Meetinghouse Tragedy in Newport

Artist rendering of the old meetinghouse.

In 1791 the town of Newport purchased property on Unity Road for a new meetinghouse to serve both the town and its Congregational Society. The structure was erected two years later in 1793. Published sources cite different dates, but this transcript of a private letter seems definitive:

Dear Grandmother, I have sad news to write you. Dear brother Charlie is dead. June 26th, Father and Charlie went to Newport to help raise a meeting house. Charlie fell from the building 27 feet, striking his head. He lived only a short time. Father and Mother are so sad; everybody loved Charlie. He was 19 his last birthday. He was brave, and so helpful to Father. He taught school last winter....

Sarah Seamans, daughter of New London's Baptist minister, Job Seamans, related news of the accident. In a journal entry on the first anniversary of the event, the Rev. Job Seamans wrote:

Thursday June 26, 1794 — This day a year ago my son was killed at the raising of Newport meeting-house; upon this day too, they raised their meeting-house in Croydon. This circumstance brought troubles fresh to my mind and I could not avoid another bitter spell of mourning. When will the days of mourning be ended? I felt as though I never should forget this heavy stroke; but I wish I may never murmur against God.

The 1793 meetinghouse served well the town's original settlement west of the Sugar River, but over the next 20 years the center of activity shifted to the eastern side of the river. When the new, brick meetinghouse was constructed in 1822, there appears to have been no dissent: it would be situated along the new turnpike running up the east side. In 1823, the old meetinghouse was sold, moved down the road, and used as a barn.

© New Hampshire Steeples, 2012