A Page from North Quabbin History: Phillipston Congregational Church predates the town

  • Phillipston Congregational Church on the Common. Plans are being made for renovations at the church, vestiges of which date to 1784. Wikipedia

Published: 10/4/2021 1:42:37 PM
Modified: 10/12/2021 9:18:51 AM

Before Phillipston was Phillipston, before it was even Gerry, what was to be the town was known as Narragansett 6 West Precinct, part of what is now Templeton.

The residents of Narragansett 6, West Precinct, decided the church in Templeton was too far to go so they decided to start their own town. At that time, in order to become a town, a district had to have a church that would also serve as a meetinghouse. In what was to become Phillipston, townspeople began the building of the meetinghouse/church in the autumn of 1784. “It didn’t look like it looks now,” said Jane French, curator of the Phillipston Historical Society and organist for the Phillipston Congregational Church. “It was quite a bit smaller. There was no steeple, no front section with columns and the building was facing down the street,” she continued. The district became the town of Gerry in 1786, named after Congress member from Massachusetts, Elbridge Gerry.

In 1837, a young boy on his way home from dinner saw the Deacon Oliver Powers turning the church building on a cannonball by horse so it faced a different direction. When the boy told his father what he had seen, he was not believed until his father went to the center of town and saw the event for himself. The town was renamed Phillipston in 1814, after the residents became angered with Gerry for redistricting borders for political reasons and also the fact that he had promised windows for the church that were not delivered.

Pieces of the church’s early years still exist, according to French. Some of the original pew doors decorate the stairway leading to the vestry, while others can be seen on the church pews themselves.

There is also a faceless wooden clock from 1880, made by Alfred Clifford. The clock was connected to the bell, allowing it to ring at certain times. The bell has since been electrified.

The granite that forms the posts and slab in front of the church was provided by Deacon Oliver Powers and quarried from the town itself. An 1812 organ purchased in 1835 is still used during the summer. The organ is one of six Goodrich-Appleton organs in the country. Goodrich was a Templeton native. “The church is likely to have it; it still works,” French said.

Plans are being made for renovations at the church including the repair/replacement of the steeple trim, repair/replacement of the roof, refurbishing all the windows, replacement of the boilers and the wood paneling in the basement. The cost of the assessment is expected to be approximately $14,500 of which $5,000 has been raised so far. Those interested in donating to the preservation can send donations to The Congregational Church of Phillipston, 62 The Common, Phillipston, MA. 01331. All donations should be marked Church Preservation.

Carla Charter is a freelance writer from Phillipston. Her writing focuses on history with a particular history in the history of the North Quabbin area. She also serves on the town’s Cultural Council, Historical Commission and Community Preservation Act Committee. Contact her at cjfreelancewriter@earthlink.net

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