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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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 95 of 118)
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Mr. Chauncey may be said to have been favored and
sustained by the Plymouth Churches and pastors, and
Mr. Vassall by those of Massachusetts. For obvious
reasons, the ministers would have liked to sustain
oue of their own order, but Mr. Chauncey's absurd
literalism in insisting upon celebratiug the Lord's

Supper every Lord's Day, aud only in the evening,
did uot please them, and his views upon baptism, im-
mersing both adults and infants, was contrary to cur-
rently-received opinions. His rash and violent accu-
sations against his opponeuts were answered in such
a masterly manner by Mr. Vassall that the latter
" plucked the rose of safety from the nettle of danger."

Mr. Vassall and his party appear to have won at
last a substantial victory. Though admonished to
desist from their purpose by the Plymouth and other
churches, they went inflexibly forward, and Sept. 2,
1645, installed Rev. William Witherell as their pastor.
Though Mr. Vassall went to England in 1648, and
seems not to have returned, and though overtures for
reconciliation were made by Mr. Witherell and mem-
bers of his church from time to time, and though
there is evidence that Mr. Chauncey's feelings had
softened, no full fellowship between these two churches
was secured while Mr. Chauncey remained in Scituate.
The following is Mr. Deaue's account in part of the
reconciliation :

"In the autumn of 1654, Mr. Chauncey retired
from Scituate, and we find no further traces of these
ecclesiastical troubles until 1674, when we find on a
record a formal reconciliation, as follows :

" To the Reo. Elders and brethren of our iteitjhbor cfntrch of
Christ in Scituate grace, mercy, and pence Le multiplied.
"Scitiutb, April 1, Ki75.
"Rev. and beloved in oun Lord and Saviour,

" We received a letter from you tinted Feb. IS, 1074, — a vary
loving and christian expression of your minds, inclined to re-
move any just grounds of oilenco given in a former letter, and
to desire love and fellowship with us in the holy thing.-* of God,
according to the will and mind of Christ, — -which we have
perused and considered, with thankfulness to God and duo
respect unto yourselves, and accepted as a pledge of future
mercy from God both to yoursolvos and to us; and wo do
horcby certify you that we are thereby fully sntistiod, and do
willingly and gladly lay aside all former offences taken up or
ancieut disagreements and differences betwixt us; we desire
God to forgive you and us whatsoever may have been displeas-
ing to him. And in that you desire fellowship with us in the
gospel, that we may have communion one with another as the
churches of Christ, we do cordially embrace your motion., etc.
"Nicholas Baker,] in the name and with

'Tuomas Clap,
'Joun Damon, )

the consent of the

" Thus happily terminated an ecclesiastical contro-
versy of thirty-three years."

Mr. Chauncey became dissatisfied with his position
in Scituate, and having received a call to return to
his former people in Ware, went with his family to
Boston to take passage for England. Here he was
providentially intercepted by the overseers of Harvard
College, who offered him the presidency of that insti-
tution, a position for which his great learning, studi-



ous character, love of hard work, and former expcri- ,
enee as professor in an English college admirably
fitted him. He accepted, and entered upon a course
of distinguished usefulness. Hedied Feb. 19, 1671, at
the age of eighty-one. The preacher of his funeral
sermon, in alluding to his hasty temper, said, " The
mention thereof is to be wrapped up in Elijah's
mantle." Much trouble as it may cause the owners j
thereof, the men of hasty tempers have always been i
the most largely useful in the world. They are in
earnest. Mr. Chauncey was as dogmatic and per- j
sistent while in Scituate in insisting upon immersiou
in baptism, as if he had discovered the Teschendorf I
manuscript, with its statement that converts were
plunged in the water, aud yet when he accepted the ]
presidency of Harvard College he promised to say
no more about immersion, aud faithfully kept his
word during his seventeen years there, and after he
left it the church at Scituate also aud forever gave up
the practice of immersion. Such fierce controversy
over matters which the parties thereto finally confess
by word and act to be immaterial, tends to inspire
doubt in the whole system of revealed religion. The
mind involuntarily asks what is essential truth, and
denials and doubts are largely chargeable to the
church. Dogmatist or doubter, which is right, after
all ? No one knows or can know till " colduess
wraps this suffering clay," and then the knowledge is

