Historic St. Anne’s Church
In December of 1822, Kirk Boott and the directors of the Merrimack Manufacturing Corporation made provisions for the religious worship of their operatives by appointing a committee to build a church. It was voted that the building should be of stone, not to exceed a cost of $9,000.
In accordance with this vote, the cornerstone of St. Anne’s was laid May 20, 1824 based on plans drawn by Mr. Boott similar in design to St. Michael’s Church in Derby, England, where he had been married. The church was consecrated March 16, 1825 by the Rt. Rev. Alexander Viets Griswold. St. Anne’s was the first building dedicated to religious worship in the section of Chelmsford that later became Lowell, and, as far as is known at this time, was the first church to be established and supported by a manufacturing company rather than a group of worshipers. The Parish was formally organized February 24, 1824 as the Merrimack Religious Society. Its first public worship service was held Sunday, March 7, 1824. in the Merrimack Company’s Schoolhouse, located on the site of today’s Green School. Theodore Edson, an Episcopal Deacon who later became St. Anne’s Rector (he was ordained during the service of consecration by the Rt. Rev. Griswold), officiated at that first service. The Book of Common Prayer (the Episcopal Prayerbook) was used at the service, and St. Anne’s has remained in communion with the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts since that time.
St. Anne’s Sunday School
Dr. Edson loved and cared for the children. He was fond of saying that our Lord said to St. Peter, “Feed my sheep! Feed my sheep! Feed my lambs!” and from that inferred that he must devote one-third of his time and energy to children.
The first Sunday School session was held on Sunday June 6, 1824 in the Merrimack Company’s school house and continued there for 6 years. The number of pupils increased from 10 in 1824 to 556 in 1839. There were two sessions each Sunday, one in the morning and one in the afternoon at which time both the Catechism and Scripture lessons were studied. Books were given as rewards of merit.
The inconvenience of going to the Merrimack Company’s school house twice a Sunday led to the building of “the big Sunday School” in 1830 on the property where the French house now stands. The cost was $568.84 raised mostly by subscription. By 1837 the number of pupils increased to 335 and the was enlarged. Two years later the number had risen to 556 and a second school house was built on the Church property between the Church and the Rectory approximately where the Chapel now stands. By 1842 there were 694 pupils and then over the following years as other denominations organized and established their own places of worship, the number of pupils at St. Anne’s Sunday School declined to 250.
The Sunday School hours were from 9 o’clock on Sunday morning until the second bell for Church at 10:15. In the afternoon the sessions began immediately after Church and continued for 1 1/2 hours. In the morning the school began with portions of the Church service and a hymn. The Scripture lesson was explained by the clergymen and then the teachers took over. In the afternoon the pupils recited from memory Scripture lessons of the morning and were examined on their meaning. In one month 12000 verses were recited, an average of 60 per Sunday. At this time there had been established a library of ovre 1,265 books and teacher’s meetings were held weekly.
In 1847 “Christian Nurture and Admonition” a book written by Dr. Edson was introduced in the Sunday School. There is a copy on exhibt in the Church. There were three divisions in the school at this time, the infant department, one for medium aged pupils, and one for older pupils.