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PART II, CHAPTER 13.
|Captain John Patten (deacon),||Mrs. Mary Fulton,|
|Captain James Mustard,||Mrs. Esther Haley,|
|Alexander Patten,||Mrs. Hannah Henry,|
|James Fulton,||Mrs. Anna Winchell,|
|John Small,||Mrs.Mary Ellis,|
|Joseph Haley,||Mrs. Nancy Stockman,|
|-------- Whitum,||Mrs. ------ Perry,|
|William Randall,||Mrs. Jane Randall,|
|Doctor Philip Hoyt,||Mrs. Rachel Reed,|
|Reverend Jonathan Ellis,||Widow Jamesone,|
|Mrs. Mary Patten,||Widow Sarah Cobb|
[1794.] At a meeting of the town, held May 20, 1794, it was voted not to oppose the petition of John Merrill, Esquire, and others, praying the General Court for an Act of Incorporation as a Baptist society, provided they would withdraw their suit at law, of Job Macomber vs. The Town of Topsham, in which case the town agreed that the execution against Abraham Cummings1 should not be put in force, and that all future taxes for the minister's salary, of members of the Baptist society, might be drawn by them from the treasurer or the constable, they producing a certificate that they had paid an equal sum for the Baptist society, provided they obtained an Act of Incorporation within one year. An attempt was made this year to obtain a two-thirds vote to dismiss Reverend Mr. Ellis, but failed. After this date the First Parish held meetings distinct from those of the town, and the latter, therefore, has only occasionally since then taken any action in regard to religious matters.
[1795.] The incorporation of the Baptist Society which had just occurred had the unfortunate and rather singular effect of depriving the First Parish of all its officers. It is certainly rather remarkable that all these officers should have affiliated with the Baptists. That such was the actual fact, however, is shown by a petition to John Merrill, Esquire, justice of the peace, requesting him to call a meeting of the freeholders of the First Parish. This petition expressly sets forth the fact that the First Parish had no officers and "were consequently incapable of conducting and managing its affairs." This petition was dated April 20th, and on April 30th the first meeting of the parish, after the separation, was held at the meeting-house.
A new board of parish officers was chosen, money raised for support of the minister, and Richard Knowles elected sexton, "with allow-ance of twelve shillings." At a subsequent meeting this year a comittee was chosen to wait upon Mr. Ellis and to concert measures for rendering the ministerial lot of some benefit to the minister and parish.
[1797.] In 1796 and 1797 considerable repairs were made to the meeting-house. In May of the latter year a committee was chosen "to wait on the Reverend Jonathan Ellis for the purpose of obtaining information how his proposals may in the best way be answered, and report to the Parish." What proposals the pastor had made is not known, but on the twenty-sixth of June following, the parish decided not to increase his salary "at the present time, on account of the depreciation of money."
[1799.] At a meeting of the parish, held September 9, Captain Alexander Rogers, James Fulton, and Arthur Hunter were chosen to settle with Mr. Ellis and to pay him the arrearages due to him. They were also authorized to grant him a discharge from the parish if he desired, and to supply the pulpit for a while.
[1800.] At the annual meeting of the parish this year, the sum of three hundred dollars was raised for current expenses. This sum was between thirty and forty dollars less than had usually been raised for the minister's salary alone. At the annual meeting of the town, Messrs. John Merrill, William Wilson, James Purinton, Doctor Porter, and Alexander Thompson were chosen a committee to consider the practicability of uniting the two societies. The desire for such union probably arose in consequence of the difficulty experienced, at that time, in furnishing adequate support to two ministers.
[1801.] The committee for supplying the pulpit were instructed by the parish "to write to the Professor of Divinity at Harvard College requesting him to recommend a candidate to them of ability and good moral character," and were also instructed to employ no transient preacher until it was positively ascertained that no suitable candidate could be sent. The parish also voted "not to employ Mr. Thompson any longer to supply the Desk." It would appear from this action that Mr. Ellis had received his discharge from the committee appointed in 1799 to settle with him.
[1802.] The Reverend Mr. Western was employed as a preacher until October, 1802. At a meeting of the parish in June, Benjamin Hasey, Esquire, Doctor Porter, and Ezra Smith were chosen a committee to petition the legislature "for permission to sell the Parsonage
Lot, or take measures to render the same profitable to the Parish, agreeable to the original intentions of the Grantors"
[1803.] In April 23 of this year, the parish passed a vote inviting Mr. Ellis to preach for one year at a salary of two hundred and eighty-three dollars and thirty-three cents, he to have "the privilege of keeping school such part of said year as he shall choose."
[1805.] An effort was this year made to unite with the Second Parish in obtaining a minister to preach alternately in the two parishes.
[1806.] At a town-meeting, held November 3, 1806. it was voted "that the town having heard and duly considered the proposal of the honorable Benjamin J. Porter and others, to build a meeting-house near the Court house, do unitedly approve of the same and do earnestly recommend it to the members of both parishes of the town to become united as soon as may be into one corporate body for the purpose of supporting public worship in said town when [it shall be] erected.
"And it is further voted that the town, with a view to promote an union of the parishes, for the support of public worship, agreeably to the proposal of said Porter and others, will appoint a committee of' seven persons with full power to pursue any measures necessary and proper on the part of the town to promote the building of said house and to support public worship therein."
In December the parish voted to hold their business meetings and religious services in the Court House until a new meeting-house should be built, but the vote was subsequently changed so as to have the meetings for public worship held one half the time at the Court House and the remainder of the time either at the old meeting house or at the school-house near it.
[1810.] At the annual meeting this year the parish voted "that the treasurer be directed to renew or exchange the securities or collect, if necessary, the money that is now at interest, belonging to the parish, and also to receive the interest annually or take notes for the same." It is evident from this that the parish had something of a fund at this time, but from what source it was derived is not so easy to understand. The amount of money raised each year was seldom more than enough to pay current expenses and often not sufficient for that purpose, and the ministerial lot was not sold, notwithstanding the vote in 1802, until 1819.
