Duxbury Second Meeting House 2008

Duxbury First and Second Meeting House History

Myles Standish Burial Ground
Recommended Reading
Recomended to Bring on a Dig
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Directions to Project Area
Project Background
Research Design
Project Area Geology
Duxbury Background History
Duxbury First and Second Meeting House History
Field Work Theory and Method

Background research has been conducted to investigate the establishment, constriction and use of meetinghouses in Duxbury. Eugene Joseph Vincent Huiginn wrote The Graves of Myles Standish and Other Pilgrims in 1892. Before this work, noone had seriously examined where the first and second meeting house may have been situated. Huiginn was attempting to identify the location of the graves of Myles Standish, John Alden and Elder William Brewster. He hypothesized that early settlers would be buried near the meeting house, as was common practice at the time. In order to locate the burial ground, which was never directly referred to in the town or county records, he determined he would need to identify the location of the meeting houses first. Huiginn examined various theories regarding the possible location of the meeting houses and then, through the use of cartographic and documentary evidence, deduced that the earliest burial ground and the earliest meeting house, must lie between Hall and Bayleys corners along Chestnut Street.
The first reference to the meeting house was in 1638 when A. Sampson was presented before the court for striking and abusing John Washburn the younger in the meeting house, on the Lord's Day (Huiginn 1892:39). It is known that the minister's houses were located near the meeting house and it is interesting to note that when the first minister's land was laid out in 1637, no mention was made of its association with the meeting house, possibly indicating that the meeting house was constructed after the minister was hired in 1637 (Huiginn 1892: 45). Other references occurred in 1641 when Duxbury was listed as one of eight towns with churches, in 1651 when Nathaniel Bassett and John Prior were fined 20 shillings for a disturbance in the church, in 1684 when Joseph Prior Jr. was paid for mending the pulpit door, in 1692 when Mr. Southworth was paid for glassing the meeting house, in 1698 when it was voted that the gutters of the meeting houses would need to be repaired and in 1706 when Benjamin Prior was allowed to remove the fence between his land and the meeting house's (Huiginn 1982: 39, 40, 41). Regarding the disturbance caused by Nathaniel Bassett and John Prior, it was ordered that at the next town meeting or training day, they each be bound to a post for two hours in some public place with a paper on their heads on which their crime was to be written (Huiginn 1892:40). It is interesting that they were not ordered to be bound to a post at the meeting house, possibly indicating that the Duxbury meeting house lacked a pillory or stocks which many people associate with 17th century meetinghouses.
Using the historic references one can surmise the following about the first meeting house:
-it was built between 1632 when those living at Duxbury were allowed to gather their own church and1638 when the first reference to it appears in the historical record
-it either initially did not have glass in the windows, but was glassed by 1692, or the glass had falleninto disrepair and was re glassed in that year
-it had gutters
-it had a pulpit with a door
-it had a fence separating its yard from that of it neighbor Benjamin Prior
Regarding the location of the first meeting house, the best evidence locating it at the ancient burial ground comes from a 1670 Duxbury record that describes a path to the mill that runs past the meeting house. This appears to be the same path described in 1637 as running from Morton's Hole to Duxbury town (Huiginn 1892: 50). This road, the Duxburrough Path, follows the route of today's south half of Tremont and a portion of South Station Street (Figure x)Wentworth 1973: 17).
It was determined in 1706 that the original meeting house needed to be replaced and that the new meeting house should be 40' long (east to west) 30' wide (north to south), 17' high in the walls to the roof line, and that it should be built within 3-4 rods (50-66') of the old one (Etheridge 1893:202). Common lands were then sold to pay for it, with 180 pounds eventually being raised for the project (Etheridge 1893:202, 205). Captain Arnold and Mr. John Partridge were selected to hire workmen to build the new meeting house (Etheridge 1893: 202). In 1713 several town members were allowed to build a seat in the meeting house (Etheridge 1893:236). The seat was to adjoin the front gallery and stretch the whole length of the gallery from girt to girt. At the same time, liberty was granted to pen (fence or enclose) the meeting house. By 1732 the meeting house appears to have been in disrepair as 9 pounds 2 pence were allotted for repairs to it (Etheridge 1893:243) and in 1742 Joshua Delanoe was hired to shingle the backside of the meeting house (Etheridge 1893:271). Discussions were begun in 1745 about the possibility of building a new meeting house. Lumber was purchased but it was eventually decided to enlarge by 14-17' and repair the existing meeting house (Etheridge 1893:274, 303, 311, 312). It appears that cost was the dominant factor in this decision because even as the discussions began in 1745, the town wanted to entertain the option of trying to find some town member who would pay for the whole construction out of their own pocket (Etheridge 1893:303) and when it was decided that the town would pay for it, the selectmen wanted to make sure that the repairs and enlargement were done at the “cheapest rate” (Etheridge 1893: 312). In1752 someone was hired to supply the pulpit for the meeting house as well, implying either that it had no pulpit before this time or that the Pulpit was replaced (Etheridge 1893: 313).
As another way to raise funds, it was decided to pull down “the two hind seats in the meeting house and to make pews there” (Etheridge 1893: 316). The pews would then subsequently be auctioned off to the highest bidder. This auction occurred on June 10, 1754:
At a public Veadue held at the meeting house in Duxborrough on June 10th 1754. And the Vendue was to sell the new pews in the said meeting house, and said pews were sold to the highest bidder.

