An Historical Address -- Part 3

Delivered at Hampton, New Hampshire,

on the 25th of December,


In Commemoration of the Settlement of That Town:

Two Hundred Years

Having Elapsed Since That Event.

By Joseph Dow, A. M.

Published by Request.

Printed by Asa McFarland, Concord.
(Opposite the State House.)
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The next thing I shall notice, is the Ecclesiastical History of the town.

The object of the first settlers near the Piscataqua, as already mentioned, was to prosecute the fishing business. That business has undoubtedly been carried on here from a very early period; but this seems not to have been the prime object in forming the settlement. Our fathers came hither for the enjoyment of religious freedom. One of their first movements was to secure a minister, who should be to them a spiritual guide. They came hither united in church covenant, and at the very commencement of the settlement they were supplied with a pastor. It has been handed down to us by tradition, that the church was formed, and a pastor procured, before the settlement of the town was actually commenced; and the language of our early records seems to give countenance to this tradition. The records state that,

"It was granted unto Mr. Stephen Bachelor and his company, who were some of them united together by church government, that they should have a plantation at Winnacumet, and accordingly they were shortly after to enter upon and begin the same."
This purports to have been taken from the Massachusetts court records.

A fair inference from this language is that the formation of the plantation was subsequent to that of the church.

It has sometimes been said that this was the second church formed in New-Hampshire, -- a church having been previously gathered at Exeter. Both churches were formed in the year 1638; but I have been unable satisfactorily to determine which may justly claim priority of date; nor is it of much consequence. This church is acknowledged to be the oldest now existing in New-Hampshire, as the first church formed in Exeter became extinct a few years after is formation, when that town came under the jurisdiction of Massachusetts. The pastor of the church was under sentence of banishment from that Province, and her retired to Wells, in the Province of Maine, whether he was followed by a considerable portion of his church.

In an old book entitled "Wonder-Working Providence of Zion's Saviour," the church at Hampton is said to have been the seventeenth formed in the colony of Massachusetts.

The first pastor of the church was Rev. Stephen Bachelor. He was, at the time he came hither, advanced in life, being 77 years of age. He had been a minister in England for many years. In 1632, he removed to this country, and became the first pastor of the church at Lynn. In 1638, he came to Hampton with the little band that settled here. He was pastor of this church bout three years, and was removed in 1641, at the age of 80. **[The Massachusetts Colony Records say that he was removed from the pastoral office for "contempt of authority."] He lived to a very advanced age, and is said to have died in England, in 1661, having completed a whole century.

Mr. Bachelor's descendants are very numerous in Hampton, and in several other towns in New-Hampshire.

When the settlement was in its infancy, a log-house afforded the people a temporary place of worship. That house was located nigh the spot where three of the subsequent meeting-houses stood; very near the present site of the [Hampton] academy.

At the early period of which we are speaking, the people were called together for worship by the ringing of a bell, as appears from a vote of the town, Nov. 22, 1639, when own of the inhabitants was appointed "to ring the bell before the meetings on the Lord's days and on other days," for which he was to have a specified sum. How interesting to the settlers must have been the sound of that bell, as it peals echoed through the forest and broke the stillness of the Sabbath morning, inviting them to assemble for the worship of Jehovah; and how strange to the untutored sons of the forest, to see the settlers laying aside their implements of husbandry, and all the tools which they were accustomed to use, resting from their labors, and wending their way, along different paths, to the log-house whence the sound of the bell proceeded.

In 1639, the year after the formation of the church, Rev. Timothy Dalton was associated with the former minister, in the pastoral office. [See Appendix, G.] Mr. Bachelor was indeed generally designated as the Pastor, and his associate as the Teacher of the church.

Mr. Dalton came to Hampton very soon after the formation of the settlement, and it is said a considerable company of settlers came with him.