At this same meeting Benjamin Orr, Esquire, was appointed to obtain from the committee chosen in 1799 a certificate of the discharge of Reverend Mr. Ellis, and to deposit the same with the
Owing to the separation which had occurred in the parish, and to other causes, the church had gradually dwindled away, and after the dismissal of their pastor it became nearly extinct. During the period of Mr. Ellis's ministry it was Congregational in name, but not what would now be called strictly Orthodox, since it paid more attention to the form of church polity than it did to uniformity of belief. Reverend Ezra S. Goodwin had been preaching this year, and on October 12, the parish expressed to him their approbation of his past services and requested him to continue with them awhile longer.
[1811.] An attempt was made this year, unsuccessfully, to have the minister over the First Parish supply the pulpit of the Second Parish also. The thanks of the parish were again given to Mr. Goodwin for his services, and the regret expressed that the financial situation did not admit of their employing him longer.
[1814.] Nothing further of special importance occurs in the parish records until the year 1814, when an attempt was again made to unite the two parishes. The committee on the part of the First Parish chosen to confer with the other parish were instructed that "if an union of said parishes could not be obtained on any other principle, that the meetings for public worship be holden two thirds of the time at the Court House and the other third at the upper meeting-house."
[1815.] In 1815, Messrs. Benjamin Orr, Alexander Rogers, and Jehiel Abell were appointed a committee to petition the legislature, in behalf of the parish, "for leave to sell the parsonage lot in Topsham, under such restrictions and limitations as they shall think proper."
[1818.] The meeting-house, about this time, must have been getting sadly in need of repair, since, in April, 1818, the parish committee were instructed to repair it, "by building doors, glazing the windows, and underpinning the house so as to secure it from falling."
[1819.] On May 10, 1819, the committee appointed in 1815 to sell the ministerial lands, reported that "they have sold the whole of said lands at auction to the highest bidders on the 22d day of April 1819, as follows, to wit. To Samuel Hunter twelve acres and 80 rods for the sum of one hundred and twenty-five dollars: To Arthur Hunter thirty-eight acres and seventy rods for the sum of two hundred and thirty dollars and 62 1/2 cents; To Thomas Patten twenty-four acres and ten rods for two hundred and sixteen dollars and fifty-six cents; To George Rogers twenty-five acres for two hundred dollars.
All and singular of which sums to be paid, with interest, in four years from the time of sale, one quarter part of the principal of each sum to be paid annually, and interest semi-annually on the whole amount of sales Amounting in the whole to the sum of $772.18
"(Signed) "ACTOR PATTEN,
THOS. G. SANDFORD."
[1821.] In the year 1821, a committee was chosen to ascertain and report, at an adjourned meeting, who were members of the First Parish. The parish this year, moreover, agreed to accept the new meeting-house on the terms offered by the proprietors of the same, which were as follows: "That the proprietors of the meeting-house present the same to the First Parish, reserving the right to the proprietors of selling all their right thereto and receiving the proceeds; and whether the same is sold or unsold, it shall not be liable in any manner whatever to be taxed by the First Parish; and it is understood by the foregoing reservation that the parish shall never assess any moneys that it may hereafter raise either wholly or in part upon the pews or seats of any individual proprietors therein; and the proprietors further present the parish with one of the front pews on the lower floor, numbered thirty-one, and the two pews in the gallery behind the singing seats, and the overplus of moneys arising from the sale of pews in said house, after paying the bills of said Note, shall be annexed to the funds of the First Parish.
"That in future the meetings for publick worship be holden one third of the time at the old meeting-house, and two thirds of the time at the new meeting-house, for six months in the year, commencing the first Sabbath in May; the remainder of the year at the new meeting-house."
At a subsequent meeting, a number of persons who had previously joined the Second Parish were accepted as members of the First Parish. At the same meeting an agent was chosen to obtain a deed of the meeting-house from the proprietors, and to give deeds of pews to the owners thereof.
On August 26, 1821, the church was reorganized. The following persons constituted its membership at this time:-
William Randall, John Harmon, Deacon Samuel Winslow, Mrs. Jane Randall, Mrs. Margaret Patten, Mrs. Mary Ellis, Mrs. Hannah Patten, Mrs. Martha Rogers, Mrs. Betsey Perkins, Miss Hannah Patten, Widow Mary Foy, Widow Mary Patten, and Widow Rachel Reed.
[1823.] This year an attempt was made to settle Reverend Mr. Danforth, at first for five years and then for one year. There was a good deal of difficulty in raising the necessary amount of money by subscription, and it is evident that he was not engaged, as at meeting held on the twenty-second of November, the parish committee were instructed to employ a preacher, and to pay him out of the money already raised.
[1824.] The parish this year invited Reverend Jacob C. Goss to settle as their pastor. "until six months' notice on either side shall be given for a discontinuance of his services." The salary offered was five hundred dollars. To this invitation Mr. Goss made an answer containing the following proposals, which were accepted by the parish:-
"First. Provided that I may have liberty to be absent four weeks each year, and during this time shall not be under obligation to supply the desk.
"Second. Provided either party may have liberty to dissolve this connection, giving to the other one year previous to such dissolution.
"Third. Should the salary which you offer me be found on trial insufficient to meet my expenses, I shall expect it will be increased."
Thomas G. Sandford, Actor Patten, Colonel Samuel Veazie. Charles R. Porter, Doctor James McKeen, and Major Nahum Perkins were chosen on behalf of the parish, and Samuel Winslow on behalf of the church, to make the arrangements for the ordination.
On December 7 the council for ordination met at the house of Nathaniel Green. There were present, Reverend Hezekiah Packard and David Owen, Wiscasset; Reverend Eliphalet Gillett and Samuel P. Ingraham, Hallowell; Reverend William Mittimore and Jona-than Moody, Falmouth; Reverend John W. Ellingwood, David Stillson, and Gillett Trufant, Bath; Reverend Enos Merrill and Nathan Scales, Freeport; Reverend Asa Cummings and Cashing Prince, Brunswick; Reverend Seneca White, Levi Houghton, and Daniel Marston, 2d, Bath; Reverend Caleb Hobart and Jacob Hayes, North Yarmouth; Reverend Benjamin Tappan and John Eveleth, Augusta, and William Allen, D. D., president of Bowdoin College.
Reverend Doctor Allen was chosen moderator, and Benjamin Tappan, scribe.
