;First building     
        Which is the First Church?
Artist's rendering
of the First Church
in Boston

Settlers Arriving A large number of people from Dorchester, England, already organized into a congregational, or separatist, church set sail for the New World from Plymouth, England on March 30, 1630. In that same year, the Massachusetts Bay Company gathered ‘godly people’ in the vicinity of Boston, England to join a fleet led by John Winthrop, on the flag-ship Arbella which cast off from Southampton, England on April 8, 1630, just one week after the Dorchester emigrants. The Dorchester fleet arrived in the Massachusetts Bay area of New England around June 7. They settled in and held their church services on the hilly area on the southern shores of the Bay. They gave the name of their mother town, Dorchester to the community. It was as if they had just brought a delegation of home town people over the waters, and had set themselves up in America. The Boston fleet arrived in the New World on June 12, landing in Salem. The Salem delegation, the first of the Mass Bay Company, had experienced a difficult winter, and mostly for that reason the location did not appeal to the Winthrop/Arbella colonists. The Boston group settled in the area now known as Charlestown, but found that it did not have sufficient ‘clear’ water. They then crossed the Bay onto the Shawmut peninsula to establish their base. Here, on July 30, 1630, they signed a church Covenant, creating the first church in their community. Five weeks later, on September 7, the town of (new) Boston was chartered.
By the winter of 1635, the Dorchester church members decided to leave the Mass Bay area to move to Connecticut and found Hartford. In the next year, the few remaining church members invited Richard Mather, a member of the First Church in Boston, to be their minister. From Richard on, through his sons and grandsons—Increase, Cotton and Samuel, as well as grandson Mather Byles—the unsurpassed dynastic history of the Mather ministers was created. So without contention, the First Church in Boston stands as the first church in Boston. Mather’s Dorchester church, along with the town of Dorchester, was annexed to the city of Boston in 1870.

       The First Church in Watertown also traces its origin to 1630. From the beginning, Governor Winthrop believed there would be only one Church for the whole Mass Bay Company. But for the winter of 1630, the colonists had taken the cattle upriver for grazing. From this distance, the winter journey to Shawmut on the Sabbath turned out to be too harsh. Therefore, services were conducted in Watertown, and in the same year, founding their own church. Due to the “Great Emigration” of colonists to come to these shores, the question is often asked, ‘which is the first church to be established in Boston?’ The Pilgrims had come to the New World in 1620 and established a congregational church and town named Plymouth. The first wave of colonists in the Massachusetts Bay Company established a church and town in Salem in 1629. Govenor Winthrop and the next wave of Mass Bay Colonists established Boston in 1630. The First Church in Boston is the first church in Boston. In the first full decade, as the colonists began to spread out from Boston to form new farming communities, the number of independent churches grew: Charlestown and Duxbury, 1632; Scituate, 1634; Concord, 1636; Taunton, 1637; Quincy and Barnstable, 1639; Sudbury, 1640; Norwell, 1642; Haverhill, 1645 and Malden, 1649.

Founders' Monument