In this article, we will look at the raising of the Second Meeting House, some structural aspects, and its ceremonious dedication.
First, let’s take a look at additional preparations that occurred before the raising. The contractors had to arrange for acquiring lumber and hardware for the project. The foundation had to be laid, using local fieldstone and granite. If you look at our foundation today, you will notice that most of it is granite. There was no cellar. The necessary lumber included timbers for the sills and plates, logs for floor joists, tie beams for the ceiling, and posts for the walls. Beams of varying sizes were used for braces and roof timbers. Also, hundreds of planks had to be sawn for covering the walls and the roof. The lumber was cut from local woods. Once the logs were procured, they were squared. The builders then cut the mortises and tenons, and bored holes for the wooden pegs that would be used to attach the tenons inside the mortises. Sills, plates, and posts were arranged in place at the meeting house site and were pinned (attached together) in correct arrangement. The four walls were laid out, along with the steeple tower, roof trusses and the ridge pole. With this preliminary work completed, the raising could happen.
During research for this article, I found the typical process for raising a meeting house from this time period, although we do not have all of the details from ours. Meeting house raisings were huge events. All able-bodied members of the community were expected to help out as volunteers to raise the wall framing, roof trusses, and ridge pole. “Ridge pole” is a term from the 1780s referring to the horizontal timber at the top of the roof to which the upper ends of the rafters are attached. The process entailed lifting one wall into upright position (usually the west wall was done first). It was held upright with poles and ropes until another wall could be raised and attached to it by pegging the joints. Levers were made from poles with iron spikes in the ends, and the men slowly pushed the heavy wall frames up into place on the foundation. After the four walls were raised and pegged at the corners, the roof trusses were raised with tackle (pulleys) and screw jacks. The ridge pole was raised and was pegged to the trusses. The steeple tower also was raised. This completed the frame raising process. Later, the carpenters would add planks, clapboards, and roof shingles. Specialists might have been hired to help finish off the interior work. For pictures of barn raisings, which are similar to meeting house raisings, visit http://connect.westheights.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Barn-raising.jpg and http://i0.wp.com/countrylife.lehmans.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/34817416.jpg.
The engineering of the frame was of paramount importance for a long life of the meeting house. The large open span of our meeting house required special planning by the master carpenters. The frame needed to support the weight of the ceiling and roof without interior posts. Timbers had to have sufficient dimensions to allow for long tenons and deep mortises. Our meeting house obviously had superior quality engineering, since it still stands strong, over 200 years later. The Second Rindge Meeting House is cited in Timber Framing Journal of the Timber Framers Guild as an excellent example of 18th century roof architecture and is technically analyzed for its queenpost roof trusses. Queenpost trusses are used when a large distance needs to be spanned, allowing for an open space that does not need internal posts. The queenpost truss can span up to 60 feet, much longer than other trusses. The Timber Framing Journal author notes that our meeting house is also famous for the size of some of its timbers and that almost all of them are curved or tapered in some way to create greater strength. The wallposts are 28-ft. oak 10”-by-12” timbers, and the beams on top of them are 55-foot white pine timbers that are tapered from 12”-by-14” to 12”-by-12” and cambered. If you are an architect, you will be interested in and understand the many structural details of the roof that are highlighted in this professional journal.
In Rindge, a committee was selected to manage the raising of the meeting house. This was comprised of Deacon Edward Jewett, Captain Solomon Rand, and Captain Salmon Stone. Part of their task was to buy rum and victuals for the event. The expenses associated with the raising were $268.13.
Way Back When
by Margaret Morabito, Church Historian
The Second Meeting House: Part 2
6 PAYSON HILL ROAD
RINDGE, NH 03461
First Congregational Church
United Church of Christ