The Pew by the Pulpit stairs sold to Joshua Stanford 19- 9-4

The Pew on the right hand of the broad aisle John Samsou Jr 14- 0- 0

The Pew on left hand of broad aisle Israel Selvester 15- 6-8

The Pew on left of front door Nathan Brewster 20-13-4

The Pew on Right front door Joshua Loring 19-9-4

The Pew on next to this Joseph Freeman 13-6-8

Next to the Samsons Gamaliel Bradford 17-9-4

The Pew Corner opposite Womans side John Hunt 12-2-8

The Pew In Galery over broad aisle John Hunt 6-5-4

The Pew In Galery middle Sam1 Seabury 5-9-4"

Corner Pew middle Thomas Southworth 5-12-0

Both hind pews in galleiy Peres Loring 6-16- 0

Middle Pew on Mens Side John Hunt 11-12-0

Corner Pew on Mens side Nathaniel Simmons 12-0-0 “

(Etheridge 1893: 326).

The final mention of the second meeting house in the records was in 1767

when the selectmen decided that there should be a place made in the meeting

house, in the “south end aloft” to keep the town's powder (Etheridge

1893:338). This was two years after the very open opposition to the Stamp

Act and obviously, was in anticipation of possible stronger events to come.

The third meeting house was constructed in 1787 on Tremont street farther to

the north and west of the first two and closer to the geographic and economic

center of the town.

Using the historical records, what can be surmised regarding the second

meeting house is this:

-it was built in 1707

-it initially measured 30 x 40 ' x 17' high and eventually enlarged 14-17' in


-eventually was plastered

-it was shingled, at least on the back side

-it had a gallery

-it had a pulpit

-it had a broad alley

-it eventually had box pews installed

-it had a fence on the outside at least on one side

-after 1767 it was used to store the town's powder

-it lasted until 1787 and was likely sold off

Like the Old Ship Meeting House in Hingham, the Second Meeting House in

Duxbury appears to be a First Period structure which replaced and earlier

First Period meeting house. Both the Old Ship and the Second Meeting House

began as structures slightly larger than squares (Old Ship 55 x 45', Second

Meeting house 30 x 40') which were enlarged by 14-17'. Both were

unplastered originally with plaster being added later (possibly indicating that

the Second Meeting House was clapboarded on the interior like the Old Ship) and both had box pews added in the middle 18th century. Interestingly, in both

cases the box pews were auctioned off to the highest bidders.


Enter supporting content here

Copyright 2008 PARP