J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Putting Empty Churches to Use

Like Boston selectmen and deacon Timothy Newell, young merchant William Cheever was keen to note when the British authorities took over the town’s Congregationalist meeting-houses for any purpose. Of course, during the siege of Boston most of the town’s Congregationalists had left, so those big buildings were standing empty.

Here Cheever’s online journal entry for 17 Sept 1775:

This day Dr. [Samuel] Cooper’s Meeting-House was open’d for one Morrison a Deserter from the Provincials, who was dismissed a few Years since from Peterboro in N. Hampshire on Account of Misdemeanours, etc., at which the Scotch people chiefly attended.
John Morrison was indeed a Presbyterian minister from New Hampshire. He marched down to Boston with his local militia, and then defected on 26 June. The meeting-house where he preached, on Brattle Street, was Boston’s richest and most genteel—which just added to the insult, as far as its congregation was concerned.

For 15 November, Cheever wrote:
Almost every House whose Owner has gone out of Town is taken up for the Troops: and the old South Meeting-House is turn’d into a riding School for the light Horse, the Pews and Galleries being taken down—many of the other Places of Worship are turn’d into Barracks.
Of course, there were American troops sleeping in the deserted Anglican church out in Cambridge.

TOMORROW: A dramatic raid.

1 comment:

Paul Wainwright said...

Readers of this page may be interested in my new book, A Space for Faith: The Colonial Meetinghouses of New England, which just won the Independent Publishers 2011 Gold Medal for the best northeast regional nonfiction book of the year. See: www.aspaceforfaith.com .