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History of the town of Durham, New Hampshire : (Oyster River Plantation) with genealogical notes online

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preaching there nearly two years. Under that date Nathaniel
Hill and Stephen Jones wrote to the Boston News Letter as follows:

This day (through the smiles of Heaven upon us) we had a Church gathered
here, in the Decency and Order of the Gospel, and our Teacher, the Reverend
Mr. Hugh Adams was then consecrated and Established the Pastor thereof,
who then preached from that Text in Cant, 3,11; we being then favored with
the Presence and Approixntion of some Reverend Pastors of the next Neighbor-
ing Churches, with the Honoured Messengers thereof at the said Solemnity,
in our New Meeting- House, wherein they gave the Right Hand of Fellowship,

As witness our hands,

Nathaniel Hill
Stephen Jones

The account of the same event, as given b>' the Rev. Hugh
Adams in the records of the church, is as follows:

March 26, 1718. This day through the grace of God our Saviour we had
a Church orderly gathered with the presence and approbation of the Pastors
and messengers of the churches of Newington and of Quochecho. The Revi
Mr. Jonathan Gushing prayed. I preached from the text Cant. 3:11, and made
a short prayer. Then I read our Confession of Faith and Church Covenant,
signed by me and Nathaniel Hill, Sampson Doc, Stephen Jones, Samuel Emer-


son, Joseph Dudey, John Allen, James Nock, James Langley and Samuel

Then the Rev<i Mr. Gushing, Pastor of Cochecho Chi> being chosen by the
Council of the Ch^s present for it, made a decent speech to the said len brethren
and to the whole Assembly, whether any person had any thing to object against
their establishing me the Pastor of this Church. No person then objecting,
he propounded me to said Church as their Pastor. To which they all voting
with uplifted hands, then I declared my acceptance.

Then the s^ Mr. Cushing read publicly the Testimonial of my former Ordi-
nation at Braintree, signed by the Rev^ Doctor Increase Mather and his son
Doctor Cotton Mather of the old North Church in Boston, by Revd Mr. James
Keith, the Hoary Pastor of the Church in Bridgewater, who laid their hands
on my Head in that Ordination, Signed also by the ReV Nehemiah Walker,
Pastor of the Church of Roxbury. Then the Revd Mr. Joseph Adams, by a
pertinent speech, gave unto me as pastor and to our said Church the Right
Hand of Fellowship. Then we sang Ps 132, 13-18. Then I pronounced the

The Rev. Hugh Adams, son of John and Avis of Boston, and
probably of Scotch origin, was born 7 May 1676 and was graduated
at Harvard College in 1697. He preached in South Carolina a
few years and was ordained at Braintree, Mass., 10 Septem-
ber 1707. He was dismissed from there 22 August 17 10 and
preached at Chatham, Mass., 1711-1715. He preached for a
short time in 17 16 at Georgetown, Me., and in the latter part
of that year came to Oyster River. He was something of a
physician as well as minister and once practised the healing art
on the famous Jesuit priest, Sebastian Ralle, at Georgetown. He
says the cure was effected in three days and without charge.

During his pastorate of twenty-one years in Durham the
church records, which cover only the first ten years, show that
he added more than one hundred members to the church and
baptized 694 persons. Surely this is a remarkable record and
goes far to offset the discords and oppositions which troubled
him during the last part of his ministry. He and Col. James
Davis did not agree and both were probably too independent to
be swayed by anybody else. The abusive language used by
controversialists of those times is not a fair index of character
but the fault of the age. Mr. Adams was strict in discipline and
very plain and unsparing in his written statements, yet he had
a kind and sympathetic heart. His interpretations of Scripture
were sometimes fanciful, judged by modern standards, yet the
habit of the century was to make an odd passage mean anything


that the preacher wanted to say, to which the allegorical method
lent aid. He thought that he had prevailing power in prayer as
well as Elijah, the logical consequence of a literal interpretation,
and once he, too, shut up the heavens in drought for three months.
In the afflictions of his opponents he saw the hand of God, just
as the Hebrew prophets saw it in national calamities. Indeed,
his church records and petitions to the General Assembly show
that he was saturated with the language and spirit of the Old
Testament more than of the New. He was eccentric and opin-
ionated, spoke his mind freely and so roused opposition, yet the
great majority of the parish evidently stood by him. He records
the observance of a day of fasting and prayer "kept by our
church at the house of Dea. John Williams on account of some
preternatural troubles about their house," when he preached from
II Cor. xii: 7 and I John iii : 8. Evidently he considered the devil
to be the author of said troubles. This servdce was a sort of

