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Ye olde Meting-House of Meadford.

by Moses W. Mann, West Medford.
[Read before the Medford Historical Society, May 5, 1906.]

TWO hundred and ten years ago there was erected in the eastern border of that thriving portion of our fair city that is known as West Medford an humble building our fathers called ‘there meting-house.’

As far as is known not much has been written in the way of narrative about it (at least for a half century), yet its building marked an era in the history of our ‘peculiar’ (town), that was founded in 1630. It may seem singular, yes, peculiar, that no house for the purpose of public worship was erected in Medford for sixty-five years, when we recall that in other places the church was ‘gathered’ when the town was planted. Perhaps it was logical to do the planting first and the gathering afterward. Such was the case in 1642 on our northern border in the settlement of Woburn. One of its founders records the fact that it was ‘unnatural for a right N. E. man to live without an able ministry as for a smith to work his iron without a fire.’ We may not believe, however, that because for sixty-five years there was no meeting-house in Medford that there was no worship, any more than we may think that no town government existed because of the same reason. The dwelling of some freeholder, or perhaps his barn, or the tavern, accommodated the town meeting, and at various times the ministers preached the word of God in the same places.

The death of Mr. Cradock, and the subsequent closing of his business interests, must have had a discouraging effect on the Mistick plantation, called Meadford, and for [p. 26] many years it was a ‘scattered village,’ having only a few over thirty tax payers on real estate when the first steps were taken toward erecting a meeting-house.

It may be appropriate here to note that the structure was just what its name implied—a house for the town's people to meet in, not only for worship, but for the transaction of the town's business, which was done with a strict attention to the minutest details.

Of the tax payers above mentioned but a part were church members. The term church was used by the fathers to designate the associated body of worshipers, and not the house they assembled in. Few roads there were in 1690, for few were needed. From Charlestown, through Mistick, or Meadford, came Robert Sedgwick, Edward Johnson, and four others through the ‘farm’ of Zachariah Symmes, the minister of the Charlestown Church, to explore the territory to the north, located as Charlestown Village. The way they took was over the rocky hill, where had dwelt the Indian king Nanepashemit, and their route came to be known as the ‘Oborn rode.’

At the top of the hill another road divides from this, ‘the way to the Weare.’ It is appropriately called High street, and the hill is still known as ‘Marm Simonds'.’

The order of the General Court in 1635 ‘that hereafter no dwelling-house shall be built above half a mile from the meeting-house in any plantation without leave from the court,’ was of none effect in Meadford. There was no meeting-house to measure from, and Meadford's dwellings were scattered from Charlestown to Menotomy, along a road little better than a cow-path, and whose course through the forest was marked by blazing the trees at intervals on either side.

It is the purpose of the writer to present in these lines some memorial of the house our fathers assembled in, and if possible bring to the thought and comprehension of the people of the present day something of their efforts in that time that seems so far away to us. The town, by [p. 27] vote (observe, it was the town), decided that there should be a meeting-house erected. Doubtless it had been the theme of conversation around every fireside along the Mystic and on the outlying ways for months before, only intensified by the town warrant giving fifteen days notice of the meeting. We may well imagine that the project was thoroughly discussed, and the record is, ‘there shall be a meting-house at or before May ninetie four and is to be finished by the first of October following (or sooner if it can be) on the land of Mr——Willis near the gate by marble brook on a rock on—north side of Oborn Rode.’

This was on January 17, 169 2/3. Having thus decided to build, the next important thing was to appoint a committee to do so, the choice falling upon Peter Tufts, Caleb Brooks and Thomas Willis, who represented the extreme ends as well as the center of the town.

Whether the distance at which he lived made the duty onerous, or whatever his reason, Left Peter Tufts ‘refusing to serve’ (says the record) made an addition to the committee necessary. So on April 3, 1693, John Hall, Senr, and Jonathan Tufts were added, and these four were to be ‘A Comitte for ye [work] aforesaid and they have full power [to] act therin as is more fully exprefsed in the vote as above said. Attest: Stephen Willis, Clerck.’

Referring to the former vote, we find that provision was made for such as should provide ‘material or work about said meeting’—‘at the discretion of the Comitte.’ They were to stake out the land promised by Thomas Willis, ‘and gett a deed of said land according to law for the use aforesaid in behalfe of the towne.’ Lastly (and by no means least in importance) it was voted ‘that ye said house shall be seven and twenty foot long, twenty four foot wide and fifteen foot between joynts.’

