Leonard Bacon.

Historical discourse delivered at Worcester, in the Old South Meeting House, September 22, 1863 : the hundredth anniversary of its erection online

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Online LibraryLeonard BaconHistorical discourse delivered at Worcester, in the Old South Meeting House, September 22, 1863 : the hundredth anniversary of its erection → online text (page 1 of 9)
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HistoncB.! cLiscoarse Ael'wereA
at WoY^cester -I





. MAR ie^ 1932 ^





SEPTEMBER 22, 1863 ;

The HLindredth Anniversary of its Erection.










Worcester, Sept. 29, 1863.
Rev. Leonard Bacon, D. D.

Dear Sir,
Bj the unanimous vote of the committee of arrangements for commemo-
rating the hundredth anniversary of the erection of the house of worship of
the First Parish in Worcester, we have the honor to communicate to you their
thanks for the valuable and interesting discourse delivered by you on that
occasion, and to request a copy of the same for publication.
We are, very truly and respectfully,



Neiv Haven, Oct. 19, 1863.
Hon. Ira M. Rarton, Allen Harris, Esq., Caleb Dana, Esq.

Gentlemen, — In compliance with your request, I now submit to your
disposal a copy of the Discourse which was delivered at your late Centennial
Celebration. Please to accept my grateful acknowledgement of your courtesy
and kindness.

While I accepted as an honor the invitation to perform that service, I could
not but be somewhat embarrassed by the consideration that I had no particular
acquaintance with your local and parochial history. Your kindness relieved
me of that embarrassment by providing that the details which are the special
interest of such an occasion should be collected and narrated by one of your-
selves, who has performed that service much better than I could have done.
With this understanding I accepted your invitation, considering myself as in
some sort a substitute for my young friend and late parishioner, your pastor,
to whom* such a duty so soon after his installation, might have been burdensome.
May his ministry, beginning a new century in your venerable sanctuary, be
commemorated with praise to God, when the second century shall be completed.
Respectfully, Yours.





Feiends and Fellow Citizens:

You are all aware, I presume, of the object of the occa-
sion on which we have assembled. One hundred years have
elapsed since the erection of the walls of this Church ; and
the Parish worshipping here, have thought the event worthy
of grateful commemoration.

The Church was erected in 1763, by the inhabitants of
Worcester, then acting in their municipal as well as parochial
capacity ; and it wis, therafore, originally the property of
the town. Bat after the incorporation of the Second Parish
in 1787, the First Parish became the proprietors of the House
as the legal successors of the town, and their records as a
parish separate from those of the town, commenced Dec.
24, 1787.

At an adjournment of the annual meeting of the First
Parish in the Spring of 1863, upon the recommendation of
a committee that had been previously appointed to consider
the matter, it was voted to commemorate the Centennial
Anniversary pf the building of their Church, and to appoint


a committee of seventeen to make the necessary arrange-
ments for the occasion. And this Large gathering, not only
of present and former members of their OAvn parish, but
from other parishes in the city, is one of the results of their

The committee found, upon the authority of a memora::-
duni loft by the Rev. Thaddeus Maccarty, the minister of the
town, that the erection of their Church was commenced June
21, 1763, and that it was so far finished that public religious
services were held in it December 8, the same year, being
the day of the annual Thanksgiving. It does not appear
that the Clinrch was ever formerly dedicated. A Thanksgiv-
ing and historical discourse was delivered by Mr. Maccarty
on the occasion referred to, which it is a soui'ce of great
regret, was not published, and is irrecoverably lost.

Under these circumstances, the parish deemed it not ma-
terial that the day for this commemoration, should coincide
precisely with the day of the first occupancy of their Church.
And the committee accordingly fixed upon this day, at this
genial season of the year, as more agreeable, especially for
our friends from abroad to visit us, than any day nearer the
usual period of our annual Thanksgiving.

As this Church was originally of a municipal character,
and the property of the town, the committee thought that
the occasion called for something more than a mere parish
observance. They have therefore invited the attendance not
only of members of their own parish that have gone out
from them, but other prominent and ancient inhabitants of
the town. As the representatives of the city, they have also
invited the presence of the Mayor and his predecessors, and
the Clergvmen of the different relifrious communions. And
as the organ of the committee, it is my agreeable duty to

express to each and all of you on this occasion, their very
sincere welcome and congratulations.

