In 1805 there was only one meeting house in North Hingham, the old North Meeting House, now known as Old Ship Church. Following the resignation of the incumbent minister, Rev. Dr. Henry Ware, to become professor of divinity at Harvard, a schism developed over the choice of a successor. In the end, the members and four deacons of the church, followed by a substantial minority of the residents of the North Parish, withdrew from the old meeting house.


Church Front Drawing

The dissident group held its worship services in the old Derby Academy building on Main Street while work began on a “new North meeting house” at the foot of Lincoln Street. The frame of the new structure was completed on October 25, 1806, less than six months from the date of acceptance of the plans, and the finished sanctuary was dedicated on June 17, 1807. The design of New North has long been credited to Charles Bulfinch, architect of the State House in Boston and other memorable buildings of the era. Whether or not Bulfinch actually drew up the plans, the building’s classic style clearly shows his influence.



One of the leading founders of the new church was Gen. Benjamin Lincoln, the lieutenant to George Washington who accepted Cornwallis’s sword for him at Yorktown. Gen. Lincoln was Hingham’s most illustrious resident of the time.



The “New North” meeting-house was erected, as has been stated, in 1807. No material change in the exterior of the building has been made. New pews were placed in the galleries about 1833, at the time of the purchase of an organ. The old-fashioned box pews downstairs in the church sanctuary are all originals and are the oldest pews in Hingham. March 18, 1883, John Baker, Jairus B. Lincoln, Martin Lincoln, and Jairus Lincoln were chosen a committee “to purchase a church organ for the society the expense of which shall not exceed the sum of twelve hundred dollars.” This organ was formerly the property of the Handel and Haydn Society in Boston . In 1849 a contract was made with George Stevens for a new organ, to cost twelve hundred dollars. This latter instrument is the one in use at the present time.



In 1852 the appearance of the interior was much changed by the removal of the draperies back of the pulpit, and the painting of the walls and ceilings in fresco, which included upon the wall over the pulpit a tablet bearing the inscription, “Sanctify them through thy truth.” A commemorative sermon was preached by Rev. Oliver Stearns, Dec. 12, 1852, on reopening the meeting-house after these expensive repairs and alterations.

In the spring of 1890 still further changes were made in the interior of the meeting-house. The fresco painting gave way to tinted walls and ceiling of a less ornate character, some of the front pews were removed to give additional open space in front of the pulpit, new pulpit stairs were built, a background of drapery was put upon the wall behind the pulpit, and the organ was thoroughly repaired and improved by the addition of new pipes and stops. The clock, procured by private subscription, was placed in the tower in 1845.

The uppermost galleries at the rear of the sanctuary were put in for the use of African-American servants and were long known as the “slave galleries,” despite the fact that use of the galleries was abandoned early in the 19th century when New North became a hotbed of abolitionism.



The first Republican governor of Massachusetts, John Albion Andrew, was a New North member. He famously created the first regiment of free black soldiers to serve the Union in the Civil War — the 54th Massachusetts, celebrated in the movie “Glory.”



Hingham’s only other Massachusetts Governor, John Davis Long, was also a New North member. He sat at the back near the door, perhaps because he loved “clustering in the vestibule” to chat with other New North members.



In the 1960’s, New North’s connection with the Unitarian Universalist Association was dissolved, and in 1970 New North reopened as a community church, drawing its membership from a wide range of denominational backgrounds.


excerpts from full article here.