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As the Cock Crows: Longmeadow's Rooster

Have you ever wondered about the rooster on the top of First Church’s steeple? Did you think that it was a simple weathervane, helping Longmeadow’s people to tell which way the wind blows? You might be surprised to learn that our shiny gilt rooster is not a weathervane at all—it has no directionals! There are no east-west-north-south pointing letters. This author was recently researching the history of the rooster perched high above Longmeadow’s green in order to learn how it became the logo for the Historical Society. What came first, the chicken or the egg, you might say!

First off, a little history, since we are the Historical Society. I dug into the history of roosters as weathervanes (or directionals). The rooster had profound historical and religious significance. Readers may recall the biblical story of the disciple Peter’s betrayal: “...Verily I say unto thee, that this night, before cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.” (Matthew 26:34). Circa 590 A.D., Pope Gregory I declared that the rooster was “the most suitable emblem of Christianity.” In the 9th century, Pope Nicholas I even decreed that a rooster be placed at the top of every church. Others may interpret the rooster as a more ancient pagan symbol of sacrifice, and still others may simply think of the rooster as the harbinger of the dawn. And if you think that our rooster is unique, think again—West Springfield, Storrowton, Springfield, Westfield, and Deerfield all have rooster weathervanes, just to name a few.

A deep dive into our archives was the next step. From a publication dating 1872 Annals of our Meeting-house; “The whole edifice has been thoroughly painted again and again, and re-shingled, and the weather-cock has not been left uncared for in his solitary watch on the steeple. But years ago, a rifle ball was shot by some irreverent marksman straight through his breast, and yet to this day he tells faithfully which way the wind blows, Sundays and week-days, at midnight and at noon.” As we now know, this is not strictly accurate, as our rooster has no directionals (and what’s that bit about midnight and noon?). From the archival records at the Storrs House Museum, it seems that the rooster was imported from England about 1795 and is made of copper and covered in gold leaf. Though it appears small up there on the steeple, it is actually four feet high and 42” from beak to tail.



The rooster has taken flight at least 3 times; in the “Great Gale of 1821” (probably a hurricane) the steeple was blown down and the weathervane was blown from its perch. By the following May, it had been repaired.It also came down in 1945 and 1996 for painting of the steeple.



The rooster has been an inspiration for many people over the years, including Mary Ann Booth, who composed these lines:

“How dear to our hearts is the old First Church Rooster,

When near or when far he’s presented to view,

For years he has stood there with never a murmur,

And never a whisper of tales that he knew.

How much he has seen from the top of the steeple,

So true to his post the seer of church,

The bright shining Rooster, the patient old Rooster,

The dear faithful old Rooster that ne’er leaves his perch.”

How the rooster became the logo of the Longmeadow Historical Society is a little more mysterious. In the early days of the organization (founded in 1899) there was no logo at all. Starting in the 1970s the logo on the “Meadow Crier”, an early newsletter, was an outline of the Storrs House. The first time we see the rooster used as a logo was in the 1980 Long Meddowe Days booklet, with the note, “cover design done by Mrs. Edward B. Sullivan (Dotty).” In the 2002, Vol. 2 edition of “The Town Crier” newsletter, Peter Santos reminisces about the choice of a rooster for the event, “I wanted to have some kind of symbol to distinguish the day so I called on artist and publicity chairperson, Dotty Sullivan for ideas. From that conversation came the ‘Rooster’ that we now proudly display on all our ads and stationery. Dotty later copyrighted Rooster logo to the Historical Society for our continued use.”


From there, the bird roosted firmly as the official logo of the Longmeadow Historical Society. You may have also noticed that the rooster is also featured on the Town Seal—and every street sign in town—but he faces the other way! The significance of the direction of his gaze is a story for another day!


Sources: various Longmeadow Historical Society newsletters and other archival materials, First Church of Christ of Longmeadow, the Springfield Union.


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