After the removal of Mr. Bachelor, in 1641, Mr. Dalton was sole pastor of the church about six years, when Rev. John Wheelwright, who had previously been settled at Exeter, was associated with him. How long they were thus connected does not appear from any records which I have consulted. Mr. Wheelwright was at length dismissed, when Mr. Dalton was again left sole pastor of the church. He continued in the ministry till his death.

Our records do not show what compensation was made to Mr. Bachelor, nor to Mr. Dalton, in the early part of his ministry. Large tracts of land were granted to them both. At one town meeting in 1639, 300 acres were granted to each, Mr. Bachelor having a house lot before. Grants of land were also made to them, or to one of them, at other times. It is pretty evident that at first they received no stated salary. This appears from an agreement with Mr. Dalton, in 1651, when, on certain conditions, he released the town from all "debts and dues" to him, from his first coming until he had "a set pay" given him by the town. After he had been here several years, he seems to have had about £40 per annum. Mr. Dalton is called by an old writer, "the reverend, grave and gracious Mr. Dalton." He died on the 28th of December, 1661, at an advanced age, probably about 84 years, having been here 22 years in the ministry. Our records state that he was "a faithful and painful laborer in God's vineyard."

Mr. Dalton, it is well known, was the minister who gave by deed to the church and town of Hampton the property from which the ministerial funds of this town, Hampton Falls, and North Hampton, have been derived.

Soon after his ministry commenced, the town adopted measures for building a new meeting-house, of framed work, to take the place of the log-house which had served temporarily as a place of worship. By vote of the town, the new house was to be forty feet in length, twenty-two in width, and thirteen in height, between joints, with a place for the bell, which was given by the pastor.

The agreement with the contractor for building this house was mutually subscribed by the parties on the 14th of September, 1640. Soon afterwards it was determined to defray the expense by voluntary contribution. The house was snot wholly finished for several years. In July, 1644, persons were appointed to ask and receive the sums which were to be given towards building it, and, in case any should refuse to pay voluntarily, this committee was required to use all lawful means to compel them. The committee was farther instructed to lay out upon the meeting-house, to the best advantage, the money they might raise. When this house was first occupied as a place of worship, is not known.

In 1649, liberty was given to a certain persons to build a gallery at the west end of the meeting-house, and these persons, on their part, agreed to build the gallery, provided that the "foremost seat" should be appropriated to them, for their own use, and as their own property.

The meeting-houses first built in this town were without pews. They were constructed simply with seats; and for the purpose of preventing any disorder that might otherwise be occasioned, committees were from time to time appointed, to direct the people what seat each one might occupy.

Early in the year 1647, the church and town gave a call to Rev. John Wheelwright to settle as colleague with Mr. Dalton. They stated that Mr. Dalton had labored faithfully among them in the ministry, "even beyond his ability and strength of nature."

Mr. Wheelwright accepted the invitation extended to him. The agreement made with him is dated the 12th of the 2nd month, 1647. By this agreement, he was to have a house lot, and the farm which had once belonged to Mr. Bachelor, but which had been purchased by the town. This was to be given to him, his heirs and assigns, unless he should remove ;himself from them without liberty from the church. The church and town were also to pay some charges and give Mr. Wheelwright as a salary £40 per annum. The farm was afterward conveyed to him by deed.

How long Mr. Wheelwright retained his connection with this church, is uncertain. He was here in 1656, and probably left about the year 1658.

He was a person of considerable notoriety. Hutchinson, in his History of Massachusetts, call him "a zealous minister, of character both for learning and piety." When residing in Massachusetts, he was accused of Antinomianism, and one of his sermons was said to savor of heresy and sedition; and refusing to make any acknowledgment, when called to an account, he was banished from the province. He then came into this vicinity, and laid the foundation of the town and church at Exeter. When Exeter came under the jurisdiction of Massachusetts, as has already been stated, he retired into Maine and resided at Wells. He remained at that place till he received a call to come to Hampton, and settle as colleague with Mr. Dalton. This took place in the year 1647. Previous to this, his sentence of banishment seems to have been removed. After his dismission from this church, he went to England, where he was in favor with Cromwell, with whom he had in early life been associated at the University of Cambridge, in England. After Charles II. came to the throne, Mr. Wheelwright returned to New-England, and took up his residence at Salisbury, Massachusetts, where he died November 15, 1679, aged, probably, about 85 years.

