The Clock Tower of The First Church in Belmont
Why is the church with the clock tower next to the Town Common called “The First Church in Belmont?” The answer takes us back 150 years (excerpt from the 150th Anniversary Celebration in 2009).
On Tuesday, February 5, 1856, eighteen citizens of Watertown and West Cambridge (now Arlington) met to establish a Unitarian parish under the name of the Belmont Congregational Society. Dr. John L. Alexander was chosen Clerk, and David Mack, Samuel O. Mead, and J. Oliver Wellington were chosen as the Parish Committee. The following year they called Rev. Amos Smith, and constructed a church building near the present post office.
After years of struggle, the town of Belmont was incorporated on March 18, 1859. The establishment of a church, (The First Church), is credited with turning the tide. At the first Town Meeting, held in the basement of the new Meeting House, Town officers, all members of the church, were elected. When the first school was organized in 1867, classes were held in the church vestry, and a little later the Town Library was housed there as well. In 1928 the church’s name was changed to “The First Church in Belmont.”
To this day, the bell that peals the hour throughout Belmont Center from The First Church Clock Tower is the Belmont Town Bell.
ARTICLE FROM THE 150TH CELEBRATION RINGING THE TOWN BELL
Bells to ring through town Wednesday
Belmont, Mass. Mar 13, 2009— “Wicked Local Belmont, with News from the Belmont Citizen-Herald”
At 3:15 p.m. on March 18, 1859 the church bell in the new First Church in Belmont rang out the news that, at last, Belmont was incorporated. At 3:15 p.m. on March 18, 2009, bells all over town will ring out to commemorate the event 150 years later.
Richard B. Betts, town historian and vice chairman of the Sesquicentennial Planning Committee, was in charge of organizing this event which follows the tradition of similar reenactments made for the town’s 50th, 100th and 125th celebrations.
His letter requesting participation in the bell ringing contained a first-person account of the events of March 18, 1859 written by Miss Harriet Hill a resident at 388 Pleasant St. in 1925. It really sets the stage for the Sesquicentennial.
“It was a mild March day, the 18th in 1859. It had been raining all the morning and a strong southwesterly wind was blowing. We knew that on this day, the “Belmont Bill” was to be decided and our hopes were high. For five years a petition for the incorporation of the new town had been refused by the legislature. Would it be granted at last? Our feelings were tense. The afternoon passed slowly away, slowly and quietly. Suddenly the sound of a bell came in over the fields and meadows. Our church bell! Then the firing of guns! The thrilling thought came to us that we had won at last, and a young messenger sped swiftly from our house to learn the truth. We had not long to wait before we knew that we had indeed won the battle and that Belmont had become a town. Governor Banks had signed the bill at 3:15 and in less than half an hour it was said news had reached us. When the four o’clock train came out (Fitchburg railroad bringing numbers of our citizens who had come directly from the state house) cheers were given, the church bell was rung vigorously, and salutes were fired. In the evening tar barrels were burned on top of the hill and the excitement was great.”
This year we hope the weather will be mild once again when we pause as the bells peal and think about the 150 years of Belmont history that has been and those years that are yet to be.
Participating churches include: The First Church Unitarian on Concord Avenue, All Saints Episcopal Church on Common Street, Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church on Belmont Street, First Congregational Church of Waverley on Trapelo Road, and First Baptist Church of Belmont on Lexington Street.
Also, two members of the Board of Selectmen, Dan Leclerc and Ralph Jones, will be on the steps of Town Hall reading a proclamation to celebrate the anniversary of incorporation.