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First Congregational Church of Sutton

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The Lombard Pulpit
The pulpit was built by Sutton furniture maker, Nathan Lombard and his son Alanson Allen (1803 - 1881).
Documented in Alanson Allen's diary, the pulpit was made for the second building that housed the Congregational Church of Sutton.  When this building caught on fire during the night following a town meeting, men ran into the church and saved the pulpit from ruin.
When the third church building was built, the pulpit was placed in the sanctuary but due to the fact that it stood at a height not suitable for the new construction, the pulpit was cut down by about two feet.
Nathan Lombard was a master with mahogany veneer as demonstrated in the craftmanship of the pulpit.  He used the huge soap pot in the kitchen at 297 Boston Road to heat the wood until it could be curved.  While still maluable, the veneer was hastily transfered to the pulpit under construction and added to the design.
It is said that if one sits in the on the far left of the first row center (left) of the sancturary, during Sunday service the sunlight strikes the pulpit in such a way that the face of Jesus Christ is quite visible. 

According to an article by Brock Jobe and Clark Pearce, Sophistication in Rural Massachusetts: The Inlaid Cherry Furniture of Nathan Lombard,  Nathan Lombard was born in Brimfield, Massachusetts, in 1777, the fourth of ten children. His parents, Joseph and Mary, had married a decade earlier.
Local records describe Joseph as a yeoman with a modest farming operation who seems to have been well respected within the community. He apprenticed Nathan’s older brother Ariel to Abner Allen of neighboring Sturbridge to learn the trade of tanning and may have apprenticed Nathan to a local cabinetmaker. Presumably, Nathan began to work on his own by 1798, when he reached the age of twenty-one.
Four years later, he married Delight Allen in Sturbridge and moved to Sutton. 
Sutton was in the midst of significant growth. By 1800 its population had reached 2,642 and was ranked second among Worcester County communities. Farming remained the primary occupation of residents, and, like many regional artisans, Lombard supplemented his income with agricultural activities. Cabinetmaking became increasingly important as population growth spurred local demand for household furnishings. The presence of turnpikes to Worcester, Providence, Boston, and westward toward Sturbridge and Brimfield facilitated the shipment of goods to a wider area. A highly skilled tradesman with strong commercial or family connections could find a sizable quantity of work. Lombard apparently had both, judging from the quality and design of his furniture and his extensive network of relatives. His wife’s family, the Allens, were particularly numerous and undoubtedly secured many commissions for Lombard.

Lombard’s oldest son, Alanson A. Lombard, assisted his father and later acquired his shop. An 1832 report of manufactures records the value of Alanson’s cabinetwares at $1,250, the largest total for any furniture maker in Sutton. In 1834 alone he sold merchant Jonathan Dudley twenty-three bedsteads for one dollar each. His trade also included more ornate work.

Nathan Lombard (pictured at right) died on September 4, 1847. By all accounts, his career had been solid and successful. He attained sufficient wealth to purchase several properties in Sutton, maintain a pew in the First Church (termed the Center Meetinghouse in his will), and pay for portraits of both himself and his wife. He clearly had the respect of his peers, serving as town selectman on numerous occasions during the 1810s and 1820s. His tombstone is modest and reflects the middle-class standing that Lombard had secured for his family. Although both his house and cabinet shop are mentioned in his will, no inventory was taken of Lombard’s shop goods, lumber, tools, or personal possessions.
Alanson A. Lombard and his wife Alaxa Lombard both passed away in 1881 and are buried at the Howard Cemetery in Sutton.
Not All Sermons Were Popular
On the front of the pulpit is a mark that according to town lore is a bullet hole. The shot, say some, was fired by an inebriated native who cared not for the minister's message. 

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