I said that the walls of this House were erected in 1763.
Those remain much as they were originally ; while the inte-
rior has been renovated and fitted up with some of the dec-
orations and conveniences demanded by more modern taste.
The original interior construction of the House, is indicated
by the diagram suspended from the centre of the east gal-
lery, as copied by an ingenious member of the parish, from
a folio leaf of the town records. This gallery, however, is
a modern intruder. In the centre of the space now occupied
by it, stood the spacious pulpit, and the ponderous sounding
board suspended over it, while the galleries were confined
to the other three sides of the House.

From the pulpit extended the broad aisle to the ample
and lofty porch upon the west side of the Church, fronting
on the ^^ country road,'' now Main Street. This porch gave
access to both, the floor of the House and the west gallery.
And it was from its roof, as his rostrum, that Isaiah Thomas,
on the 14th of July, 1776, proclaimed to the assembled
people, the Declaration of Independence, after the document
had made a laborious journey of ten days from the city of
Philadelphia, where Congress was then sitting.

There were also entrances to the floor and the galleries of
the House, by way of another porch at the south, and the
bell tower at the north end of it.

The audience room upon the floor of the House was laid
out into the large, square, social pews of the day, excepting
seven free seats upon each side of the broad aisle, in front
of the pulpit ; those upon the right hand side, as they enter-
ed the House, being appropriated for the men, and those
upon the left, for the women. But the increasing demand

for new pews, afterwards usurped the place of all those
seats except the two front ones.

At the time of the erection of this Church in 1763, the
Rev. Mr. Maccarty, the minister of the town, was in the
prime of life, being about forty years of age. He was
prominent amongst the provincial clergy, having been the
successful rival of the Rev. Jonathan ^Mayhew, of Martha's
Vineyard, afterwards the distinguished minister of the West
Church in Boston. After having ministered to the united
inhabitants of the town for thirty-seven years, he died July
20, 1784, and was interred in the ancient burial place on the
Common, near the Church where he so long labored. The
town caused a handsome headstone to be erected at his
grave, with an inscription since substantially transferred by
one of his descendants,* with the approbation of the parish,
to the mural tablet, upon the east side of the pulpit of this
Church, where the successors of the people of his charge
still worship. Higher evidence of his "peaceful Christian
virtues," will not be sought by this community.

The portrait of Mr. Maccarty, upon the opposite side of
the pulpit has been kindly loaned for this occasion, by his
great-grand-daughter, Mrs. Henry K. Xeweomb. It indi-
cates, strikingly, the clerical costume of his day, and is,
probably, as good a likeness of the original, as the state of
the arts in this country, at that period, could afford.

The candelabra suspended upon either side of the pulpit,
furnished also by Mrs. Xewcomb, derive their interest from
having been decorations of the ancient parsonage, and that
the ornamental part of them, was the handy work of Mrs.
Maccarty. Tradition testilies to her eminent piety and

* Hon. D wight Foster.


virtue ; and we here have proof of her superior accomplish-
ments for the age in which she lived.

Time does not allow me even to name the prominent
members of Mr. Maccarty's congregation. The names of
the pew-holders appear on the diagram referred to, inscribed
upon their respective pews. Conspicuous amongst these, Avas
the pew of honor at the right hand of the pulpit, assigned
to John Chandler, Esq., in recognition of the bequest of
forty pounds to the town, by his father. Judge Chandler, to
alleviate the taxes upon the poorer inhabitants, for building
the Church. The whole sixty one pews were appraised, and
the choice of them was offered to the people in the order of
the amount of taxes paid by them upon their real estate,
respectively, beginning with the highest. In that way, the
proprietors of the pews probably became those who were
then regarded as the solid men of Worcester. Several of
them are noticed by William Lincoln, Esq., in his model his-
tory of the town, while there are others, equally worthy of
remembrance, respecting wdiom we diligently seek materials
for genealogical and personal history. Any such materials,
derived from flimily records, well authenticated traditions or
otherwise, if communicated to Deacon Allen Harris, the
chairman of a committee appointed for that purpose, will
be gratefully received and appropriately preserved.