It is worthy of notice that the first three pastors of this church all lived to an advanced age -- one of them dying at the age of 100, and each of the others at the age of 84 or 85 years, sos that the average age of the three was not far from 90 years.

Soon after Mr. Wheelwright was removed from the church, and before the death of Mr. DAlton, Rev. Seaborn Cotton was settled as colleague with the latter. His settlement took place in 1660, and Mr. Dalton died the year after.

The father of Mr. Cotton was Rev. John Cotton, one of the most distinguished of the early New England divines. He was many years settled as pastor of a church at Boston, in England. Being driven thence by persecution, he sought an asylum in this country, and soon became pastor of a church at Boston, Massachusetts. Seaborn was his eldest son, and was born in 1633, during the passage of his parents across the Atlantic, from which circumstance he received his name.

He graduated at Harvard college, Aug. 12, 1651. Dr. Cotton Mather says of him, that he was "esteemed a thorough scholar and an able preacher."

Of Mr. Cotton's records, only a few fragments remain, so that we know but little of the state of the church while he was pastor of it. He continued in the ministry 16 years, and died April 19, 1686, at the age of 53 years.

During Mr. Cotton's ministry, a new meeting-house was erected, it being the third built in the town for the use of this church. It was built in the summer of 1675, and was placed near the old house then standing. By an order of the town, all the inhabitants of more than twenty years of age were required to attend and assist in the raising of this house, under a specified penalty for neglecting to do it. The house erected at that time was the one around which a fortification was made as a defence against the Indians. It is uncertain when the house was finished and began to be occupied. The old meeting-house was taken down in 1680, having stood about 40 years.

After the death of Mr. Cotton, the church was destitute of a pastor more than ten years; a period far longer than all the other periods during which it has been without a settled minister. It must not, however, be inferred that the people had no preaching during this long destitution of a pastor. The fact probably is that they were favored with preaching nearly every sabbath during that time, and, for a considerable portion of it, by the son of the deceased pastor, the gentleman who at length succeeded his father in the pastoral office.

Nov. 28, 1687, a committee was chosen to treat with Mr. John Cotton, to ascertain whether he would be willing to be settled in the work of the ministry and to be ordained, agreeably to the desire of the town.

Mr. Cotton probably complied with this request, so ar as to preach, but not to be ordained as pastor of the church. During the ten years immediately succeeding the death of his father, he received several urgent requests from the town to be ordained. For some reason or other, he declined ordination, though he continued his preaching. For some months, however, in the years 1690 and 1691, Mr. Cotton was absent from Hampton, residing in the vicinity of Boston. He also preached three months at Portsmouth, where he was invited to settle. During a portion of the time that he was absent, Rev. John Pike, minister of Dover, supplied the pulpit here, and received an invitation to become pastor of the church. He gave some encouragement that he would accept the invitation; but probably he was unable to procure a dismission from the church at Dover, as he retained his pastoral connection with that church till his death, which occurred in 1710.

The invitation to Mr. Cotton was renewed, and after much solicitation he consented to be ordained. His ordination took place Nov. 19, 1696. He continued in the ministry till his death, March 27, 1710. At the time of his decease he was fifty-two years of age. When he was ordained there were only ten male and fifteen female members, in full communion with the church. Mr. Cotton appears to have been a very worthy man, and an acceptable and a successful preacher. During the fourteen years of his ministry, two hundred and twenty persons were admitted into full communion with the church.

