background

Historical Background.


In 1827 the New Hampshire legislature chartered the First Methodist Society in Bow to John Colby, Jr., John Carter, Stephen Wheeler, Amos Wheeler, and Levi M. Davis. It was not until 1832 that the group became a functional church, selecting members to fill various positions, adopting a constitution and announcing the formation of the Society to the public. For the next two years the congregation met at members homes or in the Bog schoolhouse.


In 1834 they prepared a subscription for a place of worship. "Whereas the Methodist Episcopal Church and Society in the town of Bow are destitute of a convenient house for the worship of God and being actuated by laudable zeal to encourage and promote the cause of religion, a few individuals have proposed to open a subscription and to recommend this object to the patronage of all who feel friendly to the same. The house to be erected shall be about forty-six feet long and forty feet wide, or larger if subscription can be obtained, one story high with 17 or 18 foot posts with a gallery of 6 or 7 feet wide with a porch under the same including the stairs. Said house is to finished with strait narrow pews which pews shall be deeded by the Trustees of the Methodist Church and Society to purchasers. Said house shall be located on land not far distant from the Bog schoolhouse (so-called) in this town.


The steeple was to be constructed in imitation of the one on the Methodist meetinghouse in Concord. The body pews, pulpit, and altar in front of the pulpit were to be finished like the pulpit and altar in the Methodist meetinghouse in Chichester. The building was to be well floored and underpinned with good split stone.


The contract to build the church dated March 21, 1835 was set off to George Washington Wheeler who contracted to complete the job for $800.00. In the contract Mr. Wheeler agreed in part to "build a porch under the singing gallery which is to be as large as needful, to have 6 windows in sides of said house 40 squares per window, one window in the lower part of the house in the porch, two windows of some smaller size in the gallery . . . two pair of stairs ascend the gallery, two outer doors, two doors to enter the inside of the house, isles three feet - three inches wide, pews about eight feet, side pews to be raised about four inches higher than body pews . . . two good door steps hammered. . . .[punctuation added].


George Washington Wheeler was a noted Bow builder who also built the Bow Town Hall in 1847. The building was to be completed on or before December 15, 1835, on land which was purchased from Asa Goodhue, Willaby Colby, and Levi Colby on October 23, 1835 for $15.


On June 18, 1874 the Methodist Churches in New Hampshire founded the Winnepesaukee Camp Meeting Association, and the Bow Methodists purchased Lot 38 on the Public Circle for $30.


The height of the balcony was altered in the 1880s and a wood stove was installed. Previously the members brought their own warming stoves when attending church.


In 1888 the church established its first Sunday school, which was called the Sunday School of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Bow. Some books from this Sunday School are still kept in the Meeting House.


The Bow Bog Methodist Episcopal Church of Bow served the religious needs of this denomination in Bow until 1892 when the Bow Methodists split into two congregations (the Bow Bog and Bow Mills). For a while the two congregations functioned together, one holding services in the morning and the other in the afternoon, but the groups never united.


In 1903 when Mary Baker Eddy was living at her Pleasant View home in Concord, she donated a "sweet sounding bell for the belfry. When it was installed, it was rung by a descendant of one of the original church organizers.


In 1904 the church was modernized, perhaps to compete with the Bow Mills Methodist newly acquired building or perhaps in response to the donation of the bell from Mary Baker Eddy. A lower metal ceiling was installed, and the singing gallery was closed and stairs sealed up to make room for a dry kitchen and cloak room in the entryway of the main level.


The Methodist Conference abandoned the Bow Bog Church in 1951, offering the building to the remaining trustees, suggesting it could be used to house livestock. In order to preserve the building from the same fate as the White Rock Hill meetinghouse, a group of Bow residents, including descendants of some of the church's original founders, formed the Bow Bog Meeting House Society. Its purpose was to preserve the building for religious services and community affairs. The Conference deeded the building and land to the Society for $1and gave them $600 of church money. On July 7, 1951 the first meeting of the Bow Bog Meeting House Society was held in the church. Articles of Agreement for the corporation were filed with the town clerk in August of that year.


