Edward Herrick Chandler.

The history of Wellesley Congregational church ... including The influence of the church in the making of New England; online

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Online LibraryEdward Herrick ChandlerThe history of Wellesley Congregational church ... including The influence of the church in the making of New England; → online text (page 1 of 18)
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The Wellesley




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Rev . Rdward Hftrrick ChandXer r Koy . 30,1908

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Wellesley Congregational Church





"The Influence of the Church in the Making of New England"



Copyright, 1898,
By Wellesley Congregational Church.



The sources of this history have been found chiefly in the
records of the West Precinct of Needham from its beginning,
and in the three volumes of church records which cover the
century. Although in some periods the record is too meager to
satisfy the historian, yet it is a cause for gratitude that all the old
books have been preserved to the present day.

In addition to these books, a considerable number of valuable
documents and important letters have been found and examined.
The biographical material relating to the pastors has been learned
almost entirely from descendants, or, in the case of the three
pastors now living, from their own writing. The memory of the
older members has been drawn upon for reminiscences, and many
calls for information have been made upon people not now in the

The pastor has been assisted by an editorial committee con-
sisting of Miss Julia A. Eastman, Mr. Franklin B. Ingraham,
Mr. Robert E. Anderson, and Mr. Benjamin H. Sanborn, each of
whom has contributed a chapter.

The miscellaneous matter in the Appendix has been compiled
with great care, every effort having been made to make it com-
plete and accurate. There are undoubtedly some mistakes and
omissions in the records which it is beyond the power of any one
now to correct. But it is believed that nothing which can be as-
certained from the records has been overlooked.

The writers hope that the book will serve to inspire a renewed
sense of enthusiasm and loyalty in all present members of the
church, and an increased friendliness and interest on the part of

E. H. C.
Welleslev, November 15, 1898.




Building the Meeting-house 13

The First Pastorate 28

Early Developments 49

The West Precinct Dissolved 68

A New Church 86

The End of the Century no

Woman's Work 121

The Sunday-school 127

The Society of Christian Endeavor 138

Celebrating the Centennial 148



Centennial Address by Rev. William Hayes Ward, D.D. . . . 153





I. The Original Deed of Site 181

II. The First Covenant 182

III. Rev. Thomas Noyes' Acceptance of Call 183

IV. First Form of Admission 185

V. The "Half-way Covenant" 186

VI. Second Form of Admission 187

VII. Maxims of Rev. Thomas Noyes 189

VIII. A Letter of Admonition 190

IX. Third Form of Admission 191

X. Form for the Baptism of Children 193

XI. Pastors of the Church 194

XII. Lists of Officers 195

XIII. Chronological List of Members 201

XIV. Alphabetical List of Members 228

XV. Table of Annual Statistics 239



Rev. Thomas Noyes 31

Rev. Joseph Washburn Sessions 50

Rev. Harvey Newcomb 57

Rev. Andrew Bigelow, D.D 71

Rev. Abijah Richardson Baker, D.D 74

Rev. George Gardner Phipps 87

Rev. Perez Dickinson Cowan 100

Rev. Lewis Wilder Hicks 117

Rev. Edward Herrick Chandler 148



The First Meeting-house, 1 774-1 835 25

(Drawn by Mr. W. L. Taylor, from descriptions.)

The Second Meeting-house, 1835-1871 79

(From a photograph.)

The Present Church Building Frontispiece

From a photograph by Mr. I. H. Farnham.)

The Chapel and Extension of 1897 I2 4

(From a photograph by Mr. I. H. Farnham.)


171 1. November 15. Needham set off from Dedham and incorpo-
rated as a town. About forty-five families.

1720. March 20. First church in Needham organized. Twenty male
members. Rev. Jonathan Townsend, pastor.

1773. October 17. Needham meeting-house burned.

1774. August 3. New meeting-house raised on the old site.

June 23. Original agreement of the inhabitants of the west
part of Needham to build a meeting-house for themselves.
Signed by eighty-three persons.

1775. March 27. Mr. Adams invited to become the settled minister.

[Mr. Adams declined.]
1778. July 6. " West Precinct " of Needham organized in accordance

with an Act of the Legislature.
1794. May 22. Agreement of twenty men to furnish the money to

build pews and finish the meeting-house.

1797. October 9. Eighteen Natick families annex themselves to the

West Parish of Needham, by exchange of land between
Needham and Natick.

