Heritage Trails of the United Methodist Church

Boston Methodist Heritage Trail

Prepared by Rev. Patricia J. Thompson, New England Conference Commission on Archives and History, June 2003.

The Asbury Trail in New England

Originally prepared by the New England Methodist Historical Society, Updated by Rev. Patricia J. Thompson, New England Conference Commission on Archives and History, June 1998 .

Methodist Higher Education Trail

Prepared by Rev. Patricia Thompson, 1999.


Prepared by Rev. Patricia J. Thompson, New England Conference Commission on Archives and History, June 1998, updated September 2001, June 2003.

1) Anna Howard Shaw Window.

Location: Boston University, School of Theology, 745 Commonwealth Avenue.

On the second floor landing of the east stairs of the School of Theology is a stained-glass window commemorating the ordination of Rev. Anna Howard Shaw by the Methodist Protestant Church in Tarrytown, NY in 1880. Shaw was one of the first women ordained in the Methodist tradition, having turned to the Methodist Protestant Church after being refused ordination by the Methodist Episcopal Church. United Methodist Historic Site #264.

2) St. Andrews United Methodist Church.

Location: 169 Amory Street, Jamaica Plain.

St. Andrews United Methodist Church is the oldest Hispanic United Methodist congregation in the New England Conference. Although the ministry of St. Andrews can be traced back to the year 1803, the initial ministry to Spanish-speaking residents began in April 1971, under the leadership of Hamed Negron, a native of San Juan, Puerto Rico. St. Andrews was designated an Historic Congregation of the New England Conference in 2003.

3) Union United Methodist Church.

Location: 483 Columbus Avenue.

Organized out of the Bromfield Street Methodist Episcopal Church in 1818 by Pastor Samuel Snowden, Union United Methodist Church is the oldest African-American United Methodist Congregation in Boston and New England. It is considered to be one of the historic black United Methodist congregations in the United States, and has been designated an Historic Congregation by the New England Conference Commission on Archives and History in 2001. Located first on May Street, then Revere Street, the church became known as Fourth Methodist Episcopal when it moved to Shawmut Avenue in 1911. It purchased the former Union Congregational Church in 1949 and became known as Union United Methodist.

4) New Hope Baptist Church (Formerly the Tremont Street Methodist Episcopal Church).

Location: 740 Tremont Street.

This is the site of the organization of the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Soceity of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1869. Although today this is a Baptist Church, windows in the balcony of the sanctuary and throughout the church maintain the names of the early founders and missionaries of the Society as well as some of those persons involved in the founding and development of the New England Deaconess Movement. United Methodist Historic Site #379.

5) Morgan Memorial Church of All Nations.

Location: 333 Tremont Street.

A multi-ethnic church which has its roots in Morgan Chapel acquired in 1869 by Rev. Henry Morgan. The Rev. J. Edgar Helms, while still a student at Boston University School of Theology, succeeded Morgan and developed the church, including Morgan Memorial/Goodwill Industries. In the winter of 2003, this church was closed indefinitely.

6) Boston Common, Site of the Old Elm.

Location: Tremont Street.

At the end of the walk on the left side of the information kiosk on Boston Common, in a “V” formed by a number of benches, there is a bronze marker on a piece of red granite, commemorating the site of the famous Old Elm Tree that stood for many years in the Common, under which the Rev. Jesse Lee preached in 1790.

7) Former Site of Boston University School of Theology.

Location: 72 Mount Vernon Street.

Now private housing, this was the site of the Boston University School of Theology from 1886-1949, when it moved to its present site on Commonwealth Avenue. Constructed in 1847 as a double mansion for brothers John E. and Nathaniel Thayer, the building was renovated into condominiums 1965-1970. A chapel and a gymnasium were built onto the back of Number 72, extending to Chestnut Street, in 1916, renovated into condominiums in 1964. The windows from the chapel were relocated to Marsh Chapel at the time of the move and were placed in the first three spaces in the front on both sides of the chapel.

