Samuel Dunham.

An historical discourse delivered at West Brookfield, Mass. (Volume 2) online

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and forty were received on profession of faith. Two seasons
of deep and special religious interest were enjoyed, — in 1835
and 1839. But the year 1835 deserves especially to be com-
memorated as one of " the years of the right hand of the Most
High," when God poured out his Spirit mightily, and gra-
ciously turned the feet of many into the way of life. In that
one year, eighty-nine made a public profession of their faith,


and united with the church. This seems to have been a cul-
minating point in the prosperity and growth of the church.
The largest membership that the church has ever had was at
the close of the year 1835, after all the sheaves of that pre-
cious harvest had been gathered in. There were, at that time,
three hundred and eighty-one members. By frequent " times
of refreshing from the presence of the Lord " the church, for
many years, previously, had been very perceptibly increasing
in numbers, beyond all the annual losses from deaths and re-
movals. For instance, Mr. Phelps found the church in 1816
with two hundred and thirty-six members ; saw that number
swelled to three hundred and forty within three years ; and
left the church in 1826 with a membership of two hundred
and ninety, — a total gain, during his pastorate, of fifty-four.
Mr. Foot immediately took the church with two hundred aH^i
ninety members ; saw it increased within two years to three
hundred and sixty-six ; and left it in 1832 with a membership
of three hundred and forty-two,^ a gain, during his entire
pastorate, of fifty-two. Mr. Horton found the church with
three hundred and thirty-six members ; and was permitted,
in a little more than three years, to see the number rise to
three hundred and eighty-one. But from that time, notwith-
standing the revival of 1839 brought an accession of twenty-
nine members, the yearly losses more than balance the gains,
so tKat Mr. Horton left the church in 1841 with a member-
ship of three hundred and forty-five, — a total gain of only
nine, or one member for each year of his pastorate ; although
it should be said that the average yearly losses by death and
ordinary dismission, during those nine years, were very un-
usually great.

From the year 1835 onwards, the records show a gradual


decrease in the membership of the church for a period of nearly
thirty years ;* though not all of those years, by any means,
were without some cheerino; tokens of the divine blessins.
The cause of this lapse into spiritual coldness, and of this long
decline will soon appear.

Four months after the dismission of Mr. Horton, January
12, 18-12, the eighth pastor was settled, Rev. Moses Chase.
The brief period of Mr. Chase's pastorate forms a black
chapter in the history of this church, the particulars of
which it would neither be pleasant nor pi'ofitable to recall.
Suffice it to say that the troubles and distresses of that most
unhappy period grew out of the fierce antagonisms that
were engendered by the new anti-slavery movements of the
time. The conservative wing of the church, headed by a
strong-willed, disputatious, and not over discreet pastor,
arrayed against a less number of earnest, determined, and
somewhat excited radicals, will indicate, in a word, the pain-
ful attitude of affairs. The strife at first heated, soon be-
came bitter, and even violent. The church seemed almost
wholly to have forgotten her covenant with God and with
each other ; and God would appear well-nigh to have for-
saken the church.

It is unnecessary to say that the cause of religion languished
here; the heart of this people " waxed gross ;" their ears grew
" dull of hearing ;" and the Lord's chosen became " an aston-
ishment and a hissing " in the community, — until, at length, the
state of things became so intolerable that the church, fiillino-
to secure the concurrence of the pastor in the calling of a
Mutual Council, was obliged to resort to the extraordinary

* For a complete table of the annual accessions and removals, from the year
1816 to the present time (1867) see Appendix, Note III.


measure of an Ex-parte Council, by whose advice Mr. Chase
was dismissed October 28, 1843, after a dreary pastorate of
twenty-one and a half tempestuous months.

Although since those unpropitious years, God, in great
mercy, has revisited his people, and sent u[)on them repeat-
edly the refreshing showers of his grace, yet, of the deplor-
able evils entailed upon the church by the hot haste and rash
measures of that stormy period, some unwelcome traces are
visible to this day, after the lapse of a quarter of a century.

But while we remember with unfeigned grief, the sore
misfortunes which then befell the church. It affords us great
gratification, and is an occasion of devout thankfulness to God,
that previous to that time, through the long succession of one
hundred and twenty-five years, the church had enjoyed almost
an unbroken peace. To an unusual degree, this church and
community had borne the character of a united, happy, and
prosperous people. Dr. Phelps, alluding to the time when he
entered upon his ministry here, says : — " The church and par-
ish had long been distinguished for the peace, quiet, and harmo-
ny which had existed among themselves. It was often said to
me, by ministers and others, that they regarded West Brook-
field as the best congregation In the country. They were pro-
verbially a ministerial people ; and I found them so during the
whole of my residence among them." Let us hope that such
is to be our record in the years and generations to come.

