HISTORY OF THE BAPTIST DENOMINATION IN AMERICA, AND OTHER PARTS
OF THE WORLD
By David Benedict
London: Printed by Lincoln & Edmands, No. 53, Cornhill, for the Author
[Table of Contents for "A Generation History of the Baptists" by David Benedict]
BAPTISTS IN AMERICA
The first settlements in this State were begun in 1623, only three years after the fathers of New England landed at Plymouth. But we do not find that any Baptists were settled here, until more than a century after. The oldest and most distinguished Baptist establishments in New Hampshire, were formed in the southeast corner of the State, between the Merrimack and Piscataqua rivers, in the counties of Rockingham and Strafford. Not far from the time that churches began to be gathered here, a few were raised up in the western part of the State, along the Connecticut river, in the counties of Cheshire and Grafton. The third group of churches was gathered in the county of Hillsborough, which lies, for the most part, west of the Merrimack river, and extends from the southern line of the State far up into its middle regions.
But one church was formed in New Hampshire, previous to the year 1770; that was the one at Newtown, which was gathered in 1755. From 1770, until 1779, nine other churches were planted. From this period they began to increase with great rapidity, so that nine more were established in the year 1780.
This rapid increase of the Baptists in this State aroused the jealousies and resentment of some of the neighboring Congregational clergy, to such a degree, that one of them wrote a letter against them the next year, which he published in one of the Boston papers. This invidious and arrogant letter contained the following clause: "Alas! the consequence of the prevalence of this sect! They cause divisions every where. In the State of New Hampshire, where there are many new towns, infant settlements, if this sect gets footing among them, they hinder, and are like to hinder, their settling and supporting learned, pious, and orthodox ministers; and the poor inhabitants of those towns must live, who knows how long! without the ministry of the gospel and gospel ordinances" [Backus History of New England, vol. iii. p. 278]. But this slanderous epistle had but little effect; the Baptists still continued their zealous and successful exertions, their sentiments prevailed, and their churches increased, so that by the year 1795, there were, within the bounds of New Hampshire, 41 churches, 30 ministers, and 2562 communicants, and these churches were scattered in almost every part of the State.
From the last mentioned date to the present time, the Baptist sentiments have probably prevailed with as much rapidity as at any former period; but as many Baptist members have emigrated to other States, and the Free-will Baptists (as they are called) having of late years proselyted many to their communion, and divided and overrun a number of the Calvinistick churches, their numbers, which may be seen in the table at the end of this work, is not so great as it might otherwise have been. A number of the oldest churches in this State, mentioned by Mr. Backus in his Catalogue for 1784, have either become extinct, or exist under different names.
The New Hampshire, the Meredith, the Woodstock, and Dublin Associations, are all of them either partly or wholly in this State; and there are also a few churches in this State, which belong to the Boston and Leyden Associations in Massachusetts, and those of Barre and Danville in Vermont.
Some brief sketches of the history of these Associations, and of some of their most distinguished churches, we shall now attempt to give. The first Baptist church, which ever existed in New Hampshire, was gathered at Newtown in 1755, as has already been mentioned. Mr. Backus, who must be our guide in most of the following observations, has not related, with any degree of precision, the circumstances of its origin. This omission, in that scrutinizing researcher, was, doubtless, for the want of materials. It merely informs us, that this church was small in its beginning, was gathered out of a society of Separate Pedobaptists in 1755, and was the only church in the State for fifteen years. He also states that Walter Powers, the father of the present Walter Powers of Gilmantown, was ordained its pastor the same year it was constituted, that it increased for a while under his ministry, and then fell into difficulties and divisions, which interrupted its harmony, and finally terminated in its dissolution. Soon after the church was formed at Haverhill, by Dr. Hezekiah Smith, which was only seven miles off, a number of members united with that body, and the Newtown church lay waste until 1796, when it was revived under Mr. John Peak, now of Newburyport.
