D. Hamilton (Duane Hamilton) Hurd.

History of Plymouth County, Massachusetts : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men (Volume 2) online

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history of any town is written, it necessarily gives
much of the civil, as church and parish were so closely
allied that to know the one involves the other, and
the character of the people is found iu all their records.

Mr. Baylies, the historian of Plymouth Colony, has
said, "The clergy were the principal instruments in
keeping alive the spirit and eutcrprise of the English



race in the wilds of America, aud to them in a great
degree the people owe their prosperity."

Anticipating the duty of supporting the church and
its institutions, the West Parish erected a meeting-
house early iu 1746, new style, mention being made of
it in the precinct division. The means of raising money
being limited, the finishing aud furnishing progressed
slowly. At a meeting March, 1747, it was voted " To
sell vacant room below in the West meeting-house in
said town, suitable for pews, to the highest bidder; aud
whoever purchases a vacancy for a pew, shall be
obliged to get it built in the same manner and form
as the pews are built in the old meeting-house in
Pembroke, and to be completely built and finished by
the last day of September, 1748, and if any man fails
of getting his pew built by that time, his pew shall
be forfeited to said precinct." At intervals, for sev-
eral years, similar votes were passed, showing the work
was a long one.

For two years no one was settled as minister, but
candidates preached on probation, a Mr. Frost being
the first recorded. Then followed John Brown,
Nathaniel Gardner, Cotton Brown, Jonathan Win-
chester, and probably others, each preaching from one
to two or three months. It was early decided not to
hear any as candidate who had been ordained else-
where, thus securing a young man whose pastorate
should have a lengthy prospect if no other, but, to
their credit, they desired a man of educatiou.

On the 29th day of February, 1747, old style, it
was voted " to settle Mr. Gad Hitchcock in the work
of the ministry if he can be had," and a committee
chosen to confer with him, who should acquaint him
with the salary they would pay and terms of settle-

His answer, dated March 28, 1748 (the next
month), gives evidence of his wisdom and considera-
tion in stating his needs financially and socially. The
following is a copy :

"To the Inhabitants of a now Precinct lately formed by the
sanction of tbe General Court out of the following towns, viz. :
Pembroke, Hanover, Dridgewater, Halifax, and Abington, now
in meeting assembled :

" Gknti.ksie.v, — I have for some time had under consideration
tho late invitation you gave mo to settle iu tbe work of the min-
istry among you, and it being an affair of importance, I have
therefore asked that wisdom from above which is profitable to
direct in all such eases, and have also desired my friends at
College and other gentlemen to assist me by their advice iu my
determinations with rospect to it, and upon the advico which 1
have received, as well as by seriously weighing the matter in
my own mind. I have at length come to the following conclu-
sion, viz. : that tbe offers which you made me of one hundred
pounds new tenor, to euable mo to settle amoug you, is not suf-
ticient to do it, nor the annual salary of the same sum and tcn r
to give mo a convenient support. I am therefore obliged to tell

you that though I thank you for your respect, yet I don't think
it proper to accept of your call; but, however, considering tho
unanimity of your call, and relying upon the continuance of
your affections towards me, I am froe and willing to settle in
said otneo among you upon tbe following conditions, viz. : First,
that you grant me six hundred pounds old ten r in bills of this
province, to enable me to procure a settlement among you;
secondly, that you grant me four hundred pounds old ten' in
bills of the province aforesaid as a salary for the current year,
and afterwards add ten pounds old ten r per annum till it .-hall
have riseu to four hundred and fifty pounds of the province
and tenor aforesaid, which shall then be my following annual
salary; and, thirdly, that you pretty unanimously vote the ful-
fillment of the conditions above.

"These things, gentlemen, are what I think reasonable to be
granted to mo if I settle in the work of the gospel ministry
among you, in order to my proceeding with becoming cheerful-
ness and alacrity in that arduous work, and therefore I thought
proper to lay these before you. I have now nothing further to
add, only I would just recommend unto you unity, peace, and
charity in the weighty affair of the present meeting and in all
the future transactions of life, and subscribe myself a real friend
to your best interosts and most obedient humble servant,

"Gad Hitcutock."

