| On September 1, 1771, during his last trip from England to the colonies, George Whitfield stood in front of the Foye House on Milton Hill, Captain Glover's home in Milton, and preached to the largest gathering of people ever assembled in Milton to that time. Whitefield was a "spiritual heir to New England's Puritan progenitors [and] also a symbol of liberty at a time when Boston was beseiged" following the Boston Massacre. His theatrical style of preaching energized many to practice methodism. The First Methodist Episcopal Church of Dorchester was founded during the latter part of the year 1816, sometimes referred to as the Fourth Parish. The church was located on its present site on the east side of Washington Street, about one-fourth of a mile from the Milton bridge at the Lower Mills. Previous to 1811 there lived in Dorchester Lower Mills a man and wife, recent immigrants from England, who were devout Wesleyans. They invited their neighbors to attend week-night meetings at their home. In 1812, after the death of her husband, the woman moved to Canada where she married a Mr. Sabine. Twenty-four years later she returned to Dorchester and lived on Washington Street, north of the Methodist Church. Mrs. Sabine was surely the first Methodist in Dorchester.
Click image for more information
In 1813 Mrs. Elizabeth Simmons, Mr. and Mrs. Otheman and Miss Nancy Freeman lived at the corner of what is now Richmond Street and Washington Street and were members of the First Methodist Episcopal Church in Boston. Soon after Mr. Otheman arrived, he invited the neighbors to his home for religious services. Mr. Otheman's house was stoned, and the church-goers were at first maligned, ridiculed, insulted and assaulted by those who did not appreciate the new sect. In the year 1816 Anthony Otheman, supported by Elizabeth Simmons, conducted the first services and formed the first Class Meetings. Over time the group grew, and 1818 Mr. Otheman purchased from Adam Davenport a building used as a carpenter's shop, which stood next to Davenport's house on Sanford Street, and moved it to the site of the present church to be used as a chapel.
In eleven years, the original 19 members became 88, and they outgrew the first meeting house. This first building was moved to 883 Adams Street, and the second church building was dedicated September 24, 1829. In 1844, the church was enlarged by cutting it in the center and increasing the length so as to add twenty pews. This was the year when American Methodism divided over the slavery question into two branches, North and South. In 1874, a third church building replaced the second. In the 20th century, a fourth building was built.
The First Methodist Episcopal Church has fostered the formation of other Methodist churches. Meetings were held as early as 1817 in Dedham about two miles from the center at Readville. The young society remained a branch of the Dorchester Church until 1843 when it grew into the present church at East Dedham. The Mattapan Methodist Episcopal Church was formed after preaching services began in Mattapan as early as 1845. The services were moved from Oakland Hall to the Episcopal Chapel on Norfolk Street, purchased for $5.00 above the mortgage. This edifice was dedicated as the Methodist Episcopal Church, March 11, 1875. In the spring of 1866, prayer-meetings were held in a private house on Maxwell Street. These drew interest and moved to a grove on Pine Hill. In response to a demand for a church building, a lot was secured and a church planned to be built in the Queen Anne style, sixty-five by forty feet. The building was opened in July, 1887, as the Stanton Avenue Church.
In 1930 the Pastor of the First Methodist Church was:
Frank Gerrish Potter
For more information, consult:
Chaffee, John R. The History of the First Methodist Episcopal Church, Dorchester, Massachusetts. Boston: The Pilgrim Press, 1917.
Dorchester Old and New, 1630-1930. Dorchester: Chapple Publishing Company for the Dorchester, Massachusetts, Tercentenary Committee, 1930.
Stout, Harry S. The Divine Dramatist. George Whitefield and the Rise of Modern Evanglicalism.
Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1991.
Here are some images from the Atheneum archive related to this topic. Click on any of these images to open a slideshow of all 2 images.
Do you know something about this topic? Do you have
other pictures or items or knowledge to share? What
about a personal story? Are you a collector? Do you
have questions? Contact us
Created: August 17, 2003 Modified: December 16, 2003