First UMC - Stoughton
Methodism began in West Stoughton in 1806 when a circuit preacher came to attend a sick man in the home of Hezekiah and Rebecca Gay and was asked to preach there. In 1810 occasional services were held. A class of five members was formed in 1812 and Stoughton was added to the list of appointments on the Mansfield and Easton circuit. By 1818 the membership had increased to forty and a meeting house was erected in Factory Village at a cost of $7000. This meeting house, later used as a dwelling, was razed on July 17, 1987. In 1834 a new house of worship was built in the center of town at a cost of $2,200 where the present property is located. It was dedicated on September 23, 1835.
The present church which is a beautiful, large, white Victorian-style building was built in 1865-1866 at a cost of $14,000 with a debt of $5,500. It was dedicated on December 5, 1966. By 1869 the debt was reduced to $1,000. By 1884 the church was freed of debt by raising $3,2000. A new pipe organ was procured for $800. Repairs and improvements to the building were made including damage from lightning. A parsonage and grounds were donated in 1878 on Seaver Street. In 1895 a gift of $5,000 was received in a bequest. The original donor of the Seaver Street property bought it back and sold the congregation a lot adjoining the church on Pleasant Street where they built a parsonage in 1896. In 1910 a new Estey pipe organ was installed in the front of the sanctuary at a cost of $1,600. This organ is still in use today. In 1928 construction of the Tri Mu (Mind, Muscle, and Morals) Hall was begun. The lower level had bowling alleys, showers and a heating plant. The upper level had a kitchen and a stage in addition to the Hall. In 1836 another Methodist Church had been built in North Stoughton and served the people of that neighborhood for 107 years. In 1943 that church was closed, sold and later razed. The bell, cast by George Holbrook of Medway in 1836, and other church furnishings were given to the congregation on Pleasant Street. Over the years many improvement projects changed the sanctuary and in 1955 the bowling alleys were removed and the space converted for Sunday School classroom. In May of 1979 a fire under the center corridor and kitchen gutted that section of the building causing about $100,000 damage.
Less than a year later, the fire-damaged building was humming with activity again. In 1984 while undergoing restoration and preparation for repainting, the main supporting timbers of the bell house and spire were found to be rotted. Deemed unsafe by the town building inspector, the church was given 48 hours to have it removed. On August 24, 1984, the historic wooden steeple (the last in Stoughton) which had been a landmark for 118 years was removed at a cost of $5,000. During the next two and a half years, the church was able to raise $30,000 and on May 6, 1987 debt free, a new fiberglass spire graced the top of the building. The new steeple, several feet taller than the original is 105 feet to the top of the cross. In the late 1990's First UMC became involved in the United Methodist’s Vision 2000 campaign to revitalize membership and activity with a long-range view into the new 21st century.
In December 1999 a 33-acre plot of land in Canton was bequeathed to the church by Herman Paul. A Task Force was formed to investigate options for use of the land. The Task Force, after exhaustive research, recommended the best use of the land for the church would be to sell the property so that the funds received could be used to renovate or rebuild on the Stoughton Pleasant Street property where the church now stands. In 2002 the Reconstruction and Building Committee was formed to pick up and continue onto the next level of the visioning process where the Task Force left off. We will continue to explore, investigate and research each and every option, leaving no stone unturned as we continue our visioning for the ministry of First UMC in this community. This entire project has been a “Leap of Faith” in an economically unstable time but one in which God has guided as well as provided for the needs of our church as we look to the future. Our God is faithful so we trust He will continue to bless us as we labor in our on-going ministries, dream dreams and work toward making those visions and dreams reality so that the good news of Jesus Christ will continue to be proclaimed in this area.
First UM church has been over the years and continues to be the center of many ecumenical as well as district activities because of its facilities (i.e. large sanctuary, hall, kitchen etc.). Community groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Girls Scouts regularly use the facilities for their meetings and events. We have a Brazilian Baptist congregation which uses the facilities each week for their worship services and activities. A smaller building known affectionately as “The Youth Hall” (“Scout House” by the Boy Scouts) is located next to the church and has been used by the church’s youth groups as well as the community’s Boy Scout and Girl Scout Troops over the years. With these groups now meeting in the church, the small building is currently housing the local Stoughton Food Pantry. 2012 was a very special year as we celebrated the 200th anniversary of First United Methodist Church here in Stoughton. Various activities were planned to celebrate this historic occasion. Over one hundred pastors have served this church since its beginning and its legacy of service to the people of Stoughton and the surrounding towns continues. May God continue to bless First UMC which in turn can bless others.