This answer proved satisfactory, and the ordination
was arranged and ordered for " the first Wednesday
iu October, 1748, and Elijah Cushing, Esq., to have
one hundred pounds, old tenor, for providing the

Rev. Gad Hitchcock, son of Ebenezer Hitchcock
and Mary Sheldon, was born in Springfield, Feb. 22,
1719, graduated at Harvard College, 1743, and was
honored with the degree of Doctor of Divinity in
1787. He was brother of Col. Daniel Hitchcock,
who died in the Revolutionary army in 1777. His
father's ancestors were in Spriugfield aud New
Haven, Conn., as early as 1644. On his mother's
side he descended from Governor George Willis of
Connecticut, and the Hon. John Pynchon, " the
lather of Springfield."

In an article published in 1865 in Harper s Maga-
zine, the writer says, " Dr. Hitchcock was celebrated
for his patriotism and his fearlessness iu avowing it,
and in doing all that he could for the cause of his
couutry. He sometimes acted as chaplaiu in the
army of the Revolution, and never shunned the
dangers to which the soldiers were exposed."

He was a member of the convention that framed the
Constitution of Massachusetts in 1780. He preached
the election sermon before the Ancient and Honorable
Artillery Company in 1765. He preached tho elec-
tion sermon before Governor Gage in 1774, from the
text, Prov. xxix. 2 : " When the righteous are in au-
thority, the people rejoice ; but when the wicked
beareth rule, the people mourn." In it he says, after
commenting in severe terms upon the calamities re-
sulting from the " reign of the wicked," " We need



not pass the limits of our own nation for sad instances
of this. Whether or how far it has been exemplified
in any of the American colouies, whose government in
general are nearly copies of the happy British original,
by the operation of ministerial unconstitutional meas-
ures, or the public conduct of some among ourselves,
is not for me to determine. It is, however, certain
that the people mourn."

The article referred to above says, " It was prepared
with the expectation that the Governor would not be
present, aud when it was found he would be there to
hear it, Dr. Hitchcock was advised by his friends to
be cautious in his expressions, but he replied, ' My
sermon is written, and it will not be altered.' "

This is said to have created quite a disturbance
and filled Governor Gage with rage, but it pleased
Samuel Adams and others like him so much that a
suit of clothes was presented Mr. Hitchcock as a mark
of their appreciation.

Mr. Hitchcock married Dorothy Angicr, of Cam-
bridge, a descendant of Edmund Angier, who was in
Cambridge iu 1636. She inherited the blood of
Rev. William Ames, D.D., Rev. Urian Oakes, a
president of Harvard College, Dr. William Avery,
and the Sparhawks, all old Cambridge families.

An aged lady, now living, remembers Dr. Hitch-
cock as a venerable-looking old man, who wore a wig
white as snow, and to whom every one who met him
was attracted. This lady relates from memory an in-
cident which occurred one Sunday when Dr. Hitch-
cock had exchanged pulpits with Rev. Perez Forbes,
and shows the attention that was required to the
sermon in those days, though they were long and
prosy. The old men, whose seats were directly
below the pulpit in trout of the body pews, had be-
come sleepy aud fallen into slumber, while the younger
portion of the congregation were amusiug themselves
to the disregard of the sermon, when Mr. Forbes
suddenly stopped his discourse aud said, " Boys, stop
that noise, or you will wake up these old men," and
proceeded with his sermon. As will be imagined, the
effect was twofold.

Dr. Hitchcock proved himself a mau of talent,
sociable, friendly, hospitable, though somewhat ec-
centric, and very witty. " Be merry and wise" was
his advice to the young on occasions of joy. Iu be-
lief he was a high Arian and liberal. His funeral
services consisted of only a prayer, by his request.
His pastorate extended over a period of fifty-five
years. He died Aug. 8, 1803, after an indisposition
of four years, when the parish houored his memory
by the following vote : " That the parish procure a
pair of Tombstones for the Rev. Gad Hitchcock."

A few months before the death of Mr. Hitchcock
a call was given Rev. George Barstow to settle as col-
league pastor, which he at first declined, but on a re-
newal of their wish he accepted iu a letter dated Dec.
20, 1802, in which he bespeaks their encouragement
in various ways, aud particularly their attendance at
the Sabbath services, and was ordained January, 1803.
An order was passed to provide entertainment for the
Council aud Mr. Barstow's near friends, and the ex-
pense proved eighty dollars. A committee of six
was ordered " to shore up the meeting-hou.-e, to keep
the body seats aud front seats in the gallery clear,
and also to keep the green or yard around the meet-
ing-house clear of carts and sellers of liquor on said

Mr. Barstow was son of James Barstow aud Rhoda
House, born 1775, graduated at Brown Uuiversity,
1801, and studied for the ministry with Rev. Perez
Forbes, of Rayuham. He married Sarah, daughter
of Gideon Barstow, Nov. 26, 1S01. After his settle-
ment with the church he built the house at the junc-
tion of the roads near the almshouse, where he lived,
and died suddenly Feb. 11, 1826.