Mr. Timothy Hatherly was a very liberal member
of this church, and its great benefactor. He gave it
large grants of land, the sales of which subsequently
established a handsome fund for the society. Mr.
Deane thinks the first meeting-house was built before
1633, and before Mr. Lothrop arrived. Into this
error he was evidently led by the way in which the
meeting-house was mentioned in laying out of lots iu
1633. It was meant probably a lot on which to
erect one. It is not reasonable to suppose they would
erect such a building almost before their own houses
were built, and when any one of their houses would
hold the few worshipers who assembled together on
the Sabbath. But the proof is positive that the
meeting-house was built in 1636. Rev. John Lo-
throp seems to have left behind him a mauuscript in
which he gives an account of the houses erected
during the first years of his ministry, aud says, uuder
the heading of 1036, that the meeting-house was
erected " Aug. ye 2d & 3d days," and again " Exer-
cised in November 10 & 11, 163G," from which it
might reasonably be claimed that the " erected" means
began to be built in August, and that in November
it was occupied for preaching, " exercised in." This

house seems to have afforded accommodation for the
church for nearly fifty yeare. In it the Rev. Messrs.
Lothrop, Chauncey, Dunster, aud Baker officiated.

Rev. Henry Dunster, who came to America in
1G40, was a ripe scholar and an amiable and devout
man. He was the first president of Harvard College,
serving in that capacity from Aug. 27, 164U, to Oc-
tober, 1G54, when he resigned, exchanging places
with Mr. Chauncey. Mr. Dunster has been unjustly
represented as persecuting the Quakers. This is a
mistake, and what Gen. James Cudworth has left on
record is sufficient to disprove the statement. The
Scituate churches and their pastors were conspicuous,
in fact, as standing alone in their opposition to the
persecution of this troublesome sect. Mr. Dunster
preached to the church at Scituate from 1654 to some-
time in 1659, when he died. It is remarkable that
the first two presidents of Harvard College, Mr.
Dunster and Mr. Chauncey, should both be ministers
at Scituate.

The pastors of this church up to this period of
time had been remarkable for their learning. Their
successor, Rev. Nicholas Baker, being spoken of by
Cotton Mather as a man who " had but a private edu-
cation," or we may infer, perhaps, he was not so learned
as his predecessors, yet his piety, prudence, good
sense, aud zeal were so conspicuous that his ministry
of eighteen years — from 16G0 to 1G78 — was a most
creditable one to himself and a decided blessing to the
church. During that period the sore trials of the
Indian war occurred. During his ministry, also, re-
turn to the practice of infant baptism by sprinkling
occurred, and he also aided to bring about the recon-
ciliation with the South Church in Scituate. After
Mr. Baker's death an attempt was made and repeated
to unite the two churches aud erect a new moetiug-
house on Woodworth Hill, but the project failed ; aud
shortly after his death, probably as early as 1G82, a
new meeting-house was erected on the old site. For
several years subsequent to the death of Mr. Baker
this church would seem to have been without a settled

In 1G91, Rev. Jeremiah Cushing was installed as
pastor, on a salary of sixty pounds per annum. His
predecessors in this ministry had all been uatives of
Englaud. Ho was born in Hingham. Little is re-
corded of his ministry, though it lasted fourteen
years, and until he died, Marcli 22, 1705.

Rev. Nathaniel Pitcher, a native of Dorchester,
succeeded Mr. Cushing in 1707, aud contiuued there
uutil he died, Sept. 27, 1723, only thirty-eight years
of age. He appears to have been a popular and tal-
ented preacher, loving peace, — and " blessed are the



peacemakers." His relations with tho other church
and its pastor, Mr. Eells, were particularly cordial
and friendly. During his ministry, and about the
year 1709, after much controversy, a new meeting-
house was erected on the old site.

In December, 1724, Rev. Sheerjashub Bourn was
installed pastor. His ministry was a most acceptable
one, but he was compelled by impaired health to re-
sign in August, 17Cl,and died in Roxbury, Aug. 1-1,
1 7(18. During his ministry, in the year 1737, a Dew
inueting-house was erected near where the present one
stands, the people at the west end having grown
strong enough to accomplish this long-sought result.

The successor of Mr. Bourn was the Rev. Eben-
ezer Grosveuor, a native of Pomfret, Conn., and was
ordained April, 1763. His ministry, which lasted
seventeen years, could scarcely be called a happy one,
but it was from no fault of his. He was a good, eveD
eloquent, preacher and a benevolent, large-hearted
gentleman. But religious controversy was bitter, and
beat about him, and the hardships and poverty of the
Revolutionary war iucreased his misfortunes. He
died iu 178S, eight years after his removal from Scit-
uate, aged only forty-niue.