The ordination took place December 8, 1824. The introductory prayer was made by Reverend Mr. Mittimore; the sermon was by President Allen, from Isaiah lii, 7, "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings"; the consecrating
prayer was by Reverend Doctor Gillett ; the charge to the pastor, by Reverend Doctor Packard. of Wiscasset; the right hand of fellowship, by Reverend Mr. Mead; address to the church and society, by Reverend Mr. Tappan; and the concluding prayer, by Reverend Mr. Ellingwood.
[1825.] At a church meeting held January 20, it was decided "that the ordinance of the sacrament should he administered the first Sabbath in every other month, and that a regular church meeting should he held every Thursday previous to communion."
[1826.] This year the parish voted that the notice of its meetings "be in future posted on the meeting-House door and in the publishment-box1 to said meeting-house."
On May 11 of this year Samuel Winslow was chosen as deacon. - the first one since the reorganization of the church. On August 10, one of the members was charged with a "too frequent use of spirituous liquors," and was suspended from fellowship and afterwards was excommunicated.
[1829.] In April. 1829. Mr. Goss sent in his request for a dismissal, on the ground of dissatisfaction with his present condition and prospects. A committee was appointed by the parish to confer with him and to make to him a full disclosure of the condition of the parish. and to inform him, if they found it expedient, that the parish felt unable to support him after the expiration of the year. At a subsequent meeting the assessors were instructed to devise measures for paying the arrearages due him. Notwithstanding his resignation, Mr. Goss seems to have remained for some time longer, for at a meeting held early the next year  another committee was appointed to inform him "of the embarrassed situation of the parish on the subject of dissolving his connection with said parish"; and on July I6, a committee was chosen "to invite him to dissolve the connection between him and the parish and discontinue his services as early as may be convenient to him and prior to the first of December next, and that the connection be now accordingly dissolved." A week later Mr. Goss sent a letter to the parish in which he consented to the annulment of their contract, provided all arrearages were paid and his salary paid up to the date of the termination of his services, otherwise his resignation was to be null and void. Upon the receipt of this communication, the parish voted to use so much of the interest of
the parish fund as might be found necessary to pay what was due. This terminated the civil contract between the parish and pastor, but the pastoral connection of the church with Mr. Goss was not severed by act of council until June 10, 1835. Mr. Goss commenced his labors under very favorable auspices, and so far as can be determined from the records there was no dissatisfaction with him, and his dismissal was owing solely to the feeble condition of the parish at this time.
[1836.] At the annual meeting of the parish in 1836, a committee was appointed to examine the records of the parish, and ascertain who were members of it and report a list of the same. This report, on account of the information it contains in regard to parishes in general, is herewith given in full:-
"The committee appointed at a meeting of the First Parish in Topsham, held on the twelfth instant, to ascertain who are the legal members thereof, respectfully report that they have examined the statutes and reported cases in point, and have unanimously come to the conclusion that all inhabitants of twenty-one years of age and upwards, within the bounds of said parish, and who have not with-drawn therefrom by leaving a written notice thereof with the parish clerk, are members of said parish, with the exception of such persons only as are legal members of some poll parish. That all inhabitants coming to reside within the limits of the said First Parish and who are not members of a poll parish, with all such as reside therein and withdrawn from the poll parish to which they were connected by leaving a written note thereof with the clerk of said parish, do on their claiming and exercising their rights of membership thereby become members of said First Parish.
"To visit each individual within the limits of said First Parish, and to ascertain from them personally whether they belong to the parish or not, would require more time than your committee could conveniently bestow on the subject. They therefore have examined the records of the poll parish, within the bounds of the First Parish, and from which it appears the following named persons1 are members of the Second Parish of this town. . . . Your committee further report that they are divided in opinion, in regard to the point whether the members of a poll-parishioner's family, at arriving at twenty-one years of age, do thereby, without first withdrawing from the poll parish,
become members of the territorial parish within the bounds of which the poll is situated. A majority of your committee, Messrs. Perkins, Tibbets, and Ellis, are of opinion that they do. The other members of your committee are of a different opinion. The case has been submitted to two of our most able counsellors, who differ in opinion on the subject. Your committee, therefore, to avoid all uncertainty, recom-mend to persons so situated to withdraw from the poll parish, in case they are desirous of connecting themselves with the territorial, or from the territorial if they prefer continuing with the poll. They would further recommend, in case the parish should resort to taxes, that such persons so situated, and arriving at the age of twenty-one, should not be taxed or considered as members of said parish until they claim and exercise their rights of membership.
per order of Committee."
The ministerial fund of the-First Parish amounted at this time to seven hundred and thirty-sixty dollars and sixty-one cents. No parish meetings were held later than this, and the majority of the pew-holders became members of the Unitarian Society. The continuation of the history of the First Parish Church organization will be given further on, under the title of the "Congregational Church." The latter is the direct lineal descendant of the old First Parish Church, though, for reasons given elsewhere, the members of it no longer belonged to the First Parish, but formed a new poll parish.
The first Baptist preaching in Topsham was by Elder Simon Locke, it is believed, in 1779. On the fifth of June of that year he bap-tized Miss R. Purington, who was the first one in town to receive the ordinance by immersion.
After 1782, Reverend Mr. Potter preached occasionally for several years, but without making many converts. During the years 1783 and 1784, Elders Case and Macomber preached occasionally.1
Reverend Job Macomber also preached here in 1789, 1790, and 1791. These ministers were paid for their services by the voluntary contribution of individuals, as appears from a receipt given by Macomber to Actor Patten, Joseph and Pelatiah Haley, and John Merrill.
The General Court of Massachusetts, by an Act passed in
June, 1794, incorporated John Merrill, Esquire, Stephen Douty, Actor Patten, Hugh Wilson, Robert Cleaves, Jr., James Purington, Jr., Ebenezer Farrin, William Bragdon, John Starboard, Jr., John Hewey, John Duggan, Joseph Jack, Elnathan Hinkley, Alexander Thompson, Elijah White, Benjamin Woodard, Moses Hodgkins, John Sandford, John Ware, William Hunter, Samuel Wilson, Calvin Wade, Thomas Smith, John Starboard, Luther Hall, Thomas Rideout, John Reed, William Malcom, Robert Cleaves, John Wilson, Joseph Haley, Humphrey Thompson, Willard Sears, Moses Owen, William Collamore, Nathan Wyman, Hezekiah Wyman, William Wyman, and James Purington into a society by the name of the "Baptist Religious Society in Topsham."1
The first meeting of this society was held at the house of Actor Patten on February 9, 1795. This society constituted the Second Parish of the town. At this meeting James Purington was chosen moderator, and John Merrill parish clerk. It was voted to build a meeting-house "forty feet long and thirty feet wide, this season, and that it be set between Joseph Haley's house and Benjamin Eaton's." It was to be owned by each proprietor in proportion to the amount subscribed.
