William L. (William Ladd) Chaffin.

History of the town of Easton, Massachusetts (Volume 3) online

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1 State Papers, vol. xiii. p. 731.


had chosen Mr. Farrar, and the town itself had voted concur-
rence. It was not the fault of the council that the civil law
might bear hard upon some persons ; and so they voted that the
objections offered by the Presbyterians "against their Proceed-
ing in the solemn affair, were not sufficient to hinder them."
Mr. Farrar being called in gave his profession of faith ; the
council voted it satisfactory, and proceeded to ordain him.^

Even so late as this the meeting-house does not appear to
be finished. In 1754 the town voted to build and sell some
pews ; but when the ordination takes place, March 26, 1755, a
special committee is chosen " to provide seats for the council,"
So that it is evident that five years after work on the meeting-
house began, there were very few finished pews. What accom-
modations were provided for seats we can only conjecture ; but
they were probably chairs, stools, forms, and other things of a
miscellaneous character, and must have presented a motley ap-
pearance. Apparently the men and women sat apart. At least,
there is frequent reference to " the men's seats " and " the wo-
men's seats." To illustrate this, a deposition of Benjamin and
Joseph Fobes will be given ; it is copied here more especially to
illustrate the contentious and party spirit that prevailed in town-
meetings at this period. The two parties were antagonized not
only on church matters, but on nearly everything that came be-
fore them in town-meeting. There was wrangling over the elec-
tion of officers, there were charges of unfairness against the
moderator, and of injustice against assessors, etc. On March
3, 1755, not long before the ordination of Mr. Farrar, when the
excitement was at its height, the annual town-meeting was held.
It was a bitterly cold day, so cold that "by reson of the ex-
tremety of the wether they " adjourned to the house of Joseph
Drake, which was quite near. The following deposition will
illustrate what has just been stated concerning the bitterness
of this strife : —

We, Benj.' Fobes & Joseph Fobes of Lawful age, testifieth & saith,
that on march The 3, 1755, &c being at a town meeting in Easton &
hereing of Edward Hayward, Esq., as moderator, Saying, if it be your
minds That timothy Williams should be town Clerk for yeare insuing

^ State Papers, vol. xiii. p. 734.



He Desired that they would manifest it by Holding up there Hands, &
they did. The vote was Disputed, & the moderator called for ye Conte-
ry vote; & ye moderator pretended that he Could not Deside ye matter
without they that ware for Mr. Williams would move into ye mens Scats,
& they that ware against it into the womans Seats ; & then the moderator
Pretended that he could not count them, But ordered them to go out a
doors & to Draw up into two Ranks, & then he would Come and Count
them ; & then he came out & went to that part that was for Williams
to be town Clerk & Came not near the tother part, & so went into the
meeting House & Declared timothy Williams town Clerk.

Benj'^ Fobes.
^ Joseph Fobes. ^

Earlier in this controversy, matters came to such a pass that
at an annual town-meeting the Prentice party, headed by Capt.
Eliphalet Leonard, withdrew to one side of the meeting-house,
and two town-meetings were in progress at the same time, electing
two sets of officers ! This was done on a plea that the valuation
of the town assessors was incorrect, and was so managed as to
exclude certain of the Prentice party who had the right to vote.
Think of the confusion and excitement necessarily attending the
carrying on of two town-meetings at the same time in the same
room ! This matter, too, goes to the General Court in the shape
of a petition ^ presented by the minority party ; and this was
answered by a statement of Joshua Howard and John Williams,
selectmen. After setting the matter of valuation right, they go
on thus : " Now when Capt. Leonard see that he could not Regu-
late the meeting as he Plezed he withdrue ; and the town Clarke
being one of his associates was about to folio him at his Request,
but he being conserned to attend his duty (as a Clarke under
oath) did not folio the said Leonard, but tarried with us and at-
tended his duty in his office until thare was another chosen and
sworn in his rume ; and we went on to chuse our town officers in
a Regular manner, who were sworn as the Law Derects."^ This
report states that " those which joined with Capt. Leonard in
his pretended meeting was much ye minor part of ye town ; and
there was but one selectman to regulate their meeting, and they
had neither warrand or notification to go by." The whole affair
was reported upon by a committee appointed by the House of

^ State Papers, vol. xiii. p. 743. 2 i^j^j p 227. ^ Ibid pp. 231, 232.


