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In earlier days

At the present time public assemblage of people in Medford can on occasion be readily accommodated in its various church edifices and halls. How was it a hundred [p. 60] years ago—or less? We are led to this query by the following quotation from an historical address of the Rev. James T. McCullom, on the fiftieth anniversary of the formation of the second church in Medford.
On the first two Sabbaths, the meeting was held in the upper story of Mr. Francis' bake-house, the building now occupied by Mr. Lauriat as a manufactory. After this, a hall was fitted up in the Medford House, where religious services were held till the completion of the church building.

The above is sent us by an interested contributor who writes:

I never saw it anywhere else.

It was received without question and is doubtless correct. Had it not been, there were those then living and perhaps present to have challenged it.

The occasion in question was one of a sort that was almost new to Medford; one that required the ‘courage of their convictions’ of the participants.

Medford was then (1823), one hundred and ninety-three years from its settlement, a town of about one thousand five hundred inhabitants. Its third meetinghouse had served the people for fifty-three years both for religious worship and secular assembly, and the forty-eight years of the settled minister, Dr. Osgood, had just closed.

Respect for him had kept the varying thought of the people well in check, and it is said he would tolerate no rival pulpit in his domain, regarding all such as interlopers. But this could not always be.

The parting of the ways was near—indeed had been reached the previous year, as we will later notice. Under the system of church and parish then operating, any dissenting views or doctrine must find other than the meeting house for promulgation.

In 1823, places of public assemblage were few, and consisted mainly of such halls as the taverns afforded, notably that earlier of Hezekiah Blanchard, and then and later, the Medford House. [p. 61]

To those who forsook the stately meeting-house up old High street, and turned into the lane (now Ashland street) and climbed the stairs to the second floor of Mr. Francis' bake-house that summer day, the contrast must have been great. Perhaps it was too great, as only two Sabbaths were spent there, and better quarters secured. Again this quotation tells us where. Mr. Cummings in his excellent paper only says—

A hall in the neighborhood was fitted up.

This bake-house room was later used in the gold-beating business and finally demolished in 1896. It was of brick, substantially built, and served its purpose well.

But there was another old brick house, in recent years demolished, on Ship street, called ‘the College,’ where in 1822 some people not of the old Medford church assembled. More unsuited for such purpose than the bake-house was this dwelling, and in the evening their worship was transferred to ‘the hall in one of the hotels.’ In this case we are fortunate in knowing the name of the preacher, Rev. Josiah Brackett of Charlestown, and also the texts he preached from. Beside the river on Main street (where is now the four-story building of brick) stood a two-story wooden building. In this was the ‘Mead's Hall,’ to which the Methodists, who first met in the ‘College,’ transferred their services until the building of their first house of worship on Cross street. It must have been a busy hive in the olden days. Here is the late Francis A. Wait's description of it.

The house at the river was old and low studded: set back from the sidewalk more than the others and required six steps up to the first floor, and steps from the street to the eating-room in the basement, kept by John and Peter Danforth. A Mrs. Hathaw lived in the rear; entrance from the street level. An old bachelor shoemaker named Pat Conely1 lived and worked in the south end; Wyman & Locke, butchers, in the north end.

Mr. Wait illustrated his note by a sketch of this house, showing a fourth entrance, to the end away from the [p. 62] river, probably that by which the hall on the second floor was reached, and adds

John D. Small started business in the large room.

We would here observe that Mr. Small's successors are in a building longer used for church purposes.

In 1831 the Universalists began their services in ‘Kendall's Hotel,’2 but by the time the Baptists needed accommodations Medford had its Town Hall, that later sheltered the Methodists while their second home was in construction, and likewise Galen James' second colony the Mystic Church, and also the Roman Catholic. The early services of Grace Church were held in the Odd Fellows Hall, though the pleasant fact is recorded that the initial service was in one of the Congregational churches loaned for the service, and, in accordance with the custom of the Episcopal communion on the Christmas festival, was fitly decorated with evergreen.3

We have thus covered the places of beginning of the various orders of religious worship of old Medford, gathered from authentic sources. This is suggested by the quotation which our correspondent found in print nowhere else.

1 See Register, Vol. IV., p. 72, for James Hervey's mention of Connoly.

2 Register, Vol. IV., p. 27.

3 Register, Vol. V., p. 96.

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