The Old Meeting House
Claremont, N.H., 1792-1895
Transcribed by K. Torp
The Old Meeting House.
The first mention of the Meeting House occurs as follows in the town records :
"Att a meting of the inhabetents of the Town of Claremont warned accord to Law on march the 3th. A. D. 1774 for the choise of Town officers & Holden att the meting house in said town Deac'n Matthias Stone was chosen moderator & att the same meeting Benjamin Sumner was chosen Town Clerk and sworn."
From this record it would appear that a town meeting place had been provided for in some manner: whether by unanimous consent at some dwelling or at the place of worship, does not appear from the records. (Traditionary history places this meeting house on Town Hill, the building being used "for the double purpose of school, and religious worship.)
Meetings were held continuously in or at "Ye meeting house", however, until March 31, 1779, when it was voted "To build a meeting house provided the Inhabitants agree upon a Spot to set sd House on, with or without a committee from court." At this meeting it was ,'Put to a vote that sd. house be set on a lot called the town lot and also on the most convenient spot nearest the rode that comes on said Town lot from Lt. Ellis'; Negatv'd. Voted in the affirmative to set sd. Meeting house in ye most convenient spot on ye West end of the Lot No. 29 first division, Said Lot the town had of Messrs Tho's and Timothy Dustin." [The present site.]
"Meeting adjourned to second Monday in April.
"April 12, 1779. Met at the Meeting house in said town. Att the same meeting reconsidered by negativing a vote passed upon Article second with respect to a spot to set ye meeting house on.
"Att the same Meeting Voted in the affirmative that a meeting House be set on the most convenient spot in the town lot or Fair.
"Att the same meeting voted to chuse three men out of the neighboring towns for a committee to assist the Inhabitants of son, Esq., a descendant of one of the early settlers and also a relative of Matthias Stone on the maternal side, we have the information that the meeting house was built there by Mr. Stone.
Matthias Stone had become one of the settlers in the early commencement of the war, removing here from Barre, Mass., and purchasing a large tract of land. He was accompanied by several sons and relatives all of whom settled in the immediate vicinity. It is therefore obvious that Stone was anxious that the new village should be located on his possessions, and, being a man of some means he voluntarily erected this building for the use of the Congregational Society. Mr. Wilson states that it must have been erected later than 1780, as the workmen who raised the structure took dinner at his grandfathers house, and the house had been erected in that year. The Society were not satisfied, evidently, with the location, as the frequent meetings testify, and we are informed that the building was taken down and the timbers used in the construction of the new hall or church, our present, or rather late, town house. The town records which were the church records also, are strangely silent in the matter, but from tradition only two generations removed, there seems to be reasonable proof of the statements. Matthias Stone became involved in debt and removed to Cabot, Vt., where he died, the encumbrance on his property not being paid nntil many years afterward
In the records of the town occur at intervals, protests from indivduals against the payment of rates, or taxes for the support of the Congregational society; the final mention of the matter is as follows :
"Sept. 6, 17S5 : Voted that those people that call themselves Baptists pay no more rates to the Congregational order for the Fewter."
As will be seen by the following record the Congregational Society met at the school house a few rods south of "Atkins Bridge," (that being the name by which the present Broad St. bridge was known.)
Aug. 27, 1787 : The inhabitants of Claremont of the Congregational Society notified beforehand met at the school house a few rods south of Atkins Bridge and voted that public worship of that society be held at that place.
Aug. 19, 1788: It was "voted that the society continue to hold their meetings at this school house until a more convenient place was provided and also voted To pick the flat of ground east of said school house for to be the place for the meeting house." That the meeting house was built between the 30th of Aug. 1790 and the 4th of Nov. 1791 is evident from the following records : "Aug. 30, 1790: Voted that the Congregational Society will build a meeting house for to hold Publick worship in. Voted that they will set it on or near the west end of the 29th lot or School lot.
"Nov. 4, 1791. The petition of ten or more of the inhabitants of the town of Claremont that are legal voters in town meeting of the Congregational order, to see if the town will except of the Meeting house a a present;. To see what method the Town will take towards furnishing sd. house. [Signed] Elihu Stevens, Ziba Stevens, Joel Matthews, Elihu Stevens Jr., Abner Matthews, David Atkins, Gideon Kirtland, Phillip W. Kibbey, Timothy Cowles, Samuel Atkins.
The meeting was held Nov. 28, 1791 and chose Ambrose Cossitt, Esq., Moderator. "Then proceeded to try their Minds whether the town would aid Except of the new meeting house as a Present, and voted in the Negative that they would not."
Jan. 19, 1792. A special town meeting was held at the meeting house and adjourned to the school house near said meeting house. The last record in regard to the place of meeting as being held at the meeting house occurs on March 13, 1792, as follows: "Voted to hold public town meetings at the Meeting house for the year ensuing."
From time to time votes were passed in town meeting to repair, paint, or otherwise care for the building and it would appear that the town had the use of the building for the necessary repairs. Nov. 3, 1807 it voted to consent to the addition, which was to be modeled after the Concord meeting house, provided it be without expense to the town, and that the pews be sold at ''Public Vendue." Samuel Fiske, Thomas Warner, and Gideon Handerson were appointed a committee to obtain the consent of the owners of the wall pews; and Thomas Warner, Samuel Fiske, and Alexander Peckens were appointed a committee to make contracts for said addition and superintend the construction.
