The year of the postmark on the back of this postcard is 1914

Matthews Memorial Primitive Methodist Church


1870 - The First Primitive Methodist Church was started as a volunteer missionary movement headed by Thomas Leland. The first services were held in Preston's Hall in Davis Square on Gorham Street with Rev. William Kirkby as the pastor.


1871 – The society was incorporated on February 14, 1871 as the Zion Primitive Methodist Church. A building was constructed at the corner of Gorham and Congress Streets with Rev. Kirkby, the first pastor. Dr. J.C. Ayer, a prominent citizen in Lowell, laid the cornerstone. Believers worshiped in that church for 30 years.


1872 – 1875 – Pastors in these years were Rev. W. Kirkby, Rev. H. Matthews, Rev. W. Marks; Rev. G. Parkes, Rev. J. Barkes, and Rev. C. Spurr.


1874 – 1875 - In the economic hard times of 1874-1875 the building was sold and the society disbanded.


1879 - In 1878, Rev, Nathaniel Williams Matthews came to Lowell and in January 1879, the society was reorganized. The building on Gorham and Congress Streets was repurchased, and the church was reincorporated in October 1880 under its name, “The First Primitive Methodist Church of Lowell.” Rev. Matthews was the first pastor until 1883 when he left, returning in 1897.


Detail from the 1882 Atlas of the City of Lowell

1883 - Rev. Matthews was succeeded in 1883 by Rev. John A. McGreaham.


1888 - Rev. T. M. Bateman became pastor and remained till 1893.


1893 - Rev. W. H. Yarrow began his ministry with the church in May and remained until 1897.


1897 - The membership of the church was 170.


1897 - Rev. N. W. Matthews returned and served as pastor for 26 years until his death in 1922.


1901 – The laying of the cornerstone for a new church building to accommodate the growing congregation. The building is at 799 Gorham Street, on the corner of Gorham and Ellsworth Streets.

Detail from the 1906 Atlas of the City of Lowell. The Fire Station next door is still standing.

The Gorham Street Fire Station in 1981. The front entrances and square towers of the Church can be seen next door.

1902 – First service in the new building  

Lowell Sun, January 13, 1902

1904 – The church was completed and formally dedicated. The cost was approximately $22,000 and was designed to seat 500 - 600 people. Warren L. Floyd, a local architect, designed the church and also designed the Pawtucketville Congregational Church


1922 – Rev. N. W. Matthews dies. He is buried in Edson Cemetery in a family plot.

Lowell Sun, December,1 1922

Lowell Sun, December 2,1922

1923 - Rev. John T. Ullom was pastor from 1923 until his death in 1936.


1926 – The name was changed to Matthews Memorial Primitive Methodist Church in honor of the late Reverend N. W. Matthews.


1929 – 50th Anniversary. Rev. Arthur Hiley, at the time at a church in Methuen, who attended the church as a boy returns for celebration.

1929 – The dedication of new organ.


1937 – 58th anniversary. Rev. Arthur Hiley begins 28-year pastorate.


Lowell Sun, March 5, 1937

1964 – Rev. Hiley retires after 28 years as pastor of the church.


1968 – Church members began raising money for a new building.


1969 – New church building under construction in East Chelmsford


1969 – Organ moved to the new church building

1969 – First services held in the new church building at 128 Gorham Street in East Chelmsford.


1969 – The building was sold and became the Spanish American Center serving both social and religious functions. The Center was started in Lowell by the Catholic Archdiocese.

Lowell Sun, March, 29 1970

Mid-1960s – The first large influx of Latinos to Lowell, mostly from Puerto Rico, moved in to the Acre.

Soon after, “Urban Renewal” scattered many Puerto Ricans from a section of the Acre.


1966 - Latinos establish the first community center, the Spanish American Center, in part due to the dispersion, in the basement of St. Joseph’s Shrine on Lee Street.


1969 – The Spanish American Center finalizes the purchase of the former Matthews Memorial Church for their church and community center


In its first decade the Center thrived with Sunday services of the faith community named Nueva Esperanza or New hope.


The Center did not receive much support from the Archdiocese because of the physical condition of the church including its roof that was in bad shape.

Attempts were made to raise money for improvements to the building.

Please see the chapter "Latino Migration,the Catholic Church, ad Political Division: Lowell", by Jeffrey N. Gerson. in Latino Politics in Massachusetts; Struggles, Strategies, and Prospects, by Carol Hardy-Fanta and Jeffery N. Gerson (eds.), Routledge, 2002.

1987 – The Spanish American Center closed.


1994 – In August, the building was demolished over the protests of advocates. The Center's files, photographs, and furniture were lost to the demolition.


2016 – The name of Matthews Memorial Church in East Chelmsford was changed to the Chelmsford Bible Church.