But long before the Newtown church arose, there resided at some distance to the north of this town, a woman, who, after living forty years a solitary life, as to communion with her brethren, was finally the means of spreading the Baptist sentiments in this part of the State, and of laying the foundation for some of the oldest churches in the New Hampshire Association.
The story of this remarkable woman is thus related by Mr. Backus in his history of New England, vol. 2, p. 265, 266.
About the year 1720, a man by the name of Scammon, of Stratham, on Piscataqua river, married Rachel Thurber, of Rehoboth, Massachusetts, and removed her to his own town. MRS. SCAMMON was a woman of piety, and firmly and understandingly established in the Baptist principles. But she was now removed at a distance from her brethren, and settled in a place where the Baptists were not known, and where their sentiments were not named, except by way of censure and reproach. In this lonely situation she remained most of her days, and although she frequently conversed with her neighbors respecting the propriety of her peculiar opinions, yet so strong were their prejudices against them, that for the space of forty years she gained but one proselyte. That was a woman, who being convinced of her duty repaired to Boston, the distance of more than fifty miles, and was baptized by Elder Bound, the pastor of the second church in that town.
Mrs. Scammon, towards the close of her life, fell in with Norcott on Baptism. The arguments in that little work appeared so clear and convincing, that she was firmly persuaded they would have an enlightening effect on the minds of her neighbors and friends, if they could be prevailed upon to read them. She accordingly carried the piece to Boston, with a view of getting it reprinted. But when she came to propose the matter to the printer, he informed her that he had more than a hundred copies of the work then on hand. These she immediately purchased, carried them home, and distributed them around her neighborhood, to all who would accept of them. She, however, did not live to see much of the fruits of her benevolence and zeal; but she used often to say to her neighbors, that she was fully persuaded that a Baptist church would arise in Stratham, although she might not live to see it. And so it happened that a Baptist church actually arose there soon after her death, and others were gathered in different parts of the country not long after, and the light which was reflected from Norcotts little book, which this pious lady had dispersed abroad, was the means either directly or indirectly of producing them. "Thus," says Mr. Backus, "Mrs. Scammons bread, cast upon the water, seems to have been found after many days; the books which she freely dispersed, being picked up, and made useful to many."
The most remarkable instance of this kind, was in the case of Samuel, generally distinguished by the title of Dr. Shepard, who has long been extensively known as an eminent preacher amongst the Baptists, in this part of New Hampshire. He was, at this time, a young man, engaged in the practice of physick, and being at the house of one of his patients, he took up one of the little books above-mentioned; and on reading it through, he found his mind much impressed with the force of the sentiments which it advocated. He had been converted when very young, but remained in the Pedobaptist connection. But the light, which he now received, increased, until he was brought fully to embrace the Baptist sentiments; and in a short time became a Baptist minister, and besides all his other labors, planted a church in Brentwood, which now contains almost seven hundred members.
About the time of Mrs. Scammons death, a revival commenced in this part of New Hampshire, which prevailed to a considerable extent, and many were led to embrace the Baptist sentiments.
Dr. Smith was now settled in Haverhill, near the borders of New Hampshire. He frequently made excursions into this State, and zealously engaged in the work, which was then going on, and by the eloquence of his preaching, and the weight of his character, bore down the strong prejudices against the Baptists, and was the means of abundantly extending their cause. During one week, in June, 1770, Mr. Smith baptized thirty-eight persons, who belonged mostly to Nottingham, Brentwood, and Stratham. Among this number were a Congregational minister, two deacons, and the majority of a Congregational church. This ministers name was Eliphalet Smith; he was the pastor of a Congregational church in a part of Nottingham, called Deerfield. In this place a Baptist church was formed soon after this great baptism, and Mr. Eliphalet Smith was ordained their pastor, who after continuing with them a number of years, removed to the county of Lincoln, in the District of Maine, and the church, I conclude, is now included in that of Brentwood. Dr. Shepard was one of the number baptized by Dr. Smith, in this excursion; he began to preach soon after, and was ordained at Stratham, the next year, by Drs. Stillman of Boston, Smith of Haverhill, and Manning of Providence.