Some time during Mr. Barstow's pastorate the so-
ciety made quite extensive repairs to their meeting-
house, which cost them about two hundred dollars,
and much improved its appearance. Soon after Rev.
Dr. Storrs, of Braintree, came to preach on missions,
and made a strong appeal for immediately forming a
society to raise funds for that object. Some one sug-
gested that it be postponed to some other day, but
Dr. Storrs said, " Now or never !" and they set about
the work, and to their great satisfaction raised thirty
dollars. This was not equal to Dr. Storrs' anticipa-
tion, and feeling that their covetousness should be
rebuked, he published an article in the Recorder, of
which he was editor, portrayiug them iu a very un-
generous style, — said their meeting-house (which
had so recently been repaired) " wasn't tit to worship
God in or for the comfort of man." It was thought
best to vindicate themselves from such an array, aud
accordingly one of the society wrote an article for Dr.
Storrs to publish, which he refused to do, and then
it was sent to Thomas Whittemore, editor of the
Trumpet, who gladly blew it with a shrill blast.

During the pastorates of Dr. Hitchcock and Mr.
Barstow the society belonged to the Conference of
Unitarian Churches, but for several years before Mr.
Barstow's death there were some who had embraced
orthodox sentiments and freely avowed them, some-
times attending church service out of town. An
elderly woman, who was a member of the church,
and had expressed great anxiety for its welfare, was



heard to pray as she knelt before the fire alone in her
home, " Lord, change Parson Barstow's heart, or take
him from the ministry."

A mau threatened his minor son that he would take
away his new suit of clothes if he persisted in attend-
ing meeting there. This shows the division of senti-
ment and belief which manifested itself in various
ways, and by many the death of Mr. Barstow was
deemed providential, not from want of personal re-
spect, but the result of change of faith. When the
business of procuring a new minister came before
them the church decided to have one of orthodox
profession, which resulted in a call to Rev. Freeman
P. Howiand, who was ordained Sept. 25, 1826. Since
then the church has been associated with the Ortho-
dox Congregationalists. Mr. Howiand retained his
office of pastor little more than seven years, wheu he
resigned on account of feeble health. He was a val-
uable citizen, and was highly esteemed by the church
and community for his kind and courteous character.

The next settled minister was Rev. John Shaw,
from November, 1834, to March, 1838, followed by
Rev. Abel Patten in June, who remained one year.
During Mr. Shaw's pastorate a new church was built
on the site of the old, though there were persistent
efforts to change the location. This was dedicated
Dec. 14, 1836.

The successor of Mr. Patten was Rev. Samuel L.
Rockwood, who twice held the pastorate, the first time
from March 11, 1840, to February, 1858, a period
of eighteeu years ; the second from 1871 to 1877.
The interim was filled by Rev. Benjamin South-
worth, who died in South Abington (1883), where
he had taken up his abode.

Mr. Rockwood was interested in the prosperity of
the town, and particularly its early history, collecting
much that is worthy of publication. He took au
active part in all movements for the promotion of
the temperance cause, aud served the town a number
of years as one of the school committee. Mr. Rock-
wood removed to Weymouth, where he died.

Rev. Joshua S. Gay was the next pastor, and
remained five years from May, 1878, succeeded, in
August, 1883, by Rev. George Benedict, the present

Not much is known in regard to the church music
of the earliest years, but records show that " March
12, 1749, Daniel Hay ford was chosen deacon, and on
the following Thursday chose John Bisbe, Jr., for a
deacon." "Nov. 4, 1753, chose William Phillips
and Gideon Bisbe to set the psalms in the absence of
Dea. Bisbe. William Phillips declined, and Daniel
Crooker was chosen in his place." In 1760, " Voted

by the congregation to sing Tate and Brady's version,
together with Dr. Watts' Hymns, bound with it for
the future, in room of the New England version."
" Sept. 25, 1769, chose Eleazer Hamlin for chorister,
aud Zebulou Simmons for the same purpose in his

The earliest mention of instrumental music or any-
thing pertaining is a vote taken March 14, 1812, that
Nathaniel Collamore's bill of four dollars aud eighteen
cents for repairing the bass-viol be allowed. Doubt-
less it had been purchased some time before by the
parish, and was kept in the church, as there was a
chest built in the front gallery for the purpose, as
some who are still living remember it. On March
22, 1817, " Voted, Capt. N. Collamore for bass-viol
strings, $2.68."

