|In 1701, the General Court of
the Massachusetts Bay Colony granted to a group of early settlers of
Springfield, the privilege of starting a new "plantation" to the east
and south of the Chicopee River in the area later to become the
original town of Brimfield. One of the condition of the grant was that
they should "settle an able the orthodox Minister of the Gospel there
as soon as may be" and to provide a place of worship. The first
Congregational Church and its Parish were established in 1721. The
first meetinghouse in Brimfield was erected in 1722 on the very spot
where a meetinghouse has stood ever since. Rev. Richard Treat was
engaged as the first Minister. By the time the town was incorporated in
1731, the plain and simple building was more or less completed. We know
that there was no chimney or steeple, that it faced south, that it's
dimensions were 45 by 40 feet.
By 1799, the old building was in such bad shape it was no longer worth
repairing, an din 1805, the town voted to tear it down and build a new
one. A group of men paid $100.00 for the right of salvage and usable
lumber, especially the unpainted pine paneling which was scattered
about town in houses where some can still be identified. Elias Carter
(a local architect) was employed to build a new church at a contract
price of $6.666.67 and to finance the project as far as possible by the
advance sale of pews. Dr. Joseph Vail, one of the outstanding ministers
of Brimfield, described this second church building as a "commodious
and beautiful house, rather imposing, having columns in front and a
very respectable steeple".
This second church was remodeled in 1838 at a cost of $4600. to provide
a basement room and stoves were installed. Eleven years later on a cold
Sunday, February 21, 1847, the building caught fire from an overheated
stovepipe and burned to the ground.
The new church was erected immediately, following closely but not
duplicating Mr. Carter's church and was dedicated January 19, 1848. The
contract price of this third and present church building was $5686. We
note that the contractor's bill for this third church was made out to
"The First Congregational Society in Brimfield" instead of to the town,
and that there was an agreement between the two organizations providing
for its use for civil as well as religious meetings.
In 1863-64 furnaces were installed in the basement and the stoves were
removed. New Carpet and cushions were provided by the ladies society.
In 1868-69 the basement floor was lowered by 12 feet, a ladies parlor
and a kitchen installed and a fine meeting hall created. A newspaper
account of that time says, "The Town Hall under the Congregational
Church has been remolded and repaired this fall at an expense of $1500.
and it is now one of the beautiful halls in this vicinity."(Its use as
a Town Hall ceased in 1878 when our present Town Hall was built) In
1891 the sanctuary interior was completely redecorated in the colorful
Victorian frescoing, with woodwork painted in the style called
By 1919 thoughts wee turning towards the acquisition of a Pipe Organ
and the first gift towards that purchase were given to the church then
in 1930 the organ was installed and the sanctuary redecorated, and the
organ played for the first time on may 25, 1930. The present pulpit was
removed from the attic and installed at this time.
The Parish and the Church: From 1721 until 1936, a
span of 215 years, the Parish or Congregational Society, known
generally as the "Parish" held title to and exercised authority over
all of the property and other assets of what we now refer to as the
"Church". It maintained the church and parsonage buildings, established
the salary of the minister and paid all the bills. During this time the
"church" had the responsibility of ensuring and providing for the
spiritual or religious activities, including Sunday service, church
school, and such other meetings as they might deem necessary or
desirable. It was also charged with the responsibility of raising
necessary funds to support its activities, which were turned over to
the "Parish" for expenditure. It elected its own officers and
committees, and provided a "pastor and teacher". In this latter effort
it acted in consort with the "Parish". The actual call was a jointly
The economic depression of the 1930's necessitated a review of the
operational policies and procedures with the intent to bring about a
closer working relationship between the two bodies. This resulted in
the chartering of the First Congregational Church of Brimfield on May
1938 brought a September hurricane to Brimfield. When the wind and the
rain died down the town's people found the church badly wrecked. The
steeple was smashed on the ground, the roof was off and the bell was in
the sanctuary. Through the gifts of many generous friends the church
was restored to it's original beauty and rededicated on January 14,
In September 1965 the first of a two-stage project was completed to
include three new rooms, a completely new kitchen, new bathrooms an new
heating system and many improving changes to the lower meeting room.
The second stage, which would provide additional Church School
facilities, is drawn, specified and ready for construction when the
need is evident and funds available.
In 1976 the church turned its attention to the sanctuary, a design was
produced which was felt preserved the best features of the past and
incorporated some new ideas. The organ and choir were moved to the back
of the sanctuary, thermal window units replace the stained glass
windows, the arched recess in back of the pulpit from another period
was preserved and given a new face. The platform was redesigned, and
the pulpit which had been built by a Brimfield cabinetmaker retained
its place of honor. Fund raising exceeded the total cost of the renewal
project which was $81,000. A dedication service was held on November
The last major projects of this phase were the installation of a fire
detection system and improvements providing access to the handicapped
which included a ramp at the rear door and a chair lit to the sanctuary
as well as a remodeled restroom.
On Sunday Morning, November 19, 1995, our organists arrived early to
practice before services and found the sanctuary filled with black
acrid smoke; one of the electric heaters had shorted and started a
fire. The Congregation worshiped in Fellowship hall till all-important
restorations were completed by Easter Sunday, April 7, 1996. The
estimated cost of this disaster was set at $75,000- $100,000 of which
about $20,000 was borne by the church. In spite of all this we thanked
God our church was not destroyed.
Our elation was short lived. In the spring of 1996 severe problems in
the roof structure were found by our board of trustees and our local
building inspector again closing the sanctuary to use by any gathering.
Support of the roof structure complete only brought another problem to
our attention. Rain and snow were getting into the steeple though the
louvers causing parts of the steeple to become rotten. With the steeple
repaired we moved on to rework the windows in the sanctuary which after
almost 30 years need some touch ups.
This brings the story of the Meeting House up to the present. The
"Church on the Hill" has stood for many years a symbol of a great past,
and , we most earnestly trust, an equally great future.
This history is taken in part from work authored by
Harriet Brown for the 250th Commemorative Book which was updated by her
husband Richard in 1996