A Brief History
The parish was formed in 1714 when what is now Littleton was organized as Nashoba Plantation. The first minister was Benjamin Shattuck, who served for a time as a lay minister and then was ordained here on Christmas Day, 1717. At that time there was only one church in town, the town church.
In 1822, Baptists in town decided to create their own society and build a church. At that point, Unitarianism was just beginning in this country.
In 1840, the congregation was equally divided between "orthodox congregationalists" and those who were more influenced by the humanists, utopians, and unitarians of the time. In a very amicable separation, the orthodox congregationalists left to form their own society. Also at that time, monetary support from the town ended - the separation of church and state was becoming a reality in Littleton (although the town bylaws still require that the warrant for any Town Meeting be posted at all the churches in town).
In the 1840's, the word "Unitarian" begins to appear in church records. By the end of that decade, the church affiliated with the American Unitarian Association. A variety of names combining both "Congregational" and "Unitarian" were used until the church finally settled on "First Church Unitarian, Littleton" as its official name.
The church has played a central role in the history of the town of Littleton. Many historical artifacts and documents from the church are on permanent loan to the Littleton Historical Society . We retain church records dating back to 1755.
About the Church Building
Twenty years after the founding, the present location on Foster Street (then known as Ridge Hill), was chosen for a new building. Three churches have been erected on this site. The first two of these buildings were torn down to create larger buildings to accommodate a growing congregation. The third building lasted less than fifty years, when it was replaced because of its poor condition. Through each of the re-buildings, timbers from the older structures were incorporated into the new buildings. The present building was erected in 1841. Various changes in the structure have been made during the past 160 years: The floor of the sanctuary was raised (the vestibule remains at the original level), a two-story addition that includes the vestry was added in the 1880s, a complete interior remodeling was accomplished in the early 1900s to create a sanctuary in the Greek Revival style, and later the horse sheds attached to the church were torn down. The ones on the right of the building were removed to make room for the Sunday School wing built in 1961. Other changes have included installation of an 1891 Woodbury & Sons tracker organ, a recasting of the church bell, two reconstructions of the steeple - one at the beginning of the twentieth century and the second at the end of the century, and modifications for accessibility.
Did You Know...?
- The first church in Littleton was built on the eastern triangle of the Town Common in 1717
- The first church building on the present site of the Unitarian Church was completed in 1742 at a cost of £900
- The present church is the third such building on this site
- The present church was completed in 1841, at a cost of $3,217.90. The construction was financed by auctioning the pews to church members.
- On the church bell is inscribed:
First Bell 1770
Second Bell 1808
recast and enlarged 1903
On earth peace, good will toward men.
- The columns in front of the church are hollow, and hold the weights that drive the clock. The clock itself was installed in 1903.