Congregational Church, Pigeon Cove, Mass., circa 1908

This church, formerly known as the First Church of Christ, still stands today as the Pigeon Cove Chapel, located at 155 Granite St.

The church as it looks today.

The church actually grew out of a Sunday school. In 1857, two local teachers, Ellen H. Gott and Lyman B. Stockman, decided to start a Sunday school for the children of Pigeon Cove. The school held its first class on May 31, 1857, when 43 students met in a building known as Woodbury’s Hall. Later that year, the Sunday school moved to a Pigeon Cove schoolhouse.

In 1863, the Sunday school moved to this chapel building. Apparently, the chapel was still a work in progress at that point, because its construction was not completed until 1868. The completed chapel was dedicated at a ceremony in January 1869.

Even then, work continued. In 1873, the tower was erected, a bell was purchased and a fence was built. The bell first rang on Sunday, Aug. 24, 1873 — marking the first time that villagers in Pigeon Cove were called to church by the ringing of a bell.

The next year, 1874, the church was formally organized as the First Church of Christ at Pigeon Cove, with 19 members. Later that year, it was formally recognized as a Congregational Church. According to the 1888 book, History of the Town of Rockport, a separate Swedish service was also held in this church every Sunday afternoon.

In his wonderful essay about growing up in Rockport, Where I Come From, writer Kevin Baker describes the town as “choc-a-bloc with churches,” but says this one was where you’d find him:

I was brought up mostly in the Pigeon Cove Chapel, an Evangelical church which billed itself as “A friendly little chapel by the sea.” There used to be even more places of worship, but these were Scandinavian-language churches that went out of business and were converted into private residences as their congregations learned English.

This postcard was published by Souther-Mears Co. of Boston, Mass. Because the company was in business only from 1908 to 1910, I estimate the postcard to be around 1908, although the photo could be even older.

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