Benjamin Chase.

History of old Chester [N. H.] from 1719 to 1869 online

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times sang with the spirit, if not with the understand-
ing ; and I have heard of some very ludicrous parodies


being made, when a wag was called upon to " deacon the

The first meeting-houses were seated with long seats,
which were common, each individual sitting where he chose
or could get a seat.

In March, 1762, the Presbyterians chose " Hugh Cromby,
Cap. James Shirley, Robert Grayms, a Committee to Di-
vide the seats in the old meeting house, or to act therein
as they Shall see Propper."

In the warning for March, 1764, the parish are notified
to appear and hear the report of the committee.

In a warning for a rheeting of the Congregational parish
for August 1, 1765, is an article " To see if the parish will
vote to Chose a Committee to Seat the meeting house, to
prevent Disorder in Said meeting house." Passed in the
negative. This was to appropriate particular seats to indi-
viduals or families.

In Hampton records, 1650, is a record of the seating the
meeting-house. There are seats assigned to Roger Shaw,
William Marston, and others ; and the women's seats,
Roger Shaw for a wife, Goodey Marston, Goodey Dalton, etc.

In the same warning was an article " To see if the
parish will vote that those persons that Come nighest the
approved Rule of Singing may have the Previlidge of Being
Seated to Gether in the Second Long Seat in the men's
Galery, for the Benefit of helping Each other in said Rule ;
and that they may be Seated to gather, to prevent Disorder
they Desire to be Seated in said Seat, or Elsewhere, to
Gather in Said meeting house."

It was "Voted, that those parsons that Can Sing by Rule
Shall Set to Gather in the meeting house in the front Sliort
Seats in the men's Gallery."

Here was an innovation. They had singing-schools, and
had learned by rule, and of course had new tunes, and had
a choir. How the conservatives bore it is not fully known.
But I once heard Deacon Moses Richardson, who was one
of the innovators, relate an anecdote upon the subject.
Captain Amos Emerson was the chorister, and named the.


tune to be sung loud enough to be heard all over the house,
so that the congregation knew what to sing. There was
one tune which Jethro Colby would not hear, but when he
heard it named would leave the house. On one occasion
Captain Emerson agreed with the choir to name some other
tune and then sing the bad one. So he gave out an agree-
able tune iif a loud, clear voice, and sung the disagrecal)le
one, Mr. Colby, meanwhile, keeping his seat. Upon return-
ing from meeting, Mr. Colby was inquired of why he did
not leave, and replied that that tune was not sung ; but
was finally convinced by Captain Emerson that it was. He
was cured of leaving the house.

About this time the Anti-Pedo-Baptism began to creep in.

In 1768 Moses Marshal and others asked to have the
moating-house doors opened to any Orthodox minister provi-
dentially passing, which was negatived.

In 1772 Gideon Rowel and Elijah Heath asked to have
their rates abated, on account of professing to be Anti-
Pedo-Baptist, which was negatived.

At a parish meeting, October 12, 1770, it was "Voted
to have Doct. "Watts' Psalms and hymns sung in this con-
gregation in the future."

There seems to have been a compromise between the
progressives and tlie conservatives about deacoiiing the
Psalm ; for at a meeting May 6, 1789, there was a commit-
tee chosen, consisting of Capt. Emerson, Capt. Towle, Lieut.
John Dearborn, MaJ. Dearborn and Stephen Morse, to
consult with the singers and report. The result was, that
in the forenoon the Psalm was to be sung without reading ;
twice in the afternoon to be read two lines at a time, and
once sung without reading, Dea. John Webster and Dea.
Joseph Dearborn were chosen to read the Psalm.

" Voted, That the Singers Shall Lead the Singing, and
other people Join with them as they tbink fit; and that
the Singers shall appoint a man to pitch the tune among

Wc may, perhaps, as well say what is to be said about
singing liere, as elsewhere.


When Watts' Psalms and Hymns were first introduced
by the Presbyterians is not known, but could not have
been so early as by the Congregationalists it is certain, for
the Rev. Mr. Clark would not have tolerated it. In rela-
tion to having a choir there had been some innovation and
compromise, as we find, March 8, 1803, that the parish

" Voted, That the Singing be carried on in the Singing
Pew the whole of the day."

