First Congregational Church of Hampton
By Dr. Donald J. Rankin, Pastor
"On October 14, 1638, Rev. Stephen Bachiler and fifty-five settlers from Massachusetts laid out Winnacunnet Plantation and organized what is now the oldest Congregational Society in New Hampshire, and the second oldest continuous Church fellowship in the United States."
So reads the beautiful plaque at the doorway of The First Congregational Church of Hampton. As our Nation begins the celebration of its 200th birthday, The First Congregational Church celebrated its 337th birthday. During those 337 years, 34 pastors have filled the pulpit of this historic Church.
The Church was founded by The Rev. Stephen Bachiler, the founder of the Town of Hampton. Before their homes were finished, the original settlers of this town, built their first little log Meeting House. This was the first of six Meeting house that the First Congregational Church would have. The bell of this first Meeting house would summon worshippers on each Sunday, and in the Records of the Second Town Meeting, on Sept. 22, 1639, it was voted:- "William Sanborne (with his consent), is appointed to ring the Bell before the Meetings (on the Lord’s Dayes, and other Dayes;) for which he is to have 6 d. per lott of every one having a lott within the Towne."
The Second Meeting House was built on the Green in 1641 and a gallery was added in 1649. This was not a time of Woman’s Lib, and it is noted that in this Church "All the men were to sett at the West end and all the women to sett at the east end."
The erection of the Third Meeting House was commenced in 1675. The whole male population, above twenty years of age, was commandeered to build it. This Church was not occupied until 1680. The fourth Meeting House and the last built on the site of the "Green" was 1719. This church was the first to have a steeple, and when it opened in October 1819, it had only one lone pew which was for use of the Minister’s Family. Other pews were added at different times.
Due to the Presbyterian schism: 1792 - 1807, the Congregational faction, being in the minority, found itself without a place of worship. For a time, services were held at Capt. Morris Hobbs’ house; but, very soon, as the house was too small, preparations were made to build the fifth Meeting House. This building stood on the land where the present Town Hall stands. In this Meeting House was a fine octagonal Pulpit. When the Town took over this building, the old Pulpit was placed in the sixth Meeting House, which stands on Winnacunnet Road.
To-day you can see three major historical links with the past at the Church. Parts of the Old Communion set made in 1713 are still used as the Church celebrates The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. The beautiful pulpit made in 1797 is still in use in the Church, and the Sunday Sermon is preached from it each Lord’s Day. The Church also has the first musical instrument used in the Church. It is a beautiful bass viol, first used by Daniel Hobbs in 1836, as he led the Church in Singing Hymns to God.
The Members of this Church love their historical background. And also seek to share the same message of Jesus Christ to our time and our people as our forefathers did before us.