For a short time after Mr. Chase's dismission, he minis-
tered to a portion of the church and congregation who wor-
shiped in what was called Mr. Lamson's Hall. But, in less
than a year, we find the church again united In harmonious
action with reference to the settlement of another minister.

As regards the personal history of Mr. Chase, I have ut-


terly failed to obtain any satisfactory information. Whence he
came, where he was educated, whither he went, and whether
or not he now survives, has not been definitely ascertained.
He is believed, however, still to be living with his family at
Plattsburgh, New York.

The ninth pastor was Rev. Leonard S. Parker. He was
born December 6, 1812, at Dunbarton, New Hampshire;
fitted for college at the Boston Latin School, and entered
Dartmouth College in 18B2 ; but, on account of ill health, left
before the time of graduation. In both of these institutions,
as a scholar he ranked first in his class. He studied four
years at Oberlin Collegiate Institute; was approbated to
preach by the Lorain County Association, Ohio, in 1837,
and was ordained as an Evangelist at Fitchville, Ohio, De-
cember IG, of the same year. He was installed first pastor
of the Congregational Church in Mansfield, Ohio, September
9,1838, where he continued a little more than two years.
December 28, 1840, he was installed pastor of High Street
Church, Providence, Rhode Island and was dismissed by
reason of failure of health, October 9, 1843. He was in-
stalled pastor of this church December 19, 1844. The public
exercises were as follows : —

Invocation and reading of the Scriptures by Rev. (now Dr.)
Nahum Gale of the East Congregational Church, AVare ;
sermon by Rev. Thomas Snell, D. D. of North Brookfield ;
installing prayer by Rev. John Fiske, D. D. of New Brain-
tree ; charge to the pastor by Rev. D. R. Austin of Sturbridge ;
right hand of fellowship by Rev. Lyman Whiting of Brook-
field (South Parish) ; address to the people by Rev. Levi
Packard of Spencer; and concluding prayer by Rev. James
Kimball of Oakham.


Mr. Parker's ministry here was begun under the most
trying and discouraging circumstances. He found both
the church and the society rent in twain on the subject
of slavery, and the whole community in a pitiable state
of agitation. Among his first acts as pastor was tlic in-
troduction of a series of resolutions upon slavery, condemn-
ing in the strongest terms that system of oppression as
" a flagrant sin in the sight of God, and an enormous injury
to man." These resolutions were adopted by the church,
January 16, 1845.

But the fires of passion could not in a moment be stayed.
It was a time of " strong delusion " in this whole region of
country. Under the cloak of zeal against the system of slav-
ery, a fierce attack was made in many quarters upon the sa-
cred institutions of religion. Conventions professedly called
in the interests of anti-slavery, partook largely of the char-
acter of anti- Christian conventions. The Bible was sub-
jected to an unfair criticism ; the sanctity of the Sabbath
called in question ; the Church grossly slandered, and the
Ministry maligned.

It was in this, as in too many churches of the Common-
wealth, a time of great spiritual dearth. From July 7, 1889,
to November 1, 1846, a period of more than seven years, in-
cluding the last two years of the ministry of Mr. Horton, the
whole of the ministry of Mr. Chase, and nearly the first two
years of the ministry of Mr. Parker, there was not one addition
to the church by profession. No other such period can be
shown in our entire history ; no time half so dark, distressing
and mournful for the cause of Christ and the prosperity of
Zion. But, thanks to Sovereign Grace under the gentle and
discreet administration of Mr. Parker rancor of feeling was


greatly subdued, and happier days began to break upon this
sadly divided and sorely afflicted people.

In the latter part of 1846, four persons made a profession of
their faith, and joined the church. In 1848 there came a
refreshing which must have been truly delightful after the
barrenness of the preceding years, and nineteen were gathered
into the church as the fruit. The total accession to the church,
during Mr. Parker's pastorate, was sixty-eight, of whom
twenty-seven were admitted on profession. He was dismissed
April 7, 1851, having held the pastoral office a little more
than six years.

