Noah Porter.

An historical discourse delivered at the celebration of the one hundredth anniversary of the erection of the Congregational Church in Farmington, Conn., October 16, 1872 online

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Online LibraryNoah PorterAn historical discourse delivered at the celebration of the one hundredth anniversary of the erection of the Congregational Church in Farmington, Conn., October 16, 1872 → online text (page 3 of 8)
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roads over the Talcott Mountain. The Farmington capitalists were large
owners in the stock of both these roads. They did not foresee that by making it
easier for themselves to go to Hartford, they .would make it easier for their
customers to do the same.



23

who were more largely from the village. In the autumn also
was the annual " field day " for the regiment, which was sum-
moned to meet once a year on one of the immense rye fallows
that stretched out upon the Great Plains.* To these military
organizations the meeting-house was in some sense the center.
The minister was summoned yearly to offer prayer upon the
Green amid the assembled three companies and invited to
dine with the officers and those aspiring privates who chose to
indulge in the expense of a dinner for a trifling sum. Should
it rain on training day beyond endurance the meeting-house
was opened to protect- the soldiers from a drenching. These
walls have many a time reverberated to drum and fife and the
tramp of files along the aisles, while excited boys looked
down from the gallery with wonder at so strange a spectacle,
breathless with misgiving at the disturbance of their wonted
associations with the place.

Around the meeting-house were gathered representatives
of all the population on the three or four days of Election
week in the Spring, and the two days after the annual Thanks-
giving in the autumn. The Election days were usually devoted
to ball-playing, in which adults participated with the zest of
boys, and delighted to show that their youthful energy was
not extinct, and that the tales of their youthful achievements
were not mythical exaggerations. Wrestling matches, throw-
ing of quoits, and other feats, were by-plays to the principal
performances. Even the holidays and sports of the village
were under the shadow of the meeting-house and sanctioned
by its vicinity. t

Recollections and associations like these attach themselves

* The consummation of the military glory of the village was reached when it
could boast of a Major General whose staff was largely made up from its wealthy
young men. The distinguished white horse on wliich the General rode contrili-
uted not a little to the glory of the General and his staff. However sober and ^
prosaic this iiorse might seem during most of the months of .several of his last
years, lie never failed to grow young and gay as the autumnal reviews required
his services.

t We are obliged to add that the punch and toddy which were freely distributed
on these occasions were often " brewed " on the steps and at the doors of the
sTnctuary. But we are glad to be able to say that among the hundreds who
assembled on such occasions it was rare to see any one intoxicated.



24

to every village clmrcli and village green in Christendom.
These are uniformly the central gatliering places for the com-
nmnity that dwells around them. But the Puritan meet-
ing-house of a New England village, it should he remembered,
iield other relatious to the community than those of a place
of worship. These special relations we may not overlook in
commemorating one of the few of these old Puritan meeting-
houses which was erected at a time wlien these influences
were fully recognized, and in which they have continued as
long as in most of the New England towns. The Puritan
meeting-house was freely used for other assemblies than those
convened for religious worship, for the reason that the Puritan
believed so fervently in the application of Christian principles
to all the departments of life. These truths were, first and
foremost, to be applied to the inner springs of action in the
heart ; next, to the external conduct ; and last, but not least,
to the ordering of that self-governed society of freemen, the
New England town, which, in the heart of the Puritan, was
honored as an ordinance of God.

When the Puritan community built its meeting house, it
devoted it primarily to the uses of religious worship — primarily
but not exclusively, for if it could also serve the political or
the educational necessities of the community better than any
other edifice, it was freely employed for such uses. To close
the doors of the sanctuary against assemblies of this kind
was regarded by the Puritans as gross superstition, akin to
the idolatry of the altar and the priesthood.* The New Eng-

* It may abate the horror of a certain class of readers to learn that the custom
of holding parliamentary elections in the parish churches was even recently by no
means uncommon even in England. I quote from a well known author: "The
poll was to be held in the church — a not uncommon usage in country boroughs
— but which, from its rarity, struck great awe into the Kingswell folk. The church
warden was placed in the clerk's desk to receive votes." — Memoir of John Halifax,
Gentleman, chap. xxiv. A town meeting in the times of the American Re\ olution
^s thus described by John Trumbull :

High o'er the rout, on pulpit stairs,
Mid den of thieves in house of prayers,
*******

Stood forth the constable ; and i)ore
His staff, like Mercury's wand of yore.

