Joseph Dow's History of Hampton: Mr. Webster's Death

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Mr. Webster's Death

John Calvin Webster
John Calvin Webster
From contentions in town meetings and courts of law we now turn to different scenes.

John Calvin Webster, the third son of Rev. Josiah Webster, had been appointed by the American Seaman's Friend Society, as seaman's chaplain at Cronstadt, in Russia, and arrangements had been made for his ordination in the North church, in Newburyport, on the 15th of March, 1837. His father had been appointed to preach the sermon. As the time for the ordination drew near and he was at work upon his sermon he found himself afflicted with a heavy cold, attended with a slight inflammation of the lungs, and when the day came he was so ill that under ordinary circumstances he would probably have declined to preach. But from his relation to the candidate, he had a strong desire to perform the part assigned him. The services of the day were deeply interesting and the excitement of the occasion aided him, invalid as he was, in the delivery of his sermon; but it proved to be his last. The effort had been too great. The next day he returned home sick and exhausted, and, taking his bed, he remarked that he thought his work on earth was done, and added : "Well, if it be so, I know not with what act I could close life with more satisfaction." He continued to decline till the 27th of the month, when he fell asleep in death. During his sickness he was often delirious, but in lucid intervals his faith in God was unfaltering; and thus he died. The funeral services were held at the meeting house on the Friday following his death. A sermon was preached by Rev. Daniel Dana, D.D., of Newburyport.

Mr. Webster was a son of Nathan and Elizabeth (Clifford) Webster, of Chester, N. H., and was born January 16, 1772. His preparatory studies were under the direction of Rev. Mr. Remington, of Candia, Rev. Dr. Thayer, of Kingston, and Hon. Stephen P. Webster, then preceptor of Atkinson Academy. He was graduated at Dartmouth College in 1798, and immediately commenced the study of theology with Rev. Stephen Peabody, of Atkinson. In November, 1799, he was ordained pastor of the church in the second parish in Ipswich, Mass., then called Chebacco parish, now constituting the town of Essex, where he continued till 1806. He used to say that while at Ipswich he greatly profited by the advice and varied instruction which he received from Rev. Dr. Worcester, of Salem.

Mr. Webster married Elizabeth, daughter of Maj. Eliphalet and Martha (Webster) Knight, of Atkinson. They had five sons, four of whom were educated at Dartmouth College, and two daughters, who died in infancy. [See Genealogies -- Webster (6)].

The following inscription, prepared by Rev. Dr. Dana, of Newburyport, is found upon the monument at Mr. Webster's grave, in the cemetery near Mr. Nathaniel Johnson's, and well expresses the esteem in which the beloved pastor was held:

"Sacred to the memory of Rev. Josiah Webster, A.M., an exemplary Christian, an impressive and distinguishing Preacher, a faithful and affectionate Pastor, a devoted and efficient Friend to the Cause of sound Learning, to the Interests of the Church of God, to the Welfare of his Country and Mankind. 'I heard a voice saying unto me, write, Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord, from henceforth; yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.'

Mr. Webster was born at Chester, Jan. 16, 1772; was graduated at Dartmouth College, August, 1798; ordained at Essex, Mass., November, 1799; installed at Hampton, June, 1808; died March 27, 1837, Aged 65."

About three weeks after Mr. Webster's death the town held a special meeting, one purpose of which was to see what the town would do about time payment of his salary, and what to do with the home parsonage and parsonage house. Although, two year's before, the town had voted that Mr. Webster be no longer the minister of the town, the death of the good man, whom all respected, following so soon, put an end to strife for the time being, and a vote was passed to pay the administrator of his estate, when one should be appointed, all the interest that had arisen from the ministerial funds and all the parsonage rents for the years 1835 and 1836; also the money for which the wood was sold on the two acres in the old swamp; and the remainder of salary due, to be paid by the whole town, agreeably to the eleventh and twelfth articles in the report of the committee of union. To Mrs. Webster was voted the use of the home parsonage and the parsonage house for one year.

In the autumn of 1838, two hearings of the parties, in the suit between the Congregational society and the town, were had before Thomas E. Sawyer, auditor, "at Samuel Dearborn's inn, in said Hampton." The next year, in March, when the town's half of the home parsonage was rented, it was voted, that the proceeds be divided between the Baptist and Methodist societies, according to taxation; but another meeting, May 8, that vote was recalled and it was voted to divide said proceeds equally between the Baptist and Methodist societies. At the same meeting, May 8,Joseph Dow, Ebenezer Lawrence and Daniel Towle were chosen a committee, to take into consideration all the articles in the warrant relating to agents or agencies, one of which was "to see if the town will authorize their agent or agents to settle the controversy between the town and the Congregational society." On recommendation of the committee, the town voted that the selectmen settle all lawsuits in which the town is interested as a party, as speedily as they can, consistently with the interests of the town. The society, on its part, chose a committee of three, between whom and the selectmen an agreement was reached and the vexing lawsuit brought to an end.

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