The Society raised money and rebuilt the bell tower and painted the interior and exterior of the meeting house in 1960. Actual restoration of the meetinghouse didn't begin until 1969, partly because the church, which George Wheeler built in 1835 for $800, cost the Meeting House Society $10,000 to restore. In the late 1960's they contracted with Philip Baker of Antrim, New Hampshire, a noted restorer of historic buildings who also worked on some of the buildings at Strawberry Banke, to restore the building. Due to the detailed agreement between the Society and George Washington Wheeler recorded in the Methodist Society record books and the minimal alterations made to the building, the Bow Bog Meeting House Society was able to restore the church nearly to its original state with the work completed in August of 1970. The work included removing the kitchen and cloakroom from the entryway, reopening the stairs to the singing gallery, and rebuilding the gallery pews to the same proportion as those which were there originally. The original plaster ceiling was restored and the regular pews were refurbished. The roof was also redone.


Because of Mary Baker Eddy's connection with the Bog Meeting House, the Christian Science Church maintained a relationship with the Methodists and later the Bow Bog Meeting House Society, holding meetings in the Meeting House and donating offerings to the Society. They also donated funds to repair the roof when the building was restored. After restoration of the building the Christian Scientist continued to hold annual meetings in the church, and the Society held ecumenical Thanksgiving services.


The bell was rung on National celebrations, and in 1977 on the occasion of the Town's 250th anniversary, an evening service was conducted in the meeting house with costumed attendees and the minister arriving on horseback.


During its period of use from 1835 to 1951 it served as both a church and meeting house. The Bow Bog Meeting House provided the social life in the community, with Christmas celebrations, New Year's Eve levees, suppers, graduations, school assemblies, public lectures on education, religion and other social topics, harvest celebrations, church sociables, weddings and parties. While the religious differences in Bow were strong, townspeople came together for these social gatherings. Since its restoration by the Bow Bog Meeting House Society the Bow Bog Meeting House has continued to be used for ecumenical services, visits by school children, town and national anniversary celebrations, open houses, weddings and funerals.


In 1985 the Bow Bog Meeting House was transferred to the Town of Bow, as the members of the Bow Bog Meeting House Society had dwindled to a number and age unable to maintain the building. Preservation and maintenance of the town's historic buildings is part of the Bow Master Plan.


The Bow Bog Meeting House was placed on the State Register of Historic Places on January 24, 2011.


The current project to restore the bell tower and reinforce the roof is funded in part by a grant from the NH Land & Community Heritage Investment Program.


Architectural Description.


The Bow Bog Meeting House is a colonial style post and beam building built in 1835 for use as a church and meetinghouse. It is approximately 49' long and 40' wide. The exterior is original clapboard painted white. The foundation is split granite, as well as the entry steps. There are two off-center entry doors on the facade with one 12 over 12 pane double-hung window centered between them, and two 12 over 8 pane double-hung windows off-center in the gallery above. There are three 20 over 20 pane double-hung windows on each side of the building. The back of the building has two off-center single brick chimneys. There is a 9 pane square fixed window in the peak of the attic. There is a window casing centered between the chimneys which has been clapboarded over. The building has a gable roof with asphalt shingles. The steeple was fashioned after the Methodist meetinghouse in Concord. There is a bell in the steeple that was donated in 1903 by Mary Baker Eddy. There is a 6 ft. 6 in. wide singing gallery with stairs leading to it from both sides of the "porch" (entry way) below. There are two interior doors entering the main body of the house. The interior of the building has original pine floors with a 16 foot high ceiling. Walls and ceiling are plastered. The isles are "three feet three inches wide, pews about eight feet, side pews . . . raised about four inches higher than body pews". Lighting is two electrical chandeliers down the center of the church. There is no plumbing. Heat is supplied by a wood stove in the front left side of the church building with a stovepipe to the chimney in the back.


Location and Setting.


