Joseph Dow's History of Hampton: Mr. Thayer, The Chosen Pastor

Back to previous section -- Forward to next section -- Return to Table of Contents

Mr. Thayer, The Chosen Pastor

It was now feared by the opponents of Mr. Belknap, that he would ultimately receive an invitation to he settled as the minister of the town. They agreed to join their efforts to prevent such an occurrence, the friends of Mr. Marsh yielding their preference for him and uniting with the friends of Mr. Thayer, in favor or the latter. A meeting was held on the 4th of June, to see whether the town would agree to employ Mr. Thayer to preach "a number of Sabbaths," with reference to a settlement. This movement was successful, and Mr. Thayer came and preached. Very soon afterward, a town meeting was held, to consider the subject of giving him a call, and it was voted without much opposition, only two persons dissenting at the time. There was, however, much opposition of feeling which soon after was openly manifested.

The town proposed the following terms of settlement, viz.: To give Mr. Thayer £100 lawful money yearly for his support, £20 of it in provisions at the following prices: wheat at 5s, and Indian corn and barley, each at 3s per bushel; pork at 3d, and beef at 2d per pound; 25 cords of wood at lOs per cord, and £67 10s., in money, and to find him a convenient parsonage house and barn, and to allow him the improvement of the orchard and garden, and the yards around the house, as they were then fenced -- the buildings and fences all to be kept in good repair, by the town -- and to grant him the privilege of keeping a horse, two cows and six sheep on the Home Parsonage, provided be should cut the hay at his own expense. These proposals were made on condition that Mr. Thayer should quit claim to the town all his right and title to all the rest of the Parsonage land.

There is no record in this case of any separate action of the church.

Mr. Thayer's letter of acceptance, dated Cambridge, July 18th, 1766, was communicated to the town at an adjourned meeting on the 28th of July. One privilege, not previously mentioned was then granted, viz. liberty to visit his friends once or twice a year, and to leave the pulpit unsupplied one Sabbath, if he should find it difficult to obtain a preacher.

On the 17th of September, a large council assembled, composed of pastors and delegates from eighteen churches. Two other churches, not represented, had been invited. Of the organization of the council, there is no record. During the session, a remonstrance was presented against ordaining the candidate, a copy of which is here given.

"We whose Names are hear unto Subscribed think it our Duty to appear in this manner at this time, when we Cant See but the Town of Hampton is on the Verge of Ruin, if the ordination of Mr. Ebenezer Thayer Should go on & for Particulars to prove it we say: First, our meetings have not been Carried on with that Love and unity that is Necessary in the Call of a Gospel Minister, for it never appeared to us that those that wear for mr. John Ma[r]sh had an[y] regard for Mr. Thayer untill there was the Largest Vote for Mr. Belknap that had been for any Gentleman at all, so we have no Reason to think it out of Love they have done it, but to keep Mr. Belknap from Settleing among us. 21y. And as those Gentlemen have brought it about to vote Mr. Thayer So Large a salery, we can never pay it, which will Soon cause those that have voted it to Grumble when they are forced to pay it themselves; for we are determined to find out some way to remedy it, and for farther Reasons on the subject we are Ready to answer any pearson that will ask us for further Light.

Philip Towle Philip Smith Marston
John Nay Philip Towle Jun.
Nathaniel Towle Joseph Towle
Samuel Page Josiah Shaw
Benjamin Page James Sanborn
Samuel Towle Amos Sanborn
Joshua James Jonathan Shaw
Thomas Drake John Towl[e]
Joseph Garland Joseph Towle [Jun}
Jothon darbon Amos Towle
Joseph Towle 3d Simon Lane"

The object of the remonstrants was not attained. Mr. Thayer was ordained pastor of the church. Rev. Paine Wingate, Sen., of Amesbury, "began the solemnity with Prayer." Rev. Andrew Eliot, D.D., of Boston, preached from 2 Timothy 2:15. -- "Study to show thyself approved unto God." Rev. Nathaniel Appleton, of Cambridge, gave the charge; Rev. Nathaniel Gookin, of North Hampton, "prayed after the charge," and Rev. John Lowell, of Newburyport, gave the right-hand of fellowship.

A fortnight later, the new pastor was married to Martha Cotton, a niece of his predecessor, Rev. Ward Cotton.

At the time of Mr. Thayer's ordination, there were 246 members of the church -— 92 males and 154 females.

Among the most decided in their opposition to the settlement of Mr. Thayer, were Deacon Joshua Lane and Cornet Simon Nudd. On Saturday, the 14th day of June, 1766, the next day after the selectmen had posted their warrant for a town meeting for giving Mr. Thayer a call, Deacon Lane had been "down to town," and on his return, as he was passing the house of one of his sons, he was accosted with the inquiry, "What, news, Father?" "Oh," said the deacon, " a dark cloud, I fear is gathering over Hampton in relation to the ministry." At that very tune, a cloud was rising in the west, which soon gathered into a shower. Deacon Lane, having reached home, was standing in the doorway, after the shower had apparently passed by, when he was struck dead by the lightning. Mr. Thayer attended his funeral. Deacon Lane was a good man, highly esteemed for his piety. His opposition to the settlement of Mr. Thayer arose from his dissatisfaction with some of his doctrinal views. He distrusted his orthodoxy.

The next day after the ordination, one of Cornet Nudd's children died, and the new pastor was called to attend the funeral -- the first after his ordination. These occurrences were regarded, at the time, as special providences, and they served to break down, in a great measure, the asperity of feeling in the opponents of Mr. Thayer. His kind disposition, too, and his affable and gentlemanly manners, and above all, the purity of his life, had a wonderful influence in subduing opposition, as the people became better acquainted with him. A few persons, however, who, like Deacon Lane, regarded him as unsound in doctrine, were never satisfied with his preaching. Some of these, with a very few others who were influenced by different motives, early withdrew from his ministrations, and connected themselves with the Presbyterian church formed in Seabrook about that time.

Among them was Capt. John Moulton, who became an elder in that church. He and Mr. Amos Coffin requested the town to release them from paying taxes for the support of Mr. Thayer. As the town did not grant their request, they and several others petitioned the General Court for the same purpose. The town, at the annual meeting in 1769, chose Capt. Josiah Moulton, and Capt. Jeremiah Marston to appear before the General Court, and show cause why their prayer should not be granted. At the same meeting the town voted "to give Amos Coffin and Stephen Page their minister's rate which they had not paid -- they promising to pay their minister's rate for the future." Four years afterward, the town voted to give Capt. John Moulton, and Philip, Nathaniel, and Samuel Towle, their minister's rate which was then unpaid.

Back to previous section -- Forward to next section -- Return to Table of Contents