How the town expected the work to be done without an appropriation of money does not appear, but none was at that time made.

The ‘Comitte’ must have had a serious problem to [p. 28] solve during the two years that ensued. During that time the town generously offered to Mr. Simon Bradstreet the sum of forty pounds in money for annuity, with his housing and firewood, as an encouragement to settle in Medford, and chose a committee ‘to reseat with Mr. Colman,’ who had for a time preached here. Possibly the call to Mr. Bradstreet may have expedited matters, and on September 13, 1695, another town meeting was held, when sixteen and one-half pounds were subscribed by eighteen persons. It is improbable that the subscription list was then closed; but the town at the same time made provision ‘that what moneys shall be wanting beyond what is subscribed shall be paid in the way of Rate.’ Also the ‘rate of 12d. per head and 1d. in the pound for estates.’ In order that none might escape bearing their part, it was ordered that ‘those that refuse to subscribe shall pay their full proportion,’ the same rate to apply.

At the same time the subscriptions were called in, to be paid at or before the 25th of December following. In view of the fact that time would be required for preparation as well as building, it was provided that one-half of the rate or tax should be paid by the time the meeting-house was ‘covered and inclosed,’ and the other half at its completion.

The next ten days must have been busy ones for the committee, and the problems of future needs and of furnishing anxiously and earnestly discussed, as well as consultations held with workmen.

On September 23 the town assembled again, and this time voted ‘to give unto Thomas Willis John Whitmore John Bradshoe and Stephen Willis, Sixty Pounds, Currant money of N. E.’ for building a meeting-house 30 ft. long, 27 ft. wide, and 16 ft. between the joints.

It will be noticed that here is an increase of three feet in length, three in width, and one in height from the original design. It was also specified the roof should be shingled, and the walls clapboarded and bricked. [p. 29] The rest of the specification was ‘Dors & windows & Glafs to lay a lower flore all which work is to be done at or before the last of May next ensueing.’

The vote of the town also specified that there should be a ‘couenant drawne’ by Left Peter Tufts, Insi. Francis and Stephen Willis, wherein the said Thomas Willis, John Whitmore, John Bradshoe and Stephen Willis ‘doe couenant & Ingage’ in the building of a meeting-house according to the ‘time and Menes abouesaid.’

In the second part ‘the Inhabitants doe couenant & Ingage for the payment of the money for said work or in meeterials for said work as aboue to give unto Thomas Willis, John Whitmore, John Bradshoe & Stephen Willis, sixty pounds’ for building the meeting-house.

Incorporated into this contract was a clause providing that any of the inhabitants shall have the liberty of paying their part in work or materials, in case they can agree with the workmen, or can hire or buy for money.

In comment, the writer would consider this proviso as evidence of the informal existence of a sort of Medford Home Market Club.

The four builders were to ‘bear their part in the building according to the ruls,’ and in case any (not inhabitants) should give anything for the house, ‘the workmen shall give an account of the same to the town.’ No chance for any boodle or graft in this. It will be noticed that this covenant or contract was by a different committee, in the town's behalf, than the one before named, and that Left Peter Tufts evidently no longer refused to serve, but appears to be the chairman. We may suppose that with the meeting-house to be completed the following May the builders soon got at the work.

A few observations at this point may not be inappropriate. Medford had then no building ordinance, so the builders were at no trouble or loss of time in securing a permit to build, or ascertain the grade or street line from the city engineer. No questions of drainage bothered them, and the foundation (‘the rock near marble brook’) [p. 30] would be perfectly satisfactory to the building inspector of today. We would have had no fire stops to insist on, as there was no chimney, and the frame was not the ‘balloon construction’ of later times. Its timbers probably grew on Medford stumps, most likely of oak of goodly size, and hauled to the site by teams of oxen. Then the axemen put in their work, squaring the logs, hewing to a line with mathematical precision, and making the chips fly merrily. Next the framers had a hand in the work, making great mortises, gains and tenons. Splices there were no need of, and probably there were none, as no timber was over thirty feet in length.

