Joseph Dow's History of Hampton: The Free Baptist Church

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The Free Baptist Church

In Chapters XV and XXV have been sketched some of the events connected with the rise and gradual expanding of a new religious element in the old church of Hampton, and their outcome in the formation of the Baptist church. Let us briefly review:

In the spring of 1808, a union of the Presbyterian and Congregational churches was effected, which restored the latter to its former position as the church of Hampton, the town holding the property and exercising control. In June, of the same year, Rev. Josiah Webster was installed pastor. There were, however, a few citizens, who, either from jealousy, prejudice or principle, declined to be a party to this reunion. They had become interested, more or less, in the doctrines of Elder Elias Smith, who had been holding religious meetings in Portsmouth and elsewhere. Some of his teachings not harmonizing with the belief and doctrines of the home church, brotherly love was dis-continued; the seed of ill-feeling was sown; strife and bickering were the outgrowth; and the riot of September followed.

After the heat of passion had subsided, wiser counsels prevailed on both sides, -- the old church recognizing the right of freedom of conscience, and the adherents of the new denomination, called Christian, entering a sphere of usefulness as a distinct sect.

It was not until 1814, however, that they became strong enough to colonize. Mr. Simon Garland, of North Hampton, gave a building, which they fitted up for a meeting-house where it stood, at the corner of his pasture, on Lobbs' Hole road; and in July, of that year, they held their first meeting there, Elders Jabez True and Henry Pottle conducting the services. From this time they continued to worship in their own house, some of the Little River people uniting with them till a church was built in that village; when this house was moved on to the Portsmouth road, opposite Giles' swamp. It was the same house that long afterwards was occupied by the Methodists, and later, by the Adventists. It has since been placed on a lot near the present Methodist church, and converted into a comfortable dwelling-house.

In 1817 the Legislature of New Hampshire passed an act, "To incorporate John Dearborn (and twelve others) into a religious society, to be known by the name of THE FIRST BAPTIST SOCIETY IN HAMPTON." At a legal meeting of the society, July 21, Joshua Lane was chosen Clerk, "to act as such until there be another chosen."

The records of the society are meager during its early years. Transient preachers were employed till, in 1819, ELDER JOHN HARRIMAN became the pastor, who remained a little more than three years, and about 1822 removed to Plaistow and afterwards to Canterbury. [See Genealogies -- Harriman.]

From this time the society held their meetings with or without a preacher, as occasion permitted, until 1834, when an enterprise was undertaken which greatly advanced their interests.

In the beginning of that year, a new building site, the one still occupied, was purchased by a committee, consisting of Samuel Drake, Samuel Dearborn, David Towle, Jr., and Samuel Garland, and the society proceeded at once to erect a house of worship, forty by forty-eight feet -- which was completed by October. On the 10th of that month, the old house seems to have been used for the last time, and the meeting adjourned to the 16th, to the house of Joshua Lane, where a church of twenty-four members was organized. The Constitution adopted at this time begins thus: "Believing that the cause of God requires the establishment of better order than has been usual with the people called Baptists, in Hampton,and that the time has now arrived in which we should set in order those things that are wanting among us: we therefore, whose names are hereunto annexed, agree to form ourselves into a church, to be called the church OF CHRIST WITHIN THE FIRST BAPTIST SOCIETY IN HAMPTON." Then follow the articles of agreement. The same year, REV. TIMOTHY COLE became pastor, and continued in office till 1838. It was during his pastorate (in 1837), that the use of the old meeting house was given to the Methodists, who repaired and rededicated it, as related in the history of that church.

In 1838 REV. ELIAS HUTCHINS was called to the pastorate. The next year the division of the ecclesiastical property among the religious societies of the town was agreed upon, as related in Chapter XXV. A section and tower were added to the church edifice.

Elder Hutchins was born in New Portland, Me., June 5, 1801. He began to preach before he was eighteen years old, when he entered upon an itinerant ministry, which he followed for nearly fourteen years. He was ordained as an evangelist, at Wilton, February 1, 1824; spent several years in missionary work in Ohio and Indiana; labored also in North Carolina, where "many of the slaves flocked to hear him preach." In 1832 he married Lucy Ambrose of Sandwich, and soon after, became pastor of a church in North Providence, R. I., resigning in 1838. After the Hampton pastorate, he was settled five years in Newmarket, where his wife died, leaving an infant daughter. In 1845 he accepted a call to the Washington street church, Dover; and the next year married the widow of the Rev. David Marks. In 1858 ill health, from which he never recovered, compelled him to resign his pastorate. He died in Dover, September 11, 1859.

