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Rockport’s Historical Buildings–Week 6: The Congregational Church

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Rockport’s Historical Buildings–Week 6: The Congregational Church

Congregational Church of Rockport

Congregational Church of Rockport

First Congregational Church of Rockport UCC

Congregational Church of Rockport

First Congregational Church of Rockport UCC

First Congregational Church of Rockport UCC

Congregational Church of Rockport

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Last week we looked at one of the oldest residences in Rockport. This week, we will look at the history of the Congregational Church.

As people began to settle in Sandy Bay, public buildings were needed. In the early days of Sandy Bay, residents went to churches in Annisquam or where Grant Circle now stands. In 1724, a schoolhouse was built where the Congregational Church now stands. This building was used as a meetinghouse when the weather was too bad to make the journey to Annisquam. However, as the population grew, another meetinghouse was needed.

In 1755, when Sandy Bay became Gloucester’s fifth parish, the first meetinghouse was built on Cove’s Hill. While small, this building worked for the community. There was no bell, no spire, no music. After the Revolutionary War, in 1805, a new meetinghouse was built where it stands today, after the site became available when the schoolhouse was taken down in 1797.

Since 1805, the Congregational Church has had an important role in history. One of the first ministers, Pastor Cleveland, served as a field chaplain in the French and Indian War, and also helped to found Dartmouth college. He was also a chaplain in the Revolutionary War, and his son was an officer at the Battle of Bunker Hill.

On September 8, 1814, during the War of 1812, a British ship, the Nymph, invaded Sandy Bay. They captured the fort at the end of Bearskin Neck, but when another ship entered the harbor, the church bell sounded the alarm. The British fired at the bell to silence it, hitting the steeple instead. When they fired though, the force broken through the bottom of the barge, and the soldiers were captured as the swam ashore. A prisoner exchange was arranged, and the British left Sandy Bay. The cannonball can still be seen at the Congregational Church.

In 1843, under Pastor Gale, the church voted resolutions supporting the Abolitionist movement. Following the civil war, in 1865, ex-president Franklin Pierce stood in front of the church and invited soldiers back.

Over the following century and a half, the Congregational Church has undergone multiple restorations in order to preserve one of the oldest and most well-documented Churches around. This church stands as a reminder that Rockport’s history is not unimportant.

At the request of a reader, next week’s edition will focus on the Cable House. Thanks!

Do you know of a historic building in Rockport? Let us know and we may feature it! Please contact us at tlt@rpk12.org and use the subject line “Rockport History”

The information in this article comes from the Congregational Church website. To read more, visit http://www.rockportucc.org/about.htm

About the Writer
Nathaniel Kirby, Local Events Contributor

Nathaniel Kirby is a junior at Rockport High School and is involved in many of the school's clubs, such as the Green Team and the Math Team. Nathaniel...

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Rockport’s Historical Buildings–Week 6: The Congregational Church