We are indebted to one of the oldest and most respectable fellow-citizens for the following interesting reminiscences of olden times, which we doubt not will prove highly entertaining to most of our readers. The writer is now nearly seventy years of age, but his manuscript is written in a bold and legible hand. He has a remarkable memory, and distictly recollects events that took place nearly sixty years ago. He says:
I was born in the town of Amherst, south parish, Feb. 3, 1778, and have had an opportunity of knowing something of the progress that has been made during the last sixty-five years in said parish, which has been, for the last fifty-four years ago, the inhabitants met on the Sabbath for divine worship at the house of Mr. Jotham Shepard, on the north side of the river, now ownded and occupied by Mr. Pomeroy Rossiter. At that time, I think there was no other house on the north side of the river, until you come to the house of Esquire Peabody, now deceased, formerly owned by his father and grandfather.
When the first meeting-house was built I think there were only three houses in the village on the south side of the river, one where the tavern is now kept, one now owned by S. K. Livermore, Esq., formorely owned by Esquire Blanchard, and the one where Dr. Fuller has lived for many years. The latter house was occupied as a tavern stand more than fifty years ago by Mr. John Crosby. On Nashua street there was no other house until you came to the late residence of Benjamin Goodwin, deceased, formerly owned by Mr. Conant. I think there was no building on South street except the house of Mr. [p. 314] Marshall. On the road leading to Wilton there was no house (except the one above mentioned) until you come to the residence of Humphrey Moore. On the spot where Mr. Moore's house now stands stood an old building called the "Grimes House," afterwards owned by Mr. Porter Lummas, then by Benjamin Nichols. If I mistake not the place was bought for about $21,200 by Mr. Moore about the time he settled as a minister of the gospel in this town.
As I intended, when I commenced this article, to give an account of the ministers that have preached in this place since my recollection. I shall have to return, in order to carry out my purpose, to the early part of my life. When I was a mere child I went to the Jotham Shepard house with my parents to hear the Rev. Mr. Powers; he was considered an excellent preacher and a very godly man. After him came a man by the name of Bullen. From an occurrence which took place at my father's when he (Bullen) was there on a visit, I conclude he was a meek and humble Chrisian. And it came to pass in those days that there was a man this way by the name of Hutchinson. He was somewhat arbitrary in his way, but he had an excellent memory, having much of the Scripture treasured up in his mind. The above-name ministers of the everlasting gospel (if such they were in truth), were somewhat advanced in years at the time of which I am speaking (1788).
After the meeting-house was finished, and the town incorporated, the people began to feel anxious to have stated preaching; they therefore applied to such men as would be most likely to do the greatest amount of good and give general satisfaction. I will mention some of the divines that supplied the desk previous to the settlement of Mr. Moore. As I cannot recollect the order in which they came I must content myself by giving their names.
The name of Bingham will undoubtedly sound familiar to some of the older citizes of the town. Phineas Randall, a man greatly beloved, received an invitation to settle but gave a negative answer and took his leave. Daniel Merrill, a man who was not ashamed to stand upon a hogshead tub in the open air and sound the gospel trumpet to all who would hear. Asahel Washburn, one of the best men of his time, became somewhat insane when out of the pulpit, but when in the pulpit no signs of insanity appeared. He then spake the words of truth and soberness, not holding man's person in admiration. I think there were the Revs. Mr. Abbott, Fletcher, and Beede; each one in his turn supplied his appointed time, and then retired.
Since Mr. Moore gave up the charge of the Orthodox church and society in this town there hae been three others settled, either by ordination or installation. I must hope they were all such men as heaven will approve. Abner Warner, the only one with whom I have had much acquaintance, was a man to be held in high estimation, being free from the fear of man, and having, as it were, the word of the Lord shut up in his bosom. He must speak that he might be [p. 315] refreshed. If man would act in conformity with his preaching, laying aside all malice and guile, hypocrisy and evil speaking, and as newborn babes desire the sincere mild of the Word, there would be joy in heaven in presence of the angels of God, and on earth there would be good will to men.
I trust that the object of the present minister (Mr. Kimball) is to hold up truth to the understanding of his hearers in such a striking and inviting light that every one may take warning and flee fro the wrath to come. As I had little or no acquaintance with Mr. Salter, I may say with truth that I know no harm of the man. If he be a minister of Jesus Christ he will have boldness on the day of judgment, for the King will say to him, "Well don, good and faithgul servant, thou has been faithful over a few things, I will make thee a ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of the Lord."
If any one notices any orroneous statements in the above, I should be pleased if he would rectify them.
Second letter by Jesse Hutchinson in the Mirror of January 21, 1848:
In giving my first account, I made mention of but one denomination, the Orthodox. In former days it was called the "Standing Order." I shall now attempt, in my broken way, to give some account of the rise and progress of the Baptist denomination, since my recollection, and mention some of the names of the many ministers that have passed this way, together with those who have made a longer stay.
About sixty years ago there were a few Baptists in the towns now called New Boston, Milford, and Mont Vernon. At that time it was said of them as it has been since, and was in ancient time when Paul went to Rome, "As for this sect, it is everywhere spoken against." I well remember three of the Baptist ministers of that day, namely, Elder Ambrose, Mr. Vickery, and Mr. Jewett. They usually met for worship at the house of Capt. John Bradford, which stood on the ground which Mr. Luther Averill's residence now occupies.
