Joseph Dow's History of Hampton: President Appleton

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President Appleton

On Sunday, September 20, 1807, the pastor announced his appointment to the presidency of Bowdoin College,[Made vacant by the death of Rev. Dr. McKean.] his present indecision as to his duty, and his desire for a mutual council, after sufficient time should have been given the church for deliberation.

A month later it was voted to call such a council. Mr. Appleton, Deacons Lamprey and Garland and Colonel Toppan were chosen a committee of arrangements.

Accordingly, an ecclesiastical council convened at the parsonage, agreeably to letters missive, November 10, 1807. All the churches invited were represented by their pastors and delegates, as follows:

South church. Andover, Mass., Rev. Jonathan French, pastor; delegates, Pearson and Poor.
First church, Newbury, Mass., Rev. John S. Popkin, pastor; delegates, March and Little.
First church, Newburyport, Mass., Rev. John Andrews, pastor; delegates, Abbot and Farnham.
North church, Portsmouth, Rev. Joseph Buckminster, D.D., pastor; delegate, Harris.
Church in Epping, Rev. Peter Holt, pastor; delegates, Stearns and Prescott.

The council was organized by the choice of Rev. Mr. French as moderator, and Rev. Mr. Popkin as scribe.

Mr. Appleton made to the council the following statement:

"Though I have urged the church to the calling of this council, I would have it understood that the measure has been urged with a view to ascertain and pursue the path of duty, and not from any misunderstanding which has existed between the people and me.

I desire to take this opportunity to bear them an honorable testimony. The harmony between them and myself has been without any interruption. They have treated me with uniform kindness and affection, and to render my situation comfortable have made pecuniary exertions, to which I believe most people of no greater wealth would not have consented; and since the appointment which has occasioned the convening of this council took place, they have, so far as I know proceeded with a good degree of deliberation and prudence. I have likewise a comfortable persuasion that the same deliberation and prudence will mark their conduct when they receive the result of the council, whatever it may be."

The council could have but one result -- to advise the pastor's acceptance of the presidency of Bowdoin College, for which he was so eminently fitted; and reluctantly, but proudly, the people gave him up, after a pastorate of a little more than ten years.

During Mr. Appleton's ministry fifty-nine persons were admitted to the church and one hundred twenty were baptized.

While at Hampton he was a trustee of Phillips Exeter Academy. In 1803 he was one of the most prominent candidates for the chair of theology at Harvard University, to which Dr. Ware was chosen.

Rev. Jesse Appleton, D.D. was a descendant of Samuel Appleton, who came to America in 1635 and settled at Ipswich, Mass. His father was Francis Appleton, of New Ipswich, N. H., where the son was born. He fitted for college in the academy of his native town, and at the age of sixteen entered Dartmouth College, in 1788, graduating in 1792. The next two years he spent in leaching at Dover and at Amherst. He studied theology with Rev. Dr. Lathrop, of West Springfield, Mass., and began preaching in the summer of 1795. He was invited to settle in the ministry at Leicester, Mass., but declined this call in favor of the one received from Hampton not far from the same time.

He became at once a close, uniform and systematic student. In the distribution of his time be was strictly methodical. By the time he left Hampton he was a theologian, accomplished beyond his years. As a preacher, he was entirely free from all display of learning or study of effect. His manner was chaste, dignified, earnest and very impressive. Most of his sermons were written while he was in Hampton. He made it a rule to write but one sermon a week. Monday being devoted to pastoral visits, he was accustomed to begin his sermon on Tuesday and end it on Friday. He also meditated his prayers. Those who heard him conduct the public devotions were impressed with the profound reverence, the elevation, fervor and copiousness which characterized them.

He was inaugurated as president of the college in December, 1807, and entered immediately on the duties of his office. Such a man could not but gain the respect and affection both of the students and of his associates in the government. His success in communicating instruction was correspondent to his eminent qualifications. His private journal shows how absorbing was his interest in the moral and religious welfare of the college. He received the degree of Doctor of Divinity from Dartmouth College, and also from Harvard University. He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He continued to discharge the duties of the presidency till the failure of his health, a few months before his death, which occurred on the 24th of November, 1819. Thus died Dr. Appleton, at the age of forty-seven years. His funeral sermon was preached by Rev. Dr. Tappan, of Augusta, Me., and prayers were offered by Rev. Dr. Gillett, of Hallowell.

Dr. Appleton preached and published quite a number of occasional sermons, and in 1837 there were published in two large octavo volumes, "The works of President Appleton, embracing his Course of Theological Lectures, his Academic Addresses, and a Selection from his Sermons, with a Memoir of his Life and Character, by Prof. Packard." The foregoing sketch is made up chiefly of extracts from this memoir. [See Genealogies—Appleton.]

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