*******

Above and near the Hermetic staff



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land town meeting, which was sagaciously recognized by De

Tocqueville as the germ from which was developed our Amer-
ican political life, was uniformly held in the meeting house.
Tliis was not merely nor mainly because the Puritans in the
early days had no other place in which to assemble, but be-
cause the work which was transacted there had the most inti-
mate relations to the kingdom of God, and because it was
transacted with the gravest dignity and in a religious spirit.
The town meeting was uniformly opened by prayer and oc-
casionally made memorable by a sermon. The first sermon
which was printed by the Rev. Dr. Porter, was delivered in
this house in 1815. Its subject was ' The Sin of Perjury, in
violating the Freeman's Oath.'

The Puritan did not honor the house of Christian worship
as such by superstitious reverence. He was careful not to
uncover his head in the week time when he entered its walls,
for the same reason that he would not bow to what was called
an altar because he deemed it a sin to worship any material
semblance or symbol. But if he did not reverence the house
as a structure, he was careful to honor it when it was used as
a place of worship. When the Lord was in His holy temple,
he never forgot that he should keep silence before Him. No
man was more careful in his attendance or more reverent in
his demeanor when God was present with His people in His
house, or when Christ had come into the midst of two or
three disciples who were assembled in His name.

It is singular that those who are most ready to charge the
Puritans with unchristian irreverence for their free use of the
meeting-house are also most forward to charge them with Ju-
daical superstition. In principle they were less Judaical
than their opponents. Both were Judaical in a degree, but
the non-ritualistic Puritans least of the two. The opponents
of the Puritans treated the church as a temple, the eucharist



The moderator's upper half
In grandeur o'er the cushion bowed
Like Sol half seen behind a cloud.
Beneath stood voters of all colors,
Whigs, Tories, orators, and brawlers.

McFingal, Canto I.



26

as a sacrifice, its administrators as priests qualified to medinte
between God and man by virtue of an apostolic succession, and
holding the keys of the kingdom of heaven through sacramen-
tal rites. The Puritans protested that the hour had already
come when men should no longer say that in Jerusalem only
men ought to worship, and that all men worship the Father
who worship Him in spirit and in truth. Concerning the state,
their opponents held that it was ordained of God in the Jew-
ish way, by hereditary descent and divine right, — symbolized
by priestly anointing. The Puritans held that as in the
churcli, so in the state, it was from the free election of its
constituent members that all its rulers proceed, and to the
the decisions of its organized assemblies alone divine authority
belong. That the iconoclastic zeal and the zealous protests
of the Puritan may not have led him to excess in the disre-
gard of consecrated places and of outward observances, I do
not contend ; but that, as between the two, the non-conformist
was the least of a Jew and a devotee of superstition, we may
fairly conclude. While both parties were Judaical in their
spirit, the Anglican was a Jewish rituajist, who clung to
forms and rites with minute ])unctiliousness ; while the
Puritan was a Jewish pro phet who boldly and sternly rebuked
everything which might take the place of spiritual worship,
and searched the heart with the severest scrutiny. Neither
had effectually learned that the Christian church has not " re-
ceived the spirit of bondage unto fear, but the spirit of adop-
tion," which is also a spirit *' of power, of love and of a
sound mind."

But whether we approve or condemn, the fact cannot be
questioned that the regular town meetings were held in this
edifice till 1830, when tlie society politely bowed out the town
by placing at its disposal the Union Hall in the Academy
building. It is worthy of notice, however, that at the first
meeting of the parish after the dedication, in December,
1772, it was voted to give the town the materials from the
old church for building a Town House on this plat. It is prob-
able that the parish was more moved in this act by its concern
for the newly finished edifice, than by any feeling of its special
sacredness. There was soon pressing and frequent occasion



27

for town meetings that were anxious and thronged ; meetings
that were grave and solemn, — in which the help of God was
required and fervently sought for. Scarcely had this house
been dedicated by this community when, after a brief respite
of some ten years from the sacrifices and exposures of wasting-
war, it was excited by those more alarming premonitions
which, in two and a half years, were followed by the contests
at Lexington and Bunker Hill. These contests were preceded
and followed by a succession of town meetings in which this
house was thronged by excited multitudes, and this green
was dotted by earnest groups and crowds, now whispering
and pointing to this and that suspected traitor, or gesticu-
lating with determined resolve. Among the resolutions that
were debated and passed the following are significant :

