Heath —The Church of Christ in Heath
Extracted from "History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts, Volume II," by Louis H. Everts, 1879.
The covenant and articles of faith were signed by Jonathan Leavitt. Samuel Hunt, Samuel Gould. Hugh Maxwell, John Brown, Valentine Harris, Asahel Thayer, Eli Gould, Josiah Davidson, Asaph White, Joseph Butler, Benjamin White, Jonathan Thayer, Seth Lathrop, Isaac Gould, Durand Bates, William Buck, J. Hart Leavitt, Joshua Leavitt. Sarah Leavitt, Eunice Hunt, Priscilla Maxwell, Sarah Gould. Esther Thayer, Lydia Gould, Lucy Brown, Abigail White. Agues Thayer, Elizabeth Butler, Elizabeth Rugg, Olive Gould, Clarissa Leavitt, Lilly Maxwell, and Abigail Ballard. It is said that the foregoing constituted all the families but one at that time in town.
Meantime, the meetings were held the old church. Which, as will be seen by reference to the town records, was moved to Heath Centre in 1789 and fully completed in 1790, under the direction of Col. Asaph White. John Brown, Daniel Spooner. Hugh Maxwell, and Jonathan Thayer. These were instructed by the town "to set eighteen pews adjoining the walls below, and eight in the body, with three seats in front in the gallery, one pew over each stairway, and twelve against the walls, with two seats in front, the whole to be laid out with the greatest conveniency."
These pews were sold to the highest bidders by Willis Wilder, Thomas Harrington, and Asahel Thayer, and the choice was secured by the Rev. Jonathan Leavitt for £8 6s who selected No. 9. The other pews were owned as follows: No. 1, the minister; 2, Asahel Thayer; 3, Peter Hunt; 4, Jonathan Taylor; 5, Josiah Davidson; 6, David Baldwin, Thomas Harrington; 7, Silas Thayer 8, Stephen Bates 10, Jonathan Leavitt 11, Willis Wilder 12, Parley Hunt 13, Benjamin White; 14, Hugh Maxwell 15, Luke White; 16, Joseph Butler; 17. Hugh Maxwell; 18, William Buck; 19, Isaac Gould; 20. Benjamin Maxwell; 21, Isaac Chapin; 22, James White; 23, Daniel Spooner; 24, Silas Allen; 26, Jacob Chapin; Gallery: No. 4, Solomon Hayward; 6, Artemas Thayer; 8, John Buck; 12, Solomon Gleason; 14, Ezra Gleason. This house of worship was used until 1833, when the present edifice was erected, almost directly north of the old church. It has lately been remodeled, and now presents an attractive and inviting appearance.
The original membership of the church was soon and frequently increased by revivals. In 1792, 78 were added, and at other periods from 40 to 60, so that in 1832 the church had 316 members,—said to be a greater number than any other church in the county. The Sunday-school of this period is said to have been the largest in the church outside of Boston, having had more than 500 members. But various causes reduced this grand membership of the church and the school, and in the light of the former prosperity their present condition appears insignificant. In 1878 the church had but 28 members, and the Sunday-school only 40. This change has been brought about chiefly by removals, although disaffection among the members and the formation of other societies have aided materially. In 1844 a number felt dissatisfied with the settlement of the Rev. Josiah Fisher, and withdrew to form a new church. Two years later most of them returned to the old church, having been supplied with preaching by the Rev. Salmon Bennett meanwhile, but the church never afterward attained its former harmonious and prosperous condition.
The first deacons of the church were Hugh Maxwell and John Brown. The subsequent deacons have been James White, Medad Dickinson, Jonathan Thayer, Jacob Chapin, Samuel Hastings, Ephraim Smith, David Rugg, Moses Smith, David White, Aaron Dickinson, Joel Rugg, Hart Brown, and W. H. Hunt, the latter being the present deacon.
The Rev. Joseph Strong was settled as the first pastor of the church Oct. 27, 1790, and was dismissed June 10, 1803. He graduated from Yale in 1784, and died at the house of his son. Prof. Theodore Strong, at Clinton, N. Y., Dec. 19, 1823, aged sixty-eight years.
The second pastor, the Rev. Moses Miller, was installed Dec. 26, 1804, and remained with the church thirty-five years, his ministry being terminated April 21, 1840. He was born ill Worcester, Nov. 23, 1776, and graduated at Brown University in 1800. During the last few years of his pastor he was assisted by the Rev. Calvin Butler, whose connection with the church ended March 17, 1840. He was it native of Pelham, and graduated at Dartmouth.
The Rev. Samuel M. Emerson was ordained the fourth pastor. Sept. 16, 1840, and died at Heath. July 20, 1841, aged fifty-five years. He was born in Conway, Nov. 17, 1785, graduated front Williams College in 1810, and ordained to the ministry in 1815. "He was an active and faithful pastor, a disinterested man, a devoted Chiristian."
The fifth pastor. the Rev. Josiah Fisher, was settled Sept. 7. 1842, and dismissed Aug. 27. 1845. He graduated from Bowdoin College. Maine, in 1828, and was licensed to preach at Boston, April 26, 1831.
The Rev. Alpheus Graves became the sixth pastor, June 18, 1851, and continued that relation until September, 1854. His immediate successor was the Rev. E. B Emerson, who was installed Jan. 24, 1855, and resigned Nov. 26, 1857. Then followed the Rev. William P. Alcott, Eli Moody, William F. Avery, B. B. Cutler, D. P. Noyes, and others, as acting pastors or supplies. The present acting pastor, the Rev. J. C. Edgar, was ordained June 14, 1875. He graduated at Oxford, England, in 1864, and from the seminary at Bangor, Me., in 1875.
In the history of the church, the Revs. Ebenezer Tucker, A. A. Gaylord, Dana Grosell, and Zolva Whitmore also served as supplies.
The Congregational ministers natives of Heath have been as follows: Rev. Stephen T. Allen, born in Heath in 1809, graduated at Amherst in 1833, and at Andover in 1837. He became an editor of household literature in New York. Rev. Joshua Leavitt, born in Heath, Sept. 8, 1794, graduated at Yale in 1814, studied law, but became a minister in 1823, and is better known as editor of the Independent. Rev. Lowell Smith, born in Heath, Nov. 27. 1802. He graduated at Williams in 1829, and was ordained a missionary to the Sandwich Islands at Heath, Sept. 26, 1832. Rev. David H. Thayer, born in Heath, May 21, 1825. He graduated at Union in 1849, and studied theology at New Haven. Rev. John C. Thompson, born in Heath, Sept. 27. 1804. He graduated at Amherst in 1829, and was licensed to preach in 1835. Rev. Cornelius E. Dickinson, born in Heath in 1835. He graduated at Amherst in 1860. Rev. Samuel F. Dickinson, born in town in 1839, and studied at Ann Arbor, Mich. Rev. George L. Dickinson, born in Heath in August, 1846, and studied theology at Andover and Bangor.
The people of the town were formerly connected with the church of Charlemont, and the first meeting-house of that town was erected in what is now the southern part of Heath. Here they had the ministerial labors of the Rev. Jonathan Leavitt, first as pastor of the old church, and later as an occasional preacher. Mr. Leavitt being a resident of the town. After it was determined to form a new town, Jonathan Leavitt, Hugh Maxwell, Asaph White, Nathan Gould, and Roger white were appointed to memorialize the Charlemont church for liberty for form anew church. This favor was granted, and on the 15th of April, 1785, was duly organized.