Lucius R. (Lucius Robinson) Paige.

History of Hardwick, Massachusetts. With a genealogical register online

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Online LibraryLucius R. (Lucius Robinson) PaigeHistory of Hardwick, Massachusetts. With a genealogical register → online text (page 23 of 73)
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souls of the righteous are made perfect in holiness, and do imme-
diately pass into glory and happiness, but the souls of the wicked
into torment and misery. We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ
will come a second time, to raise the dead and judge the world ;
then shall the wicked, in their raised bodies, go away into a state
of endless misery ; but the righteous into life eternal.



ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY. 201



" THE COVENANT.

" And now, in a serious and humble sense of our indispensable
dut}^ to answer the call of Christ in the gospel, who, notwith-
standing our miserable and lost condition by nature and practice,
is still inviting us to partake of all the blessings of the Covenant
of Grace, as we have obtained help, we do now, in the presence
of God, angels, and this assembly, avouch the Lord Jehovah, the
only true and living God, to be our God, giving up ourselves to
God, the Father, as our Creator, to God, the Son, as our Re-
deemer, to God, the Holy Ghost, as our Sanctifier, in the way
and on the terms of the Covenant of Grace, and in our place, we
do engage to bear witness against sin, and, by the assistance of
divine grace, to walk in a holy obedience to all the laws and
ordinances of Christ, upholding the worship of God in this place,
and submitting ourselves to the discipline of Christ, according to
his word, contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testa-
ments, which we receive as the only Rule of Faith and Manners."

In the interregnum preceding Mr. Holt's ordination, the church
met. May 12, 1785, and elected two additional deacons, —
Ebenezer Willis and Nathaniel Paige ; ^ so that there were then
four officers of that grade. But the number was soon diminished.
Deacon Joseph Allen died August 18, 1793, aged 84, after
active service as a church officer for the extraordinary period of
more than fifty-six j^ears ; during the larger portion of which
time, according to ancient tradition, he was the leading spirit in
the church. He was also the last survivor of those who organ-
ized the church in 1736. ^ Some of his manuscripts, both in
prose and rhyme, were published at Brookfield, 1795, in a
pamphlet containing 51 pages, octavo, entitled, " The Last Ad-
vice and Farewell of Deacon Joseph Allen to the Church and
Congregation of Hardwick."

The pastorate of Mr. Holt was uneventful. He zealously

1 Nathaniel Paige was son of Christo- I mentioned in the year 1781, there were

pher Paige, the first deacon of the church, two males and three females living, who

and brother of William Paige, who was were members of the church when first

elected deacon November 9, 1769, and gathered. I would now observe that

died February 14, 1790. The two broth- since the beginning of 1789, there has

ers were colleagues in ofiice nearly five none survived except myself." Last Ad-

years. vice, etc., p. 19.

"^ "July, 1791. It may be remembered



202 HISTORY OF HARDWICK.

preached that form of Calvinism which was then styled Hopkin-
sianism, as set forth in the " S3'stem of Doctrines " arranged by-
Samuel Hopkins, D. D., and insisted on the most rigid observ-
ance of all the forms and ceremonies prescribed by the Puritan
Church. Perhaps the same lack of variety in his discourses
which afterwards caused dissatisfaction at Essex, may have pre-
vented any signal success here. For some reason no extraordi-
nary interest or activity was developed in the church or congrega-
tion. The additions to the church averaged only a fraction more
than four per annum, namely, forty-six by profession, and nine-
teen by letter, sixty-five in all, during the sixteen years of his
ministry ; being less than half the average number admitted by
his predecessor, the Rev. Mr. White. Few cases of discipline
occurred in the church, at this period, and none which resulted in
excommunication.! Gradually the tie which united the pastor
and people was weakened, until at length it was sundered, ap-
parently on account of his inability to subsist upon his salary and
their unwillingness to increase it ; but there must have been
some other reason on their part ; for immediately after his dis-
mission, they readily granted a much larger salary to his suc-
cessor. Mr. Holt's salary was three hundred dollars. Finding
this sum, and the income of a small farm which he owned and
cultivated, insufficient to supply his wants, after previous in-
effectual appeals for relief, he presented to the town a character-
istic address at a meeting held March 4, 1805, " to hear a
statement or proposition from the Rev. Thomas Holt, and to act
thereon as they in their wisdom shall think fit or proper." I
quote the record in full : —

