William L. (William Ladd) Chaffin.

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

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THE WAR OF 1812.


By another list, kept by Lieut. Elijah Smith, it appears that
John Willis, Jr., became a substitute for Israel Goward, Warner
Downing for Willis White, and that Daniel Burt, named above,
was a substitute for Thomas Britton. William Snow became a
substitute for Edward Capen, Israel Randall for Daniel Keith,
Tisdale Wetherel for Oliver Johnson, and Solomon Randall for
Caleb Randall.

For twenty-four days' service the captain received $32 ; the
lieutenant, 1^24; the sergeants, ^11.20; the corporals, ^10.40; and
the privates, ^8.8o. Lieutenant Smith had his copy of this pay-
roll in a little note-book, in which he has the following notes :

" Sept. 26th, 18 14. Capt. Samuel Cushman's company met at
I. Kimball's in Easton and marched to Wd. Lazel's in Bridgewater.
27. Marched to Plymounth. 28. Made return to the Col.; Benjamin
King got his discharge. 29. Cyrus Lothrop got his discharge. 30.
Barnabas Howard got his discharge. Oct 8. Sihon Morse and John
Drew got a furlough for 4 days. Od. 12. Due for Brandy, Shugar, &
Sigars, $1.35 ; Asaph Howard, Jonathan French, & Snow got a fur-
lough for 5 days ; likewise Thatcher Pierce for five days. Oct. 13.
Sihon Morse and Thatcher Pierce returned ; Seth Tisdal & Green-
field Williams got discharged. 14. Warner Downing was furloughed.
15. John Willis, Jr., was furloughed."

It was thought necessary in those days for an officer to "treat"
the company occasionally, and we are accordingly not surprised to
find that Lieutenant Smith is charged in his note-book, Sep-
tember 30, 181 5, with "rum and shuger for training," ^4.00. At
that time a gallon of rum cost ^1.25, and sugar was twenty cents
a pound. One year from that date he was commissioned cap-
tain, and there was no doubt a still larger outlay for " rum and
shuger for training " than when he was merely lieutenant.

March 20, 18 15, the town "Voted to make up the wages of
the soldiers L. Infantry company the same as Capt. Reed's men,
without any deduction for their uniform." This is the last
echo of any action of the town relative to the War of 181''




Beginning of Methodism in Easton. — Jesse Lee, the Pioneer. —
Isaac Stokes. — The Eccentric Lorenzo Dow. — The First
Methodist Meeting-House. — The Rev. John Tinkham. — Cus-
toms AND Innovations. — Successive Preachers. — Father
Bates. — The New Meeting-House. — Universalist Preaching
makes Trouble. — Great Revivals. — Later Preachers.

THE Methodist movement in Easton dates its origin from
the year 1792. At that time the Baptist Society was prac-
tically dead, and the field was ready for a new occupant. Metho-
dism came with a better prospect of success than the Baptists
could command. The latter professed belief in a dark and
hopeless Calvinism, whose doctrine of unconditional election
tended to discourage hope and paralyze effort. " What is the
use of doing anything about it ? " people said. " If we are
elected to salvation we shall be saved ; if not, we shall be
damned, and we cannot help it." But Methodism declared that
everybody had a fair chance, and that if any one were lost it
would be his own fault. " Salvation 's free ! " was the Methodist
watchword. This brought unspeakable relief, after the old fatal-
ism with which people were familiar. Moreover, the town min-
isterial tax could be avoided by connection with the Methodists
as well as with the Baptists, so that nothing would be lost on
this ground by the change.

John Wesley was born in 1703, and was sixty-three years old
when in 1766, in New York City, a company of Irish immigrants
established the first Methodist Society in this country. At
the close of the Revolution there were 13,740 members of the
Methodist Church in America, and 43 preachers. Up to this
time they regarded themselves as only a reformed Episcopal
Church ; but a separation from the mother church was inevi-
table. Wesley assumed the function of a bishop, and ordained
the Rev. Thomas Coke as bishop of the American churches, in


1784. On Christmas day of that year Coke was recognized for
that office in Baltimore, and he appointed Asbury as a coadjutor
bishop. A separate church was then, with Wesley's permission,
organized, and styled " The Methodist Episcopal Church in the
United States of America."

