Warwick — Churches

Extracted from "History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts, Volume II," by Louis H. Everts, 1879.

      The first mention in the records touching church matters appears under date of 1753, when the committee appointed for the building of a meeting-house was instructed to proceed in that business. The house was to be 35 feet long and 30 feet wide, with 19 foot posts. In August, 1754, the church committee reported that a contract had been made with Messrs. Mason & Perry for the building of the church as provided, and that the contract price was £26 13s. 4d., the proprietors to defray the expense of procuring the slit-work on the spot. The contractors agreed to have the frame ready by the 1st of the ensuing October, and the proprietors agreed to pay for the raising entertainment. So far from having the frame ready as stipulated, the contractors had, by March, 1755, only cut ten or twenty trees toward the frame, but, being given more time, finished it late in 1755, and in April, 1756, after some controversy touching the location of the house, the frame was raised by towns-people and persons from Northfield and other places, and located where the road from Royalston to Northfield was intersected by the road to the pond. The present Unitarian Church stands near the site of the church above referred to.
      Although the frame was raised in April, 1756, and although the proprietors voted in 1757 to appropriate £4 for inclosing the meeting-house, the frame was still uncovered early in 1759, although properly inclosed shortly afterward. In May, 1760, it was resolved by the proprietors "to raise the sum of £18 lawful money to defray the charge of some suitable orthodox minister's preaching upon probation within said township during the summer season." Although the records do not say so, yet it is likely the Rev. Lemuel Hedge, of Hardwick, and a graduate of Harvard, was engaged to preach upon probation, since in September, 1760, the proprietors gave Mr. Hedge a call to settle, and proposed to give him a yearly salary of £60 for five years, besides a settlement of £80 and the privilege of laying out 100 acres of land near the meeting-house, in lieu of the 100 acres in the second division falling to the minister's right. To this offer the inhabitants agreed to add 35 cords of firewood annually, and Mr. Hedge, accepting the terms, was ordained Dec. 3, 1760, on which date, also, the First Congregational Church was organized with 26 members. Mr. Hedge -touching whose Toryism during the Revolution recital is made elsewhere-was pastor nearly seventeen years, and died in Hardwick, in October, 1777, although he was buried in Warwick, where a tablet, erected in the Fisk cemetery by his children, commemorates his virtues. In 1761, £72 were voted to finish the meeting-house, and it was agreed to build a pew for Mr. Hedge.
      At the second town-meeting, in 1763, it was agreed to pay Mr. Hedge a salary of £60 until such time as there should be 80 settled families in the town, and after that his salary was to be increased at the rate of 13s. 14d. for each additional family settled in the town. In this year it was again resolved to finish the meeting-house.
      The church was without the services of a settled minister from the time of Mr. Hedge's defection until September, 1779, when Rev. Samuel Reed, of Middleboro', and a graduate of Yale, was ordained, the call having been extended to him the previous December, and the offer of £675 (Continental money) as a settlement having been tendered him, with a salary of £60 the first year and £70 thereafter, said salary to be paid in money equal to rye at three shillings and sixpence per bushel, and corn at two and eightpence per bushel, 30 cords of wood yearly being also promised him. In 1786 a contract was made with Capt. Samuel Langley for the erection of a new meeting-house, which was to be 58 feet long and 42 feet wide, with a porch on the front of the house sufficient to contain convenient stairs to go up into the galleries. The church was to contain 39 pews on the ground-floor and 20 in the gallery, and was to be finished in two years, at a contract price of $1500. Capt. Langley finished the house according to contract, but at a pecuniary loss. This meeting-house was built for the church society, and to it the town agreed to donate the old meeting-house, conditioned that the society gave to the town a deed of all the privileges in the new house, and permitted members of all Christian denominations to worship in the building.
      For some years previous to 1792, Rev. Samuel Reed had been supported by a fund created from the interest on certain notes issued by those who wished to support him to the amount which each wished to contribute. In August of this year it was agreed that the fund heretofore raised for the support of a Congregational minister should be withdrawn. In 1793 a committee reported that 305 acres of the ministry land had been sold for £239, and the income of this fund has since been devoted to the support of the ministry. In 1794, Rev. Mr. Reed became, by agreement, the town's minister, instead of the society's, and he was to have for his yearly salary £70 in silver, at six shillings and eightpence an ounce, 20 cords of wood, and the money for which the ministry lands had been sold as a loan, upon which latter he was to pay the interest to the town.
      In this year, also, the General Court was petitioned to repeal the act incorporating the Congregational Society of Warwick, and the ministry fund created by the same. In 1798, Rev. Mr. Reed claimed that the town had failed to support him according to contract, and requested his dismissal, but this request he subsequently withdrew. While still pastor of the church, Rev. Mr. Reed died in July, 1812, and in June, 1814, Rev. Preserved Smith, Jr., being offered a call, was ordained the following October as the next settled minister. About this time the church changed its creed to UNITARIANISM, and it has thus remained to the present day.
      In 1836 a new church building (the present Unitarian edifice) was erected near the site of the old one, at a cost of $3000, and provided with a bell, which was the first church bell brought into Warwick.
      Rev. Preserved Smith continued to serve the Unitarian Society until 1844, when he was dismissed at his own request. Mr. Smith is still living in Greenfield, Mass., at the age of ninety. Since his retirement, preaching has been supplied by Revs. D. H. Barlow, Samuel F. Clark, G. F. Clark, Luther Wilson, Abraham Jackson, John Goldsbury, J. S. Lincoln, J. B. Willard, W. A. P. Willard, and others.
      The Unitarian ministers who originated in Warwick were Revs. John Goldsbury, Nathan Ball, Amory Gale, Stillman Barber, Amory D. Mayo, and Henry H. Barber. Preaching is at present supplied to the society by Rev. A. Tufts. The church membership numbers about 40. The society received in 1864, from Mrs. Mary Clapp, of Dorchester, Mass. (but a native of Warwick), a donation of $1000, and in 1868, upon her eighty-fourth birthday, another similar donation. In the latter year, also, Miss Mary Ann Hastings, of Framingham, Mass., bequeathed the society $1000.