Elder Hutchins was for many years officially connected with the various missionary and educational societies of his denomination.

REV. PORTER S. BURBANK was the next pastor of the Free Baptist church. He came in 1840, and remained five years, when he was succeeded by REV. WILLIAM D. JOHNSON for a time; but Elder Burbank returned in 1846, to another pastorate of two years.

In 1840 occurred another important epoch, when the church joined the Rockingham Quarterly Meeting -- that is, changed from Christian to Freewill Baptist, now called Free Baptist. Four ;years later the Constitution was revised, and the present church covenant adopted, the pastor, together with David Garland, Amos Towle, Samuel Drake and Daniel Moulton being the committee on revision. The church had then recently received an accession of twenty-five members, as the fruits of a revival the preceding year.

Rev. Porter S. Burbank was licensed to preach by the Waterville Quarterly Meeting, at Industry, Me., in 1836. He was principal of Strafford Academy, N.H., three years, and taught elsewhere, in various high schools and seminaries; was president of the Education Society eleven years, and corresponding editor of the Morning Star from 1833 to 1866. He was ordained, June 13, 1840; and besides his Hampton pastorate, held others, in Deerfield, New Hampton and Danville, and in West Buxton and Limerick, Me. He spent the last ten years of his life in South Parsonsfield, Me. [See Genealogies -- Burbank.]

REV. WILLIAM P. MERRILL became pastor in 1848. The next year the meeting-house received a new coat of paint. Soon after the painting, lightning struck the tower -- not, however, doing very serious damage. The pastor, referring to the event on the next Sabbath, remarked: "The Lord didn't show much respect for the new paint."

REV. R. ASHLEY became pastor in 1850, REV. FREDERIC MOULTON, in '51 and REV. WILLIAM ROGERS, in '53. Thus far, the pastors had lived in hired houses, wherever they could be obtained most conveniently; but in 1854 the society built the parsonage which has ever since been the home of its pastors, Elder Rogers and his family being the first to occupy it. After a three years' pastorate, he was succeeded by REV. WILLIAM H. WALDRON, one year, and REV. WILLIAM C. CLARK, one year. During the latter pastorate occurred the great revival of the winter of 1857-8, following which twenty-four converts were baptized by Elder Clark and received as members of the church.

Rev. De Witt C. Durgin
Portrait contributed by former parishioners,
pupils and fellow-citizens of Hampton,
in token of their regard.
On the 8th of September, 1858, REV. DE WITT C. DURGIN was ordained and became pastor of the church -- which pastorate was held twelve years, being the longest in the history of the church.

Mr. Durgin was born in Thornton, N.H., March 29, 1830, being a son of Captain Francis and Maria (Eager) Durgin. He entered Waterville College, Me., in 1852, and was graduated from Union College, N.Y., in 1856. For the next two years, he was principal of Lackawanna Institute, Pa. He married Caroline A. Chapman, of North Parsonsfield, Me., in 1857, and the next year, came to Hampton, where his ministry was characterized by a cordial fraternity with pastors and people of other denominations, and the whole period was one of good will among the churches.

Mr. Durgin was principal of Hampton Academy for a time. He represented the town in the General Court in 1869 and 1870. During his pastorate, he received twenty-one new members to the church.

After leaving Hampton he preached one year for the Hampton Falls and Seabrook society, at the church known as the "Line church," thence removed to Newmarket, where he was pastor for three years. From the latter place, he was, in 1874, called to the presidency of Hillsdale College, Mich., -- an office for which he was eminently fitted and which he filled successfully for ten years. The degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred by Bates College, in 1875.

In 1881 he went to England, as a delegate to the General Baptist Association; and the same year visited Iceland, where he was made a member of the Icelandic Antiquarian Society. His lectures on Iceland are an outcome of his explorations there.

Dr. Durgin now preaches in Newmarket, where he and his wife reside. Of their two children, born in Hampton, Clinton C. is a lawyer in Grand Rapids, Mich. and Carolyne G. is professor of Greek in Pike Seminary, N. Y.

REV. FRANCIS H. LYFORD was called to the pastoral office in Hampton, in 1870; succeeded by REV. GEORGE J. ABBOTT, in 1873. At the annual town meeting in 1874, Mr. Abbott was elected superintendent of the public schools, and held the office one year. He continued pastor till 1877. He died in Oakland, Me., November 3, 1883.

