Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Other Washington

Over the past couple years I have gotten heavily into family history, as anyone who reads this blog would be aware. The past two fall's we've taken a trip back to visit places in Vermont where ancestors had lived and died. This year we continued the tradition, but moved back a generation. We discovered the town where so many of my family trees met, merged and moved on. In Washington, New Hampshire (named in late fall 1776 for George Washington who was then quite busy! -- the first town named for him) several of my family lines moved a decade or so before the turn of the century. Church Tabor, who had served in the Revolutionary War and who had a family history of carpentry work, moved with his father and brother, maybe two. He ended up being one of the main builders of the Washington Meeting House. It is one of the few Meeting Houses of it's time that has survived and has the even more narrow distinction of STILL being the Town Hall of Washington after all these years.

This is the Meeting House in Washington. When it was originally built (between 1787 to 1789) it did not have the bell tower that can be seen on the left side facing it. It would have looked the same on both sides with the little porch on the end. The pulpit -- since the meeting house was both the town hall and the church meeting place -- would have been opposite the front entrance. When the building was built it also had a main floor and a gallery above for additional seating but would have been open to the ceiling in the center. It has been remodeled a bit over the years and now it is two stories on the inside with the upstairs now a stage for local plays and productions. The Meeting house remains little altered on the outside; but is completely different now on the inside. Gone are the box pews that families paid for and had priority to use. I used to think that was odd, but having read about this now, I have discovered that the pews were "sold" as a means of purchasing them since the town didn't have the money left over for that when the building was done.

In the photo here you can see the original meeting house (on the right), next to it and in the center is a school that was later built, and the closest building is the "newer" Congregational church which was built when the governmental and religious functions of the town were a little
more separated than they had been initally. They say that this is now one of the most widely photographed town greens in New England because of its picturesque trio of buildings.

Our trip was so much fun. We were able to talk to Gwen, a town historian, who shared all kinds of information on various family members. We were able to meet with Grace, the town archivist and were able to see the actual birth and marriage records of various family members and to take flashless digital photos. Another historical society member, Tom, was able to point out the farms of family members on the south end of town. Fortunately we visited that area on Sunday after we had talked my brother and sister-in-law and some of the nieces into visiting Washington as well. Without his four-wheel-drive we NEVER would have made it and the rental car company would have had a stroke had we tried!

Church Tabor (named Church because that was his mother's maiden name) was one of the prime carpenters on this meeting house as noted above. He helped with the general construction, specifically built the roof, constructed the window frames and transom above the door and also built the original six pillars (three of which are left) that supported the structure on the inside. I'll try to add a few more photos soon of the interior. And photos of our walk through the cemetery where we surprising found adversaries resting in peace together.

We are looking forward to another trip to the Other Washington again next fall if we can manage it!