston. This church was afterward known as the
Tabernacle Church, located at Bowdoin Square.
For two years, evangelistic preaching was enjoyed, Mr. Ensign Lincoln, being the first person of our denomination who preached here.
The beginning of these services was also in 1818. The prayer meetings continued to be held and Brother Wilbur was often present and continued to visit and help financially for a number of years.
It is recorded in the annals of the church, that, “This church will ever hold him in remembrance.”
In this same year a Sunday School was organized. This claimed to be the first Sunday School in Hingham. Its meetings were held in the schoolroom in front of
Derby Academy, which was before the hill was cut through Main Street.
The school was collected and organized by Nancy Studley, Polly Barnes, Hersey Lincoln (afterwards Mrs. Rufus Lane
) and Hannah Kingman.
There was an attendance of ninety pupils on the first Sunday. This school was an
independent school. Three of the women organizers were connected with the Baptist, who were holding the services just mentioned and when a little later, the church was
organized, the school became a Baptist Sunday School.
In 1820, for the first time the ordinance of baptism was administered by Dr. Baldwin, minister at the Second Baptist Church, Boston, to Joshua Beal, Polly Barnes and Nancy Studley
. A large crowd gathered by the water side at the Harbor to witness the scene, it being the first time they had ever seen the sacred rite thus administered.
Many were seriously impressed, as it was afterwards ascertained and some dated their first religious awakening from that time.
These few and inexperienced Christians needed a spiritual helper and leader and, “as there were others, seekers for the truth as it is in Jesus,
” it was thought advisable to have preaching more frequently.
They applied to the Baptist brethren in Boston to obtain someone to come and preach
steadily. Being unable to obtain a Baptist minister, as they desired, a Congregationalist was sent, who preached three successive Sabbaths. Interest was
awakened and in spite of discouragements and trials, their united efforts were blessed in a number being converted.
In August 1823
, the friends in Boston thought best to engage a room for public services. A room was obtained at the Harbor, which was by no means attractive. There was
no plastering on the walls. A small pine table and a chair constituted the pulpit furniture and boards nailed on blocks were the only pews.
Though it was uninviting and unsuitable, these few Christians entered it with thankful hearts and it became a “Bethel” to many souls.
Following this advance in establishing themselves in worship according to their belief, a strong opposition was manifested.
Those who took active part were reviled and ill-treated as they passed through the streets. In the assemblies they were subjected to many annoyances. People came to
disturb and if possible to break up the meetings. Often near the building guns were fired and other disturbing noises were made.
The minister had frequently to pause in his sermon until quiet and order were restored. The opposers even resorted to law but failed to accomplish their purpose and, as has
often been the case, the persecution served rather to advance than retard the cause.
They continued to worship in this place for nearly a year under these trying conditions. A Mr. Pierce
, who labored here for a while, proposed forming a church, which should be organized as a United Society without a particular name. This was much against
the feelings and views of these Christians as they were decidedly Baptist in sentiment, and so the project was defeated.
Up to this time the pulpit had been supplied by many different ministers,
Wayland, Bentley, Peak, Collier, Lincoln, Nelson, Gray and Glover. Among them was Rev. Thomas Conant, of Scituate, who was engaged to come and labor as often as his
other engagements would permit. Deacon Wilbur became responsible personally for the expense thus incurred.
As an illustration of the earnestness of these Baptists in such days of struggle, their sacrifices to maintain preaching and the pluck of one member in particular, this little
episode from the town history is related:
“Learning late on a Saturday, that the preacher expected from Boston, was unable to
come, Aunt Polly Barnes, as she was called, mounted her horse in the early evening and set out for Scituate to engage Mr. Conant for the next day’s service. As she went
on her way over a lonely road, a man suddenly sprang from the woods, seized her horse by the bridle and demanded her money.
“You must wait until I can get it,’ she said, ‘for I have but one hand (She had lost her left hand by amputation)’.
