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Hopkinton’s First Meeting House

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20th Century Homes

Readers will be familiar with the sign that greets drivers making their way into town. “Welcome to Hopkinton, Incorporated 1715“. 

And while 1715 marks the official date of incorporation of the town, very little happened in these parts until March 25, 1724, the day the first town meeting was held, which makes 2024 the 300th anniversary of meaningful activity in Hopkinton. On that day, Town Meeting was attended by 30 men who elected the first five Selectmen, chose several other town officers, and assigned the boundary lines for tax collection purposes.

Hopkinton’s Religious Beginnings

The area that now comprises the towns of Hopkinton and Ashland was once known as Magwonkkommok, and consisted of 51 families of “praying Indians”, Christianized Native residents probably drawn from the tribes indigenous to the area.

In the late 1600’s, a sum of money was left to the Harvard trust by Edward Hopkins, a wealthy English merchant and former governor of Connecticut, who bequeathed it with the express purpose of “upholding and promoting the kingdom of Jesus Christ in those parts on earth“. The bequest took effect upon the death of his wife, Ann, in 1698, and in 1715, the Harvard trustees purchased the land from the Native residents, renaming it to Hopkinton.

At the time the town was a frontier and a wilderness, with no roads, churches, or restaurants. It was only a sweep of forest, with the occasional Indian trail or a woodman’s cottage. Originally 25,000 acres and bounding Sudbury, Sherborn, Mendon, Sutton and Westboro, in 1735 about 4,000 acres was set aside to form the town of Upton. Later, in 1846, several thousand more acres were allocated to form the town of Ashland.

This year, 2024, marks the 300th year of both the “town” of Hopkinton and the “church” in Hopkinton, which was then known as the First Congregational Church of Hopkinton and in 2011 became known as Faith Community Church of Hopkinton (FCCH). The church later dropped the “H” as it expanded to include a Framingham Campus.

Like many other towns in early New England, the Town of Hopkinton and FCC are so intertwined that one would not exist without the other. 

A sketch of the first Meeting House

Two months before the first official town meeting, a small group of residents gathered on January 5, 1724 to discuss building a “meeting house”. Early New England meeting houses served dual purposes – they were used for both religious worship and public/civic meetings. While the terms “meeting house” and “church” are sometimes used interchangeably,  nonconformist Protestant denominations distinguished between a “church” (the body of believers) and a “meeting house” (the building where they met).

It was voted to build a house forty-eight feet long and thirty-eight feet wide, and that John Bowker, Samuel Comins and Samuel Watkin be the committee that provided the timber and framing. (Readers may recognize the name Bowker as several of Mr. Bowker’s descendants still live in Hopkinton.) The men were paid 4 shillings, 6 pence per day for their labor (about $80 USD per day, adjusting for inflation). After some difference of opinion about where to place the meeting house, the townspeople agreed to site it near the burial ground across from what is now the Town Common.

At a November 1725 meeting, the town voted to empower the Selectmen to appoint a time to “raise the meeting house”. Raising a meeting house was a collective effort that brought together many members of the town, and it was voted to appropriate £10 for the purpose, which included an evening meal for every man that participated. The building was raised in December of 1725, and the first official meeting was held on June 26, 1726. The Harvard trustees also contributed £100 to support the efforts. 

The leading families in Hopkinton were allowed to purchase pews, which varied from 6-7 feet long, according to the size of the family. If a pew was placed near a window it became the responsibility of the family to keep the glass in good repair. The meeting house was a plain structure with no cupola or steeple and it didn’t receive its first coat of paint until 1773.

At a town meeting on July 24, 1725, the town entrusted resident and first Selectman/Moderator/Clerk John How to locate a pastor for their new church, providing him with a small expense account to do so.  Mr. How was successful in is efforts, having traveled to Medway to recruit the town’s first pastor, Reverend Samuel Barrett, a graduate of Harvard. Barrett was described as a “pious good Christian; a man of great candor and good nature“. 

To welcome the new minister the Harvard trustees again pitched in, setting aside 100 acres of land “to be for him and his heirs for the term of 99 years, free from paying any rent,” and providing £30 for the construction of a house on the land. The townspeople also added £100 worth of “day labor, oxen work, boards, shingle, clapboards, and other material” needed to build the minister’s house. The work was completed in 1725, at the site of present-day Town Hall. 

Rev. Barrett died in 1772 and was followed by several other ministers who presided over the continuous growth of our town. In 1829, the first meeting house was moved and used as a barn by Colonel Joseph Valentine, and afterward the ex-Governor William Claflin used it as part of his boot factory. The structure has been rebuilt four times since, having been destroyed by fire and hurricane. 

But no natural disaster would keep the parishioners of FCC apart for long. Their faith bound them and helped them to endure the often difficult life in colonial New England.

To commemorate their 300th year, Faith Community Church of Hopkinton is inviting the community to join them Sunday, September 22 for a Tricentennial Celebration. Details to follow.

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  1. The Hopkinton Historical Society has a lot of documents and articles relating to the beginnings of Hopkinton.
    They have an original pew deed, also copies of several original documents related to the purchase of the land from the Indigenous people. They lived in a Christian settlement called Magunco, in what is now part of Ashland. The Native people in Magunco were very likely formerly Nipmucs, as prior to the Puritans settling Massachusetts Bay colony, Nipmuc land comprised perhaps 3/4 of Massachusetts, central MA included.


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