Benjamin Chase.

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

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place must not expect Baptism for their Children by my own
hand, until they be willingly moved by the love of Christ to come
to his Table and whatsoever he commands. All this is plain in my

2'ily, You wish to know on what ground I consider, and in
what light I view those Parents who have had Baptism for their
Children, but have not come to the communion with Christ and
his People at his Table, and what usage they may expect from me
if I should become their Minister. Respecting this I observe, 1st,
If I receive a church to my Pastoral care, I receive all her real
proper members, for there must be no schism in the church. These
Persons have been received by the church as real proper members


of their Christian Body, and that upon their personal reqnest, so
are under their watch and care. It would not be right for me to
separate them from the Body to which they are joined by Holy
Covenant. It would not be regular or Friendly for the Church to
cut them off suddenly wliile they And no more error in tliem than
they knew of at the time when they received them. Therefore their
membership must be acknowledged. These Parents by profes-
sion are on Gospel ground. They have professed the same Faith
in the Father, in the Son, in the Holy Ghost and in the Scriptures
that every Christian does. They must not be driv^i from it, but
they must live in it, and let their lives and conversation corres-
pond with it. These Parents have made a solemn and everlasting
Covenant before Angels and men, wnth the Father, Son and
Spirit, one God, to be his forever ; promised to obey Christ as
their King, from which they cannot go back with safety. They
must not be driven back by any, but be encouraged by all to
observe all Christ's sayings, and to do his Will in all things, that
they perish not, nor be found wanting when weighed in tlie Bal-
ance. Those deficiencies which were about them when they came
into the Covenant, and have still been with them, must now be
made up by stronger and more pure exercises of faith in, and love
to Christ, whereby they will feel constrained willingly to follow
the Lamb wlicrever he calls them, and be willing to suffer almost
anything rather than take themselves off, or be cut oft' from the
communion of Saints at Christ's Table. With these things in
view, I think it will be my duty to Baptize the Children of these
Parents until some other fault shall be found in them beside their
omitting the Lord's Table, unless it shall appear plain to the Ses-
sion, tiiat their omission is from wicked inattention to the Scrip-
tures, to their own Holy profession and Covenant, and from want
of real love to Christ ; but not from pious Fear, i.e., an overbearing
sense of the sacredness of the ordinance, and of their own vile-
ness, which may be the case with some old Christians for a time.
As these wish to have Baptism again for their Cliildren before
their approach to the Table, they must feel their Bonds to walk as
circumspectly and live as religiously as though they had come to
the Table for years. They must be sober and chaste in conversa-
tion, temperate, just, kind, peaceable, attentive to the Scriptures,
to all Religious Instruction which falls in their way, and prayer-
ful in their Families and Closet. Then they may expect the same
kind, gentle, loving and faithful usage from the Minister and
Elders as old communicants receive, with whom they are equal
subjects of discipline. Wishing you divine direction and a Bles-
sing ou all your pious attempts to promote the cause of Christ
among you and build up his church, I subscribe, your aflfectionate
Friend, Zacheus Colbey.


I may perhaps as well here as elsewhere describe some
of the customs of the Presbyterian church differing from
others, or from present customs.

I think they held but two sacramental occasions at the
Long Meadows (for I must rely mainly on my own recol-
lections) yearly. These were great occasions. They held
a fast on Thursday previous, which was kept with great
strictness. I recollect that my grandmother would eat
nothing before the going down of the sun. They would
have two long sermons. In some places they would have
sermons Friday and Saturday, though I think not usually
at the Long Meadows, within my recollection ; although
they might have had in earlier times. When Sunday came
there was a general rush. In the hrst place there were the
Presbyterians from the lower part of the town, who did
not usually attend meeting here on account of the dis-
tance, — James "Wason, William Bell, Col. White, the Shir-
leys, Forsaith, Tolford, etc., came up ; then many from
Londonderry and otlier places who were communicants ;
then a great many young people from this and the neigh-
boring towns, moved by much the same impulse which
carries multitudes to a Methodist camp-meeting at the
present day. They had a plan for preventing any goat
from mingling with the sheep, which was practiced some
time within my recollection. Each church had a quantity
of small pieces of metal stamped with the initials of the
church, called tokens, which were distributed by the elders
to the communicants. Tliese were a kind of tickets of
admission. The first part of the service was called " fenc-
ing the Lord's table."