The Building Committee of the Church, chosen May 17,
1762, embracing probably the more active business men of
the town, were ; John Chandler, jr., Joshua Bigelow, Josiah
Brewer, John Curtis, James Putnam, Daniel Boyden, James
Goodwin, Jacob Hemenway, David Bigelow, Samuel Mower,
and Elijah Smith.

It has been ascertained by our respected fellow citizen.
Dr. George Chandler, a collateral kinsman of the Chandler


family, that Judge Chandler, the first of the name in 'Wor-
cester, died Auo-ust 7, 1762. His son, John Chandler, jr.,
succeeded to hoth the civil and military offices of his father,
and was described in the same manner upon both the town
and Probate records. Hence, to prevent confusion in refer-
ing to those records, it becomes necessary to note the day of
the death of the father, ascertained from his obituary in the
Boston Xews Letter.

Of the other members of the Building Committee, Joshua
Bigelow was repeatedly a representative of the town in the
Provincial Assembly. James Putnam Avas a distinguished
lawyer, with whom the first President Adams read law while
keeping school in Worcester, a few years before the erection
of this Church. David Bigelow w^as an elder brother of
Col. Timothy Bigelow, a member of the Provincial Con-
gress, and, in 1779, the colleague of Levi Lincoln, sen., and
Joseph Allen, as the delegate to the Convention for framing
the Constitution of this Commonwealth. The Hon. George
T. Bigelow, the present Chief Justice of our Supreme Ju-
dicial Court, is a grandson of this David Bigelow.

At the time of the election of the Building Committee,
they were limited by the town to an expenditure of twelve
hundred pounds ; and afterwards, at a meeting of the toAvn,
May 18, 1863, it was voted " that said committee hire a suit-
able number of men to raise the new meeting house in the
chea])est manner they can, and that there be no public en-
tertainment." The frugality and temperance of the town
compare somewhat to the disadvantage of the parish, which,
in 1700, at the installation of Rev. Dr. Austin, expended
ten pounds seven shillings and sixpence, and that for articles
which it would be unseemly to name in this presence.

Such was tliis House, and such some of the worshippers in


it, one hundred years ago. A further notice of them, with
their contemporaries, would constitute a service interesting
to the present and future generations of this city.

The first alteration in the interior of this House, was made
by the town in 1783. Two of the back free seats of the
men, upon the right hand side of the broad aisle, and the
two corresponding seats for the women on the side opposite,
were taken out, and four new pews erected in their place.
They were erected under the supervision of Timothy Paine,
Joseph Allen, and Joseph Wheeler, Esq'rs, as a committee
appointed by the tow^n for that purpose. This was regarded
as a matter of so much importance, that the pews were sold,
in presence of the town, at a largely enhanced price ; the
two upon the women's, or left hand side of the broad aisle,
to Daniel Waldo, sen., and Isaiah Thomas ; and the two
upon the men's side opposite, to Dr. Elijah Dix and iTathan
Patch. Subsequently, in 1805, the parish removed eight
more of the free seats, giving place for eight additional
pews, and leaving two free seats in front for aged people.
Benjamin Heywood, Samuel Flagg and Oliver Fiske, Esq'rs,
were appointed to erect and make sale of these pews. They
appear to have been sold to John Green, Ephraim Mower,
Daniel Denny, John Mower, Samuel Harrington, Edward
Knight, Oliver Fiske and Moses Perry, for the aggregate
sum of $946 ; indicating that, at that period, the meeting-
house stock was in good demand.

But the more radical change in the internal arrangement
of the House, was reserved until the year 1828. The sixty-
one ancient pews then all gave place to the ninety-two
modern slij^s on the floor, and forty two in the galleries, as
we now find them. The ancient pulpit and sounding board,
with its pendant dove and olive branch over the minister's


head, all disappeared ; the eastern gallery was constructed,
and the modern i)nlpit found its place at the north end of
the audience room. The porch upon the west side of the
House was at the same time removed, and wings being placed
on each side of the bell tower, gave to the structure a come-
ly northern, instead of the former western front.

