Universalist Historical Sites Near Winchester
(the beginnings of a Heritage Trail)
Birthplace and boyhood home of Hosea Ballou
Follow NH 119 east 6 1/2 miles to NH 32 (Richmond center). Continue straight on NH 119 across NH 32 about 1 mile, then turn left onto Fish Hatchery Road. About 1 mile down there is a white house on the right—Cape Cod style, bearing the date 1780 on a small plaque--where Hosea Ballou lived as a youth. He was born in a log cabin that stood adjacent. The small stone marker at the edge of the road was placed by Universalists on the occasion of the centennial of Winchester Profession in 1903.
Graves of Hosea Ballou's parents (hike)
Continue on Fish hatchery Road about ½ mile past Ballou's boyhood home to Benson Road (unpaved) on the right. Go up Benson Road and park where it levels out and widens. Walk up the hill about 20 minutes to Benson's Cemetery, just before the top of the hill, on the right. Near the right wall, toward the back, is a large monument placed by Universalists in the 19th century bearing the names of Ballou's parents. In front of it are their small, rough-hewn original gravestones, but these are overgrown and the inscriptions (only their initials) are difficult to read.
Hosea Ballou highway historical marker
Continue on Fish Hatchery Road about 1 ¾ miles beyond Benson Road to NH 32. Go left and after about 1 mile on the left there is a historical marker titled "Ballou's Dell."
Alternately, from the intersection of NH 119 and NH 32 (Richmond center), go north about 1 ¾ miles on NH 32. The historical marker titled "Ballou's Dell" is on the right.
Dana Common (hike)
The center of Hosea Ballou's early ministry was about 35 miles from Winchester, NH in Dana, MA, now mostly beneath the waters of the Quabbin Reservoir. But the old town center is still above water, including the foundation of the town hall where Universalist (and other) preachers once held forth. Ballou's house was about a mile away (the exact site is not known).
Follow NH 119 & 10 west through downtown Winchester and go left onto NH 78, which becomes MA 78. Follow MA 78 through Warwick, MA into Orange to its end at MA 2A. Go left (east) onto MA 2A, and follow MA 2A until the intersection with MA 122 (Orange center). Go right (south) onto MA 122. Follow MA 122 through New Salem into Petersham and the intersection with MA 32A. Turn right (south) onto MA 32A. After about 4 ½ miles, Quabbin Reservoir Gate 40 is on the right. Park and walk down the dirt road about 1 3/4 miles to Dana Common (marked).
The Vermont Sister Churches
From 1803 to 1809 Ballou, on foot and on horseback, preached in five Vermont towns. You can trace this circuit (and discover some lovely Vermont towns) as follows: From I 91 take exit 9 and follow route 5 to Hartland, then route 12 to Woodstock, Barnard and Bethel. A side-trip west on route 4 from Woodstock will take you to Bridgewater.
None of the buildings in which Ballou preached is still standing, but the continuing Unitarian Universalist churches in Hartland, Woodstock and Barnard, and the federated church in Bethel, were established in large part by his ministry.
The house in which he lived in Barnard, and from which he traveled to the other towns, is still there. It is a low cape just across from the elementary school on route 12. It was there that Ballou wrote A Treatise on Atonement and Notes on the Parables. Several of his children were born in that house and one, Elmina, who died in infancy, is buried in the old cemetery on North Road (a tilted gravestone about halfway back on the south side of the cemetery.