" The Rev. ]\Ir. Holt attended and made the following com-
munication. — The inhabitants of the town of Hardwick, as-
sembled in town-meeting, March the 4*^ A. D. 1805: Gentle-
men, The committee appointed by the town, the last spring, to
confer with the undersigned, appeared fully sensible, after
conference, that his salary was by no means competent to meet
his necessary annual expenditures. Through the medium of the
same committee, by their advice, he made a communication to
the town. May the 30'^, A. D. 1804, respecting the incompetency

1 The record of one such case exhibits the name of God upon a fellow-creature."

the pastor's formality of speech and skill Probably the " profane curse " contained

in amplification. The charj^e, entered on three short words. The culprit made a

the church record, was that the offending satisfactory explanation, and was for-

member was guilty of " uttering a pro- given,
fane curse, in imprecating damnation in



ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY. 203

of his salary. He Las never been informed that the town,
generally speaking, are not fully sensible that his salary was as
inadequate as he represented ; yet no means of relief was granted.
This inadequacy is not considered as arising from a defect in the
sum stipulated in the original contract, but from a depreciation
in the comparative value of the circulating medium with the
necessaries of life, since : — which, for several years has been esti-
mated, it is conceived, at one third. The following statement
of the prices current of some of the principal articles of support
about the year 1789, and the present prices current of the same
articles, may show the justness of the estimation above suggested,
and illustrate the great diminution of the present salary of the
undersigned, and its consequent inadequacy for a support.

« 12 Bushels of Wheat, at G' pr. B. $12.00



25 B.


of Rye,


at 4' pr. B.


16.67




50 B.


of Indian Corn,


at 3^ pr. B.


25.00




600 wt.


of Beef,


at 20^ pr. Ct.


20.00




500 wt.


of Pork,


at 25' pr. Ct.


20.83




300 wt.


of Cheese,


at 0^ pr. lb.


20.83




100 wt.


of Butter,


at 8<^ pr. lb.


11.11




A man's


labor 6 months,




40.00=


166.44




Add


one third.




83.22



249.66
" Prices of the same articles current in the years 1804 and 1805



"12 Bushels of Wheat,


at 10' pr. B.


$20.00




25 B.


of Rye,


at 6' pr. B.


25.00




50 B.


of Indian Corn,


, at 5' pr. B.


41.67




600 wt.


of Beef,


at 30' pr. Ct.


30.00




500 wt.


of Pork,


at 36' pr. Ct.


30.00




300 wt.


of Cheese,


at 54' pr. Ct.


27.00




100 wt.


of Butter,


at 20 cents pr. lb.


20.00




A man's


labor 6 months,




74.00 =


: 267.67




Compare the old prices, ^ added,




249.66



Reduced $18.01 more than one third, 18.01

" The above statement is the result of consulting men of good
information, and examining merchant's books, with reference to
the different periods above stated ; and it is believed that the dif-
ference in the prices current of the articles above specified is not
exaggerated. From this it appears that the sum stipulated as a
salary for the undersigned will procure scarcely so much, by one



204 HISTORY OF HARDWICK.

third, of the articles essential to a support as it would in the year
in which he was ordained. The estimate is made on the princi-
pal articles from which the inhabitants procure the means of pay-
ing their minister's salary. The consequence then appears to be
that the nominal sum stipulated for a salary does not at present
require hardly two thirds so much property in value as it did in
the year 1789, when the contract was established ; the whole of
the depreciation in the value of the circulating medium must con-
sequently fall on the undersigned, and render his salary greatly
below a competency for a support. Hence he cannot suppose it
beyond what was mutually expected from the contracting parties
at the time of forming the contract, for the town to grant a pe-
cuniary consideration suflScient to make his salary competent for
a support.

" It is his request, therefore, that they would grant him a con-
sideration adequate to this purpose. But if the town should
judge it unreasonable to grant such pecuniarj'^ consideration, yet
they surely will not suppose it reasonable that he should be con-
fined to labor in their employment, the remainder of his life, for
a stipend so materially inadequate to his necessary expenditures,
and so much less in value than what his contract appears orig-
inally to have comprised ; and it may be added so much less than
what has universally been judged no more than adequate to a
minister's support in all those towns in this vicinity, nay in the
Commonwealth, where ministers have been ordained within six
or eight years, and numbers of others where people have
granted their ministers a consideration for the present deprecia-
tion in the value of their stipulated salaries. Although it is the
heart's desire of the undersigned not to leave the town, but to
live and die with the people of his charge, with whom he has been
connected by a solemn and responsible relation for almost sixteen
years, yet the inconveniences necessarily resulting from a salary
so much diminished from its original value, and so incompetent to
a decent support, compel him, if the town should not alleviate his
burdens, to seek a degree of relief by a regular dismission. If the
town then prefer a dissolution of the existing connection to a
grant of a consideration for the present reduced state of his sal-
ary, then his request is that they would by vote give their con-
sent that he may take a dismission in the common form, by the
advice and consent of an Ecclesiastical Council to be called for
that purpose by the Pastor and Church. — Gentlemen, with due
consideration, yours in the Gospel of Christ, Thomas Holt.
Hardwick, March 4*^ 1805.



ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY. 205

" The town took the foregoing communication into considera-
tion, and on motion, — will the town grant any additional sum to
the Rev. Thomas Holt for his support? it passed in the negative :
on motion, — will the town consent that the church join with
their Rev. Pastor in calling an Ecclesiastical Council, for his reg-
ular dismission ? it passed in the affirmative." ^ The Council
granted an honorable dismission March 27, 1805.

April 1, 1805. " Voted, to make a present of seventy-five dol-
lars to the Rev. Thomas Holt. Voted, that the Rev. Mr. Holt be
requested to preach to us on the approaching Fast-day ; Mr. Holt
consented to supply the pulpit on said day, by himself or an-
other."

After his dismission, Mr. Holt preached occasionally, as oppor-
tunity offered, until January 25, 1809, when he was installed as
pastor of the church in that part of Ipswich which afterwards be-
came the town of Essex. This new home was not permanent.
He " was esteemed a sound, scriptural preacher ; but after hear-
ing him two or three years, his parishioners began to complain of
a sufficient variety in his discourses, which they first imputed to
his not writing them. They therefore chose a committee to wait
on him and request him to write his sermons. With this he com-
plied ; but as the evil, in their judgment, was not removed, they
respectfully requested him to resign. With this also he complied,
and on the 20th of April, 1813, he was honorably dismissed by a
Council. The parish gave him a hundred dollars to defray the
expense of his removal, and he returned to his farm in Hard-
wick." 2

During the remainder of his life, Mr. Holt cultivated his farm
and preached occasionally. He had no other pastorate, but
performed some missionary labor, of which he preserved an exact
account from day to day, and the sum total at the end of each
engagement, in what he styled his " Missionary Journal." I
have three of those Journals before me, describing labors at
Paris, Me., from July 26, 1816, to February 26, 1817 ; at Lovell
and Albany, Me., from March 5 to September 3, 1819; and at
Springfield, Wendell, and Goshen, N. H., from November 25,
1819, to June 5, 1820. The summary of his services in the first

1 It was a tradition in my younger suit was utterly unexpected by Mr. Holt,
days that both of these votes passed with- and that he subsequently expressed re-
out opposition, so that Mr. Holt united gret that he had presented the alternative
the whole town twice, — both his call and to the town.

his dismission being determined by unan- 2 Crowell's History of Essex, p. 269.
imous vote. It was also said that this re-



206 HISTORY OF HARDWICK.

of these missions may serve as a fair specimen of the whole : —
" During seven months of missionary hibor, I have made 10
school-visits ; ^ 18 visits to the sick and afflicted ; attended one
funeral ; admitted, by vote of churches, 10 persons as members
in full communion ; baptized 20 adults and children ; adminis-
tered the Lord's Supper 4 times ; preached 145 sermons ; and
made 434 family visits."

Rev. Thomas Holt, son of Daniel and Mary Holt, was born at
Meriden, Conn., November 9, 1762, grad. Y. C. 1784, married
Sarah, daughter of Rev. Ebenezer Chaplin of Sutton, May 5,
1796, had seven children, named in the Genealogies, and died
February 21, 1836. He was buried in that part of the new
cemetery which was formerly a portion of his homestead. Dur-
ing his ministry here, he admitted 65 persons into the church,
baptized 191, including adults,»and married 177 couples.

The successor of Mr. Holt was Rev. William Brigham Wesson,
who was born in Hopkinton, May 29, 1777, but in early life
was carried to Athol by his parents, William and ]\Iary Wesson.
Chiefly if not entirely by his own exertions, he defrayed the
expense of a liberal education at Williams College, and graduated
in 1802, thus early displaying that energy of character which
distinguished him through life. The town concurred with the
church, August 7, 1805, in calling him to become their pastor,
and voted to fix his salary at five hundred dollars per annum ;
but added a proviso, apparently designed to guard against a
repetition of embarrassments previously encountered: — "Pro-
vided, nevertheless, that if three fourths of the qualified voters in
the Society should think proper, at any time, to dismiss the said
Mr. Wesson, it shall be in their power ; and also the said Mr.
Wesson shall be at liberty to dismiss himself when he thinks
proper. Either party is to give one year's previous notice. . . .
Chose Capt. Daniel Warner, Doct. William Cutler, and Timothy
Paige, Esq., a committee to wait on Mr. Wesson, and inform him
of the doings of the town." Without unnecessary delay, Mr.
Wesson gave an answer, characteristically different from that of
his predecessor, before quoted : —