"At a very full meeting of the Inhabitants of the Town of Farmingtou, Legally
warned and held in said Farmington, the ISth day of June, 1774, Colonel John
Strong, Moderator :

Voted, That the act of Parliament for blocking up the Port of Boston is an In-
vasion of the Rights and Privileges of every American, and as such we are Deter-
mined to oppose the same, with all other such arbitrary and tyrannical acts in
every suitable Way and Manner, that may be adopted in Geu'^ral Congress : to
the Intent we may be instrumental in Securing and Transmitting our Eights
and Privileges Inviolate, to the Latest Posterity.

That the fate of American freedom Greatly Depends upou the Conduct of the
Inhabitants of the Town of Boston in the Present Alarming Crisis of Public af-
fairs : "We therefore entreat them by Every thing that is Dear and Sacred, to
Persevere with Unremitted Vigileuce and Resolution, till their Labour shall be
crowned with the desired Success.

That as many of tlie inhabitants of the town of Boston, must, in a short
time be redaced to the Utmost Distress, in Consequence of their Port Bill, we
deem it our indispensable Duty, by every Effectual and Proper Method, to assist
in aifording them speedy Relief.

In pursuance of which Fisher Gay, Selah Hart, Stephen Hotchkiss, Esqs., and
Messrs. Samuel Smith, Noadiah Hooker, Amos Wadsworth, Simeon Strong,
James Pcrcival, Elijah Hooker, Mathcw Cole, Jonathan Root, Josiah Cowles,
Daniel Lankton, Jonathan Andrews, Jonathan Woodruff, Aaron Day, Timo-
thy Clark, Josiah Lewis, Hezekiah Gridley, Jr., Asa Upson, Amos Barnes
Stephen Barnes, Jr., Ichabod Norton, Joseph Miller, William Woodford, Jedidiah
Norton, Jr., Gad Stanley, John Lankton, Elnathan Smith, Thos. Upson, Elisha
Booth, Samuel North, Jr., Theo. Hart, and Reson Gridley, be a committee, with
all convenient speed, to take in subscriptions : Wheat, Rye, Indian corn, and
other provisions of the Inhabitants of this Town, and to Collect and Transport
the same to the Town of Boston, there to be delivered to the Select Men of the



28

Town of Boston, to be by them Distributed at their Discretion, to those who are
incapacitated to procure a necessary subsistence in consequence of the late oppres-
sive Measures of Administration.

That Wm. Judd, Fisher Gay, Selah Hart, and Stephen Hotclikiss, Esqs.,
Messrs. John Treadwell, Asahel Wadsworth, Jonathan Koot, Sam. Smith, Icha-
bod Norton, Noadiah Hooker, and Gad Stanley, be, and they are hereby ap-
pointed a Committee to keep up a Correspondence with the Towns of this and the
neighboring Colonies, and that they forthwith transmit a copy of the votes of this
Meeting to the Committee of Correspondence for the Town of Boston, and also
cause the same to be made public.

Sept. 20, Tuesday, 1774, it was voted that the Selectmen be directed to purchase
Thirty Hundred weight of Lead to be added to the Town stock for the use of the
Town.

At the same meeting, voted, that the Selectmen be directed to procure Ten
Thousand French flints to be added to the Town Stock for the use of the
Town.

Voted, That the Selectmen be Directed to purchase thirty six barrels of
Powder, with what is already provided, to be added to the Town Stock for the
use of the Town.

On the 12th day of December, 1774, this town by their vote did approve and
adopt the doings of the Continental Congress, held at Philadelphia on the 5th day
of September last ; also, on the same day, it was voted

Whereas, upon a vote of the Town of Farmington assembled in Town Meeting
on the 12th day of December, 1774, to adopt the doing of the Continental Con-
gress, one Matthias Loaming, and Nehemiah Royce, utterly Refused to vote for
the same, we do therefore Consider them as Open Enemies to theircountry and as
such, we will, according to the Resolution of the Congress, from this Day for-
ward, withdraw all connection from them, untill they shall make Public Retrac-
tion of their Principles and Sentiments in the matters aforesaid .

On the 26th day of December it was voted, that the town would leave it to the
inspecting committee to determine every matter and thing respecting Torys dur-
ing the town's pleasure.