The tools they used were clumsy and uncouth compared with those of mechanics of today, but the men knew how to handle them, and accomplished their work. Those were days when buildings sprang not up in a night like the gourd of Jonah. Not only the timber of the frame, but the boards that ‘covered and inclosed it,’ were made from the logs at the building's site, and in this we may find a reason for the ‘liberty’ the inhabitants had in the matter of ‘meterials,’ and also of the ‘time and menes.’

The ‘currant mony of N. E.’ was not so plenty or so current as that of today, and doubtless some men whose names do not appear in that first subscription list had trees growing on their farms that made good timber or boards, shingles or clapboards, laths or ‘lower flore.’ Some other Medford men could handle the whip-saw, and they had their opportunity. Somewhere on the slope of the hill was made a saw-pit of stone and timber, and on this the great pine logs and smaller oak timbers were placed one at a time. One man above on the log and another below in the pit worked the saw up and down, down and up, till board after board and the smaller joists of oak were made in sufficient quantities. Great boulders that any Medford farmer was glad to have out of his pasture formed the foundation walls. No cellar was needed, for their was no furnace or steam heater, [p. 31] and so no need of space for fuel storage. The floor beams were only hewed on one side, instead of all four, and laid flush in great open pockets cut in the sills, and also supported by other boulders, so that when the solid men (and women) of Medford assembled thereon, they felt secure. A floor of boards laid upon these, and all was ready for the eventful day of the raising. The great timbers, ten or twelve inches square if of pine and eight if of oak, had all been fitted tenon in mortise and securely pinned together, and lay upon the floor in four sections, ready to be raised to a perpendicular position, a whole broadside at once, and all the town came to do it, or see it done. We have been unable to find any account of this ‘raising,’ though at that of the third meeting-house it was said ‘there was no one hurl.’ Does this intimate that at the earlier ones some accident occurred? We may trust not, though such had been the case elsewhere when it was thought necessary to provide a liberal allowance of rum, lemons, cider and sugar ‘to make the tackle work smoothly.’

When in position the frame was ‘inclosed’ by the carpenters with boards placed horizontally and with edges bevelled to overlap and shed the driving rain. The roof timbers were ‘covered’ with boards extending from eaves to ridge-pole, which was hewed on two sides to fit the angle of the roof. Meanwhile other workmen had been busy on the farms of Medford. The great pine trees that years before had been felled and had escaped the burning, whose stately trunks were free of knots, and from which the outer sapwood had decayed, were cut into shorter pieces. These split into thin sections, piled up to season, and afterward shaven smooth with a drawknife, formed the clapboards and shingles with which the walls and roof were finished. The former were the longer, thinner at the upper edge, and overlapping each other horizontally and at the ends by a bevelled joint, made a wind-and weather-proof covering.

The shingles were the shorter, and were thinnest at [p. 32] the upper end, and their manufacture has in the last few decades become a lost art for which the reliable builders of the present day sigh in vain.

While the frame was fastened with wooden pins, the boards, clapboards and shingles were secured with nails, and here was another example of co-operative industry and a home market. All the nails were hand made and in many cases home made, even the children assisting in beating out on a little anvil each single nail from an iron rod of suitable size. Every nail was placed where it would do the most service, and none wasted.

Next in order in the ‘couenant’ was ‘the walls [to be] bricked.’ Clay was abundant in Medford, and bricks but lightly burned were packed into the spaces between the joists and timbers of the framework, being laid in clay instead of mortar of lime and sand. Such construction may be found in the oldest houses of Medford, and adds much to their warmth and protection against the spread of fire.

The ‘Couenant’ called for ‘Dors & windows & Glafs,’ and ‘to lay a lower flore.’ This required more skilled workmen—they were the joiners, who made the window-frames and sashes. Of ‘Dors’ there must have been at least two, and probably both in the external wall, with some attempt at ornament in their finish and makeup, while the ‘flore’ was made of pine from the primeval forest, and well seasoned, as it had need to be, for the boards were wide, as were those that sealed the sides of the room up to the window-sills.

