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William L. (William Ladd) Chaffin.

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

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grappling with the roughest labor of the season. He was very
skilful in the use of farming-tools, as the following statement of
his son will show : —

" I shall never forget a laughable incident which I witnessed in
my boyhood, which will illustrate his activity and cleverness in this



366 HISTORY OF EASTON.

respect. The neighbors, some eight or ten of them, had generously
turned out to cut his grass one hot July morning. Among them was
a young giant, who boasted of his ability to cut any one of them out
of his swath. Said an old resident who lived across the road from
the minister, —

" ' I can give you a man who can cut a neater and wider swath than
you, and do it quicker too.'

" ' Bring him on ! ' said the young boaster.

"Just then Mr. Sheldon came into the field with his study-gown on,
and the neighbor handed him his scythe, saying, —

" ' You have not forgotten how you used to mow ; now give the
boys a lesson.'

" Mr. Sheldon laid aside his robe, put an edge on the scythe, and
started in. Turning to Argyle, Mr. D. said, —

" ' There 's your man ; now let us see you mow around him.'

" All stood by to see the fun ; soon the young man was left far in
the rear. He complained bitterly of his dull scythe ; it would not cut,
although he vigorously applied stone and rifle. Mr. Sheldon came in
many rods ahead, amid the shouts of the lookers-on."

In the winter of 1853 Mr. Sheldon w^as sent by the citizens of
Easton to Boston as their delegate to the Constitutional Conven-
tion ; for eleven years he served upon the board of school commit-
tee. July 14, i860, he celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of his
settlement in Easton. In the little grove at the foot of his garden,
surrounded by his children and two or three hundred friends
who were seated at well-loaded tables, he recalled with them the
events of the past, and they sang together the hymns of the olden
time. On that occasion he stated that he had preached six
thousand written sermons, solemnized four hundred marriages,
and declined eight calls to other parishes offering larger salaries
than Easton. In speaking of the trying times through which he
had passed in conflict with men whom he honored, he said that
he did not now recall one who if alive would not welcome him to
his home and hospitality ; they had outlived and outgrown their
hostility. He expressed his strong affection for the home of his
life-ministry, and said that though often solicited to go and live
with his children, he preferred to spend the remnant of his days
here, and to have his body laid at rest beside those of his friends
in the cemetery near at hand. Mr. Sheldon died September 16,




Rev. Luther Sheldon, D.D.



EASTON CENTRE CHURCHES. 367

1866. He was really one of the strongly marked characters of
Easton, and has made a permanent impression upon its life and
institutions.

In preparing this sketch of his life in Easton, the writer has
labored under the great disadvantage of never having any per-
sonal acquaintance with Dr. Sheldon ; and therefore to those
who did know him and who read what is here written, this ac-
count may seem inadequate. The writer, however, has endeav-
ored to give as faithful a narrative as the circumstances of the
case admit, and in the account of the parochial controversy he
is conscious of having written without bias.

October i, 1855, the Rev. Lyman White received and ac-
cepted a call to settle as minister of the Evangelical Society.
He was voted a salary of seven hundred and fifty dollars, and it
was agreed that if either party desired a dissolution of the con-
nection, a three months notice from that party would be suffi-
cient to accomplish it. In October, 1862, the society gave such
notice to Mr. White, assuring him, however, that the only reason
for their action was their inability to raise a sufficient sum to
pay the present expenses of the pulpit. Mr. White was very
highly esteemed as a minister. His resignation was given Feb-
ruary 19, 1862, a council being called to dissolve the connection.
It was found difficult at this time to pay the necessary expenses.
The Ladies' Benevolent Society rendered generous assistance,
and instead of depending entirely upon subscriptions for the
support of worship, the society voted to raise about two thirds
of the needed amount by a tax upon the pews.

June 3, 1863, the Rev. Charles E. Lord was installed pastor
of the society on a salary of five hundred and fifty dollars ; the
Rev. Lyman Whiting preached the sermon of installation. Mr.
Lord remained less than two years, resigning March 26, 1865,
because his wife's health demanded his removal to a dryer
climate. He was the last minister of this society regularly
settled by a council with an installation service. Since his time
the society has been ministered to by " acting pastors." The
Rev. Charles L. Mills served from December 8, 1865, to Feb-
ruary 24, 1868. The Rev. D. W. Richardson, in October, 1869,
accepted the offer of preaching for an indefinite time to the
society for one thousand dollars a year, either party to close



368



HISTORY OF EASTON.



the engagement by a two months notice. Mr. Richardson re-
signed in 1872, his resignation taking effect the last Sunday in
November.

The Rev. M. B. Angier then preached for a few months.
The Rev. A. S. Hudson served as acting pastor from Septem-
ber 4, 1873, to April, 1875. He was followed by the Rev.
Luther H. Sheldon, son of Dr. Sheldon, who served with great
acceptance from August, 1875, until October, 1878, when he was
called to be the superintendent of the State Reform School at
Westboro.' Rev. S. D. Hosmer supplied from October, 1878,
to July, 1879. He was succeeded by Rev. L. H. Angier, who
had charge until April, 1881. The Rev. W. H, Dowden was
acting pastor from July, 1881, to December, 1884. The society
in voting him a call also voted to settle him with a council.
On being conferred with concerning a council, Mr. Dowden
postponed the matter to a more " convenient season," which
season never arrived.