He was installed pastor of the Winter Street church, Hav-
erhill, June 1, 1853 ; and was dismissed March 26, 1860.
The following year, February 20, he was installed over the
First Church in Derry, New Hampshire, where he yet re-

The publications of Mr. Parker, aside from stated corres-
pondence for the weekly religious press, are ; " Thoughts
on Temperance," Providence, 1841 ; " A Farewell Sermon,"
Providence, 1843 ; " A Plea for Missions," West Brookfield, •
1846 ; "A Good Name " — two Discourses addressed to the
Young Men of West Brookfield, 1848 ; and " A Sermon on
the day of the Annual State Fast," Derry, 1865.

The church remained without a pastor for about a year
and a half, when the tenth pastor, Eev. Swift Byington, suc-
ceeded to the office. He was ordained and installed here
November 17, 1852. The council was composed of messengers
from the churches in New Braintree, North Brookfield, Brook-
field, Warren, Ware Village, Spencer, Oakham, Old South
Church, Reading, and Pine Street Church, Boston ; also Rev.
Messrs. Gilbert and Grannis of West Brookfield.

The ordination services were as follows : — Invocation and
reading of the Scriptures by Eev. T. G. Col ton of Ware
Village ; prayer by l\ev. John Fiske, D. D. of New Braintree ;
sermon by Rev. (now Dr.) Henry M. Dexter of Boston ;
ordaining prayer by Rev. Levi Packard of Spencer; charge
to the pastor by Rev. Lyman Whiting of Reading ; right
hand of felloAvship by Rev. C. Gushing, colleague pastor
North Brookfield ; address to the people by Rev. Thomas
Snell, D. D. of North Brookfield ; and concluding prayer by
Rev. James Kimball of Oakham.

Mr. Byington was born in Bristol, Connecticut, February
4, 1824 ; studied at East Hartford, Connecticut, Philadelphia
and Providence, Pennsylvania, as a boy ; fitted for colleo-e
with Rev. Merrill Richardson, now of AVorcester ; and was
graduated at Yale College in 1847. His Theological studies
were pursued at New Haven and Andover ; and he received
his license to preach at East Haddam, Connecticut, in 1849.
Although his whole ministry here was, he says, " an effort
not to reap, but to sow deeply good seed," yet it pleased the
Lord of the harvest to permit him to see at least some of the
fruits of his own faithful labors. At two different seasons,
particularly, there were cheering indications of the Spirit's
presence and power, when God crowned his efforts with suc-
cess, and gave him souls for his hire. In 1854 fifteen, and in
1858, — the last year of his ministry, — seventeen, were added
to the church on profession of faith ; and, during the six
years in which he ministered to this people, the church re-
ceived an aggregate of seventy members, forty-six of whom
united by profession. At his own request, the pastoral
relation was dissolved November 1, 1858. After leavino-
this place, he preached in North ambridge six months,


three years in North Woburn, and served one year as
acting colleague pastor with Dr. Blagden, of the Old South
Church, Boston. In 1864, July 6, he was installed pastor
of the Congregational Church in Stoneham, where he still
continues to labor.

Within eight months from the dismission of Mr. By-
ington, the eleventh pastor, Rev. Christopher M. Cordley,
was settled. He was born in Oxford, England, January
2, 1821 ; removed at an early age to Nottingham, and,
when about twelve years old, emigrated with his parents
to this country, while employed as clerk of a store in Ann
Arbor, Michigan, he prepared himself, wdth little help from
others, for Western Reserve College, Hudson, Ohio, at
which institution he was graduated in 1844 wdth the high-
est honors of his class. Having devoted the next three
years to the study of theology at New Haven and An-
dover, he spent the winter of 1847 and 1848 in preaching
at Montreal, Canada. In August 1849 he was ordained in
Hopkinton, New Hampshire, and was called from the pas-
torate of that church to West Randolph, Massachusetts,
where he was installed in March, 1852, and whence he was
dismissed in November, 1858. He was installed pastor of
this church June 28, 1859.

The services of the installation were as follows : Invoca-
tion and reading of the Scriptures by Rev. William. H.
Beecherof North Brookfield, (Union Church) ; prayer by
Rev. A. E. P. Perkins of Ware ; sermon by Rev. R. S.
Storrs, D. D. of Braintree ; installing praj^er by Rev.
Martin Tupper of llardwick; charge to the pastor by
Rev. Joseph Vaill, D. J), of Palmer; right hand of fellow-
ship by Rev. C. Cashing of North Brookfield; address to


the people by Rev. Swift Byington, former pastor; con-
cluding prayer by Rev. S. S. Smith of Warren.

