Samuel Dunham.

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

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the church records now extant, bearing date May 14, 1758,
relates to him ; when it was " Voted to send to assist in the


ordination of INIr. Nathan Fiske. Mr. Jedediah Foster and
Deacon Gilbert were chosen delegates." This is the first
mention made of a deacon on our existing records. lie con-
tinued in the office for half a century, resigning October 14,
1767, one hundred years ago almost to a day. He died June
12, 1779, aged ninety. He was undoubtedly the man who
occupied what is called " Gilbert's Fort."

Joshua Dodge, though called deacon, probably never held
that office in this church. The earliest vote of the church
that has come down to us, is dated May 12, 1758, and is
in the words following: — " Voted that Joshua Dodge, a mem-
ber of y^ church of England, shall have y*' privilege of occa-
sional communion." Thirteen years later, in 1771, by special
permission, he was also allowed " to act with y^ church in y'^
choice of a minister," he having "promised that he would be
at proportionable charges with the people." He died April
23, 1793, at the age of ninety-two.

Deacon Joseph Jennings is mentioned as early as 1721. On
December 14 of that year the town voted that he " have a
pue next to Deacon Henry Gilbert's."

Deacon Comfort Barnes died January 17, 1748, aged forty-
two years.

Deacon John Cutler. The date of his election to the office
in this church cannot be determined, but his name appears.
May 28, 1752, among the twenty-six male signers of the cov-
enant at the organization of the Second Church of Christ in
Brookfield, now the First Church in North Brookfield. In
December 1753, he was chosen first deacon of that church.*

* Dr. Snell's " Historical iiml Centennial Discourses," p. 28, 29, and \\U
Appendix, (C).


lie is supposed shortly afterwards to have removed from the
town ; but when or where he died has not been ascertained.

Deacon Jededlah Foster, was born at Andover, Massachu-
setts ; was graduated at Harvard University In 1744, and
shortly after settled in Brookfield. He was elected deacon
October 18, 1759. The record of this date reads: — "At a
church meeting Jedediah Foster, Esq., was made choice of for
a deacon. Suspended his answer till y" church consented to
introduce Tate and Brady's Psalms upon trial ; then gave it in
the affirmative." Deacon Foster was not only the chief man
of his time in matters of Church and Town, but also stood in
the front rank of the men of the Commonwealth and Country.
In 1751 he was appointed Major of forces raised for the defence
of the country against the threatened invasion of the French.
He was a member of the " Provincial Congress," and, when
hostilities commenced with Great Britain, he was elevated to
the office of Colonel. In 1755, he became a member of the
Supreme Council, and afterward Judge of Probate and of the
Supreme Court. In March, 1779, in the Convention at Cam-
bridge, he was a member of the Committee chosen for the
purpose of drafting a Constitution. Through his life, he
enjoyed the confidence of the inhabitants of this Town and
County, perhaps beyond any man who ever lived here, unless
it be his own son, the Hon. Dwight Foster, who held succes-
sively and with honor the offices of High Sheriff of AVorcester
County, Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas, Mem-
ber of Congress, and United States Senator. Yonder hill
which bears his name is not more enduring than the fame
and deeds of him who lived upon it. He resigned his office
as deacon December 12, 1776, and died three years later, Oc-
tober 17, 1779, aged fifty-five. Dr. Nathan Fiske, pastor of


the Third Church in Brookfield (South Parish), preached his
funeral sermon, which was published. With great difficulty
one can now decipher upon the time-worn stone that marks his
resting-place in the Old Burying Ground, the inscription : —

" The boast of Heraldry, the pomp of Power,

" And all that Wisdom, all that AVealth e'er gave,

" Await alike the inevitable hour ;

" The Paths of Glory lead but to the Grave."

Deacon Thaddeus Cutler united with this church Novem-
ber 1, 1761, and was elected deacon March 13, 1763. On
September 20, 1767, he declined to continue longer in that
office, when thanks for past services were voted him by the
church. Scarcely more than three months after being relieved
from his official duties, he was released from earth. He died
January 2, 1768.

Deacon Othniel Gilbert became a member of this church
September 7, 1766, and was chosen deacon October 11, 1767.
In November 1788, "on account of Infirmity of Body," he re-
tired from the office, having discharged its duties twenty-one
years. He died February 6, 1795, in the sixty-eighth year of
his age.

