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The 1703 Meetinghouse

THE THIRD MEETINGHOUSE (1703-1758) was erected in a more central location in the village of Topsfield intentionally closer and more convenient to the churchgoers of Rowley Village (Boxford). The site selected for the new Meetinghouse is the same location upon which the current Meetinghouse is situated on Topsfield’s West Common. An elevated rock formation, known as a “sugarloaf,” was necessarily removed, the ground was leveled, and a nearly square structure was constructed measuring 44 feet by 42 feet. The Meetinghouse had a hip roof with a cupola in its center, together with four “lucombs” or large dormer windows, one on each of the four sides of the roof [The Collections of the Topsfield Historical Society, Vol. XXVI, pg. v]. This 1703/4 structure became the third Meetinghouse and served the town and congregation well until it was replaced 55 years later.

In the 1730s the condition of the Meetinghouse and of the 1676 Watch House was increasingly the subject of several town meetings, namely:

  • Town meeting of September 22, 1730: a committee of three was chosen to make a sale of the watch house upon terms they judge best [The Collections, Vol. XIX, pg. 17];

  • Town meeting of May 14, 1731: allowed 16 pounds for continuing repair to the Meetinghouse [ibid, pg. 28];

  • Town meeting of December 7, 1731: allowed 14 shillings for purchase of “half a thousand of short shingles” to repair the Meetinghouse (ibid, pg. 31), and allowed an additional 5 shillings for five hundred feet of board (ibid, pg. 32);

  • Town meeting of September 14, 1732: allowed 4 pounds, 9 shillings for work done on the Meetinghouse and for oil, nails, and Spanish brown, and another 10 shillings for the repair of the Meetinghouse (ibid, pg. 37).

By 1735-6, the town had determined the nearly 60-year-old watch house was no longer required. Accordingly, at the town meeting of March 2, 1736, the town agreed to accept 20 shillings for the bricks removed from the watch house [The Collections, Vol. XIX, pg. 62]; at the same town meeting, the town authorized the sale of the watch house for 40 shillings to Nathaniel Capen, son of Joseph Capen [ibid, pg. 62].

When the 3rd Meetinghouse was taken down twenty-three years later, in 1758, the church records state that “the old house…was used as a barn on the river meadows.” [Historical Manual of the Congregational Church of Topsfield, Massachusetts, 1663-1907, published by the Church, 1907].

A 360 Project of the Board of Community and Communications

Celebrating 360 Years of the Founding of the Congregational Church of Topsfield


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