Montague — Churches
Extracted from "History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts, Volume II," by Louis H. Everts, 1879.
The earliest mention touching the matter of preaching occurs in the record of a meeting in 1751 of the freeholders of the second parish of Sunderland, when it was resolved to have preaching, and Deacon Mattoon was appointed "to get a man to preach with us."
Between that date and Dec. 1, 1755, the records are silent as concerns either preacher or meeting-house. It is, however, known that Rev. Judah Nash, of Longmeadow, and a graduate of Yale in 1748, was ordained as pastor of the church in 1752. The first meeting-house is supposed to have been erected in 1753. At the meeting above noted (1755) it was resolved "to have six windows on the back-side of the meeting-house, two of which should be on the back-side of the pulpit." It was further resolved "to plum the Bords to Cover the Back-side of the meeting-house." At the same meeting liberty was given to any number of men to build pews for themselves in the meeting-house, it appearing that at that time the district felt too poor to seat the meeting-house. Further, it was resolved to hire a shell blown at Lieut. Clapp's for a signal on the Sabbath-day.1
In 1759 the district purchased this shell of Lieut. Clapp for £1 10s., and agreed to pay Joseph Root 20s. for blowing it one year. In 1755 it was agreed to procure wood for Rev. Judah Nash, and the inhabitants were notified by a committee to "bring it in." The price of this wood was fixed at 15d. per load.
As a vague indication of the location of the first meeting-house, the records, under date March, 1757, speak of a bridge over Saw-mill River "near the meeting-house."
Oct. 3, 1757, it was resolved to finish the body of the meeting-house with pews, "except two or three short seats in the body near against the end doors."
In the following November it was agreed to choose nine "suitable and meet persons" to seat the meeting-house. In December of that year the selectmen were directed to buy a cushion for the desk of the pulpit. In May, 1758, Stephen Corbin was fined £1 "for his neglect of attending public worship on the Lord's Day." The money was disposed of for the benefit of the poor of the district.
In 1759 the salary of the Rev. Judah Nash was increased from £44 16s. to £53 6s., at which latter the rate was to continue during his ministry. In 1763 it was voted to give Asahel Gunn 2s. for turning the key of the meeting-house during the year ensuing. In 1764 five young men—Israel Gunn, Ezra Smead, Daniel Clapp, and two others--were given permission to erect a pew in the meeting-house at their own expense. The Rev. Judah Nash was provided each year regularly, until 1765, with about 60 cords of wood; and one day was usually designated as the day on which it should be hauled into the village by the inhabitants.
In 1767 the district renewed its agreement to furnish Rev. Judah Nash firewood annually, and agreed, moreover, to allow him yearly £1 4s., to be laid out in "candle-wood." Then, also, a contract was made with Asahel Gunn, who was to receive 2s. provided "he takes care that the meeting-house doors be opened and shut properly during the ensuing year."
In 1770, at a town-meeting, it was voted that no child under ten years of age should be allowed to "go up Galary," and that "the tithingmen bring down Such Bois out of the Galary as are Disorderly, and set them Before the Deacon Seate."
It appears from the records that the members of a Baptist society in Montague, worshiping in Leverett, declined to contribute toward the support of Rev. Mr. Nash, and the town therefore commenced legal proceedings against them. In 1770 the proceedings were probably abandoned, for, at a town-meeting that year, it was ordered that "the present assessors be enabled to raise such a sum of money as those people was rated (that call themselves Baptists) in the minister's rate the last year, in order to enable the constables to discharge their last year's rates without distraining on the said Baptists for the present, and that said constables shall wait on said Baptists until they shall have orders to collect the same." At the same meeting it was voted "the tythingmen to take their turns to set in the Gallery this year."
June, 1772, Moses Harvey and Nathaniel Gunn, Jr., on behalf of themselves and other Baptists, entered their dissent against converting the money arising from the sale of common-lands toward the repair of the meeting-house in Montague. In 1772 it was voted to "seet" the meeting-house gallery. In 1793 it was voted to "pant the meeting-Hous," and to "Cullor the meeting-Hous the same of Sunderland." About the year 1800 the custom of blowing a shell as a signal on Sabbath-days gave place to that of ringing a bell from the belfry,—a bell having been obtained from Cabotville.2
The old Congregational Church was undoubtedly located on the site of the present post-office, in Montague Centre, and the church which was torn down in 1834--the year of the erection of the present Congregational Church in Montague Centre--was probably the one built in Montague in 1753, of which Rev. Judah Nash was the first pastor. The church now used--above alluded to as having been built in 1834—is a commodious and substantial structure, and is the most conspicuous edifice in the village. The present pastor, Rev. J. W. Kingsbury, was installed in 1877. Rev. Judah Nash was the pastor from 1752 to 1805,—the year of his death. Following him, to 1877, the pastors were Aaron Gates, Moses Bradford, Benjamin Holmes, James H. Merrill, Brown Emerson, F. B. Perkins, Edward Norton, and Chas. H. Daniels. The church has now a membership of 186.
A BAPTIST society was organized in Montague as early as 1767, near the line of the town of Leverett, in which town the worship was conducted. The church was, in 1791, called the Baptist Church of Leverett, and, later, the Baptist Church of Leverett and Montague. Its history will be more fully set forth in the history of Leverett.
An EPISCOPAL society was organized in 1815. It never had a house of worship, contained but few members at its best, and became extinct shortly after 1850.
The UNITARIAN Church was organized in 1828, but had no church building until 1834. In that year the Congregational Church members were divided on the question of locating the proposed new Congregational Church building, and as a result of that division a number of Episcopalian and Unitarian attendants at the church joined together and erected the present Unitarian Church in Montague Centre. Among the pastors who have preached for the society were Revs. Timothy Rogers, Joseph Field, Rodolphus Dickinson, Luther Wilson, John A. Williams, Wm. H. Bradley, N. O. Chaffee, Davis Smith, Claudius Bradford, Orange Clark, and A. D. Fuller. J. Q. Cummings is the "'present pastor, and the number of members is about 75.
There are at Turner's Falls four church buildings and six church societies. The English Methodist Church, organized in 1869, has a church building and a membership of 32. The present pastor is Rev. C. R. Sherman. The German Methodist Society, organized in 1871, has a church building and a membership of 25. Rev. A. Flammann, pastor of the German Methodist Church in Greenfield, supplies the pulpit.
The Roman Catholic Church was organized about 1870. The attendants upon public worship number about 600. Rev. P. L. Quaille is the pastor in charge. The Baptist Church building is owned by the State Convention. Rev. John Shepardson, pastor of the Baptist Church in Greenfield, supplies the preaching. The society includes about 30 members. There are also at this place a German Lutheran society and an English Congregational society, neither having, however, a church edifice. Rev. A. Mueller, pastor of the German Lutheran Church at Greenfield, preaches for the former, and Rev. L. S. Parker, of Miller's Falls, for the latter. There is a Congregational society at Miller's Falls, in charge of Rev. L. S. Parker. It was organized about 1870, and has about 40 members, who worship in Union Hall. "Union" religious services are held at Montague City each Sabbath in Goss Hall, at which members of all denominations worship in common. Rev. E. A. Wyman, formerly pastor of the Baptist Church at Turner's Falls, supplied the preaching in 1879.
1 Meaning a conch shell.
2 Now Chicopee.
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09 Jul 2005