After his death, the people were not long destitute of a stated minister. Rev. Nathaniel Gookin was ordained pastor, on the 15th of November, in the same year.

About one year after his ordination, a new church was formed in the south part of the town, and forty-nine persons, nineteen males and thirty females, were dismissed from the first church for the purpose of being organized into the new one.

The vote, dismissing these members, passed Dec. 9, 1711, and the church was organized soon after, and Rev. Theophilus Cotton settled over it as pastor. Several years afterward, that part of the town was formed into a new town, and called Hampton-Falls.

During Mr. Gookin's ministry, the last meeting-house was erected, which stood at the meeting-house green, near where the academy now stands. The house was sixty feet in length, forty in breadth, and twenty-eight in height, between joints. It was finished with two galleries, one above the other, as many now present will recollect; for this was the same house that was taken down in 1808, having been built eighty-nine years. The frame was erected on the 13th and 14th of May, 1719, and the house was completed, so that it was occupied for the first time as a place of worship, sabbath day, October 18th, of the same ;year. This house at first was finished with only one pew, and that was for the use of the minister's family. Other pews were added at a subsequent period.

In 1725 nine persons were dismissed from this church, in order to be, probably with others, formed into a church at Kingston.

It may be proper to remark, in this connection, that the charter of Kingston was granted Aug. 16, 1694, to James Prescott, Ebenezer Webster, and several other persons, belonging to Hampton. The grant embraced not only the territory of Kingston, as it now is, but also that of East-Kingston, Sandown and Danville. The first settlers there had many difficulties to encounter and hardships to endure, on account of Indian hostilities. No church was formed at Kingston till 1725.

The church at Hampton also furnished twenty of the original members of the church at Rye. They were dismissed from this church, July 10, 1726, and the church at Rye was formed ten days after. Most of these persons, however, resided within the limits of that town, which was made up of portions of Portsmouth, New-Castle, Greenland and Hampton, and was incorporated in 1719.

An event occurred during the ministry of Rev. Mr. Gookin, worthy to be noticed on this occasion, not only on its own account, but more particularly on account of circumstances connected with it. I refer to the great earthquake, October 29, 1727. This phenomenon is here associated with the name of Mr. Gookin, from his being led, in the providence of God, to preach to his people on the very day preceding the night on which the earthquake happened, a solemn discourse, from Ezekiel vii: 7. "The day of trouble is near."

In the course of his sermon he remarked thus: --

"I do not pretend to a gift of foretelling future things, but the impression that these words have made upon my mind in the week past, so that I could not bend my thoughts to prepare a discourse on any other subject, saving that on which I discoursed in the forenoon, which was something of the same nature. I say, it being thus, I know not but there may be a particular warning designed by God of some day of trouble near, perhaps to me, perhaps to you, perhaps to all of us."

How forcibly must these solemn words have been impressed on the minds of those who heard them, when, after only a few hours had elapsed, and while the words still seemed ringing in their ears, a low, rumbling sound was heard, which soon increased to the loudness of thunder, while the houses shook from their very foundations, and the tops of some of the chimneys were broken off and fell to the ground, the sea in the mean time roaring in a very unusual manner.

Mr. Gookin labored to improve this event of Providence for the spiritual benefit of his people, and his labors were richly blessed. Within a few months after it occurred, large additions were made to the church.

On the 19th of June, 1734, Rev. Ward Cotton was associated with Rev. Mr. Gookin, as a colleague in the pastoral office. Mr. Gookin was then in feeble health, and he lived only about two months afterwards. He died of a slow fever, August 25, 1734, aged 48 years, having been in the ministry here about twenty-four years. During this time three hundred and twenty persons were admitted to the full communion of the church.

Mr. Gookin was much esteemed by his people, who, after his death, often spoke in high terms of his worth. He was regarded as a man of good learning, great prudence, and ardent piety. He ranked high as a preacher, and his opinions in ecclesiastical affairs were very much respected by contemporary divines.

