During the latter part of the last century, and in the early years of the present, the advantages of its natural position suggesting the landing at the head of tide-waters, on Weymouth Fore River, as an important and desirable situation for business-purposes, an active and busy population began to gather there; and it soon became the centre of large business, social, and religious interests.
On account of the distances of the old meetinghouses, at North Weymouth, Braintree and Quincy, where the people were accustomed to attend religious worship, one of the first needs that presented itself was a meeting-house centrally located, and commodious enough to accommodate the already large and rapidly-increasing community.
Accordingly, in the spring of 1810, for the purpose of accomplishing this desirable object, forty-three individuals associated themselves together by an instrument bearing date of March 13 in the same year. Their first meeting was held on that day, and a committee appointed to purchase the church-building about to be taken clown in Hollis Street, Boston.
The purchase was made ; and, March 21, the association voted unanimously to rebuild the house on the site which it now occupies. The foundations were laid; and on Monday, May 10, following, the frame of the building was raised in the presence of a deeply-interested and delighted company; Rev. Messrs. Strong of Randolph, Weld of Braintree, and Norton of Weymouth, being present by invitation, and assisting in the public exercises, the first offering an appropriate prayer.
A petition, signed by the proprietors of the house, and others uniting with them, was at once presented to the legislature, then in session, for an Act of Incorporation under the name of "The Union Religious Society;" but, owing to the lateness of the session, no other action was taken than to notify all parties in interest to appear before the next session of the legislature, and show cause, if they had any, why the ^petition should not be granted.
On the 27th of the following August, a meeting of the petitioners was held, at which provision was made for the support of public worship, as soon as the new house, now rapidly approaching completion, should be ready. A subscription of sufficient amount to provide for this was raised, and a committee chosen to supply the pulpit.
"The meeting-house was opened for public worship for the first time, on Lord's Day, Nov. 10, 1810; and the first sermon preached therein by the worthy Mr. John Frost, who supplied the pulpit four sabbaths, greatly to the acceptance of the society."
At the next session of the legislature, an Act of Incorporation, bearing date Feb. 21, 1811, was granted to seventy-nine persons, under the name of "The Union Religious Society in the Towns of Weymouth and Braintree;" and thus the legal organization came into being.
The first meeting of the new society was held March 5, 1811, of which Major Minot Thayer was moderator; Josiah Vinton, jun., was chosen clerk; Elihu White, treasurer; and Joseph Allen, Jacob Richards, Jacob Allen, and Josiah Vinton, assessors. The society also voted at the same meeting to raise five hundred dollars to defray its expenses for the year.
The necessity of a church organization to act in connection with the society was apparent; and the initiatory steps toward its formation were at oncc taken. A preliminary meeting was held at the house of Major Thayer, for that purpose, Aug. 2, 1811, at which Rev. Messrs. Norton of Weymouth, and Storrs of Braintree, were present by request. Deacon Ebenezer Hunt was chosen moderator, and Josiah Vinton, jun., clerk. A committee of three, consisting of the moderator, David T. Hayward, and Minot Thayer, was appointed to prepare "Articles of Faith and Covenant" for the consideration of the church, and to consult in the work the pastors present, and Mr. John Frost.
The preparations were speedily made; and a council was convened, Aug. 14, 1811, for the purpose of completing the organization of the church. It consisted of the 2d Church, South Weymouth, Rev. Simeon Williams, pastor, and Deacon Torrey, delegate; ist Church, Weymouth, Rev. Jacob Norton, pastor, and Deacon Bates, delegate; church in Randolph, Rev. Jona. Strong, pastor, and Deacon Allen, delegate ; and the church in Quincy, Rev. Peter Whitney, pastor, and Deacon Spear, delegate.
The council examined the proceedings thus far had, with the letters of dismission and recommendation of those proposing to form the new church, and, finding them satisfactory, proceeded to complete the organization in due form, by appropriate exercises, in which Rev. Mr. Strong offered the introductory prayer, Rev. Mr. Norton preached the sermon, Rev. Mr. Williams gave the fellowship of the churches, and declared them, after their assent to the confession and covenant, to be a church organized in due form, and in fellowship with sister churches ; after which the concluding prayer was offered by Rev. Mr. Whitney. Thus began, with twenty-eight members, the Union Church of Weymouth and Braintree.
A call was immediately extended to Mr. John Frost to become the pastor of the new church and society, at a salary of seven hundred and fifty dollars per annum ; but the call was declined.