The next pastor, REV. LOT L. HARMON, was born in Madison, N. H., in 1826; entered Bangor Theological Seminary in 1860, having already been a preacher several years; and after graduating, continued pastoral and Sunday-school work in Maine till June, 1876, when he settled in Portsmouth for a year. He married Mary J. Butler, and in August, 1877, came to Hampton, where he was an acceptable and successful pastor nearly four years. They now live in Pomona, Fla. Their son, George B., was born in Hampton, October 24, 1879.

In the spring of 1878, the church was moved back on the lot, giving better frontage, and raised about ten feet, and a convenient and attractive vestry added as a basement.

REV. F. P. WORMWOOD became pastor of the church in 1881, and REV. ARTHUR L. MOREY, the next year.

The venerable Daniel Moulton, who was elected clerk of the church December 6, 1851, resigned the office in the spring of 1883, when the church gave him a vote of thanks "for faithful and long-continued service."

Mr. Morey was born in Moira, N. Y., January 11, 1847. He served three years in the war, from the age of fourteen. After this, he obtained an education, graduating from Bates College in 1876. July 3, of the same year, he married Hattie W. Patterson, of Lewiston, Me., and on the 25th of October following, was ordained at Lancaster, N. H. After preaching for awhile, he entered Bates Theological School, graduating in 1882. He then came to Hampton, and remained three years. He died in West Derby, Vt., May 12, 1887. His wife and one child survive him.

The next pastor, REV. JOHN B. MERRILL, son of Ralph D. and Judith (Coggswell) Merrill, of Atkinson, was born May 4, 1846; attended Atkinson Academy, and studied under a private tutor from Harvard College one year. He married Sarah A. Merrill, June 11, 1869, and has two daughters.

His parents were Congregationalists, and he began to preach in that denomination; but joined the Free Baptists in 1867, and held several pastorates in Maine and New Hampshire. He came to Hampton in 1885. Soon after, the question of remodelling the church began to be agitated -- a measure which was carried out the next year, at a cost of about $3,100, and a large amount of free labor. The pastor himself was indefatigable, his hammer resounding with the rest; his skilful hand wielding the brush in decorative painting.

The preceding winter a marked revival had been enjoyed, which resulted in the addition of twenty-one members to the church.

At a church meeting, March 14, 1886, the following resolution was adopted:

"Whereas, the duty of the church to care for its members severally is unquestioned, and the covenant meeting is a great help to those who attend,

Therefore, resolved: That we recommend that the church of this Quarterly Meeting establish one of their covenant meetings as an annual covenant meeting, at which every member be previously invited to report, by personal presence or by letter, or verbal report of some member, and that resident members that do not report for one year be visited by a committee."

February 4, 1887. "Voted that the annual covenant meeting of this church be held on the Friday evening preceding the first Sabbath in May."

April 29, 1887. The record of the annual covenant meeting shows that there were then eighty-two members of the church.

Early in 1888 Mr. Merrill resigned the pastorate, and soon after removed to Epsom. In the autumn of the same year, the church voted to request the Quarterly Meeting at Candia, to send a council of ministers to ordain REV. WILLIS A. TUCKER as pastor. Accordingly, the ordination service was held on the evening of October 29, 1888, and was as follows: sermon by Rev. D. W. C. Durgin, D.D., (former pastor), from Hebrews XIII: 17; ordaining prayer by Rev. J. C. Osgood; charge to the church, Rev. F. K. Chase; charge to the pastor, Rev. J. S. Harrington; right hand of fellowship, Rev. C. C. Foster; address of welcome to christian work in Hampton, Rev. J. A. Ross, pastor of the Congregational church; benediction by the pastor.

Rev. Willis A. Tucker, son of Francis A. and Lydia M. (Edes) Tucker, was born at Guilford, Me., educated in the academies of Monson and Foxcroft, and graduated from Cobb Divinity school in 1888. In 1879 he married Martha S. Hammond, and has two children living. His connection with the Hampton church terminated in April, 1892, when he immediately entered upon a new pastorate at South Windham,Me., and the Free Baptist church in Hampton is now to seek another pastor.

Deacons, from the beginning to the present time: Amos Towle, Jr., Joshua Lane, Alvin Emery, David Garland, Jr., Charles M. Perkins, William L. Blake, John A. Towle, David J. Garland.

Clerks of the church: Joshua Lane, Samuel Garland, Samuel Drake, Daniel Moulton, John M.Akerman, Frank B. Brown.

A Ladies' Missionary Society, with well-sustained interest, is connected with the church.

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