No. 269 Postcard. Second Parish, White Church, Codman Square, Dorchester, Mass. Postarked Aug. 2, 1915.
Under Thaddeus Harris’ tenure at the First Church it was seen that the congregation had outgrown its accommodations, so the Second Church was set off to be located at Codman Square.
The following is from Second Church’s website https://secondchurchdorchester.org/about-us-2/history/
“On November 19, 1804, eighty residents of the town formed themselves into a “Dorchester Meeting House Company” for the purpose of erecting “this great church of ours” within 100 rods of Baker’s Corner (now Codman Square). In the winter months of 1804 – 1805 the great pine logs were cut in Maine (then a part of Massachusetts), hauled over the snow to the water’s edge, towed to the mouth of the Neponset River, and brought from there to the building site by oxen. All the work was done by hand and the exterior had to be finished and painted before winter arrived.
On August 7, 1805, the raising of the frame was begun with every able-bodied citizen taking part. Hymns of praise and prayers of Thanksgiving were offered to the “Divine Architect” for guidance in the work and gratitude that no one person was injured in this great undertaking.
The building was publicly dedicated on Sunday, October 30, 1806. Pews were reserved for the minister and several other people, and the remainder were sold at public auction for $25,750 an amount which was $20,000 more than the entire cost of the land and building. The Paul Revere bell in the tower was raised in 1816, replacing an earlier bell which had cracked. It weighs 1,200 lbs., excluding a 27 lb. clapper. In its 185 years, it has sounded forth the call to worship, notified the countryside of fire, proclaimed the death of presidents, and tolled in respect for the departed. The 4-dialed clock in the tower was added in 1852 — the gift of Col. Walter Baker of chocolate fame.
Second Church was not always so called — it was known as Upper Meeting House, New Meeting House, or South Meeting House. On January 19, 1810, it was voted unanimously to be known as the South Church in Dorchester. Two years later on April 3, 1812, another vote was passed by which it was to be called “Second Church.”
The Second Church in Dorchester was organized by an ecclesiastical council on January 1, 1808, with sixty-four charter members (27 men and 37 women) affectionately dismissed from the “Mother Church.” Services of worship were held in Second Church in the interval between its dedication in 1806 and its organization in 1808.
It should be remembered that the organization of a second church in Dorchester was due solely to the need of an expanding population. As evidence of this, a committee was appointed to draw up a communication “From the brethren about to form a second church in Dorchester.” In part it read, “Brethren, the period of separation has arrived. It is solemn and affecting. Bear us on your devout petitions to God that He would endow us with wisdom profitable to direct and prosper us….”
A committee of the First Church was there upon appointed “to draw up a reply to the communication of those who are about to form a second church in which they express their feelings in separating from us, assuring them our parting benediction.”
It was at this time that the lines were beginning to be drawn distinctly between the rigid and liberal portions of the churches.
Unitarianism existed as a faith but not as a denomination. Dr. Harris and the First Parish belonged to the liberal order, and the new or Second Church included those who were in sympathy with him and his views. The new minister of the Second Church possessed strong Orthodox views. Liberal members of the Second Church disagreed with Dr. Codman, because he refused to exchange pulpits with the liberal members of the Boston Ministers’ Association. A long and bitter controversy followed and led to a confrontation.
Those who were dissatisfied agreed to sell Dr. Codman their pews and to withdraw from the Church membership. The seceders organized the Third Religious Society (called then the New South Parish), a distinct Unitarian parish. Their first meeting was May 6, 1813, when the construction of a meeting house was planned.
The ministers of the Second Church and their periods of tenure were:
John Codman, 1808-1847
James Howard Means, 1848-1878
Edward Newman Packard, 1879-1887
Arthur Little, 1889-1912
Jason Noble Pierce, 1914-1920
Vaughn Dabney, 1920-1931
Andrew Richards, 1932- at least to 1955
Dr. John Codman, member of an influential family, graduate of Harvard, and also attended Edinburgh University, Scotland, was ordained on December 7, 1808, as first minister of Second Church in Dorchester. Dr. Codman’s ministry has been the longest in the history of Second Church. A note of interest — during Dr. Codman’s ministry Daniel Webster regularly attended Second Church when he was in Dorchester. Also, John Adams, second president of the United States, attended services.
