Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

December 29, 2010

Andover's early churches: A history of helping others

Andover Stories
Amanda Beveridge Andover Historical Society

Anchored throughout the town are the churches erected by our town's founders. They served them, and they continue to serve today.

Founded in 1646, North Parish was the center of life in Andover. The original church building stood until 1669. Rebuilt five times, the present building was constructed in 1836.

In 1711, as a result of Andover's growing population, North Parish divided and formed South Parish. South Parish Church has been rebuilt several times, with its present building (the fourth) constructed in 1861.

The church has always been committed to community service. The parish aided Acadian immigrants in 1755, and gave donations to the American Abolition and American Anti-Slavery societies in 1840.

In 1981 South Parish Church received the 'Immigrant City' award for taking in refugees of Cuba, Hungary, and Vietnam. .

West Parish was set off as a separate parish in 1826, the last ecumenical parish created in Massachusetts. West Parish Church was built that year, opening in December.

Founded by farmers, it is believed that the church was built of stones from their fields. The white steeple atop West Church can be seen from miles around. Architecture students are sometimes brought to the Church to study the building's fine design. The structure itself is the oldest church edifice in use in the Greater Lawrence area.

The Andover Baptist Church was founded in 1832. Though at times struggling for numbers in its congregation; the Andover Baptist Church has continued to this day as a spirited community of faith and service.

A portion of the parish budget is dedicated to supporting missions in Latin America, Asia, Europe, and Africa. The parish has also partnered with Habitat For Humanity building homes in Lawrence.

Abraham Marland of Liverpool, England pledged that if he were successful in business in America he would establish an Episcopal church.

In 1807 Marland came to Andover, and to keep his pledge after his success as owner of the Marland Manufacturing Company, he founded the Christ Church and Parish. Services began in 1833 and the original church building was erected in 1835 in the area of today's vestry.

When the original building was destroyed by fire in 1886, the new church was built on the lot southwest of the original location. This was completed in 1887. In 1941 a small group of women of the church opened 'The Andover Thrift Shop' which has become one of the church's most successful fundraisers.

Springing from the anti-slavery movement in Andover, the Free Christian Church was founded in 1846.

This church attracted many Scots including Messrs. John Smith and John Dove, partners in the Smith & Dove flax mills. The original church was located on Railroad Street near flax factories where many Scots were employed.

In 1940 fire damaged the church and a new one was built on Elm Street, where services are still held. The Free Christian Church's bean suppers have become an Andover tradition.

St. Augustine's, the first Catholic church in Andover, was established in 1852. In 1866 the first Catholic chapel was built on Central Street across from Phillips Street.

With the growth of the Catholic population, a wood-framed church was built on Essex street at the present location. When fire destroyed this building, mass was held temporarily in the Town Hall. Construction on the present - brick! - building began in 1895 and was completed in 1900.

By 1914, the Parish grammar school had been established with the current building being opened in 1918.

Central still to today's Andover, the spirit of each early congregation's work remains a vital part of our community character.