In the following November, the church and society united in an invitation to Mr. Daniel A. Clark to settle over them at the same salary as that offered to Mr. Frost. The call was accepted, and a council called to ordain and install him. Considerable difficulty occurred in completing the arrangments for his ordination, in connection with the invitation of Rev. Mr. Holley of Boston, who was thought to be somewhat heretical, as a member of the council; Mr. Josiah Vinton, jun., declining to act on the committee on behalf of the church, "as he could not conscientiously sign all of the letters missive," and several, also, 'of the reverend gentlemen invited, refusing to sit on the council, for the reason of Mr. Holley's alleged heresy.
The letters for the first council were sent out and recalled, and a new council was called, consisting of the churches under the care of Rev. Messrs. Emerson of Salem, Emerson of Beverly, Emerson of Reading, Thomas of Abington, Judson of Plymouth, Richmond of Stoughton, Williams of Weymouth, Whitney of Quincy, Gile of Milton, and Weld of Braintree; and it was voted by the church, and agreed to by the council, when assembled, that the delegates from those churches whose pastors had refused to act on it be invited to sit as members.
The council met Dec. 31, Rev. Simeon Williams acting as moderator, and Rev. David Thomas as scribe, and proceeded with the service as follows ; introductory prayer by Rev. Mr. Gile, the sermon by Rev. Dr. Griffin of Boston (not of the council), charge by the moderator, right hand of fellowship by the scribe, consecrating prayer by Rev. Mr. Emerson, and the concluding prayer by the scribe.
The meeting-house was also dedicated at the same time.
After a short pastorate of less than two years, in consequence of some disaffection on the part of a few members of the church and society, and some difficulty in raising the amount of his salary, on the first of October, 1813, Rev. Mr. Clark offered his resignation, which was accepted ; and a council, consisting of Rev. J. Strong of Randolph, and Rev. Samuel Gile of Milton, — the former of whom was moderator, and the latter scribe, — met Oct. 20, advising a separation, and fixing the terms.
A year or two of great financial difficulty to the society followed, during which the pulpit was supplied from sabbath to sabbath, and through the winter of 1813-14, mainly by a Mr. Curtis.
During the pastorate of Rev. Mr. Clark, the church added eight to its membership, -- six on profession, and two by letter.
On the 2d of January, 1815, the society hired Mr. Jonas Perkins of Bridgewater to supply the pulpit for three months, at the rate of five hundred dollars per year salary, whose ministrations were so acceptable, that, before his term of service had expired, the church and society gave him an almost unanimous call for settlement.
The call was accepted; and a council to ordain and install him met June 14, 1815. The following churches were represented : Rev. Mr. Norton's of Weymouth, Rev. Mr. Williams's of South Weymouth, Rev. Dr. Reed's and Rev. Mr. Huntington's of Bridgewater, Rev. Mr. Whitney's of Quincy, Rev. Mr. Thompson's of Rehoboth, Rev. Mr. Gile's of Milton, and Rev. Mr. Storrs' of Braintree ; Rev. Mr. Williams being moderator, and Rev. Mr. Whitney scribe.
At the public service, Rev. Mr. Whitney offered the introductory prayer, Rev. Mr. Thompson preached the sermon, Rev. Dr. Reed made the consecrating prayer, Rev. Mr. Norton gave the charge, Rev. Mr. Huntington the right hand of fellowship, and Rev. Mr. Gile offered the concluding prayer.
In the fall of 1828, the church accepted, with many thanks, the gift of "a neat and commodious vestry," from the hands of Deacon Jonathan Newcomb and others, the need of which, for the smaller meetings, had begun to press heavily.
The pastorate of Rev. Mr. Perkins, covering, as it did, forty-six years of active service, with fifteen added years upon the retired list, deserves more than a passing mention. It was long and successful, resulting in great good to the church and society, increasing largely their material as well as their spiritual strength, adding to the membership of the church, principally during three powerful revivals, three hundred and twenty-two members, — two hundred and forty-nine on profession of their faith, and seventy-three by letter from other churches. During the spring of 1828, fifty-four united with the church on profession, in 1832 forty-five were added, and thirty-four in 1842.
Consecrating his whole powers to the work of the gospel ministry, uniting in himself ripe scholarship, excellent judgment and discrimination, with firmness of purpose and the strictest integrity, his was a character of the most admirable proportions. A wise and faithful pastor, he was eminently a peacemaker, and when, at the full age of seventy years, in accordance with long-expressed plans, he resigned his office, and retired from its duties, he carried with him the affection and respect, not only of his own church and society, but that of the whole community where he lived.
He offered his resignation under date of Sept. 16, 1860, to take effect on the 15th of October following, preaching his farewell sermon Oct. 21. The resignation was accepted, and his pastorate closed, although he still continued to reside with his old charge until his death, June 26, 1874.
