THE HISTORY OF THE FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH, HANOVER, MASSACHUSETTS
“At a church meeting at the Baptist Meeting House Marshfield, the members assembled together, then and there, made choice of William Curtis, moderator. After prayer by the moderator proposed as follows to know the mind of the church whether they would comply with the advice of the council met at Hanover, December 25th and 26th to dismiss a number of brethren and sisters from their covenant-relationship and obligation to and with us and wherever they shall be formed into a district church they shall be considered as dismissed.”
The church voted to comply with the advice of said council and dismiss them. In this group were six men and eleven women who resided in Hanover, Scituate, Pembroke and Duxbury.
On February 11, 1806 this church had its beginning. The little group of seventeen from the Marshfield church plus seven others who joined them and asked to be recognized as a district Baptist Church and a council from other Baptist Churches was convened for this purpose, there being three ministers and seven delegated from Randolph, Attleboro and Bridgewater.
Imagine them taking the trip in the dead of winter, either on horseback or in open sleighs, over unbroken roads, to carry out God’s plans.
These faithful Christians met in the home of Curtis Brooks on Main Street.
The original records of the council were signed by Elder Joel Briggs of Randolph and Clerk Valentine W. Rathburn of Bridgewater. After the council had examined the articles of faith and covenant, and after adjournment the church was publicly recognized as the Baptist Church of Christ in Hanover.
The first sermon recorded being preached to the new church was by Elder Rathburn. His text was “And the Lord added daily to the church such as would be saved.” Acts 2:47. The sermons were long, an hour or more in length, a cold lunch was eaten and a second sermon preached of equal length.
The hymnbooks were small, the few tunes were sung over and over. A tuning fork was used to give the pitch; the time was long, the church was cold, and the seats were hard. At a later date a base viol was used to accompany the hymns, many of which were in a minor key.
The old records tell of the struggles of the early church. They reveal the problems of the times and the seriousness with which they went about their duties of warning, rebuking, and admonishing one another.
At the first church meeting held on February 12, voted that elder Barnabas Perkins be invited to take pastoral charge of the church. The good elder must have been self-supporting for the records say that the arrangements were made for him to labor 10 Lord’s days during the year and that he be paid $50.00
The early churches always encouraged young men who showed skill in prayer and exhortation, and William Curtis was early selected as called by God and approbated to improve his gifts and doctrine. Later we find him preaching to the church twenty Lord’s days during the year for $50.00 but there is no record that he was ever ordained.
These small salaries were augmented by gifts of firewood, corn, potatoes, and other donations and gifts of money from various individuals, as was the custom in all churches of this period.
On December 12, 1810 a council was called at the home of Curtis Brooks to ordain Mr. John Butler, and it was so voted. It was during this pastorate that the first church building was erected in 1812 and the first Sunday School established in 1819. Barry’s “History of Hanover” saying, “It is a small but neat edifice, in good repair and of fair proportions.
The history goes on to say, “This society though small, is highly respectable in character, its members are zealous and the earnestness with which they have engaged in the cause of religion is worthy of all praise”.
Records show that early in its history this church took a firm stand in the temperance cause and gave attention to both home and foreign missions. It also denounced slavery as contrary to the laws of God and the pure precepts of the gospel and a flagrant violation of the laws of humanity.
It is part of the unwritten history that at a time when the church was at its lowest ebb, Deacon John S. Brooks would leave his store and come into the church daily to plead with God that interest might be aroused. Records show that these sincere prayers of a righteous man were answered. This earnest follower of God was for many years the Superintendent of the Sunday School, holding the position until age made it necessary to retire and hand the duties to his son. This was the longest term of service for a father and son in the state of Massachusetts.
In 1859 the meeting house was raised and rooms put under it. Galleries were taken out, the whole sanctuary remodeled, the roof shingled and outside painted for $1,400, besides labor and material for which no accounting is given. The spire was placed on the original steeple in 1864. Strange as it may seem, the records show no vote to purchase a bell and no vote to allow its installation, but from an old account book it seems probable that the bell was paid for by public subscription. The bell is mentioned for the first time in 1849 where the records show that a man was appointed to care for the church and provide for the ringing of the bell. This bell is now installed in a mounting in front of the present church building.
In the old record we read, “In September 1867 the organ was placed in our house of worship; it cost $1,050. It is for the praise and glory of God. When we saw this cherished work covered with complete success we felt to say, ‘Here Lord, take this, ‘tis thine and on thine altar laid’”
Until 1893 there had been no parsonage. One pastor with 14 children occupied a house on Main St. And another house on Main Street was at one time occupied by another pastor. At this time a parcel of land adjoining the lot on which the church formerly stood with buildings thereon, was offered for use as a parsonage by Mr. Fred Everson and the offer was gladly accepted.