8) Boston’s North End.

a) The Old North Church.

Location: Salem Street.

Inside the sanctuary on the left side toward the front is a plaque placed by the Methodist Bishops, indicating that the Rev. Charles Wesley preached here when his ship blew off course on his way home from Georgia to England in 1736.

b) St. Stephen’s Roman Catholic Church.

Location: Hanover Street.Directly across the street from the Paul Revere Mall is St. Stephen’s Roman Catholic Church. This building is the only remaining church building in Boston designed by Charles Bulfinch. It was built as the “new North” Meeting House in 1714, and the second church in the north end of Boston. It was enlarged in 1730, and rebuilt in 1802 from the design of Bulfinch. William Black preached here in 1785 on his way back to Nova Scotia from the Christmas Conference.

c) Methodist Alley Site.

Location: Hanover Avenue.

Two streets down along Hanover Street toward the water on the right is an alley called Hanover Avenue, once known as “Methodist Alley.” This was the first home of the Methodists in the North End,where the first Methodist church in Boston was built at number 16 in 1795. They worshipped here until 1828 when they moved to North Bennett Street.

d) North Bennett Street Church Site.

Location: North Bennett Street.

The second home of the Methodists in the North End was a building on North Bennett Street, on the right side of Hanover Street, two streets down from the Paul Revere Mall toward the city. The church seems to have been located on the second lot on the right hand side of the street, now condominiums. Parts of the walls of this building may be from the original church, located here from 1828 to 1849.

e) Hanover Street Church site.

Location: 285-287 Hanover Street.

This was the location of the North End Methodists from 1849 to 1873. The church was known as the Cockerel Church from the weathervane on top of the 220 foot spire. When Hanover Street was widened in 1870, the spire was removed and the church was reconstructed. In 1873, this congregation merged with a church on Russell Street and became known as the First Methodist Episcopal Church. For a number of years following the merger, the Seamen’s Friend Society occupied the building in this block.

f) Sacred Heart Church (Formerly the Seamen’s Bethel).

Location: North Square.

Walk east down Richmond St or Prince St to North Square. There you will find Sacred Heart Church, built in 1833 for the renowned “Father Taylor”, who preached to seamen for more than forty years. See plaques on the wall of the church for further history.

g) Mariner’s House.

Location: 11 North Square.

This house is a site on both the Methodist Heritage Trail and the Women’s Heritage Trail. Built in 1847 by the Methodist Boston Port Society for the seamen to whom Father Taylor preached, it was strongly supported by the Seamen’s Aid Society, organized in 1833 by Sarah Josepha Hale, to support the families of seamen with whom Father Taylor worked so many years. The two organizations worked hand-in-hand for many years, and finally merged in 1867. The pulpit and other memorabilia from Father Taylor’s Seamen’s Bethel can now be found in the chapel on the second floor of Mariner’s House. Father and Mother Taylor are buried in New Hope Cemetery in Boston.


Originally prepared by the New England Methodist Historical Society, Updated by Rev. Patricia J. Thompson, New England Conference Commission on Archives and History, June 1998 .
Places to visit which were connected with the travels of Bishop Francis Asbury, the Apostle of American Methodism, from 1791 to 1815.

Churches, houses and sites mentioned in the Journal of Asbury, the Prophet of the Long Road, and still identifiable today.

Information on additional interesting Methodist sites in the New England area is also provided.

1) New London Courthouse, New London CT.

Built in 1784. Jesse Lee preached on the steps of this Courthouse on September 1789, on his first entry into New England. Asbury preached here in June 1791 on his second New England tour.

2) Israel Hollister Homestead, East Glastonbury, CT.

Location: Going south from Glastonbury, this is a gray/green house on the left, at 2416 New London Turnpike, nearly across from the entrance to Rte. 2.