The church at Deerfield, we have already observed, was formed in 1770; a church was planted in Stratham the same year, and those in Brentwood and Nottingham were gathered the year after. Thus in a very short time after Mrs. Scammons death, four Baptist churches were formed, and the Baptists had become numerous in these parts. If it be a fact that the angels inform the inhabitants of heaven, of the prosperity of Zion on earth, what joyful tidings must they have carried to this once mourning and anxious, but now glorified spirit.
The remaining part of the history of New Hampshire, we shall now exhibit under the heads of the Associations which it contains.
NEW HAMPSHIRE ASSOCIATION
This body was begun under the name of a Conference, in 1776, and did not assume the name and standing of an Association, until 1785. The churches of which this Conference was at first composed, were those of Brentwood, Berwick and Sanford; the two last were in the District of Maine. Dr. Shepard and William Hooper, then of Berwick, now of Madbury, were the principal promoters of this little Association. At their first interview, they were visited by Mr. Backus, the historian, who was then travelling through the country. This small community soon began to increase; some churches, which had been formed before they began to associate, soon fell in with them, others were raised up soon after, and united with them in their progress, and in a harmonious and prosperous manner, they have traveled on from their beginning to the present time. And although their number has, at various times, been diminished by different causes, yet they remain, in some measure, a large, and in every sense, a respectable body.
From the beginning of this Association some of its churches were in the District of Maine, and in that District, a considerable portion of them have ever been, and are still situated. Some account of these churches has already been given.
Of those churches in this Association which are situated in New Hampshire, the one called Brentwood is by far the largest, and in many respects, the most distinguished; and, indeed, this is the only church in this region, of which I have been able to collect any historical sketches, of any considerable importance.
Brentwood is in the county of Rockingham, about twenty miles westward of Portsmouth. The church here was organized in May 1771, with only thirteen members; but it has now increased to almost seven hundred. This great increase has been partly by means of revivals with which this body has been favored in a remarkable manner, and partly by collecting in its fold other churches, and the broken remains of other churches in its vicinity, some of which had been formed before it.
The Brentwood church at present, comprehends all the Baptists throughout an extensive circle around it; and consists, besides the main establishment at Brentwood, where Dr. Shepard resides, of five other branches, which are distinguished by the names of Epping, Lee and Nottingham, Hawke and Hampstead, Northwood, and Salisbury. These branches extend over a territory, whose diameter is upwards of thirty miles, and whose circumference, of course, is not far from a hundred. They are mostly supplied with preachers, and all of them enjoy the privileges, and exercise, in some measure, the power of distinct churches. Brentwood is their Jerusalem, to which they frequently repair. Here, like a bishop, in the midst of his diocese, resides the venerable elder, who is considered as the pastor of this extensive flock, and who, in his active days, spent much of his time in visiting among them, and whose popularity has probably been the means of collecting this extensive and unwieldy body, this church of churches, whose affairs must certainly be managed with peculiar inconvenience.
This wide spread church, not long since, projected a plan of becoming an association by itself, This plan has not yet been carried into effect, and it would certainly be a preposterous measure. For what is an association, according to the Baptist phraseology, but an assembly of churches? But the Brentwood church proposes to associate with itself.
This church, from its various branches, has sent forth a considerable number of preachers, and among them was Joshua Smith, the author of a little hymn book, which has been much esteemed, and had an extensive circulation. This worthy minister, after laboring much, with good success in various places, died with a consumption in 1795. [His Excellency William Plumer, Esq. Governor of New Hampshire, who lives in Epping, was formerly a minister in this church.]
