Old South Church and Stumbling into History

October 20, 2016

So we were staying a couple nights in Massachusetts, north of Boston.  This wasn't a destination, just a place to stay that was a logical distance from where we were going, which was Acadia National Park in Maine.  We were on a long road trip from Michigan to Maine, and broke it down to 4 travel days and 7 nights.  We've found that staying just 1 night at each stopover isn't very refreshing, so we're usually staying 2 nights, as that gives us a day or so to explore around the area of where ever we are.  And as we try to travel 300 or fewer miles each day, it does take a little while to get somewhere that's over 1000 miles away.

We found a State Park on the beach, Salisbury State Reservation.  And while this is one of the most popular parks in Massachusetts, it isn't so popular at the start of October, so we could get a site without issue.  It's a big park, right next to the beach, and is probably a really happening place in summer.  We had a couple cool rainy days, and the park looked like this:

As this was a weekend, we decided to look for a local church to attend on Sunday, and we found a nearby Presbyterian church called Old South Church across the Merrimack River in Newbury.  Well, it turns out that this church played a significant role in the history of our nation, and in fact, George Whitefield is buried there.

Now, I didn't know much about George Whitefield, but apparently he was an itinerant preacher from England who basically started the "Great Awakening" in the early 1700s and is credited as one of the founders of Methodism and the evangelical movement. His ideas played a significant role in the American revolution.  See wikipedia, here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Whitefield

I assumed that he was a big deal when during the greeting time one of the parishoners said to me: "Would you like to see George Whitefield?  We have him in the basement."  Um, sure....

Here's Jane on the steps of the church.  

After the service, one of the members gave all 10 of us visitors a tour of the building and included much of the history of the place.  And yes, they do have George in the basement.  And here he is:

But we also got to go up into the steeple and see the bell (cast by Paul Revere).

Here's the view of the inside of the church.  Note that it has the traditional style box pews, which families would purchase and furnish as they saw fit.

It's always fun when you stumble upon something significant in the history of our country.  Seems that in Massachusetts you can't go very far without bumping into something that played a major role in our founding as a nation.  This week, George Whitefield.  Next week, who knows?


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  1. As a New Englander for 25 years, I really enjoyed this post. We lived in NH for 12 years and Cape Cod for 13, and I loved learning about the history of the region. George Whitfield, if memory serves, arrived from England in 1742 and boarded for a while with Jonathan and Sarah Edwards, whose marriage he came greatly to admire. He arrived about the same time as their 6th daughter,Susannah, and Sarah said that "both could be heard for miles around!" Keep the posts coming, Steve and Jane. I enjoy them thoroughly.

  2. Thanks, Maggie! Enthusiastic responses like yours keep us writing.


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