I most vividly remember " Father Morrison " (who used
to come over when they were destitute of an ordained minis-
ter) with his broad Scotch brogue, with his spectacles, when
not reading, up on his forehead. He would proceed to
enmiierate the qualifications and disqualifications of wor-
thily partaking of the ordinance, and invite those qualified
and debar those not qualified. They had a long, narrow
table, extending from near the pulpit to near the front


door, covered with neat and white linen table-cloths, on
which were placed the flagons of wine, and flat, thin cakes
of unleavened bread on pewter platters covered also with
neat white cloths for the purpose. The elements were both
consecrated with one service. The communicants were
invited to come forward and fill the table (seats on either
side being provided) which was done first by the elderly
communicants, the choir meanwhile singing a stanza or

A favorite hymn for the occasion was the 13th of B. III?
of Watts :

" How sweet and awful is the place
AVith Christ within the doors,"

and as the services proceeded, vacating and filling the

" "Why was I made to hear thy voice,
And enter while there's room 7 "

and —

" Pity the nations, our God,
Constrain the earth to come."

While the elements were being passed along the table
by the elders. Father Morrison continued talking, making
a most earnest and affectionate exhortation. The table
was vacated and filled, the choir meanwhile singing, and it
generally took three tables to serve the communicants, dur-
ing which the same services were repeated. Mr. Morrison
would make an exhortation to faithfulness to the commu-
nicants, and a very affectionate appeal to the unrepentant.
The whole was a very solemn and impressive service, and
would last until nearly sunset. The whole was closed by a
meeting and thanksgiving sermon on Monday.

Dec. 81, 1822, the Session voted, " That the members of
the church all partake at one time, the elderly members at
the table as usual, and the remainder in the front body
pews, or the adjoining pews."

It may be proper here to say that there are no Session
records extant previous to 1804, those kept previous to that

time supposed to have been carried to Henniker by Dea.



Wilson when he moved there about 1809, -which is greatly
to be regretted, as they would have been at least quite a
curiosity. The records which we have contain very little
of general interest, being merely a routine of business, ad-
missions of members, and a few cases of discipline.

Mr. Colby was reinstalled Oct. 13, 1803. Some time in
the summer of 1808, while reading the hymn after sermon,
he had a paralytic shock, so that he could not finish, and
which disabled him. In January, 1809, he made a com-
munication to the parish, saying that if he did not recover
before March meeting he should resign, aiid that he would
preacli one sermon a day, if able, at his own house, which
I think he did sometimes, although unable to stand.

They had only temporary supplies, partly from the sem-
inary at Andover, until Nov., 1812, when the Rev. William
Harlow was hired, who supplied until 1815. Where he
came from is unknown. He was apparently a sincere man,
but of moderate abilities. He went to Plymouth county,
Mass. They then employed a Mr. Wlieeler, Philip Col1)y,
and a Mr. White, as candidates, but neither of them suffi-
ciently united the people to justify his settlement. In the
fall of 1816, the Rev. Clement Parker, then of Cabot, Vt.,
or vicinity, was procured, and was ordained Feb. 19, 1817.

The first Sunday schools at the Long Meadows were in
1819. They were held at the several school-houses after
the meeting. The exercises were reading and recitation
of passages of scripture and hymns. Earlier than this,
perhaps as early as 1810, the children were required to
commit to memory and meet statedly on a week day and
recite passages to support points of theology. Emerson's
Evangelical Primer, and a question book by Rev. Harvey
Wilbur, afterwards famous as a lecturer on astronomy,
were used as text-books.

Rev. Mr. Parker was dismissed Oct., 1825, and Rev. Abel
Manning supplied until 1831, when the Rev. Benjamin
Sargent was hired, and installed April 19, 1833.

The subject of abolition on Mr. Garrison's principle was
first introduced at the monthly concert Jan., 183-4, as one


of the proper objects of prayer, which caused a great deal
of excitement, as being very improper for the occasion.
Mr. Sargent, however, expressed his gratification that it
was introduced, said that he had some time felt an interest
in the subject, but had not deemed it prudent to introduce
it. Mr. Sargent was a man of very sensitive feelings, and
he entered very warmly into the abolition movement, which
was as warmly opposed in the parish, and in the Confer-
ence and Presbytery with which he was connected. It was
supposed that upon that subject he was a nlonomaniac,
and that he embraced some very erroneous ideas, but
whether any more erroneous than that slavery is a divine
institution may be a question.