The ministry of Mr. Cordley here was brief, and not
altogether happy. He retired from the pastoral office,
June 23, 1862, three years, wanting five days, from the
day of his installation, during which time there were
THIRTY-EIGHT accessious to the church, of whom eight only
were admitted upon profession. But, during his short
pastorate, Mr. Cordley rendered the church an exceed-
ingly important service. By untiring patience and untold
labor, such as none but a man of his energy would ever
have consented to endure, and with characteristic accuracy
and ingenuity, he prepared and published a complete cat-
alogue of the members of this church, with an alphabet-
ical index, from the year 1758 to 1861, embraciug the
entire period concerning which we have anything that
can be called records.

By the aid of this catalogue, we can easily find out the
fall name of almost every person who has united with this
church, whether by profession or by letter, during the last
hundred years; when and whence each was received, and
when and how dismissed, together with dates of marriages
and deaths. Considering the meagreness of our early rec-
ords, the work thus accomplished is a marvel. It is
something which not one man in ten thousand would ever
have undertaken, or, if they had undertaken, would ever
have completed. It will long stand a witness of his per-
severing industry. It has proved of essential service in
the preparation of the present discourse ; and it is not too
much to sa}' that by the production of that catalogue Mr.
Cordley conferred upon the church a lasting benefit, for


which his name deserves to be had in perpetual remem-
brance by successive generations.

From this place he went to Lawrence,- Massachusetts,
and was installed pastor of the Central Church in that city
in October, 1862 ; where, after a protracted and painful
illness, he died June 26, 1866, aged forty-five years. Mr.
Cordley was a man of exceeding independence of mind,
of inflexible firmness, and of great daring. By his breth-
ren in the ministry he was highly esteemed as an able
and faithful minister, an accomplished scholar, an earnest
Christian, and a man of rare personal worth.

From a manuscript biographical sketch and obituary,
prepared by Professor Park of Andover, soon after Mr.
Cordley's decease, and to which I am indebted for most
of the facts already presented in relation to his personal
history, I take the following extract having reference to
the last sickness of our departed brother: — "In the prog-
ress of his disease, his trust in his Redeemer remained
unfaltering, and he moved forward like a brave soldier
with the assurance that the last enemy that shall be de-
stroyed is death. His mind was often wandering, but the
name of Jesus would call it back to its old paths. In his
delirium he would be sometimes agitated, but the voice of
prayer would soothe him into rest ; and when the halls of
his reason seemed to be left vacant, one of the sweet songs
of Zion would call his reason back to its deserted home."

The present pastor was graduated at Yale College in
1860 ; studied theology two years at Union Seminary,
New York, and a third year at Andover, where he was
graduated in 1863. On the 12th, of April of that year, —
four months previous to graduation, — he commenced to


preach in this pulpit, and from that time, for nearly a year
and a half, continued to act as stated supply till the day
of his ordination as pastor October 4, 1864, a call having
been extended the previous March. The council was or-
ganized by the choice of Rev. C. Gushing, moderator,
and Rev. J. Coit, scribe. The public services of ordination
were as follows : — Invocation by Rev. John H. Gurney of
E"ew Braintree ; reading of the Scriptures by Rev. E. L.
Jaggar of Warren ; prayer by Rev. F. IST. Peloubet of
Oakham ; sermon by Rev. E. C. Jones of Southington,
Connecticut ; ordaining prayer by Rev. L. S. Parker of
Derry, New Hampshire ; charge to the pastor by Rev.
Luther Keene of N"orth Brookfield; right hand of fellow-
ship by Rev. Joshua Coit of Brookfield ; address to the
people by Rev. Swift Byington of Stoneham ; and con-
cluding prayer by Rev. Francis Horton of Barrington,
Rhode Island.