From this time the most earnest and zealous efforts were
made to preach the gospel in this new way. Itinerant preachers
scoured the country, penetrating to the remotest hamlets and
rousing people out of indifference and sin. The accepted tra-
dition in Easton is that not far from 1785 a pioneer preacher,
supposed to be Jesse Lee, preached in Easton the first Metho-
dist sermon under an apple-tree somewhere in front of the pres-
ent site of the Methodist church in North Easton village. But
Jesse Lee^ refers to his coming first to Easton in August 18,
1792. His record is : " I rode to Brother Stokes's in Easton, and
met the class at five o'clock." This class was no doubt newly
organized, for in 1791 Mr. Stokes claimed on the Easton tax-lists
to be a Baptist. Class-meetings continued to be held at Mr.
Stokes's, perhaps at Thomas Willis's and at other houses, but
the church was not yet organized. Jesse Lee visited Easton
again in March, 1793. He thus writes ^ of a third visit to
Easton in February, 1795 : —

Monday, 16. I preached at Stokes's at i o'clock on ist Peter,
iii. 9. Though we had a small company we had a melting season.
Brother N. Chapin closed the meeting by prayer. We then consulted
about building a meeting-house, and determined to begin to build it
in the lower part of Easton, near Bridgewater, as soon as possible.
The people seem to be in good spirits about it, though they are very
poor. At night I preached at brother Churchill's in Bridgewater."

By the " lower part of Easton " was meant the part towards
Boston, this being, as the late Martin Wild informed the writer,
what the phrase meant early in this century. About this time
Jesse Lee writes ^ that " good prospects of a revival of religion
[in Easton] cheered me exceedingly."

It was Isaac Stokes to whom Jesse Lee refers. His house
was on Main Street, where the house of Benjamin Russell now

1 Life of Jesse Lee, p. 181. ^ ibid., p. 214. » ibid., p. 216.



stands. Tradition has uniformly represented him as a local
Methodist preacher, but this tradition is wholly incorrect. Its
only basis is an orthographical mistake. Upon his tombstone in
the cemetery at the corner of Elm and Washington streets he is
spoken of as the first " Parson " buried in that place. It was not
uncommon in those days to s,^.y parson iox person. In later days
the word "parson" on the tombstone was understood to mean
minister, and this not unnatural mistake is the sole foundation
of the tradition alluded to. In fact Isaac Stokes was a nailer
by trade, and not a parson at all. Before coming to this country
he was a soldier in Ireland, His name first appears upon the
Easton tax-lists in 1782, and ^he then claimed to be a Baptist.
He was elected a member of the committee of the Baptist So-
ciety in 1785. He was deacon of that church in 1789, and
appeared as a Baptist again on the tax-lists of 1791. There is
no record of his ever having preached at all.

Another pioneer of Methodism who visited and preached in
Easton before the Methodist Society was organized, was the
eccentric Lorenzo Dow. The first time Dow appeared in Easton
was April 3, 1796, when he preached near the house of Dwelly
Goward in the west part of the town. He writes of this event
in his journal as follows: " 3r^ [April, 1796.] This dav for
the first time I gave out a text before a Methodist preacher ;
and I being young both in years and ministry, the expecta-
tions of many were raised who did not bear with my weakness
and strong doctrine, but judged me very hard, and would not
consent that I should preach there any more for some time."^
He speaks of preaching at Raynham, and writes that on the
" 15th I rode twenty miles to the upper part of East town,
where we had a solemn time." He was not much mistaken in
the distance, for he probably went a round-about way, as the
Great Cedar Swamp road was then unopened. He continues
his journal thus : " Here lived a person who was esteemed

very pious by the connection in general, by name Phily C ."

He says that on the 17th he spoke to about two hundred atten-
tive people. On page 58 he writes : " During my stay on the

circuit, Phily C requested to know what it was that lay

with such weight upon my mind, which I declined telling for

^ See Life of Lorenzo Dow, p. 53.



[notwithstanding] many importunities. At last, having ob-
tained a solemn promise before God that it should not be di-
vulged, I manifested it." He then confided to her that some one
on account of his youth placed a temptation before him, and he,
not recollecting any Scripture that forbade it, but one that he
thought favored it, partly complied ; " but in my conscience
immediately I felt such [agony] that for nine days I was almost
in black despair for mercy, fearing I had committed the un-
pardonable sin. Oh, my tears and groans ! But on the ninth
day I found pardon." ^ The nature of his temptation is left to
conjecture. But he had made a poor confidant, for the next
time Jesse Lee came round she repeated the story to him ; and
we hear of it in June, 1797, in Dow's journal as follows:
" Met J. Lee, to my sorrow and joy. He mentioned some things
he had heard concerning me in the east (by the treachery of

Phily C ) ; and he began to question me very close, but

got no satisfactory answers. As I perceived him upon the criti-
cal order, I was cautious in my answers."

