We divided ourselves into groups. Some would go to the graveyards and see if they could find the sections where the oldest graves could be found. Others went to see what records they could find through the local churches. And the last group would go to the local governments to see what records they could find there.
I convinced JohnDavid to join me in the group that was going to the churches. When we were asked which churches we wanted to call on I immediately said, “We’ll do the Congregationalists.” Other’s took the Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptists and Catholic.
“Why did you get us on Congregation churches?” JohnDavid asked me.
“Because Congregational churches were the first churches in this part of the country. At that time the Congregational churches were the center of the towns and held all the records. Believe me it’s the very best place to start.”
JohnDavid said, “Oh.”
At the first church we stopped at we learned that the oldest Congregational church in town was now a Unitarian church. It had been in the center of town since the town was founded. I checked my iPhone to see when the town was founded – 1648. That had to be the place.
We got to the church at 1:00 and an elderly woman was just getting ready to lock the office door.
“Hi,” I said, “is this First Church?”
“Yes, but the office is only open until 1:00” She replied.
“Well, I am in from out of town. I’m a Congregational minister. Did this church go Unitarian back in the 1820’s?” I asked trying to keep the conversation going.
“Yes it did. How did you know that?” She looked puzzled.
“Well, I am a bit of a history buff. Most churches that went Unitarian in the country got ministers out of Harvard in the 1820s and 30’s. That’s how First Parish Church in Plymouth ended up Unitarian.” I said hoping to catch her interest. “How long have you been a member here?”
“All my life,” she replied.
“That’s great!” I said almost too enthusiastic, “I would love to see the inside. Could you give us a tour?”
“Well, I really do need to be getting home…”
“Oh please,” I begged, “I am only going to be here for a day or two. And I’ll never get another chance. Please.”
“Okay,” she finally relented.
The office was in the newest wing of the building. It held offices and the choir rooms. Then there was the Sunday School wing which looked like it was built back in 1930s. The Meeting House was classic Congregationalist. Very plain. No stained glass. A central pulpit with a communion table.
“This is amazing. Is this the original meeting house?” I asked.
“Why yes it is. It’s one of the oldest in the state,” she said proudly.
“Wow, do you still have records from the early days?” I asked finally getting around to what we were actually there for.
“Oh yes, and lots of early artifacts too,” she said.
“Really? Where are they?” I wondered.
“Well, we have a little museum downstairs.”
“My goodness. That’s marvelous. Can we take a look.” I said enthusiastically.
The museum was made up of five glass cases that displayed items that went back to the beginning of the church. There was a Breecher’s Bible, some old buttons, bits of cloth, old communion sets, other alter wear, pastor’s robes and stoles, old Sunday school materials, some open books of records and a necklace of brass rings. Almost everything had a 3 x 5 card that someone had typed out a description of the item, but there was nothing for the necklace.
“There’s no card with this one,” I said. “What is it?”
“It’s an old necklace that was handed down from one of the old families. It was given to the church… a long time ago. It was found in a box and not knowing what else to do with it we put it on display. It just seemed really old.” She said.
At that point we had seen everything, so we thanked our tour guide and went back to the car.
“How did you know all that stuff?” JohnDavid asked.
“Never mind that. We found it!”
To be continued…
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