glorious Tribunal, and, separating the righteous from the wicked,
will, after graciously inviting the former to his heavenly Mansions,
pronounce that awful sentence against the latter, ' Depart, ye cursed,
into everlasting tire, prepared for the devil and his angels.' * It will
l)e a joyful or a terrible Da}' to us, according to our present Behav-
ior." The duty of prayer is then considered, under several heads ;
and the sermon closes with fervent and solemn appeals to his hearers.
This latti'r sermon' was first preached, 177;"), February 12; was
])rca(lu'd eight tiuu'S elsewhere, and repeated four times in his own
jmlpit, the last time in 1
late as well ;is his early i)reaching. A characteristic tendency of
Dr. Cumings' preaching is to limit his statements of the doctrines
of the trinity, of sin, of redemption and retribution, to the language
of the Scri[)tures, seldom interpreting them in phraseology of his
own. His sympathies were with the Arminian, rather than with the
high-Cahinistic o[)iuions of his time ; but when his colleague was
ordained, in 1814, it was understood by the council that he held
evangelical opinions. Mr. Stearns, of Bedford, concurred in it for
that reason ; a fact confirmed on the trial of Mv. Stearns, twenty
years later, by INIr. Whitman's own testimony, that the suspension
of exchanges between himself and Mr. Stearns was not due to an^'
change in Mr. Stearns' opinions." On the other hand, it is to he
remembered, that the church with substantial unanimity accepted
the views of the "liberal" party, under the lead of Mr. Whitman,
and that Dr. Cumings' influence, negative if not positive, must have
contributed to this result. He is named with Unitarian ministers in
the histories of the period ; and whether any injustice is done to
him in this classification is a question on which opinions will differ.
In February, 1813, Dr. Cumings preached his Half-Century
Sermon. On account of his age and infirmit}', he requested a
colleague, and the church at once took measures which resulted in
the ordination of INIr. Nathaniel Whitman, on the fifty-first anni-
versary of the day when Dr. Cumings had been himself ordained,
1814, January 26. The life of Dr. Cumings was spared for almost ten
years longer, and his pastorate extended to nearly sixty-one years,
his death occurring, 1823, Septemlier 6. From ordination to death
his pastorate was about eleven years longer than that of Mr. Whiting,
1 This sermon may be found among the mss. collections of the Congregational Library
2 Congregational Quarterbj. Vol. X, p. 270.
RELIGIOUS HISTORY. 267
but in this comparison it should be remembered that Mr. Whiting
labored here five years before the church was organized, and the
actual ditference in the length of their ministry is only six years.
To the last Dr. Cumings held the respect and love of the people,
and, wlien the end came, he was buried by the town with reverent
affection, the third and the last pastor to whom the town has rendered
]\Ir. Whitman brought high character, scholarshii), and piet3- to
his new position. It should )te added to the record elsewhere given,
that he was two years an usher at Phillips Academy, Exeter, and
there began the study of theology with Dr. Buckminster, of Ports-
mouth, completing his course at Cambridge. He was received with
grcMit cordiality and considerate kindness b}' his venera))le colleague,
and a warm friendship grew up between them. His ordination was
attended by a multitude of people, and the hospitality of the town
was full and generous. The sermon was preached by the Rev. James
Flint, of East Bridgewater ; the Rev. Samuel Stearns, of Bedford,
gave the Right Hand, and Dr. Cumings the Charge, which were
pul)lished. Mr. Whitman was a good preacher and active pastor.