He had difficulty about collecting his salary, leading to con-
siderable litigation, and no settlement was reached till after his
death. Twice he sued the town and brought suit in court against
his successor, Mr. Gilman, for appropriation of lands granted to
the minister. He was dismissed by Council 23 January 1739,
yet he continued to preach at the church at Durham Point.
The town voted, 28 March 1743, "that Mr. Hugh Adams shall
have twenty pounds of the new issue bills of credit yearly during
his abode in the town of Durham, Provided he set down satiesfied
and Preach no more in said town for the futer, but if he preach
any more in s'' town then this \ote to be thereby voide and of
none effect." This is believed to be the only historical instance
w^here a town has tried to hire a minister to stop preaching.

A petition was presented by P>ancis Mathes, 15 February 1739/
40, or less than a month atler Mr. Adams' dismissal, signed by
fifty-seven persons, about all of the male inhabitants of the
Point and of Lubberland, asking for a separate parish. Their
request was denied, yet the petition shows that Mr. Adams could
not have been an unworthy nor an unpopular man to have been
quite unanimously desired as their minister by a section embrac-
ing half of the town, and doubtless he had many friends in the
other half. It shows also who the residents of the Point and of
Lubberland were in 1740:


Petition of Frances Mathes and others for a new parish in Durham. To
His Excellency Jonathan Belcher Esq' Governor and Commander In Chief in
& over His Majesty's Province of New Hampshire in New England, the
Honb'" His Majesty's Council and House of Representatives for said Province
in General Court Convened Jany 31" 1739. The Petition of Sundry of the
Inhabitants of the Town of Durham in Said Province Humbly Shews,

That the Inhabitants of the Said Town are divided into two parties Respect-
ing their Ecclesiastical affairs, the One such as adhere to the Reverend M' Hugh
Adams the late Minister of Said Town & who continues so to the said party,
the other (who are much the greater) are such as have oppos'd his Standing in
that Relation to them, & still Continue to do so. That notwithstanding it
was the opinion & Result of the late Ecclesiastical Council held there that it
would not be Expedient for him to be any longer the Minister of the said
Town yet considering his former Services his advanced years and the unhappy
Circumstances of himself & family they Earnestly Recommended and press'd
it upon the said Inhabitants that they should Liberally make provision for
his Support during the Stay of himself ^ Family among them, — which is what
would be highly agreeable to your Petitioners,

That altho Several propositions have been made touching that matter yet
nothing has been agreed on nor any care taken to secure the performance
thereof in the manner Recommended as aforesaid.

That your Petitioners apprehend it would be a great Indecency if he who
was once & so long the Minister of the said Town should have no other Provision
made for his Support than what the Law provides for one of the poor of the
Town and that he should be Reduced to a Necessity of Depending upon such a

That your Petitioners are desirous still to sit under his Ministry and are will-
ing to support him & his family Suitable to his character & Station among
them, and conceive that his being comfortably supported would have a good
Tendency & be the Means of making peace in the Town (respecting Ecclesias-
tical matters) and would keep all parties quiet & easy. But your Petitioners
however willing are not of ability to afford such Support while they are Subject
to & pay toward the Maintenance of another Minister in the Town.

Wherefore they most Humbly pray that they with Such others of the said
Town as will associate with them (not Exceeding the one half) may be Exemp-
ted from paying toward the Support of any other Minister & may be discharged
from all charges of that nature laid upon them by Law by their Opponents
from the time of the aforesaid Result and may be Incorporated as a Parish
during the Life of the said A-Ir. Adams in order to maintain him & his Family
•& to Enjoy the Benefit of his Ministry.

Or that the Town in General may be Obliged to afford him a Comfortable
Subsistence during his abode there Or that Such other Method may be pursued
as this Honbio Court in their Great Wisdom & goodness shall think proper for



the peace of the Town & the Ease of that aged Gentleman — and your peti-
tioners as in duty bound shall ever pray &c.

Francis Mathes

Thomas Footman

Thomas Drew

Joseph Wheeler

William Lord

John Edgcrly

Stephen Wille

Joseph Stevenson

John Footman

Joseph Footman

Benjamin Pender

John Durgen

Benjamin Durgen

Benjamin Pinder Jun.

