Samuel Dunham.

An historical discourse delivered at West Brookfield, Mass. (Volume 1) online

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Pastor of the Church from 1771 to 1818.

An Historical DiscoLirse




(ine Punbrrtr anb Jiftixllj g^nnibtrsarji


OCTOBEK 16, 1867.











Prefatory Note.

In tlie preparation of the following Discourse, the records of Town,
Parish, and Church, have been thorouglily explored, and every other
available source of information consulted, whether manuscript or
printed, monumental or traditionary. Many important biographical
and other items have also been obtained by means of a somewhat ex-
tensive correspondence.

With the facts, carefully sifted and compared, spread out before him,
the author has diligently aimed at impartiality of judgment, accuracy
of statement, and exactness in statistics and dates. And it is confidently
believed that what he has thus patiently sought, has, to a good degree,
been attained. S. D.

West Bkookfield, November 5, 1867.


Detxtprouoiny xxxii. "7.

Just one hundred and fifty years have passed away since
the First Church in Brookfield was founded. We are met
here within this house of God to-day to commemorate that
event. From the widely diverging paths into which our varied
preferences and pursuits have led us, we are gathered once
more around the venerable Mother to pay that tribute of re-
spect which is due to her hoary age. And it seems quite in
keeping with the object of our assembling, as being well fit-
ted to foster and deepen our reverence, and strengthen the bond
of our filial attachment, that we should together recount some
of the more important incidents of her long and honorable ca-
reer. May it not, likewise, fully accord with our own cher-
ished and sacred regard for the past, and prove a source of
fresh inspiration and incitement for the future, to " remem-
ber the days of old," and " consider the years of many gen-
erations ; " — thankfully tracing, meanwhile, the finger of God
in our history.

Scarcely had the wild Indian ceased to hunt the game of
the surrounding forests, and to catch the fish of these neigh-
boring ponds and brooks, — scarcely had the echo of his sav-
age yell died away among these hills, when a Church of Christ


was here constituted, and the glad^note of the Gospel was
sounded forth from the lips of the living preacher. It was at
that time the only church in all this region of country includ-
ing a circuit of many miles on either hand.

Of the seventy-three Congregational Churches now in
Worcester County, not one had then been formed, save the
First Church (the Old South) in what is now the City of
Worcester, and that was organized only the previous year in
1716. This Church, — a little hardy, brave band of men, fear-
less of danger, true to Puritan principles, and loyal to Christ,
stood absolutely isolated and alone, surrounded only by a broad
and desolate waste infested with wild beasts and savages.

The maintenance of the ordinances of religion in the midst
of this wilderness, remote from the centres of population, and
exposed to the barbai'ity and cruelty of the sons of the forest,
was but in harmony with the devout and heroic spirit and
conduct of the Pilgrim Fathers, and early settlers of this
Colony, who, for the sake of enjoying their liberty, and of
walking according to the faith and order of the Gospel, aban-
doned the land of their nativity for the rock-bound shores and
ruffsed soil of New Enoland.

From the first settlement of old Quaboag* in 1660, there is
reason to believe that God had been publicly worshiped here,
with the exception of about a dozen years, from 1675, when
the entire town was burned, and the inhabitants dispersed by
the Indians, to about the year 1687, when the scattered set-
tlers began again to return.

The fifteen years previous to the dispersion were years of
peace and evident prosperity ; so that the " several inhabit-
ants of Ipswich " to whom the first grant of land here was

* The name was changed to Brooklield on becoming a township in 1673.

made, had grown to a little community of twenty fiimilies,
who had been enabled to build for themselves a sanctuary In
which they might hold public worship on the Sabbath.

Indeed this original grant of the General Court in May 20th,
1660, was made only upon condition that there should be
twenty families resident here within three years, and that,
within the same time, there should be settled " an able minis-
ter," such as the Court should approve ; " and that they make
due provision in some way or other for the future ; either by
setting apart of lands, or what else shall be thought meet for
the continuance of the ministry amongst them."

From an Historical Address* by Henry A. Sykes, A. M.,
of Suffield, Connecticut, it appears that Mr. John Younglove,
the first minister of that town, " had preached at Quaboag
(Brookfield, Massachusetts,) for some time previous to Philip's
war," and that after the destruction of this settlement by the
Indians in 1675, " he went to Hadley and taught the town or
grammar school, till he was Invited to Suffield," where he com-
menced his labors sometime during the year 1679, or early in
1680, and where "he continued until his decease June 3,
1690." Of Mr. Younglove as a minister, "little is known;
he was no doubt an educated man, though It is not known
that he was a graduate of any college, his name not being
among those of the graduates of Harvard, then the only col-
lege in America."