Dr. Codman died on December 23, 1847, but a few days before his death, riding with his friend, Rev. William Allen, D.D., in a pleasant field a short distance in front of this meetinghouse, Dr. Codman said, “I intend to offer this field to my parish for a cemetery and here I wish to lie in the midst of my people.” Thus it was that Second Church came into possession of the Codman Cemetery. In 1848, Baker’s Corner (now Codman Square) was named in memory of Dr. John Codman. It had been known as Baker’s Corner for Dr. James Baker who eventually founded the first chocolate manufacturing enterprise in the country.
Rev. James H. Means, D.D., became the second minister of Second Church, a wish of Dr. Codman’s that his student assistant take his place when he died. Dr. Means had a 30 year ministry during which time the Civil War in this country took place.
In 1879 Rev. Edward N. Packard, D.D., became the third minister of Second Church. It was during his ministry that the parsonage was erected. His ministry ended in 1887.
Rev. Arthur Little, D.D., became the fourth minister of Second Church in 1889. The Chinese Sunday School was established during his ministry of twenty-three years. Also, the Hook-Hastings Organ was given to the church by T. Beaumont Townsend in memory of his mother and father. This is the fourth organ in the history of Second Church. Dr. Little resigned in 1912 and was made Pastor Emeritus.
Rev. Jason Noble Pierce, D.D., succeeded Dr. Little in 1914 and was the fifth minister of Second Church. During his ministry World War I broke out and two hundred and three men and women from Second church entered the armed forces and Dr. Pierce served in France as Senior Chaplain of the Second Division, returning in 1919. In 1920 he accepted a call to a church in Washington, D.C.
In December 1920, Rev. Vaughan Dabney, D.D., became the sixth minister of Second Church. It was during his tenure that the incorporation of the parish and church into a corporate entity was accomplished in 1922, the Parish House was built, and Harvard Church, which as an offshoot of Second Church, reunited with Second Church. Dr. Dabney resigned in December 1931 to become Dean of Andover-Newton Theological School.
Rev. Andrew Richards, D.D., became the seventh minister of Second Church in 1932. Dr. Richards, born in Leith, Scotland, came to this country at the age of seventeen. During his ministry, nineteen young men entered the ministry. World War II raged for four years during which time 163 young men and women joined the armed services — eight of her young men paying the supreme sacrifice. There were 1400 members recorded in 1935 during Dr. Richards’ ministry, which spanned 34 years, and 110 in the Sunday School which was organized in 1918.
Rev. Frank T. Jensen, D.D., became the eighth pastor of Second Church in 1967, during which time the Codman Square area saw many changes affecting the church. During his ministry, Central Congregational Church of Dorchester, another offshoot of Second Church, reunited with Second Church in 1973. Dr. Jensen was the Director of Religious Education of Second Church from 1930 to 1938 when he accepted a call to become pastor of a church in St. Joseph, Michigan. Dr. Jensen retired in 1979 and returned to Michigan with his wife, Dorothy.
Rev. Thomas G. Jones became our ninth pastor in 1979 and stayed until 1984. It was during Rev. Jones’ ministry that we celebrated our 175th anniversary in 1980.
Rev. Dr. Donald P. Brickley became the tenth pastor of Second Church in January 1988. Dr. Donald Brickley brokered the transfer to the Church the Nazarene in 1990. At that time, Dr. Brickley also served as pastor of the Neponset Community Church and was an elder in the Church of the Nazarene. In 1991, the heritage of Second Church was merged with the Church of the Nazarene – a Church with a great tradition of ministry to people in the city.
In 1829 twenty-one members were dismissed from the Second Church to form a new church in the south part of the town, which took the name of the Village Church.
For the pdf version of the article “Church Split, Commuter Line Spurred Growth in Codman Square” by Anthony Sammarco published in The Dorchester Community News, April 6, 1990, copy and paste this link into your web browser.
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.
King’s Hand-Book of Boston. Boston: Moses King Corporation, 1889. 9th ed.
Orcutt, William Dana. Good Old Dorchester: A Narrative History of the Town, 1630-1893. Cambridge, The University Press, 1908.
Proceedings of the Second Church and Parish in Dorchester; Exhibited in a Collection of Papers. Published Agreeably to a Vote of the Church. Second edition. Boston: Printed by Samuel T. Armstrong, 1812.
Review of the Dorchester Controversy. From the Panoplist. Boston, 1813.
Robertson, Janet L. Puritan Heritage: A Brief History of Second Church in Dorchester. Boston, 1955.
James Howard Means
Edward Newman Packard
Jason Noble Pierce
Frank T. Jensen
Thomas G. Jones
Donald P. Brickley
Church of the Nazarene