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Thomaston: The Town that Went to Sea

Henry Knox: The Old Church on the Hill

The Old Church on the Hill, Thomaston
The Old Church on the Hill, Thomaston

Item Contributed by
Montpelier, The General Henry Knox Museum

According to Eaton, the Old Church on the Hill, as it came to be known, was built in 1795 in large part because Henry Knox pledged 40 pounds and the glass for the windows if the structure was completed within that year. The town’s first meeting house, known as the Town or Congregational Meeting House, it was located on the hill east of Mill River, upon a piece of land conveyed by Captain David Fales which was about 116 feet wide and 109 feet deep. The church itself was framed and covered by James Stackpole, taking three days and drawing a large crowd of spectators and assistants from the community. The grounds were lined with carts and stands for the sale of liquor, cakes and other refreshments. It took two more years for the structure to be completed.

The completed building was about 50 feet in width, and about the same length, exclusive of the two projecting wings or porches in the front, between which was an open court leading to the main entrance.

Paul Revere Bell Commissioned for Thomaston Meeting House, 1797
Paul Revere Bell Commissioned for Thomaston Meeting House, 1797

Item Contributed by
Montpelier, The General Henry Knox Museum

Eaton describes the interior of the church thusly: "The house was furnished with capacious galleries on three sides, one on front for the singers; the other two having common seats forward for all who chose to occupy them, and a tier of wall pews in the rear… The pulpit… was elevated according to the custom which prevailed in those times of two-storied churches; and an echo was provided to send the preacher’s voice downwards to the pews below, in the form of a hollow umbrella-shaped sounding-board suspended above his head by a well carved hand and arm let down from the ceiling, as if from a concealed giant reclining above it.” A belfry was erected on the top, surmounted by a tall steeple, in which hung a Paul Revere bell commissioned by Henry Knox.

In 1805, he also provided the church with a handsome altar Bible. He attended this church, but according to local legend his wife Lucy spent a considerable amount of money modifying her pew for her comfort, but then never attended the services.

Archaeological remains of the Old Church on the Hill
Archaeological remains of the Old Church on the HillIn May 2006, archaeologist Tim Dinsmore uncovered parts of the Old Church on the Hill's stone foundation.

In 1825 the Congregationalists sold out their interest in the church to Hezekiah Prince, on behalf of the Baptists, and the church became known as the North Baptist Meeting House and later the First Baptist meeting House in West Thomaston. In 1838 the church underwent a major renovation by dividing the meeting house into two stories – services being held on the upper floor, and the lower floor serving as a vestry and school room. By the early twentieth century, the church was in very bad repair and was only used for services about once a year. Eventually it was given to the Knox Memorial Association, who had built a reconstruction of Knox’s mansion Montpelier right next door in 1930. Their intention was to restore the church and make it part of a museum campus. Unfortunately they were never able to finance their plans, and the church had to be razed in 1964.