Sunday, November 1, 2009

First Parish Church, Derry

First Parish Church, Derry in 1895

On Wednesday 28 October 2009, the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance announced the state’s annual “Seven to Save” campaign and the First Parish Church in East Derry earned a spot on the list. The First Parish congregation has been in Derry since the original Scots Irish settlers held a religious meeting of thanksgiving under a tree in 1719. The current church building itself was built in 1769 and still serves an active congregation and a large part in the Derry community activities.

Also named to the 2009 “Seven to Save” list are the 70-meter ski jump at Gunstock Ski Area, the United Methodist Church in Keene, a mill building in East Alstead, the iron furnace in Franconia, the New England Center in Durham, and Brewster Memorial Hall in Wolfeboro. This annual list recognizes properties statewide that are threatened or endangered and in need of resources, both financial and labor related, to preserve them. The New Hampshire Preservation Alliance began the “Seven to Save” program in 2006, and being recognized by the list has helped several buildings to be saved from razing or demolition, including the Epsom Meeting House, a covered bridge in Ossipee, and a brick schoolhouse in Manchester. Perhaps being on the list will attract some funding for renovating the First Parish Church.

The first Presbyterian Church in New England was formed when that first group of Scots Irish settlers gathered for worship under the oak tree near Beaver Pond. In 1721 the first building was built, just west of the current church. By 1722 the town changed its name from Nutfield to Londonderry. By 1740 another Presbyterian church had been established in the “West Parish” which is now located inside Londonderry. In 1769 the present building was built, and enlarged in 1824 to its present size. In 1845 it was renovated, with the church sanctuary on the second floor, and the town hall on the ground level. Today the church is a Congregational Church, and it has a Historic Preservation Committee to help preserve the nearly three hundred years of history at the First Parish Church.

There was a schism between the people of Nutfield (Derry and Londonderry) in 1828 and the parishes split into the two present towns. Parts of Windham and Manchester were originally within the Nutfield grant. The First Parish church remains the oldest and most historic church in the area. Hopefully, being named as one of “Seven to Save” will help to preserve the original building for future generations to enjoy. There is an official state historical marker in front of the church, and Forest Hills cemetery is located behind it. This is Derry’s only municipal cemetery, and the home of some of the oldest gravestones and burial sites. It is located on 47 East Derry Road, in East Derry Village.

For more information please see:

“The Derry News”, October 29, 2009 “East Derry Icon One of ‘Seven to Save’” --- The New Hampshire Preservation Alliance --- The First Parish Congregational Church of East Derry --- The Scots Irish Migration to the New World

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