The rain held off so that the annual open house at the Porter Old Meeting House could be held this past Sunday. It was very well attended and the visitors were entertained by the wonderful music of the local group, Puckerbrush. There were children's activities, writing with quill pens and button humming, and adults could partake in a lively game of horse shoes.
But the highlight, of course, was the beautiful old meeting house. Visitors toured the 185 year old structure and learned some interesting things about its structure. For those of you who couldn't be there, here's what they learned...
“SHEEP PEN” OR BOX PEWS – Meeting houses were often financed by the sale of family pews. Annual “rents” were collected to pay for the minister’s salary and meeting house upkeep. This design cut down on drafts since early meeting houses were not heated. People who couldn’t afford to buy a pew were relegated to the upper gallery. People often personalized their pew with cushions and blankets. Stone foot warmers, heated overnight on the wood stove, and helped dispel the winter chill. Society member, Dotty Locke still has the deed to her family pew!
Pulpit Window – Located half way between the first and second floors, pulpit windows were usually placed on the North wall. Meeting houses had lots of windows for much needed light and for the solar heat they would provide. The windows in our meeting house are in desperate need of restoration. We hope to begin raising money for this effort very soon.
Why two doors? There are several thoughts on the matter but most meeting houses had two doors on the South facade of the building. One train of thought is that one door was for men and one for women. Another was that one was a funeral door, only used for that solemn occasion. Since meeting houses were also used for town meetings, perhaps two doors kept political party members separated! (Hee, Hee!)
Raised Pulpit –Raising the preacher’s pulpit allowed everyone to see and hear him. There was often a suspended “sounding board” above to help project his voice. Porter’s has been removed and, unfortunately, lost. Also, the word “church” referred to the people of the congregation not the building. The place they met for worship was called the meeting house.
In my next post I will talk about the group who built the meeting house, a group of Free Will Baptists also known as the Bullockites.