Li 1834 the parish applied to the to^\;n for permission to
erect a Chapel, or Vestry, as it was called, on the Common,
at the south end of their Church. The inhabitants of the
town, with the better judgment, refused such permission,
but granted leave to the parish to extend the whole body of
their Churcli, twenty live feet to the south, thus making its
entire dimensions ninety-five by fifty-five feet. This addi_
tion was made the following year, involving the destruction
of the ancient porch at the south end of the Church, and
aftbrdi ng space for a Chapel on the upper floor, and an
ample vestibule below, without interfering with the audience
room or galleries. »

In 1846, the parish fitted up the vestibule below for their
Chapel; moved back, in a semi-circular form, the south
gallery, from over the rear pews in the audience room, and
erected the organ loft upon the floor that had before been
occui)ied as the Chapel, with a convenient committee room
or study upon the east side of it. Thus arranged, we find
our Church at this commencement of the second century of
its existence.

In the summer of 1846, Mr. Appleton of Boston put up
one of his l)est instruments in the organ loft, at the cost of
three thousand dollars. It was in part procured by the
subscription of individuals ; but their interest was afterwards
surrench'rcd to the parish, which is now the sole owner of

I hardly need say, that these particulars as to the material
history of our venerable Church, are more for the informa-
tion of the generations that are to succeed us, than for any
special interest they may possess for the present one.

The situation of the immediate surroundings of this
Church in 1763, when it was erected, is worth noting.

In the first place, then, we must annihilate our pleasant
Central Park, with its enclosure, and reduce it to a bald
Common or training field, for which it appears to have been
originally dedicated by the proprietors of the town.

We must next demolish our spacious City Hall, and give the
Church an unobstructed northern prospect down the sparse-
ly settled Main Street, which was bounded on the north by
the ancient Court House, occupying nearly the same site
with the present Court Houses on Court Hill.

To the east of the Church was the Common, with the
burying ground upon the east side of it. That ground was
generally used for the purpose of burials from about 1730
to 1795, when the town procured the burial ground on Me-
chanic Street. Some notice of the disposition that has been
made of this ancient ground on the Common, is perhaps
due to those having friends interred there. At an early
period, a heavy stone wall had been laid around this ground,
separating it from the Common. This might, indeed, serve
as a protection of the ground against desecration from with-
out, but it was found also to serve as a concealment of all
manner of desecration from within ; and after the ground
ceased to be used for burials, it became unsightly and ofien-
sive. The wall was removed ; and after the organization of
the City Government in 1848, it was proposed' to remove
the bodies to the new rural Cen :etery and to level the ground


wliore tlioy liaci been originally interred. The public feeling
revolted at that idea, and, hy the influence of gentlemen
whom I now see before me, the project w^as defeated.

The City Government then adopted the plan of making a
perfect survey of the ground, by placing permanent stone
monuments just below the surfiice, and taking the bearing
and distance from such monuments to each grave having a
head stone. TJie headstones were then carefully taken up
and placed over the graves, about one foot below the surface
of the ground. The graves were numbered, and a plan of
the ground made, indicating the precise position of each
grave, accompanied by an index of the numbers and a copy
of the respective epitaphs. Any person desirous of remov-
ing the remains of a friend, (an act of questionable good
taste,) may thus ascertain its position with mathematical cer-
tainty, and accomplish his pious purpose. The survey was
made in 1853, by Gill Valentine, Esq. ; and the plan, with
an earlier and fuller copy of the epitaphs, published by a
young gentleman* of this city, of antiquarian taste, is pre-
served with the archives of the city. Pleasant varieties of
our native forest trees were set out in the intervals betw^een
the graves, and the ground, from a repulsive, has become
one of the most quiet and inviting spots in the city. The
massive and elegant monument recently erected over the
grave of Col. Timothy Bigelow, will forever identify the
spot as the ancient burial place on the Common. It is per-
ha]>s fui-ther due to the memory of those that repose there,
tliat a substantial Cenotaph should be erected near the
<-eiitiH' (,i' the ground, with tlie names of the heads of the
iamilics inscnl)ed upon it.

*\Vni. Sumucr Barton, Kscj., in 1818.


Upon tlie soiitli side of the Common, near tlie present
junction of Park and Portland streets, 'was tlie parsonage of
the Rev. Mr. Maccarty.