Deacon Thomas Rich was received into this church by
letter from New Braintree In 1759, and was made deacon
October 14, 1767. Six or eight years later he removed to
Western (Warren), where he died February 16, 1803, aged

Deacon Joseph Cutler was " descended from Sir Gervase
Cutler, of Norfolkshire, England, three of whose sons, accord-
ino" to tradition, came over to this country previous to 1640,"
and was father of the late Hon. Pliny Cutler, who, for many
years, was a successful merchant in Boston, and a deacon of


the 01(1 South Church in that city, and who died in this town
August 14, of the present year. He united with this church
May 23, 1762. He was chosen deacon October 9, 1776, and
" took ye matter under consideration." He signified his ac-
ceptance of the office not till December 12, of the same year,
on the resignation of Judge Foster. " His views and habits
were of the strict Puritan stamp. All work of man and beast
upon his farm ceased on Saturday afternoon, an hour before
sunset ; the men shaved themselves and prepared for holy time
before the sun went down ; the work within doors was also
completed, even to the preparing of the food for the following
day ; and from the going down of the sun on the eve of the
Sabbath to the going down of the sun on the Sabbath day, no
work, excepting that of absolute necessity and mercy, not even
the making of a bed nor the sweeping of a room, was allowed.
The whole time was devoted to rest, and to the solemn duties
of religion. Although he lived three miles from the place of
worship, yet he was ever promptly there, with all his family,
morning and afternoon ; neither heat, nor cold, nor storm, be-
ing able to turn his steadfast steps from the sanctuary of
God." * At his own request, " on account of age, and infirm-
ity of body," he was released from the duties of his office June
20, 1809, and died August 20, 1825, aged eighty-six. Upon
his tombstone we read : —

" In God's own arms he left the breath,

AVhicli God's own Spirit gave,
His was the noblest road to death,

And his the sweetest grave."

Deacon Levi Gilbert united with this church May 28, 1775 ;
was chosen deacon December 11, 1788 ; and died in office

♦Portraits of Eminent Americans, Vol. I. pp. 327, 328.


April 5, 1816, in the sixty-sixth year of his age. The shib
that indicates the phace of his burial tells us : —

" Humble and meek a lowly path he trod,
And while he liv'd on earth, he walk'd with God;
Good without show, obliging without art,
His speech the faithful language of his heart ;
His hope was grace, and his delight was prayer,
His aim was Heaven ; O ! may we enter there."

Deacon Samuel Barnes became a member of this church
November 29, 1789, and was elected deacon June 20, 1809.
He resigned the office " on account of age and infirmity,"
November 10, 1819, and died January 27, 1833, at the ao-e
of seventy-five.

Deacon John Ross united Avith this church July 16, 1780.
He vras elected to the office of deacon June 20, 1809, and re-
linquished its duties November 27, 1828. He died October
16, 1846, aged eighty-seven.

Deacon Nathan Bucknam Ellis v^as a son of Asa Ellis, a
deacon of the church in East Medway, and Margaret Buck-
nam, a daughter of Rev. Nathan Bucknam, w^ho was pastor
of the church in East Medway for more than seventy years.
He removed to this place from East Medway and joined this
church November 4, 1792. He was chosen deacon July 3,
1816 ; and died September 6, 1819, in the fifty-sixth year of
his age. It was he who, in conjunction with others in this
parish, set up a fuUlng-mlll, and carried on a somewhat ex-
tensive business for those days, and especially excelled in the
art of coloring cloth. Whitney* in his History, published
in 1793, makes special mention of this Company. He says ;
" About five thousand yards of cloth are annually dressed at

* History of the County of Worcester, p. 79.



these works. These men have obtained the art of coloring
scarlet, which competent judges pronounce equal to any which
is imported ; an art which few in this Commonwealth have
attained unto."

Deacon John Wood united with this church December 7,
1817, and was chosen deacon November 10, 1819. He re-
signed the office March 14, 1832, and was dismissed April 7,
1833, and recommended to the First Presbyterian Church in
Geneva, New York, at that time under the pastoral care of
Rev. (now Dr.) Eliakim Phelps. In the Fall of 1835 he re-
moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, and thence, in June, 1837,
to Iosco, Livingston County, of the same state, where he was
one of the first settlers, (his son being the first) and the sec-
ond land owner in the town. The first religious meeting ever
held in Iosco was held in his house. In the Spring of 1845,
he removed to the town of Putnam in the same County, and,
in September following, imited with the church in Pinckney,
of which he was chosen deacon in August 1848, and continued
in that office until a short time before his death. He died
suddenly of heart disease March 23, 18G4. His remains sleep
by the side of those of his wife in Pinckney Church-yard.