Representatives, and the petition of Captain Leonard and his
associates was dismissed.

Occurrences of a similar character with that just noted were
not uncommon, and they show how intense and deep-seated was
the animosity which sprang merely from a difference of opinion
as to the location of the meeting-house.

The members of the church adhering to Mr. Prentice had
taken away the communion service. They were entitled to ^o
this, because they were a majority of the members, and because
also it had been, in part at least, purchased by a gift of silver
from Mr. Prentice's father. The town church therefore were at
this time in need of a service, and we shall see by the extract
now quoted that they were contented with a modest pewter one :
" Eph. Randall gave to Mr James Dean three shillings Lawful
money to purchase Sacrement Puter for the Lords Table, &c.,
in July 27th, 1755. Mr. Geo. Farrar being minister."

Mr. Farrar was, as we have seen, ordained March 26, I755-
The Presbyterians having tried in vain to discourage him from
accepting his call, and to persuade the council not to ordain him,
settled down sullenly to accept the situation. They remained
under the care of the Presbytery and had preachers sent out to
them, Mr. Prentice having moved back to Grafton. But when
the taxes became due and they were forced to pay for the sup-
port of Mr. Farrar, it was too much for them to bear without
another vigorous attempt at relief. Accordingly at the begin-
ning of the next year, 1756, "more than sixty of the Inhabitants
of Easton, by their agent Eliphalet Leonard," presented a peti-
tion to the Governor, specifying their grievances and asking for
justice. This petition recites the particulars of the controversy,
which are already familiar to the reader, and then makes a strong
statement of the injustice of forcing them to help support a
church and minister to whom they were decidedly opposed. It
reads : " Yet notwithstanding the proper distinction of the two
churches in Easton made by sd. council, our restless neighbors,
deaf to all Intreaties, continue to destrain and unjustly take away
our substance, which necessitates us to make our humble address
to your honor, ... to grant us & leave to them the undisturbed
enjiyment of those religious principles each party is in con-
science persuaded & obliged to choose ; . . . that you would


relieve us by freeing us from the charge of settling and support-
ing Mr. Farrar, or that we may be made a separate precint,"^ etc.
No one can read this petition without a feeling of sympathy for
those who, however blameworthy for being in their present situa-
tion, were certainly in this one particular victims of real, even if
legaHzed, injustice.

This petition was ordered to be served upon the Congrega-
tional Church of Easton. In their behalf their minister presents
a long, clear, and well written statement of the whole subject from
the beginning.^ The only argument it presents to answer the
charge of injustice in forcing the Presbyterians to assist in sup-
porting the town church is presented in the following words :
" The circumstances of both parties are such that neither party
is able to maintain and support the Publick worship of God sepa-
rately and by themselves ; " and the town party claim that as
they are the established Congregational Church, and are a ma-
jority, their church and minister should be supported. Perhaps
also they claim that the law is on their side. This statement
was followed by a rejoinder from the Presbyterians, which how-
ever presents nothing materially different from what has already
been noticed. The Governor and Council appointed a committee
of three men, the House of Representatives adding four more,
and they considered the petitions and all accompanying papers,
and reported thereon. This committee was composed of liberal-
minded men, and after careful consideration they presented a
report, in which they recommended that the Presbyterians should
pay their proportion of the "settlement" and salary of Mr. Farrar
then due ; and they added this excellent recommendation : —

And that all such in sd. Town who now call themselves Presbyte-
reans, upon their settling a Learned Pious Protistant Presbyterean
minister over them, & certifying under their Hands that they are of the
Presbyterian persuation, and lodging such certificate in the Secretary's
office, shall be free from paying anything afterwards towards the sup-
port of the sd. Mr. George Farrar, anything foregoing to the contrary

Sam. Watts,

For the Committee.^

Feb. 18, 1756.