He established a Bible Societ}" and a Peace Society, as well as the
first Sunday' School in town, and he used his influence effectivel}' in
improving the common schools. His pastorate, however, fell u[)on
a period of agitation and disruption among the churches, when
influences which had been gathering force, some of them for a
hundred years, came to a head ; and it is scarcely any fault of this
worthy man that they culminated in his day and disturbed the peace
of his ministry. The discussions which preceded and attended the
separation of the Unitarian churches were not the onl3' and scarcely
the most sei'ious of the influences which threatened the peace of the
local pastors. The practical union of Church and State, which had
been naturally inherited from p]ngland, and illustrated in all our
previous histor}-, as the constable gathered the pastor's salarv, was
out of place in the free air of America. AVith independence the
demand for a change grew stronger and stronger ; but it involved so
serious considerations and was so startling to good but conser\'ative
men, that the resistance was long, and num^' pastors were unsettled
in the process. The age of Dr. Cumings and the honoi- in which
he was held delayed its coming in Billerica, and the town collected
the salary of Mr. Wliitman until ISS-l. In that year the usual
article in the warrant was "passed" by the town and was not again
268 HISTORY OF BILLERICA.
inserted. Tlie pni'isli wiis then eulled to meet, and raised somewhat
less tlian tlie salary, $700, which Mr. Whitman had received. He
remained a year longei', and, in 1835, resigned and removed to
Wilton. New Hampshire.
It may be doubted whether tlic doctrinal discussions and ecclesi-
astical separations had as much to do with terminating- Mr. Whitman's
pastorate ; Ijut tliey form a vital part of the historj' of that i)ciiod.
Here, too, Dr. Cuinings' position, while he lived, held the restless
s[)ii'it somewhat in check which broke forth so soon after. The
questions concerning the trinity, and the divinity of Christ, the
nature and results of sin, and the wa}' of salvation, were discussed
Avith great feeling and often with bitterness. Good men sometimes
forgot the possible honesty of those who held opinions differing
from their own and the charity to which they were entitled, and
neigiibors were at times estranged. The friends of the old order
could not appreciate the force of the convictions which sougiit
change, and those who were striving for change were not always
considerate of the feelings or the reasons of those who wished to
])er[)etuate the order of things they had inherited, and which had
worked so satisfactorily for almost two centuries. The efforts to
I'stablish another church in the town were met by a protest, which
Mr. Whitman emliodied in a fast-day sermon, which was printed,
and nuist win respect and sympathy for its author even from those
who are not fully jjcrsuaded by its argument. He was contending
with the inevitable ; and, had he now the opportunity, he would
not probai)ly desire to replace the ecclesiastical order, which was
giving way around him, to his discomfort and alarm.
Among the complaints which were made against Mr. Whitman,
one was that he would not exchange with neighboring Universalist
ministers ; and in his farewell sermon he defended the propriety of
his course, expressing his willingness to exchange with ministers
who were in sympath}- with the covenant of his church, and quoting
from that covenant language which those who approved the doctrine
oi non-retribution could not accept. This covenant affirmed their
faith,'' "particularly in the great doctrines of our Fall in Adam and
recovery by Jesus Christ, of the pardon of sin, and salvation on
condition of Faith and Repentance, and of the intlucnce and aid of
Hivine Grace, i)romised to those who ask; * of the Kesurrection
■■' I am iiukbtt.-d to Mr. F. i". Hill for a ivis. skelcli of 3Ir. Wliitiiiau, from vvhiih I have
RELTOIOUS HISTORY. 2G9
of the dead, a final Judgment, and of a future state of Retribu-
tions." Ministers whose preaeliiug was in direct opposition to this
covenant he could not consistently permit to oecu[)v his pul|)it.
Mr. Whitman was dismissed, ISSo, March 80, and was succeeded
by Rev. AVilliam E. Ai)bot, who was ordained, ltS37, Februaiy S,
and dismissed, 1839, February 10. Mr. Abbot was graduatt'(l at
Bowdoin College, 1830, and at Harvard Theological School, in 18;>3.
The next pastor was Rev. Theodore Haskell Dorr, a gi'aduatc of
Harvard College, in 1835, and Theological School, in 1838. He was
ordained, 1839, Maj* 28, and dismissed, 1843, May 28. Succeeding
ministers have with one exception received no formal installation.