At Christmas in l902 the church received the old pulpit set as a gift of Mrs. Lucy F. Damon, and at the annual meeting held on October 1, 1903 a copy of the will of Mrs. Damon was read showing that she had left her estate to the church. It was decided to use it as a parsonage, and so it was used until 2006. It is now used as a rental property bringing income to the church.
Records indicate that the period from 1910 through the 1930’s was a struggle for the very existence of the church. It was exceedingly difficult to obtain a minister who was willing or who could afford to serve under the conditions offered. In 1926 a minister was hired to serve both the Hanover and Marshfield churches as an economy measure. Hanover was to provide a car for his use. In 1930 the church membership reached seventy-two and the pastor’s salary was $15.00 a week. In 1931 bus transportation was provided for the Sunday School but was discontinued two years later for lack of funds. During the 1930’s it also became evident that the price to be paid for neglect caused by lack of funds for maintenance was to be a high one. Major repairs were needed to the exterior and interior of the building.
In 1938 a Repair Committee was formed and specifically charged with making immediate repairs and setting up a long-range program to completely rehabilitate the structure. The next two decades were to see the inside completely refurbished from top to bottom, the roof re-shingled and the outside repaired and painted several times. A new oil furnace replaced the old coal furnace. In the 1950’s the belfry, that was weakened by the hurricane in 1954 and in danger of collapsing, was restored. Funds to undertake the majority of these projects were obtained from a fall festival which was started in 1938 and was a highlight of the church activity calendar for over twenty years.
Inside the church strange noises were beginning to emanate from the old pipe organ placed there in 1846. Major repairs failed to save the noble instrument and in 1950 it was replaced by an electronic organ.
In the early 1950’s it was becoming evident that no longer would stopgap measures be able to provide the space needed for our rapidly expanding population, especially the Sunday School. By 1957 it had become critical, but also in that year Richard Arnesman had been called to serve our church. Within a year he had doubled our giving, instituted a canvass which documented the rapid growth of the area, and proposed that a Christian Education Center costing approximately $90,000 be erected on church-owned property at the corner of Main and Webster. In 1959, October, the church retained the noted church architect Arland Dirlan, to plan the new structure, with a pledge campaign and a mortgage to be amortized by 1975. In September 1960, ground was broken for the new building and on the following Easter it was dedicated.
During the next few years worship services were still being held in the old church but two things became apparent. First, the financial burden was more than the church could afford, and secondly, the old building would soon need extensive repairs. In 1966, after many soul searching and often emotionally charged meetings, it was voted to move all worship services to the new building. On Palm Sunday the Baptists ceased to be the only religious organization in town still worshiping in its original structure.
In 1967 the Trustees were given the authorization to dispose of the building, and it was torn down in July but not before all the pews and many of the wide floor boards and hand-hewn beams had been removed and used in the renovations of some of the old homes in Hanover. The site of the old church is now occupied by a fire station (now closed). After many ham and bean suppers and generous giving by the members and friends of the church, the mortgage was indeed burned in 1975. A mortgage on the property at 1044 Main Street, formerly Carpenter’s store was also retired through the hard work of the members and friends of the Baptist Church.
After several years, the steel chairs in the sanctuary were replaced with moveable chair pews. A baptistry was built in 1990, again with a lot of ham and bean suppers.
The Rev. C. Russell Thayer was called to serve in 1995 and he immediately saw the need for handicap accessibility. (We had several elderly and handicapped persons.) A building program was launched and we installed an elevator, made the bathrooms handicap accessible, added a steeple, and turned the front portico into a beautiful room. The sanctuary, hallway, and new room were carpeted. This room is a wonderful place in which to serve refreshments after funerals and special events, and has been used many times for this as well as small meetings. The elevator allows people in wheelchairs, handicap scooters, and walkers to worship with us. Having an elevator has also been handy in transporting tables and chairs from one part of the church to another.
This church is well used by the community as we share our building with the Food Pantry, AA groups, and a pre-school, “The Learning Ladder”.
Although the Baptists of today are far more liberal than were those of yesteryear, their fundamental beliefs are just as firm, especially concerning that part of the church covenant which states, “We hold it to be the mission of the Church of Christ to proclaim the gospel to all mankind, exalting the worship of the one true God, and laboring for the increase of knowledge, the promotion of justice, the reign of peace and the realization of human brotherhood”.
The service of many who have in the past been active in the church should not be forgotten. The first deacon appointed when the church was organized in 1806 was Curtis Brooks. His son John Brooks followed him and was the first of four by that name who served as deacons. The last deacon Brooks died in 1973. There are many others who will be remembered for their devotion and services. They are no longer with us but their memory is an inspiration and will always remind those who are living that FAITH AND PRAYER CAN ACCOMPLISH MUCH.
We stand together with those who subscribe to Baptist heritage and polity partnering with the Old Colony Baptist Association, The American Baptist Churches of Massachusetts, and The American Baptist Churches, USA.