At a meeting of the inhabitants of the town of Farmington, held March 26th,
1777. At the Same meeting, the Rev. Sam. Newell and Timothy Pitkin, Messrs.
John Treadwell, Noah Porter, Hezekiah Wadsworth, Jonathan Root, Jehiel
Cowles, Timothy Clark, Noah Cowles, Oliver Hart, Elijah Hooker, Asa Upson,
Amos Barnes, Ichabod Norton, Tim. Thompson, Jacob Foot, Joseph Woodford,
Col. Lee, Maj. Stanley, Stephen Barnes, Jr., Simeon Hart, and Moses Deming, be
a committee to take into consideration the regulations of his Honor the Governor,
and Council of Safety, dated March 13th, 1777, and to report their opinion, etc.

This meeting was by vote adjourned for one hour and a half, and met accord-
ing to adjournment. Upon the report of Said Committee, it was voted that the
Sum of ten pounds lawful money be given by this town to every able-bodied,
effective man inhabitant or residing in this town, in addition to the several en-
couragements already given, that shall voluntarily enlist in the Continental ser-
vice in the 8th battallion, for three years, or during the present war, so far as shall
be necessary to supply our quota of 217 men ; and also the like sum often pounds
of lawful money to be given to all who have already enlisted within this town
that are recorded toward such quota, provided a number of men sufficient to sup-
ply the deficiency of our quota as aforesaid can by such encouragement be



29

obfained ; to be raised by a tax on the sales and rateable estate of the inhabitants
of said town, and to be collected as soon as may be; and when collected, to be
deposited in the treasury of sid town, to be under the direction of a commifee
appointed for that purpose, five pounds of which bounty to be paid by said com-
mittee to such persons respeciively as shall hereafter enlist themselves as aforesaid,
on their enlistment if collected, and the other five pounds to be paid to such per-
sons at the end of one year after their enlistinent, and when the quota is com-
pleted as aforesaid, the like proportion of such bounty to be paid to them that
have already enlisted.

At the same meeting, voted, A tax or rate of four pence and a quarter on the
pound on the last list, to be collected and improved agreeable to the above
vote.

And at the same meeting, voted, a rate of four pence and one farthing on the
pound on the same list agreeable to the above vote.

At the same meeting, voted, that Messrs. John Treadwell, Noah Porter, and
Solomon Whitman, be, and they are hereby appointed, a committee to draw on
the treasury of this town in favor of such soldiers as have or shall enlist into the
Continental battallions for three years, or during the present war, agreeable to
and in pursuance of, the votes of this town this day passed.

At the same meeting, voted. That Samuel Smith, Martin Bull, Capt. Tread-
well, Noah Cowles, Elijah Hooker, Jonathan Root, John Curtiss, Asahel
Barnes, Stephen Hotchkiss, Esq., Capt. Wra. Woodford, Timothy Thompson,
Elnathan Smith, John Richards, Simeon Hart, John Ward, Stephen Barnes, Jr.,
Jacob Foot, and Thomas Upson, be a committee to take care of the several
families of the soldiers that have or may enlist into the Continental army, when
they shall be propei'ly applied to, and see that they are supplied with necessaries
at the price stated for by law, without any additional cost, and that all the ad-
ditional cost be paid by the town.

At the same meeting, voted, that all such persons as shall enlist into the Con-
tinental service to fill up the 8th battallion, be freed from paying any part of the
tax or taxes granted by this meeting.

At the same meeting the following resolve was passed and voted, viz :

Resolved, That we do mutually pledge our faith and honor to each other and to
our country, that we will ourselves conscientiously observe and obey the laws of
this State for preventing oppression, and will use every measure that is proper
and effectual in our power, to see that the violators of said laws be brought to
condign punishment.

On the 22d of Sept., 1777, it was voted, that the committee be directed to pro-
vide two shirts and two pairs of stockings for each soldier belonging to the Con-
tinental army that arc enlisted for three years or during the war.

Also, voted, that the said committee be empowered to procure the articles men-
tioned in the said regulation, without being limited to any price.

At the same meeting Capt. James Stoddard and Samuel Curtiss were, by vote,
chosen constables for the present year.

In 1775 special encouragement was given to John Treadwell and Martin Bull,
in the manufacture of Saltpetre.

Sept. 16, 1777, the first record is made of the administration of the Oath of
Fidelity to the state of Connecticut, and the oath provided for freemen to a large
number of persons.