1798. January 4. Final report of " those who undertook to finish the

meeting-house" (see May 22, 1794), stating that the work
was done.

September 6. Thursday. Organization of the Congregational
Church of West Needham. Ten members — seven men and
three women. Sermons by Rev. Jonathan Homer, of New-
ton, and Rev. Benjamin Caryl, of Dover. First covenant

December 25. A call extended to Mr. Jonathan Whitakcr;
$600 for settlement; ^100 and twelve cords of wood, salary.
[Mr. Whitaker declined.]

1799. July 10. First pastor, Mr. Thomas Noves, ordained and in-

stalled. Sermon by Rev. Moses Adams, of Acton.
August 16. Joseph Daniell and William Biglow chosen deacons.
August 24. First form of admission of members adopted.


1799. September 27. " Half-way covenant " adopted.
1S01. January 19. First petition to the Legislature from West Need-
ham for incorporation as a town.

1804. November 26. Final sale of pews. Total proceeds to date,


1805. May 17. Asa Kingsbury chosen deacon.

July 13. Pulpit Bible presented to the church by Mrs. Sarah

Badger, of Natick.
November 25. A hearse purchased.

1806. May 20. Meetings for the study of the Bible established.

1807. March 30. A singing school established.

1809. Tomb built in rear of the church by Mrs. Sarah Badger.

Bequeathed afterward to the Rev. Thomas Noyes.
1812. May 22. Voted to introduce the " fourth book of hymns,"
compiled by the Rev. Stephen Palmer, of Needham.
September 25. Hezekiah Fuller chosen deacon.
1816. Meeting-house shingled and repaired extensively.
1819. Unusual religious awakening, especially among the young people.
1822. November 27. Trial of Badger will case before the Supreme

1824. November 22. Voted to buy a stove.
1828. January 30. First temperance meeting.

February 21 . Second form of admission adopted with creed and

March 26. Voted "to take the Sabbath-school under the

patronage of the church/''
First manual printed.
1831. November. Four days of continued religious exercises in the

1833. July 9. Rev. Thomas Noyes dismissed by council. Accessions

during his pastorate of thirty-four years, 148 : of these 18 came

by letter and 130 by profession.
July 31. The " Church Psalmody " introduced.
Received legacy from Widow Persis Ware of $190.79 for the

purchase of communion plate.

October 2. Second pastor, Mr. Joseph Sessions, ordained and

installed. Sermon by Rev. Mr. Badger, of Andover.

1834. March 24. Voted to build a new meeting-house.

1835. January 1. Dedication of second meeting-house. Sermon by

Rev. G. W. Blagden.


1835. January 15. Sale of pews in the new meeting-house. Proceeds,

1838. December 26. Voted to procure a bass viol.

1840. February 11. First recorded benevolent contribution, $5 to the
American Sunday-School Union.

1842. May 31. Rev. Joseph W. Sessions dismissed by council.
Accessions during his pastorate of nearly nine years, seventy-
two : of these five came by letter and sixty-seven by pro-

October 6. Third pastor, Mr. Harvey Newcomb, ordained
and installed. Sermon by Rev. Sewall Harding, of Medway.
December 7. First plan of benevolences adopted.

1845. April 23. Third service on the Sabbath dropped.

1846. July 1. Rev. Harvey Newcomb dismissed by council. Ac-

cessions during his pastorate of nearly four years, sixteen :
of these ten came by letter and six by profession.

1847. February 24. Twenty-eight members dismissed to form the

Congregational Church at Grantville (now Wellesley Hills).

July 7. Fourth pastor, Rev. Andrew Bigelow, installed.
Sermon by Rev. E. N. Kirk, of Mt. Vernon Church, Boston.
" Ladies' Social Union " aids in raising funds.

1848. February 24. Thursday. Observed as a day of fasting and

prayer for colleges. First time.
1 85 1. Communion service purchased with the Ware legacy (see 1833).
1853. February 2. Rev. A. Bigelow dismissed by council. Accessions

during his pastorate of over six years, nineteen : of these five

came by letter and fourteen by profession.
Pulpit supplied by Rev. Dorus Clark.

1856. January 1. Fifth pastor, Rev. Abijah R. Baker, begins

service without installation.
Betsey Brown legacy received.
First organ purchased for $650.

1857. First use of coal.

1858. Cemetery enlarged by purchase of the west portion.

1859. Second manual printed with creed and covenant somewhat

1861 . February 27. By-laws drafted and adopted by the West Precinct
for the first time.