The Temperance and Abolition movements excited a good
deal of interest. The documents are very lengthy, and I
will give sufficient abstracts to give a clear idea of their
purport. In April, 1835, a preamble and resolutions were
unanimously adopted by the Session, and the following
pledge : " ^Ye hereby promise totally to abstain from the
use of ardent spirits as a drink."

" Yoted unanimously that all the present members of
the church be respectfully invited to sign the foregoing
pledge ; and all new members be required to sign it before

There are seventy-six names appended to the pledge.
Jan. 25, 1840, a vote was passed unanimously to strike out
the word " required," and insert the words " respectfully
invited." The Session at the same time passed a vote re-
iterating their former convictions on the subject, and dis-
claiming any power to exonerate any one, but yielded to
what appeared to be the honest convictions of some people.

In order for the general reader to understand what is to
follow, it seems necessary to explain some points about the
Presbyterian church.

In 1794 the General Assembly gave their views of slave-
holders as being " sinners of the first rank, and guilty of the
highest kind of theft." In 1818, the Assembly gave their
views of slaveholding, " that it was a violation of the most


sacred and precious rights of Imman nature ; utterly incon-
sistent with the law of God, and irreconcilable with the
gospel of Christ."

Although all avowedly took the Bible for their guide and
tlie Westminster Confession of Faith as an exposition of
it, there w^as nothing like uniformity of belief in matters
of speculative theology. Perhaps the most important point
of difference, and the source of the others, was, the Old
School held that Adam's sin was imputed to all his pos-
terity, and therefore infants were actual sinners ; the New
School held something different. It so happened that those
portions of the church most tinctured Avith New School
theory were somewhat tinctured with anti-slavery, and
other reforms. The Old School element had the ascendency
in 1837. The Assembly, in organizing, excluded the com-
missioners from three synods in the Western Reserve, who
were most contaminated by New School theory and anti-
slavery, with the pretext that they came in under an un-
constitutional plan of union, passed in 1801.

In their circular letter they say: " One of the most
formidable evils of the present crisis is the wide-spread and
ever restless spirit of radicalism^ manifest in both church
and state. ... It has in succession driven to extreme
fanaticism the great cause of revivals of religion, temper-
ance, and the rights of man." There does not appear to
have been any action this year on the subject of slavery.

In 1888, 1 think, though I have not the minutes at hand^
the New School had the ascendency, and the Old School
portion seceded, sued for their portion of the funds, and
finally recovered. During all these contentions about spec-
ulative theology, slavery and slaveholders went entirely
unrebuked, but the " Princetown Review," as well as the
religious press, were publishing long and labored articles,
proving from the Bible that slavery was right.

The Londonderry Presbytery were in much the same
condition as the Assembly. Part were Old School, and part
were New ; part were anti-slavery, and part pro-slavery.

The first decision of the lawsuit was in favor of the New


School, and their delegate, the Rev. E. L. Parker, was on
his own motion instructed to go into the Assembly which
had the decision of the civil court, but before he arrived
there, a full bench had reversed the former decision, and
he was forced to go into the Old School Assembly, and the
connection has remained.

At a meeting of the Session, held January 25, 1840, the
following resolution was brought forward and adopted

Resolved, that the following petition be presented by
the Session to the Presbytery, at its next meeting, to be
holden at Londonderry on the last Wednesday of April

. The Session of the Presbyterian Church in Chester to the Lon-
donderry Presbytery :

Dear Brethren, — "We would affectionately and respectfull}' re-
quest you to pass a resolution withdrawing all ecclesiastical con-
nection with both bodies claiming to be the General Assembly ot
the Presbyterian Church in the United States, and to send copies
of said resolution to both bodies claiming to be the General

The Session would assign the following reasons for passing such
resolution and seceding from the bodies.

1st. The Session can see no possible good resulting from said

2d. The sending up Commissioners involves an expense in time
and money, which might be otherwise appropriated in the benev-
olent operations of the day to produce great good, while it now
produces very little, if any.

