History of the First Church of Roxbury, 1630-1904 / by Jason Turgeon

One of the nice things about digging into the history of Roxbury in the age of Google is that our history is both incredibly well-documented and now searchable.  A search on the history of the Thwing Estate, which lives on in the name of Thwing Street, led me to this gem of a book, written by Walter Eliot Thwing. Here’s a link to the book on Google Books.

I’ll write my post about the Thwings later.  For now, enjoy this book, which goes back to the earliest days of Roxbury, when Brookline was still called “Muddy River” and people-mostly farmers, we can presume- from West Roxbury, JP, Brookline, and all of Roxbury made the trek every Sunday to worship.  

It wasn’t until 1712, more than 80 years after the First Church was founded, that West Roxbury got a church of its own, another 5 years until Brookline had one, and over 50 more years (1770) before Jamaica Plain had enough of a population to support a church.  It wasn’t until 1821, nearly 200 years after the First Church was founded, that Roxbury got its second church, in Dudley Square.  It’s hard to believe now, when there are perhaps a half a dozen or more churches in our tiny neighborhood, that this church was such an important part of life for so much of greater Boston.

The First Church, it’s worth noting, was founded by members of the “first company of 1630,” including John Eliot (of Eliot Square) and William Pinchon (of Pynchon Street, long renamed Columbus Ave), and at the time of its founding in 1630 our town was known as Roxborough.  The Puritans of Roxborough wanted a congregation of their own so that they wouldn’t have to walk miles through forest paths to the other church service in Dorchester.

And lest we forget what the Puritans were all about, consider this sentence:  ”On the Rockesbrough Hill fast by the first little rough meeting-house stood the stocks and the pillory, guardians of peace and terror to evil doers, where the offender had to stand in full view of the elect, and where every offence against the gospel was sure to be followed by the penalty of the law.”

Happy reading!