The Eliot Church Heritage Book
From Many Backgrounds
The Heritage of the Eliot Church of South Natick
by James W. Morley
What is now the Eliot Church of South Natick has its roots in the efforts of the “Indian Apostle” John Eliot who, as a Puritan Missionary, began his ministry here in 1651. From then until now, this historic site has seen five different church buildings and a variety of denominational affiliations.
Jim Morley, a member of the church until his passing in 2020, chronicled its history and the related history of South Natick and the “Old Town” of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s eponymous book.
Order Your Copy
The price per book is $20 plus $2 shipping and handling.
The $20 is a qualified, tax-deductible charitable donation that is divided equally between the Eliot Church of South Natick and the Natick Historic Society.
About the Book
A brief history of the Eliot Church that traces its origins back to the Meetinghouse stockade and the missionary venture that John Eliot, the Puritan divine, and Thomas Waban, his Praying Indian partner, initiated here in 1651 in a unique effort to solve the cultural conflict between the indigenous Indians and the English settlers at the very beginning of our nation’s history.
Drawing on unique archival sources, it details the failure of that effort and the transformation of the plantation into a largely white community of English settlers—or rather, as the population expanded, into two such communities: a new one to the North, now Natick Center and beyond, which built its own meeting house, and South Natick, the ”Old Town,” where life changed more slowly, where stage coaches used to stop on their way from Boston to Hartford and whose stories Harriet Beecher Stowe told so endearingly in Oldtown Folks.
The beautiful Federal period church that now raises its spire at the South Natick crossing, of course, is not the original meetinghouse of the Praying Indians. It was in fact erected in 1828 and inaugurated a wholly new phase in the congregation’s religious history, a story told here from the adoption of Unitarianism in the nineteenth century to the union with the John Eliot Congregational Church following World War II and the formation of the Eliot Church of South Natick of today—a liberal church, still in the Christian tradition, but as different from Eliot’s dream as is Natick from the New Jerusalem.
About the Author
Jim Morley was Ruggles Professor of Political Science emeritus at Columbia University in New York and an author and editor of numerous books on Japanese politics and international relations in the Asia-Pacific region. He retired to Natick in 1999, where he immersed himself in Natick history and served as president of the Natick Historical Society.