Mr. Cotton, Ordained Pastor
The ordination was appointed to be on the 19th of November, 1696 -- ten years and seven months after the death of the last pastor. This event, for which the people had been so long and earnestly seeking, was one of no ordinary interest. Nearly forty years had passed away since the last ordination in the town. During this long period, there had been only three ordinations in the province.
The service took place at the time appointed. The church records do not inform us by whom the sermon was preached. It is not improbable that the candidate was himself the preacher, in accordance with an early custom in New England. Rev. Joshua Moody, of Portsmouth, gave the charge, and Rev. William Hubbard, of Ipswich, Mass., the right-hand of fellowship.
The church had been so long destitute of a pastor, that the number of members had probably somewhat diminished since the death of their last minister. Of the sixty-eight persons, who were members in 1671, only twenty-five -- ten males and fifteen females -- were living in Hampton at the time of Mr. John Cotton's ordination. How many had been added to the church during the last fifteen years of Mr. Seaborn Cotton's ministry, and how many since his death -- the ten years when the church had been without a settled pastor -- we know not. Additions were made soon after the new pastor was inducted into office. Ten persons were admitted to full communion in January following, and some on each succeeding month till the first anniversary of the ordination. The whole number received into fellowship during the first year was seventy; the whole number, during Mr. Cotton's pastorate, was 215, and "487 were initiated into the christian church by baptism."
At a church meeting a few days after Mr. Cotton's ordination, it was agreed that the sacrament of the Lord's Supper should be administered in December, and afterward once in six or seven weeks, so as to have it administered eight times during a year. "But finding ye days in winter so short and sharp, it was thought meet to omitt yt of ye winter quarter, viz.: between December 1 & March 1, & so to attend it but 7 times a year."
The last sentence suggests to the mind the different circumstances, under which the people of Hampton worshipped God and attended to his ordinances at that time, and at the present. The days now at the same season, are as short, and, it may be, as sharp, as then; but we have warm and comfortable places of worship, which shield us against the severity of winter, to which they were so much exposed.
A little less that two years after Mr. Cotton's ordination (September 11, 1698), thirteen persons were dismissed from the church, "in order to their being incorporated into a church state in Exeter." These were residents of Exeter, who had united with this church, for the reason that there was then none in their own town. Now a church was to be organized there, and a pastor ordained. Mr. Nathaniel Weare and Capt. Henry Dow were chosen as messengers of this church to assist in the ordination.
In the spring of 1701, the town voted to allow Mr. Cotton ten cords of wood a year in addition to his former thirty cords, on this condition: "That he preach a lecture in Hampton once a month, according to former custom in his father's days."
A New Bell
More than four months passed and no bell having been procured, the town voted, that the selectmen should send to Boston by Peter Garland or Samuel Nudd, to see if they could find a good bell of about 100 or 120 pounds weight, and if they should find a suitable one, that the selectmen should buy it, paying cash for what it should cost in addition to the old bell.
"And when the ffals peopell haue a new meeting House builded and finished on there side as ffitt to Hang A Bell in as the Meeting House att Towne is -- so much as the ffals people pay now towards the bell at Towne the Towne side will pay so much towards a Bell for them."
Dea. Francis Page, Lieut. John Smith, Benjamin Shaw, Sen., Henry Dearborn and Lieut. John Moulton were appointed "to sett in the fore seat of the Meetin-house, before the Pulpitt."
The town also voted that the following women, viz.: "Mrs. Weare Sen., Hannah Gove, Hen. Dearborn's wife, Ben. Shaw's wife, Hannah Dearborn, Senior, sitt in the fore seat att the East end of the Meeting-house below."
"These men are voted to sett in the second seat before the pulpitt, below: Ens. Daniel Tilton, Ens. Tho: Robey, Timothy Hilyard, John Redman, Senior, Left. Joseph Swett and Joseph Moulton."
"The Towne haue noted and do desire the pressent Selectmen to use their discreation to order and Regulate the sitting of such peopell in the meeting-house, as haue not bin already placed."
The next winter the town appointed John Dearborn, Sen., Ens. John Gove, and Simon Dow, a committee to build a Barn on the parsonage, for the use of the minister, and instructed them to build it "every way according to the dimensions of Peter Johnson's new barn."
In the early part ot the year 1704, the town passed the following vote: "That the present selectmen take care that all the clay walls in the meeting-house, that are not ceil'd, shall be smoothed over with clay and washed with white Lime & made Hansom;" and also that they should "haue the floor over the Beams covered with boards seasoned and jointed, and nailed down."
About two years afterward, the selectmen were directed to make further repairs: "that is to say -- larth all the clay walls and daub them and wash them over with white lime; mend the glass windows, cause shetts to be made to preserve the glass for the ffuter, and to shingle it anew; and lay the flore over the Beames; and to make a Rate to pay ffor the same."
The next winter the town chose Maj. Joseph Smith, Samuel Dow, and Ephraim Marston, a committee "for to give Liberty to thos men that will Apeare for to build Puese in the Hinder Seates in the meeting-house."