This was the first home of the East Glastonbury Methodists from 1800 to 1812. Asbury undoubtedly stayed here when entertained in Glastonbury in 1810. In the family of Hollister/Pitney until recent years, it is now privately owned, but still marked “Hollister.”

3) Howard House, Tolland CT.

Location: Tolland Green Road, on the left hand side off Rte. 74.

This house, built in 1790, was the location of a Conference of Preachers which Asbury held in 1793. Asbury stayed here in 1793 and 1794. Bears a marker placed by NEMHS.

4) Crystal Lake Parsonage, Crystal Lake, CT.

Location: In the center of the community of Crystal Lake in the town of Ellington, across the street from the Community Church.

This building, designated United Methodist Historical Site #331, is the oldest parsonage and oldest Methodist building in New England, built in 1791/92.

5) Old Lloyd Tavern, Blandford, MA.

Location: This is a two-story old gray building on Beech Hill Road, 3.5 miles south of Route 8 out of Blandford, next to the Granville line.

Asbury stayed here for four days while conducting a Conference at the Granville Church in 1798.

6) Beech Hill Memorial, West Granville, MA.

Location: On the property of the second house beyond the Old Lloyd Tavern.

A fence, a boulder, and a plaque mark the location of the Beech Hill Church of 1797, the first Methodist Church in Massachusetts west of the Connecticut River, where Asbury conducted one of the Conferences of 1798.

7) Old Wilbraham Meeting House and Academy, Wilbraham, MA.

Built as a Methodist Church in 1793, this meeting house, now a museum run by the Athenaeum Society, is the oldest Methodist Church still standing in New England. Asbury held a Conference of preachers here in 1794, and preached here in 1795 and 1805. Jesse Lee held the first official session of the New England Conference here in 1797. United Methodist Historical Site #265.

Across the street from the meeting house is the Wilbraham Academy, successor to the Wesleyan Academy opened in Newfields, NH, in 1817, and one of the longest running Methodist educational institutions in the country. The Old Academy Building, dedicated by President Wilbur Fisk in 1825, is at the top of the hill. Fisk Hall, across Main Street, contains a mural of the early days of the Academy.

8) Lippitt Homestead, Cranston, RI.

Location: From Interstate 95, follow Route 12 West. Take left at blinker light onto Seven Mile Road, just before Shepherd of the Valley Church; go to Stop sign, 1.5 miles, take a sharp left. Lippitt Homestead is on the left just before the next Stop sign.

Built in 1736. Home of General and Mrs. Christopher Lippitt, seven times host to Bishop Asbury, also to Bishop Whatcoat, Bishop McKendree, Lee and scores of itinerant preachers. Interesting family burying ground across the road.

9) Methodist Church, Warren, RI.

Location: Off Route 114 in Warren.

Built in 1845, after a design by Sir Christopher Wren, on the site of the first Methodist meeting house in Rhode Island, center of the first circuit in Rhode Island. Asbury preached in the first church, built in 1794.

10) St. Paul’s Church, Newport, RI.

Built in 1806 on Marlborough Street, this church is believed to be the first Methodist Church in the U.S. to have a steeple. Jesse Lee preached here in 1808, Asbury in 1809. United Methodist Historical Site #195. Currently contains a heritage room for the New England Conference.

11) Newcomb Tavern, East Norton, MA.

Location: Near the junction of Norton, Easton, and Mansfield, on Burt Street, off Route 123.

Home of the East Mansfield Methodist Society from 1795 to 1820. Jesse Lee and Francis Asbury probably preached here in 1795. Grave of Rev. Zadok Priest, first travelling preacher in New England to die, in 1796, is in small cemetery, on Holmes Street, down east side of house. Now privately owned.

12) Old Needham Church, Wellesley, MA.

Location: 377 Weston Road.

Built in 1798, this is now a private home, having been moved from its original location on the Bogle Homestead. Asbury, Whatcoat, Pickering and Hedding preached here.

