First Methodist Meeting Place in Charlton
One of the earliest locations of Methodist work in Massachusetts was right here in Charlton, where people who called themselves Methodist began meeting in the home of Mr. Elijah Batchelder in 1790. Elijah Batchelders home was one half mile west of the intersection of Ayer Road with Berry Corner Road in 1790. The Batchelder house was moved to 133-135 Pleasant Street in Southbridge in the mid 1800’s. A historic plaque marks the house today. A memorial stone has also been placed by junction of the old Berry Corner Road and Ayer Road.
Early Circuit Rider
History tells us that the Charlton Methodists were organized into an official Methodist Society by 1790s. However, the society did not function between 1810 and 1829 and it wasn’t till 1834 that Charlton was included in a three point circuit with Southbridge and Dudley.
One of the local circuit riders, Ebenezer Newell, held his first Charlton meeting in school house number six on July 19, 1840. The next day he called on a Baptist named Kingsbury who lived in the large farmhouse on Dresser Hill Road which had a long ell attached. In this ell was a hall which he very generously offered to Rev. Newell as a convenient hall for preaching. It is interesting to note that many of the early members of the church which was built in Charlton City, lived in the south part of Town near Dresser Hill.
One of the people who lived in the center of town asked, “How do you get along at the hall with so many different orders?” His reply was to come and see, for Jesus Christ is the truth and the way. Of interest is the observation of Reverend Newell who called Charlton “a place where depravity exhibit some of its most hideous pictures and darker colors! Newell felt that the Universalist doctrines of final restoration to happiness helped to keep, as he states, “the poor sinner down in the dreamy region of carnal security, causing him to believe he would go to Heaven as last, even if he died in his sins.”
From 1843 to 1846, only Charlton and Dudley formed the circuit. During these periods the circuit preachers continued to conduct their Methodist meetings in the hall on Dresser Hill, which at that time was the business center of Charlton.