Their names and dates of service are as follows: .Tames Thurston,
1844, November 15-18.')0, May lo. Samuel Fettes, 1850, June 16-
1855, May 14. Nathaniel O. Chaffin, 1855, June 17-1857, May 10.
Norwood Damon, 1857-60. Livingston Stone, 1861-62. James
Gallaway, installed, 1863, January 28-1865. Christopher Coffin
Husse}-, 1866, October 1, who is still in charge.
In 1844 the meeting-house Avas moved, and turned half around
to face the cast ; but it was allowed to retain its primitive structure
and graceful spire, which form a landmark visible from afar. TIk;
longer ministry of My. Hussey has witnessed improvement in several
directions. In 1879 a fund of 810,000 was contributed l^v several
members of the society, the interest of whicli only can be used to
support preaching. The conditions of the gift are that the minister's
salary be kept at a specified rate, and tiuit the preaching l)e distinet-
ivel}- Unitarian. In 1881 a house was bought for a parsonage, and
so fully repaired as to make it substantially a now, as well as pleasant
and convenient, home for the minister. It stands on tlie east side
of the street, one door north of Andover Street, having been the
home of Mr. W. H. Blanchard and previously of Marshall Preston.
The First Baptist Ciiuucii was the earliest separate organiza-
tion, after the First Church had for one hundred and sixty-five years
existed alone in the town. There were Baptists here at an earl}- dav,
William Hamlet at least and probabl}- George Farley ; and a letter
from Hamlet relating to the early troubles is published )>y Backus,
the Baptist historian. But the nnm])er did not increase until after
the Revolution, when the tendency' to resist pa^aiient of "niinister's
rates" had influence in increasing the number of Bai^tists. Not long
after the death of Dr. Cumings, they had become numerous and
strong enough for organization. Meetings were first held in the
270 HISTOKY OF BILLERICA.
school-house near the Fordwa.y, in the spring of 1S28. A elun-ch
was organized, 1828, September oO, and recognized by Council,
October D. It consisted of twenty members, of whom thirteen were
dismissed from the South Chelmsford Church. Tlie first deacons
were Joseph Dows and Amos S[)aulding. Their successors have
been Edward Spaulding, George C. Oilman, John C. Hobbs, and
Francis E. Manlc}'.
The list of its ministers is as follows, omitting students and others
who served for shorter periods : —
Otis Wing. 1829. Marcli, to 18;W. Marvh.
Jedodiali W. Sargent, ordained, 1835, January 14, to 1837, January.
Jonatlian K. Forbush. 1837. Marcli -1S38. August.
Warren Cooper, 1838, October- 1830, 0('tobev\
George \V. Tfandall, ordained, 1841, February 18-1842, May.
Benjamin Kniglit. 1842, May-1840, April; and 1857, Feb.-18G0. Jan.
Benjamin Putnam, 1845, June; died, 1850. December 21. aged G2.
Zenas P. AVilde. 1851, April-1853, April.
Homer Sears, 1854, January-1850, Ja^uar3^
Thomas C. Russell, 18G0, August- 18G3, March.
John D. Sweet, ordained, 18G3, October 21 -18GS, March.
Clifton Fletcher, 18G9, February -1875. July.
William II. Fish, ordained, 1875, December 30-1877, June.
Robert M. Neil, (alias O'Neil or JMcNeil), 1877^ October-1878. July. '-Dis-
missed from the fellowship of the ehurcli and ministry.''
Edward T. Lyford, 1879, May.
The first meeting-honse stood on the east side of Concord River,
very near the middle bridge. The frame was raised, 1830, Novem-
ber 80, and the house was dedicated, 1831, September 14. It was
fifty feet long, forty feet wide, had forty-eight pews, and would seat
three linndred people. In the spring of 1844 it was remo\'ed to its
present location in the village, on Bedford Street. A bell was i)ro-
cured in 1872, and in 1877 it received an addition of a couvenient
chapel, as appears in the illustration.^
Thk Congregational Chttkcii was organized, 1829, April 30, a
society having been formed, January 17. This was a more direct
result of the theological controversy, and of the ecclesiastical sepa-
rations, which were still .agitating the IMassachusetts chin-ches ; and
the presence of Dr. L3nian Beecher, as Modei'ator of the Council
which organized the clnnrh, was a significant expression of the
* A ffemi-Centennial Address, by Rev. Clifton FIctclnM-. lui.s been publislied, giving lull
and intcre.sting details of the history of this ciiurcli.
