There are no pictures of the old meetinghouse, but it is known that
once the various different church affiliations built their own structures,
the town abandon and sold it, and it was moved to Concord. A new
town hall was built in 1850, where it still stands today. The only
true record of someone remembering the old meetinghouse was in a
speech given at Old Home Day in 1901 by Mary L. Cass. Read the article.
of an Old Lady
By Mary L. Cass
OLD HOME DAY ADDRESS
August 21, 1901 Epsom, New Hampshire
Probably there are
but a few present this afternoon that ever attended a church service
in the old meeting house that stood on the hill at what has been
called the Center.
I wish I could show
a picture of the building, but I do not think there is one in existence.
I used to go to the meeting there (as it was called, - not attending
church) more than seventy years ago and can remember perfectly well
just how it looked and the people who attended the service.
It was a large square
building with three outside doors one facing the South, the
front door; one on the East and another on the West; each of these
doors entered directly into the meeting room; no entries or halls.
A walk or aisle led
directly from the front door to the pulpit stairs. There were several
steps up into the pulpit which was enclosed by a partition so high
that when the minister was sitting down he could not be seen by
anyone upon the floor.
Over the pulpit was
the sounding board, as it was called; a sort of canopy attached
to the ceiling by a slender rod.
top of the pulpit or desk was covered with a dark cloth trimmed
with a fringe. Upon this desk lay the large Bible and the hymn book.
At the front of the
stairs directly in front of the pulpit was the communion table which
was a plain pine board hung to the partition by hinges so that it
could be let down when not needed for use. Between this table and
the pulpit was the Deacons seat.
There was an aisle
around the room far enough from the wall to give room for a row
of seats or pews; these pews around the outside were raised one
step. There were sixteen of these square pews in the center of the
floor eight upon each side of the center aisle.
There were two long
seats in front of the pulpit known as the old mens seats;
the tythingman also sat there.
There was a large
gallery upon three sides which was reached by two flights of stairs.
A row of pews was built against the wall, while in front of the
gallery over the front door and opposite the pulpit were the singers
Upon the East side
of the gallery was a long seat where the young women and girls sat,
called the girls seat and upon the West side was the boys seat.
Whenever the boys
got to whispering or making a noise, you would hear a sharp tap-tap-tap
on the floor and see the cane of the tythingman pointing toward
the offender. I do not remember ever seeing the cane pointed towards
the girls seat; perhaps that was because I never sat there myself.
This building was
guiltless of paint either upon the inside or out.
began at half past ten and the form of worship was similar to what
is followed at the present, except that the long prayer was a long
one indeed; the people were all expected to stand during it and,
as many of the seats in the pews were hung with hinges, it was customary
to turn them up while the people were standing so that the preachers
Amen was frequently supplemented with the slamming of
the seats as they were dropped down.
In any of the pews
you might see two or three flag bottomed chairs for the use of the
older members of the family. These pews could accommodate perhaps
a dozen people and were frequently occupied by two or more families.
The morning service
lasted until noon, the sermon often being an hour long. Then came
an hours intermission when there was a general handshaking
and inquiry after each others welfare etc.. The dinner baskets or
bags were opened and their contents enjoyed; and after luncheon
was eaten, the snuff boxes were passed and they had a jolly good
time. I remember particularly the big bright snuffboxes of Dea.
Ira Sanborn and Moses P. Gray, Esq. and how the old ladies seemed
to enjoy the treat.
The young women and
girls usually went out for a stroll in the graveyard just back of
the church if the weather was favorable and then over to squire
Merrills shed to get a drink of cold water from the deep well.
older men usually
remained in the house but the younger men and boys took their dinners
out doors and either on the doorsteps or out on the common in groups,
ate their lunch and enjoyed themselves.
In the cold weather
the men folks would go to Capt. Heaths Tavern (last owner
was Watson Ambrose) and warm their feet by his big fire and their
goodies with a generous mug of flip. I have frequently been to that
same place for coals to replenish the fire in my Mothers foot
stove, for during the cold weather they always carried these and
went to some of the neighboring houses at noon for new fire.
There were no conveniences
for a fire in the old meetinghouse and in the Winter the services
were held in the vestry where there was a fire.
At precisely one oclock
the minister came again and everyone at once took his accustomed
place and the services were renewed. Before the pastor began his
long prayer, he frequently read a note from some of his parishioners
asking for special prayer in their behalf; if a person were sick,
prayer was asked for him; were there a death in the family, prayer
was asked that this dispensation of Providence might be sanctified
to the relative and friends; if a child was born, thanks was returned;
all joys and sorrows were remembered. The afternoon service was
equal to the morning and the last prayer was followed by the singing
of the Doxology.
It was generally past
three oclock when we got home from meeting and as we were
obliged to leave home by half past nine, we made quite a day of
it, - yet there were others who had farther to go.
I could tell much
about the occupants of the different pews for they come distinctly
to my mind as I think of this old meeting house in which my parents
and grandparents worshiped; and not only my ancestors but the ancestors
of very many perhaps most of this company, but lest I weary
you, I close.