1 State Papers, vol. xiii. pp. 697-700. ^ Ibid. pp. 752.



The council accepted this report. The recommendation just
quoted was ingeniously guarded. If all Presbyterians were al-
lowed exemption from the town ministerial tax, large numbers
would immediately claim to be Presbyterians, and the town
church consequently fail of its support ; it was therefore pro-
vided that they must declare their belief in Presbyterianism and
be actually supporting a minister, lodging their certificates of the
fact in the State Secretary's office, before they could claim the
desired exemption.

But nothing seems to have been settled until four months
later. The recommendation of the committee was favored by
the Council, but no action was taken upon it until June 3. At
that date we have the following : —

"In the House of Rep^ June 3, 1756. — Ordered that this Pet" &
answers accompanying the same be rivived, and that the parties be
heard by Council on the floor, which was done" accordingly. And
after a long debate —

"Ordered that the said petition be dismissed," etc.^

Thus we see that a church quarrel in a small town was deemed
of sufficient importance to employ the time of the Governor and
his Council and of the State Legislature, to be debated upon the
floor of the House in an earnest discussion, and that only "after
a long debate " was it decided ! And yet the affair was not as
trivial as it seemed to be. Underneath it lay a question of jus-
tice and equity. Should citizens holding one religious belief be
required by law to support another, against their will ? This
was a question of religious liberty, and it is to the credit of the
Easton Presbyterians that they rebelled against the injustice
which wronged both their conscience and estate, and that they
made such a vigorous attempt to secure their natural rights. It
is with extreme regret that we read that their petition was dis-
missed. Even the recommendation of the committee, that they
should be exempted from future taxes to support the town min-
ister as soon as they settled a minister of their own, does not
appear to have been adopted. The Legislature would not, by
any special act, annul the legal requirement obliging all citizens
of a town to support the town minister. Our fathers had fled to

- State Papers, vol. xiii. p. 700.


this land to secure liberty of worship unmolested _/£?r themselves ;
but they were not in a hurry to allow it to others who might differ
from them in opinion and in forms of worship. The record of
Plymouth Colony was, however, exceptionally honorable in this
regard. But the State Legislature, even in 1756, was not ready
to take the ground of perfect religious freedom ; and therefore
Eliphalet Leonard and his committee returned, and with sorrow
and indignation reported the result to their fellow-worshippers.
There was no help for it now. Blamable as they were in the
beginning, we cannot but sympathize with them when they are
sent home from this last attempt to have justice done them, and
are compelled to support a church and a minister they had come
to regard with distrust and animosity.

Early in 1756 Mr. Farrar bought land for a homestead ; it
lay a number of rods west of the place where the almshouse is
now situated, and about as far south of the street. There he set
to work to build his house, which was finished in the spring.
His farm and house were paid for largely with money which he
borrowed. His principal creditor was Isaac Medberry, to whom,
by the hand of Timothy Williams, he sent at one time a miscel-
laneous collection of moneys, as indicated in the following
curious receipt : —

Received of the Revf M' George Farrar, of Easton, Two Double
Loons, one Joanna, Thirteen Dollars, One pistorene, half a pistorene,
Four English Shillings, Two black Dogs, and Three halves, which I
promise to pay this day for the s''. Farrar to Isaac Medberry, in Scitu-
ate, in the Colony of Rhode Island.-^

(Signed) Tim';' Williams.

Easton, August ye 9"^, 1756.

Mr. Farrar worked hard finishing his house, to which he con-
ducted his bride, after their marriage, June 2. But his wedded
life was destined to be of brief duration. He went about the ist
of September to visit a sister, who was sick with a fever at her

^ The doubloon was a Spanish gold coin, worth about $16. Those coined in
1772, sixteen years later than this receipt, were valued at $15.93. The "Joanna"
was probably the Portuguese Johannes, a gold coin worth about $8. A " pistorene "
(Spanish pistareen) was a silver coin worth about seventeen cents. What piece of
money the " black dog " was the writer does not know ; it was probably a colloquial
term that may now be obsolete.


father's house, in that part of Concord which is now Lincoln.
September 6 he himself was so seriously attacked with the same
fever that he made his will that day, and eleven days afterwards,
September 17, 1756, he breathed his last. His remains were
laid away in the cemetery at Lincoln.