Deacon Josiah Cary, son of Josiah and Mary (Moulton)
Cary, was received into this church August 3, 1806, and was
chosen to the office of deacon November 10, 1819. He re-
signed March 14, 1832, and in 1835, March 4, his relation
was transferred to the Presbyterian Church, Princeton, New
Jersey. In 1838, he removed to New York City, and was
a member of the family of his son, Eev. J. Addison Cary,
until the death of the latter in 1852, when he removed to
Missouri, and lived with his daughter, wife of Rev. A. V.
Schenck, until his death March 8, 1861. He died at Saint


Charles, Missouri, " in tlie full assurance of a blessed immor-
tality," aged seventy-seven.

Deacon Alfred White, son of Asa and Anna White, and a
lineal descendant in the fifth generation from Peregrine White,
was born in this town July 25, 1785 ; united with this church
May 23, 1813 ; and was chosen deacon November 10, 1819.
Although, for a number of years past, relieved from the active
duties of the office, he still occasionally officiates at the Lord's
table. He is one of the oldest surviving members of the
church, as also among the oldest citizens of the town. But,
notwithstanding his advanced age, he is an habitual attendant
upon the public worship of God's house on the Sabbath, and
is here with us to-day, not an unmoved spectator of these
commemorative services. An occasion of solemn and tender
interest, and of grateful recollections, on the 15th of Febru-
ary last, was the celebration, in the vestry of this church, of
the sixtieth anniversary of his marriage.

Deacon William Spooner was one of the fifty-one persons
who united by profession with this church December 13, 1818.
He was elected deacon November 27, 1828. He was dis-
missed April 7, 1833, to the church in Oakham, whence he
was received again July 30, 1837. In 1851 he removed to
Springfield, IVCassachusetts, where he died February 13, 1865,
in his sixty-eighth year. His remains were brought to this
town, and deposited in the cemetery here, the funeral services
beino- conducted in this church. At his o-rave we read the
simple, fitting inscription, " Tliere is sweet rest in Heaven.''^

Deacon Reuben Blair, Jr., was also among the fifty-one who,
here in these aisles, united with the church on the same Sab-
bath, December 13, 1818. He was chosen deacon January
27, 1833, and died August 2, 1859, aged seventy-four.


Deacon Jairus Abbott, was received into this church from
the church in Western (Warren), January 21, 1827, and was
chosen deacon January 27, 1833. In May 12, 1834, he was
dismissed to the Evangelical Congregational Church in the
South Parish (now Brookfield), where he died March 18,
1850, at the age of threescore and ten years.

Deacon Josiah Ilenshaw, son of Josiah and Sarah (Phipps)
Henshaw, united with this chm-ch September 29, 1816, and
was elected to the office of deacon January 27, 1833. Of an
ardent temperament, and of radical views and feelings, a warm
friend of the enslaved negro, an earnest advocate of freedom,
and impatient of delay, in the anti-slavery excitement of 1840
and onwards, he was easily led into some errors of opinion and
indiscretions of conduct, which brought him into unhappy col-
lision with the majority of the church, resulting, finally, in his
excommunication, January 26, 1843.

Deacon Baxter Ellis, son of Deacon Nathan B. and Thank-
ful (Barritt) Ellis, united with this church in August 1818,
and was chosen deacon June 16, 1845. He retired from the
active duties of the office June 5, 1851, and died October 8,
1866, in the seventy-fifth year of his age.

Deacon Jacob Dupee, son of Elias and Abigail Dupee, was
born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, November 11, 1800. He
removed to this town in 1827 ; was hopefully converted in
the revival of 1835, and united with this church May 3, of
the same year. He was chosen deacon June 16, 1845, and is
still discharging the duties of the office.

Deacon Liberty Sampson, son of Daniel and Achsah
(Snow) Sampson, united with this church by profession Jan-
uary 6, 1839, and was elected to the office June 16, 1845.
He died October 15, 1858, aged thirty-eight.


Deacon Solomon L. Barnes, son of Ezra and Lucy (Caruth)
Barnes, united with this church by letter from Wai'c (West),
May 7, 1837. In November 1854 he was chosen deacon, the
duties of which office he is still performing.

