Joseph Dow's History of Hampton: Mr. Cotton's Death and Obituary / Deacons

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Mr. Cotton's Death and Obituary

After a pastorate of thirteen years and four months, and a ministry of considerably more than twenty years, Mr. Cotton was suddenly removed from his people by death, March 27, 1710, at the age of 51 years, 10 months and 19 days.

About one month after his death, there was a meeting of the inhabitants, and the town voted to pay the charge of his funeral by way of a rate. It was also voted that Mrs. Cotton should have the improvement of the parsonage till the next fall, for the benefit of herself and family.

The following obituary appeared in the Boston News Letter, of April 10, 1710, two weeks after Mr. Cotton's death:

"On Monday last, the 27th of March, at Hampton in New Hampshire, Dyed the Reverend Mr. John Cotton, Minister of the said Town, in a very sudden and surprising manner, having been very well all the day, and in the evening till just after Supper, when he was taken with a Fitt of an Apoplexy (as 'tis believed) and within a few minutes became speechless, and Dyed about Eleven o'clock the same night. He was the Worthy Grandson and Heir of the Famous Mr. John Cotton, B. D. -- one of the first and most considerable ministers that came to New England at its first Settlement. He was bred at Harvard College in New England, and for many years an Ornament and Fellow of that Society: and from thence in the year 1686, he removed to Hampton, where he succeeded his Father, Mr. Seaborn Cotton, in the ministry of that Place. He was very much and deservedly beloved and esteemed, not only by his won People, but by all who knew and conversed with him, for his eminent Piety and great Learning, his excellent Preaching, his Catholic Principles, and Universal Charity, his profitable, pleasant, virtuous, and delightful conversation, and for his Generous Hospitality to Strangers. And as he was an Honour to his Country where he was Born, and the College where he was Bred, and the Family from whence he came, so he is justly Lamented by them all. He Dyed in the 52nd Year of his Age, and on Friday the 31st, he was Interred with great Solemnity, a Funeral Sermon being Preach'd by the Reverend Mr. Rogers of Ipswich, on that Text, John 9:4. 'I must work the work of him that sent me while it is day; the night cometh when no man can work.'"

The following sketch of Mr. Cotton's character, is from the pen of Rev. Jabez Fitch, of Portsmouth:

"He was a person of great learning and integrity, much given to hospitality, very pleasing and profitable, facetious and instructive in his conversation; affable, courteous and obliging in his carriage to all, and universally beloved; accurate in his sermons, and very industrious in his preparations for the pulpit."


In our account of the church thus far, we have mentioned no other officers than pastor and teacher, whose appropriate duties, when both officers were found in the same church, may be briefly stated, as follows: "In the forenoon of the Sabbath, the pastor preached; in the afternoon, the teacher. In one part of the day, the pastor offered the prayer that preceded the sermon, and the teacher the closing prayer; and in the other part, the order was reversed. The teacher pronounced the benediction at the close of the morning service, and the pastor, at the close of the evening. At the celebration of the Lord's Supper, one of the ministers performed the first part of the service, and the other, the last; the order in which they officiated, being reversed at each communion. The ordinance of baptism was likewise administered either by the pastor or the teacher."

The only officers this church has ever had, besides the ministers, are the deacons and clerks. Of several of the early deacons, our account must be very meager, for lack of information. In the absence of church records, it is only by tradition, or from some incidental mention of their names and titles, in the town records, and some other old writings, that we know by whom the office was held.

In the infancy of the church, it is pretty evident, that there was but one deacon, and the first person who held the office was Christopher Hussey, a son-in-law of the first pastor. We have no means of knowing the time of his election, but in the town records, under date of June 30, 1640, he is styled "the present deacon." Thirteen years afterward, he was chosen a military officer and accepted the appointment. As these offices were then held to be incompatible with each other, he, of necessity, ceased to be deacon of the church.

The successors of Deacon Hussey were William Godfrey and Robert Page. Which of them was first elected, or whether both were chosen at the time, is not known. The first instance in which the title is given them in the town records, is under date of December 20, 1660, where each of them is styled "deacon," in the same connection. This, however, does not prove that they had not been several years in office before that time; for both of them are sometimes mentioned afterward as well as before, without the title of deacon. They both appear to have remained in office till the close of life. Deacon Godfrey died March 25, 1671, and Deacon Page, September 22, 1679.

The next deacon was Francis Page, a son of Deacon Robert Page, and he was probably elected to office soon after the death of his father. He was the only deacon in office at the time of Mr. John Cotton's ordination. November 1, 1699, "Thomas Dearborn and Sergt Thomas Philbrick were chosen deacons, and added as such to Dea. Page." If Sergt Philbrick accepted the appointment his term of office was very brief, for he died Nov. 20, 1700. Dea. Francis Page died Nov. 14, 1706. Twelve days after his death, there was a church meeting, when Gershom Elkins and Samuel Shaw were chosen deacons "ye one for ye Town: ye other for ye falls, to join with Deacon Dearborn in yt office." These three deacons were in office at the time of Mr. John Cotton's death, but Dea. Dearborn died on the 14th of the next month.

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