About 1806 Samuel Graham carried his bass-viol into the
meeting-house thauksgiving day, but no sooner did he
begin to sound it, than Dea. William Wilson took his hat
arid left in hot haste, and Moody Chase followed, who came
into my grandfather's after meeting, being nearly ready to
burst, and gave vent to the bile.

I find an entry in a diary, Aug. 14, 1814 (which was
Sunday), "Jesse J. Underbill carried a Bass Viol into the
meeting house." Dea. Wilson moved to Henniker in 1809,
and lived there until perhaps 1822 ; and meanwhile not
only a bass-viol, but a clarionet was used, which he had to
bear, enquiring " who blowed that u'hastle up there."

At a meeting of the Congregational parish, March 23,

" Voted, To give leave to the Singers to use a Bass viol
in the meeting house, and Tenor one."

Before musical instruments were introduced they had a
home-made instrument, a kind of whistle, so constructed as
to make it longer or shorter and thus give flatter or sharper
sounds, which was used to " pitch the tune."

There are now no church records to be found earlier
than 1819. The Rev. Lauren Armsby, who was formerly
pastor and wrote the liistory of the church in Chester for
the " History of the New Hampshire Churches," says that
there was a small book containing little of interest, and
that the authority he used in the case of Mr, Bradstreet
was mainly an account drawn up by Capt. John Emerson
and the records of the Haverhill Association. As I have
access to neither, I shall rely on him.


Mr. Flagg became old and unable to perform the duties
of his office. January, 1793, it was voted to hire the Rev.
Mr. Bradstreet to supply the pulpit, and he was ordained
Oct. 13, 1793. Mr. Bradstreet was apparently a young
man of great promise, and the parish and church were as
strong as any in the neighborhood, and the connection
promised to be lasting and prosperous. But Mr. Brad-
street's salary depreciated in value, and he, perhaps, might
have been unduly avaricious, and was naturally rather lazy,
and gradually grew remiss in his pastoral duties and shorter
iu his sermons, until he went through his exercises in less
than half an hour, having no singing, — when it took about
twenty minutes to ring and toll him there. When some
one complained to him of the shortness of his sermons, he
replied that he preached the worth of his money, and if
they wished longer sermons they must pay more money.

Of course an alienation grew up between him and the
church and parishioners, though it is quite possible that the
blame was not all on one side. In 1814, about twenty of
the parish removed their taxes to the Presbyterian parish,
and many of them attended meeting there. In a commu-
nication sent him in 1814, or early in 1815, approved by
two-thirds of the male members of the church, they say :

" They saw you initiated into the ministerial offices of
the parish, and charged witli the pastoral functions of the
church in this place ; they saw you young, exemj)lary and
assiduous to perform the duties of your charge. With this
flattering example they had anticipated that numbers would
have been added to their then large and flourishing church
and congregation, and that you, Rev'd Sir, would have gone
out and in before them ; would have solaced and supported
tlie faint-hearted by your conversation and advice ; would
have tempered and brought down the passions of tlie stub-
born and high-minded ; and, in fine, that you would have
proved an example for them in private and in public, in
person and in family."

The letter goes on to state that their anticipations had
been disappointed. The church had dwindled during Mr.
Bradstreet's ministry from thirty male members to eleven.


Mr. Bradstreet declined joining in a mutual council, and
an ex 'parte one Avas called, April 26, 1815. The council
did not succeed in healing matters, and were recalled, with
two additional churches, Oct. 11. They persuaded the
parties to call a mutual council, which convened and sat
eight days. The church had previously excommunicated
Mr. Bradstreet, which the comicil condemned ; and they
recommended that the church rescind their vote of excom-
munication, and that both parties consent to a separation.
Both parties wished to maintain their ground, and the dis-
affected members carried the matter before the Association
with which ]\[r. Bradstreet was connected. After a severe
contest there, the disaffected majority, and Mr. Bradstreet
and the adhering minority, backed down somewhat. Mr.
Bradstreet asked a dismission, which was granted and con-
firmed by a council, Oct. 7, 1817. Thus ended a very
unpleasant and unchristian controversy.

Rev. Leonard Jewet, of Hollis, preached nearly a year
and his health failed. In Dec, 1819, a call was extended
to the Rev. Joel R. Arnold, and he was ordained March 8,
1820. So much trouble had been experienced with Mr.
Bradstreet, the parish made the condition in the contract
that either party might end it by giving six months' notice.