As DR. SHEPARD, the founder, father and pastor of this extensive community, is now apparently just upon the verge of time, it may not be improper to give some sketches of his character. He was born at Salisbury, Massachusetts, near Newburyport, in 1739. Some account of his early life, until he engaged in the ministry, has already been given. For many years after he began his ministerial course, his labors were abundant and remarkably successful; and, indeed, he has never been idle in the Lords vineyard. For besides his labors in the ministry, he has continued more or less through life, to exercise the functions of his medical profession, and he has also been the author of a number of little works, which we shall mention at the close of this account. The calls of his profession, and the extensiveness of his flock, made it necessary for him almost incessantly to lead an itinerant life. The reader may form some idea of the extent and success of the labors of this eminent minister, from the following letter, which he wrote to Mr. Backus in 1781.
"I rejoice, Sir, to hear, that in the midst of judgment, God is remembering mercy, and calling in his elect, from east to west. You have refreshed my mind with good news from the west and south, and in return I will inform you of good news from the north and east. Some hundreds of souls are hopefully converted in the counties of Rockingham, Strafford, and Grafton, in New Hampshire, within about a year past. In the last journey I went before my beloved wife was taken from me, I baptized seventy-two men, women, and some that may properly be called children, who confessed with their mouths the salvation God had wrought in their hearts, to good satisfaction. Meredith, in Strafford, has a church gathered the year past, consisting of between sixty and seventy members. I baptized forty-three in that town in one day, and such a solemn weeping of the multitude on the shore, I never before saw. The ordinance of baptism appeared to carry universal conviction through them, even to a man. The wife, when she saw her husband going forward, began to weep, to think she was not worthy to go with him; in like manner the husband the wife, the parent the child, the children the parent; that the lamentation and weeping, methinks, may be compared to the inhabitants of Hadadrimmon, in the valley of Magiddon. Canterbury, in Rockingham county, has two Baptist churches gathered in the year past, one in the parish of Northfield; the number I cannot tell, but it is considerably large. I baptized thirty-one there, and a number have been baptized since by others. The other is in the parish of Loudon, in said Canterbury, containing above one hundred members. Another church, of about fifty members, is gathered in Chichester; another in Barrington, consisting of a goodly number, and one in Hubbardston, all three in Strafford county. Two churches in Grafton county, one in Holderness, the other in Rumney. The church in Rumney had one Haines ordained last August, much to the satisfaction of the people. All these seven churches have been gathered in about a year past. One church was gathered last fall in Wells, over which brother Nathaniel Lord, late of Berwick, is ordained. There appears to be a general increase of the Baptist principles, through all the eastern parts of New England."
For the want of sufficient materials, and a more intimate acquaintance, I must forbear pursuing the biography of this distinguished servant of Christ. His writings are,
1st. A Scriptural Inquiry respecting the ordinance of water baptism. This piece was answered at different times, by three Pedobaptist ministers.
2d. A Reply to these answers in defense of the Inquiry, etc.
3d. A Scriptural Inquiry concerning what the Friends or Quakers call spiritual baptism. Being an answer to a work, published by Moses Brown, of Providence, Rhode Island.
4th. The Principle of Universal Salvation, examined and tried by the Law and Testimony.
5th. An Examination of Elias Smiths two pamphlets, respecting original sin, the death Adam was to die the day he eat of the forbidden fruit, and the final annihilation of the wicked.
It would doubtless be gratifying to the members of this Association, to read some historical sketches of a number of remaining very respectable churches; but as no adequate materials have been received from them, what has already been said, must suffice for its history. It may, however, be proper to observe, respecting its boundaries, that it extends along the sea coast about eighty miles, from about twenty miles west of Portsmouth, in New Hampshire, almost to Portland in the District of Maine, where it meets the Cumberland Association. The churches extend back from the sea coast generally about sixty miles.
This body was formed in 1789. It was small at first, and for some cause has never appeared to enjoy much prosperity or enlargement. It has, however, at different times, contained almost twice as many churches as it does at present. Some of the churches, which formerly belonged to it, have united with the Woodstock and Barre Associations, and others have been overrun by the Free-will Baptists, who have now become numerous in its vicinity.