These last years have been crowned with God's good-
ness in a peculiar manner, and have been freighted with
most precious blessings to the church. As already intima-
ted, for nearly thirty years previous to 1864, the member-
ship of the church steadily diminished. Although within
that time, there were, as we have seen, several happy sea-
sons of spiritual quickening, yet those revivals were not
of sufficient extent and power to repair the ordinary yearly
waste from removals and deaths; so that on January 1,
1864, the church had become reduced to two hundred and
twenty-nine members. By the decease and dismission of
several, and by the erasure of some twenty-five names of
persons who had been many years absent and unreported,

this number was still further reduced to one hundred and


ninety-one, which was the membership of the church when
the present pastor was ordained.*

In the winter of 1863 and 1864 God kindly poured out
His spirit in gentle and delightful showers, which con-
tinued to be distilled upon us through the succeeding
spriug, and into the summer, so that on the first Sabbath
in ^November 1864, at the first communion after his ordi-
nation, and the first time he ever officiated at the Lord's
table, the pastor had the undeserved privilege of welcom-
ing twentii-jive persons, — mostly young, — to the sacra-
mental cup and loaf, and the happy fellowship of believers.
As the fruit of that revival, or of the interest awakened
and continued by it, eighteen more were subsequently re-
ceived, making in all forty-three. But the revival of the
present year is especially worthy of record. A short time
previous to the Week of Prayer, — the first week in Jan-
uary — there were some signs of increasing fervor and ex-
pectancy on the part of the church. The Week of Prayer
was observed by holding meetings in rotation in the several
districts of the town, at each of which a number of breth-
ren from the other districts, with the pastor, were present.
By these meetings, and the accompanying personal efforts,
the religious interest was quite sensibly increased, and the
attention of a few impenitent persons arrested. This in-
terest continued very gradually to deepen and extend with
most happy results, until the middle of March, when the
revival was greatly promoted by a l*rotracted Meeting
commencing on Wednesday, March 13, and continuing
three days, during which the pastor received efficient co-

*See Appendix, Note IV.

operation and aid from his brethren in the ministry from
neighboring towns.

This meeting was followed, on the succeeding Saturday
and Sunday, by the earnest and judicious labors of Rev.
I. P. Langworthy of Chelsea ; who also assisted the pastor
on one subsequent Sabbath. By the signal blessing of
God upon the direct, pungent preaching, upon the frequent
prayer meetings, inquiry meetings, and extraordinary per-
sonal efforts, of that memorable week, many became
anxious for the salvation of their souls, and not a few
found peace at the cross. From that time onward, for
many gracious weeks, the spirit of God moved upon this
people with a mighty energy. Great fear came on many,
and among them some who had long rebelled against God,
and had even denied the truths of revelation. Religion
was the almost universal topic of conversation ; and this
whole community felt the pulse of a quickened life.

As the rich fruit of this work of grace sixty-three per-
sons, of an average age of thirty-four years, have already
connected themselves with the church by profession. Of
\\iQQQ fifty -one were received on the first Sabbath in July —
a day long to be remembered, — thirty-five are heads of
families, nine of whom are above sixty years of age, and
one is more than seventy years.

The whole number received into the church durino- the
three years of the present pastorate is one hundred and
THIRTY-TWO, of whom one hundred and six were on pro-
fession of faith. The membership of the church, at this
time, is three hundred and tico. The oldest surviving mem-
ber is ninety-four years old, the youngest, twelve.

Respecting the whole number who have belonged to the


church from its first existence, of those who were received
during the first forty years of our history, only forty-seven
names have been saved from oblivion. Since the year
1758, there have been admitted one thousand two hundred
and ninety-eight different persons, making a total cata-
logue at the present time, of one thoiu^and three hundred
and forty-jive names. Of this number, so near as can be
determined, not more than six hundred and fifty are
living to-day. More than half have already passed on
into eternity.


Deacon Henry Gilbert stands at the head of the list. He
is supposed to have been a descendant of Sir Humphrey
Gilbert, who was an English navigator, and half-brother of
Sir AV alter Raleigh, born in Dartmouth in 1539, and some-
times called the "father of western colonization." He was,
undoubtedly, the first man who received the office of deacon
in this church. By special vote passed December 14, 1721, he
was privileged to occupy, in the then new meeting-house, " a
pue next to y^ ministry pue." He was probably among the
pioneer settlers of Brookfiekl, and was evidently one of the
foremost merr of the place in his day ; for we find him often
associated with Hon. Jedediah Foster as a leader in the more
important measures of Town and Church at that early period.
He died August 17, 1740.

Deacon John Gilbert, son of Deacon Henry Gilbert, ap-
pears also to have held the office from the first year of the
existence of the church. The second vote that appears upon

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Online LibrarySamuel DunhamAn historical discourse delivered at West Brookfield, Mass. (Volume 2) → online text (page 3 of 9)