The town, on the 4th of November, 1695, voted to have a pulpit and deacons' seat made, as well as ‘the body of seats,’ and have the walls ‘plaistered with lime,’ thus increasing the outlay to eighty pounds. It was tedious work sawing the great logs into lumber, so the laths were split in narrow and thin strips varying in width and thickness, and nailed on the joists, concealing the bricks already laid. Lime was made by burning oyster shells, and hair to mix with it may have come from [p. 33] the tannery at Whitmore brook, while a plenty of sand was also to be had near by. Only the walls were thus coated, but doubtless the mud-wasps did their share among the roof timbers and king-posts, which, with the beams, were left exposed to view.

The ‘body of seats’ were a series of long wooden benches without any backs, which occupied the central portion of the ‘flore’ and were movable.

The pulpit was elevated several feet, requiring a stairway to enter it upon the left-hand side, and was not complete without a sounding-board suspended above it, while the deacons' seat was in front of the stairs and facing the ‘body of seats.’

We may well imagine that the good people of Meadford assembled in their new meeting-house with gladness and a commendable pride at its completion in 1696, but there was probably no service of dedication, as we term it today. On May 25, 1696, the town directed the selectmen to get a sufficient title to the land on which it had been built, and on March 6, 1699, the deed was voted to be placed in the keeping of Major Nathaniel Wade, and a copy made in the town record book by the town clerk.

On the former occasion a very important committee was chosen, whose duty it was to ‘place the inhabitants in said meeting-house.’ This committee was Left. Peter Tufts, John Hall, Senr., Caleb Brooks, Insi. Stephen Francis and Stephen Willis. The duties of no modern mayor or alderman could compare with those of this committee. First, they were themselves seated by the selectmen, for so the sovereign people in town meeting assembled had ordained. Then the trouble began. Age, wealth, generosity in contribution, and social distinction or ‘quality,’ were the factors that entered into the problem the committee had to solve, and how much jealousy and heart burnings, ill-concealed ofttimes, family quarrels and the like were thus engendered! From their decision there was no appeal, and where the committee placed one, he or she had to sit for the year. Theirs must have been a difficult labor, a thankless task. [p. 34]

When first completed, the only special seats of prominence in the meeting-house were the deacons' seat and ‘the little pue under the pulpit.’ The latter was in full view of the congregation, but neither its occupant or the preacher were in sight of each other. Early the next year (1697) the town voted to build a ‘seatt’ forward on each side the house, the front of said seats to be ‘borded and battened . . . the front of the foreseatt and the seat on the women's side, to be built from the pue to the place left for stairs into a gallery; and the seat to be made on the men's side to reach from the deacons' seat or shorter, which is left to the discretion of the selectmen’ and seating committee.

Here we have an insight at the interior arrangement and plan of the ancient structure. ‘The pue’ was what was later termed ‘the little pue under the pulpit.’ The latter was at the middle of the end farthest from the ‘Oborn rode.’ the present High street. The foreseat joined the pulpit and little pew, and extended to the right and was a step higher than the main or ‘lower flore.’ Then extending along the easterly side wall to within six or eight feet of the front corner was a platform one step high, whose front was ‘borded & battened.’ This construction was less expensive than panel work, and formed a screen before the women's seats, as does that in the present Unitarian and West Medford Congregational Churches. This was on the women's side of the meeting-house. On the opposite, or men's side, a similar ‘seatt’ was built, only there was no foreseat, the space being occupied by the pulpit stairs and deacons' seat.

In 1699 (March 6) the town voted to build a fore-gallery, with three seats from end to end (one-half for men and one-half for women) with stairs at either end. Stephen Francis, John Whitmore and John Bradshaw attended to its construction.

At this town meeting the question of ‘charges’ the seating committee had to struggle with is in evidence. Thomas Willis had given the land, and it was fitting [p. 35] that his generosity should have recognition. So he was given ‘leave to build a pue for himselfe & soe many of his family as may with Convenyance fit therein . . . the pue to be built at the weft corner . . . one side of it to Joyne to the stairs going up into the pulpitt & the other side of said pue to Range with the deacons' seat.’

As ‘charges’ were thus recognized on one side the pulpit, so was ‘quality’ on the other, for here was seated the widow of the wealthiest citizen (Major Jonathan Wade), and according to custom styled ‘Madam Wade.’ How long it took to build the fore-gallery we may not know, but it had not been long in use when the town voted, on January 31, 1700, ‘that only men should sit in the front gallery.’

