Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Congregational Church

The Congregational Church 

When you look at this picture, it will be almost impossible to place this location today. Both the building in the foreground and the church in the background are long gone. The snapshot was taken in April, 1969 and the photographer is standing on Washington Street. The corner is at the intersection of Neponset Street where the small convenience store is now. 

The church is the Congregational Church and the classic structure was dedicated in 1860. The total cost was $6895.00 and in a large part the families of the community donated generously. Built by John Ellis Seavey whose family has a long and illustrious connection with Canton. 

Of interest is the fact that the interiors, pews and pulpit along with the top of the steeple  were all constructed by one man; Hugh MacPherson. According to the stories, MacPherson was simply visiting the town of Canton when the first loads of lumber arrived to build the church. A devout Baptist, MacPherson nevertheless assisted and soon became a deacon of the very church he helped to build. Thus is the power of transformation. 

As for our friend Hugh MacPherson, I have seen a series of photographs taken at Revere & Sons Copper Yard after they moved from Canton and the watchman was named McPherson - which is spelled a bit differently but it is believed to be the same person.  The photo to the left shows McPherson with his dog. A query to Jim Roache yields great additional information. Roache found the death record for Hugh MacPherson indicating that he died on January 22, 1924 and was born in Glascow, Scotland in 1836. In fact, in 1868 there are only two MacPhersons living in Canton; Hugh and David. Hugh lived on Church Street - around the corner from the new Congregational Church. David MacPherson seems very well off being taxed for 8 horses and nine carriages, but living at home. My sense is that it is likely that David was John's brother and lived here in Canton when John came to visit in 1860. David enlisted in the 24th Mass at age 21 (1861) as a Drummer, Appointed Pricipal Musician May 1863, re-enlisted Jan. 1864 and was discharged Jan. 1866. David was also born in Glasgow, Scotland (1844) but gave his place of residence when he enlisted as South Reading. 

But I digress, and now back to our church. There are a few vestiges of the original church as reminders to Canton. The organ was donated in 1958 by Mildred Morse Allen and is still in use today at the new church on Washington Street. Also, the four sides of the clock are still in town - and the clock itself and one face is proudly keeping time atop Memorial Hall. As you walk in the Canton Historical Society, immediately on your right is another clock face from the steeple.

In 1961 the church was renamed the United Church of Christ. After 103 years the church needed to be replaced. Largely the congregation had outgrown the church and families needed more space for programs and fellowship. By 1963 a new church was opened near St. Mary's Cemetery on Washington Street and the congregation moved to their new home. The church property was sold to the Mobil Oil Corporation in 1969 for $50,000 and was soon demolished. The parking lot on Neponset behind the convenience store is all that is left of the property. As is often the case, these are ghost images from another time, but in our place that still have bits and pieces connected to our town today.  (photo credit: Kelleher Collection, Canton Public Library)

1 comment:

Geo. said...

Gary Titus of Canton, writes: "My dad had the lightening rod from the church for years at Big D's. The big brown building in front of the church was The Italian Club. The original Canton Town Club may have been on the top floor."