While the first religious serves were held late in 1680 in the home of Nathaniel Bosworth, the first meeting house in Bristol was built in 1684 on the Town Common, where the historic Court House now stands. An artist’s rendering based on a written description of the meeting house is shown below. Click here for photos of the Early Bristol marker placed at the 1st Congregational Church in 2022.
Rev. Samuel Lee, D.D., a graduate of Oxford Univesity and a long dissenting minister in England, was called to be the Church’s first “settled” minister in 1687.
A pew panel, the only surviving fragment of the original meetinghouse built in 1684, is on display in the Church archives. It is thought to be part of the pastor’s pew box built about 1684-85 by a craftsman of particular skill. (Click on photos to enlarge,)
A photo of eight silver cups in the Communion Service is on display, the oldest two inscribed with “The gift of Nathaniel Byfield to the Church in Bristol, 1693”. Byfield was one of the original proprietors of the Town of Bristol. A plate belonging to Rev. Lee is also on display. After serving the Church from 1687, Rev. Lee returned to England in 1691. However, his ship was captured by a French privateer and he was carried as a prisoner to a French port where he died of prison fever and was buried as a heretic outside the city walls.
A handwritten church history from the 18th century begins with the founding of the town. The book is later replicated in later printed versions.