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The Fourth Meetinghouse (1760-1843)


60-1843) was constructed by the town, commencing on

July 4, 1760, upon the same site as the previous Meetinghouse. Measuring 54 feet in length and 42 feet wide, with a twenty-six-foot stud, and costing 743 pounds, the new building was nearly a quarter larger than the previous structure. One hundred men, “fortified with hard cider and rum,” gathered to raise the new building, which also featured a steeple. A model of the building is believed to be in

the possession of the Historical Society. In 1817, at a cost of $400, the town purchased the bell inscribed with the words “Revere & Company, Boston, 1817.” Weighing 938 pounds, and acknowledged as Revere’s last bell, it was cradled in the church’s steeple, and first rung on the Sabbath Day of July 6, 1817. The town voted that the bell be rung on “all public days and tolled for funerals.” [The Collections of Topsfield Historical Society, Vol. XII, pg. 108].

*Image credit from the Topsfield Historical Society.

In Volume 17 of The Collections, at pages 139-140, is an article from The Salem Gazette in which a detailed description of the construction of the 1759 meetinghouse is set out. The author, Nehemiah Cleaveland, asserts that the entire town and parts of others came together to raise the substantial and “mighty” oak framing timbers using muscle and willpower as the primary labor devices, aided by “one barrel of rum and twelve barrels of cider.” He concludes his recollection of the venerable Meetinghouse most eloquently:

Will the pictured memory ever fade of those square pews, with their little banisters, so convenient to twirl – so pleasant to peep through; their uncushioned seats, which were hung up on hinges, and raised in prayer time, and which followed up the Amen, with a loud rattling, running report, like an old-fashioned militia fire; and the flag-seated chairs, that stood in the centre, for mother, or grand-ma’am, or spinster aunt? There were the long, free seats – there was the Elder’s pew, with iron stand for hourglass and christening basin – and there the Deacons’ straight, snug box, where those good men were wont to sit, with their faces to the people and their backs to the minister – “the observed of all observers,” and examples of the highest edification, when they happened to be dozy.

By 1840, however, the structure was in evident disrepair and, in February, 1842, the congregation formed a committee to determine whether to repair or raze the venerable Meetinghouse. By April, 1842, the committee determined to replace it and sold off as much of the

structure as possible during that summer. The sum of $222.82 was received from sales of pieces of the 1760 meetinghouse. Part of the frame and boards were sold to Capt. Perley Tapley of Danvers who hauled them to Salem where they were used in the construction of a large tannery building on Boston Street. On the evening of August 11, 1906, the tannery building was destroyed in and by the Great Fire of Salem.

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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