For seven years after Mr. Grosvenor's resignation
the church was unable to settle a pastor. In Novem-
ber, 1787, Rev. Ebenezer Dawes was installed. His
ministry was a short and trying but successful one.
He died Sept. 29, 1701.

The Rev. Nehemiah Thomas was the next in this
succession, being ordained November, 1792. During
his ministry grew up that controversy in the churches
which resulted in the divisiou of the Cougregatioual
Churches into two branches, — the Unitarian aud the
Trinitarian. Mr. Thomas is supposed to have taken
the Unitarian view, and the majority of his parish
and a minority of his church, which was, however,
nearly equally divided, held to the same. Mr. Thomas
was a very able man, and sustained himself under cir-
cumstauces of peculiar difficulty through a long pas-
torate of thirty-nine years.

It is a remarkable fact that of all the ministers of
this parish not one has left any descendants bearing
the uame in that town. The names aud valuable
services of the ministers who have succeeded Mr.
Thomas are known to people now living, aud it will
be sufficient here to give their names and period of

Rev. Edmund Q. Sewall, who succeeded Mr.
Thomas, was installed Dec. 21, 1831, and continued
in the ministry there until March 20, 1848. Those
living who knew him cherish his memory with great
affection. Rev. Ephraim Nute, Jr., was minister of

this parish from June, 1848, to September, 1851.
Rev. Fisk Barrett accepted a call Oct. 21, 1852, and
remained until March 12, 1859. Rev. William G.
Babcock accepted a call to become minister of this
parish Aug. 23, 18G0, and resigned March 15, 1805.
Rev. William S. Hayward was their minister from
Oct. 3, 1865, to Sept. 23, 1S67. Rev. II. L. Cargill,
from April 19, 1869, to March 4, 1S70. Rev. N.
P. Gilman accepted a call Aug. 19, 1S72, aud con-
tinued iu the line of this ancient pastorate till May
31, 1875. Rev. S. L. Clark was the minister during
parts of the years 1875 and 1876. Rev. A. J. Jen-
nings was next pastor, closing his work about 1S79.
Rev. Nathaniel Seaver became pastor in 1882, and is
still discharging its duties with great success and
popularity. The old meeting-house, which was an
interesting specimen of the architecture of its day,
and dearly cherished because of its sacred associations,
was unfortunately burned in 1879. A new, elegant,
and commodious church has been siuce erected on or
near the old site, and was dedicated in May, 1881.

The South Church. — Leaviug out the considera-
tion of the mooted and fairly debatable question raised
by Mr. Vassall as to whether the church formed by
him and those who agreed with him should be called
the First or Second Church, and designating it as the
South Church, its history will now be traced.

As we have seen, the persistent efforts of Mr. Vas-
sall and his associates for recognition aud justice were
at last successful, and the South Church entered upon
orgauized existeuce, with Rev. William Witherell for
its pastor. Their first meeting-house was erected on
the southeast side of the highway, on a hill a short
distance northeast of Stony Brook. The lot was
doubtless given to the church by either James Torrey
or Thomas Robinson, who were very active and influ-
ential in the movements leading to the establishment
of this church. This meetiug-house lasted during
the entire thirty-nine years of Mr. Witherell's minis-
try, or from 1645 to 1684. As Mr. Witherell is said
to have been born in the first year of that century,
he had attained the mature age of forty-five when he
entered upon his ministry at Scituate, and continued
in active and eminently useful service uutil more than
eighty years of age. His ministry was evidently a
very successful one. That his mother was the daugh-
ter of John Rogers, the martyr, is a matter of well-
preserved and not improbable tradition.

It is stated by Mr. Deane that Mr. Witherell was
a schoolmaster in Charlestowu in 1635, aud iu Cam-
bridge in 1636 and 1637, removing to Duxbury iu
1638, where he resided until his removal to Scituate,
seveu years later.