This meeting-house, subsequently known as the "old yellow meeting-house," was built principally by Joseph Haley, Captain Actor Patten, 1st, John Merrill, Esquire, Captain Pelatiah Haley, and James Purington, the tanner.
April 17, 1797, the parish voted to give Elder Elihu Purington, of Bowdoinham, an invitation to preach for them one half the time. This invitation was accepted.
In the year 1800, Reverend Mr. Williams preached in the meeting-house of the Second Parish.2
The following is the list of members subsequent to the incorporation of the parish, down to April 7, 1808: 1796, James Sampson, Obed Burnham; 1797, Andrew Whitehouse, Joshua Whitten, Joseph Whitten, John Whitten, Stephen Pennell, William Wilson, Jr.; 1798, Nathaniel Melcher, Benjamin Eaton, Charles Gowell, Joseph Graves, Joshua Graves, Samuel Graves, Moses Plummer, Gideon Walker 1799, Francis Douglass, Benjamin Metcalf; 1800, James Potter; 1803, John Rogers, John Hern, David Work, Jeremiah Staples, Winslow Staples, Moses Graves, Joseph Berry, James Staples,
Thomas Hunter, Arthur Hunter, Robert Alexander, William Malcom, Jr., John Given, William Reed, Thomas Reed, Robert Reed, David Reed, William Reed Hunter, Timothy Bern, Joseph Quint, Josiah Staples, John Graves, Jr., Jacob Graves, Samuel Staples, Ebenezer Work, William Given, Jacob Stockman, Daniel Gray, Caleb Curtis, Lemuel Thompson; 1808, Daniel Holden, Nathaniel Green, Jotham Chick, Stephen Harris, James Cook, Samuel Towns, Jonathan Blaisdell, Moses Weymouth, David Foster, Timothy Foster, Gideon Larrabee, Aaron Thompson, John Rogers, Jr., Joshua Haines, Isaac Johnson, Samuel Perkins, Joseph M. Perry, Robert Sager, Nathaniel Quint. James Thompson, John Jameson, Francis Card, James G. Goold, William Frost, Nahum Houghton, Joseph Haley, Jr., David Flagg, Jesse T. Haley, and Peter H. Green.
[1808.] On April 28, 1808, the parish voted to raise four hundred dollars for the support of the ministry, but the vote was reconsidered in June, and two hundred and fifty dollars was then voted. From this time until about 1833, the amount annually raised for the supply of the pulpit and all other expenses was, ordinarily, only one hundred dollars.
[1815.] In September of this year three males and five females belonging to this society were organized into a church at Oak Hill, under the title of "The Predestinarian Baptist Church of Topsham." It is probable that Mr. Elihu Purington was then ordained as an elder,1 since the records of the church state that at this time Elder Kendall preached the introductory sermon, Elder Titcomb gave the right hand of fellowship, and Elder Temple made the concluding prayer.
[1818.] On June 4, 1818, Mr. Winslow Staples was ordained by council; Elder Stearns preached the sermon, Elder Persons offered a prayer, Elder Temple gave the right hand of fellowship, Elder Stinson gave the charge. and Elder Frost made the concluding prayer. The church at this time numbered over fifty members.2
At a meeting held April 18, of this year, the parish voted that a committee which had been chosen to settle the accounts of the parish should be authorized "to move the meeting" to any part of the town if they judged it expedient. Accordingly, the meetings were held this year in two places,- in the "old yellow meeting-house " and in a school-house.3
[1819.] In April, 1819, the frame of a new meeting-house was
raised, and in November the building was completed. It was small, containing only thirty pews.1 This building was the one, opposite the village graveyard, which was afterward used as a town-house.
This year "one half of the male and several female members of the church were expelled for intemperance, until only eight were left."2
(1820) Elder Staples's pastorate could not have been a very successful one, as in February 26, 1820, the church and parish, in joint session, passed a vote of censure against him. At a parish meeting, held April 15 of this year, a committee was appointed to confer with Elder Henry Kendall as to the terms on which he would consent to become their settled minister.
At a meeting held April 29, 1820, it was voted to accept Elder Henry Kendall's proposals, and to consider him as their settled minister, agreeably to the conditions specified by him. These conditions were as follows:-
"1. It will not be expected by me that the society bind itself to pay me any specified sum for my services as their minister, nor would it be pleasing to me on my settlement that any obligatory grant should be made to me, but that the whole subject should be left with the society to give me annually much or little as they may consider duty or proper.
"2. That a committee, to be composed of members of the church and society, be annually raised, whose duty it shall be to confer with me on the subject of my situation and the number of Sabbaths I ought to serve the society for the sum they may by grant or subscription annually raise, and report as soon as may be the result of this conference to me and the assessors of the society.
"3. That whenever I shall think it duty to request a dissolution of my ministerial connection with this society, and shall officially make known my desire, the society shall, without any unnecessary delay, attend to the subject, and if they are not disposed to grant my request they shall join me in choosing a council of the elders and churches of our order, to hear and determine the subject of the request, whose decision shall be binding on the parties.
"4. That whenever a majority in parish meeting, legally called for that purpose, shall by vote declare that my ministerial labours is no longer useful, and vote my dismission, then my ministerial connection shall be considered dissolved."
Up to this time the Second Parish contained both Calvinist and
Free-Will Baptists, but a separation now occurred, and in 1821 Joshua and John Whitten were dismissed to the Free-Will Baptist Society.
[1824.] At a meeting held April 17, 1824, the parish voted "to dismiss Elder Henry Kendall from being any longer their settled minister,- agreeable to his request." The church records contain a statement to the effect that the dismission of Elder Kendall gave rise to some dissatisfaction.
Nothing of importance occurs in the records of the Second Parish subsequent to this date, though the records do not close until the year 1832. As the Baptists withdrew that year, and formed a new society, it would seem as though the Second Parish must thereafter have been composed exclusively of Free-Will Baptists or else that there were two religious societies in one poll parish.
