|58||History of Hingham.|
tain worship according to their faith were great. Services were held at private houses until August, 1823, when a hall was secured for the purpose in the building next south of the blacksmith-shop on North Street, near the harbor. It was a rough room, in strange contrast to the elaborate churches of the present time. The walls were not plastered, the seats were simply boards nailed upon blocks of wood, which together with a small pine table and chair constituted the furniture. In this room meetings were held for nearly a year, and in spite of opposition and disturbance, both outside and inside the building during the services, the worshippers increased in number.
A building was found in a more quiet location, which could be purchased; but on account of the objection likely to arise if it should be known that it was to be sold to the Baptists, it was deemed prudent to obtain the assistance of some person outside the denomination to make the purchase, that the purpose for which it was to he used might not be suspected. Mr. Ebenezer Shute was willing to purchase the building, costing about $450, provided some individual could be found who would arrange the bargain with discretion. Capt. Laban Hersey, a Unitarian, consented to take the deed in his own name, and subsequently conveyed the property to Mr. Shute. This building was the one now occupied by M. & A. McNeil, near Hobart's Bridge. The upper story was suitably arranged for meetings, and for more than two years afforded a convenient and pleasant place for worship.
Up to this time the pulpit had been supplied by many different ministers, among them Rev. Thomas Conant, who was engaged to come and labor here as often as his other engagements would permit, Deacon Wilbur becoming personally responsible for the expense thus incurred.
As an illustration of how earnest these Baptists were in such days of struggle and sacrifice to maintain preaching, it is related that on learning late on a Saturday that the preacher expected from Boston was unable to come, Aunt Polly Barnes, as she was called, mounted her horse in the early evening and set out for Scituate to engage Mr. Conant for the next day's services. As she went on her way over a lonely road, a man suddenly sprang from the woods, seized her horse by the bridle and demanded her money.
"You must wait until I can get it," she said, "for I have but one hand." (She had lost her left hand by amputation.)
The highwayman released the bridle for a moment, thinking his booty now secure, when she struck her horse a sharp blow; he sprang away, and the rider reached Mr. Conant's house in safety, engaged him to preach the next day, and rode quietly home to Hingham, some six miles, the same evening.
March 9, 1828, twenty persons were publicly recognized as a branch of the Second Baptist Church, of Boston, Mr. Nathaniel T.
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