On the 28th of September, 1860, a call was given to Rev. E. Porter Dyer of Hingham to become pastor of the church and socicty. The call was not accepted.
The same year, in December, a call was extended to Rev. Lysander Dickerman of Gloucester, to the pastorate of the church, at a salary of a thousand dollars per annum ; and a council met to install him Jan. 17, 1861, at which were present: Berkeley-street Church, Boston, Rev. H. M. Dexter; Mather Church, Jamaica Plain, Rev. A. H. Quint; First Church, Braintree, Rev. Dr. Storrs ; Second Church of the same ; First Church, Weymouth, Rev. J. Emery ; Second Church, Rev. J. P. Terry; Union Church, South Weymouth, Rev. S. H. Hayes ; Pilgrim Church, North Weymouth, Rev. S. L. Rockwood ; First Church, Abington, Rev. F. R. Abbe ; Second Church, Rev. H. L. Edwards; Third Church, Rev. H. D. Walker ; North Church, Rev. William Leonard; Church in Glover, Vt., Rev. S. K. B. Perkins; Church in Hingham, Rev. E. P. Dyer; and Crombie-street Church, Salem, Rev. J. H. Thayer. Rev. Dr. Storrs acted as moderator, and Rev. J. H. Thayer, scribe. The following was the order of exercises at the installation. Introductory prayer and Scripture by the scribe, sermon by Rev. Mr. Dexter, installing prayer by Rev. Mr. Dyer, charge to the pastor by Rev. Jonas Perkins, right hand of fellowship by Rev. A. H. Quint, charge to the people by Rev. Dr. Storrs, closing prayer by Rev. F. R. Abbe, and benediction by the pastor.
Public services in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the settlement of Rev. Mr. Perkins were held June 14, 1865 ; a very enjoyable occasion, full of pleasant memories.
On the 19th of June, 1867, a council — consisting of five Weymouth churches, one of Dorchester, three of Abington, two of Braintree, and two of Randolph — met (and adjourned to the following day), Rev. J. Emery, moderator, and Rev. J. C. Labaree, scribe, at the request of the pastor, to consider the expediency of a dissolution of the pastoral relation existing between him and the church. The council advised such a dissolution, according to the terms of settlement. His ministry accordingly closed in July of that year. During the pastorate of Rev. Mr. Dickerman, forty-eight united with the church, — twenty-six on profession, and twenty-two by letter.
After an interval of nearly two years, Rev. A. A. Ellsworth of Milford was hired for a year, beginning April 1, 1868, and remained as acting pastor until the fall of 1871, being engaged from year to year, declining, in 1870, a call as pastor, which had been extended to him by the church and society. He resigned his office in 1871, and the church was again left without a minister. During his term of service, there were added to the church, eight by profession, and ten by letter.
The society accepted, Jan. 10, 1872, a gift of the cellar under the meeting-house, from Deacon S. W. Nash, rights to the occupancy of which had been acquired by certain persons many years before. These rights had long been a source of much annoyance, which had now grown serious, interfering greatly with all plans for the improvement of the house. Happily these difficulties were now removed by this timely and generous gift; and the society proceeded at once upon improvements, that resulted in the present pleasant and commodious edifice, which was re-dedicated Jan. 1, 1873, with appropriate exercises.
More than two years after this time, the pulpit being supplied in the mean time, from sabbath to sabbath, the church and society united in extending a call to Rev. Lucien H. Frary of Middleton, to become their pastor, and he accepted the call. A council for his, installation met April 13, 1875, at which the following-named churches were represented; those of Weymouth and Braintree (except the Second of South Weymouth), with Prof. John Tatlock, LL. D. of Pittsfield ; Rev. F. P. Chapin being moderator, and L. B. Voorhees scribe. The services were conducted as follows : Invocation by Rev. B. Voorhees, Scripture-reading by Rev. J. C. Halliday, introductory and installing prayer by Rev. F. P. Chapin, fellowship of the churches by Rev. T. A. Emerson, charge to the pastor by Rev. James McLean, address to the people by Prof. Tatlock, the concluding prayer by Rev. Mr. McElroy, and benediction by the pastor.
The church was organized Aug. 14, 1811, with twenty-eight members ; since that time, there have been added by profession, to July 4, 1875, two hundred and sixty-six, and one hundred and forty-three by letter ; making the entire membership from the beginning four hundred and thirty-seven, of whom one hundred and thirty-six now remain as members.
1. "Historical Sketch," Manual of the Union Congregational Church of Weymouth and Braintree, July 1875, pages 5-15.