On January 19, 1824, Henry Kendall, Jabez Perkins. James Cook, Richard Orr, Samuel Wilson, James Wilson, Elijah White, George Howland, and Daniel Welch petitioned the legislature for incorporation as a religious society. The petition was granted, and on February 2, 1824, the society met and elected Henry Kendall, moderator, and James Cook, clerk. Jabez Perkins was chosen collector, and Deacon Elijah White and Mr. James Cook as parish committee. The members of this society constituted the third parish of the town.
Joseph Foster, Jr., Daniel Welch, Leonard Blondell, Jabez Perkins, David Scribner, James Cole, John Owen, Charles White, Joshua Haskell, Aaron Hinkley, Charles Hunter, Edward Welch, David Dunlap, William Randall, Jr., Jonathan Baker, James Rogers, Benjamin Hasey, John Hunter, 2d, Benjamin Thompson, Francis Tucker, George Rogers, William Work, and John Mustard joined the society about this time, though a number of them afterwards went back to the First Parish. The members at their first meeting voted to call themselves by the name of "The Baptist Church Society." They built this year a small meeting-house in the village, at a cost of about six hundred dollars.
[1825.] This year there was a powerful revival in the church, though but little mention is made of it in the records.
[1826.] At a meeting held on April 3, the society voted that as less money than was needed had heretofore been raised, "if the society should not be able to raise by voluntary subscription at least one hundred dollars for Elder Kendall the present year, that they will
not require his ministerial labors beyond a proportion of the time for the sum they shall raise and pay over to him."
[1834.] At a church meeting, held February 22, the subject of building a new meeting-house was discussed, and it was thereupon voted "that Jabez Perkins, David Scribner, Samuel Perkins, Josiah Sanford, and L. Hibbard be a committee to solicit means to carry the same into effect." On October 4, of this year, Samuel Perkins and David Scribner were chosen deacons.
At a meeting of the society, held April 7, it was decided to accept a lot of land for a meeting-house, that had been purchased of Pelatiah and Nancy Haley. Jabez Perkins and David Scribner were chosen a committee to raise subscriptions for and to build a new meeting--house.
[1835.] On April 6, 1835, this committee reported that they had contracted with S. & R. D. Melcher for the erection of a meeting-house. That the whole expense would be $2,250, and that the building would probably be completed in about six weeks. At this meeting Jabez Perkins, Samuel Perkins, and James Cook were appointed a committee to sell the pews, but were instructed to reserve one pew next the desk, on each side, and two floor pews near the stove, for, free pews. The society also authorized their agent to sell the old meeting-house if the consent of the pew-owners could be had. It was bought by Deacon Joshua Haskell for the Free-Will Baptist Society. At a meeting of the church, held March 21, Elder Charles Johnson was invited to settle on a salary of three hundred dollars per annum. The next meeting of the society was held May 27 in the new or present Baptist meeting house. At this meeting, Elder Johnson was ordained and the new church building was dedicated. The year was remarkable for a revival in this and the other societies.
[1837.] On February 25, 1837, the church extended a call to Reverend Edwin R. Warren, and the amount of salary to be offered him was left to the discretion of the church officers.
[1838.] During the year 1838 a controversy commenced between the committee of management of the "Eastern Baptist" and Mr. E. Brown. It continued several years and caused considerable trouble in this church.
[1840.] At a meeting of the church held October 25, forty-four members were dismissed from this church, in order to be organized into a Baptist church in Brunswick village. There was a great revival this year. Meetings were held for more than one hundred successive evenings, and one hundred and fifty-two persons were added to the church by baptism.
[1841.] On July 25, Elder Warren resigned the pastorate, and Reverend George Knox was invited, November 1, to succeed him on a salary of four hundred dollars. On December 14, forty-nine delegates, representing eighteen churches, met in council for the purpose of his ordination. The services were as follows:-
An anthem; reading of Scriptures, by Elder P. S. Adams; a hymn; a prayer, by Elder F. Merriam; a sermon, by Elder Z. Bradford; an anthem; an ordaining prayer, by Elder Z. Adlam; the charge, by Elder Adam Wilson; a hymn; the right hand of fellowship, by Elder E. H. Gray; an address to the church, by Elder H. G. Gott; an anthem; a closing prayer, by Elder E. R. Warren; and the benediction, by the pastor.
[1846.] On May 25, 1845, Elder Knox resigned, and on February 1, of the following year, Reverend James Gilpatrick was invited to settle as pastor, on a salary of four hundred dollars. He accepted the call February 5, and was installed April 22, 1846. The services were as follows:-
Reading of Scripture, by Elder J. Hubbard; prayer by Elder N. Norton; sermon, by Elder N. W. Williams; prayer, by Elder H. Hawes; charge, by Elder W. C. Grant; right hand of fellowship, by Elder M. Hanscom; address to church, etc. by Elder William Bailey; prayer, by Elder J. Ricker; benediction, by the pastor.
[1853.] Elder Gilpatrick, having determined to move with his family to Kansas, -then beginning to be settled, -sent in his resignation April 2, 1853, and it was accepted by the church to take place in June following. On July 17, Elder A. Robbins was invited to settle as pastor, on the same salary as his predecessor. On the twenty-fourth of the following September, however, his salary was increased to four hundred and fifty dollars.
[1859.] On June 5, 18,59, Elder Robbins resigned under circumstances that led many to have doubts as to his fitness for his position. When his resignation was accepted, however, some commendatory resolutions were passed by the church. These resolutions were displeasing to some of the members, and for a time the matter seriously disturbed the church.
[1860.] March 25, 1860, Reverend L. P. Gurney received a call from the church to settle as their pastor, and accepted the invitation the following May.
[1862.] At a meeting held on April 6, 1862, the church was presented by Deacon William Barron with a complete silver communion service.
[1865.] At a meeting of the church, held July 1, 1865, Reverend L. P. Gurney, Deacons David Scribner and William Barron, William Skolfield, George A Rogers, and W. E. Haley were chosen a Committee of Arrangements for a semi-centennial anniversary of the formation of the church. On September 2 the anniversary was celebrated in an appropriate manner. Reverend Adam Wilson, D. D., delivered an historical discourse, which, in accordance with a vote of the church, was printed in 1866.
