Name modified to Pilgrim Trinitarian Congregational Church May 23, 1929
Accepted to the
National Register of Historic Places
December 18, 2013
On the evening of November 2, 1862, during the troubled days of the Civil War, sixteen persons met at the home of the Rev. Edmund Squire in Dorchester, Massachusetts and united themselves together into what they described as "an unsectarian Church of Jesus Christ." This humble beginning has grown into what we now know as Pilgrim Trinitarian Congregational Church.
The Rev. Henry Martyn Dexter the second Pastor of this congregation
Rev Henry Martyn Dexter, the second minister of what is now known as Pilgrim Trinitarian Congregational Church, was a Congregational luminary of the latter half of the nineteenth century. In addition to authoring a clergy response to the Missouri compromise and serving as the librarian of the Congregational Library in Boston, Massachusetts, Rev. Dexter translated the oldest Christian hymn whose author is known, Shepherd of Tender Youth.
After much discussion as to whether this new congregation should unite with the Methodist or Congregational churches, the Church was received into the fellowship of Orthodox Congregational Churches on July 21, 1867. On April 17, 1871, this church became known as "The Cottage Street Congregational Church." At this time, the congregation had forty-six members and rented space from the Dorchester Atheneum. On November 10, 1877, the name of Pilgrim Church was adopted.
Atheneum Lease: 1876
The Dorchester Atheneum was a private subsciption library organized in 1856 and located at the corner of East Cottage, Pleasant, and Pond Streets. In March, 1856, several gentlemen of the north part of the town suggested the idea for a society for the promotion of social intercourse and mutual improvement. Among the most active were John J. May, Ambrose H. White, and Amasa Pray. The old Everett school-hose was purchased and moved from Sumner Street to the junction of Pleasant, Pond, and Cottage Streets.
From 1877 until 1890, Pilgrim Church was located on Stoughton Street.
It was on October 18, 1885, that the Chrtistian Endeavor Society of Pilgrim Church was organized with thirty members and one associate.
On April 6, 1886, Pilgrim Church "Had our first sociable and supper in the Baptist Vestry [Stoughton Street Baptist Church, being the Second Baptist Church in Dorchester (building designed by Stephen C. Earle, the architect of the current home of Pilgrim Trinitarian Congregational Church)]] about eighty present."
The first church fair was held in 1888, with admission for "children under twelve, 5 cents."
On February 26, 1890, Pilgrim Church was incorporated under the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
In July of 1890, the foundations were laid on Columbia Road for the New Pilgrim Church, which was designed by Stephen Earle of Worcester, Massachusetts. However, the congregation was still meeting on Stoughton Street, regarding which the Rev. Wiliam Hervey Allbright said "when he first saw the church he thought some enterprising Yankee had discovered Noah's Ark and put it up at Upham's Corner." The first portion of the new meetinghouse was completed in December of the same year. On the 28th day of that same month the Congregation and the children of the Sunday School marched in line from the Stoughton Street location to the new chapel (the northeastern portion or right hand side of the building that now stands at 540 Columbia Road.)
On December 18, 2013, Pilgrim Trinitarian Congregational Church was accepted for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.
The first Worship Service at the new building, a Service of Communion, was held on January 1, 1891.
It seems that the complete Communion Service from the 1890's (six goblets, six bread plates, pouring tankard, and what appears to be either a baptismal font or lavabo) is still in the possession of Pilgrim Trinitarian Congregational Church. Portions of this Service are seen in the photograph to the left.
The Pouring Tankard appears to be the work of Roswell Gleason of Dorchester, who produced silver-plated items from the 1830's to about 1870. The creamer to the right, owned by the Dorchester Historical Society, is also the work of Mr. Gleason. It is shown here are the finial is identical to that on our pouring tankard.
It was during this time that The Rev. Dr. Allbright himself planted the ivy which for over a century covered the meetinghouse's walls. Also in this era The Rev. Dr. Hallowell of Northamptonshire, England, sent the stained glass window of Ruth and Naomi which is still in the original chapel at 540 Columbia Road.
On May 3, 1893, a very rainy day, the cornerstone of the auditorium (left side of the building) was laid. The first Service of Worship was held in the auditorium on October 8, 1893. By the end of the nineteenth century, the church had completed the auditorium (main sanctuary.) A significant element in the "Auditorium" was, and still is (though inoperable at this time), George Hutching's Opus 404.
Boston Globe: May 4, 1893
Note similarities to H.H. Richardson's Trinity Church (above)
Also in the 1890's, it was recognized that there was the need for a Congregational ministry closer to the Savin Hill area of Dorchester. As a result, on February 1, 1893, the Romsey Street Congregational Church was opened. After the changes in society in the 1920's, it was decided in 1930 that the Romsey Church would re-unite with Pilgrim Church. They brought with them three memorial stained glass windows which, regretably, were destroyed by a fire in 1970 which ravaged the main sanctuary.A fourth stained glass window, of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, is dedicate to Linwood Wilson (1906-1930) who died in a swimming accident. In earlier pictures, this window appears to have been the single, arched window located on the Columbia Road front of the building, towards Davern Street.
That's Pilgrim at the far right. . .
1912 Expansion Plan, never built
Baptismal Font: 1919
IT WAS IN 1926 THAT PILGRIM CHURCH OBTAINED, FOR USE AS A PARSONAGE, A HOUSE AT THE TOP OF THE HILL ON BELLEVUE STREET IN DORCHESTER.
THE PARSONAGE IS THE HOUSE ON THE LEFT (BEHIND THE TREE) IN THIS UNDATED PHOTO
Easter Lilies Sale: Mid 1900's
Mr. & Mrs. Houston: 1967
In 1963, a dynamic and inovative camping program began at Pilgrim Trinitarian Congregational Church. Known as Camp Pilgrim," it was often described as being the "camp that has no boundaries. Over time, it grew to involve 250 children a week in day, caravan, and resident camp activities.
Ruth Higgins & Rev. David Venator, 1970
Don Wheaton & Ruth Higgins, 1970
Columbia Road, with Fire Station on the Right
One evening in October, 1970, a fire broke out in the attic above the main sanctuary. While the fire itself was confined above the ceiling, water and smoke caused immense damage. Afterwards, it was decided that worship would return to the original chapel of 1890 while the sanctuary would be rebuilt as a multi-purpose fellowship hall.
Lunch at Pilgrim, ca. 1979
Rev. David Venator & Miss Alice Withee, ca. 1980
1995: Rev. David & Mrs. Margaret Venator
On Sunday, October 15, 2006 a new chapter began in the life of Pilgrim Church. Building on the tradition begun in 1862 as an "unsectarian Church of our Lord Jesus Christ" it was decided to blend our 11:00 Sunday Worship service with that of Iglesia el Mesias (a Spanish-speaking congregation of the Pentecostal tradition.) While this experiment was short-lived, as Iglesia el Mesias has dispersed, the influence continues.