Historical Note

The First Congregational Church was orignally organized in 1765 when Whitman Welch was called to Williamstown to serve as preacher. In the years following, the Congregational Church served both College and town as well as providing a site for town meetings. In the past, several College presidents presided over the congregation: Ebenezer Fitch, Zephaniah Swift Moore, Edward Dorr Griffin, and Mark Hopkins. Although the College had previously managed to peacefully coexist with the local community, the first instance of town and gown conflict occurred when the two distinct personalities of Reverend Ralph W. Gridley and President Griffin could not agree on how to lead the Church. Reverend Gridley resigned in 1834, and Pres. Griffin took over the position of church pastor.

Important dates in the church's history are as follows:

1765 Congregational Church first organized; Whitman Welch hired and served until his death in 1776; meetings conducted in log schoolhouse.
1768 First log meetinghouse built due to dissatisfaction with the schoolhouse.
1779 Seth Swift serves as pastor until his death in 1807, college and church relations strengthen during his tenure.
1798 Second meetinghouse built; original building moved and then purportedly burned down by unknown sudents who wished to rid the town of the eyesore.
1816 Reverend Ralph W. Gridley leads congregation until his resignation in 1834.
1859 Low sense of spiritualism, and newly organized local churches plagues community by drawing members away.
1865 Church's centennial year. Reverend Mason Noble helps restore spiritual zeal of the community, and 59 new members added.
1866 Second meetinghouse burns down.
1869 New building completed, and known as the New Congregational Church; because of the burdensome debt accumulated, Albert Hopkins serves as pastor without salary until his death in 1872. Rev. Albert Cole Sewell (W.C. 1867) ordained in 1871, installed 1873 served until 1886.
1914 Building remodelled.
1934 Church applies for and receives incorporated status, a change which unifies the church and parish. Name changed from First Parish to First Church.
1947 Church redecorated.

First Congregational Church Records, 1779-1961

Scope and Content Note