First Congregational Church of Falmouth, MA
of the United Church of Christ

68 Main Street, Falmouth, MA 02540 | Sunday Morning Worship 10:00 AM

Our History

History of our  Church  |  Bell  |  Organ

A Brief History of our Congregation over the past Three Centuries 

Our First Congregational Church of Falmouth, Massachusetts of the United Church of Christ was originally gathered on October 28, 1708.  Previous to that, the congregation worshiping in Falmouth had been considered a “branch church” of the Puritan church in nearby Barnstable, which was originally gathered in 1616 in Southwark, England.

Even before Falmouth was incorporated as a town in 1686, Jonathan Dunham, a layman, served as the Minister to our community’s residents. Dunham later moved to Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard, where he was ordained and served the Puritan church there until his death.

Falmouth’s first meeting house was built in 1700, or earlier, near the Old Burying Ground off today’s Mill Road in Falmouth.  A second larger meeting house, near that site, was completed in 1717.  Continued growth of the town led to that meeting house being moved and rebuilt by 1756 on that portion of the original Meeting House Lot which was then laid out and called the Village Green. That meeting house was replaced in 1796 with a fourth building in the style of a church, erected on the same site. In its steeple, a bell made by Paul Revere was placed.  That bell continues to ring out over Falmouth. Its inscription reads: “The living to the church I call, and to the grave I summon all.”

Years after the separation of church and state in Massachusetts in 1834, it became clear that our congregation needed a larger building.  In 1857, the frame of the church was rolled across the street from the Village Green to its present location. The church’s steeple and windows were rebuilt, its box pews were replaced by slip pews, and the entire structure was raised up on a granite foundation to provide space below the sanctuary for a vestry and a furnace.

Rev. William Bates was the church’s minister from 1858 until his untimely death in 1859 shortly after the birth of his daughter, Katharine Lee, who became a professor at Wellesley College and a noted American poet. The Bates’ parsonage on 16 Main Street in Falmouth is currently owned by the Falmouth Historical Society.  Miss Bates’ famous poem "America the Beautiful", the basis of the now famous patriotic hymn of that name, was first published in The Congregationalist in 1895. Katharine wrote poems about our church and community and visited Falmouth annually for the rest of her life.

As the need for space increased, our church building was further expanded by the addition of the James M. Hills Hall in 1958 and The Constance and Raymond Faxon Christian Education Center in 1992 which nearly doubled the size of our church’s facility. While still in the raw state of construction, this last addition was devastated by Hurricane Bob in 1991, but it was immediately rebuilt.

Over the course of its long history, extending back even before Falmouth’s incorporation, our congregation has been served by twenty-eight ministers. Rev. Nanette E. Geertz, whose untimely death came in 2005, was our congregation’s first Associate Minister in the modern era, as well as our first female minister.

As Falmouth changes through the years, our church continues to bear eloquent witness to our Christian faith and to the spirit of religious freedom so dear to historic Congregationalism which are now carried forward in our modern United Church of Christ. Standing at the center of our community and looking out over the Village Green, as it has for generations, our church’s slender and graceful spire continues to point faithfully heavenward- a delight to the eye and an inspiration to the soul.

Rev. Dr. Doug Showalter
FCC Senior Minister from 1988 to 2012

From the Barnstable Congregational Church Records-- October 10, 1708:

"The following persons signified their desire to be dismissed (from the Barnstable Congregational Church) to the work of gathering into a church estate in Falmouth; whereupon, voted, that according to our best observation the conversion of these persons has been agreeable to their profession; and we do, therefore, recommend them to the great and good work of forming and organizing a church, which they are upon, and therein into the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we commend them viz.:

Samuel Shiverick Sr.
John Robinson and Elisa, his wife
John Davis and Hannah, his wife
Moses Hatch and Elisa, his wife
Thomas Parker and Mary, his wife
Joseph Parker and Mercy, his wife
Aaron Rawley and Mary, his wife
Anna, wife of Joseph Hatch
Alice, wife of Benjamin Hatch
Mary, wife of William Johnson
Hannah, wife of Benjamin Lewis
Lydia, wife of Samuel Hatch
Bethia, wife of Joseph Robinson

The above persons were living in Falmouth
Signed Jonathan Russell
Pastor with the Consent of the Brethren"

Source: Trayser, Donald. Barnstable: Three Centuries of a Cape Cod Town, Hyannis, Massachusetts: F.B. & F., P. Goss, p. 41

History of our Church Bell 

In 1798, a contract was made with Paul Revere of Boston to cast a bell weighing 807 pounds and costing 42 cents per pound.  The original receipt for the price of $338.94 signed by Paul Revere is held by this Church as a precious treasure.  The bell bearing the inscription "THE LIVING TO THE CHURCH I CALL, AND TO THE GRAVE I SUMMON ALL", a trademark of Revere Bells, hangs in the belfry today and is still rung for church services and special events and strikes the hours.

History of our Church Organ 

Our church's pipe organ is said to be one of the best in southeastern Massachusetts. 
It is Opus No. 2587 of Austin Organs, Inc. of Hartford, Connecticut.  The organ was installed at the base of our church's U-shaped balcony and dedicated in 1975. 
This two-manual instrument has 25 stops, 28 ranks of pipes and 1,531 pipes.  It also has a
zimbelstern, a small set of rotating bells which lend a festive air on special occasions.  The Pedal and Great divisions of the organ are on the left, as one faces the balcony.  The Swell is enclosed in a box on the right, behind movable shutters which allow the volume of the sound to be varied by an expression pedal on the console.  The 33 pipes of the facade are part of the principal 16' and 8' ranks of the pedal and great organ, respectively.  They are all speaking pipes and are composed of an alloy of high tin content which has been painstakingly burnished to a bright sheen- the first Austin organ to have such burnished pipes.

Behind the grille cloth are 1,498 more pipes, the largest of which are more than 8' in length and are made of zinc or wood.  Because of the limited ceiling height in the balcony, the largest pipes are mounted on their sides, which in no way detracts from their sound.  The smallest pipes are about 1 inch long and the diameter of a penci
l.  Most of the pipes are composed of a mixture of tin and lead called "spotted metal."  All were made individually by hand with processes and tools that have changed little in many centuries.

The organ has low wind pressure and classic voicing, which gives it the clarity and tonal beauty of the 17th and 18th century organs.  The tonal design and flexibility permit the music of all eras to be played.