The property is located on a 1.10 Acre parcel at 111 Bow Bog Road, a rural road. There is a circular dirt driveway in front. Parking is available on the lawns on both sides of the building. The land is currently wooded to the northeast and rear of the building, predominantly large pine. The Bow Garden Club has planted lilacs at the front corners of the building and day lilies in raised beds along the front. We are not aware of the appearance of the lot when the meeting house was built in 1835, but assume it was field land, like the majority of Bow. A 1930 photograph shows carriage sheds on the northwest side of the meeting house, hardwoods and bushes in front near the road and pines in the rear. We have no record of when the carriage sheds were removed, but the foundation stones are visible on the ground. By the 1970s the trees in the front were predominately large pines and were removed in the 1990s to protect the meeting house from damage.


The location of the meeting house was determined by the location of the members of the newly formed Methodist society, and as specified by the records "was to be located on land not far distant from the Bog schoolhouse (so-called) in this town", where the members of the Society had been holding services. The location was further influenced by the availability of land belonging to members of the Society. This land was conveniently located at intersection of the Bow Bog Road, the Narrows Road (an old range road now closed) and the Allen Road. Bow Bog Road at this location was also part of the Branch Londonderry Turnpike running from Hooksett to Hopkinton.


Current Condition of the building


The appearance of the exterior of the building is unchanged from 1835, with the following exceptions: In the 1880s two single chimneys were added to the rear of the building to accommodate wood heat. A window in the rear of the building was clapboarded over at an unknown date. In 1989 louvers were added to the steeple to protect the bell and interior from the weather. Windows panes were replaced as needed. Minor patching was made to the concrete foundation. Roof was repaired as needed, known dates are 1970 and 1994; roofing material has been wooden shingles, metal, and asphalt. The steeple was also repaired as needed, known dates are 1960 and 1997.


From the records found and structural evidence, the current appearance of the interior is also little changed. In the 1880s wood heat was added with stove pipes running from the stoves in the front of the building to the chimneys in the back. Two side pews were removed on each side to accommodate the stove. The singing gallery, which was changed in height in the 1880s and closed in 1904 to accommodate a small dry kitchen and cloakroom in the entryway, was restored in 1970. The stairs to the gallery were reopened and the gallery pews rebuilt to original dimensions. The kitchen and cloakroom were removed and the entryway restored to its original appearance. The lower metal ceiling also installed in 1904 was removed in the 1970 restoration and the original ceiling repaired. The pews flanking the altar/pulpit area removed in 1904 to accommodate the pump organ and choir have not been restored; evidence on the floor indicates their location. Evidence on the floor also indicates there was one additional row of body pews in the rear of the church. The 1970 restoration done by Philip Baker of Antrim, New Hampshire, a noted restorer of historic buildings, was based on the original contract with George Washington Wheeler and historic evidence found on site


Mary Baker Eddy Association.


Mary Baker Eddy, founder of the Christian Science religion, was born in Bow, NH on her father's farm on Baker Road on July 16, 1821. She spent the first 14 years of her life in Bow, and always referred to them as her "golden days of childhood". While living at her Pleasant View home in Concord from 1889 to 1908 she was frequently seen riding in her carriage around the roads of Bow. In her message to The Mother Church given in 1901, ) under the heading of "My Childhood's Church Home", Mrs. Eddy referred by name to "Father Orlando Hinds", who served the Methodist Episcopal Church and Society of Bow 1831-1836 , as contributing to her early spiritual development. She said: "It was my fair fortune to be often taught by some grand old Divines....Their convictions were honest, and they lived them; and the sermons their lives preached caused me to love their doctrines."


Due to Mrs. Eddy's association with the Meeting House, the Christian Science Church maintained a relationship with the both the Methodists and the Bow Bog Meeting House Society through 1985 when the Society was dissolved and the building was gifted to the Town of Bow. Recently the Longyear Museum made a donation toward the repair of the bell tower in Mrs. Eddy's memory.


Faye Johnson, Secretary, Bow Herritage Commission