The highwayman released the bridle for a moment, thinking the booty surely his, when she struck the horse a sharp blow, he sprang away, and the rider reached Mr. Conant’s
house in safety, engaged him to preach the next day, and rode quietly home to Hingham some six miles the same evening.”
Finding the room, which they had been occupying so very unsuitable, both in accommodations and location, they deemed it advisable to move to a more commodious place.
Learning that a building in a more quiet place was to be sold, they thought it best to make an effort to procure it. Making it a subject of prayer, they were confident a way would be provided.
Mr. Ebenezer Shute, of Boston, consented to buy the building, costing about $450, provided they could find someone to arrange the bargain.
So great was the antipathy against evangelical religion that the purpose for which the building was to be used was not stated. Captain Laban Hersey made the purchase
and took the deed in his own name, subsequently transferring it to Mr. Shute.
They continued for two or three years in this building, using an upper room fitted up for
their religious services. This building was located near Hobart’s Bridge, and was later occupied by M. & A. McNeil as a store and at present by Mr. Greenfield.
On March 9,
1828, twenty people, Nathaniel Davis, Issacher Fuller and the rest women, were established as a Branch of the Second Baptist Church of Boston, Rev. James D. Knowles
, pastor. This Branch was publicly recognized, Brother Davis receiving the right hand of fellowship for the church, and on the same Sabbath the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper was observed.
On September 21, 1828, Harvey Ball was ordained as an evangelist, with Rev. J. D. Knowles, Rev. Henry J. Ripley and Rev. William Collier assisting, and became the
first settled pastor.
In this year, 1828, the history of music in the church begins, for
Deacon Caleb S. Hunt, having moved from Boston to Hingham, organized a choir, which it is said he led in a very efficient manner for many years.
At a church meeting held December 13, 1828, a committee was chosen to solicit subscriptions for a church building.
There was a difference of opinion about the location and, as upon other occasions, they resorted to prayer and all came harmoniously to the same decision. A site was
selected on the corner of Main and Elm Streets where this church now stands and soon afterward $500 was paid to Thomas Loring and Sophia Whittemore on the
land. This was conveyed July 1, 1829, to Asa Wilbur of Boston and Quincy Hersey of Hingham.
The church was erected at the cost of $3,300 all of which with the exception of $500 was paid when they entered on the third of December 1829. Dr. Daniel Sharp preached the dedicatory sermon.
We have heard that the members were accustomed to hold prayer meetings on the piles of lumber during the time of the building of the church. Another note of interest
gives us the fact that on March 7, 1829, the society voted to purchase a “bass-viol”
and made an appropriation of five dollars to pay for it, “if a sufficient sum cannot be otherwise obtained.”
At a special meeting of the Branch held at Sister Rachael Lincoln’s on October 5, 1833, it was voted that, “Whenever we shall come to the determination to settle a pastor (Mr. Ball having left them), that we ask the Second Baptist Church of Boston for
a separation from them and that we form a separate church.”
On March 12, 1831, the church invited Mr. Timothy R. Cressey
, who was a student at Newton Theological Institution, to become their pastor. The following was attached to the call to Mr. Cressey: “So far as respects the compensation for your support, we do
in the name of the First Baptist Religious Society in Hingham, and by their authority, give this as our pledge, that we will pay, or cause to the paid to you annually the sum of
four hundred and fifty dollars, so long as the connection between you and the church continues.”
On April 16, 1831, they asked for dismissal from the Second Church.
May 5, 1831, the Ecclesiastical Council convened and set apart
Mr. Thomas Cressey to the work of the gospel ministry and on the same day it was voted that the Branch Church become an Independent church, and so it became the First Baptist Church of
Hingham, Massachusetts, with fifty-one members.
On May 8, the first communion as an independent church was celebrated.
In 1832, during Mr. Cressey’s pastorate, a vestry was built under the church and the first meeting was held in it in December.
Mr. Cressey remained with the church three years and twenty-eight were received into
membership, twenty-one being by baptism.