Upon the west front of the Church was the country road
already referred to. Upon the opposite side of the road, the
grounds were all vacant, except the Chandler house, or as it
was afterwards known, the Bush house. That is entitled to
the distinction of being coeval with this Church. It was
noticed by the Rev. Dr. Dwight, in his travels through ^ew
England nearly seventy years ago, as '^ the house erected by
the late Gardner Chandler, Esquire, and one of the hand-
somest he had met with in the interior of the country ;" the
Dr. thus giving a graphic and probably correct idea of the
state of rural architecture at that period, by reference to a
structure now quite thrown into the shade by the palatial
residences upon either side of it. The antiquity of that
structure is deduced not only from tradition and the style of
its architecture, but from the testimony of the late Judge
iS'athaniel Paine, who, if now living, would be somewhat
more than a hundred years old. In the many pleasant con-
versations had with the Judge, after he left the Probate Of-
fice in 1836, I once asked him for the history of the Chand-
ler house. He premised that " he married his wife from
that house ; that the main part of it and the north wing
were erected before the revolution ; that the plan was to add
a south wing corresponding with the north, but the troubles
preceding the revolution broke out, and the latter part of
the plan was abandoned." Those troubles, it is well known,
commenced with the Stamp Act, which was passed in 1765,
but two years after the erection of this Church ; leading to
the satisfactory conclusion that the Chandler house and this
Church had a contemporaneous origin.*

*At the present time, 1863, Judge Barton is the occupant of this house.


Those ancient landmarks, tlic sycamore trees in front of
the Chandler house and the estate of the Hon. Isaac Davis,
opposite the Church, are perhaps worthy of passing notice.
They were transplanted from the valley of the Blackstone
river, where the sycamore is a natural growth. Having
learnt the agreeable associations the venerable Judge must
have with those trees, to enable me to answer the constant
enquiries made respecting their age, I asked him to inform
me wlicn they were set out ? With a quickness and naivete,
which those will appreciate who recollect the Judge, he re-
plied, " I can't tell ; — I can remember when the trees were
smaller than they are now." This was said in 1836, by a
man then eighty years of age, and justifies the conclusion
that those trees too must be the contemporaries, if not the
antecedents, of this Church.

It would be a pleasant exercise for the imagination to fol-
low out the more remote surroundings of this Church, as
they existed a hundred years ago. But this is not the time
nor the occasion f^r such a purpose. It is sufiacient to sa^^,
that almost everything of an artificial origin, is changed.
From the fourth or fifth agricultural town in this county,
AVorcester has become the third city of the State, rejoicing
in a population of about thirty thousand. Our gracefully
rounded hills, or as Dr. Dwight more graphically described
them, "liills moulded into a great variety and beauty of
forms," noticed by strangers as the physical feature of our
city, still remain ; but instead of the native forest, crowned
with the decorations with which the agriculturist and archi-
tect have invested them.

On tlic south we still have the Blackstone and its tributa-
ries ; but instead of flowing sluggishly along through their
native forests, cultivation has reached their banks, and, at


the least fall, their waters are disturbed by the wheels of the
mechanic and the manufacturer.

On the east there meets the eye a most beautiful object
that remains as it was, and will remain forever. And if,
amidst all the changes in our territory, a question should
ever arise as to the identity of the location of the ancient
and the modern Worcester, I can imagine no way by which
that question could be so readily settled, as by reference to
our Lake Quinsigamond and this ancient Church.

As the erection and first occupancy of this Church was sig-
nalized by a thanksgiving and historical discourse from the
Eev. Mr. Maccarty, the committee of arrangements thought
that its preservation for a century, under circumstances of
so much favor, should be gratefully noticed in much the
same manner. At the time the arrangements for this occa-
sion were first made, the pulpit of the parish was vacant ;
since happily supplied by the installation of the Rev. Ed-
w^ard 1. AValker, from JN'ew Haven. And in seeking for a
gentleman to address us on this occasion, and while inviting
home the pilgrims from this Church, you will think it was
befitting that we should invite to the service a distinguished
successor of those Massachusetts pilgrims, who aforetime
V i.ndere 1 by the " Connecticut path^" over our pleasant hills,

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Online LibraryLeonard BaconHistorical discourse delivered at Worcester, in the Old South Meeting House, September 22, 1863 : the hundredth anniversary of its erection → online text (page 1 of 9)