And now, again, the town of Easton is without a minister, and
it will be difficult to find any man who will care to face the oppo-
sition and hatred of one half the town, when, if past experience
can be trusted, he will also have to encounter the indifference
and illiberality of many of the other half. Mr. Farrar was be-
yond the reach of strife and trouble ; not so his widow and his
heirs. The town refused to make good its promises regarding
the salary and settlement of their late pastor. Vote after vote in
regard to these just payments was taken, but always in the same
monotonous negative. At last the executors of Mr. Farrar's
estate, following the examples of Mr. Prentice, Mr. Vesey, and
Mr. Vinal, sued the town. The town voted to let the suit
for the salary go by default, but to contest the claim for the
"settlement," which was ^106, 135'. %d. The executors, how-
ever, won the case ; and not only the settlement, but a large
bill of costs was wrung from the unwilling town. It was not
until 1759 that the promise of the town made in 1755 was re-
deemed. These are not pleasant facts to contemplate ; but the
writer has undertaken the task of a historian rather than of a
eulogist, and will therefore try to state facts as they are, and let
them tell their own story of praise or blame.

The young widow, Mrs. Farrar, who was under age at the
time of her husband's death, did not long remain disconsolate ;
but on February 8, 1759, she married Dr. Gideon Tiffany, of

The death of the minister does not bring peace to the con-
tending factions. The town records, both on their face and
between the lines, give evidence of what Mr. Prentice would call
"a most distressing and dying time in Easton." In January, 1757,
the town votes to raise no money and appoint no committee for
the supply of the pulpit. Religion seems to be at its lowest
ebb. In March there is a curious attempt at an adjustment
of affairs. It is proposed to try, first, a Congregational, and
then a Presbyterian minister, and then allow a majority vote to


decide which of the two shall become the settled pastor. This
proposition does not meet with acceptance ; but a vote is passed
to hire a minister to preach half the time in the town meeting-
house, and half in the other. This seems like the first real gleam
of light in the darkness. But as when, on the face of the sky, the
dark clouds part for a moment and the flash of sunlight gives
promise that the storm is over, and then suddenly heavier clouds
gather, bringing deeper darkness and a fiercer tempest, so was
it here : the attempt at peace was a disastrous failure. The
nearer the opposing parties were brought together the more in-
tense was their antagonism. No one, except in irony, would
venture to apply to the Easton people of that time the old
words, " See how these Christians love one another ! " There
are indications that the majority were rather hard with the
minority. Eliphalet Leonard and others earnestly request the
selectmen to call a town-meeting, which they unwarrantably
refuse. Whereupon Captain Leonard and twenty-two of his
associates petition Justice Godfrey to the same effect, and the
meeting is summoned by him. But when it convenes, Edward
Hayward is chosen moderator, and at one sweep all the articles
of the warrant are dismissed and the meeting adjourns. Another
meeting is held a few hours later, with Benjamin Harvey moder-
ator, but with the same fate for the proposed articles of Captain

June 19, 1758, further action looking to agreement is proposed.
A committee is chosen to devise some plan of accommodation.
Dea. Robert Randall, Dea. James Dean, and Solomon Stone are
selected. They suggest, first, that all the town shall meet in the
town meeting-house until next spring ; secondly, that this house
shall then be taken down and carried half a mile farther north,
or that the town shall pay to the north part five hundred pounds,
old tenor, if that will satisfy them ; thirdly, that the Cambridge
Platform shall be adopted ; fourthly, that a certain number of min-
isters and churches shall be convened to settle decisively all mat-
ters in controversy. These propositions met with favor, though
it is not stated which alternative in the second proposal was
adopted. It was voted to accept them, and voted also to choose
a committee to carry them into effect. Here again a gleam
of light appeared for a moment, but it immediately vanished,


leaving thicker darkness behind ; for when they attempted to ap-
point the committee, " thay could not agrea in the Chois, and
sum got very [angry], and the town Dismist ye meeting."