It seems that Major Nathaniel Wade had been granted the privilege of building a pew at the south side of the meeting-house, which would remove the two back seats on the women's side; but he was to have it finished by the middle of the May following.

It is open to doubt whether the seat on the men's side, next the wall, was constructed in the same manner as the women's seat, as at this same town meeting it was directed that the seat where ‘Mr Hall and Mr Wyre sits’ should be built up the same as where the ‘woman sits.’ That wasn't all, either. The two back seats were to be taken out and the women were to be seated at each side, at the discretion of the ‘committee to seat the town.’ This committee might seat the town, but seating the women was another matter, as we shall see later.

The women were fond of ornament, even two hundred years ago, and the town had, in constructing their front seat, had a row of nicely turned ‘banesturs’ placed along the top of the ‘borded & battened’ front, forming a grille or screen of pretty effect.

Now the men had their innings, and it was voted the seat on the men's side should be built up the same as that on the women's, and be finished or ornamented likewise with ‘banesturs,’ and the town foot the bill. [p. 36]

Well, the men might have their seats raised and their ornamental banesturs if they liked, but for the women to come down from their seats in the fore-gallery was too much to be endured in silence.

The echoes of the indignant protest that the men of Medford town heard in February come down to us in the vote of March 3, 1700, ‘to part the front gallery in the midst, the one halfe for men, and the other halfe for women notwithstanding any former vote to the Conterary.’ This momentous question settled, the pew of Major Wade claimed attention. After making void a former vote, the major was granted ‘liberty to build a pue at the northeast corner of the house taking a part of the pue that’ (his brother's widow) ‘Madam Wade sits in, soe much of it as shall range with the alley and soe run through said pue on the one side and come out on the other side pue so far as to take in halfe of the window, said pue to be built the same hight with the former pue adjoining.’ This was on March 3, and conditioned on being finished by the middle of the next May. The major being provided for, Left. Peter Tufts was next in order. He was to have ‘liberty’ to build a pew that took one-half the room between Major Wade's and a point one foot and a half from the window under the stairs into the gallery on the women's side. Then Thomas Willis was given liberty to enlarge his pew so far as the window, and the same height as before.

Notice these extracts from the town records contain often the word liberty. It is somewhat ominous and prophetic of the day that came seventy-five years later, when Capt. Hall and the Medford Minute Men marched up High street to Lexington.

Another thing; the preciseness of the record and the detail of description furnish the data from which we are able to furnish a plan of ‘ye Olde Metinghouse.’ The Rev. Charles Brooks, in the History of Medford (1855), gives (I think) a mistaken impression of it, both as to its size and appearance. [p. 37]

Accustomed to the drawing and use of plans as has been the writer, it seems fitting to present a plan of this ancient edifice that will agree with the ancient record book of the town. Right here it is also fitting that acknowledgment of the valuable assistance of Mr. John H. Hooper should be made, and without which the task would have been much more difficult to accomplish.

The placing of certain families in these various pews seems not to have lessened the duties of the seating committee, for on May 19, 1701, Left. Peter Tufts and Deacon John Whitmore were ‘joyned’ to it, and also ‘Sergt. Stephen Willis if his brother Thomas should be out of the way.’ Whatever that may mean, it is evident that there was careful provision for a full quota, as the record reads, ‘all votes to the conterary notwithstanding.’

Major Wade was evidently to have the chief seat in the synagogue, if we judge by the record, but he was dilatory in its construction, as at this time (a year after the grant) the same was confirmed, but limited a little, ‘onely not to goe farther then the first Barr in the window.’

The next thing to demand the town's attention was ‘the two hinde seats between the doors.’ We must remember that the town meetings were held right there, and all details could be accurately observed on the spot. Ebenezer Brooks had been granted a pew space, but it was vacated by his accepting one elsewhere, and it was next planned to make of this area two pews for four families.

At the next yearly meeting the question of alterations seems not to have come up; but the town had a reckoning with Ensign John Bradshaw, and it was found that for labor performed and the minister's board, ‘from the beginning of the world unto this day,’ there was due him (errors excepted) the sum of £ 16, 16s, 6d. We were a little in doubt last year as to the accuracy of the two hundred and seventy-fifth anniversary, but what of this long-standing account? This settled—and what a relief [p. 38] it must have been!—and the town was ready next year , 703, for a review of the pew business, and as Major Wade was still dilatory, he was directed to take his choice of two pews named within one week. This hastened the valiant major's movements, and he selected the one next the madam and in the corner near the pulpit, and Peter Tufts and Jonathan Tufts the other two. Stephen Willis and John Francis had those opposite on the west side.

