Southborough’s Second Meeting House dates back over two centuries


Southborough’s Second Meeting House dates back over two centuries
Pilgrim Church, originally Southborough’s Second Meeting House, was built in 1806. (Photo/Rebecca Deans-Rowe)

SOUTHBOROUGH – The town of Southborough was established in 1727 after formerly being part of Marlborough. The first order of business was to build a meeting house to serve as a place of worship and to conduct town business. 

In 1806, the town constructed the Second Meeting House on the site of the First Meeting House, but the plain, square structure was replaced with a longer building with box pews and a high pulpit. By 1833, the 11th Amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution ended the relationship between church and town. 

The long-time minister, Rev. Jeroboam Parker, resigned around the same time, after having led the congregation away from its Calvinist roots to Unitarianism. 

This shift was not embraced by all, and a group of 13 members eventually split to form the Pilgrim Evangelical Society. With the loss of taxes as funding and a dwindling congregation, the Universalist Society offered the deed to Second Meeting House to the growing Pilgrim Society, on the condition that they restore the building as a suitable place of worship.

Southborough’s Second Meeting House dates back over two centuries
Pilgrim Church’s pipe organ was part of an extensive renovation in 1857, which also included the addition of the church spire and a new bell. (Photo/Rebecca Deans-Rowe)

The Second Meeting House received an extensive update in 1857, with the addition of a spire, pipe organ, and a new bell. The original Paul Revere bell was retained by the Universalists as part of the agreement. 

In 1976, the Southborough Historical Society received a letter from Edward Stickney, author of the book “Revere Bells,” asking if the bell could be located and added to his publication, but the bell’s whereabouts are unknown today. Even without the Revere bell, the Second Meeting House, known as Pilgrim Church, is a perfect example of the white-steepled church so strongly associated with New England towns. 

The appeal of Pilgrim Church caught the attention of a location scout for a feature film starring Adam Sandler. The opening funeral scene of “Grown Ups” was filmed there in May of 2009, and a few Southborough residents filled the pews. One of those residents was current Deaconess Sally Watters, who is always pleased to share the history and simple beauty of Pilgrim Church with visitors.

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