('<)N<;i!K(;a rioNAi. ( iii i!
RELIGIOUS HISTORY. 271
general interest in this and similar movements. The unity and
strength of the First Church was, howeA^er, less affected l)y the
separation, in Billerica, than in man}' towns. The number of its
meml)ers who did not sympathize with, or yield to, the Unitarian
position of the church was dmall. Two women, Huldah Blake and
Martha Bowers, entered a protest, 1820, October 8. They affirm
their belief in the true and proper deit}- of Jesus Christ, in the
atonement, in the entire depravity' of unregencrate men, and their
need of supernatural grace to fit them for the happiness of heaven ;
and generall}' in the doctrines of the Westminster Confession and
Catechism. With these views they believed their pastor and many
of their brethren in the church did not agree ; and they therefore
asked the favor of a regular dismission. This the church, affirming
the right and dut}- of each individual to be guided ))y his own con-
science, granted. No other dismissions for this reason are recorded,
and not more than four or five members of the First Church ever
joined the new Congregational Church, which began with twenty-five
members. The meeting-house, on Andover Street, 60X40 feet, was
raised, October 28, and dedicated, 1830, January 13. The record
of its ministers has been as follows : —
John Starkweather, ordained, 1S30, April 22; dismissed, 1831, August 2.
Isaac Jones, acting pastor, 1832, July- 1834, April.
Joseph Haven, installed, 1830. June 8; dismissed. 1840, September 27.
Benjamin Ela, ordained, 1841, April 29; dismissed. 1842, May.
Jesse G. D. Stearns, ordained, 1843, May 29; dismissed, 18G7, May 8.
John P. Clcaveland, d.'d., acting pastor. 18G7-70.
Evarts B. Kent, acting pastor. 1870-71.
John M. Lord, acting pastor, 1871-72.
Henry A. Hazen, installed, 1874, May 21 ; disnnssed, 1879. Maj- 4.
John Haskell, acting pastor, 1879. May- 1881. October.
Charles C. Torre j', acting pastor. 1881. Novend)er.
The long and faithful pastorate of Mr. Stearns deserves especial
recognition. Record of his descent from Billerica ancestr}' may
be found elsewhere, (see Stearns, 8). A scholar of exceptional
diligence and culture, modest and devout, and active in every good
word and work, he commended himself to tlie citizens of the town
as well as to his own charge. As teacher of a useful private school,
and superintendent of the schools of the town, he excited no little
influence, and represented the town in the Legislature.
The deacons of this church have been William Gleason, Aaron
Patten, Edward Wright, Samuel H. King, and Moses P. Greenwood.
272 HISTORY OF BILLERICA.
A Univkusalist Sociktv was foiiiied, 1842, Jauuarv 10, an
meeting-hoiisf erected the same year. It stood on tlie north side
of West Street, where the sehool-house now stands. In 1S68 it was
sold to the Roman Catholi(;s and removed to North Billeriea, where
it is still in use 1»3' that society. TIk; ministers ol' this church Avere
Rev. Varnum Lincoln, ordained, 1843, Septeml)er 8; Rev. L. P.
Landers, of West Cambridge, 1845-47; Rev. George Proctor,
1847-53, and again, 1855-G3 ; Rev. P. ITersey, 1853-55 ; and Rev.
R. M. Byram.
A Roman Catiiolio Society was organized and innchased the
LTniversalist Church in 1868. It has prospered and the number of
its communicants is large. The priests who have been in charge
come from Lowell, and no record of their names or dates of service
has been furnished.