[1866-1868.] March 1, 1866, Elder Gurney resigned his charge, and the church was for a time without any settled minister. On February 2, 1867, however, Reverend A. Bryant united with the church and supplied the pulpit until February 11, 1868.
In 1869, Reverend Ira P. Leland, the present pastor, was installed.
[1783.] The first minister of this denomination who preached in Topsham was Elder Benjamin Randall, who preached once or twice in John Merrill's barn about the year 1783.
[1815.] The Second Parish, as already stated, was made up of both Calvinist and Free-Will Baptists. Their first pastor was Elder Purington. He sympathized in his views with the Free-Will Baptists. In 1815 he baptized six persons, who subsequently joined the Free-Will Baptist Church. The next preacher of this denomination was Elder Benjamin Thorn, who preached one season or more in the "old yellow meeting-house." The precise time that he was engaged with this church is not stated, but it must have been between the fall of 1815 and the fall of 1816.
[1816-17.] In 1816, Elder George Lamb preached a few times and was succeeded by Elder Farwell, who preached to the society in 1817.
[1822.] There was occasional but not regular preaching after this up to about 1822, when Elder Briggs settled for about one year. He preached a portion of the time in the Topsham Court House, and the remainder of the time in a hall in Brunswick village. Why services were not held in the yellow meeting-house is not known. It was not occupied by the Baptists, and the presumption is that the Court House was used because the meeting-house was so far out of the village. About this time the Free-Will Baptists began to leave the
Calvinist Baptist Church. As the latter had given up the Second Parish Meeting-House, and had been incorporated into a new society, it is by no means unreasonable to suppose that the former constituted then, and are now, the Second Parish.
[1825-6.] In the autumn of 1825, Elders Clement Phinney, Allen Files, and Abizer Bridges came to Topsham and preached occasionally. On December 15, 1825, the church was organized by Elder Bridges, who baptized the eight individuals of which it was composed.
Additions continued to be made to the church, and on Saturday, February 4, 1826, a meeting was held at John Haley's, near the yellow meeting-house. At this meeting Elder Bridges, having been chosen moderator, the church elected Elder Allen Files, pastor; Andrew Jack and Joshua Haskell, deacons; and Uriah Jack, clerk.
[1830.] After five years' service, Elder Files resigned, and was succeeded by Elder Dexter Waterman, in 1830. He remained but one year, and after he left the church was without a pastor and had preaching only occasionally, for about five years. During this time the church became very low and feeble. Some of its members had died, others had left town, and but a few remained who were able to be of much assistance in sustaining a preacher.
[1836.] March 22, 1836, Elders George Lamb and Clement Phinney were sent by the Bowdoin Quarterly Meeting to visit the church, and try to revivify it. Accordingly, on that day, the church met at the old red school-house and chose Elder Lamb, moderator. At the commencement of the meeting the members were very much discouraged, and were inclined to give up their organization and join other churches. Elder Lamb, however, said to them, "You ought to be ashamed to let your own fire go out, and then crawl in and warm yourselves by another man's." This and similar remarks served to inspire them with new zeal, and they determined to make strenuous efforts to support a church and society. They at once voted to engage Elder Lamb to preach one half the time. As the society owned no meeting-house, the yellow one being owned by members of both Baptist societies, a committee was chosen to purchase one. This committee was, however, saved from all trouble in the matter by Deacon Joshua Haskell, who purchased the former Baptist meeting-house or vestry (the one afterwards used as a town-house) at an expense of about three hundred and fifty dollars. Elder Lamb commenced his pastoral labors in May, 1836, and remained over the church until his death, which occurred on the fourteenth of the following
December. At the same time that Elder Lamb was preaching in the village, Elder Charles Bean was preaching in the "Mallett" neighborhood. He made many converts, who all joined the church in the village.
In 1836 it was decided to build a new meeting-house. This enterprise received the hearty encouragement of all the members. and the present building was accordingly completed in August, 1837, at an expense of $3,000. A. C. Raymond, of Brunswick, was the builder.
Previously to the erection of this building a Sabbath school was organized, in which A. R. Bradburv and J. J. Butler, students in Bowdoin College, took an active part.
After the death of their pastor, Mr. J. J. Butler supplied the pulpit for a while. Elder Phinney also preached for a few months, but there was no one settled until May, 1837. On May 20, 1837, Elder Daniel Jackson moved to town with his family, and was settled as the pastor of this church. He remained over them until sometime in 1840.
[1842.] He was succeeded in the autumn of that year by Elder Andrew Rollins, who remained until the spring of 1842.
[1843.] Elder Rollins was succeeded by Elder Peter Folsom, who continued until February, 1843, when he was obliged to leave on account of illness.
[1843-1846.] In the summer of 1843, Elder Daniel Jackson was again engaged to take the pastoral care of this church. He remained until some time in the early part of 1846. During his last pastorate, in 1843 and 1844, the "Miller" excitement prevailed in the town. The members of the church, not wishing "to stand against anything that looked like truth," permitted their church to be used for the promulgation of the new views. The result was a loss of some ten or more members, and some disaffection amongst those who remained. The trouble was not, however, of long duration.
Elder Peter Folsom succeeded Elder Jackson, and preached for one year, when he was himself succeeded by Elder Charles Bean, who remained about two years.
[1849.] In September, 1849, E. B. Fernald, a student from the Biblical School at Whitestown, received a call and commenced preaching to this church. He was ordained at the meeting-house in Topsham in October following. He remained pastor of this church about two years and a half.1
Since then the following preachers have been settled over this society:-
Reverend William T. Smith, from 1852 until 1857; Reverend M. W. Burlingame, from 1857 until 1863; Reverend S. D. Strout, from 1863 until 1864; Reverend A. A. Smith, from 1864 to 1870; Reverend E. Manson, from 1870 to 1874; J. A. Simpson, for about six months in 1874-5, after which there was no settled minister until June, 1877, when Reverend A. G. Hill, the present pastor, was settled over the society.
The Congregational Church was, as stated in the account of the First Parish, the church of that parish, though the society constituted only a portion of it. The following sketch is therefore, so far as it concerns the church, a continuation of that of the First Parish.
[1835.] On May 16, 1835, the church adopted their present confession of faith, and this date may be considered as probably the last meeting of the church prior to the dissolution of the First Parish.