Deacon Moses Hall, son of Moses and Elizabeth Hall, was
born in Spencer, Massachusetts, November 4, 1816, and re-
moved to this town in 1840. In July 1853, he united with
this church, and was chosen deacon in November of the fol-
lowing year. On removing from the place, he resigned the
office, and his resignation was accepted April 9, 1863. He
was recommended to the Congregational Church in Wethers-
field, Connecticut, May 31, 1864, whence he was received
again May 5, 1865.*

Deacon Samuel Newell White, son of Deacon Alfred and
Sarah (Gilbert) White, united with this church May 3, 1835,
and was chosen deacon July 1, 1859. He resigned the office
February 1, 1867.

Deacon Enos Gilbert son of Bethuel and Chloe (Hill) Gil-
bert, united with this church March 3, 1839, and was elected
deacon April 21, 1865, the church, on the same day, having
previously voted to limit the term of service to five years.f
He still retains the office.


The first meeting-house in Brookfield was situated on
Foster's Hill, about half a mile south-east of the house in
which we are now assembled. It stood on the north side of
the old road to Brookfield (South Parish), about equally
distant from the house of the late Mr. Baxter Barnes, and the
one now owned by Mr. D. II. Richardson.

* He was re-elected deacon November 1, 18G7.
tThis vote was rescinded November 1, 1867.


What were the dimensions of that rude, primitive structure
we have no means of determining. It must have been built
very soon after the first settlement of the town ; for it was as
early as 1675, on that dread night of August 4th — only fifteen
years after the original grant was obtained from the General
Court, — that the meeting-house, sharing the common fate of
the town, was laid in ashes by the Indians.

Forty years passed away before another house of worship
was erected. The place in which the people met during the
thirty years that elapsed after their return from dispersion by
the savages, and before the building of the second meeting-
house, cannot now be ascertained. From their constant ex-
posure to the attack of Indians, it is conjectured that, accord-
ing to the customs of isolated settlements at that time, they
met in some fortified place. As Gilbert's Fort was in the
centre of the settlement, it seems probable that, for many
years, the inhabitants gathered there for public worship.

For a few years previous to the building of the second
meeting-house, however, it is altogether likely that they met
in a house which stood nearly opposite to the residence of the
late Mr. Baxter Barnes on Foster's Hill. A building called
the town-house stood in that place ; and, after the comple-
tion of the second meeting-house, it was given to Rev. Mr.
Cheney, on the condition that he would release the town from
that part of their contract in which they had agreed to build
him a house.

The second meeting-house stood on the same site as the first.

On the 22d of November 1715, " The inhabitants of Brook-
field agreed with the consent of y® Committee to build a meet-
ing-house wherein to carry on y® worship of God ; in form
and manner as followeth : viz. 45 foott in Length, and 35


foott in wedht ; and to put in Galery pieces so y' they may
build Galeries when they shall have ocation ; and to carry
on the building of s'^ house as far as they can conveniently
with y'^ Labour, and what shall be Required in money for
y"^ carrying of s'^ work to be liaised by a Town Kate, and
if any person or persons Refuse to Labour, Having suit-
able warning by y*" Committee Hereafter mentioned, shall
pay their proportion in jNIoney. The Inhabitants Likewise
agree to gett y® Timber this Winter." At the same meet-
ing the Committee reported that they " unanimously agree
that the inhabitants build a meeting-house wherein to at-
tend the worship of God, which shall be sett up and erected
in said place where formerly the meeting-house was built,
near old John Ayres' house-lott lying near about the centre
of the town."

January 4, 1717, a tax of thirty pounds was voted for glass
and nails for the meeting-house, and eight pounds for win-
dow cases, and other public uses. Yet, four years later, the
house seems not to have been quite completed, for under date
April 18, 1721, we find the following unique vote, showing
at least a rather doubtful solicitude for the physical comfort
of the good deacons' wives of those days : " Granted a pue to
be built on the left hand of the pul})it to be for the Deacons'
wives, s'^ wives to set in the piie during their natral life.^^

Also, on December 14, of the same year,

" Voted, That tlie select men lay out tlie land about the meeting-
house, as it is Granted upon Record.

" Voted, To build up the seats in the body of y" meeting-house with
good strong plain seats.

" Voted, To ])iiild a iniiiistry pue on y° Riglit hand of y" pulpit, to
the stairs of y** pulpit, to y'' middle stud in y'' window,

" Voted, That Henry Gilbert have a pue next to y° ministry pue.


" Voted, That Deacon Joseph Jennings have a pue next to Deacon
Henry Gilbert's.

" Voted, That he that hath a pue granted in the meeting-house do
pay to the town Treasurer forty shillings for each i^ue by the first day
of April next coming, or else to forfeit their pues; and the money so
paid in to be laid out to finish the meeting-house."