The town of Meredith from which this Association received its name, is in the county of Strafford, on the west side of Winnipisseogee lake, fifteen miles north of Gilmanton, and seventy north-west of Portsmouth. The church here, which is one of the oldest in this body, was gathered in 1780, when Dr. Shepard, of Brentwood, baptized forty-four persons in one day. Mr. Nicholas Folsom, who went from Brentwood, was ordained the pastor of this church in 1782; and in that office, though far advanced in age, he still continues. This venerable elder has long been considered the father of this little Association.
The church in Sandbornton is also one of the oldest in this body; it was formed in 1780. Mr. John Crockett, their present pastor, was settled among them in 1794.
The church in Rumney, in the county of Grafton, was also formed in 1780. Mr. Cotton Haines was their first pastor, but he was, not long after, rejected from the fellowship of the Baptists. Under the ministry of Mr. Ezra Willmarth, lately pastor of this church, it experienced a great revival; in 1811, it received the addition of about one hundred and forty members, which increased its whole number to upwards of three hundred. Reverend Peletiah Chapin, formerly a Congregational minister, was baptized in this place, by Mr. Willmarth, in 1806. He received Baptist ordination immediately after, and is now preaching some where in this region, to good acceptance.
This little body was organized as an Association in 1809, in the town from which it received its name, which is in the county of Cheshire, upwards of sixty miles west of Portsmouth, and near the southern borders of New Hampshire. It consisted, at the time of its formation, of six churches, which were dismissed from the Woodstock Association. The churches of Temple, Mason, and Dublin, are the oldest in this community, and were among the first, which were formed in this part of the State. The first of these bodies is now destitute of a pastor, but the other two are supplied by Elders William Elliot, and Elijah Willard. These two ministers have been laboring with good success in this part of the vineyard for many years, and they are now the only ordained preachers in this Association.
This Association is situated in the southern parts of the counties of Hillsborough and Cheshire.
On the western side of New Hampshire, along the Connecticut river, and extending some distance back in the country, is a large group of very respectable churches, which are supplied by a number of eminent ministers. These churches mostly belong to the Woodstock Association; and, indeed, they compose about half of that body, and some of them are almost as old as any in New Hampshire.
We shall now attempt to give some general account of the beginning of the Baptists in this region, and then proceed to some historical sketches of a few individual churches.
About the year 1770, and during a few succeeding years, a considerable number of Baptist brethren, and some ministers of the denomination, removed from different parts of Massachusetts and Connecticut, and some from other parts, and settled along the western side of New Hampshire, in the counties of Cheshire and Grafton, on, and at no great distance from, Connecticut River, which divides this State from Vermont.
Some of the ministers, who settled in this region, were Matturin Ballou, Ebenezer Bailey, Jedidiah Hibbard, Eleazer Beckwith, Thomas Baldwin, now of Boston, Isaac Kenny, etc. The oldest churches, along or near to the river, are those of Richmond, Westmoreland, Marlow, and Newport. In 1779, Elders Job Seamans, of Attleborough, Massachusetts, and Biel Ledoyt, of Woodstock, Connecticut, were appointed by the Warren Association, to travel, and spend a few weeks in preaching in these new and destitute plantations. Their appointment was in consequence of an affecting letter from Mr. Caleb Blood, who was at that time preaching at Marlow. Mr. Blood informed his brethren of the destitute situation of the people around him, and earnestly entreated the Association to send some ministering brethren over into this Macedonia to help him. Messrs. Seamans and Ledoyt were selected for the mission, which they performed in 1779. In their journey, they traveled up the Connecticut river as far as Woodstock, in Vermont, before the church was raised in that place; they preached both sides of the river, but mostly on the New Hampshire side; their coming was refreshing to the hearts of many, and an evident blessing followed their zealous and evangelical labors. Both of these ministers afterwards removed to this State, and settled not far from the scene of their labors in this missionary excursion. Mr. Ledoyt, who settled in Newport, has returned to Woodstock, in Connecticut, where he was settled before his removal hither, but Mr. Seamans still remains at New London, the aged and much respected pastor of the large and flourishing church which was planted, and which hath been built up under his ministry.