The 3'oungest church in the town is the Baptist Chui'cli. at Noi'th
Billeriea, which was organized, 1869, Maj- 14, receiving twenty-two
members from the Centre Church. Its pleasant inceting-house was
a gift from the Hon. Thomas Talbot; Iniilt in 187U, and dedicated,
1871, January 19. Its pastors have been AVilliam M. Ross, 1869,
June 2 ; Nathaniel L. Colby, ordained, 1872, July 2; and William
A. Farren, ordained, 1879, September 24.
jJAFTisT < nritcii. Noinii killehica.
CANAL, TURNPIKE, AND KAILTIOADS.
The earl}' roads were often called paths, and the name describes
them. Carts conld pass over the better roads, but many were pass-
able onl}' on horseback or on foot. Wagons were unknown. The
earliest chaise was owned in town not much, if an}-, before 1800, and
marked the aristocracy of the few who could aftbrd such luxury. ^
The first great improvement in the means of transportation was the
Middlesex Canal. This first important canal in America passed
through Billei'ica, and its path is still to be seen at many points.
The company was incorporated in June, 1793, to connect the Merri-
mack witli the Mystic and Charles rivers, and save the trade of New
Hampshire to Boston. The i)reliminary surveys consumed more
than a year, and ground was first broken at Billerica "Mills" in the
spring of 1705. At this point the Concord River is one hundred
and nine feet al»ove tide-water in Boston Harbor and twenty-live feet
above the Merrimack, which the canal reached at its most southerly
l)end, about a mile above Pawtucket Falls. The canal was 27 miles
long, 30 feet wide, and 3 feet deep. It was navigal)le to the Charles
River, in 18(3.') ; but its income was absorbed for years in alterations
and repairs, and no dividend was declared until 181D. One hundred
assessments were laid upon stockholders, and the cost of shares,
including interest, was $1455.25 ; the total cost of the canal being
11,164.200. From 1819 to 1843. dividends were paid, amounting
to $504 per share. The receipts then fell below the expenses ; in
1851 the charter was sun-endered, and in 1852 the canal was sold in
sections, owners of adjoining lands being generally the purchasers.
The charter was farther declai-ed forfeited in 1859. The proprietors
com[)laiucd that the railroad had been permitted to damage their
■ Sl'C Lowell Contributions, etc. Vol. 1, p. liol.
274 HISTORY OF BILLEKICA.
chartered rights without indenniity, hut they had uo redress. The
chief design of the canal wns to carr}' freight, bnt a packet-boat for
passengers was run daily, at a speed of four miles per hour, the fare
from Lowell to Boston l)eing fifty cents. That the canal did not very
essentially affect the life of the town is shown by the fact that nil its
carrying from Boston to Billerica did not exceed $200 per year.
The Middlesex Turnpike was an enterprise of significance in its
day. It was cluirtcred in June, \H0'). Ebenezer Bridge and James
Abbot being among its corporators. Jts route ext<'nded from Tyngs-
borough to Medford and Cambiidge. The- line at first was to |)ass
Billerica meeting-house; but, in 1S06, the route was changed, by
permission of the General Court, from a point in Bedford, crossing
Nutting's Pond, to Buisket bridge in Tyngsborough. Some lack of
friendly co-operation in Billerica may have influenced this chnnge,
and the managers were ambitious to make their great road as near
an air-line as possible. Hills and ponds must not stand in their way,
and the}' according!}' followed a route straight through the town,
crossing Concord River a mile above the centre bridge, and leaving
the village as far one side. This line would attract very little local
traA'el and support, and experience soon proved that the visions of a
great through travel and traffic were delusive. The canal and the
railroad left little for the turnpike, and its charter was repealed in
l.Sil. The unfortunate proprietors of the Middlesex Turnpike were
not without some very sound reasons for their fjiith. Those were
the days of teams and stages, and the business which they brought
through this town was a notable feature of its life. Much of the
traffic of western New Hampshire and Vermont with vSalem and
Boston passed through Billerica. The teaming was of two kinds.