80

A similar record is made Dec. 1st, 1777, and others at subsequent dates.

The inhabitants of the town of Farmington in legal town meeting convened.
To Isaac Lee, Jr., and John Tread well, Esqs., "Representatives for said town in
the General Assembly of this state. Gentlemen having in pursuance of the rec-
ommendation of the Governor of this State taken into serious consideration the
articles of confederation and perpetual union proposed by the Honorable Con-
gress of the United States to the consideration and approbation of said States,
we are of the opinion that there is much wisdom conspicuous in many of said
articles which in many respects are highly calculated to promote the welfare and
emolument of the United States and promise the most extensive blessings to us
and posterity, it is therefore with the utmost pain that we find there is discovera-
ble in some of said articles which bear an unftivorable aspect to the New lingland
States, and this in particular, the similarity of customs, manners and senti-
ments of the nine Western states, and their opposition to the New England
States in these respects, especially as the power of transacting the most important
business is vested in nine states, gives us great apprehension that evil conse-
quences may flow to the prejudice of the New England States — the method of
appointing courts for the deciding controversies between two or more states which
will, as the case may be, entirely exclude every person that may be nominated in
the New England States ; the rule of stating the quota of men for the Conti-
nental Service in war and mode of apportioning of the public expense, we are
constrained to say are in our opinion very exceptionable though we are unwilling
to believe' that they were designed for the prejudice of this and the other New
England States ; you are therefore dii'ected to use your influence in the General
Assembly of this State by proper Avays and means that the articles of confedera-
tion may be amended and altered in the several jjarticulars above mentioned by
Congress, if such emendations can be made without manifestly endangering the
independence and liberties of the United States. The emoluments, however, of
the United States ai'e to govern you in all your deliberations upon this interest-
ing and important subject.

Voted, That the other articles of confederation are approved with the excep-
tions above taken in these instructions.

April, 1778. . Test. Sol. Whitman,

Town Clerk.

A meeting of the inhabitants of the town was held on the 30th of August,
1770, to take into consideration the unhappy circumstances of the British Colo-
nies, etc., etc., and in particular the request of the Committee of Merchants desir-
ing a meeting of the mercantile and landed interests of the several towns in this
colony to be convened at New Haven on the 13th of September.

Mr. Jonathan Eoot and Fisher Gay were chosen, and a long series of very
spirited resolutions were passed, some of which were directed against the purchase
of goods supposed to be imported in violation of the spirit of their agreement,
and the encouragement of hawkers and peddlers who might introduce such goods
without license.

That these resolutions called forth much earnest discus-
sion, and that the walls of this house resounded with exciting-
appeals and noble demonstrations we cannot doubt. Fore-



31

most among those who acted and spoke was the Colonel Gay
who had been so conspicuous in the construction of this
edifice. At the first summons from the east he raised a com-
pany at once, repaired to the scene, and afterwards became
Colonel of a regiment of the Continental Army under Wash-
ington. As the army was transferred to New York he stopped
a night or two at home, and though indisposed, would not be
moved by the appeals of his family to remain, but rejoined
his regiment and soon died in the hospital near New York.
That he was ardently patriotic and public-spirited, self-sacri-
ficing and gallant, was attested by all who knew him. Alike
ardent in counsel and foremost in every good work in this
community, whether it concerned the School, the Church, or
the State, he cheerfully risked his life for the rights of New
England and the independence of the United Colonies. Nor was
he alone. Three companies from Farmington were in action
against Burgoyne, and it is confidently asserted by one whose
recollections cannot be mistaken, that every young man from
the town, worth any consideration, was at some time or other
in the field. That some of these companies and detachments
of men were assembled in this house before they were sent
forth, and that all were paraded upon this green and com-
mended to God in prayer, is certain. The fluent and eloquently
fervid pastor of this church, Mr. Pitkin, was sent for to Sims-
bury to preach the farewell sermon to the soldiers of a com-
pany, raised just after the battle of Bunker Hill. Concern-
ing this gathering we have the words of an eye witness : " At
the hour appointed, we marched to the meeting house, where
the officers appeared in military style, with their appropriate
badges of distinction, and the soldiers in proper order, with


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Online LibraryNoah PorterAn historical discourse delivered at the celebration of the one hundredth anniversary of the erection of the Congregational Church in Farmington, Conn., October 16, 1872 → online text (page 3 of 8)