" MY SOUL DOTH MAGNIFY THE LORD, AND MY SPIRIT HATH REJOICED IN GOD MY SAVIOR "
THE CELEBRATION OF WORSHIP
The "Mother Church" of the First Congregational Church in Rockland was the First Parish Society of Abington (organized in 1711). The people who lived in the east part of town (East Abington) found it very difficult to travel to the church in Abington over narrow, rutted, dirt roads, making it impossible for many to attend church services. Living conditions were very primitive, fireplaces being the only means available for heating and cooking. Lighting was by candles and fires were started with flint and steel in a tinder box. There was a saw mill and some shoe making, but most were engaged in farming.
As early as 1726 it was clear that the people longed to build a church nearer to their homes, but it was not until 1812 that action was taken. A conflict arose between Mr. David Hearsey and Capt. Thomas Reed as to who would donate the land on which to build a church. It was finally decided, after much argument, that Mr. Hearsey's land on the east side of what became Union Street would be utilized. Capt. Reed's land was on the west side. Seated on rocks on the isolated hilltop they made their plans. It fell to Samuel Reed to visit churches in the surrounding towns to determine the type of structure best suited to their needs. A church in Hingham was selected to serve as a model. A petition was presented to the General Court to incorporate as the Third Congregational Parish in East Abington.
On August 27, 1813, a group of 14 parishioners gathered in the home of Samuel and Polly Reed on Market Street. The house was located on the piece of land on which CVS will soon be building. Samuel's father, who built the house, had died leaving him responsible for his mother and siblings. It is from this Samuel and Polly that my husband was descended. In direct line were Samuel's son, Dexter, Dexter's son, Lewis, Lewis" daughter, Alma who married Real Bryant, their son, Clifford who was the father of my husband, Calvin.
In addition to Samuel and Polly were Sam's brother, Thomas, cousins, Goddard and Ebenezer Reed, as well as Rachel Lane, Sarah Payne, Deborah Smith, Desire Stoddard, Zebulon Payne, Lt. Elijiah Shaw, Ephriam Stetson, Nathan Stoddard, and Benjamin Vining, familiar names in Rockland for many years.
There were few streets in East Abington at that time, none passing by the site proposed for the Church. In fact it was one-half mile from the nearest road. Pigeon Street, now Market Street, and Merchants' Row in the Boxberry section, north of where the Methodist Church is now, were, in 1814, connected and named Union Street. Other streets were Tinker, now Liberty Street, and Misery, now Webster Street.
Raising the framework was cause for much gaiety with food and drink provided and dancing to the music of fiddlers Peg and Pars, colored people from Hanson.
The first structure was 45 feet wide and 63 feet long. It was not painted for many years and it was 1837 before a steeple was added and a bell and clock installed. The pews were box pews and no heat was supplied. There were galleries on each side and a choir gallery at one end. A balcony was located at the back for Negroes as was the custom of the day.
As the congregation grew it was obvious that a larger church was needed. When the new church was proposed the original church was moved back and later sold. The newly completed Church was in the Elizabethan Style, impressive, with Gothic windows, high arches, a rose window, a noble organ, and a tall spire with a gilded cross. It was considered one of the most imposing edifices in the country at the time. it was called "The Brown Church on the Hill" with its surface covered with paint mixed with sand to resemble stone. The style was later made famous by Henry Hobson Richardson with his "brownstone period." Recently, a Mr. Bancroft, who lives in Oregon, contacted me with information connecting himself with a Capt. Bancroft who is credited in our records as being the builder. Research is underway.
Sam Reed was one of the strong, anti-slavery men in this part of Massachusetts and about 1850 he entertained George Thompson, a famous English orator who toured the northern states advocating abolition. Anti-slavery meetings were held at Island Grove and other radical speakers were heard. The Reed house later was a stop on the "Underground Railway." Rev. Walker preached many sermons against slavery, but disapproved of the radical methods of William Lloyd Garrison. One incident was decisive when a gentleman who had business contacts in the South was refused membership in the Church when he did not agree that communion should be denied to slave owners. The resolution of 1842 was then reaffirmed in 1849 and this resolution now appears engraved on a marble plaque on the wall of the present sanctuary.
In 1874 the section called "East Abington" was separated and incorporated as the Town of Rockland. Subsequently the Church's name was changed to "The Congregational Church and Parish of Rockland." Later the "Parish" was eliminated and it was called "First Congregational Church in Rockland."
In attempting to burn off the paint to refurbish the exterior on the church in 1890, a conflagration resulted destroying the church, the original church building and many other buildings nearby. It was resolved to rebuild and the work was begun on June 28, 1891.
The building to be erected on the same site as the first two, was designed by Minneapolis architect, Warren H. Hayes. How he obtained the commission is presently being investigated. The church was stained brown and remained so for many years. It was dedicated in September 1894.
Years later attempts were made to paint the church white, but the paint did not adhere well and in the 1970's it was finally decided to cover the building with vinyl siding and at the same time to make a few exterior changes for protection.
The stained glass window on the Union Street side was given in memory of Rev. Horace Walker, the third pastor who served from 1844 to 1867. The Hearsey memorial window is on the Church Street side and was given in memory of him who gave the land in the beginning. The window in the center of the ceiling depict the "tongues of fire" as a reminder of Pentecost. Sabbath School and Christian Endeavor windows are next to the pulpit. It has been necessary to cover the exterior of the windows with Lexan to prevent further damage after repairs were made.
The interior of the sanctuary was altered considerably in the 1960s when the pulpit and choir area were redecorated and the pews rearranged to create a center aisle. The glass and wood moveable partitions between the sanctuary and Fellowship Hall, used to enlarge the sanctuary on special occasions such as Christmas and Easter, was replaced with a solid wall.
A Century Box containing items of interest was placed in the vault in the Rockland Savings Bank in 1901 and was opened in the year 2002.
THE ANCHOR WINDOW HEBREWS 6:19
FIRST CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH IN ROCKLAND
12 Church Street Rockland MA 02370
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