It is easy to imagine Dow's indignation against Phily C .

One who knew her has informed the writer that this was Phily
Churchill, whose father, Ephraim Churchill, lived just over the
Easton fine on the north road to Brockton, and that she was
very far from deserving the reputation for piety which Dow re-
ported that she enjoyed among "the connection in general."

At the time of which we are speaking Easton was on what
was called the Warren Circuit, which included Mansfield, Nor-
ton, and other towns ; and Dow was a preacher on that cir-
cuit. He was an exceedingly eccentric man, one of his oddi-
ties being that of wearing a long beard. Beards were not the
fashion then, and were especially esteemed much out of place
on ministers. Dow became for this and other reasons a genuine
notable, and was able to draw large crowds to hear him preach.
After the Methodist meeting-house here was finished, he was an-
nounced to preach in it one evening. When he arrived he found
the church crowded, even the aisles being full. It was dimly
lighted ; two candles were upon the pulpit and a few elsewhere.
Crouching low, so that he might not be seen by the audience,
Dow glided up the crowded aisle and suddenly rose like an
1 See Life of Lorenzo Dow, p. 58.


apparition in the pulpit. His first act was to take one of the
candles, hold it up to his face and turn from side to side, so
that the audience might gratify their curiosity as to his looks.
It was as much as to say : " You have heard of the full-bearded
preacher, and now you see him. Having satisfied your eyes,
perhaps you will attend with your ears."

On one occasion, perhaps on the last one mentioned, the church
was crowded, the windows raised, and people even sat upon the
window-sills. Several young fellows seated in the rear of the
church made considerable disturbance during the meeting. It
was too much to bear patiently ; and suddenly Dow stopped,
looked at them and said: "Those young men have come here
to disturb the meeting ; they are like the dog in the manger, —
they will neither hear themselves, nor let others hear. But let
them alone ; they are only advertising their own characters."

The Methodist Society was organized in 1795. A board of
trustees was chosen, consisting of Ephraim Churchill, of Bridge-
water, and George Monk, Nehemiah Randall, Isaiah Randall,
and Thomas Willis, of Easton. October 13, 1795, they for five
dollars purchased of Thomas Drake the land now occupied by
the church on the corner of Washington and Elm streets and
the old part of the cemetery.^ They were to hold it " upon
special trust and confidence " for the sole benefit of the Metho-
dist Episcopal Society, " and no other person to have and en-
joy the free use of the premises," etc. These trustees were to
be self-perpetuating. The church was soon built, but it was
a rude affair, judged by modern standards. It was thirty by
thirty-six feet, and was nine or ten feet high in the walls. It
was unplastered, with no entries ; and as heating a church was
then regarded as an unchristian luxury, it had no chimneys.
The seats were oak slabs, the bark sides underneath, without
backs, and with legs fitted into auger holes, as in the ordinary
milking-stool. It was a long time afterwards, perhaps fifteen
years, before there was any change in these appointments ; and
then about twenty of the old-fashioned box-pews, with seats on
three sides, took the place of most of the slab seats, some of
which however remained. The building of this church was the
cause of great rejoicing among the Methodists. Bishop Asbury
1 See the deed, in Land Records of Bristol County, book 75, p. 383.



was present at its dedication. It stood until 1830, when it was
moved a little distance backward in order to give place to a new
church, but was soon sold to an Englishman named Trimble, who
moved it to the site now occupied by the Ames Free Library,
where it eventually became a tenement house owned by Oliver
Ames & Sons. It is now one of the row of houses owned by
the Ames Corporation on the north side of Lincoln Street.