[1836.] In May, 1836, Reverend J. T. Hawes, who had been settled over the First Parish in 1831, resigned, and was succeeded by Reverend Mr. High, who supplied the pulpit for eight weeks, by Reverend Mr. Cleaveland for eleven weeks, and by Professor Smyth, of Bowdoin College, for eight months. A new house of worship1 was erected this year by voluntary subscriptions.
[1837.] In July, 1837, Reverend Thomas N. Lord commenced preaching to this society and was ordained in August. he was invited at a joint meeting of the church and society held in the Court House in January, 1837. His salary was five hundred dollars per annum. The council for his ordination met August 7.
The services were held on the next day and were as follows:-
Singing by the choir; prayer, by Reverend Ray Palmer, 2d church, Bath; singing by the choir; sermon, by Reverend David Thurston, Winthrop; consecrating prayer, by Reverend Josiah T. Hawes, Edge-comb; charge to pastor, by Reverend Jacob C. Goss, Woolwich; singing by choir; right hand of fellowship, by Reverend George E. Adams, Brunswick; address to church and people, by Reverend Timothy Davis, Litchfield; concluding prayer, by Professor Smyth, Bowdoin College; benediction, by the pastor.
[1841.] At a meeting held September 21, 1841, the church passed the following resolutions:--
"Resolved, that we have entire confidence in the ability and piety of our pastor, and that the welfare of this church and the interests of religion in this place demand that the connection be continued.
"Resolved, that in the opinion of this church, Reverend Mr. Lord has faithfully preached the gospel, and the church is willing to sustain him." The foregoing resolutions evidently indicate the existence of some dissatisfaction in the society, though not in the church.
At a joint meeting of the church and society, held July 2, 1842, Mr. Lord in a verbal communication requested to have the connection severed between himself and the society, on account chiefly of the state of his health, but partly on account of some disaffection which he thought existed. The meeting voted that Major Nahum Perkins and Matthew Patten be a committee to settle up the affairs of the society; "that John Barron, Alfred Perkins, and Samuel Douglass be a com-mittee to take charge of the meeting-house, ring the bell, settle with the minister, etc.
''That Deacon Sprague, Nahum Perkins, Given Jameson, and Alfred S. Perkins be a committee to consult with Reverend Mr. Lord concerning his request."
[1842.] On July 5, 1842, this committee reported that Mr. Lord still wished to dissolve his connection with them, and the church and society accordingly gave their assent and voted to call an ecclesiastical council. On July 12 the council met, and after long deliberation agreed by a very small majority to sever the connection.
At a church meeting, held September 18 of this year, the standing committee of the church was instructed to make an agreement with Reverend Daniel Sewall to supply the pulpit for that year, commen-cing July 1, 1842, and ending July 1, 1843. He had already preached five Sabbaths.
[1843.] Between October 2, 1842, and August 5, 1843, the slavery question began to be discussed in the church, and caused some disaffection. One member was refused a letter of recommendation to a church of which the members were slave-owners, and several resolutions against slavery were passed, which so offended a number of the members that they absented themselves from church meetings for some time.
[1844.] At a meeting held May 16, 1844, complaint was made against several persons that they had withdrawn from the communion and had embraced "unscriptural and erroneous doctrines," having accepted the views of the Second Adventists. A committee was appointed to visit and argue the matter with them, but their
arguments had no effect, and these individuals were excommunicated about a month later.
On July 14 of this year a letter was received from the acting pastor, Reverend David Sewall, urging the church to settle a permanent minister. Isaac L. Cook, Deacon Willis Sprague, and Samuel Jameson were chosen a committee "to ascertain if a sufficient sum could be raised to secure a minister."
[1845-6.] In August, 1845, the church extended an invitation to Reverend Jonathan Clement, of Chester, New Hampshire, to preach to them as a candidate for settlement, and on September 5, 1846, the church voted, "To concur with the parish in extending a call to the Reverend Jonathan Clement to become pastor over the church." He accepted, and was installed February 1, 1847.
[1852.] May 13, 1852, Reverend Mr. Clement and his wife were dismissed from this church, and recommended to the Congregational Church in Woodstock, Vermont, where he had received a call to settle. During Mr. Clement's pastorate the church was prosperous, and nothing appears on the records save a few cases of discipline not necessary to be mentioned.
From the time of the dismission of Mr. Clement until his successor was installed, the pulpit was supplied by Professor Alpheus S. Packard, of Bowdoin College.
In December, 1852, a call was extended to Reverend John Wilde, of Falmouth, and a council was called for his installation.
[1853.] This council met January 4, 1853, and the following services were held:-
Prayer, by Reverend P. F. Barnard; sermon, by Reverend William Warren; installing prayer, by Reverend J. W. Turner; charge to pastor, by Reverend J. W. Ellingwood; right hand of fellowship, by Reverend George E. Adams, D. D.; address to people, by Reverend J. O. Fisk; concluding prayer, by Reverend E. Whittlesey; benediction, by the pastor.
[1854.] On August 19, 1854, a letter was received from Mr. Wilde asking to have a council called to act upon his request for a dissolution of the pastoral relation, the reason of his request being the inadequacy of his salary. In compliance with this request the church, August 21, voted to call a council. This council met shortly afterwards, and dissolved the relation between the pastor and church.
[1856.] After Mr. Wilde left, Reverend James M. Palmer supplied the pulpit for one year. He was followed by Reverend J. Q. Peabody,
of Ipswich, Mass., who supplied till October, 1856, when he accepted a call to settle at Fryeburg.
In December, 1856, Reverend Daniel F. Potter, of Union, was invited to preach for a few Sabbaths. He was then invited to settle, but declined, agreeing, however, to preach to the society during their mutual pleasure.
[1865-6.] June 3, 1865, Mr. Potter notified the church that on account of ill-health he should be unable to preach any more. Between this date and June, 1866, the desk was supplied by Professors Packard and Sewall, of Bowdoin College, and by Reverend Elijah Kellogg, of Boston.
[1868.] During the year 1868 a new and handsome spire was erected on the meeting-house, and the whole building was remodelled.