A number of ministers, whose names ought to be mentioned with respect, have settled on this side of New Hampshire, still later than those we have already named. Among these are Jeremiah Higbee, Ariel Kendrick, Joseph Wheat, Thomas Brown, Nathan Leonard, and Joseph Elliot.
Near the southwest corner of this State are two churches belonging to the Leyden Association, one of them is called Richmond, and the other Hinsdale and Chesterfield. The Richmond church was formed in 1770, and the same year, Mr. Matturin Ballou was ordained their pastor. The next year they joined the Warren Association, and continued in connection with that body a great number of years. This church has passed through a variety of scenes, both prosperous and adverse. For a number of years they were harassed with ministerial taxes. In 1780, they experienced a revival, by which more than forty members were added. But soon after this joyful event, a division ensued, and another church was formed, and Artemas Aldrich was ordained as its pastor. In 1790, these churches, which had long been low and in broken circumstances, were refreshed by a copious shower of divine grace, and in the course of two years, upwards of a hundred members were added; the two churches laid aside their bickerings and united as one; their two former pastors were dismissed, and Mr. Isaac Kenny was ordained to the pastoral care of the united body. How matters have been with them, from the last mentioned period, to the present time, I have learnt no more, than that they, at present, are reduced to a small number, and are destitute of a pastor.
The church at Hinsdale and Chesterfield has, for its pastor, a young man, by the name of Joseph Elliot, a son of William Elliot of Mason. We shall now proceed to give some brief sketches of a few of the churches on the west side of New Hampshire, which belong to the Woodstock Association.
The church in Westmoreland being the oldest, demands our first attention. Westmoreland is on the east bank of Connecticut river, in Cheshire county, directly opposite Putney in Vermont. Many of the first settlers in the town, removed from Mr. Backus congregation in Middleborough. The church here was formed in 1771. Mr. Ebenezer Bailey was its first pastor; he was ordained among them about two years after they were constituted, and continued with them until a few years past. But he has now become a member of the church in Alstead, and is succeeded in the pastoral office by Mr. Nathan Leonard.
The same year the church in Westmoreland was formed, there was one gathered in Lebanon, a town in Grafton county, which also lies on the river, but a few miles below Dartmouth College. Mr. Jedidiah Hibbard was ordained the pastor of this church not long after it was formed, and continued in that office until 1784, when he removed from them. Soon after he left them, the church was so much reduced by the removal of others, that, in a few years, it became extinct.
In this county are also two churches of considerable age, distinguished by the names of Canaan and Grafton. The first was formed in 1783, and was, for a number of years, under the pastoral care of Dr. Baldwin; the other was gathered in 1785; its first pastor was Oliver Williams, who died among them in 1790. He was from Rhode Island, and is supposed to have been a descendant of the famous Roger Williams, the founder of that State. This church is now under the care of Mr. Joseph Wheat.