Here I shall do injustice to this people, if I neglect to mention their generous provision for the maintenance of Mr. Gookin's widow. Soon after his death the town agreed to give her £80 a year; to furnish her with the keeping of three cows and a horse, summeer and winter, and to give her fifteen cords of wood per annum. They also built, for her use, a house and a barn. All this they performed as a memento of their love to Mr. Gookin, and their high regard to the worth of his widow. Mrs. Gookin was a daughter of Rev. John Cotton, her husband's immediate predecessor in the pastoral office.

The notice I shall take of the succeeding pastors of the church will be extremely brief.

The ordination of Rev. Ward Cotton has been already alluded to. He was pastor of the church more than 31 years. He was dismissed November 12, 1765, in accordance with the advice of a mutual council. He died at Plymouth, Mass., November 27, 1768, aged 57 years.

Seven persons were dismissed from this church, September 25, 1737, in order to be formed into a church in the third parish, now the town of Kensington. The same number was dismissed, one week afterwards, to be united with them. Among these was Mr. Jeremiah Fogg, who was ordained pastor of that church November 23d, of the same year.

The fourth society was formed soon after, in that part of the town then called North Hill, but which was incorporated as a town November 26, 1742, and received the name of North-Hampton. The first meeting-house was erected there in 1738, and about the same time those members of the church residing in that part of the town requested a dismission, for the purpose of being organized into a new church. Their request was not granted. The town also refused to liberate the people there from aiding in the supposrt of Rev. Mr. Cotton. The reason is not known. It is, however, probable that the church and town considered the formation of a new church at that time unnecesssary. A council was called, that, after due deliberation, proceeded to organize the church, over which Rev. Nathaniel Gookin, son of the late pastor of the first church, was ordained, October 31, 1739.

Rev. Ebenezer Thayer became pastor of the old church, September 17, 1766, and continued in that office till his death. He died November 6, 1792, aged 58 years.

A few months after Mr. Thayer's death, the church and town invited his son, Nathaniel, to become their minister. He did not accept the invitation. About a year afterwards they gave a call to Rev. Daniel Dana. He also declined.

After this, a division arose in the town and church, which resulted in leading a majority of the town and a part of the church to declare themselves Presbyterians. They invited Rev. William Pidgin to become their pastor; and he, having accepted the invitation, was ordained January 27, 1796. Mr. Pidgin was pastor of that church a little more than eleven years. He was dismissed in July, 1807.

A minority of the town formed themselves into a society, and united with the congregational church for the maintenance of public worship, and Rev. Jesse Appleton became their pastor, March 22, 1797. As the old meeting-house was occupied by the Presbyterians, the Congregationalists made arrangements for building a new house. Accordingly, the one where we are now assembled was erected, on the 24th of May, 1797, and dedicated on the 14th of November following.

In the year 1807, Mr. Appleton was elected President of Bowdoin College; and, having accepted the appointment, was dismissed from this church on the 16th of November, in the same year. He died at Brunswick, Me., Nov. 12, 1819, aged 47 years.

After Mr. Appleton's dismission both churches were without pastors, and it was proposed that they should be united. Articles of union having been agreed upon, the Presbyterian church was merged in the Congregational, from which it had sprung about thirteen years before, and Rev. Josiah Webster was installed pastor, June 8th, 1808, and sustained that office til his death, March 27, 1837 -- almost twenty-nine years. At the time of his death Mr. Webster was about 65 years old.

The present pastor of the church, Rev. Erasmus D. Eldredge, was ordained April 4, 1838.

From these remarks it appears that this church has been organized two hundred years. During that time it has had eleven pastors. Of the first ten, six died in office, and four were dismissed. The average length of the ministry of these ten was about twenty years; for although the church, since its formation, has been destitute of a pastor about fourteen years, yet it has enjoyed the labors of the two associate pastors for about the same length of time.

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