Mr. Arnold was a man of strong convictions and he
expressed them strongly. Among other things, he saw the
terrible evils of intemperance, and had his ideas quickened
by a man dying in the road with a jug of rum by his side,
sold by a member of his church, and preached against it,
before the technical temperance movement came up, which
gave offence to some. He w^as dismissed March 31, 1830.

Feb. 28, 1828, the church resolved,

" That it is the decided opinion of this church that it is
inexpedient for professed Christians on any ordinary occa-
sion to call for and drink spirituous liquors or wine at any
store or tavern in this town."

In August, 1830, a call was extended to the Rev. Jona-
than Clement, which was accepted, and he was ordained
Oct. 13. He graduated at Middlebury College in 1818,


He was a teacher in the Phillips Academy at Andover ten
years, and while there was one of the first signers of the
pledge of the first temperance society formed on the prin-
ciple of total abstinence from ardent spirits. He did not
bring the subject into the pulpit until the opponents dared
him to do it, saying that he had not done it, and dare not ;
when he delivered, I think, three discourses, on three suc-
cessive Sundays, which had a favorable effect not only on
temperance, but on religion generally. June 13, 1832, the
church " Voted to require from all those who shall here-
after be received to their communion, a pledge to entire
abstinence from the use of ardent spirits." There is a
pledge of the same date having the names of thirty-three
males and fifty-nine females appended to it. The period
of Mr. Clement's ministry was the period of protracted
meetings and of revivals. He was dismissed Sept. 10, 1845.

The Rev. Lauren Armsby began to preach Jan., 1846 ;
was settled May 27. He graduated at Amherst in 1842.
He was dismissed in 185G, and Avent West. He was a chap-
lain in the army, and returned to New Hampshire, and is
now, 1868, at Candia.

Rev. H. 0. HowLAND was ordained Aug. 12, 1857. He
was dismissed May 21, 1862, and removed to Pennsylvania.

Rev. J. LocTan Tomlinson was ordained Oct. 1, 1863.


The earliest tax-list on the records is in 1801, when
nearly everybody was taxed to either of the parishes, and
there are two hundred and forty-three names, and a poll-
tax is forty-seven cents. Capt. John Emerson })aid the
highest, five dollars and seventy-four cents ; Benjamin Hills
the next, five dollars and twenty-six cents.

In 1810 two hundred and eight persons were taxed, and
a poll-tax was sixty-seven cents. The largest, John Bell,
ten dollars and sixty cents ; Stephen Chase the next, eight
dollars and forty-one cents.

lu 1820 tliere were one hundred and eighty-seven persons


taxed, and a poll-tax was one dollar and eight cents. Jolm
Bell paid twenty dollars and seventy-nine cents ; Daniel
French, sixteen dollars and ninety-four cents.

In 1830 one hundred and ninety persons were taxed, and
a poll-tax was eighty-four cents. Fifty-one of these paid an
additional tax.

In 1840 one hundred and ten persons were taxed, and a
, poll-tax was ninety-eight cents.

In 1850 eighty-live persons were taxed, and a poll-tax
was one dollar and twenty-five cents.

In 1860 forty-seven persons are taxed to the amount of
three hundred and seventy-three . dollars and forty-two
cents. The current expenses were six hundred and thirty-
two dollars and fifty-four cents. The rest by subscription
or im provided for.

What was called the " great revival" was in 1711, and
in 1742 thirty-eight united with the church. Whole num-
ber under Mr. Flagg, two hundred and forty-three to full
communion, and two hundred and eighty-seven who owned
the covenant. (N. H. Churches.) In December, 1819,
the church drew up and signed a covenant, and there are
the names of thirty males and fifty females appended to it.

Rev. Joel R. Arnold, born at Westminster, Vt., 1704,
was not a graduate. Admissions to the church during his
ministrv, one hundred and ten.

Rev. Jonathan Clement, born at Danville, Vt., June 21,
1797, graduated at Middlebury, and studied at Andover
Theological Seminary. Addition*, two hundred and seven.
He has been at Woodstock ; is now at Norwich, Vt.

Rev. Lauren Armsby, born at Northbridge, Jan. 16, 1817,
graduated at Amherst in 1842 ; studied at Union Theologi-
cal Seminary one year, and at Andover two years. Addi-
tions, sixty-one by profession, thirty by letter.

