First Church

1775 view of Roxbury from Beacon Hill by Jason Turgeon

First post in a long while, but I couldn't miss this.

The Boston Globe has a nice write-up of the Boston Public Library's "We are One" exhibition that features 4 watercolors painted by Lt. Richard Williams of the British Army during the Siege of Boston. One of the paintings shows Fort Hill, including the meeting house (First Church in Eliot Square) and "Rebel Lines."

The website has a zoomable version of the painting, but you should really go down to the BPL to check it out for yourself if you can. 

A screen grab of the Roxbury portion of the watercolor series. #6 is the First Church in Eliot Square, and #7 is the "Rebel Lines," showing the upper and lower forts (visible only as a continuous set of walls) that guarded the road to Cambridge and Dedham.

A screen grab of the Roxbury portion of the watercolor series. #6 is the First Church in Eliot Square, and #7 is the "Rebel Lines," showing the upper and lower forts (visible only as a continuous set of walls) that guarded the road to Cambridge and Dedham.

Here's the full info, cribbed from the BPL site:

 We Are One: Mapping America’s Road from Revolution to Independence

Central Library in Copley Square (McKim Exhibition Hall)

May 2 to November 29, 2015
Monday–Thursday: 10 a.m.–7 p.m., Friday–Saturday:10 a.m.–5 p.m.,
Sunday: 1–5 p.m.

Featuring 60 maps and 40 prints, paintings and objects, this major gallery exhibition traces the American story from the French and Indian War to the creation of a new national government and the founding of Washington, D.C. as its home.

Organized by the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center, We Are One features treasures from the Boston Public Library, the British Library, Library of Congress, and others. Highlights include rare and historically significant items that have not been previously exhibited. Visit the exhibition web pageto view an online exhibition, browse Revolutionary War era maps, and explore related resources.

Exhibition Tours: Thursdays and Saturdays at 2 p.m. Free tours of the We Are One exhibition are offered twice weekly by volunteer tour guides (through October 15th). No reservation required for parties smaller than 8 people. A smart phone tour of the exhibition is available at

Explore the First Church November 16th! by Jason Turgeon

Historic Boston and the Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry invite you to spend an afternoon at the First Church of Roxbury in Eliot Square. Here's the post from the Inside Historic Boston blog in full:

Explore the Rich History of First Church Roxbury on November 16th

Clear your calendar and join the Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry for a special afternoon at the historic First Church of Roxbury in John Eliot Square (10 Putnam Street). The program presents planning underway for an extensive rehabilitation to preserve the 1804 structure, Boston's oldest frame church and transform it into an active center of civic and cultural life in Roxbury.

Special guest speaker is Rev. F. Washington Jarvis, Roxbury Latin School Headmaster Emeritus, who will speak on the rich history of the congregation that first gathered there in 1632, helped establish Harvard College in 1636, and founded Roxbury Latin School in 1645.

Preservation expert and former HBI board member Andrea Gilmore of Building Conservation Associates, will discuss the larger historical context and the social and cultural importance of Meetinghouse structures in New England town life. 

Architect Don Mills of Mills Whitaker Architects, will discuss some of the results of his recent assessment of the building and the preservation opportunities presented by this elegant and well-preserved structure.
A festive reception will follow in Putnam Chapel, immediately adjacent to the Meetinghouse. Everyone is welcome. For more information about the event, please contact Annie Stubbs at or 617.318.6010 x205, or visit

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!