The Hampton Falls Church
In the beginning of the Hampton Falls settlement, ecclesiastical and secular affairs are so intimately blended, it is impossible to separate them. When the meeting-house was built, mentioned in their first petition to the General Assembly, in 1709, is not known; nor is it certain who was the ministers though there is reason to think it was a resident school-master, named Thomas Crosby, a son of Rev. Seaborn Cotton's second wife by a former marriage. That he was not qualified to administer the rite of baptism, and consequently, not ordained, seems evident; because after the petition of 1709 had been granted, and Rev. Theophilus Cotton had begun his labors there, under date June 17, 1711, the following minute appears on the Hampton Records: "Samuel, son of Mr. Pottle, was the first that was baptized in Falls meeting-house." But Mr. Cotton himself was not ordained at that time, and the child was baptized by the pastor of the Hampton church.
The meeting-house stood on the Hill, near the present site of the Weare monument, and appears to have been a rude building, occupied in an unfinished state till long after Hampton Falls became a separate town. In 1723, the burying-ground, on the Exeter road, near by, was fenced in.
Rev. Theophilus Cotton was born at Plymouth, May 5, 1682. He finished his course at Harvard at the age of nineteen. Of the next eight years of his life we know nothing, but naturally conjecture that he studied theology with his father, and preached as opportunity offered. He went to Hampton Falls sometime between December 3, 1709, and May 13, 1710, and preached there nearly two years before the church was organized.
On the 9th of December, 1711, forty-nine members of the old Church in Hampton were dismissed, in order to form the Hampton Falls church; and four days afterward, amid the solemnities of a day of fasting and prayer, the new church was organized with twenty one male and thirty-five female members. The Rev. Mr. Cushing of Salisbury, preached on the occasion; and Rev. Messrs. Gookin of Hampton and Odlin of Exeter assisted in the service.
Four weeks later, January 2, 1712, Mr. Cotton was ordained. The salary was at first sixty pounds and firewood, and the use of a parsonage of thirty acres; to which, after a few years, twenty pounds and more land were added.
Mr. Cotton married Mary, widow of Dr. Gedney of Salem, and daughter of Mr. Gookin of Cambridge. They had no children.
His ministry of about fifteen years seems to have been altogether a peaceful one, marked by no unusual events. Ninety-eight persons were received to full communion, thirty-five owned the covenant and four hundred sixty-eight were baptized. Mr. Cotton died August 16, 1726, so that his ministry covers the whole time of the ecclesiastical connection of Hampton Falls with the old town. Rev. Mr. Gookin of Hampton preached funeral sermons on the following Sabbath, from 2 Cor. 5: 4, and John 5: 35. Mr. Cotton was buried in the cemetery near the church, and a monument erected over his grave, bearing this inscription: "Here lyes ye body of ye Revd. Mr. Theophilus Cotton ye First Minister of ye Church at Hamptonfalls, who, after he had served God faithfully in his generation, Deceased, August ye 16th, 1726, in ye 45th year of his age. Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord."
Succeeding pastors of this church were: Rev. Joseph Whipple, 17~27—1757; Rev. Josiah Bailey, 1757—1762; Rev. Paine Wingate,[See Genealogies -- Wingate (1).] 1763—1776; Rev. Samuel Langdon, D.D.,[President Harv. Univ. 1774-1780.] 1781—1797; Rev. Jacob Abbot.[The last minister settled by the town. (See Genealogies -- Abbot.)] 1798—1827.
Rev. Moses Dow preached in Hampton Falls about three years, from 1830. In the summer of 1834, Rev. Henry C. Jewett supplied the pulpit; and during his stay, a separation took place -- a majority of the parish, with a small portion of the church becoming Unitarian, and the remainder forming the nucleus of a new church, worshipping for a time in the old meeting-house in Seabrook. In 1836, a new house was built near the line between Hampton Falls and Seabrook. July 12, 1837, Rev. Sereno T. Abbott was ordained pastor, and the same day, a new church was organized, now generally known as the Line church, receiving into it the last survivor of the old Seabrook church.
The Unitarian division assumed the name of "The First Church of Hampton Falls," and employed Rev. Linus H. Shaw as pastor for about a year. In 1841, the Unitarians of Hampton Falls and Kensington united, and Rev. Jacob Caldwell was ordained to minister to the two societies.