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Meeting House Hill Pump

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Meeting House Hill Pump
Portsmouth, NH
Illustration (c) 1913 Helen Pearson

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Excerpt from "Vignettes of Portsmouth," (1913) by Helen Pearson and Harold Hotchkiss Bennett, Courtesy of Portsmouth Public Library Collection.



In the year 1657, the town meeting, August 27, empowered the selectmen, among whom were' John and Richard Cutt, to build a new meeting house "40 feet square, with twelve windows, 3 substanciall doors and a complete pulpit." The building had neither shutters nor pews, and was erected "at the crotch of the roads leading to the Pound and Frame Point two or three rods to the southward of the Mill Dam."

In 1658, Reverend Joshua Moody began his ministerial labors at first supported by subscription, and settled formally by vote of the town in 1660.

That dangers existed in the early town is seen in the vote of September 25, 1662, "that whoever shall kill a wolf within the bounds of this town, and shall nayle the head of said wolf killed upon the meeting house, he shall have five pounds for his paynes to be paid by the treasurer."

In the year 1664, the town meeting of April 18 authorized the Selectmen to hang the bell, the earliest church bell in New Hampshire.

On July 24, 1671, John Pickering agreed with the Selectmen "to build a cage, twelve feet square, with stocks within it and a pillory on the top, a convenient space from the west end of the meeting house," and he also agreed "for thirty shillings to make shutters for the windows to draw backwards and forwards."

In the following year, a town meeting, held March 12, voted "that, if any shall smoke tobacco in the meeting house, at any public meetings he shall pay a fine of five shillings for the use of the town." Not until 1693 was provision made for the installation of pews, and seats were assigned to each individual in the town, the men carefully divided from the women, and the younger persons given still other places.

In 1712, a meeting house erected on the site of the present North Church was completed pursuant to the order given in the town meeting of September 4, 1711, when it was voted by a majority of the townspeople "to build a new meeting house on the corner of the Glebe, which should be the stated meeting house of the town." A large minority opposed the removal, and amid a discussion which is echoed in the town records well into the middle of the eighteenth century, voted to remain in the old meeting house, whither they called the Reverend John Fmerson of Newcastle. This Society, thereafter called the South Parish, upon the completion of their new church in the lot presented by John Pickering, removed in 1732 from his structure. The building was then taken down and one half moved to Congress Street to serve as a store until the year 1846.

See also early essays on same topic in Brewster's Rambles

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