Francis Durgen

Joseph Drew

John Kent

Moses Edgcrly

John Kent Junr

John Drewe

Benjamin Benet

James Durgain Jun

William Durgain

Will™ Durgain Jun

Joseph Durgain

Thomas Bickford

Abraham Stevenson.

John Bickford

[N. H. Province Papers, V, 23.]

Towerthey Durgin
Joshua Durgain
Hezckiah Marsh
Joseph Duda
Joseph Duda Jun.
Bcnmor Duda
J(jhn Cromet
Phillip Cromet
David Davis
Jacob Tash
Isaac Mason
Nathaniel Watson
Nathaniel Frost
John Smart
John Mason
Benjamin Burdet
Pumfret Whitehouse
\'allitin Hill
Sam" Adams
Sam' Willey
Joseph Bickford
Abraham Ben neck
Benjamin Benneck
William Wormwood
Joseph Edgerly
William Accason
Joseph Edgly

It is easy to suspect that the real motive of this petition was
not so much a loving regard for the Rev. Hugh Adams as it was
the desire to have regular preachingat the Point, to be independent
of the Falls, and to have their own sweet way in matters ecclesi-

Mr. Adams was not one of those "safe" m^n who walk in "the
middle path between right and wrong." He followed his con-
victions and was sometimes mistaken. The Ecclesiastical
Council that dismissed him censured him for "his great pre-
sumption in pretending to imprecate the (li\ine venge.ance
and that the calamities that had befallen sundry persons were the
effect of his prayers." They concluded that "it would not be
for the honor of Christ or the interest of religion nor any way





answer to the great ends of his ministry in this place for him to
continue any longer in it." He was now sixty-three years of
age, and doubtless oppositions had made him nervous and a
little more unbalanced than usual. Perhaps he needed sympathy
and cooperation; instead, after twenty-three years of faithful
service, he was censured for his eccentricities and dismissed to
poverty in his old age. This must have greatly rejoiced the heart
of Col. James Davis and other opponents.

It has been several times published that the Rev. Hugh Adams
died in 1750, but the following town record places his death two
years earlier. He was li\ing 22 July 1748:

At a town meeting held llie 12 day of December 1748 at the meeting house
at Durham Falls . . . Voted that a Committee shall be chosen to agree
with Mdam Adams & to fully settle all affairs & Demands with s^ Mdam
Adams widow concerning her Demands on the Town for Mr Adamses sallary.
Then voted Leut Robt Burnum, M' Daniel Rogers & John Woodman be
accomtee for that service to agree & settle the affair. — Teste John Woodman
Cler. P temp.

July 9 1750. \'oted that the funeral Charges of the Rev<i Mr. Hugh
Adams shall not be paid. Leut Stephen Jones, John Woodman & Daniel
Rogers chosen accomte to agree with Susannah Adams or her son Samuel
Adams concerning the arrearages of Rcver°d Hugh .Adams Deceased. [Town
Records, Vol. I, pp. 25, 31.]

The committee reported 28 May 1751, that the town should
pay £262, old tenor, to Susannah Adams, administratrix.
Whether the town ever paid this amount does not appear.

Since the above was put in type additional information has
been obtained concerning the Rev. Hugh Adams. In 1725 he
wrote, "A Narrative of a Particular Faith and Answers to
Prayer," and offered it to the authorities of New Hampshire for
publication. In it lie reviews the main events of his life, in
which he sees the gracious providence of God and claims that
God has done wonderful things for him in answer to prayer.
We learn that he had an extensive practice as a physician in
South Carolina, Massachusetts and Oyster River during twenty-
three years, and that by this profession, as much as from his
salary as a minister, he was enabled to support his family. He
speaks of "my former Travels into several Countreys of Europe
and Africa, as well as of the Continent and Islands of America,
my instruction from Sundry able Physicians & Chirurgions, my


hard studies in the best Books, and my so long Practice and
Experience" as the sources of his medical skill, declaring that he
was then toward the end of his forty-ninth year of age. Inci-
dentally he says that he arrived in South Carolina in July or August
1698 and was sick several months in getting himself seasoned to
the country and climate. The following spring, 1699, he was
"called to settle at a large parish on both sides of Wandoe River,
where I preached two years having a Meeting House on each
side thereof builded on purpose for me. One about 13 miles
from Charles Town N. N. E. The other about 7 miles distant
about half a mile above the head of that river." The people
paid him about half his salary, which occasioned his getting in
debt sixty pounds "for the maintenance of four of my young
brethren and sisters being orphans and left to my Brotherly
care." This led to "my first Remove soon after my Marriage
in the year of our Lord 1701." He then preached for a while
in Ashley River parish, and thence he removed to South Edisto
River parish, fifty miles from Charleston. "My second son was
born there." He returned to New England in 1706, leaving
wife and boy ten months old. He preached his first sermon in
Braintree 27 October 1706.

