By: Veronica Molloy, Southern NH University GSA Class of 2014
As NHGSA representatives of scenic NH, I’m sure you are aware of postcards depicting white steepled churches in lovely locations throughout our great State. Therein, it’s a difficult choice for me to pick one iconic little white steepled church of interest for a blog post, but who could resist “The Meetinghouse at Bloody Point.” The illustration here is a postcard currently for sale on E-bay. The postcard shows a build date of 1712, well before NH Statehood. In fact, the British House of Lords was just then recognizing Samuel Allen as Sole Proprietor of the Province of New Hampshire. Allen had purchased the proprietorship from the heirs of Captain John Mason and was subsequently commissioned by “His Majesty” (King George I) to act as Governor. He nominated William Partridge, a millwright by trade, to be Lieutenant Governor in his absence. “It is the only place from whence the great masts for the use of the Navy are brought. It was like to be lost this last year.” (p. xi and p.433 The Manuscripts of the House of Lords: 1710-1712 (H.L. 1947 – Great Britain. Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts – Google Books) The first quarter of the 18th century in America can be characterized as a time of conflict, with different European colonies—English, French, and Spanish—waging fierce and political battles against each other and Indigenous inhabitants over new territories and colonization strategies. Enslavement as a way of life became entrenched in the American colonies. American History Timeline – 1701 – 1725 (thoughtco.com)
There is a state of disarray occurring in the King’s proprietorships and among the plantation allotments within these proprietorships. Multiple processes are described as causing confusion as to who owns what. Proof positive in NH where the “Bloody Point” name stuck to this meetinghouse location when swords were drawn in a land grant dispute between two land owners from areas now known as Portsmouth and Dover. The name “Bloody Point” can be traced back to the early 1630s. Capt. Mason, one of the original Grantees of the NH area had sent over two officers Capt. Wiggins, and Capt. Neal, to manage and run the New Hampshire settlement. Wiggins was responsible for the “upper” settlement, Hilton’s Point, and north, and Neal the “Lower Settlement” Odiorne’s Point, from today’s Rye and all of today’s Portsmouth and Newington. (Bloody Point | Mike in New Hampshire (wordpress.com) No blood was drawn and the name lives on!
Eventually, inhabitants of the “Bloody Point” are able to set themselves apart as an independent entity, Newington, named for a town in England that donated the bell for their meetinghouse/church. A list of the founding residents is offered here: Historical Sketch of Newington, N.H. (rootsweb.com) In order to do this, it was required that the founders build a meetinghouse/church and hire a minister. The Meetinghouse at Bloody Point – New Hampshire Magazine (nhmagazine.com) – The article contains an interesting point about the absence of rules requiring “separation of Church and State,” and early construction conditions when the Church was first utilized and remodeling of the Church that took place in the 1830s. My next paragraph about the first Pastor and more is summarized from the NH Magazine article link. Meanwhile, I’d like to share a related ancestry record regarding John Downing Sr mentioned in the same article and his son John Downing. Alternatively known as Colonel and Captain, John Downing, Sr. and his family reportedly enjoyed wealth and influence in the early years of the Church. The family owned a pew with a window view in close proximity to a separate entrance door. (Munson, Underwood, Horn, Fairfield and Allied Families – Capt. John Downing Esq. brazoriaroots.com)
The first Pastor of the Church at Bloody Point was Joseph Adams, a Harvard graduate. (Dartmouth was founded much later in 1769!) He served for 68 years! An uncle to John Adams, the second president of the U.S., Pastor Adams was also the granduncle of John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of our country. His preaching was acclaimed by his nephew to be “delivered in a powerful and musical voice, consisted of texts of scripture, quoting chapter and verse, delivered memoriter and with-out notes …” In addition to preaching, the Pastor held classes for young people in the Church and reportedly “et” most of his student’s lunches. One might suppose that all this would draw the devil’s attention. The church was struck by lightning several times, and after a number of damaged steeples were repaired or replaced, the English bell was housed in a belfry with a flat top. In effect, a little white church with NO steeple! By 1803, through no fault of the now deceased Pastor Adams, the English bell was smitten, cracked and sent out to be recast by a guy named Paul Revere. Revere handed off a new bell that was too small for a Massachusetts client in exchange for the cracked bell and $210.00.
A “Trip Advisor” review claims that the Church at “Bloody Point” is the oldest continually operating Congregational Church in the country. I could not confirm this as fact. Windsor, Connecticut also makes this same claim. The Church does seem to hold the title of “oldest NH Church” (The Newington Meeting House In New Hampshire Dates Back To 1717 onlyinyourstate.com) though the build date on the illustrated postcard and other items currently for sale is 1712. Information typed by a manual typewriter accompanying a commemorative plate for sale on E-bay shows the dish marked with the date of 1712. (Newington NH Congregational Church 1712 | eBay)
If you’ve ever owned a horse, you may be familiar with the concept of the granite horse mount featured by the NH Magazine author in his story. Upon encountering a view of this stone artifact, you are invited to let your imagination run wild on a glimpse of petticoat, or amuck depending on the horse’s last meal, or a less attractive travesty of human dignity resulting from leg lifting over a horse. (Horse Mount, NH Magazine/ Church and Rare Barn, Trip Advisor).
The Church, a rare attached barn and a cemetery are located at 316 Nimble Hill Rd, Newington, NH 03801-2721. Newington Meeting House (oldest church in New Hampshire) in Newington, NH (Google Maps) (virtualglobetrotting.com). Nearby, is a building known as “The Parsonage” a traditional New England Saltbox. Old Newington Parsonage // c.1725 – Buildings of New England. You may wish to check out this article: Newington Meetinghouse // 1713 – Buildings of New England for a different perspective of the Church and grounds. Read this article from the Valley News.