No other instrument is mentioned in the records
until the time of dedication of the new church, but
it is remembered that about 1820, Dr. Carder, who
was a physician in town, played a violin, aud later,
Ezra Phillips, Jr., the clarionet. When the new church
was built, Deacon George F. Stetson loaned the
society a pipe-organ, which he had built, to remain
until he should finish one for them, and he was
voted " the sum of ten dollars for his trouble in re-
moving and setting up the organ." The one built
for the church remained until 1867, when a new one,
costing one thousand dollars, was purchased by sub-

Universalist Society. — The law which imposed
taxation upon individuals for church support was cou-
sidered by a growing number to be unjust, and a feel-
ing of resistance in some way led a few of the parish
to propose holding meetings and supporting them by
voluntary contributions, and a receipt for such pay-
ment answered the demands of the law. Accordingly a
society was organized, which held meetings at the
houses of some of its members. Prominent among
them were Dr. Samuel Barker, Cornelius Cobb, Dr.
Calvin Tilden, Charles Josselyn, Jabez Josselyn,
Oren Josselyn, Henry Monroe, Bridgewater ; Capt.
Abishai Stetson, East Bridgewater; aud Timothy
Robbius, Hanover.

Preaching was supplied by Benjamin Whittetuore,
Joshua Flagg, Rev. Hosea Ballou, aud others. In
1829 a church was built at the junction of roads,
now Willow and Short Streets, and in the same year
Elmer Hewitt was installed as preacher, and remaiucd
in the office about ten years. After him came John
Allen, for two years, followed by Robert L. Killam,
H. W. Morse, and William Whiting. Isaac 0. Stet-
son and Willard Poole, both of Pembroke, were the
deacons. As the old members died and numbers de-



creased, the society ceased to hold meetings. For a
time the church was used by the Spiritualists for
meetings. In 1866 the building was remodeled for
hall purposes, and called Unity Hall, and remained
as such until March, 1876, when it was burned.

Baptist Church. — The following is taken from
a sketch published some time ago, which was con-
densed from the church records:

" In the summer of 1811, Elder Thomas Conaut,
then a licensed preacher of the Baptist denomination,
began holding meetings in certain dwelling-houses in
Pembroke, about half-way between the East and West
(Congregational) Parishes of the town. The good
seed sown was attended by the blessing of God, and
in the following winter the neighborhood enjoyed the
weekly preaching of the Word, — at first on week-days,
afterward a fourth of the time on the Sabbath. Aaron
Perkins, then a recent convert from Mansfield, aided
Mr. Conant in his missionary labors during the winter.
As a result of their labors an interest was awakened,
and on the 17th of May, 1812, eleven persona made
public profession of their faith in baptism. These,
with nineteen others who brought letters from neigh-
boring Baptist Churches, were, on the 21st of the same
month, regularly constituted a church by the name
of ' The First Baptist Church in Pembroke,' and
was recognized as such by a council of ministers and
laymen assembled for that purpose. The right hand
of fellowship was given by Joel Briggs, of Randolph.
In the afternoon of the same day, Mr. Conant, having
been recommended and introduced by the church to
the same council as a candidate for the gospel ministry,
was ordained. Sermon by Samuel Glover, charge by
Joel Briggs, and right hand of fellowship by Lewis
Leonard. These exercises occurred at the house of
Luther Howland, afterwards a deacon of the church."

In the following September the church united with
the Warren Baptist Association, of which it formed
a part uutil the formation of the Old Colony Associ-
ation, to which it now belongs. In the second year
of its existence the church built a small meeting-
house in the neighborhood where the interest had
commenced, and in this house Mr. Joseph Torrey,
the first settled pastor, was ordained, Nov. 9, 1814.
This house, afterwards sold, was remodeled into a
dwelling, and stands on the original site, nearly oppo-
site the Methodist Church in Bryantville. Nov. 16,
1S20, a new and commodious house of worship, the
one still occupied by the church, was opened. James
Davis, John Butler, Thomas Conant, and Joseph
Torrey, the pastor, participated in the dedicatory

Mr. Torrey having filled the pastoral office for

about eleven years, with a brief intermission in 1S24,
resigned the charge, and was dismissed in January,
1826. During the next eight years the church had
three successive pastors, — Charles L. Cook, J. B.
Gibson (who died while pastor, in December, 1830),
and Jeremiah Kelley. After the departure of Mr.
Kelley, in August, 1834, the church remained for
nearly two years without a pastor, but continued to
sustain its weekly meetings of conference and public
worship. In April, 1835, Joseph Torrey, having
been absent a few years, returned, and again con-
nected himself with the church, but the third day
after death closed his earthly labors. In September,
1836, Flavel Shurtleff became pastor, and remained
one year. After an interval of about nineteen months,
during eight of which John Holbrook was preacher,
Mr. ShurtletT was recalled, and continued his labors
uutil April, 1845.