This quasi autobiography relates many interesting things about
the people of Oyster River. At the time of the Indian War,
1724, he procured two horns made of the horns of cattle and
employed his "two younger sons in sounding of them when my
eldest son was gone forth a volunteer into our wilderness against
our said Indian enemies, wherein he so prospered." This was
done because of some fanciful interpretation of an odd passage
in the Old Testament. He says that in consequence "not one
of my family hath been killed, wounded, or captivated."

He tells of many remarkable cures that had been effected in
his different parishes by his medical skill and in answer to prayer,
naming the following at Oyster River, Abednego Leathers, Mary
wife of Joseph Davis, Mary wife of Benjamin Glitten at the
house of Richard Hilton seven miles away in Exeter, whither he
had been summoned at midnight, and where a son was born and
immediately baptized Benjamin, William Randall, John Buss,
Jr., Joseph Mason, wife of John Pearl of Dover, Mary wife of
Lieut. Jonathan Chesley, Moses Furber of Newington "at the


house of my near neighbor Captain Hill," 30 June 1724, Lieut.
Ichabod Chesley, widow Elizabeth Smith, James Bunker cured
of rheumatism and pestilential fever whereof his father died a
little before. "His foolish Quaker aunt had given him stone
horse dung in wine." This was in the summer of 1724. Others
cured were "my neighbor Jonathan Thompson's son, October
6, 7, 8, 1724," Hannah wife of Philip Chesley "Lieutenant of
the Troop of horse," February 1723, William Dam's wife>
Theodore Atkinson, Esq., of Newcastle, Edward Evans of Dover^
and John Dennet of Kittery, showing that he had a wide medical
practice. He does not give the names of those who died under
his treatment.

He declares that from childhood he was afiflicted with many
diseases and suffered from almost all the ills that flesh is heir to,
including melancholia, and that his "particular faith" in con-
nection with acquired medical skill had saved him out of all his
distresses. It is easy to see that his mind was unbalanced at
times in consequence of physical infirmities, and thus his impa-
tience and eccentricities are accounted for.*

The .parish soon found a successor and, 14 September 1739^
voted that Nicholas Gilman be the settled minister. He was
born in Exeter, 18 January 1707/8, son of Judge Nicholas Gil-
man. He was graduated at Harvard in 1724 and was installed
at Durham 3 March 1742. Lieut. Jonathan Thompson, Joseph
Wheeler and Benjamin Smith were the committee that secured
him. Mr. Ciilman's health was poor and for three years he was
assisted by the Rev. Joseph Prince of Barrington, who was
blind from his fourteenth year of age. He preached again at
Durham after the dismissal of the Re\^ John Adams, in 1778.
He died in 1791 at advanced age and was buried in the same
church at Newbury port in' which are the remains of the Rev.
George Whitefield.

Mr. Gilman was a man of piety and much beloved, yet he was
deluded by a fanatic named Woodbury, who used to arouse
him by night and lead him into the woods and swamps to pray
till morning. Jacob's wrestling with the Angel has prompted

♦ Manuscript in library of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston.


many to do likewise. Some extravagancies and disorders arose
in the church at Durham, which are best set forth in the diary
of the Rev. Samuel Chandler:

"Aug 20, 1746. I set out on a journey to Durham to a fast at y« desire
of the church there, they being under difficulty. I called Mr. Wise [of Ber
wick] by the way We got to Durham about 10 o'clock, cloudy rainy weather
& the people not much expecting any minister would come had got into the
meeting house and were praying. Mr. Prince, a blind young man supplies
them during their Pastor's silence & neglect to discharge his pastoral office.
When we went into the pulpit Mr. Gilman went out & went into the pew.
I began with prayer. I was under some restraint. Mr. Wise preached from
John 15. 5, & concluded with prayer. In the exercise were a number, 4 or 5,
that were extraordinarily agitated. They made all manner of mouths, turn-
ing out their lips, drawing their mouths awry, as if convulsed, straining their
eye balls, & twisting their bodies in all manner of unseemly postures. Some
were falling down, others were jumping up, catching hold of one another, ex-
tending their arms, clapping their hands, groaning, talking. Some were ap-
proving what was spoken, & saying aye, so it is, that is true, 'tis just so, &c.
Some were exclaiming & crying out aloud, glory, glory. It drowned Mr. Wise's
voice. He spoke to them, entreated them, condemned the practice, but all
to no purpose. Just after the blessing was pronounced, Mr. Gilman stood up
to oppose some things that had been said. He read i John i. 8 & 9th verse,
& began some exposition on the 9th verse what God hath cleansed let no man
call unclean & went on to prove perfection as attainable in this life. Then
Mr. Wise rose up and there was some argumentation between them. Mr.
Gilman took some particular text & turned it contrary to the general current
of scripture. Then we went into the house & were entertained. Mr. Gilman
came in & after him a number of those high flyers, raving like mad men, re-
proaching, reflecting. One Hannah Huckins in a boasting air said she had
gone through adoption, justification & sanctification & perfection & perse-
verance. She said she had attained perfection & yet had a bad memory: I
reasoned the point with her, but presently she broke out into exclamations
^ Blessed be the Lord, who hath redeemed me. Glory, glory, glory, &c. fell to
dancing round the room, singing some dancing tunes, jiggs, minuets, & kept
the- time exactly with her feet. Presently two or three more fell in with her &
the room was filled with applauders, people of the same stamp, crying out in
effect Great is Diana of the Ephesians. One of these danced up to Mr. Gil-
man & said. Dear man of God, do you approve of these things? Yes, said he,
I do approve of them. Then they began to increase & the house was full of
confusion, some singing bawdy songs, others dancing to them & all under a
pretence of religion. It is all to praise God in the dance & the tabret. One
woman said it was revealed to her that the minister that was to come to the
Fast was one that did not know Joseph, & that Joseph was Mr. Gilman. These
mad people prophesied that there would be great trials at the falls, that is at
the meeting house that day. . . . Mr. Gilman justified their proceedings.


They do it out of a good design, he says, and that there is no sanctity in tunes,
and that the reason we cannot approve of it is because there is no light in us
&c. &c. ... A little after dark all left the house & went out into the
streets when they held it till near ten o'clock. These are but some general
hints. O awful melancholy scene, O tempora, O mores.

Aug. 21. I preached from Gal. 2. 20. The people appeared very devout,
excepting those that were of Mr. Oilman's party. They as yesterday made
wry mouths & extraordinary gestures of body, often crying out aloud, but
generally approving. I desired & entreated, if they loved the souls of sin-
ners, that they would suffer them to hear what I had to offer to them, but all
to no purpose. At length the authority took hold of one & the rest all jumpt
up & out they went, crying out & railing & made a hideous noise abroad, but
we finished & went into the house.

Mr. Gilman says he has a witness within him that I neither preached nor
prayed with the Spirit. I told him I had a witness within myself that I did
both. He said how can that be when you have your thumb papers, & you
could hardly read them? He seemed to speak by way of reflection & an air
of disdain. Mr. Gilman says he can't receive those that don't receive Wood-
bury & all those persons in all their extravagancies. He allows that a regen-
erate man may have a strong persuasion&confidencein lesser & yet be deceived.
Mr. Gilman tarried but a little while & weni away & soon after him all the rest.
One Mr. Woodman told me that two of these people got together by the ears
last night. They struck one another with their fists, saying you are a devil
& you are a devil. The persons afflicted are John & James Huckins & their
wives, Ralph Hall & wife, Capt. Hardy, Scales, &c.

Such abnormal manifestations of religious enthusiasm were
once very common and still are known among uneducated pop-
ulations. They arc best explained by erroneous teaching ac-
companied by hypnotic suggestion. Most people, whether
awake or asleep, do and say as they are taught by a few loaders,
wise or otherwise.

The Convocation of Ministers of New Hampshire, in 1747,
appointed a committee to look into the troubles of the church at
Durham, who reported that they found the afTairs of the church
in a very unhappy situation:

That their Rev* Pastor Mr. Gilman had for a considerable time desisted
from the work of the Ministry among them, & by all their Endeavours they
could not prevail with him to reingage in s^ Work; but that they had had for
the most part preaching on Lord's Days, & that Mr. Wooster still continued to

Online LibraryEverett Schermerhorn StackpoleHistory of the town of Durham, New Hampshire : (Oyster River Plantation) with genealogical notes → online text (page 17 of 34)