The church in Marlow was formed in 1777. Mr. Eleazer Beckwith was its pastor many years. He, and many of the members of the church, removed from Lyme in Connecticut. In this church, Mr. Caleb Blood, who was afterwards in Shaftsbury, then in Boston, and now in Portland, was ordained. This has, at times, been a large and flourishing body. In 1790, it contained almost two hundred members; but it has now become so much reduced, that it has almost, if not entirely lost its visibility as a church. The church, which is now called Newport, according to Mr. Backus, was first established in Croydon, a neighboring town, in 1778. But in 1790, the brethren here united with those in Newport, and settled among them Mr. Biel Ledoyt, from Woodstock, Connecticut, whose name has not long since, been mentioned. From that period the church has been known by the name of Newport, which name suggests, that some of its first settlers removed from one of the principal towns in Rhode Island. Mr. Ledoyt resided here about fourteen years, and then returned again to Woodstock. While resident in Newport, he prosecuted his ministry with that evangelical ardor, for which he has, from the commencement of it, been peculiarly distinguished, and he had the happiness of seeing that his labors were not in vain in the Lord. In 1793, he thus wrote to a friend: "It hath been a long, dark, and cloudy night with me and the people here; but glory to our God, the cloud is dispersing fast. His work is begun among us. Newport and Croydon are greatly blest. There have been forty souls hopefully converted in a few weeks among us. I have baptized twenty-nine in four weeks. The work appears still going on. I cannot be idle, it is out of my power to answer all the calls I have at this time; but I endeavor to do all I can. Being favored with health, and the spirit of preaching, I ascend the mountains easy. There is a prospect of a glorious reformation in these parts. O may it spread far and wide! God hath remembered my family also for good; my three eldest daughters, I hope, are converted; the oldest seventeen years, and the youngest ten years old, are baptized." New London.
This church is in the northwest corner of the county of Hillsborough, about twenty miles east of Connecticut river. It was planted in 1788, by Mr. Job Seamans, who still remains its aged and much respected pastor. Mr. Seamans was born in Swansea, Massachusetts, in 1748. He was one of the company, which went to Nova Scotia, with Elder Nathan Mason, in 1765. Here he was converted and began to preach. After his return he became pastor of the church in Attleborough, in his native State, now under the care of Mr. James Read, in which station he continued fourteen years. From this place he removed to his present residence, when the country was very new, and much uncultivated in every respect. Here he soon planted a little church, which immediately began to increase, and has now arisen to a large and flourishing body. Mr. Seamans has had the happiness of witnessing, in this field of his labors, many precious and extensive revivals. A work broke out among his people in 1792, of which he gave the following account in a letter to Mr. Brickus:
"This town consists of about fifty families, and I hope that between forty and fifty souls have been translated out of darkness into Gods marvellous light, in this town, besides a number in Sutton and Fishersfield, who congregate with us. Fifteen have been baptized, and joined to the church, and I expect that a number more will come forward in a short time. Indeed, I know not of one of them but what is likely to submit to gospel order, nor one person in the town, who stands in any considerable opposition. We have lectures or conferences almost every day or evening in the week. Our very children meet together to converse and pray with each other; and I believe I may safely say, that our young people were never a quarter so much engaged in frolicking, as they now are in the great concerns of the soul and eternity. Some things in this work have exceeded every thing I ever saw before. Their convictions have usually been very clear and powerful, so that industrious men and women have had neither inclination nor strength to follow their business as usual. And they freely acknowledge the justice and sovereignty of God. They also have desires beyond what I have ever before known, for the universal out-pouring of the Holy Spirit."
This letter was written in 1793. This work progressed so fast, that by the next year, the church, which, at its commencement, consisted of only eighteen members, had increased to a hundred and fifteen. Some of all ages, from seventy down to eight years old, had been brought in; and what was remarkable, there were, at that time, in this church, thirty-seven men and their wives. [Backus History, vol. iii. p. 284, 285.]
Another revival, which prevailed to a considerable extent, took place among this people, but a few years ago.
Our limits forbid us to make any particular mention of but two more of this cluster of churches, and of these we can give but very brief accounts. These churches are Cornish and Alstead, both in the county of Cheshire. The town of Cornish is on Connecticut river, directly opposite Windsor in Vermont. In this town a church was established in 1788. Mr. Jedidiah Hibbard was pastor of it some years after he left Grafton, but it is now supplied by Mr. Ariel Kendrick, and is a large and respectable body.
Alstead is situated still lower down the river, eight miles below Charlestown, formerly called No. 4. The church was formed here in 1790 of fifteen members, but it has now increased to about a hundred and fifty. Its pastor is Jeremiah Higbee, a native of Middletown, Connecticut, who was ordained among them in 1794.
