360 Year Anniversary
THE CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH OF TOPSFIELD was founded
(“gathered”) on November 4, 1663, 360 years ago. The nearest town was Rowley,
nine miles distant, although Rowley Village (later Boxford) was down the road and
contained sixteen families, all of whom attended worship services in our early
Meetinghouses. Those first families of Boxford, including the ancestral family of
Joseph Smith, the Prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints,
petitioned the colony’s legislative General Court to join the Topsfield congregation as
well as the town’s militia. They also petitioned for a right to be exempt from training
with Rowley’s militia and from the obligation to contribute to the Rowley ministry.
The General Court ruled that whatever the villagers decided to do, whether to align
spiritually and secularly with Topsfield or Rowley, would be permitted by the Court.
They chose Topsfield and shortly thereafter a new and larger Meetinghouse was
constructed in 1663 and located where the current Smith Family Memorial monument
now stands in the southeast corner of the Pine Grove Cemetery.
In its first 180 years (1663-1843), the Congregational Church of Topsfield was
witness to King Phillip’s War, the Salem witchcraft delusions, the Revolutionary War,
and the War of 1812. The congregation grew in number and worshipped in four
successive Meetinghouses (1655, 1663, 1703, and 1759). Its ministers expelled Satan
and were instrumental in establishing the town’s public library. The Church, then as
now, serves as the heart of the community.
In the second 180 years (1843-2023), the 5th and current Meetinghouse was
opened for worship and remains open and welcoming to all who seek the Way of the
Lord. It still stands in architectural splendor and historical significance in the center
of town, facing east towards a new day and a new era. The enduring congregation,
formed 360 years ago, intends to enter into another cycle of life and deems its nearly
four-hundred-year existence as merely the end of its beginning.