13) Pickering/Bemis Homestead, Waltham, MA.

Location: On the grounds of the Polaroid Corporation, Winter Street, across the Cambridge Reservoir from Route 128.

This was the home of Abraham Bemis, who entertained Asbury on fifteen different occasions. The Weston Methodist Society was formed here in 1794. Rev. George Pickering married to Maria Bemis, also lived here until his death in 1847. Marked by Polaroid.

14) Mugford Street House, Marblehead, MA.

Location: 6 Mugford Street.

The house, currently lime-green, is the site where the Methodist Society was formed in 1791/92 by Jesse Lee. Asbury and Pickering preached here.

15) Church and Robertson Burying Ground, Chesterfield, NH.

Location: Two miles out of town, see road marker on Route 9.

The cemetery is on the grounds of the first Methodist Society formed in New Hampshire, in 1795. The church was built in 1844, considered the “Mother Church of New Hampshire Methodism.” Philip Embury preached at the James Robertson farm in 1772, and Asbury preached in the town in 1803. The church is Historic Site #310 and the Burying Ground is Historic Site #311.

16) Jesse Lee Memorial Church, East Readfield, ME.

Location: On the road to Readfield and Kent’s Hill, twelve miles west of Augusta.

This was the first Methodist Church built in Maine, dedicated by Jesse Lee in June 1795, and the oldest Methodist church building in New England still in use as a church. Asbury held the New England Conference here in 1798. Boulder in front of the church contains a marker placed by NEMHS. United Methodist Historic Site #3.

17) Federated Church, Monmouth, ME.

First Methodist Society in Maine was organized in Monmouth in 1794. Painting of Asbury crossing a wilderness stream on horseback is on the wall, painted by Harry H. Cochrane. United Methodist Historical Site #68.

18) “Mother” Margaret Peckett’s Home and Grave Site, Bradford, VT.

Location: On the right, a short distance below town, beyond the junction of routes 5 and 25.

This is a white clapboard house with a sign “1767”, the original home of Margaret Appleton Peckett, once housekeeper for John Wesley, who emigrated with her family to this country in 1764. She is now considered the “Mother of Methodism” in the Troy Conference and her grave in the cemetery on Route 5 north of town is so marked. The grave is in the far back corner of the cemetery, going north on Route 5.

19) First Methodist Meeting House in Vermont, Corinth Corners, VT.

Location: Take a left hand turn off Route 25, over an iron bridge, and another left, then right at the corners.

This meeting house, built in Vershire in 1796 was moved a number of years later to Corinth Corners. Now marked “Meadow Meeting House.”

20) Old Methodist Church, Newbury, VT.

The old Methodist Church on the green in Newbury, about five miles north of Bradford, is the only remaining building of the Newbury Seminary, established in 1834 by the New Hampshire Conference, where the first Methodist theological school in the country, the Newbury Biblical Institute, was developed out of theological classes held there in the late 1830’s. This was the first of three institutions in the development of Boston University School of Theology.

21) Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association, Martha’s Vineyard, MA.

Begun in 1835 by a Methodist minister, this camp meeting, located at Oak Bluffs, became one of the most popular in the New England area. Now an interdenominational camp meeting, it is renowned for its gingerbread cottages and tabernacle with colored windows.

22) Nantucket United Methodist Church, Nantucket, MA.

This church at 2 Centre Street entertained the New England Conference of 1837, survived the fire of 1846. It has one of the five known extant Thomas Appleton pipe organs, the only one in continual play since its construction in 1831, taken to Nantucket by the W.G. Nettleton packet ship in 1859.

23) Whitefield Rock, West Brookfield, MA.

Location: On the Quaboag Plantation, Foster Hill Road.

Churches were closed to George Whitefield on his first American tour, so he preached in the open air on October 16, 1740, in what was the center of the Quaboag Plantation. The NEMHS placed a bronze placque on the rock on September 27, 1964, during the 300th anniversary celebrations of the Quaboag Plantation.