During the 1970’s, 80’s, 90’s and into the 21st Century many changes have taken place under the Pastors of recent years. In the early years of this new century we are praying for revival and transformation as we continue to fulfill the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19,20). Our deepest desire is to reach those who will be fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ and His purpose for humanity.
As this history is being updated in the year 2019, our current pastor is Pastor Greg McKelvey who has been with us since mid 2011. With Pastor Greg’s leadership we have become a more loving, concerned and welcoming church. His preaching is uplifting, honest and positive. Several years ago, almost the entire congregation read through the whole Bible in 90 days and attended the weekly supportive meetings explaining what we had read. The church is in the middle of a campaign to raise money to replace its failing heating system. The old system was installed 50 years ago.
After 219 years, we continue to march on!
…Excerpted from the writings of Helen Bailey Whiting, 1956
…William Bradford Sides, Sr. 1977
…Updated by Beatrice Tarbox and Pastor John Ross in 2006
...Updated by Beatrice Tarbox 2017
Having been brought together by Divine grace to embrace the Lord Jesus Christ, we do now solemnly covenant with each other, that God enabling us, we will strive to know the will of God as taught in the Holy Scriptures, and to walk in the ways of the Lord, made known, or to be made known to us. We covenant that we will exercise Christian care and watchfulness over each other, sharing in the joys, and endeavoring with tenderness and sympathy to bear each other’s burdens and sorrows. We covenant that we will endeavor to influence such as may be under the care of this church, in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, striving to make known to them by precept and example the Love of God and the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We do further covenant that, recognizing the church as the Body of Christ and under His headship we will continually maintain close fellowship with others through the church, deepening our faith through common worship, serving through the acceptance of responsibilities in the work of the church, and extending our ministry through our material support of the work of the church in its world mission. We hold it to be the mission of the church of Christ to proclaim the Gospel to all mankind, exalting the worship of the one true God and laboring for the increase of knowledge, the promotion of justice, the reign of peace, and the realization of human brotherhood. Depending upon the continued guidance of the Holy Spirit to lead us in all truth, we work and pray for the transformation of the world into the Kingdom of God, and we look with hope for the triumph of righteousness and the life everlasting.
Elder Barnabus Perkins 1806
Mr. William Curtis 1807-1809
Rev. John Butler 1810-1824
Mr. Amos LeFavorer 1825-1828
Mr. Marius Dunbar 1833-1834
Rev. Robert Dickie 1834-1836
Rev. Horace Seaver 1836-1838
Rev. Nathan Stetson 1839-1840
Rev. Thomas Conant 1840-1844
Rev. Nathan Chapman 1845-1846
Rev. B. N. Harris 1846-1849
Rev. William Slason 1849-1853
Rev. Caleb Benson 1853-1854
Rev. Thomas Conant 1854-1856
Rev. J. M. Mace 1856-1857
Rev. Jacob Tuck 1857-1861
Rev. W. H. Stewart 1861-1863
Rev. Andrew Read 1863-1882
Rev. C. D. Sweatt 1883-1884
Rev. T. H. Goodwin 1884-1888
Mr. Lewis D. Morse 1888-1890
Rev. B. W. Barrows 1890-1893
Rev. J. J. Tobey 1893-1900
Rev. F. L. Cleveland 1900-1905
Rev. E. E. Ventress 1906-1910
Rev. William Nobbs 1910-1919
Rev. Guy P. Benner 1921-1925
Mr. Howard Weatherbee 1925-1926
Rev. Edward McPhee 1927-1935
Rev. Frederick Knox 1935-1938
Rev. Fred A Rudder 1938-1941
Rev. Benjamin Lockhart 1941-1945
Rev. David Beebe 1945-1949
Rev. Robert Bishop 1949-1952
Rev. Ellery Dakin 1952-1956
Rev. Richard Arnesman 1956-1960
Rev. Thomas Eugene West 1960 -Interim
Rev. George Moseley 1960-1962
Rev. Finlay Keech 1963-Interim
Rev. Richard A. Seeley 1964-1968
Rev. Kenneth Curtis 1968-1969-Interim
Rev. James Crawford 1969-1974
Rev. Jack Fassett 1975-Interim
Rev. Frank Sparks 1975-1987
Pastor Thomas Sheibley 1987-Interim
Rev. Richard Hill 1988-1993
Rev. Steve Youd 1993-1994-Interim
Rev. Russell Thayer 1995-2002
Rev. Rosemary Peters 2002-2003-Interim
Rev. John Ross 2003-2006
Pastor Paris Bollinger 2006-2009Part-Time
Rev. Cliff Hockensmith 2009-2010-Interim
Rev. Dick Malmquist 2010-2011-Interim
Pastor Greg McKelvey* 2011-
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