In August, 1844, the church made a clear and de-
cided declaration of anti-slavery sentiments by adopt-
ing a series of resolutions, in which they expressed
their abhorrence of the system of American slavery,
and declared their determination uevor to admit into
their membership or their pulpit any slaveholder or
advocate of slavery. Samuel Carr held the minis-
terial office from June, 1845, to December, 1848;
Asa C. Bronson, from July, 1849, to March, 1851
(ordained in December, 1849), and William Leach,
from September, 1851, to April, 1855. Under the
ministry of Mr. Bronson the meeting-house under-
went considerable repairs ; a tower was built and a
bell hung. Leauder P. Gurney was called to the
pastorate in June, 1855, ordained in the following
December, and closed his labors in September, 1S56.
Samuel Hill was pastor from October, 1857, to July,
1858. During the summer mouths of 1861 the
pulpit was regularly supplied by Charles K. Colver.
In September the church invited Elder Seth Ewer to
preach to them, and in October to become their
pastor, he remaining till April, 1863. The remainder
of the year the supply was by Rev. Masou Ball, when
the house undergoing extensive repairs, preaching
was suspended until May 23, 1864. The house was
then reopened, Rev. Rollin H. Neale, D.D., preaching
the sermon on the occasion. On June 1, 1S64,
Aaron Perkius began preaching, but in little more
than a year failiug health compelled him to tender
his resignation, June 27, 1865. Rev. W. II. Watson
followed in December, 1S65, remaining until May,

Rev. H. F. H. Miller assumed the pastoral charge
December, 1867, resigning November, 1S69, and was
succeeded by Rev. J. W. Hortou, who closed his



labors March, 1872. In the following June, Rev.
Joseph E. Read accepted a call to become pastor, and
continued his relations eleven years, the longest pas-
torate of this society. In May, 1883, Rev. William
K. Davey was given a call, and accepted, remaining a
few months, when he relinquished his charge for a
position in the University for Colored Students, in
Nashville, Tenn., his place being supplied on his re-
tirement by Rev. Ephraim Hapgood, April, 1884,
who is the present pastor.

The following have served the church as deacons:
Micah Foster aud Luther Howland, elected June 19,
1812; Paul Clapp, in 1820" ; Joseph Boylston, in
1831 ; Levi Thomas, September, 1832; Josiah Bar-
ker, in June, 1843; Jonathan R. Gurney, iu June,
1854 ; Charles W. Bourne, March, 1872 ; and Levi
Z. Thomas, in January, 1878. The last two are the
only survivors. In the summer of 1875 a large and
convenient vestry was erected, adjoiuing the rear of
the church, which serves for society and conference
purposes. During the earlier years of the church the
music wits singing without instruments, but soon after
the new church was built the bass-viol was intro-
duced and played by E. B. K. Guruey, and followed
after a time by other instruments.

Schools. — The earliest record relating to schools
is Sept. 9, 1754, Edward Thomas, clerk : " Voted
that the school should be kept in two places in said
precinct, viz., one place near the country road, near
Mr. Hitchcock's, and the other near Faxon's fence,
between him and Bisbe ; then the vote was called
whether they would build one school-house or more,
and it passed in the negative, and then voted the school-
house should be built by subscription, and dissolved
said meeting." The oue built at the first-named
place was probably used more than forty years, as the
record, dated 1795, shows that Dr. Hitchcock bought
the old school-house. The site of the second house
mentioned above is on the Bridgewater road, opposite
the grammar school-house, a little to the west.

In 1755 " voted the school should be kept accord-
ing to last year's vote." In July, 1761 , Elijah Cush-
ing, moderator, voted to raise iu the next year's rate
towards defraying the charge of the new " cushin,"
then voted to build one school-house in said precinct,
aud to " set the same upon the road as near the meet-
ing-house as the ground will admit of." These must

Online LibraryD. Hamilton (Duane Hamilton) HurdHistory of Plymouth County, Massachusetts : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men (Volume 2) → online text (page 78 of 118)