There was a class of professional teamsters, who drove large wagons,
drawn by four, six, or eight horses, serving the merchants of the up-
countr}'. The memory of some of these men, like Thomas Button,
of Hartford, Vermont, whose team always rested on the Sal)bath,
still lingers along the route. Wool, butter, cheese, and whatever
sought the market Avould furnish the loads, while salt, molasses, dry
goods, rum, and all the varieties kept by the miscellaneous '"country
store" were taken on the return. Another class of teams i)roI)ably
more numerous, Ihougii smnllei', was driven by farmers, who took a
trip or two yearh" to inai'ket, carrying their own produce, beef, [)ork,
or whatever they had to sell, and returning with articles for home
consumption or for the merchants.
CANAL, TURNPIKE, AND RAILROADS. 275
The stages also entered largely into the life of that period.
"The first stage-coach passed through Billerica about 1795. It was
a two-horse, covered vehicle, owned and driven by Mr. Joseph
Wheat, and ran from Amherst, N. H., to Boston and back again,
once a week. It stopped at Billerica OA^er night, making the trip
in about four days. Tlie same team performed all the journey."^
The business increased. In 1803 the stage from Boston to Amherst
set off from King's Inn ever}' Wednesday and Saturday, leaving at
.T A.M. and arriving at 7 p.m., returning Mondays and Thursdays
at the same hours. For several 3'ears before the opening of the
Boston and Lowell Kaih'oad from twelve to sixteen stages passed
daily through Billerica, Sundays excepted. After work was I)egnn
on the new mills at East Chelmsford, in 1821, Mr. Richardson, who
kej^t a hotel at the "Corner," sent a hack Mondays and Saturdays
to accommodate gentlemen who wished to connect with the Amherst
stage at that point. Lowell could hardly be served in that way now !
All this staging and teaming made a demand for taverns, which
were numerous and busy. There were two, and sometimes three,
in the A'illage : one or two at the Corner, and the Manning Tavern
on the Chelmsford Road ; and these were not all. Men and beasts
must be provided for, and this provision often suggests Falstaff's
"intolerable deal of sack," as one reads the items in old ledgers.
But canal and turnpike gave wa}' to a moi-e revolutionary im-
provement. The Granite Railwa}' to Quincj- was chartered in 1.S26,
and did its first work in 1827 in carrying granite for Bunker Hill
Monument. The sagacious men who were laying the foundations
of Lowell saw that the railway was what their enterprise needed,
and the Boston and Lowell Railroad was chartered in June, 1830.
The railroads to Worcester and Providence were chartered soon after,
and were opened to Newton in April and to Readville in June, 1834.
A year later, 1835, June 25, the Boston and Lowell Railroad was
opened. Two days after, its first advertisement appears, as follows :
•'The Cars will continue to run till farther notice as at present, viz. :
Leave Lowell at (> A.M. & 2h P.M. Leave Boston at 9 A.M. & 5^ P.M.
No huggage can be taken, except what belongs to passengers. Allowance
to each, 40 pounds. As soon as Burthen cars can be provided, notice will
be given tor the transi)ortation of merchandise. Tickets may be liad at tlie
ilepot. corner Leverett and Brighton streets. Price, .1$1.00.
■•George M. Dextek, Atfent."
- Bi- Centennial, p. 152, (note).
276 HISTORY OF BILLERICA.
Tlie contrast is great between the four trains of 1835 and the
tvvent3'-five passenger trains of 1882, with almost as many more for
freight. Tlien they must start from Lowell ; now they ma}' come
from San Francisco. But the lienefit which the raih-oad brought to
Billerica has been much less than it would have been if it had
followed a more direct line, through Wol)urn, and passing between
the village and Fox Hill. Such a route w^ould have made the
})h'asant, high lands on which the village is located a very accessible