A careful regard was had, in those times, for age, and social
rank and worth, as is shown by the following action of the
town dated January 13, 1727 :

" Voted, That the Committee y' shall be chosen to seat y' meeting-
house shall have regard to age (where it is honourable), and to estate,
taking y" list y' Mr. Cheney's last Kate was made by for a rule, having
also regard to men's servicefalness in the town.

" Voted, That it shall be left to five men to seat the meeting-house.

" Voted, That Elisha Rice, Samuel Barnes, Joseph Brabrook, Thomas
Gilbert and Samuel Wheeler be of s'^ Committee to seat y^ meeting-

" Voted, That the fore seat in y" front Gallery shall be equal with
y" third seat in y" Body, and y^ fore seat in y^ side Gallery shall be
equal with y° fourth seat in y* Body of y" meeting-house."

Thus a man's wealth and standing in society were pretty
accurately indicated by the relative position of the seat which
he occupied in the house of God, where " the rich and poor
meet together ^

About forty years after the second meeting-house was built,
it would appear to have suffered violence at the hands of some
evil-minded and lawless men. For in a meeting of the town
held September 30, 1754, " The question was asked by the
moderator whether the town will effectually impour a com-
mittee to prosecute those persons who have demolished the
meeting-house In the first parish, called the old meeting-house,
in any Court, General or Executive, to final judgment and
execution," or take any other measures for the settlement of
the affair ; which received a negative vote.

The third meeting-house was built in 1T55, and stood near
the spot where we are met to-day. January 22, 1755, the
first Precint

Voted to "proceed to Build a meeting-house for Publick Worship
at the turning of the County Rode near the north-east corner of a
Plow-field belono-ina; to John Barnes, beins on the Plain in said first

" Voted, That said meeting-house be built with timber and wood.

" Voted, That the meeting-house shall be forty-five feet in length,
and thirty-five feet in width."

July 15, 1756,

" Voted, To sell the pew flour in the meeting-house to the Inhabi-
tants of s'^ Precinct, prefei-ence to be made to those Persons who pay the
largest tax, provided they will give as much as others.

" Voted, That seventeen Pews shall be made upon the flour of said
meeting-house, and No More, adjoyning to the wall of said house.

" Voted, That Abner Gilbert be appointed to take Care of the
Doors and Sweep the meeting-house, and if He except, he shall Sweep
said house twelve times a year from this time, and oftener if need
be, and that he shall receive as a reward twelve shilling at the end of
the year."

This is the first intimation of tlie existence of a sexton.
June 28, 1756—

" Voted, To build a Pulpit, Deacon's seat, and Ministerial Pew ; also
to build a body of seats having a Convenient Alley between them, and
room on the back Side for a tear of Pews between the body of seats and
the Alley before the Pews in the frunt Part of the meeting-house."

In September 3, 1759, it was

" Voted, To sell the front Gallery in the meeting-house to make into

" Voted, To Build the Gallery stairs, Lay the Gallery floors. Build
the Brestwork, and three seats in the front, and two seats in each of the
Side Galercys."

March 24, 1770, Captain Thomas Gilbert was appointed to
provide a " Gushing for the pulpit, such as he shall think


proper, and Charge the Precinct therewith." The luxury of
a cushion having been introduced into the pulpit, the next
thing was to put upon the rough interior of their sanctuary a
higher touch of art. It was voted, November 14, 1761,
" That the meeting-house shall be Lathed, Plaistered and
whitewashed at the charge of said Precinct next year."
Forty pounds were ordered to be raised for that purpose.
As yet no liquid chime of Sabbath bell had broken here the
stillness of the day of holy rest, or ever spoken its winning
" welcome to the house of prayer."

That sweet and soul-awakening sound was reserved for a
later generation. In a warrant for a meeting, to be held No-
vember 9, 1789, of "all the freeholders and other Inhabitants
qualified by law to vote in Town meetings, living within the
limits of the First Parish," there was an article, — " To see if
the Parish will grant any money for the purpose of purchas-
ing a Bell for the use of the Parish." But, at the meeting,
the matter seems to have been passed over in silence ; no
action was taken upon it.

The next year (November 1, 1790) the Parish voted to
choose a committee of five men to draw a plan for enlarging
the meeting-house. This committee subsequently reported
" that eight feet be built at each end of the meeting-house,
and built into pews, &c.;" but the report was negatived.
The opinion, doubtless, prevailed that the better policy would
be to build anew. For, two years afterwards, it was decided

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