One thing that makes me think Elder Ambrose was a man called by the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel of the kingdom is this: When he had gone through with his sermon and closed the meeting, his hearers were not in a hurry to depart, but would linger as though they were anxious to hear more about the kind Saviour who died on Calvary, and of his soon coming to judge the world; for this was a great part of his theme, to speak of the glory of Emanuel, to tell of his beauty, and use all his faculties to persuade men to fall in love with the Saviour before their feet stumbled upon the dark mountains of death. Mr. Vickery, it appeared, was a lover of Bible truth, and labored hard to convince his hearers of its importance. Mr. Jewett was a blind [p. 316] preacher. I think he was blind from his birth, but his spiritual sight appeared very bright. He laid the axe at the root of the tree, that anyone who did not bring forth good fruit might know that a tree must be cut down, and cast into the fire.
This state of things did not continue many years, for the love of some waxed cold; some moved away, and some went and joined other denominations, so that in 1798 there were but very few Baptists in this vicinity.
"And it came to pass in those days" that the word of the Lord came to a young man whose name was Thomas; and he came into the hill country of Mont Vernon, and there, on Election day, preached that men must repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. From that time to the present day (if he is still living), I expect he has been doing what he could for the good of mankind for the upholding of Emanuel's kingdom, and the downfall of antichrist.
In those days there was no little stir among the people in that region, for they preached a little as they did eighteen hundred years ago, saying, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, that your sins may be blotted out, when the time of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord."
The above-named Thomas has preached in Milford several times. There was Elder Buzzell, Elder Stone, and Dr. Crossman. It would make your nose tingle to hear them preach, there was so much pinch to it.
There was Thomas Paul, whom I shall compare to Apollos of old, for he was an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scriptures. Mr. Applebee remained here some time, and preached with as great earnestness as one would run if he were running for his life. Old Elder Perkins, a traveling preacher, came this way. He was very fond of making figures of speech in order to bring the attention of his hearers to bear upon the great subject of salvation.
There was a young man by the name of Bates, who left the occupation of sail-making to sound the gospel jubilee to dead sinners. Mr. Lothrop was a man who possessed an extraordinary memory, for he could not only quote much Scripture, but could tell the book, chapter, and verse where it might be found. It was said that he was deserving of censure for some misdemeanor in after life. Dr. Smilee was a very good man, and a very fluent speaker.
I come now to almost the last, though not least, of the cloud of witnesses that preached in private houses and schoolhouses, as there was no meeting-house in Milford they could have until the Baptist house was built. I refer to the long-to-be-remembered William Eliot of Mason. I have no doubt he will be held in lasting remembrance by many precious souls who received their first serious impressions under his ministry. I think he did not hold the truth in unrighteousness or handle the word of the Lord deceitfully. He preched because he could not help it. He was called from the plough to work [p. 317] in the vineyard of the Lord; he did not take his theory from commentaries, but from the word of God, as it has been revealed to man. He did not appear to fix a very high estimate upon his services, but placed his whole dependence upon free, sovereign, unmerited grace for salvation.
I come down to the time the Baptist meeting-house was built and partially finished. I think Mr. George Evans was the first that lifted up the voice of prayer in that house. I believe there were some souls that fled from the city of Destruction, and set out for Mount Zion, through his instrumentatlity. Mr. Evans left Milford, and took up his abode in Manchester. He health has been so poor that he has been obliged to refrain from preaching for a number of years past.
I think Elder Bolles was next in order. He was an excellent speaker, and could say anything he wished with the greatest ease, and his hearers were almost ready to give him their eyes as well as ears; but, notwithstanding all this, after two or three years he thought fit to take his departure for a more genial climate.
The next, I think, was Samuel Everett. I thought he was a very good speaker, for he preached to the hearts and consciences of men, and some were made to rejoice under his ministration. He left this town to preach the gospel in other villages. Some have supposed him insane for some years, because he was led to believe that the coming of the Lord was nigh at hand, even at the door, when the heavens would pass away with a great noise, and the elements would melt with fervent heat; when the earth and the things therein would be burned up, the judgment would be set, and the books opened; when the living would be changed, the dead raised from their sleeping beds and hurried to the judgment seat, to hear their destiny for eternity. If this is insanity, what is the insanity of those who say the Lord delayeth his coming, and begin to smite their fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken?
Mr. Mark Carpenter was the next. He was a very good speaker, orthodox in sentiment, kind in his intercourse with others, pleasing in his manners, and greatly beloved by many. I think there were some souls made willing to flee to Calvary for safety by his instrumentality. It was a grief to many to have him take his leave.
Mr. Remington was an extemporaneous speaker. He labored with great earnestness to persuade men to desert their old master and flee to Jesus Christ for protection without delay. Mr. John Richardson appeared to have a great regard for dying men, and labored hard to persuade them that there was no other way by which they could be saved but by repentance toward God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Mr. Stearns is the present minister. It is the desire of all good people that he may so handle the Word of the Lord that it may prove to all who hear as a fire and hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces.
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