Services continued to be conducted in the Methodist meeting-
house by the preachers on the Warren Circuit for some years.
Meetings were sometimes held also at private houses in other
parts of the town. The Rev. Joseph Snelling and Solomon
Langdon were preachers on this circuit in 1800. Mr. Snelling
managed to come to Easton about once in three weeks. In his
Memoir there is an interesting account of meetings held at the
residence of Oliver Howard, which still stands on Short Street,
east of the railroad track. Mr. Howard's wife was an ardent
Methodist, his house was commodious, and large meetings were
held there. Mr. Snelling relates that at one of these the house
was full to overflowing, and in every part of it might be heard
some praying for mercy, and others praising God for redeem-
ing grace. The Congregational minister (the Rev. Mr. Reed)
was present, and the meeting was continued " tmtil three d clock
i?i the morning ! " A lady converted at this meeting arose,
" and in a very solemn and eloquent manner told what the Lord
had done for her soul." She was to have been baptized three
weeks afterwards, but before that time Mr. Snelling was called
to attend her funeral. Her last message to him was, " Tell
Brother Snelling that I hope to meet him in heaven, when we
shall have a better meeting than we had at Ohver Howard's."
It was estimated that a thousand persons attended this funeral,
which was conducted according to the Episcopal form. Meet-
ings were continued to be held occasionally at Oliver Howard's
until his wife's death, about 1825.

A new circuit was organized in 1806, including eleven towns,
of which Easton had the oldest society. According to the
" Minutes of Methodist Conferences," vol. i. p. 394, Easton and
Norton together numbered eighty church-members, and were
ministered to by the same preacher. The first one under the
new arrangement was Nehemiah Coye. This was the year 1806;



and it is somewhat remarkable, that while the " Massachusetts
Register" names this society in 1796, the first time it is men-
tioned in the list of churches in the Methodist " Minutes," is
ten years later, 1806. In 1807 Thomas Perry was preacher
of Norton and Easton, and Mansfield was added to his charge.
He was followed by Samuel Cutler in 1808. In 1809 Easton
was fortunate in having John Tinkham sent to the Methodist

Mr. Tinkham was the son of Abel Tinkham, of Middleboro.
He was born June 4, 1782, in Thompson, Conn., and was the
oldest of twelve children. He and Lewis Bates were both or-
dained deacons in 1806, having been admitted on trial in 1804.
They were elected and ordained elders in 1808 ; and that year
Mr. Tinkham was stationed at Needham. February 3 of this
year he had married Zerviah Blish, of Gilson, New Hampshire.
Through 1809 Mr. Tinkham labored in Easton with great ac-
ceptance. He was returned for 18 10, and decided to locate
here, making Easton his permanent home, and preaching as oc-
casion offered in the vicinity. Acceptable as he was, attention
is arrested by the fact that almost no gains of church-members
were made under his ministry. Vol. I. p. 394 of the Conference
"Minutes" reported for 1806 eighty members for Norton and
Easton. In 18 10 the number was one hundred and eleven (page
484), and in 181 1 it was ninety-seven (page 518), — a loss of four-
teen members in the last year, and an actual gain of only seven-
teen members in the two churches for five years. So far as
Mr. Tinkham was concerned this fact is easily explained. He
was a man of clear, practical, common-sense, who believed that
efficiency and success as a minister of Christ were not to be
measured by the number of conversions so much as by raising
the standard of morals, improving the conduct, and Christian-
izing the average daily life of the people. He did not do much
to increase the church membership ; but he did increase church
attendance, and church matters prospered.

Mr. Tinkham could not only preach admirably, — he could
also lift as heavy stones, build as much stone-wall in a day,
make as good a garden, and have as fine a nursery as any one.
He was a man of popular gifts, and made friends of old and
young. The general esteem in which he came to be held is




shown by the fact, that, though a Methodist minister living in
one corner of the town, he was twice sent to the legislature as
representative. This was in 18 12 and 18 13, when he went as
associate representative with Calvin Brett, Easton sending two
for several years.

A few facts may here be stated that will illustrate the life and
customs of that time. Few ministers would be satisfied to-day
with either the quantity or quality of Mr. Tinkham's salary, — if
the word " salary " can properly be applied to the desultory and
miscellaneous payments he received for his ministerial services.
His old account books are still preserved, and it is surprising
to see how seldom the words " cash " and " money " appear on
their pages. One man pays him eighteen pounds of veal at six
cents a pound; another, twenty-nine pounds of beef for ^1.52.
Wood, boards, shingles, hay, shoes, and even cider are among
the items received for salary. One noticeable entry is "money
and potash." In some cases no little dunning was necessary
in order to get even these things. One afternoon, driving into
his yard after such a parochial and business call, he astonished
his little son Jason by drawing from beneath his blanket a small
black pig, which was received, according to the cash-book record,
"in payment for preaching the Gospel."

