(excerpts from: “A History of the Towns of Bristol and Bremen,” John Johnston, 1873)
November 1, 1764, at a meeting of gentlemen from “Walpole, Harrington, Pemaquid, Broad Cove, and Round Pond,” James Boyd was chosen moderator, and Thomas Johnston, clerk. Measures were taken to procure an act of incorporation and James Boyd and Wm. Miller were appointed a committee to draft a petition for the purpose, procure signatures and forward it to to the legislature.
At the same meeting it was also agreed, that the new town should include the three districts of Walpole, Harrington, and Broad Cove each of which should build it’s own meeting house, and each have it’s proper share of the “ministerial performances” when a minister should be obtained.
The 1st Act of Incorporation was passed June 21st, 1765, but the northern boundary not suiting the citizens, another act was passed the following year, June 19th, 1766.
The very appropriate name Bristol was given the new town because of the connection of it’s previous history with so many eminent citizens of Bristol, England, but it is not known by whom it was 1st suggested.
At the annual meeting, March 12, 1767, besides choosing officers little was done, except to “discuss the meeting house question, and appointing a committee to procure preaching”, but at a meeting in June, it was decided to build their meeting houses, as soon as the citizens “should think it proper”. It was also:
“Voted, that the town get a church order as soon as opportunity will afford, and that we shall be under the Westminster Confession of Faith, or Presbyterian rules.” Committee appointed to carry this resolution into effect, Wm.Jones, Patrick Rogers, George Clark, Nathl. Palmer, and Wm. McLain.
But there was a powerful minority, violently opposed to the decision concerning the meeting houses because they thought the people unable to raise so much money as would be required. They therefore caused a protest in the record, “a decent” (dissent) to be entered on the town record, which was signed by the following twelve persons, viz, James Drummond, Simon Eliot, George Clark, John Lermond, Francis Young, Elisha Clark, Joseph Clark, Samuel Clark, Alexander Fossett, James Sproul, John Lermond Jr., and Robert Paul.
The next year the meeting house question was the chief matter of discussion at the town meetings; but in spite of the opposition the plan to have three houses was adhered to, and on May 2nd, 1768 it was “voted to locate the Pemaquid and Harrington meeting house and burying place, on Wm. Sproul’s land, where after much contention it was afterward erected, and stood until recent times. Alexander Nickels, Patrick Rodgers, and Robert Sproul were appointed a committee to attend the building of the house.
At the same meeting the Walpole meeting house was located “on the land of John Thomson,” and Dugall McMichael, Henry Hunter, and Richard Hiscock appointed a committee to lay out the land for it.
At the annual town meeting, March 14th, 1769, it was voted to raise 100 pounds “for preaching and schooling” the following year, and that each of the three parishes, Harrington, Walpole, and Broad Cove, should expend its own proportion of the money raised for schools. It was also voted that each parish should “raise by tax 100 pounds for building its meeting place.”
(from: ” Colonial Meeting-Houses of New Hampshire.” Eva Speare, 1938)
Unlike the other surviving meetinghouses which are typically clad with clapboards, the exterior of Walpole’s meetinghouse is covered by rough, hand-split shingles that, once upon a time, were either painted or stained a brownish yellow that so resembles the color of the birch leaves as to camouflage it among the trees.
In size and shape, Walpole resembles its contemporary, Sandown (New Hampshire); even the arrangement of the pews on the floor is identical also. Here, however is a more completely finished interior. The rough posts of the frame are concealed by planed casement with beveled corners; the woodwork is painted a dull grey color; the windows are furnished with twenty-four of the smallest panes of old glass that we have seen.
The pulpit is a masterpiece by skilled ship carpenters and unlike any design elsewhere. If the tulip base designates the pattern of Rocky Hill, then the daisy must have been the inspiration for this one in Walpole. A mottled green paint, to simulate Italian marble, covers both the pulpit and the posts that support the gallery. One of the most curious relics we have found is the hinge to the door that enters the pulpit pew. A double jointed semi-circular section permits the door to slip by into the pulpit enclosure a few inches so, as it swings, it does not obstruct the narrow landing at the top of the stairway.
A reversed plan for the pews was found in the gallery. On its floor the square pews lined the parapet while the usual long slip pews were built on raised step-like platforms behind the family pews.
Balancing upon the railing of the rear pew, we were able to lift our heads through the cubbyhole in the ceiling to study the framework of the roof. To our surprise, the timbers were about half the size of other structures of this period and queen-post trusses with single rafters supported the roof. As in Sandown, the wedged or “locked” joints held the struts firmly in position.