Mr. Witherell resided iu his own house on Wilson
Hill during his life in Seituate. He was evidently
a learned man, tolerant of the opinions of others, not
allowing slight differences to interrupt or hinder Chris-
tian fellowship with real helievers, plain, practical, and
fearless in the administration of his office. He ex-
acted from his people strict attention to religious
duties, for wheu Mr. John Bryant — who was after-
wards a deacon of the church, and married Mr.
Witherell's daughter, Elizabeth — entered church late
he was thus reproved by the pastor: "Neighbor
Bryant, it is to your reproach that you have disturbed
this worship by entering late, living as you do within
a mile of this place, and especially so, since here is
Goody Barstow, who has milked seven cows, made a
cheese, aud walked five miles to this house of God iu
good season." He was a man of some literary at-
tainments, although his poetry was not such as to
give him high rank as a poet. His elegy on the
death of Governor Josiah Wiuslow, written when
the author was eighty years of age, affords good evi-
dence of his scholarship being good for his time, and
the following extract therefrom is certainly good
poetry :

".Slight grief has tears in troops, that ready staud
To dally forth, and but expect command;
Hut deep ingulfing sorrow strikes uieu dumb
As frosty winters do their joints benumb."

Mr. Deane said he was unable to trace him into
Euglaud, but it now appears that he lived in Maid-
stone, England, and was a schoolmaster, and came
over iu the " Hercules" with his wife, three children,
and oue servant. His children were Samuel, John,
Theophilus, Daniel, Mary (wife of Thomas Oldham),
Elizabeth, Sarah (wife of Israel Hobart), and Han-
nah. Descendants of his still live in the town, but
none bearing the name.

His miuistry, which began iu the midst of sharp
controversy with a neighboriug church, covered the
perilous period of the Indian wars (and during
which his people suffered much), aud was in the last
part thereof one of well-earued repose and prosperity.
It is probable that he did not preach much after
16S0, as in September of that year Rev. Thomas
Mighill was associated with him, and the church
" voted to allow £00 a year for a minister, aud £10
to our Pastor, Mr. Witherell." Mr. Mighill preached
to them, but was not ordained until Oct. 15, 1GS4,
after Mr. Witherell's death. His ministry was not a
long one, his death occurring in 1GS9, wheu his
family removed.

The experience of the North River Church with

their next pastor, Rev. Deodate Lawson, was appar-
ently a peculiar one. He was probably ordained in
1694. Of his ministry very little is known, except
the circumstances leading to the installation of his
successor. It seems that after two years of his min-
istry had elapsed he left his people, and after two
years of unexplained and evidently unjustifiable ab-
sence they obtained the advice of the churches of
Weymouth, Braintree, Newton, Hull, Milton, Dor-
chester, Dedham, and Medfield, and, in accordance
with that advice, sought out and called Rev. Na-
thaniel Eells for their minister. This eminently suc-
cessful minister was born in lb'78, graduated from
Harvard College in 1699, and was ordained as min-
ister of the North River Church June 14, 1704.
He was married, Oct. 12, 1704, to Hannah North.
" She was the aunt of Frederick, Lord North, Prime
Minister of England, during the American Revolu-
tion." From Mr. Deane, who had excellent facilities
for learning Mr. Eells' personal characteristics, aud
from other sources, it is apparent that he was a tall,
large man, of imposing appearance, aud who strongly
impressed men by the dignity of his character aud
bearing. His influence over his people was deservedly
great. While not devoid of humor his mental char-
acteristics were solid rather than brilliant, his preach-
ing useful rather than sensational. His well-poised
intellect made him always a safe leader. Possessing
the judicial capacity of carefully weighing aud cor-
rectly deciding all matters submitted to him, he nat-
urally became authority in matters of ecclesiastical
law, and his assistance was sought aud his influence
largely felt in the ecclesiastical councils of his day.
His life and ministry of eminent usefulness terminated
Aug. 25, 1750, his age beiug seventy-two.

In the early part of his miuistry was built the third
meeting-house of this church. It had even then out-
grown its old home. The Second Church, which
stood and was large enough to accommodate the
worshipers only during the short ministry of Mr.
Mighill and Mr. Lawson, was erected, about the time
of Mr. Witherell's death, ou the east side of the high-
way, a short distance northeasterly from the entrance
of the Union Bridge road. Butuuder the auspicious
ministry of Mr. Eells a larger building was needed,
aud after much difficulty and some delay iu fixing
upon and obtaining a suitable location, another west-
ward move was made. The new house of worship —
fifty feet in length and forty feet iu width — was
erected on the common lands on the hill near the
junctiou of the two roads. This was their place of
worship during the ministry of Mr. Eells, Mr. Darby,
and part of Mr. Barnes. Near the same place the



next and also the present meeting-house of this parish
was erected.