Another incident will illustrate what minute personal super-
vision the church exercised over the habits and conduct of its
members. During Mr. Tinkham's ministry, while a " Love
Feast" was being celebrated, two lady members presented them-
selves for admission ; but they were not allowed entrance
solely because they had bows on their bonnets ! Unsanctified
ornaments like these, jewelry, useless ribbons and trimmings,
were not merely discouraged, — they were openly condemned by
ministers who thought nothing of calling attention to them in a
sermon, and they were sometimes positively forbidden by Confer-
ence votes. What would our Methodist fathers think could they
see one of our city Methodist congregations to-day, worshipping
in a costly and ornate church, with splendid organ, paid quar-
tette music, and where even the church-members are arrayed in
costly silks and adorned with expensive jewelry !

While writing of dress, we may allude to the conservatism
of three male members, who were accustomed to come to meet-



ing with their leather aprons on. Wearing them constantly
during the week, they felt ill at ease without them, and they
saw no inconsistency in appearing with them at the sanctuary.
But they were objects of notice and occasions of merriment
with the young people. These men were therefore waited
upon and reasoned with. Two of them agreed to lay aside
their aprons on Sunday ; but Ephraim Churchill, of whose
daughter Phily we have already heard, was for a long time
proof against opposition and ridicule. He continued to wear
his leather apron to church even in winter, when he buttoned
it under his overcoat. His answer to all criticism was that
he did not discontinue it " for fear of taking cold," — the same
excuse an old lady once gave for being unwilling to give up
her apron. But even Mr. Churchill could not withstand the
march of progress ; he agreed at last to concede so much to the
demands of reform as to come to church with a new apron.
This being known, there was a full attendance on the Sunday
following this agreement ; but the lovers of fun were dis-
appointed when Sunday came, to see him appear with no
apron at all. And thus leather aprons disappeared from the

Another change marks this time. It is the introduction of
instrumental music. This proposed innovation met with violent
opposition at first. To bring a bass-viol into church and profane
the solemn worship by " scraping a big fiddle " was represented
as tempting a righteous Providence. In vain its advocates main-
tained that it was only a restoration of the good old Bible times,
when men praised God with harp and timbrel and " with an
instrument of ten strings." But here was no harp or timbrel ;
and instead of the Biblical ten-stringed instrument, here was

1 " Another principal bass-singer was old Joe Stedman, who asserted his demo-
cratic right to do just as he had a mind to, by always appearing every Sunday in a
clean leather apron of precisely the form he wore about his weekly work. Of course
all the well-conducted upper classes were scandalized, and Joe was privately ad-
monished of the impropriety, which greatly increased his satisfaction, and caused
him to regard himself as a person of vast importance. It was reported that the
minister had told him that there was more pride in his leather apron than in Cap-
tain Browne's scarlet cloak ; but Joe settled the matter by declaring that the apron
was a matter of conscience with him, and of course after that there was nothing
more to be said." — Harriet Beecher Stowe's Oldtowii Folks, pp. 49, 50.



an instrument with but four strings. Perhaps the conservatives
feared that as the walls of Jericho went down before the blast of
trumpets, so the walls of their Zion might collapse at the first
twang of tlie viol-string. The bass-viol party prevailed, how-
ever; the instrument was brought into meeting, but when the
bow was first drawn across the strings some of the worshippers
arose abruptly and left the house. This was several times
repeated ; but it was not long before the opposition began to
diminish, and the bass-viol soon came to be recognized as a
necessary part of church furnishings. March 30, 181 5, in the
society records there is this entry : " Voted to have the Base-
viol used on such Days as the pulpit is supplied by the Rev.
John Tinkham."

There are no church records dating back of the division of the
society in i860, as will be explained on another page, but the so-
ciety records date back to about 18 10. After 18 12, Elijah Smith
was the clerk of the society for some years. March 9, 18 12,
it was voted to sweep the meeting-house once a month, and
shovel away the snow in the winter ; and this service was sold
to the lowest bidder, Ebenezer Bartlett, who agreed to do it
for $1.75 a year. Two hundred dollars were raised this year
for the support of the gospel. Until his death, Mr. Tinkham

Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Ladd) ChaffinHistory of the town of Easton, Massachusetts (Volume 3) → online text (page 30 of 78)