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The Old Ship Meeting House

Updated: Oct 19, 2021

Hingham, Massachusetts, was first settled by a group led by Puritan minister, Peter Hobart. Hobart was among the many Christians who fled religious persecution during The Reformation. Christians were harshly persecuted by the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England and many sought freedom in the new world. Hobart had arrived in America in 1633, settling in Charlestown. In the first year of their arrival, his father surveyed nearby land which was officially incorporated as the town of Bare Cove in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in September of the same year[1]. The name was soon after changed to Hingham.

A small Unitarian church was built in 1635 and Peter Hobart was installed as minister. It was the 12th church built in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In 1681, a much larger church or "Meeting House" was built and although it only took three days to build, it still stands to this day. It is the oldest church in America still in use since its construction well over 300 years ago. It was more than just a place of worship. The Meeting House offered protection for the settlers as well as a place to conduct official government business. It was the heart of the community who helped build it. The church members/founders cut down trees from the surrounding forests and those with ship-building skills were critical in its construction, which could explain the ship-like components of its design. It was ordered that all settlements be built within half a mile of the meeting house. Among the church's members was Samuel Lincoln, ancestor of Honorable Abraham Lincoln. Parishioners sat on wooden, backless benches until pews were put in in 1755 and there was no heat in the building until about 1822.

Images from Early American Churches[2].

Tour the exterior of the church with this interactive Google Maps (Street view):

Several of my maternal ancestors were early settlers of Hingham. David Stowell was born there in 1660, and his wife, Mary (Stedman) Stowell was born there in 1670. Samuel Stowell II was married there in 1649 and died there in 1683. (He is buried in Fort Hill Cemetery). John Farrow and his wife, Frances (Carpenter) Farrow, died there between 1687 and 1689, and their daughter Mary (Farrow) Stowell died there in 1708. She was the wife of Samuel Stowell II. Click here to see my index of ancestors.

[1] Shepherd in the Wilderness, Peter Hobart 1604-1679, by Edward Franklin Ripley. [Link]

[2] Early American Churches, by Aymar Embury, 1914. [Link]


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