1861. April 10. Voted to hire a " seraphine " for the choir.
Chose Daniel Morse, deacon.

July 31. Rev. A. R. Baker terminates pastorate of seven years.
Acessions, thirty-five : of these thirteen came by letter and
twenty-two on profession.

1861-1867. During this period the church was without a pastor, the
pulpit being supplied for the greater part of the time by Rev.
O. B. Bidwell, Rev. H. A. Dickinson, Rev. Moses Winch,
Rev. H. D. Woodworth, and Rev. Elijah Kellogg.

1864. December 19. Wellesley Congregational Society formed.

1865. January 23. West Precinct transferred all its property except

the Brown Fund to the society.

1866. December 24. A call extended to Rev. G. E. Freeman, of

Neponset. [Mr. Freeman declined.]

j868. January 23. Sixth pastor, Mr. G. G. Phipps, ordained and
installed. Sermon by Rev. J. W. Wellman.
June 25. Ladies' Foreign Missionary Society organized.
September 23. Voted to purchase ''Songs of the Sanctuary."

1869. Furnace substituted for stoves.
Parsonage purchased.

April 26. Voted to build a new church. Building Committee

1870. April 4. Last meeting of the West Precinct. Brown Fund

transferred to the society.
April 26. Chose Whitman S. Winsor, deacon.

1 87 1. Land for new cemetery purchased.
Afternoon preaching service discontinued.

1872. May 14. Voted to purchase a new organ for $1,800.

July 11. 3 P.M. Dedication of the new Congregational Church,
the third building. Sermon by Rev. G. G. Phipps.

1875. April 6. Responsive Reading introduced. Books of Psalms

September. Wellesley College opened.

1876. April. A system of weekly offerings adopted.

1877. New land for a cemetery obtained by exchange of the land

purchased in 1871. The new cemetery named " Woodlawn."
May. Wellesley Y. M. C. A. organized.

1878. April 1. Rev. G. G. Phipps dismissed by council. Accessions

during his pastorate of over ten years, ninety-one : of these
forty-six came by letter and forty-five on confession of faith.


1879. March. Ladies' Home Missionary and Church Aid Society


April 9. Seventh pastor, Rev. Perez D. Cowan, installed.
Sermon by Rev. George Harris.

1880. October 13. Voted to purchase "Spiritual Songs for Social

Worship " for use in the prayer-meeting.

1881. February 23. Standing rules adopted by the church. [These

are the first church by-laws of which there is any record.]
April 6. West Needham incorporated as the town of Wellesley.
October. Church debt of $7,500 raised by subscription.

1882. January. Young Christians 1 Circle organized.

May 22. Society voted to sell Woodlawn Cemetery.

1883. October 3. Weekly meeting changed from Wednesday to Friday.

1884. May 30. Third form of admission, creed, and covenant adopted.
June 11. Ordination of George H. Burrill in the church.
June 27. Revised by-laws adopted by the church.

1885. April 20. Society voted to purchase one share in the General

Theological Library.
Piano purchased.
Third manual printed.

1886. July 24. Young Christians' Circle changed to Young People's

Society of Christian Endeavor.

1887. Front gallery built and furnished.

April 29. Voted to adopt " Laudes Domini" for use in the

1888. March 23. Six months' vacation granted to Mr. Cowan.

1889. February 15. Bequest of $750 received from George Smith for

Sunday-school gifts.

1890. February 6-10. Religious services held in the church by Rev.

B. Fay Mills and Mr. L. B. Greenwood.
June 30. Rev. P. D. Cowan dismissed by council. Accessions

during his pastorate of over eleven years, 210: of these 82

came by letter and 128 on confession of faith.
October 10. Number of deacons increased from two to four.
December 1. Pastor's salary increased from $1,200 to $2,000

without parsonage.
New organ purchased for $3,000.

1891. January. Dr. Eldridge Mix began service as acting pastor.
February 6. Church organized into a corporation. New by-


1 891. February 27. Society turned over its property to the church

and dissolved.

1892. February 4. Bishop Phillips Brooks conducted a confirmation

service of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in the Congrega-
tional Church.

March. Parsonage sold.

April 29. Act of the Legislature permitting the removal of the
graves from a portion of the cemetery and the use of the
Brown Fund to pay the expense of the same.

June 1 . Close of Dr. Mix's service as acting pastor. Added
during his term of service : by letter, nineteen ; on confession
of faith, nine ; total twenty-eight.

