Mr. Cotton's Labors Resumed
Mr. Cotton was then living in Portsmouth, and that town on the 30th of March preceding, had invited him to become pastor of the church there; but Mr. Moody, whose pastoral relation to that church had not been formally severed, though he had long been absent from them, wrote to the town from Boston, where he was living, that he would return if they wished it. He had previously written the church to the same effect, and proposed the calling of a council. The town considered this unnecessary, and the selectmen wrote Mr. Moody that his long absence, notwithstanding repeated invitations to return, was evidence that he had not meant to come back; that they had given a call to Mr. Cotton, and were now awaiting his decision. Mr. Cotton advised the town to invite Mr. Moody once more, to return, and if he should not accept this invitation, "they might honestly provide for themselves such a person as they judged fittest to supply the place of the ministry there." His advice was followed; but Mr. Moody and the church and town still held to their former views about the necessity of a council, and Mr. Cotton, under these circumstances, also declined the invitation extended to him to be settled with the church in Portsmouth, though he continued his ministrations there for three months. In 1693, Mr. Moody resumed the pastorate.
In answer to the invitation to return to Hampton, Mr. Cotton wrote a letter giving some encouragement that he would accept it. His letter being communicated to the town at a meeting on the 12th of November, the committee, chosen at the last meeting, were instructed to inform him, that the town would do for him everything offered, or promised, at former meetings to induce him then to remain. Sixteen persons dissented from this vote, and no agreement was made with Mr. Cotton.
About three weeks after Mr. Pike's removal from Hampton, another town meeting was holden with reference to Mr. Cotton, "who," the record reads, "was some years formerly with us." It was now voted to send to him again and earnestly desire him to come as soon as hi could conveniently, and be here at least one Sabbath. In that case a general town meeting should be holden at the Meeting-house the next morning, to receive his propositions, and see if any agreement could be made.
Mr. Cotton probably preached in Hampton on the last Sabbath in March, for a town meeting was holden on the Monday following (March 28), when Lieut. John Sanborn and Mr. Nathaniel Weare were chose "to speak with Mr. Cotton and desire him to let the town know his propositions in writing, that they might see how near the town could close with him in his desires." A quarterly contribution, and repairs on the parsonage premises were promised.
In case of Mr. Cotton's acceptance of these offers, the town agreed "that there should be a convenient house built for the ministry upon the land appointed for that end, as soon as practicable, and finished at the town's expense, and the old house made habitable for him in the meantime."
About seven or eight weeks afterward, Francis Page, John Tuck and Ephraim Marston were chosen to repair the old house at the town's expense, and make it habitable for the minister, for the present.
At a town meeting holden late in the autumn, Capt. William Marston, Capt. Henry Dow and Daniel Tilton were chosen to agree with and employ workmen for building a Parsonage-house and to see that the work be done, and the house built and finished according to the true intent, fit for a minister; and that the work be done with as much prudence as may be, to save cost to the town. What this committee, or any tow of them, should agree to about the work, was to be considered valid. About four months later, Thomas Dearborn and John Tuck were added to this committee, and it was voted that an act of any three of the committee should be valid in all matters pertaining to the house.
The work of building did not go on very rapidly, for as late as July, 1693, the proprietor, or commoners, granted a small tract of land, adjoining to the land formerly granted or purchased for the ministry, and lying on the east side of the orchard, and adjacent thereto, to set the house on; and also land before the house, not exceeding forty square rods, to be laid out by the building committee, so as to be least prejudicial to the Meeting-house Green, and not to intrench on any person's grant--the land thus laid out, to be and remain a part of the Parsonage land forever.
In the following autumn, Sergt. Thomas Philbrick, Christopher Palmer, Thomas Webster, Sen., and Isaac Godfrey were chosen for that year. "to gather up the several sums that men had subscribed to give Mr. Cotton," whence it appears that he had remained with the people.
In the spring of 1694, the town chose Capt. Henry Dow and Lieut. John Smith "to treat with Mr. John Cotton to see whether he will be pleased to consent to be agreed with by the year for a certain salary." At the same meeting, May 17, it was voted that the town will give our present minister, Mr. John Cotton, £85 a year for his pains in the work of the ministry among us, to be paid every half year in wheat at 5s. per bushel, Indian corn, 3s., malt and rye, each 4s. per bushel; pork, at 3d. per lb. And beef 2d.--all merchantable and good--over and besides the contribution every quarter, formerly agreed upon, and the use and benefit of the house, land and meadow, appointed for the ministry;--the town to maintain the outside fence of said land and meadow; and to do what they see cause for, about supplying Mr. Cotton with firewood. The committee that had been appointed to treat with Mr. Cotton were now directed to conger with him again, to see whether he would accept the terms offered by the town.
The town afterward, at the same meeting, voted to give Mr. Cotton "sixtie load of wood a yeare--such loads with fower oxen, that two load shall make a cord when cutt, and those loads of wood to be vallued at three shillings a load and to be payd ffor out of the Towne Rate ffrom Time to time"--and the men recently chosen to gather up his subscriptions, were now chosen for the next year, to see that he be supplied with wood according to this vote, and to give an account of their doings to the selectmen.
The committee, appointed to confer with Mr. Cotton, reported the same day, that they had attended to the duty assigned them, and that Mr. Cotton accepted what had been voted and gave the town thanks for the same.
After one year had passed, the foregoing vote about supplying Mr. Cotton with firewood, was somewhat modified: He was now to be allowed 30 cords a year, and those who furnished it were to have 5s. a cord, provided one half of it, at least, was oak, and they were to be paid in money within the year, the procuring and paying for the wood to be under the direction of selectmen.
The compensation Mr. Cotton was to receive for his services being at last definitely settled, the way was opened for his ordination; and at a meeting of the freeholders, September 14, 1696, a vote was passed expressive of their desire that this should take place at once.
It was ordered that such parts of the old parsonage-house as would be needed in finishing the new house, or repairing the barn or leanto, should be used for those purposes, and what remained should be used by the selectmen for building a school house. The town also made a provision for completing the new parsonage house.
A month later the town voted, that if Mr. Cotton's goods which were then at Mystic, should be sent to Boston, they would be at the expense of transporting them from the latter town to Hampton, to the house which he was then occupying.