3d. We cannot conscientiously be associated with the Old School
Assembly, because it nourishes the awful sin of slavery in its
bosom, enslaving their own brethren, reducing them to chattels,
buying and selling them, and depriving them of the word of God ;
and also because said Assembly has exercised the most arbitrary
and unchristian authority, endeavoring to lord it over God's heri-
tage in cutting off three Synods, and passing such resolutions, if
carried into operation, would cut oif many of our ministers and
some of our churches.

AVe cannot conscientiously be associated with the New School
Assembly, because they also tolerate slavery, and also because if
said Assembly does tolerate such heresies as is said by some that
thev do, we cannot give them countenance.


We cannot fellowship either Assembly, because they indulge in
unwarrantable, unchristian and disgraceful strife, — brother going
to law with brother, — and that before unbelievers.

4th. Because secession would tend to restore aud keep peace in
your own body. Difference of opinion existing among the mem-
bers of the Presbytery, wliich Assembly the Presbytery should be
connected with, occasions discussions and perplexities which
wastes the time of your Sessions, which would all be removed by
such a secession as we ask.

This could not be granted, if not for any other reason, be-
cause if Londonderry did not belong to the legal Presby-
terian church, Major Finkerton's heirs would reclaim
their fund.

At a meeting of the Session, February 14th, 1840, the
following resolutions were unanimously adopted :

Resolved, That for a man to claim property in man,
\ipon which is founded the system of American slavery, is
at all times and under all circumstances a gross usurpation
of power, a heinous sin against God, and sliould be imme-
diately repented of and forsaken.

Resolved, That we will not invite any professed min-
ister of the gospel to officiate as such in God's house, nor
any professed Christian to commune with us at the Lord's
table, whom we know to be guilty of this sin, but will rather
admonish all such of their sin and exhort them to repent-

Resolved, That we consider all who apologize for slave-
holding, or in any way palliate its sinfulness, and thci-eby
soothe the conscience of the slaveholder, and do not as far
as in them lies warn the oppressor of his guilt and danger,
to be guilty in the sight of God.

Resolved, That we believe it to be agreeable to the
spirit of the gospel voluntarily to associate so as unitedly
to act against any moral evil, and we believe that the
American Anti-Slavery Society is an association whose ob-
ject is the entire abolition of slavery, and that we cordially
approve of its measures.

Resolved, That the clerk be directed to cause these
resolutions to be published in the Herald of Freedom, and
Christian Panoply, and transmit a copy to the Presbytery
at its next meeting.

A very long document dated June 9th, 1841, was pre-
sented to the Session, of which on account of its length an


abstract only is inserted. Christian kindness and fraternal
affection are expressed. The former expressions of the
General Assembly and their present position and practice
are recited ; and that the church in Chester, being an in-
tegral part, was implicated, and that a further connection
would be to " consent with thieves, and to be partakers
with adulterers." They say that church organizations and
creeds are of mere human origin, and tend to divide the
world into parties to war with each other ; and they pro-
fess to fall back on Christ as their ruler and the gospel as
their guide, and profess a willingness to suffer any obloquy
or other result that might follow. They conclude by ask-
ino- to be dismissed from the church but not recommended
to any other.

The paper contained the following names : Amos Chase,
Nathan Plummer, Mehitabel Plummer, Mary C. Plummer,
Judith C. Plummer, Alonzo R. Dinsmoor, Louisa R. Dins-
moor, Ruth Chase, Mary Gilbert, William Coult, Laura
Coult, Catharine M. Porter, Grace McKinley, Ezekiel Fox,
Sarah Fox, James Ray, Lucy Ray, Ann C. Ray, Lucy S.
Sargent. (Laura Coult afterwards erased her name.)

The subject was taken up in Session, Aug. 12, 1841, and
answered in a kind and fraternal manner. That the Ses-
sion considered it altogether inconsistent with the princi-
ples of the gospel and the rules of other churches to com-
ply, unless it be with a view of joining some other church
or forming a new one. Subsequently Benjamin Chase made
a communication, which is not on the record, much the
same, with the addition of his expressing his conviction that
the New Testament taught the doctrine of non-resistance
to the extent of not going to law, and instead of asking a
dismission dismissed himself.