Rev. Harrison 0. Howland, born at West Brookfield,
Mass., June 25, 1813, graduated at Amherst in 1841, at
Union Theological Seminary in 1844. Additions, twenty-
six by profession, thirteen by letter.

The charter of the two parishes has been given, page


92, and I had prepared a complete list of parish officers,
but my work proves so voluminous that I reluctantly omit it.


The prominent points of the history of the Presbyterian
parish have been given in connection with the history of
the town and Congregational parish, and little remains to
be done more than to give a brief notice of some of the
ministers, and touch upon some few points not before men-

The Rev. John Wilson was ordained over the Presbyte-
rian parish, and a church formed, in 1734, l)ut by what
ecclesiastical authority is not known, or of how many
members the church was composed, as there are no records
extant. Mr. Wilson continued his ministrations until his
dcatli, Feb. 1, 1779, and all that is known about his family
is given in the genealogical part of this work. lie was
probably a very good, well-disposed man, and in all the
controversies which arose about preaching at the Long
Meadows, and dividing the parish, there is no evidence
that any fault was found with him. I have heard my father
say that his preaching was mostly expository ; that he took
some [)ortion of scripture (in course, I think), and ex-
j^lained and enforced it. He had either his discourses or
skeletons of them, written, and often looked them over
after entering the desk, but made no use' of notes in
preaching. t

From the death of Mr. Wilson to the hiring the Rev. .
David Annan, in 1795, we have no record whatever, except
raising money, and choosing committees to supjJy the
desk, but have to rely exclusively upon tradition, and that
is very meager, mostly what I have heard my father tell.

The first of the stated supplies, I think, was a Rev. Mr.
Clark, who, it is said, had been settled at White River, N.
Y., and he supplied several years. He was probably some-
what bigoted in his ideas, and eccentric in his manners,
but a very sincere, good man, and faithful to his own con-


victions. There are many anecdotes related of him, some
of which I will relate. He was called upon to solemnize a
marriage between James Calder and Molly Linn, and on
the occasion they had tea, which he refused, saying he
would have a bowl of barley broth. It might have been
a patriotic motive which influenced him. He believed the ,
old Scotch version of the Psalms to be the only proper
matter to sing in religious worship, and held in great ab-
horrence what he termed " Watts' great bundle of psalms
and imitations."

The singing was congregational, and he wished all to
join. He said on one occasion, " Sing ! sing ! all o' ye, and
shame the devil ; for we read of the devil having a prayer,
but never of his having a psalm ! " On one occasion lie
took for his text the death of Joshua, and said that when
they buried him, they buried a great deal of religion with
him. Some country sleighs passing at the time, he added,
" Yes ; and they are now carrying all the religion out of
the land by sleigh-loads."

The women of the present day cannot rightly claim the
invention of all the foolish fashions. Their grandmothers
and great-grandmothers had even the " waterfall," though in
a little different form. They let the foretop grow long, and
combed it forward, and put a cushion called a " roll," on the
head, and turned the hair back over it. Good Father Clark
held this in utter abomination, it being a device of the
great adversary.

Sunday schools did not then exist, but the religious food
for children was the Assembly's Catechism, which was the
lesson for Sunday evening at home, and Saturday forenoon
at school. It might be thought rather dry, if not strong
food, for infant minds, though I do not at all regret that I
w^as fed with it.

Well, Parson Clark used to pay his parochial visits, and
assemble the young people of the household, and chatechise
them. On one occasion he made a visit to the family of
Robert Wilsc^i, Esq., who had some half-dozen daughters,
and a brother-in-law by the name of Mitcliell having about


as many more living in the same house. Now these girls
were probably not much better nor much worse than the
girls of the present clay. They wished to be in the fashion,
even if, in the opinion, of the minister, at the expense of
serving the devil. Well, Father Clark had them seated
around the room, and they, understanding that he was
coming, had the rolls out of sight, and their hair combed
smoothly down. Mr. Clark commenced by commending
their modesty ; he had not in a long time seen such a mod-
est company of lasses ; they had none of those wicked rolls
on their heads. Just at this instant Jonathan Wilson
opened the door, and threw a lot of the rolls into Mr.
Clark's laj), greatly to his horror, and to the chagrin of the
modest hisses. What became of Mr. Clark is not known.