It will be noticed that all the pews the town had allowed to be built were adjoining the walls, leaving the central portion for the ‘body of seats,’ with an alley from the door on either side and before the ‘little pue’ and deacons' seat.

At this point it is well to consider the peculiar situation of affairs existing, for Medford was a peculiar.

Soon after the meeting-house was built Mr. Benjamin Woodbridge was invited to preach. As he lived in Charlestown, the town provided a horse for him to ride to and fro (coming on Saturday and returning on Monday), and paying two shillings therefor, if well shod. The reverend gentleman had been ordained to the ministry in Connecticut twenty-eight years before, and was somewhat over fifty years of age. The town, careful of his comfort, in the bargain about the horse, arranged that he might ride to meeting on the Sabbath, when there should be occasion. It is hardly likely that he did so when he lodged with John Bradshaw, as his home was only across the way.

Notice just here again we said the town; there was no church or organized body of worshipers, though some effort was made by Mr. Woodbridge during his stay for such. He desired to reside in Medford, and wished the town to build him a house, which would have been larger (2 ft. wider and 8 ft. longer) than the meeting-house was. The town declined to do so, and he proceeded to have one built, but becoming involved in difficulty with the workmen, more troubles followed.

These at last were terminated, and the town began to [p. 39] look about for another to succeed him. In May, 1712, their choice fell upon a young man of twenty-three years, Mr. Aaron Porter, who accepted the call and became the Reverend Mr. Porter by his ordination on February 11th next following. Notwithstanding a violent snow-storm on the preceding day, it is said that more people came than could get inside the meeting-house. The town made generous provision for their entertainment, appropriating eight pounds therefor, but somehow the expenses doubled, as at the March meeting the bill amounted to sixteen pounds. At the same meeting were presented the bills incurred at the fast-day occasion that preceded the call of Mr. Porter—one from Ebenezer Brooks for ‘neats toong & cheefe at ye fast 00-03-6,’ and one from ‘Capt. Peter for veall at ye fast, 00-06-3,’ and another from Mrs. Hall ‘for intertainment of ye ministers at ye fast, 01-02-00.’

The meeting-house had been built for sixteen years, and some minor repairs were made. John Whitmore, Sen.'s, bill was ‘two days & halfe mending meeting-house fence 00-07-06,’ and ‘nail to mend ye meeting-house 00-01-00, two casements & caping them, 00-07-00 & two turned posts for ye meeting-house, 00-05-00.’ Three shillings per day would hardly satisfy the carpenters of the present time. The windows not only needed new sashes but glass, and twenty-nine shillings and six pence were required for this, and Ebenezer Nutting, who was the constable, put in his bill for 00-02-8 for stays and hooks for the windows. Stephen Hall's charge for work and hooks and hinges for the meeting-house, was 00-07-6. Stephen also furnished three shillings and four pencea worth of posts for the fence. From these items we may readily see that there was a sort of renovation made with the coming of the new minister. Unfortunately, we may never know the items that made up the sixteen pounds expense at Mr. Porter's ordination. If they had ‘veall, neats toong & cheefe’ at the fast, we may be assured that on this occasion, the first of its kind in town, the best, both solid and liquid, was provided. [p. 40]

Earlier in the day the ministers and representatives of six churches in near-by towns assembled at John Bradshaw's house, and there the new church, the First Church of Christ, in Meadford, was organized, or, as it was termed, ‘gathered.’

Fifteen men signed the covenant, but no women. Four bore the name of Hall, three that of Whitmore, three more of Willis, two of Brooks, and one each of Bradshaw, Francis and Pierce. After this was done the council adjourned to the meeting-house, where Mr. Porter was ordained, he preaching his own ordination sermon. The custom is different today, and so are many other circumstances and environments. It is recorded that in the winter of 1700 it was ‘so cold in the Medford meeting-house, that men struck their feet together, and children gathered around their mothers' foot stoves.’ Fancy that, ye people that growl at the sexton if the temperature of our modern churches, or perchance the ventilation, isn't just satisfactory!