The Baptist Society Of Warwick

      The Baptist Society Of Warwick, which was partly in Warwick and partly in Royalston, was, by the town's consent, incorporated in 1806. There were Baptists in Warwick as far back as 1774, for under that date an article in the town-warrant read,—"to see if the town will take into consideration the certificates of the differing societies of those persons that call themselves Baptists, and pass any votes respecting their being taxed to the minister, any or all of them." The tax was probably not remitted, for in 1775 members of the Baptist Society sued the town to recover the minister's tax which had been collected from them, and not long afterward the Baptists were relieved of the tax.
      The Warwick Baptists worshiped at the West Royalston Church, and, in 1798, 22 members of this church withdrew for the purpose of organizing a church in Warwick. The church was accordingly organized, but in 1803 united with the West Royalston Church, although the Warwick Baptists enjoyed occasional preaching in their town after the reunion.
      In January, 1843, 14 members of the Baptist Church of Royalston and Warwick petitioned to be set off as a branch church at Warwick Centre, and in August of that year the church at Warwick was organized with 23 members. Rev. E. M. Burnham was the first pastor, and among his successors have been Revs. L. Fay, S. S. Kingsley, Caleb Sawyer, J. G. Bennett, E. J. Emory, G. B. Mills, Lyman Culver, Erastus Andrews, L. F. Shepardson, E. D. Daniels, H. H. Woodbury, C. Farrar. Rev. Mr. Watrous is the present pastor. The society owns a house of worship at Warwick Centre, and has a fund of $1000, bequeathed in 1872 by Daniel Pierce. Revs. Ebenezer Barber, Henry Holman, and Jonathan Blake (Baptist ministers) originated in Warwick.

The Universalist Society Of Warwick

      The Universalist Society Of Warwick was incorporated in 1814. Revs. Robert Bartlett, John Brooks, Stillman Clark, T. Barrow, E. Davis, and John H. Willis were the preachers to 1852, since which time the society has had only occasional preaching, and never owned a meeting-house. Revs. Caleb Rich, Robert Bartlett, Ebenezer Williams, and John Williams, from Warwick, became Universalist ministers.

The Second Congregational Church

      The Second Congregational Church was organized in 1829, with 30 members, the most of whom had withdrawn from the Unitarian Church, and in 1833 the church edifice, now located in the upper village, at Warwick Centre, was built. The first settled pastor was Rev. Samuel Kingsbury, in November, 1833, previous to whom, however, preaching had been furnished by Revs. A. C. Page, Job Cushman, Eliphalet Strong, and others. Rev. Roger C. Hatch succeeded Mr. Kingsbury in 1835, and preached until 1853. Mr. Hatch continued to reside in Warwick, and died in 1868,aged eighty. The preachers who followed him included Revs. D. C. Frost, Henry M. Bridge, E. H. Blanchard, Mr. Bissell. E. R. Bassett, and others. Rev. John Gannon, of Orange. supplies the preaching at present.
      Among the Congregational ministers who have been natives of Warwick may be noted the following: Revs. John Fiske. Moses Fiske, Swan L. Pomeroy, Nahum Gould. Junius L. Hatch, John Leonard, Francis Leonard, Levi Wheaton, and Geo. W. Barber. It may likewise be noted that Rev. Levi B. Stimson, an Episcopalian minister, was a native of Warwick.

These pages are © Laurel O'Donnell, 2005, all rights reserved
and cannot be reproduced in any format without permission
This page was last updated on
14 Jul 2005