Gathered in 1633, the First Parish Church in Dover is the oldest church in New Hampshire. The first permanent settlement in New Hampshire, the lands that would eventually become Dover were initially settled by a pair of fishmongers from London. In 1633, the land was bought by a group of English Puritans. Over the next 150 years, with the arrival of mills and other infrastructure, the small settlement grew in population, size and prosperity.
The settlement’s first church services were held on the last Sunday of October 1633 by Rev. Leverich at Dover Point; a year later the first meeting house was built on the same location. Little is known about the first meeting house except that it was made of mud and logs with a thatched roof and that it served the community’s purposes until 1658 when a new meeting house was erected on Dover Neck. The third meeting house was located on Pine Hill from 1710-1759. In 1758 the fourth meeting house, built out of wood, was constructed in Tuttle Square. Construction on the fifth, and final, meeting house, a new brick church building, was concluded with its dedication on December 31, 1829.
Rev. William Leverich was the first minister to hold church services in Dover in 1633 and is considered the founder of Mission and Action in Dover. Rev. Hanserd Knollys organized the First Parish Church as a religious organization in 1638. Rev. Jeremy Belknap, who wrote the three volume “History of New Hampshire” and founded the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1791, was the minister at the First Parish from 1769-1786. Rev. David Root was well-known for his opposition to slavery and his anti-slavery sermons, as was his successor Rev. Jeremiah S. Young, who on October 28, 1841 passed a resolution against slavery.
The First Parish Church joined the United Church of Christ in 1961 and in 1996 the name changed to First Parish Congregational Church in 1996. It is a member of the New Hampshire Conference, UCC and of the Carroll-Strafford Association. The First Parish Congregational Church continues to serve the community of Dover, New Hampshire, today.