That day they sang the one hundred and thirty-second Psalm, and it wasn't accompanied by any organ music, either. The old Bay Psalm Book was probably used. A few months later the minister had a wedding present of one, in ‘turkey leather,’ on which his uncle looked and set the tune, and a little later the town ordained ‘that such Person as shall Read the Psalme Shall Sit in the deacons Seat.’ This functionary read a line (perhaps two) and the people sang them, then more were read and sung, so the psalms and hymns were said to be ‘deaconed.’ Sometimes the deacon had a ‘pitch-pipe’ to sound, thus assisting in getting the pitch or keynote. Organs were unknown in New England, as also hot-air and steam heaters, and over a century was yet to roll away ere a stove was installed in a Medford meetinghouse. Our observation is that the taking of the Sabbath collection—offering, we call it now—is something of an art. How was it in ‘ye olde first meeting-house?’ There seems not to have been any table there then, but there may later have been one. [p. 41]

A month after the ordination John Whitmore and John Bradshaw were chosen deacons. Evidently John Whitmore had successfully passed his examination of four years before, as the town had ‘voted to call John Whitmore to account by what order he held out the contribution box, and how he disposed of the money that was put therein.’ Possibly he had some depreciated currency or tainted money to contend with. Anyway, somebody put in some ‘black-dogs’ on one occasion, and those had been known to be counterfeited. Church treasurers have some queer experiences.

For a year later the record reads, ‘John Whitmore Senr. refusing to hold out the contribution box on the Sabbath as formerly, the town made choice of Thomas Willis Senr. to receive the contribution money and account therein with Insigne Bradshoe.’

With the settlement of a resident pastor there seems to have been a call for increased accommodations in the meeting-house, as on the 9th of May, 1713, a committee was ‘empowered to grant liberty to some young men they shall think sutable, to build a gallery over the side gallery on the west side of the meeting-house, and give them their orders and upon what terms they shall build sd. gallery, and order the stairs therefor.’

As there had been, hitherto, no mention of any side gallery, the elevated platform that was ‘borded & battened’ in front, and ornamented with ‘banesturs’ was most likely meant. This view is borne out by the fact that the west was the men's side, and the proposed gallery was for young men who were ‘sutable,’ and rested upon the two turned posts that J. Whitmore made.

Furthermore, the same committee was directed ‘to consider what they think most proper to be done in their meting-house for better accommodation . . . more convenient room by a table, pews or galleries, and report at the next town meeting.’

So on May 12 the town voted to go on to finish a front gallery on the beams of the meeting-house, with stairs convenient for the same. [p. 42]

When the deacons were chosen by the church, on March 1, it was decided to celebrate the Holy Sacrament of the Lord's Supper on the 22d, and every sixth week thereafter, so the table needed to be provided, and this was to ‘reach so far as the door of the little pue under the pulpit.’

After this three pews were built next the front wall between the doors, but there was no alley before them, as the house was becoming too small. Deacon Bradshaw had the one on the right of the men's door, and Madam Porter (the minister's wife) the one on the left of the women's. Both of these could be entered from the alleys; the one between them could not. It was Ebenezer Brooks', and the town made a virtue of necessity and allowed him to cut a doorway into his pew through the front of the house. An evidence of the growth of the town and increased attendance is seen, that in January, 1714, the partition in both the front and upper gallery was moved over a little, to make room for one more man in each of the men's seats, i.e., five men, three in the first or fore-gallery, and two in the ‘gallery on the beams,’ or ‘uper gallery.’

In 1717 the ‘rail’ in the body of seats was also moved eastward, to accommodate five more men, and, strange to say, there was no protest from the women.

So many pews had been built that the body of seats had been reduced to five rows, as seen in the moving of the rail. And now a word about these pews. They were not such as we now see in church edifices of modern build, but were rectangular enclosures, such as may be seen in King's Chapel in Boston. They had a seat for one person in the front corner next the alley, and across the opposite end and back side, with a door next the alley, and when one was seated only his head was visible above the enclosure, unless perchance the open space between the ‘banesturs’ allowed the children to have a game of peek-a-boo, which wasn't safe to indulge in, for the ‘tytheingman’ was ever watchful.

[Continued in July Register]

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