There is also an obscure tradition, though no certain evi-
dence, of the existence of an organized church at this early
period. AVe are left much in the dark respecting that portion
of our history ; for, doubtless, the flames that were kindled

* Proceedings on the occasion of the One Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary
of the decease of the Kev. Benjamin Ruggies, at SiiflSeld, Conn., 1859, p. 43.

by the treachery of King Philip's Indians, and which de-
stroyed the town, consumed likewise its most ancient records.

From a petition of the inhabitants of Brookfield to the
Honoi'ed General Court, assembled at Boston, in November
1698, it appears that for a time previous to that date, they
were destitute of the stated ministrations of the Gospel. In
that petition* they show " That it is an intolerable burden to
continue, as we have done, without the preaching of the word."
They further say that they " are not able at pi^esent to main-
tain the worship of God;" that they " are but twelve fami-
lies " — so slow was the resettlement of the town after the war
that drove the first settlers from their chosen home — and that
they " are not of estate sufficient to give suitable encourage-
ment to a minister," though, be it said to their credit, they
were " ivilling to do to the outside of [their] abiliti/J^

In answer to their petition it was " ordered that there be
twenty pounds paid out of the public Treasury of this Prov-
ince, towards the support of an orthodox minister for one year
to commence from the time of the settlement of such minister
amongst them."

According to Mr. Foot's Historical Discourse, tradition re-
lates that Mr. Thomas James, a native of England, minister
of Charlestown, Massachusetts, and afterwards a missionary
at East Hampton, Long Island, preached the first sermon in
this town. " Previously to 1713, a Mr. Smith had been era-
ployed here as a minister." In 1715 the records show that
Mr. Daniel Elmer, a graduate of Yale College in 1713, in
a class of three, had, for a time, been carrying on the work
of the ministry, supported in part by the General Court. But
in that year he relinquished his labors here, and was succeeded
by Mr. Thomas Cheney.

* For the petition in full, see Appendix, Note I.

But it was not till the third Wednesday in October (the
16th, day) 1717, that this church was formally organized, and
Mr. Cheney solemnly ordained its first pastor. The terms
of his settlement had been agreed upon about a year and a
half before :

" Att a meeting of the Inhabitants of Brookfield, on April y« 5th, 1716 ;
Voted y Thomas Barnes be moderator for s** day. Voted that Edward
Walker, Senr., Joseph Banister, and Elisha Rice, doe further Discourse
Mr. Cheney as to his proposals in order to a settlement in s^ Place to
carry on y« work of the Ministry."

Mr. Cheney's proposals in his own handwriting were soon
obtained, while the people were yet assembled, and " were
read in town meeting," in the words following :

" Gentlemen, as to y« Demolitions of y^ House and Barn you propose
to Build for me in case I should settle amongst you, it is my mind and
desire with Respect to my House, y* y» length may be 42 foott, the wedht
20 foott ; as to y stud fourteen foott stud ; and as to y« barn, that it
may be 30 foott long, and 20 foott wide, w' a lentow [leanto] on one

This from your servant,

TnoMAS Cheney.

As to y« Glass, Nails and Iron, I will provide and procure myself so
far as is necessary to s^ House and Baru.

Thomas Cuenet."

Having considered the above proposals, —

" The Inhabitants Voted firstly. To Give Mr. Cheney for his salery,
fifty-two pounds yearly for three years, and to Rise forty shillings a year
untill it comes to seventy pounds, and there to stay.

Secondly, Voted y Mr. Cheney Have all the Land yt the Committee
Proposed to give Him.

Thirdly, Voted To Build him a House and Barn, according to y« De-
mentions yi he has given ; Mr. Cheney providing Glass, Naills, and Iron.


Fourthly, Voted to Break up, and fence, and fitt to sow Eight acres of
Land ; four acres upon the Hill ; two acres to be planted out with or-
charding this year, and four Acres To be Broke up on the plain this year,
the other two acres to be done within four years.

Fifthly, Voted to gett Mr. Cheney twenty-five cord of wood yearly his

Sixthly, Voted to give Mr. Cheney each man one day's work yearly,
for six years. His House and Barn to be built in four years ; always
Provided Mr. Cheney be our ordained Minister.

THOMAS BARNES, Moderator:'

The above was " Aproved and alowed by the Committee for Brook-
field, May y^ 16th, 1716, Provided Mr. Cheney be their settled minister
three years."

Samuel Partridge, ^

John Pynchon,

Samuel Porter,

Ebenezer Pomroy,



As to the amount of land which the Committee proposed to
give Mr. Cheney, and which was voted by the town at the
above meeting, we find the following record : —

" At a meeting of the Committee for Brookfield March 28, 1716,
the Committee taking into consideration a grant made to the first settled
minister " [that is the first minister who shoidd be settled] " made De-
cember 9, 1714 of all y* land lying in Brookfield between Mr. Willson's
and Mr. Younglove's land, the Committee did this day grant to Mr.
Thos. Cheney now minister in s

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Online LibrarySamuel DunhamAn historical discourse delivered at West Brookfield, Mass. (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 9)