December 13. Eighth pastor, Rev. Lewis W. Hicks, installed.
Sermon by Rev. J. W. Cooper, d.d., of New Britain, Conn.

1893. April 14. New by-laws adopted.

1894. February. Purchased " Laudes Domini for the Prayer-meeting."
Lecture course conducted.

Offertory calendars introduced.

1895. November 15. Voted to build an extension to the church

containing parlor, classrooms, etc. Building Committee

1896. January 24. Term of office for deacons fixed at four years,

one term to expire each year.
May 26. Rev. Lewis W. Hicks dismissed by council. Ac-
cessions during his pastorate of over three years, sixty-four :
of these forty came by letter and twenty-four on confession
of faith.

1897. April 8. Ninth pastor, Rev. Edward H. Chandler, in-

stalled. Sermon by Rev. George A. Gordon, d.d., of Boston.
April. Church Extension opened for use.
September. Woman's Union organized.
October. New furnaces put into the church.

1898. January. " Our Town " started.

October 2 and 3. Celebration of the Centennial Anniversary.


The Wellesley Congregational Church.



The history of every New England church which has
lived to celebrate a centennial anniversary is, in its be-
ginnings, bound up with the history of the town in which
the church has grown. For it was not until the second
quarter of the present century was well advanced that the
legal ties which bound church and state together were
severed and the church disestablished.

During the first hundred years after the landing of the
Pilgrims there was literal church unity in New England ;
that is to say, there was practically but one type of
church, based on a commonly accepted system of belief ;
and all the people were church people, compelled by law
both to attend services and help support the preachers.
The religious motive, so dominant in the lives of those
who signed the compact in the cabin of the " Mayflower"
and those who founded the settlement in Salem, became
also supreme in the affairs of local and State government.
Throughout the seventeenth century the General Court
of Massachusetts was composed almost entirely of church
members, and during the same period church membership
was one of the necessary qualifications of a voter.

To this seventeenth century it is necessary to go to




trace the beginnings of New England church life ; and,
owing to the interrelation of town and church during that
period, town records must be consulted as well as church
records if one would know the facts. Many of the arti-
cles in the formally worded and lengthy warrants for town
meetings had to do with the care of the meeting-house
and the raising of the minister's salary. The spiritual
concerns of the church were naturally made a matter of
separate record, and cannot be learned from the votes
passed at town meetings ; but without a knowledge of
those votes it would be difficult to understand the human
surroundings in which the spiritual life became powerful.

One who is in fellowship with a church which has this
early New England ancestry may well find it an occasion
for gratitude and pardonable pride. There is a genuine
satisfaction in knowing that one's ancestors were not only
virtuous themselves, but helped to lay the foundations of a
nation which honors virtue. A pedigree which includes
many generations of God-fearing men and women, and
begins in that band of honest and courageous settlers
which first occupied New England and founded the
stanchest and noblest system of government ever known
in the world, is surely one in which a church as well as an
individual may rejoice.

The Wellesley Congregational Church has such a pedi-
gree. Before its history can be told it is desirable that
attention should be called to this lineage, which traces
back to the earliest days of New England.

On the sixth of September, 1635, the General Court of
Massachusetts ordered that " there shall be a plantation
settled about two miles above the falls of Charles River,
on the northeast side thereof, to have ground lying to it
on both sides the river, both upland and meadow, to be
laid out hereafter as the Court shall appoint." Settlers



from Watertown found their way immediately to the place
designated. In the following year nineteen of them
petitioned the Court to confirm the grant and give the
new settlement the name of " Contentment." The Court
preferred the name of Dedham, from the English home
of some of the settlers, and granted the petitioners "all
that land on the southerly and easterly side of Charles
River not formerly granted to any town or particular per-
sons," also five square miles on the other side of the
river. This large, but somewhat indefinitely bounded
territory included substantially the district now occupied
by the towns of Dedham, Needham, Wellesley, Natick,
Sherborn, Dover, Medway, Millis, Medfield, Norwood,
Walpole, Norfolk, Wrentham, Franklin, and Bellingham,
with portions of West Roxbury and Hyde Park. A gen-
eral title to this district had been secured by the General
Court from Philip, sachem of the Pokanokets, and Chicka-
tawbut, sachem of the Neponsets. Later the inhabitants
of Dedham found it desirable to settle by cash purchase
special claims made by other Indians to portions of the
same territory.