The conviction is now evidently deepening in the minds of
both the contending parties that all union between them is
impossible, for in August it is voted that the Presbyterians
should be set off as a separate precinct : this would have ex-
empted them from paying for the support of the town church,
though all in their precinct would be taxed for the church there.
This vote was, however, rescinded at the same meeting. But
in September it was voted that the easterly part of the town
(by a line running from the west side of George Ferguson's
house to Solomon Hewett's, where Daniel Clark now lives, and
so on to Raynham) should be set off as a separate township,
with the singular proviso that if they chose to do so, those living
on either side of this line might be annexed to the other side,
and assessed accordingly. Thirteen living on the east side
immediately recorded their desire to be counted and assessed
with those on the west side. But the General Court would not,
of course, sanction such an awkward arrangement, and this plan
came to nought.

Evidently this bitter contention over a church matter was pro-
ductive of scepticism or indifference in regard to religion itself.
In 1759 two town-meetings refuse to raise money for the supply
of the pulpit, and no progress toward reconciliation is made for
two years after this. Another attempt is made in 1761 to move
the town meeting-house, but without avail. It is then voted to
employ a committee of out-of-town men to come and appoint the
place most convenient for a meeting-house ; but the vote is recon-
sidered before the meeting that passed it is adjourned. There is
trouble about the disposition of the pews in the meeting-house.
They are moved ; new ones are built ; the town votes to refund
to former purchasers the prices they paid for their pews that
a new sale may be made, with the hope perhaps that this new
start may secure the co-operation of some of the opposing party ;
but it is noticeable that nearly all the new purchasers are of the
town party.

It is now 1762. The opponents of the town-church party are
discouraged. They have fought against heavy odds, for the law


has compelled them to pay for the support of the town church
as well as their own. Though the first contestants may hold out
for conscience' sake or for stubborn pride, new adherents do not
care to join them. And so the Presbyterian Church of Easton,
originating in a dispute about the location of the meeting-house,
vanishes utterly from history in the year of our Lord seventeen
hundred and sixty-two.

Here were tivelve years of earnest, sometimes angry and
bitter, strife. Its origin was not doctrinal ; it was not a reli-
gious conflict. It was a question, at first, of local interest, of
personal convenience, and was rooted therefore in human selfish-
ness. Let us not blame religion for it. It was not Christianity
that made these contestants quarrel ; it was the want of it. The
unhappy effects of this strife and animosity long survived in
town. As we have said, it was fruitful in scepticism and indiffer-
ence. It engendered personal strifes that lasted through the
lives of the actors, and then became family traditions. It gave a
lower tone to the moral, religious, and social life of the town ; so
that Easton obtained, and to some extent deserved, an unenvi-
able reputation as compared with neighboring towns. And
now, at last, shall we see peace and quietness, or will some new
contest arise.''




Massachusetts Military Archives. — Hostility of the French
AND English Colonists. — Captain Nathaniel Perry's Com-
pany. — Sketch of Captain Perry. — Easton Men in Captain
Ebenezer Dean's Company, — In Captain James Andrew's Com-
pany. — Miscellaneous Enlistments. — Trying Experiences of
Easton Volunteers. — The Acadians.

IN the State Archives at the State House in Boston there are
ninety-nine large folio volumes of muster-rolls, pay-rolls,
and various other military papers, in manuscript, which are
arranged with a care and order that are very creditable to the
State Secretary and those who have had charge of this impor-
tant work. These volumes average over five hundred pages
each, making not less than fifty thousand pages, chiefly lists of
the names, residences, rank, etc., of the soldiers in King George's
War (1744 to 1748), the French and Indian War (1754 to 1763),
and the Revolutionary War. In making up the lists of Easton
men who served in these wars, and learning facts about them,
the writer, not trusting to the general index, has carefully exam-
ined these pages in detail. The lists of Easton soldiers given
in this chapter, as well as in the chapter on " Easton in the
Revolutionary War," are therefore full and complete.

The French and English Colonies in North America regarded
each other from the start with suspicion and jealousy. Fre-
quent acts of hostility occurred, in which the Indians often took
part ; and these hostilities were sometimes of a brutal and fero-
cious kind. The brutality and ferocity were not, however, all
on one side. The whites, if not habitually as cruel and savage
in their warfare as the less enlightened red men, were, in their
treatment of them, guilty of acts of equal perfidy and cruelty.

Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Ladd) ChaffinHistory of the town of Easton, Massachusetts (Volume 3) → online text (page 15 of 78)