"To the church and congregation of the town of Hardwick. —
Brethren and Friends : The time has come at which you have

1 His " school-visits " were not a. mere order ; heard the cliildrcn and yonth spell

form, as is manifest from his Journal and read, inspected their writing and

under date of December 31, 1816: arithmetic, lieard a grammar-class parse,

" Visited a scliool ; found it in decent addressed the school, and prayed."



ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY. 207

reason to expect an answer to the call which you have presented
me, to settle with you in the work of the gosjjel ministry. Hav-
ing had the subject under serious and prayerful consideration I
have come to the following conclusion, — to answer in the affirm-
ative. Sincerely wishing grace, mercy, and peace, through our
common Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, may be multiplied,
William B. Wessok. — To Messrs. Warner, Cutler, and Paige,
Committee in behalf of said church and congregation. Hard-
wick, Sep. 21, 1805."

Mr. Wesson was ordained October 20, 1805,^ and for several
years the harmony between the pastor and the flock was undis-
turbed. In the pulpit, his stately form and magnificent voice
gave full effect to his discourses ; while in private life, his affa-
bility of manners and buoyancy of spirit attracted a multitude of
friends. In 1810, sixty-five persons became members of the
church, precisely the same number which were admitted by his
predecessor, during his entire pastorate ; and in 1820 there was
a further addition of one hundred and fourteen members ; a
larger number than were ever before or since admitted in any
one year. So far, his ministry must be regarded as successful.
But about the yea,v 1815 the Trinitarian and Unitarian contro-
versy became public, and 'it was prosecuted very vigorously, not
to say furiously, until it resulted in a widespread breaking up of
churches and parishes. Mr. Wesson did not become an active
partisan on either side. Avoiding this exciting topic in his pub-
lic discourses, and discussing chiefly such subjects as might pro-
mote peace and mutual edification, he preserved comparative
harmony in the parish, and secured the rich harvest of 1820 to
the church. Unfortunately for him, however, Hardwick was em-
braced within the limits of the Brookfield Association,^ which was
largely composed of stern and resolute champions of Trinitarian-
ism, who could not endure opposition, or even neutrality, on the

1 At Mr. Wesson's ordination the ser- (now Phillipston), Rev. John Fiske, New

vices were as follows : — Brain tree, and Rev. Thomas Snell,

Introductory prayer, Rev. Daniel Tom- Brookfield, were also members of the

Hnson, Oakham, Mass. ; sermon, Rev. ordaining council. Rev. Mr. Ward was

Joseph Lee, Royalston, Mass. ; conse- moderator, and Rev. Mr. Snell, scribe,

crating prayer. Rev. Joseph Pope, Spen- ^ Had his lot been cast in the adjoining

cer, Mass. ; charge. Rev. Ephraira Ward, Association, which contained some of his

Brookfield, Mass. ; fellowship, Rev. most intimate clerical associates, such as

Thomas Mason, Northfield, Mass. ; con- Rev. Messrs. James Thompson, of Barre;

eluding prayer. Rev. Joseph Blodgett, Festus Foster, of Petersham ; Ezckiel L.

Greenwich, Mass. Bascom, of Phillipston ; and Alpheus

Rev. Joshua Crosby, Greenwich, (now Harding, of New Salem ; the result might

Enfield), Rev. Ezekiel L. Bascom, Gerry, have been very different.