On May 10, 1833, we find that a clarinet was introduced as a musical instrument, for it was voted, “
to pay the amount of $18 for a clarinet, which had been previously purchased by some individual and used in the Baptist Meeting-house and that the
clarinet shall be the property of the church and shall be under their direction,” so the records read.
For the next two years, the church was without a pastor, Rev. John G. Naylor supplying the pulpit much of the time.
We find that the first deacons of the church were chosen
in 1835 and that on September 29, 1836, Mr. Waterman Burlingame was ordained pastor and continued for nearly five years, ending on August 4, 1840.
Once more there was a period of more than two years without a regular pastor. Rev. Charles M. Bowers, frequently preaching, until on September 28, 1842, Rev. Sereno Howe
was installed as pastor.
He continued for nearly seven years and seventy-five were received into membership.
In the next period of more than two years, while the church was again pastorless, many different clergymen and students from Newton Theological Institution preached, among them was Mr. Jonathan Tilson
He was called to be pastor, when he had completed his studies and began his labors September 28, 1851, being ordained November 5 of that year. During the summer of 1851 the
meeting house was moved forward 18 feet and raised 3 feet, the vestry
removed and a larger one built with a committee room in the rear of it. The interior was improved and a new pulpit and furniture were placed.
The elm trees which have made such an inviting approach to our church all these years, we believe, were planted at this time. It is said that the pastor set them out, as he did
the hedge, with the assistance of members of the church and society.
Again the women came to the front, for in 1859 an organized women’s society called the “Sewing Circle” is recorded, with the pastor’s wife, Mrs. Martha Tilson as the first president.
Mr. Tilson’s pastorate was the longest in the history of the church, lasting twenty-five years and ending on September 24, 1876, with a record of one hundred and fifty-six received into the church.
Mr. Tilson was a minister of the town as well as of the Baptist Church, and like Goldsmith’s village preacher, was “a man to all the country dear.
” His was a striking figure, with a gentle Christian face and a voice of kindly benediction. To many outside
of the town to speak of the Baptist Church meant Mr. Tilson.
Deacon Joshua Thayer, whose home was at the corner of Elm and Thayer Streets, died on February 26, 1874
. By his will he devised his homestead to the deacons of the church and their successors forever, in trust for the church and society, for the purposes of a parsonage. The first deacons to receive a deed of this property were Joseph Ripley and Levi Hersey.
Rev. A. Stewart McLean came in 1877 and was pastor for a year, and again the church was extensively repaired at a cost of $1500.
About this time changes in the old box pews began to be made and the swinging doors
disappeared, to be followed some years later by the pews themselves, making all today just a memory. In that memory are the designated pews owned by special pewholders, and the little old stools and
“crickets” and the turkey feather fan which could once be found back of the pulpit.
1878 Rev. Henry M. Dean came to the church from Dayton, Ohio, and began his pastorate which lasted eight years, ending in 1887.
Mr. Dean was a deep student and was at his best when explaining to a class the deeper meaning of some Scriptural text. His kindliness, goodness and neighborliness
are features well remembered, not only by his parishioners, but by townfolk of other beliefs.
It was during Mr. Dean’s pastorate that the change in the windows was made, the
colored glass at that time much in vogue, replacing the clear glass panes.
Following him, on November 1, 1887, came Rev. Edward S. Ufford, who has recently
died at Union, Maine at the age of 78.
He was a man of musical thought and ambition, especially in Gospel singing and
music. Just before coming to Hingham in 1885, he had written the words and melody to that well-known hymn, “Throw Out The Life-Line.
” This has been translated into twenty-nine languages and has had a sale of 5,000,000 copies.
During his pastorate of two years, the first baptistry was introduced into the church. Rev. Sylvanus E. Frohock was the next minister, coming in 1890
and remaining two years.
In the winter of 1891, 92, extensive improvements were again made in the interior.
Perhaps these were the most remarkable of any up to the time of our present changes, for new pews, a new baptistry, pulpit furniture, new hangings and carpet with an
addition at the back of the church to accommodate the outstanding feature, the first pipe organ in the history of the church.