24) Old South Presbyterian Church, Newburyport, MA.

The tomb of George Whitefield (1714-1770), an associate of the Wesleys for many years, is located in the crypt of this church.

25) Birthplace of Lorenzo Dow, Coventry, CT.

Location: Two miles north of town, almost opposite the High School on Route 32.

This home, now painted dark red, is reconstructed from the original house in which Dow was born in 1777.

26) Lorenzo Dow Memorial Park, Winchendon, MA.

Location: Two miles southwest of the town, look for state road marker.

A small park with boulder and plaque marking the first Methodist preaching in the area by Lorenzo Dow, 1796.


Abstract from the work of Rev. Patricia Thompson, 1999.

1) Wesleyan/Wilbraham Academy. 1817-

So. Newmarket, NH; Wilbraham, MA

Although Methodists in America had shown a great interest in developing Methodist-focused educational institutions from the establishment of Cokesbury College in 1785, it was not until 1815 when the New England Conference began discussing the possibility of establishing a conference academy that one of the oldest existing educational institutions in American Methodism was established, opening first in So. Newmarket (now Newfields) NH. The Wesleyan Academy opened on September 1, 1817, under the leadership of the Rev. John Brodhead, Martin Ruter (2nd principal), and others, with ten pupils: five boys and five girls. The fact that the Academy was co-educational from the beginning was to set a major precedent in education both in Methodism and in the United States in general.

The Rev. David Sherman, in his history of the Academy, writes, “The plan of education adopted by the Methodists departed in some particulars from the ideal system in New England. Co-education was in the first draft. . . . The Methodists broke with the past, and elevated woman to the platform of advantage awarded men in the church and school.”

From the start, however, Wesleyan faced financial difficulties and finally the Conference, most particularly at the urging of the Rev. Wilbur Fisk, concluded that its location in a setting of relatively few Methodists of limited means worked against its success. Therefore in 1825 the Academy moved to Wilbraham MA, with Wilbur Fisk as its principal. Though no longer under Methodist sponsorship, the academy continues today as Wilbraham-Monson Academy. A branch was opened in Kingston NH in 1819, but passed from Methodist sponsorship in 1822, continuing today as Sanborn Academy.

The site of the Wesleyan Academy in Newfields, now occupied by the Newfields Elementary School, has been designated United Methodist Historic Site #312. The Wilbraham-Monson Academy has been designated Historic Site #265.

2) Maine Wesleyan Seminary and Female College. 1825-

Kent’s Hill, MEA split in the New England Conference occurred in 1824 when the General Conference created the Maine Annual Conference to cover the newly formed State of Maine. In September 1825, through the generosity of a Kent’s Hill farmer named Luther Sampson, the Maine Wesleyan Seminary opened, being a merger with a small, private boarding school established in 1820 by Elihu and Emma Robinson in Augusta. In 1828, following the example of Wesleyan Academy, the seminary opened a department for young women, called the Maine Wesleyan Seminary and Female College, becoming known as Kent’s Hill School in the early 1900s. The Methodist affiliation was dropped in the 1950s, but the school survives, designated Historic Site #11.

3) Wesleyan University. 1831-

Middletown, CT

It had been determined that there was a need for a four-year college within the New England area, and in 1831 Wesleyan University opened in Middletown CT as a joint venture of the New England and New York Conferences. Wilbur Fisk left Wilbraham to become the first president at Wesleyan. It was one of the first colleges to admit women (four in 1872). The Methodist sponsorship ceased in the second quarter of the twentieth century. It survives today, and has been designated jointly by both the New England and New York Conferences as Historic Site #372.

4) Newbury Seminary and Biblical Institute.

Newbury, VT.