The first church in Dedham was organized in 1638, in
a meeting-house thirty-six feet long, twenty feet wide, and
twelve feet high on the side. This was the fourteenth
church organized in Massachusetts, and is the Puritan an-
cestor, two generations removed, of the West Needham
(now Wellesley) Congregational Church.

Two Indians, John Magus (or Maugus) and William
Nehoiden, made claim to portions of the territory now
occupied by the towns of Needham and Wellesley. The
people of Dedham in 1680 settled with Magus for five
pounds, and with Nehoiden for ten pounds, fifty acres of
land, and forty shillings' worth of Indian corn. Andrew
Dewing, who erected a garrison house within the town


limits of Wellesley about 1660, is thought to have been
the first settler of the region. One Benjamin Mills lo-
cated a sawmill at the Lower Falls in 1704, and the
following year was granted a license to keep a public
house. In 1709 there were enough people living in this
region to secure from the town of- Dedham a grant of
eight pounds to pay for three months' preaching.

Needham was set off from Dedham as an independent
town on the sixteenth of November, 171 1. Its name was
taken from the Needham in the mother country, situated
only a few miles from Dedham.

Within two months after incorporation the voters of
Needham had set apart eighty pounds for the building
of a meeting- house. Several years passed before the work
was accomplished and arrangements could be made to
"settle" a minister. In those days a considerable sum
was offered, when a call was given, as a " settlement."
It was the outfit money granted to a young man to
start him off in his new home and to an older man to pay
the expenses of his readjustment to new surroundings.

By the twentieth of March, 1720, the First Church of
Needham was " imbodied," with twenty male members
and the Rev. Jonathan Townsend as pastor. For over
fifty years it was the single meeting-house in the town,
and for over a century it stood unshaken in the teaching
of its Puritan ancestors. After 1820 it passed over grad-
ually into fellowship with the Unitarians.

About four o'clock in the morning of Monday, the
eighteenth of October, 1773, the Needham meeting-house
was burned to the ground. Rev. Samuel West, the pas-
tor, wrote in his journal as follows : " It was undoubtedly
set on fire by design. There had been much conversa-
tion and some warm dispute with respect to pulling
down the old, and building a new house, but there ap-



peared but little probability that it could ever be effected
in an orderly way, as some of the wealthiest people among
us were zealous for patching up the old house and making
it answer for years to come, as it had for many years
before. It is then supposable that some person who
wished for a new house, and saw no prospect of obtaining
it so long as the old house was standing, might in that
wicked and hazardous way get rid of it." The town voted
ten pounds as a reward for the discovery of the incendi-
ary, but no one was ever brought to account.

Before this event the subject of the location of the
meeting-house had been the cause of much discussion.
Those who lived in the west portion of the town felt
themselves unjustly burdened in having to go so far to
attend church services. When the necessity for building
a new house of worship became urgent by reason of what
the West-Needhamites probably regarded as a divine
interposition in their behalf, the question of location im-
mediately became of the greatest importance. An un-
usual number of town meetings were held during the
next nine months. Those in favor of a change of site
failed to convince their fellow townsmen of the justice of
their claim. They then went to the Legislature, petition-
ing to be set off as a separate parish or precinct. Mean-
while they proceeded to act without waiting for the
General Court.

On the first pages of the parchment-bound record book
of the West Precinct, still in the possession of the Welles-
ley Church, there is recorded an "agreement" which
reads as follows : —

Needham, June 23, 1774.

Whereas the Spot where the Old meeting House stood and on which

a new Meeting House is to be Erected agreeable to a Vote of the

Town, is so far Eastward from the Center, that a Considerable Num-


ber of the Inhabitants of the Weswardly Part, are at such a great
Distance therefrom, that they and their Predecessors have for a Num-
ber of Years past, been Frequently Deprived of the Inestimable Privi-
ledge of attending the Publick worship of God at said old Meeting
House, and have at all Times, ever since it was Erected, been Labour-
ing under great Difficulty and Expence in attending, by Reason of the
Extraordinary and unreasonable Travel thereto. And the Chief of
us, whose Names are hereunto Subscribed, and our Children after us
must still Labour under the Same Difficulty and Inconvenience, if the
said New Meeting House be Erected Agreeable to the Vote aforesaid

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryEdward Herrick ChandlerThe history of Wellesley Congregational church ... including The influence of the church in the making of New England; → online text (page 1 of 18)