Rev. Jonathan Darby was ordained Nov. 13, 1751.
lie was a young man of great promise, and he made
himself very acceptable to his people, but he died
April 22, 1754, at the early age of twenty-eight, and
in the third year of his ministry.

On the 27th day of November, a.o. 1754, began
the long pastorate of Rev. David Barnes. His min-
istry lasted fifty-seven years, closing with his life,
April 20, 1811. Few ministers have been so fortu-
nate as Dr. Barnes. He must have been a man of
extraordinary powers of mind, which he used so well
and with such wisdom and circumspection that al-
though his ministry embraced that period of great
suffering to himself and people, the eight years of the
Revolutionary war and the fierce theological contro-
versies attendant upon the establishment of Unitarian
Churches, he passed through it all without losing iu
any degree his hold upon the affection and esteem of
his people.

When ordained, in 1754, there can be no doubt but
what he aud his people were Trinitarians and Calvin-
ists in belief, but before his ministry closed they and
he had substantially changed their faith and became
in fact, if not in name, Unitarians. This complete
and harmonious transfer of the faith of so large aud
prosperous a church could have been accomplished
under the ministry of no man who did not possess
unusual excellence of personal character and great
powers of mind.

Mr. Deane's eulogy upon him could not have been
overdrawu. Of his descendants none seem to have
resided in Scituate. He had three children, — Ra-
chel, who married Josiah Cotton, clerk of the courts
at Plymouth ; Hon. David L. Barnes, who became
judge of the United States District Court for Rhode
Island ; and Anna, who married William Jackson, of

The next pastor of this church was Rev. Samuel
Deaue, who was ordained Feb. 14, 1810, and enjoyed
a most successful pastorate of over twenty-four years,
aud until his death, in the summer of 1834. In 1831
he published a history of Scituate, which has always
been regarded as among the best works of its kiud.
It was among the first of our town histories, aud
showed an amount of hard aud discriminating work
and historical ability rarely bestowed upon works of
that kind in his day. The more it is studied the
greater the surprise at the accuracy of its state-
ments, and the amount of labor it must have involved.
Those who can trace their lineage to this old town
can never be grateful enough to Mr. Deane for having,

«s he did and when he did, preserved in such perma-
nent form the record of so much which, but for
his work then, would have eluded all search. This
pulpit, which was singularly fortunate in the number
of marked men who occupied it, was next filled by
Rev. Samuel J. May, the eminent philanthropist and
anti-slavery advocate. The power for good which he
exerted in that community was very great. His
labors in the temperance cause were wonderfully po-
tential for good and widely felt, but in that place he
so impressed the idea of total abstinence upon the
people that the influence ma}' still be recognized.
He took great interest in education, and his presence
in the school-room iu his visits as school committee
was a benediction. Few men ever possessed so fully
the power of attracting the affections of both young
and old as this good and genial pastor. On his re-
moval to Syracuse he was succeeded by Rev. Mr.
Mosely for a fevr years. The next pastor was the
Rev. Caleb Stetson, a man of a large brain and large
heart. He was a descendant of Cornet Robert Stet-
son, who, in the early days of the colony, was a pillar
both in Church and State. After a successful pas-
torate of many years, the advance of old age led him
to retire to the beautiful town of Lexington, whore he
closed his greatly useful career. His successor was
the Rev. William Fish, a learned preacher, to whom
his people are greatly attached, and whose useful pas-
torate they devoutly hope and trust may endure for
many long years to come.

The TJniversalist Society. — It might have been
reasonably expected of the South Parish that, remem-
bering its early history, it would have pursued a liberal
course towards the people of West Scituate when they
sought to form a separate organization. But the
exactly opposite course was taken.

In 17U7 South Parish voted against their request
for preaching occasionally iu their part of the town.
Meantime the people at the west end appear to have
built a house of worship, but the intolerant spirit of
the majority crops out in the following vote in 1770 :
"It was put to vote whether the Rev. Mr. Barnes
should preach in the Meeting-House, near Joshua
Jacobs, while our new huu.se is buildimj, and passed in
the negative." They would neither allow them to
form a new parish nor let Mr. Barnes preach iu that
part of the town, although at that time they were
without a meetiug-house. Iu 1771, Joshua Jacobs
and others petitioned the General Court for incorpo-
ration, but the efforts of the committee appointed by
the South Parish to oppose them were effectual. In
1792, Mr. Barnes was consulted iu reference to his
willingness to preach a part of the year at the West

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 95 of 118)