In 1819, the New England Conference split, with the creation of the New Hampshire and Vermont Conference (just New Hampshire after 1824), with included Vermont east of the Green Mountains. In 1835, a seminary opened in Newbury VT serving both male and female students. In 1837, Rev. John G. Dow was appointed to the Church in Newbury and served as financial agent for the seminary. His daughter, Betsey, became preceptress of the women’s work, though only nineteen years of age. The principal, Osman Baker (later Bishop), was asked in 1837 to form a class for young pastors in Mental Philosophy, which was taught by Betsey Dow. Both Wilbur Fisk and LaRoy Sunderland began to advocate a formal theological training for Methodist pastors, culminating in the Bromfield Street Convention of April 1839, at which it was decided to establish a theological institution. Osman Baker began adding theological courses to the Newbury curriculum, and offered to house the school, so a formal theological department opened in the fall of 1841 as Newbury Biblical Institute. The nearby Newbury Church is designated Historic Site #328 by the Troy Conference. In 1844, the Vermont section of the New Hampshire Conference became independent, and the seminary moved to Montpelier as Vermont Junior College, now the Vermont College.

5) Methodist General Biblical Institute.

Concord, NH. In 1847, the Newbury Biblical Institute moved to Concord NH under the leadership of Rev. John Dempster and became the Methodist General Biblical Institute. The present Walker Elementary School on the site of the Institute is designated Historic Site #314.

6) Boston University School of Theology

Boston, MA

In 1867, the school moved to Boston to be one of the founding schools of Boston University. The three founding trustees–Isaac Rich, Lee Claflin, and Jacob Sleeper–were major benefactors of several schools. Both Rich and Claflin donated to Wilbraham Academy and Wesleyan University. Claflin was a major benefactor of one of the first schools opened in the South for black students, Claflin University in Orangeburg SC. Co-educational from the start, it graduated its first women in the first decade, Anna Oliver in 1876 and Anna Howard Shaw in 1878. The church denied ordination to both, but Shaw succeeded in being ordained by the Methodist Protestant Church in 1880. In the history of the school, it had the first class taught by a woman (Betsey Dow), the first woman graduate of a Methodist seminary (Anna Oliver) and one of the first women ordained in a Methodist denomination (Anna Howard Shaw). After spending the years from 1886 to 1949 at 72 Mt. Vernon Street on Beacon Hill, the school today is located at 745 Commonwealth Avenue.

7) Providence Academy and Musical Institute. 1841-1943.

East Greenwich, RI

In 1840, the southern part of the New England Conference split off to form the Providence Conference, re-named New England Southern in 1881, consisting of Connecticut east of the Connecticut River, Rhode Island, and southeastern Massachusetts. In 1841, the Providence Conference bought the Kent Academy at East Greenwich RI, a school that was founded in 1802. The Providence Academy and Muscial Institute opened the first conservatory of music in America in 1859 under Eben Tourjee, who shortly left to found the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston MA. The school remained under Methodist control except for a brief period from 1884-1888, but was finally sold to the Town of East Greenwich in 1943 for use as a public high school.

8) New Hampshire Conference Seminary and Female College/ Tilton School. 1845-

Tilton, NH

When the Vermont Conference was formed and the Newbury Seminary moved to Montpelier, the members of the New Hampshire Conference opened a conference seminary at Northfield NH in 1845. Opened to women in 1852, it was renamed the New Hampshire Conference Seminary and Female College. After a fire in 1862, the trustees re-built the school across the river in Tilton NH, where it operates today as the Tilton School. Though no longer under Methodist sponsorship, the school has been designated Historic Site #313.

9) East Maine Conference Seminary. 1851-1939.

Bucksport, ME.

The Maine Conference split in 1848, and the new East Maine Conference immediately authorized a conference seminary on the Penobscot River. In 1851, the school opened in Bucksport ME with thirteen men and fourteen women. Though Maine and East Maine conferences merged in 1922, the seminary remained open until 1939.