The parsonage of the Evangelical Society was built in 1879,
and stands nearly opposite the church. On the evening of Sep-
tember 6, 1882, the meeting-house was entirely consumed by
fire ; there was no insurance upon it. The society henceforth,
until the vestry-room of the new church was ready for occu-
pancy, worshipped in the Unitarian church at Easton Centre.
September 27, 1882, it was authoritatively pronounced a legally
organized corporation by the Secretary of the State. A new
church building was begun in the autumn of 1883, and was
completed in March, 1885 ; it was erected at a cost of about
^11,500. The organ, built by Mr. Holbrook, of East Medway,
cost $1500, and the furnishings $700. The audience-room will
seat about three hundred, and a gallery affords accommodation
for about fifty more. There is a convenient vestry under the
audience-room. The new church was dedicated March 19, 1885,
the Rev. Luther H. Sheldon preaching the sermon. Besides
the Orthodox Congregational ministers invited to assist in these
services, the Rev. Merrick Ranson (Methodist) and the Rev. W.
L. Chaffin (Unitarian), both of North Easton, took part in the
exercises.

July I, 1885, the present acting pastor, the Rev. F. P. Chapin,
began his work here, and still continues. He is the son of





The Evangelical Congregational Church, Easton Centre.



EASTON CENTRE CHURCHES. 369



Ebenezer and Sarah Chapin, and was born in Gill, Massachu-
setts, August 14, 1827; he graduated at Amherst College and
Bangor Theological Seminary, was settled ten years in Camden,
Maine, three years in the East Parish of Amherst, Massachu-
setts, and twelve years at North Weymouth. Mr. Chapin was
first married to Sarah S. Wallace, of Hadley, Massachusetts,
December 3, 1857. She died at Amherst, January 14, 1868,
leaving four children, three sons and one daughter. He was
married the second time to Margaret Macfarlane, of Camden,
Maine, January 12, 1871. She died at North Weymouth, Octo-
ber 25, 1882, leaving one child.

There have been three Sunday-schools connected with this
church. Until recently there was but one, which appears to
have been organized by Mr. Sheldon about 181 5 ; it was held
at the Centre. But this arrangement was so inconvenient for
many of the children of the parish that it was thought best
to organize a Sunday-school in two other sections, — one at
South Easton, and one at the Furnace Village.

White's Village Sunday-school was organized in White's Hall
by the Rev. A. S. Hudson, June 14, 1874, assisted by members
of the Evangelical Congregational Church, of which he was the
pastor. It began with seven teachers and fifty-three scholars.
Francis Homes was superintendent of the school for the first six
years. In 1850 Deacon J. O. Dean took charge of the work till
the building was destroyed by fire in 1884. The success of the
work is indicated by a few statistics: the record for 1878 gives
the total membership as one hundred and five, average attend-
ance fifty-five, largest number on any one Sunday seventy-four ;
families represented, forty-two. A library of several hundred
volumes was in constant use. Papers, both weekly and monthly,
were supplied to every family. A temperance society called
the " Anti Society" was organized in 1876, which received the
written pledge of nearly all the members.

The Furnace Village Sunday-school was organized in Harmony
Hall by members of the Evangehcal Church, November 18, 1877.
Andrew Hamilton was the first superintendent. In 1884 he
was succeeded by George Sylvester, who is still in charge. The
school began with sixty members, and has now about eighty.
Nearly every Protestant family in the vicinity is represented in

24



370 HISTORY OF EASTON.

it. Papers of different grades are given to each family, and all
the members have access to a library of nearly five hundred
volumes, — a privilege which they highly prize.

SPIRITUALISM IN EASTON.

Although the Spiritualists are not, strictly speaking, a religious
denomination, they represent a certain phase of speculation up-
on religion and some of its related topics, and it is desirable
that there should be some record of the various efforts made in
Easton by Spiritualists to form some permanent organization
of those holding their views. The central idea of Spiritualism
is that there is a vital connection between the seen and the
unseen worlds by which communication between the two can
be maintained, and that departed spirits can manifest themselves
by means of what are usually termed " mediums." It is not
claimed that this idea is new ; it is indeed generally admitted to
be one that in some form has been entertained by many persons
in all Christian denominations, who have fondly believed that
their departed friends did not lose sight of them, and that in
times of special need they might influence them for good. This
comforting belief is still held by multitudes of persons who can
conscientiously entertain it without renouncing their present re-
ligious and denominational connections.

In this country modern Spiritualism dates from the " Roch-
ester knockings " in the village of Hydesville in Rochester, New
York, in 1848, where the Fox sisters attracted so much notice
by the strange phenomena alleged to take place by their raedi-
umship. In Eastdn, interest in this subject first appeared on
the Bay road. In 1850 Asahel Smith, Amos Hewett, Willard
Lothrop, and others became much interested in the matter.
Several Easton people soon displayed mediumistic powers. Cir-
cles were held. There were knockings and table-tippings and
experiments in the production of musical sounds, etc. It was
not found necessary to import trance speakers, for native talent
in that direction was soon developed. Much attention was given
to this subject in nearly all parts of the town. There were strong
believers and equally strong disbelievers in the theory offered to
explain the phenomena produced. Lectures were given upon
the subject by persons who claimed to be trance-speakers con-



SPIRITUALISM. 371



trolled by disembodied spirits. In 1852 or 1853 the Protestant
Methodist Church in North Easton village was opened for such
a lecture, and in 1854 there were several given in White's Hall,
South Easton, attracting great attention. In 1859 a-"



Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Ladd) ChaffinHistory of the town of Easton, Massachusetts (Volume 3) → online text (page 35 of 78)