At a meeting of the Session, December 17, 1842,

" Voted unanimously, That all such members of this
Church as are desirous of uniting to form a new Church in
this place, under the name of ' The Second Congregational
Church in Cliester ' have liberty to do so ; and when they


have so united in forming such a new church, or shall have
united with such church, then their connection with this
church shall cease."

October 10, 1840, the parish voted to dissolve the con-
nection between them and the Rev. Benjamin Sargent.

In April, 1841, the Presbytery dissolved tlie pastoral re-
lation, and at Mr. Sargent's request dissolved his connec-
tion with that body. They express great concern for the
future happiness of Mr. Sargent and in the welfare of the
parish and church.

In September, 1841, Rev. Samuel Ordway was hired as
stated supply and continued until Jan., 1843, when he or-
ganized the Second Congregational church in Chester, and
the Presbyterian church ceased to liave an active existence.


The tax-lists and accounts commence at the same time
of the Session records in 1804. At that time nearly or
quite everybody paid a tax to one of the parishes. A few
of the Long Meadows paid to the Congregational parish.

In 1804 there were one hundred and thirty-four persons
taxed, of whom William Bell, George Bell, Lt. Jacob El-
liott, Lt. Robert Forsaith, Andrew Jack, Wid. Mary
Jack, "William Mills, Heirs of David Mills, estate of
Henry Moore, Robert Mills, Mary Moor, Capt. Simon
Merril, William Shirley, Peter Shirley, Hugh Tolford,
James Wason, James Wason 3d, Col. William White,
Lt. William Wilson, Samuel Wilson, Edward Wilson, Mer-
ibah and Susannah Wadwell and Robert Jack belonged to
' the lower part of the town. The highest tax was of Dea.
E. H. Kelley, 88.71, the next of Lt. Elliott, $7.76. A
single poll paid 73 cents.

In 1820 one hundred and seventeen were taxed, of whom
nine belonged at the lower part of the town. A poll tax
was $1.09.

In 1830 sixty-one were taxed, and a poll tax was $1.30.

The last tax made was in 1841 Avhen tliirty-one were
taxed and paid $160.22, and the residue, about one hundred
dollars, raised by subscription.


There is a list of church members in 1802 containing
ninety-five names. Hugh Tolford and wife, William Bell
and wife, William White and wife, William Mills and wife,
Hugh Shirley, Benjamin Melvin, Margaret Moore, and Jean
McClellan, belonged to the lower part of the town, and
Thomas Anderson, Sen., William Anderson and wife, the
wife of Thomas Patten, and Jean, the wife of Joshua Moore
of Candia.

There is another list made October 27, 1827, containing
the names of seventy residents and five who had removed
from town.

Col. William White and wife were all who remained of
the old Presbyterians at the lower end of the town.

The only means wliich we have of knowing who the Rul-
ing Elders were, is the titles prefixed to their names when
tliev were elected to some office, which does not date their
office. William White, Sen., is styled Deacon in 1732 ;
Matthew Forsaith in 1749 ; William Leatcli in 1752 ;
Matthew Forsaith in 1766 ; Adam Wilson in 1777 ; William
Tolford in 1780 ; John Graham, William Wilson and Jo-
seph Blanchard were chosen in 1794 and ordained by Mr.
Annan ; David Currier and Ezekiel H. Kelley were chosen
in 1800 ; B. Pike Chase and James Wason, Jr., were chosen
in 1819 ; Dr. Nathan Plummer, Jr., and Samuel Dinsmoor
were chosen in 1824, and John Folsom, Benjamin Chase
and Amos Chase were chosen in 1833.

I had prepared a complete list of the officers of the Pres-
byterian parish, but my work is so voluminous that I omit it.



For some reason it was deemed expedient to dissolve the
Presbyterian parish and church, and organize a Congrega-
tional one. Accordingly, agreeably to an act passed July 3,
1827, " The Second Congregational Society in Cliester " was
organized June 11, 1842, and a code of by-laws adopted,



one article of which was that all moneys should be raised
by voluntary subscription. The condition of membership

Online LibraryBenjamin ChaseHistory of old Chester [N. H.] from 1719 to 1869 → online text (page 28 of 60)