The next minister that is known was the Rev. Tillotson
Howe. Where he came from, or went to, is not known.
Anthony Somerby Stickney was quite active aitiong the
Presbyterians, and was collector of taxes, and one of the
committee to hire preaching several years, though once
there was a protest entered against it, because he was not
a member of any church. Mr. Howe was hired, and
boarded at Mr. Stickney's, and after a while married Mr.
Stick ney's daughter.

There was a man' by the name of Hutchinson who
preaciied awhile, and another by the name of Pickle, of
whom nothing more is known.

There was a Rev. James Davis, a revival preacher, wlio
preached a few months, and caused a considerable religious
excitement, and, it is was said, several conversions.

The Rev. David Annan came from Scotland, and had
preached awhile at Peterborough. He came to Chester
and preached awhile, and March 14, 170G, a written con-
tract was entered into, engaging him for four years. He
proved intemperate, and said and did many foolish, if not
wicked things. He said he tried the experiment of pray-
ing over one bed of onions and fiddling over another, to
see which would do best. The people becarag dissatisfied,
and the Presbytery was about to discipline him, and the


contract was dissolved October 7, 1T99. It is said that he
returned to Scotland, but some of his sons remained in this

The Rev. David McGregore, afterwards of Bedford, sup-
plied the desk for some time.

At a parish meeting, held May 30, 1803, a call was given
to the Rev. Zaccheus Colby to settle. (He had been settled
in Pembroke, and for his family connections, see the gene-
alogy part of this work).

In order to understand the history of the circumstances
attending this call, it will be necessary to refer to the
Presbyterian polity. The government of the church lay
in a board of ruling elders, called the Session, who ad-
mitted and disciplined the members, subject to an appeal
to the Presbytery. Members were required to bring for-
ward all their cliildren for baptism. These childi'en stood
in rather an anomalous position — partly, but not wholly, in
the church. It was their duty, however, as soon as they
came to years of discretion, to come into full communion
with the church. In this way many became united with
the church without any pretence of experimental religion,
and seldom, if ever, came to the communion, or even to
meeting. Then it was the custom for these baptized chil-
dren, though never having joined in full communion, to
bring their children forward for baptism. In some cases
(perhaps with those in full communion, as well as those
under the half-way covenant, as it was called), the
child offered for baptism was born rather prematurely,
reckoning from marriage ; in which case the parents,
standing in the broad aisle, received a severe admonition,
and made a very humble and penitent confession. I think
that the same practice prevailed in the Congregational
churches in respect to baptism, for I see that parents who
never belonged to the church had their children baptized.

A committee was chosen to wait on Mr. Colby and
receive his answer, who reported with a communication
from Mr. Colby which is here given in full :



Chester, June 11, 1803.
To the Committee of the Presbyterian Society, — to be commu-
nicated: —

If different Ideas haA'e been taken from my conversation on the
Subject of Infant Baptism, it was doubtless owing to my neglect-
ing to give my Ideas in positive terms relative to one part of the
subject, which I thought proper to do at that stage of the business
before us. Now it appears duty, and I feel happy to give you my
sentiments in full and plain. I believe the children of believing
Parents or Parent have right to Baptism, whether theirs by birth,
or ad()i)tion. It ever has, aiul still does appear to me an error to
admit Parents under the vows of the covenant to the Privilege of
Baptism for their Children, when at the same time they take
themselves off from the communion of Saints at the Lord's Table.
Though this has been a custom Avith many, I do not find any thing
in the Bible or in your Constitution to justify it in my view.

If I should be active in the admission of any in this way, while
I verily believe it is wrong, to me it would be sin. God would
hide his face from me and I should be troubled ; nor could you
put confidence in a man who would sin against his own under-
standing. Yet, as I believe this is among those things concerning
which every one must be full)'^ persuaded in their own mind, I
feel no disposedness to be offended with those Persons, Churches
and Minislors who differ from me in Opinion. If, upon exchanges
with neighboring Ministers, any of the People that I may have
the charge of shall conscienliously thiuk it their duty to offer
their Children in Baptism, while they do not see it their duty to
approach the Lord's Table, and the minister thinks it his duty to
indulge them, I shall not attempt to hurt their minds or lord it
over their consciences, but I must be excused from this practice.
New additions upon this ground after my settlement in any

Online LibraryBenjamin ChaseHistory of old Chester [N. H.] from 1719 to 1869 → online text (page 27 of 60)