[1869-1875.] On February 4, 1869, the building was rededicated. The services of the occasion were as follows:-
Invocation, by Reverend Mr. Bryant, of the Baptist Church; reading of Scriptures, by Reverend Mr. Potter; sermon, by Professor Jotham S. Sewall, of Bowdoin College; dedicatory prayer, by Reverend Doctor Adams, of Brunswick; hymn, prayer, and benediction, by Reverend Mr. Smith, of the Free Baptist Church, Topsham.
From the records of this church the following facts have been gleaned :-
|The number admitted to the church up to 1821 was||22|
|" up to 1874 was||263|
|Whole number admitted on confession||238|
|" by letter||25|
|" who died up to 1874||92|
The number of infants baptized between October, 1833, and July, 1871, was thirty-four, --twenty-two boys and twelve girls.
The number of members in 1874 was one hundred and twelve, of which the males numbered seventy-eight and the females one hundred and eighty-five. Reverend Nahum W. Grover has preached for this society since the fall of 1875.
Previous to the formation of the Orthodox Congregational Society, in 1836, the First Parish had ceased to hold meetings as such.
A majority of the owners of pews in the second meeting-house of the First Parish being Unitarians, meetings were held in the meeting-house for many years, which were conducted by Unitarian preachers.
The first preacher of this denomination who ever conducted religious services here is thought to have been a Reverend Mr. Greeley, who preached on one occasion in the old east meeting-house. He was afterwards a deacon of Doctor Channing's church, in Boston.
[1836-1838.] Reverend H. Edes preached in town on December 11, 1836, whether for more than one Sunday is not known. He was followed by Reverend Mr. Russell, Reverend J. O. Day, Reverend Mr. Crafts, and Reverend G. M. Rice. The engagement of the latter commenced in August, 1837, and ended August 25, 1839.
[1839.] On the date last mentioned Reverend Amos D. Wheeler, then of Standish, preached on an exchange with Mr. Rice. The same evening a committee of the "subscribers for the support of Unitarian preaching " invited him to take charge of the pulpit for the term of three years, that being the unexpired portion of the time for which their subscriptions had been made. The committee consisted of the following persons:-
Humphrey Purinton, William Frost, Benjamin Hasey, Gardner Green, Charles Thompson, John Coburn, and John S. Cushing. The invitation was accepted, and he removed to Topsham with his family on the twenty-sixth day of October of that year, having in the mean time preached there two or three times.
From fear of losing their rights as members of the First Parish, this society refrained from asking for an Act of Incorporation, neither was any church formally constituted by council, according to Congregational usage.
The pastor, however, did collect together into a church such as were willing to sign the following covenant:-
"' One is your Master even Christ, and all ye are brethren.'-Matthew xxiii, 8.
"' One shall say, I am the Lord's, and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob, and another shall subscribe with his own hand unto the Lord.'-Isaiah xliv,5.
"We whose names are hereunto annexed, receiving the Bible as the rule of our faith and practice, do hereby associate for our mutual improvement in truth and holiness, as the disciples of Christ. And we declare it to be our sincere desire and purpose, as far as lieth in us, to walk in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord
blameless, and to cherish and maintain towards all Christians 'the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.'"
From the pastor's records the following names of the communicants are obtained. The date at which they joined the church is not given:-
John Coburn, Nathaniel Dunning, John S. Cushing, Joseph N. Dunning, Amos D. Wheeler, Charles H. Wheeler, Javan H. Hall, Mr. Bicknell, Joshua Young, John M. Goodwin, George N. Richardson, Mr. Talbot, Mr. Fitch, Mr. Moreton, John D. Coburn, Sarah E. Purinton, Sarah C. Cushing, Isabella M. Dunning, Delia A. Dunning, Mary W. Green, Mary A. Green, Mary Thompson, Harriet N. Houghton, Louisa A. Wheeler, Mary B. H. Wheeler, Annie E. Thompson, Sarah A. Thompson, Hannah Rogers, Mrs. Coburn, Mrs. Dunning, Mrs. N. Walker, Mrs. H. Purinton, Mrs. Sarah Thompson, Miss Palmer, Miss Webb, Mrs. Shaw, Elizabeth W. Purinton, Penthea S. Hall. Many of these members belonged in Brunswick, and some of the males were students in college.
During the pastorate of Reverend Doctor Wheeler in this town the average attendance at meeting was about one hundred. The building. having been erected for the accommodation of the whole town, was of course too large for any one of the four societies which then existed in the town, and consequently the attendance at the Unitarian services always appeared smaller than it really was. Although small in numbers, it had, however, its full share of the intelligence and pecuniary ability of the community.
[1850.] At the expiration of a little more than ten years from the settlement of their last pastor, arrangements were made to unite the two "liberal " societies of Brunswick and Topsham. The arrangements were completed and went into effect in November, 1850.
[1853.] In 1853 the "proprietors of the Unitarian Meeting-House in Topsham" obtained authority from the legislature to sell it. It was accordingly sold, and in December of that year taken down and removed to a ship-yard at Middle Bays, owned by Robert Pennell, Jr., and others, where it was erected into a boarding-house.
The ministerial fund of the First Parish came into the hands of the pew-holders of the Unitarian Society. It amounted in 1836 to seven hundred and thirty-six dollars and sixty-one cents. This sum was in the hands of various individuals, who gave their notes for the several amounts in their possession. After the transference of the preaching to Brunswick, these notes were unintentionally allowed to become
outlawed; and the fund has thus become lost beyond recovery, some of the parties owing the money having died.
Nothing, therefore, now remains in Topsham to remind one of the old First Parish Society except the graveyard attached to the old first Meeting-house.
About the year 1843 an individual by the name of Starkweather came to town, and preached the peculiar views of this society in the Free-Will Baptist Meeting-House. He was succeeded by several others of the followers of "Joe Miller," and quite a number of converts were made, some coming from nearly all the churches. A society was formed and regular meetings were held on Saturday. The society owned no place of worship, but were accustomed to meet at the houses of members. About the year 1844 a paper was issued for a short time by this society. It was devoted exclusively to the dissemination of their religious views. Several predictions were made as to the second coming of the Messiah, and on at least one occasion preparations were made for the event. The society gradually dwindled away, though meetings of its members were held each Saturday until about 1852.
No other religious society was ever formed in this town, but other denominations have occasionally had preaching here for a short time, - the Universalists in the Court House in 1841,1 and the Methodists and Episcopalians, and perhaps others, at other times.
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