In the county of Hillsborough, and towards the lower part of this State, are three churches which formerly belonged to the Warren, but now to the Boston Association. These churches are distinguished by the name of Weare, New Boston, and Nottingham West. The church at Weare was formed in 1768. An account of its origin and early progress I have not obtained; but about 1787, Mr. Amos Wood, who was educated at Rhode Island college, was ordained among them, and continued their pastor until his death. Mr. Wood was a minister of considerable eminence and usefulness, and under his ministry this church became a large and respectable body. But since his death, it has, for the most part, been destitute of preaching, and in other respects in a tried and broken situation. But lately, they were supplied, a part of the time, by a young man, by the name of Evans, from the church in Reading, near Boston, and their circumstances became more comfortable and prosperous. The church is now under the care of Elder Ezra Willmarth.
Respecting the church in New Boston, I have obtained no historical sketches. It has not, however, been formed many years, and it is now under the pastoral care of a very worthy minister, whose name is Isaiah Stone, who was once at Dummerston, in Vermont.
The church in Nottingham West was formed in 1805. It is said to owe its origin to the labors of Mr. Daniel Merrill, now of Sedgwick, Maine, while he was a Pedo-baptist minister. In the winter of 1793, Mr. Merrill spent a number of months in this place. A revival commenced under his ministry, in which about thirty were hopefully converted, and professed religion, at that time, in the Pedobaptist connection. But most of them became Baptists afterwards, and were the principal materials in building the Baptist church in this place.
In the neighborhood of these three churches, are the broken remains of some others, particularly at Londonderry and Hopkinton. The churches of Bow and Goffs-town, have lately been revived; they have united into one, and are under the pastoral care of Elder Gates.
Thus we have given a general view of the Calvinistic Associated Baptists in New Hampshire. There are a few churches of the same faith and order, which are not associated, which will be brought to view in the general list of Associations and churches.
There is, also, in this State, a considerable number of churches of the Free-will Baptists, of whom some information will be given in the history of that community.
The Congregational church is the established religion of New Hampshire. But dissenters of various denominations form a large body of its inhabitants. I do not find that the Baptists have suffered much in this State, from religious oppression, or been much harassed with those fretting plagues to New England dissenters, ministerial taxes. This moderation we may attribute partly to the spirit of the established church, but mostly to other causes. While New Hampshire was a provincial government, its Governors and Counsellors were appointed by the Crown of England. This circumstance was favorable to dissenters, and operated as a check to the monopolizing views of the Congregational clergy, and was the reason, as Mr. Backus informs us, why that denomination was not exalted to such an overbearing pre-eminence here, as in Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Another reason why ecclesiastical publicans, or ministerial tax-gatherers have not been so troublesome to the Baptists and other dissenters in this State, as in some of the neighboring ones, may be, that under the government of Benning Wentworth, while a large portion of the State was unsettled, there were grants of ministerial lands in all the unsettled townships. These grants provided one lot for the first settled minister, and another for the support of the ministry. A few Baptist ministers obtained these lands by right of being the first settled ministers, for they were not exclusively promised to any one denomination; but most of them have fallen into the hands of Congregational ministers; and have, in many places, precluded the need of religions taxation.
By the Constitution of New Hampshire, "all towns, parishes, bodies corporate, or religious societies, etc. are empowered to make adequate provision for public protestant teachers of piety, morality and religion." But it also provides, "that no person of any one particular religious sect or denomination, shall ever be compelled to pay towards the support of the teachers of another persuasion, sect, or denomination." [Bill of Rights, Article 6.]
This article promises all that dissenters would ask. But notwithstanding these strong and unqualified terms of exemption, the Baptists and other dissenters, have, in a few instances, been obliged to lodge certificates, or make some formal declaration of their faith to get clear of parish rates. But these instances have not been numerous, and, at present, our brethren in this State generally enjoy all the religious privileges, which they have ever asked from the civil power, namely to be left alone.