Our History

The First Congregational Church of Swanzey was organized November 4, 1741. The town was originally granted a charter from Massachusetts in 1733 and was known as Lower Ashuelot. In 1753, the town was again granted a charter; this time by the state of New Hampshire, on July 2nd. In this charter the name of the town was Swanzey.

The early settlers of the town were enjoined by the state of Massachusetts as a condition of their charter to build a meetinghouse and settle a minister within five years of the settlement of this town.

In 1737, the settlers first voted to build a meetinghouse. However, in 1738 it was voted not to build a meetinghouse at that time due to fear of Indian raids. On December 4, 1741 Rev. Timothy Harrington was ordained as pastor of the Congregational Church. At that time there were thirteen members. In 1745, the Rev. Harrington's house was burned by the Indians and all the church records were destroyed. In 1747, the settlement of Lower Ashuelot was totally abandoned because of Indian raids. Two family bibles, buried for protection, survived the Indian raids and are still in existence.

In 1751, the settlers felt it was safe enough to return and start to rebuild.

On August 21, 1753, the churches of Keene and Swanzey united under the ministry of Rev. Ezra Carpenter. This union continued for seven years. The first church building, located on "Meetinghouse Hill" (Mt. Caesar) was started prior to 1755 but was not finished until 1765. In that year it was turned around 90 degrees by a hurricane and we can assume it required major repairs. The site of this first meetinghouse is now marked by a granite monument on Mount Caesar. The inscribed date on the stone, September 7, 1737, refers to the date when the original vote was taken to build a meetinghouse. When the meetinghouse was finally finished in 1771, it was used for all kinds of meetings; religious and civil.

It was a simple structure with no steeple and no bell. Pews on the main floor were built by the owners and each pew varied according to how wealthy the owner was. Pews were personal property which were bought and sold. Deeds of pews are recorded. A gallery was available for those with no pews.

The second meetinghouse, built by the town in 1796, was used for general purposes. Being public property, it's use was claimed for meetings by both Congregationalists and Universalists as well as meetings for town business. It was a two story building with a towering steeple and a belfry with no bell.

Two rows of windows were on each side. The interior was unpainted. It had a huge gallery on three sides with rows of pews next to the walls and rows of long seats in front for the singers. On the main floor rows of old fashioned box pews were between broad aisles.

The pulpit, on the north side, was a large box with a door to enclose the minister. It was many feet above the floor.

For many years there were no heating facilities in this building nor in the first meetinghouse.

The box pews are said to have been high enough so that only the tops of heads showed above them. Charcoal foot stoves were carried to church for warmth. Sometimes even the family dog could be found in a box pew as a way to keep feet warm. In approximately 1850, this building was cut to a one story building and was used as the town hall.

The present church building, the Brick Meetinghouse, was erected in 1836 by Virgil Woodcock for a sum of $2000.00.

This building was completely surrounded by brick and the roof was covered with slate. It included a steeple, belfry and bell. Horse sheds were built on the site of the current Friendship Hall. When this building was finished, it marked the first time in Swanzey when there were separate buildings for religious purposes and municipal purposes.

Over the years there have been many changes and additions to this church building.