First Congregational Church, Truro Massachusetts
This structure, dating from 1827, and relatively unaltered has been carefully restored and is typical of early 19th century meeting houses on Cape Cod.
The history of the First Congregational Church of Truro commences in 1709 when the town was incorporated. About 1709 or 1710 a meetinghouse was constructed in the Pond Village, which gave way in 1720 to another building, this time on the Hill of Storms, North Truro, where the Town Cemetery was already located
After more than one hundred years the building in North Truro became dilapidated. The population had largely moved to the South; it was difficult for children, the aged and infirm to attend worship therefore on March 6, 1827 it was determined to build a new meetinghouse in Truro Center, on land South of the "windmill" to be donated by Freeman Atkins. This location on the hill to serve as a beacon for ships. With this action commences the history of the present building.
From the first, control of the meetinghouse was vested in the proprietors of pewholders, who in turn granted the parish and church permission to use the building. A somewhat technical arrangement as pewholders, parish and church were for the most part the same persons. The parish for a few years continued to use the old building in North Truro for service also.
It was specified that the new building be 60 feet by 40 feet with a porch to the South high enough for a bell. The initial cost of the building was $3,116.64, $2,673.64 for the house, $320 for the bell purchased from the Revere Foundry, and $123 for the pipe and stove. It seems likely that the stove was not immediately installed and heat was furnished by means of foot warmers, because in 1833 it was voted to remove some pews in order to install the stove.
The general form of the church has remained largely the same from the time of its construction to the present day. In 1845 the vestry was constructed, thus shortening the main body of the church. Perhaps about the same time the pulpit was lowered, the galleries no longer being filled.
For some years, until nearby Union Hall was taken over about 1860, the Town was allowed to use the galleries of the meetinghouse for Town Meetings, usually at the rate of $25.00 per year. In 1844 it was voted not to allow the church to be used for exhibitions and political meetings. However, from time to time a temperance society, a teachers' institute and a singing school were allowed to use the building.
Transportation to church was largely by means of horse and team; accordingly in 1844, an article was introduced at the Pewholders' meeting to construct a shed for horses. The article was rejected, only to be passed a few years later and a shed constructed to the west of the church yard. This shed was taken down about 1930, after horses had ceased to be the standard means of travel.
With control of the building the pewholders also had control of the cemetery. March 5, 1878 it was voted to fix the price for digging graves and voted that the keeper of cemetery toll the bell, "when there is to be a burial, without notice or compensation."
Since 1833 when a meeting was called to consider the bad state of the floors and sills, repairs have been a problem. In 1952 a few repairs were made after the steeple was struck by lightning but not until the summer of 1955 did a thorough program for restoration get under way. An appeal for funds was made to the citizens of the town and to the summer residents. An immediate and heart warming response gave us the courage to start improvements and now, in the spring of 1957, though the church is in debt one thousand dollars, the following work has been completed.
Electricity has been installed. The church has been repainted on the outside. A name sign hung outside. The bell tower repaired andwaterproofed. Both ceilings in the main body of the church rebuilt and replastered. The old wallpaper which had been on the walls for over a hundred years was reproduced by a special screen processing method and the new paper hung. The inside of the church repainted with two coats of paint. All windows repaired and over 100 panes of new-old glass installed. The swinging pew doors refitted and rehung. The vestry repaired, repainted and redecorated. A new pulpit rug laid, New foam-rubber pew cushions have been made. The road and parking space has been improved though we hope to be able to enlarge on this work as soon as our debt is paid off.