Up to this time varying types of organs had been used, gradually changing in size. Two men, Mr. William Gilman and Mr. Atkins Rich, declaring themselves tired of the
croaking and squealing of the one they had been listening to, set about raising funds for a new one and this to be a pipe organ.
The plan was based upon individual purchases of one or more pipes of which the papers state there were around 500.
When all the “Mites
” and the “Mighties” were collected and the organ installed, they
had what was considered then a remarkable organ. A fine recital and a wonderful concert were given at the dedication.
Rev. Irving E. Usher was with the church from August 1892
to 1895, and Rev. F. M. White from 1895 to 1898. They were followed by Rev. Maurice A. Levy, who came while a student at Newton Theological Institution in 1898
and remained until 1901. Mr. Levy now holds an important Pastorate in the large church in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. He has been in other influential fields. For several years he has been Corresponding
Secretary of the Northern Baptist Convention. He is also a former President of the Massachusetts Baptist Convention, and needs no comment upon his work.
The Hingham church is proud to be able to claim him as one of its pastors in his early ministry, which had a charm, strength and influence which was felt then and will never
be forgotten. It was here he brought his bride, they being the first young couple to occupy the parsonage after it became church property.
Rev. Archibald A. Forshee came to the church in
1901, while he was a student at Newton preparing for the ministry, and looking to the foreign field of missions as his
goal. When he had completed his course and taken his wife from among the girls of the Hingham Church, they went together in September 1902 to Iloilo in the Philippines,
where missionary opportunity was opening after the close of the Spanish War. He is now in the home field and is well known as the Executive Secretary of the Boston Baptist Bethel City Mission Society.
Rev. Owen C. Brown followed in 1903 and remained until 1904. He was a student at the time. He is now editor-in-chief of Baptist Sunday School Publications.
May we here turn aside from the regular line of events to record, that, besides taking pleasure in the fact that one, Rev. A. A. Forshee went directly from his pastorate here
to the foreign field and that other of our young pastors, going from us were able to find and to fill large places of usefulness in the work for Christ, we are glad that we have one
of our own boys who studied for the ministry and is now an ordained minister, Rev. Car. F. Schultz.
There have been seven of our girls who at various times have left us to go as minister’s wives. Some of these were direct descendants of the early pioneers of the church.
Then there are others who have been trained for definite Christian service, and for all of these we are grateful.
Rev. William D. Goble’s able and inspiring ministry began in 1904
and continued until 1907. He too, has had large fields of labor and is widely known. We are always glad to think of him in his early work in our church and are happy to welcome him back as an
occasional summer supply and at anniversary events. hen he went away from us, he likewise, carried with him one of our fine girls as his wife.
Following this ministry there was Rev. C. A. Reese
, of Newton, as acting pastor during 1907; and then one of the older ministers, Dr. George Bullen, who served the church from 1909 to 1913.
Rev. A. H. Bissell came in
1914 and remained until 1917. It was in this period, 1914, that a bronze tablet in memory of the founders of the church in 1828 and deceased
members of the Sewing Circle, was placed on the wall of the church. The funds for this were solicited by Mrs. Mary J. Humphrey, who at eighty years, was at that time the
oldest living member of the church.
Somewhat later the old bell, which was cracked, having served since the building of the
church, was replaced by a new one. It was carefully planned that the new bell should have the same tone as the old one and thus the church should send out no uncertain sound even in its bell-ringing.
A very decided change was made when on October 16, 1916, a meeting of the resident members of the church was called for the purpose of organizing the Church into a
Corporation and a vote was taken to that effect. A new constitution and by-laws were published together with the church covenant.
By this act of incorporation the so-called “Society”
organization, which had existed ever since the church was established, passed from the future history of the church.
We could pay tribute here to the long line of men of this Society, who though not members of the church, have given so freely of their time, money, business ability and loyalty.
Rev. R. E. Tedford came to the church in 1917, as a young student at Gordon College, and remained until 1920. He too, brought a bride to the parsonage. Mrs. Tedford also
had training at Gordon College and has, since her husband’s death, carried on in Christian service.
