Deerfield — Ministers And Churches

Extracted from "History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts, Volume II," by Louis H. Everts, 1879.

      In the church the pastor was, in theory and practice, a strong supporter of priestly authority. He claimed the right to enforce the attendance of any church member when required to confer on church matters. One man being obstinate, the church voted, "that Oliver Hastings, when refusing to come when sent for by the Rev. Mr. Ashley, and also in his treatment of the Church when before them, has been guilty of contempt of the authority Christ has instituted in his Church, and that he ought Publickly to Humble and take Shame to himself therefor." This mandate not being obeyed, "on the Lord's day, February 3d, I admonished him Publickly," says Mr. Ashley, "and, hearing he was going out of town, went to him and admonished him again." Mr. Ashley was sustained by the church in such matters. Thomas French having entered a complaint against the pastor "for some things said to him when admonishing him," it was voted "the complaint was not sustained, and if it was, we think the church have no right to act upon it, since it respects the pastor of this church." The pastor was evidently the "ruling elder" in this body.
      As Mr. Ashley's family increased and "became more chargeable," his salary was increased from time to time. In 1750 the increase was £266 (old tenor), in quarterly subscriptions. In 1762 there was a new adjustment, on the basis of £80 per annum. The town was delinquent in its contract with Mr. Ashley, giving him just cause of complaint. The ten acres of land given in settlement was not secured for more than ten years; the income from the town-lot seems to have been withheld, and no provision made for firewood in later years. In 1781 his heirs presented a claim for £787 17s. 6d.,—perhaps by decree of the council,—which was paid by the town in 1782.
      Some of his published works are, "A Sermon on the Ordination of John Norton," 4t Deerfield, 1741; "The Great Duty of Charity," 1742; "An Evening Lecture to the Negroes, to 'Show that Christianity Allows the Relation of Master and Servant;'" two sermons preached at Northampton, Feb. 10, 1751, to counteract the effect of Mr. Edwards' evening lecture after he was dismissed; and again, June 24, 1753, "to my own people," says the author, "on the occasion of a gentleman of Mr. Edwards' sentiments had been preaching to a part of my congregation;" a part of a sermon preached before Mr. Billings and the seceders about December, 1753. He officiated at 221 marriages, 1009 baptisms, and 398 persons were admitted into the church during his ministry.
      Samuel Goodrich, of Yale College, 1783, was preaching here early in 1785. July 18th he was invited to settle, but declined this year. "The town is desirous for persons to qualify themselves for singing in meeting, and leave the choice of tunes to the leaders."
      Rev. John Taylor, A.M., the thirteenth child of Eldad, who was the fourteenth child of Edward, the first minister of Westfield, was born Dec. 23, 1762, just one hundred and twenty years after his grandfather. He was the third settled minister. He graduated from Yale College in 1784, and was ordained Feb. 14, 1787. His settlement was £250, with a salary of £100, and what firewood he wants, at $1 a cord. In his letter of acceptance, the old division and the happy reunion are emphasized by Mr. Taylor. He spoke discouragingly of the political situation, and was filled "with the most alarming apprehensions," and could not predict the result of the general confusion. Shays' rebellion was then at its height, but its power was broken before his ordination. Mr. Taylor was well acquianted with the political affairs of the country, and had a natural taste for the study of history. In 1793 he published a valuable "Appendix to the Redeemed Captive;" a "Thanksgiving Sermon," Nov. 29, 1798, a "Century Sermon," Feb. 29, 1804, and a "Farewell Sermon," Aug. 6, 1806, were also published. The ministry of Mr. Taylor had been harmonious, but on account of ill health he asked a dismission, which was effected Aug. 6, 1806, by a mutual council. On leaving, the town made him an extra grant of $662. In 1802, Mr. Taylor made a three months' missionary tour to New York, visiting many settlements on the Mohawk and Black Rivers. He went on horseback, traveling nearly one thousand miles, speaking five or six times a week, organizing churches, ordaining deacons, visiting schools, the sick, and the dying. With all this, he found time to visit and describe natural curiosities and noted localities. Of some, drawings were made, notably the ruins of ancient forts or mounds on the Sandy Creek, near Lake Ontario. On leaving Deerfield, Mr. Taylor engaged in farming in Enfield, Conn. Here he was a leading man, often elected representative, and several times made speaker of the House. In 1817 he removed to Hendon, N. Y., where he was engaged in missionry operations. In 1832 he settled as minister at Bruce, Mich., where he died, Dec. 20, 1840. He married, June 14, 1788, Elizabeth Terry, of Enfield, Conn.
      Rev. Samuel Porter Williams, A.M., of Wethersfield, Conn. He graduated from Yale College in 1796, preached as a candidate in the summer of 1806, and received an invitation to become pastor November 3d. This he had intended to accept, but, on the 15th, he gave reasons why he felt it his duty to go to Mansfield, Conn. He settled there in 1807, and remained ten years. He died in 1826.

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