208 HISTORY OF HARDWICK.

part of their associates. Suspecting Mr. "Wesson's soundness in
the faith, after ineffectual attempts to enUst hira under their own
banner, they assumed a hostile attitude, and persevered until
they succeeded in alienating from him the confidence and Chris-
tian sympathy of a majority of his church. A majority of the
parish adhered to him, and at a meeting, May 26, 1823, " to see
whether the Congregational Society in Hardwick are acquainted
■with any facts relating to the previous conduct of the Rev. Wil-
liam B. Wesson, which would induce them to desire his dismis-
sion," it was " voted, to choose a committee of three to request
the Rev. William B. Wesson to come and read the communica-
tion from the Brookfield Association ; Voted, and chose Elijah
Amidon, Samuel Billings, and Stephen K. Wardwell, a com-
mittee for that purpose ; Voted, to divide the house, and it was
counted ; there was one hundred and five in favor of the Rev.
William B. Wesson, and none against hira." During the next
year, the condition of affairs " bettered nothing, but rather grew
worse." Apparently despairing of a restoration of peace and
harmony, Mr. Wesson at length addressed to the selectmen a
communication which is preserved in the Hardwick Archives :
" To the Selectmen of the town of Hardwick. — Gentlemen,
Having had occasion to notice, within a few days, that the ' fire '
of opposition ' is not quenched,' and having come to the con-
clusion that my continuance in the ministry will neither promote
my own happiness, nor, under existing circumstances, be so use-
ful to the people as I could wish, I have therefore thought
proper to request you to issue your \\arrant to notify a legal
meeting of the inhabitants of Hardwick, and especially those
belonging to the Congregational Society in said town, to meet in
town-meeting, to act on the following question, to wit : — whether
they will consent that the contract existing between us be dis-
solved at my request. By complying with this request you will
confer a favor on your friend and Pastor, WiLLiAM B. Wesson.
Hardwick, May 29, 1824." A meeting was accordingly held
June 14, 1824, at which it was " voted unanimously, that the
contract existing between the Rev. William B. Wesson and said
Society be dissolved at his request." These proceedings were
ratified and confirmed by an Ecclesiastical Council, June 30,
1824.1 During his ministry Mr. Wesson admitted 232 persons

1 It is indicated in the record of a tive members, in their crusade against
town -meeting, Maj 26, 1823, that the Mr. Wesson, not only pronounced him to
Brookfield Association, or some of its ac- be unsound in the faith, but impeached



ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY. 209

into the clinrch (an average of somewhat more than twelve per
annum), baptized 395 adults and children, and attended 463
funerals. After his dismission he engaged temporarily in mer-
cantile business, but chiefly devoted his attention to the cultiva-
tion of his farm, which is now in possession of his eldest son.
He died May 9, 1836, aged nearly 59 years, and was buried in
the new cemetery. Some account of his family is inserted in
the Genealogical department.^

Several ineffectual attempts were made to fill the vacant pul-
pit. A large majority of the church were Trinitarians ; a minoi -
ity of the church and a decided majority of the congregation were
Anti-Trinitarians, composed of Unitarians, Universalists, and
others ; and on this rock the original parish was wrecked. The
church invited Rev. Wales Tileston, October 14, 1824, to become
their pastor, by a vote of 33 aff. to 5 neg. The town non-con-
curred November 1, 1824, by a vote of 45 aff. against 79 neg.
April 14, 1825, the church invited Rev. Henry H. F. Sweet by
unanimous vote ; the town concurred May 16, 1825, by a vote of
58 aff. to 44 neg., "on condition that he avow a willingness, on
his part, to make exchanges and hold ministerial intercourse and
fellowship with Unitarian clergymen as well as others." He was
not ordained ; probably he declined making the required avowal.
By unanimous vote, December 12, 1825, the church extended a
call to Rev. John Wilder, Jr. ; the town concurred, 70 aff., 41
neg., in the invitation to this candidate, " who has avowed a wil-
lingness to hold ministerial intercourse with the denomination of
Christians called Unitarians." This call was declined. August
28, 1826. The town refused to call Rev. Eliphalet P. Crafts,
42 aff., 49 neg. December 18, 1826. The church refused to in-
vite Rev. Nathaniel Gage, 3 aff., 27 neg. ; the town voted, January
1, 1827, to " concur with a minority of the church in giving Mr.
Nathaniel Gage a call to settle," &c., 107 aff., 37 neg. This was
the last joint effort of the two parties to agree upon a candidate

his moral character or "conduct." By mentioning names or any further par-
advice of friends, he commenced a suit at ticulars in connection with this unhappy
law against some of the principal offend- controversy.

ers ; and although one of them is said to ^ My personal recollections of Mr.

have insisted that he had always been Wesson are very pleasant. He gave me

particularly cautious to avoid saying any- my first lessons in Latin, and encouraged

thing "actionable," the jury pronounced me in my studies generally ; and through

them guilty, and assessed damages. Al- tlie whole period of youth, from time to

though more than half a century has time, imparted very useful advice,
elapsed, it seems proper to refrain from
14



210 HISTORY OF HARDWICK.

for the pastorate ; and this also was unsuccessful. As a last re-
sort, the town, or Congregational Society, as it had for some time



Online LibraryLucius R. (Lucius Robinson) PaigeHistory of Hardwick, Massachusetts. With a genealogical register → online text (page 23 of 73)