The Meeting House is Threatened by Fire

First Parish Church Parish Records,

June 11, 1844

In 1844 the neighborhood of the Church on Cabot Street was occupied by small shops and businesses squeezed in between the homesteads of early residents.   The dense,  wooden construction made fire a constant concern of the Town.  This account, written by Parish Clerk Robert Rantoul, describes a fire that destroyed much of central Cabot Street and almost consumed the Church and its first organ.  Mr. Rantoul took care to acknowledge passerby Joseph Newhall of Salem as the savior of the Church.  Within a month of this experience, the Parish Committee authorized the purchase of fire insurance for the Church.  


On Tuesday the 11th day of June 1844 at about 2 o’clock in the afternoon a fire broke out in the cabinet maker’s shop of Ebenezer Ellingwood on the northwest side of Cabot Street and opposite to the First Parish meeting House, or nearby or nearly so.  It soon communicated to Dr. Ingalls Kittredge’s dwelling house, which with all its outbuildings was entirely consumed.  The fire spread to the meeting house and to several other buildings- The furniture and a part of the Organ were removed and some damage was sustained by the removal.  The roof was on fire in several places and it also took fire at the very summit of the steeple.  By great exertions the fire was extinguished.  In consequence of the damage to the roof it was thought expedient to shingle the whole of the northeasterly side of the roof that was not new shingled in 1835 when the house was remodeled, and the northwesterly side was new shingled. The shingles that are now taken off were put on in July 1819 and would have lasted a few years longer if circumstances had permitted their remaining.

The organ was repaired by Mr. Hook, the builder of it.  Joseph Newhall, sash and blind maker, Southfields, Salem, was the adventurous person who first climbed to the top of the cupola and extinguish the fire which was blazing there under the gilded ornament at the very top. The roof of the vestry was burned some and required mending.

The inside of the house was restored to order before the end of the week and was used on Sunday.

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