Dec. 14, 1807, the committee reported they had sold the pews as follows:
No.l.Alex. Peckins, $48.00 2. Abraham Fisher, 48.00 3. Samuel Fiske, 48.00 4. " " 50.00 5. Caleb Ellis, 50.00 6. " " 48.00 7. " " 44.00 8. " " 45.00 9. G. Fiske, 33.00 10. Caleb Ellis, 45.00 11. Levi Turner, 38.00 12. S. Fiske, 40.00 13. E. Gookin, 44.00 14. Col. J. Stevens, 40.00 15. Theophilus Clark, 40.00 16. Dan'l Parmalee, 45.00 17. Peter Parmalee, 39.00 18. Caleb Ellis, 39.00 19. Nathan Parmalee, 37.00 20. John Hitchcock, 36.00 21. E. Gookin, 36.00 22. David Stone, 33.00 23. JohnAukers, 28.00 24. C. Ellis, Alex. Peckins, T. Clark, E. Gookin and S. Fiske, 100.00 25. E. Gookin, 23.00 26. C.Ellis, 21.00 27. E. Gookin 23.00 28. C.Ellis, 25.00 29. Jennings Ellis, 29.00 30. Gawen Armor, 29.00 31. Rufus Handerson, 34.00 32. Elisha Flinar, 35.00 Total $1,272.00
Also, the first pew in the old part on the east side of the broad aisle and adjoining Solomon Putnam's to Capt. John Barron for $70.00.
The payment was made as follows : One-half the amount in cash, half of which was to be paid June 1, 1808; the other by Oct. 1, 1808; the other half of the purchase money to be paid in beef cattle by Nov. 1, 1808 or grain by Jan. 1, 1809.
The gallery was sold June 9, 1808, when it was "voted to sell all the pews in the gallery front of the steeple and porch."
No. 1 pew adjoined the east passage way. They were numbered consecutively and sold as follows:
No.l. David Dexter, $12.00 2. Solomon Walker, 15.00 3. Gideon Handerson, 15.00 4. David Dexter, 15.00 5. " " 15 00 6. Rev. S. Farley, 14.50 7. Samuel Fiske, 15.00 8. Josiah Fisher, 15.00 9. Abraham Fisher, 15.00 10. Peter Parmalee & Gowen Armor 16.00 11. Col. Josiah Stevens, 15.00 12. Dan. Baldwin, 15.00 13. Francis B. Vose, 15.00 14. Abraham Fisher, 15.00 15. David Dexter, 15.30 16. Theophilus Clark, 15.35 17. Abraham Fisher, 16.00 18. David Dexter, 12.00 19. Col. Josiah Stevens, 14.00 20. David Dexter, 12 00 Total $292.25
In 1827, or thereabouts, the clock was placed in the belfry, being paid for by subscription at a cost of about $350. This was built by Thomas Woolson of Claremont who also made others for the towns of Lebanon, Bethel, Vt. and Concord. Woolson was in his way a wonder at invention and occupied a building which stood on the land now occupied by the residence of P. P. Coburn.
The first record of there being a bell occurs in the warrant of Nov. 4, 1808, the article being passed over at the meeting. March 14, 1809 it was voted that the bells of the church and at the meeting house be rung at the expense of the town, and the selectmen and wardens were empowered to employ suitable persons to do the same. The town accounts show that this duty was performed by Elisha Fargo and J. Stewart, the former receiving the sum of $28.00 and the latter $21.00. It is said that this bell was paid for by subscription and that many of the citizens contributed silver spoons, old coins and other bits of metal which were cast in the bell. It became cracked and was sold for old bell metal and the present one bought in its place, Nov. 1881. of the C. H. Meenely Bell Co., Troy, N. Y., the difference in price being $450.00.
In 1821 horse sheds were built on the front line of the burying yard, nine being north of the passage way to the yard and three south.
The vote of the town stipulated that the sheds should not exceed 12 feet in height, 9 feet each in width, and 18 feet deep; to have but one roof and to be arched and painted in front. They were occupied by the following petitioners : Samuel Blodgett, Caleb Baldwin Jr., Dan Baldwin, William Blodgett, Joel Matthews, Asa B. Knights, David Stone, Seth Matthews, Walter Ainsworth, Geo. Bond, Ephriam Tyler, and David Matthews.
In 1824, March 9, a committee consisting of Col. David Dexter, Samuel Fiske, Isaac Hubbard, Joel Goss and Thomas Woolson were appointed to report on the expediency of erecting a suitable building for the use of the town. This committee reported on Nov. 1 of the same year that as the town might become a half shire town it was thought best to wait. In March 1826 the town voted the sum of $200.00 for the purpose of repairing and painting the Congregational meeting house provided the town could have the use of it for town meetings. The above records are taken from the town books and as will be seen, the possession of the meeting house was in the Congregational society. In 1835 or 1836 the society built a new church on Pleasant St., the same one now occupied by them, and the old church was sold by the society to the town on Nov. 18, 1836, for the sum of $300.00, Josiah Stevens acting for the society as agent.
In 1867 the hall was entirely re-modeled under the superintendence of B. P. Gilman, and re-dedicated January 15, 1868.
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