The year 1920 brought Rev. A. A. VanSickle
, and he did very earnest and effective work until 1923 when, after his graduation, he returned to his home location in the West.
That same year found Rev. C. E. Southard
installed as our pastor and his pastorate terminated in July 1929, lasting for six years.
In September 1924, the church auditorium was redecorated and new lights added. A
notable feature of Mr. Southard’s pastorate was the action taken by the church upon a bequest contained in the will of John C. Barnes, late of Hingham, in accepting the same.
Mr. Southard worked very earnestly in the interest of the church in this will and the conditions contained in it. The will called or provided for a new church building, when
the funds should have accumulated to $50,000.
Through the action of Mr. A. V. Harper, executor of the will, it was legally provided that
the church be remodeled to the extent of the available funds from the estate at the present time. The Barnes Homestead was sold for $17,000 and on July 31, 1928, it
was stated that the whole trust amounted to $30,000.
It was voted that the then present church building be reconstructed and remodeled and that the new building be known as the Barnes Memorial Building, and that a tablet be placed bearing an inscription specified in the will.
The artistic tablet was donated by Mr. George A. French of C. H. Buck & Co., Boston, Massachusetts.
On February 7, 1929
the church established a fund known as the Organ fund, to be used in procuring a new organ. Mr. Russell G. Reilly started the fund with a most
generous gift and has worked untiringly on the fund as well as in many other branches of the work of the church.
On May 28, 1929 the church approved the plans of the architect, Mr. Bruce C.
The contract was placed with Mr. Jacob Tracy on August 13, 1929, who not only was the lowest bidder, but who also contributed $2,000 towards the Building Fund. On July
17, 1929 the church established a fund known as the Building Fund. It was necessary to raise $14,000 which was reduced to $7,000 through funds and available pledges. The
amount was raised by a system of bonds called Centennial Bonds.
A meeting with a banquet was held, during the course of which the amount required
was subscribed by bonds pledged. Since then this amount has been increased by $10,000.
The completed contract, including the new organ, cost $55,000 — $25,000 from the
Barnes Fund and $30,000 raised by the church.
These statements do not represent all of the gifts of money, time, thought and zeal put
into the work to bring to pass the realization of this beautiful Lord’s House, whose beginning was back in the days when Aunt Polly Barnes cast her lot in with the few,
who were gathered together, “praying so earnestly, and working so faithfully in sowing the seed of Divine Truth with faith that some day they should reap a large harvest of souls.”
May we pause here at the end of the century for a moment and look back along the line which we have been reviewing.
During this century of church history, we have passed through three wars and we note that there have been enlisted men from the Baptist Church in all of them. We note too,
that this church has voiced its attitude toward slavery, oppressions and intemperance in no uncertain way. We consider the various activities of the church passing before us
in their organizations. There was a band of “Earnest Workers” ready to step into the
ranks of Christian Endeavor as that company approached.
There was a strong group of young women, at that time, who were King’s Daughters in very name and deed, working for the church.
Then there is the Sewing Circle and Missionary Society, finally walking together side by side, as one organization, having a slogan for the church, “One hundred percent working and one hundred percent missionary.”
There are the good deacons who have been the
“pillars of the church” and the support
of the pastors all along the way and the Sunday School which has been on the march even longer than the church with such a goodly number of faithful superintendents and teachers.
With Paul, “What shall I more say for the time would fail me if I tell of (all) those who through faith wrought righteousness and obtained promises.”
As we turn and look forward may we quote again from the old records and say with those of the past, “We are still endeavoring to live in peace, to enquire for the old paths,
to walk by faith, to hold up the Bible and to recommend a crucified and risen Saviour to all around us and to show to the votaries of pleasure and mammon a more excellent way.”
Thus shall we step out into the new century with our pastor, Rev. Marinus James, as our zealous leader, as heralds of Glad Tidings not only to Hingham but to all men everywhere.