Sunderland — Churches

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

      In December, 1742, the town voted that "we are inclined to allow traveling preachers to preach among us;" and this, it is believed, is the rock upon which Mr. Rand and the town split. Rev. Joseph Ashley, a native of Westfield and graduate of Yale, was installed in November, 1747, as Mr. Rand's successor, and received a settlement of £700 and the promise of a salary of £240, all in old tenor.
      In 1761 the town authorized Deacon Samuel Montague "to get all the necessary work done, and prevent the meeting-house from spreading any further." In 1764, Rev. Mr. Ashley's salary was £500, old tenor, equal to £66 13s. 4d. In 1773 it was voted by the town to sequester, during the town's pleasure, for the use of the singers, "the two fore and the two second seats in the front gallery, and the two fore seats in the south gallery, and the fore seat in the lower tier and the second seat in the upper tier in the north gallery."
      In 1780 the town began to look with disfavor upon Rev. Mr. Ashley, but the cause of the displeasure is not revealed. In that year a committee was appointed to ask the pastor upon what terms he would desist from officiating in his ministerial office. Nothing seems to have come of this request, for Mr. Ashley continued to preach as formerly; but in 1784, upon a second request to him to desist from preaching, he answered that he would stop preaching if the town would agree to give him a yearly sum of £35 and 30 cords of wood until another minister should be settled, and after that he would take one-half of his agreed annual salary during the rest of his life. To this the town refused to agree, and, after determining to dismiss Mr. Ashley, a change of resolution was effected, and an agreement made to leave the controversy to a church council for decision.
      Meanwhile, Mr. Ashley sued the town for salary which had been withheld from him, gained his suit, and then renewed his offer to desist from preaching, conditioned that he should receive one-half his usual salary and 30 cords of wood yearly. The council was not called, but the matter was left for settlement to an arbitration, and, according to the committee's decision, Mr. Ashley refrained from preaching, and received yearly thereafter until his death, in 1797, one-half his agreed salary and 30 cords of wood.
      The second meeting-house was built in 1792, and was supplied with a steeple and tower at one end, a porch at the other, 35 windows, each containing 40 squares of 7 by 9 glass, and it contained on the lower floor 41 pews.
      Rev. Asa Lyon was ordained in October, 1792, as Mr. Ashley's successor, and was to have a settlement of £200, a salary of £80 while Mr. Ashley lived, and £90 after Mr. Ashley's death. There was some trouble with Mr. Lyon, and in August, 1793, it was voted "to call a council to determine the immoral conduct of Mr. Lyon." He was dismissed in October of that year. After him, Rev. David H. Williston was settled in 1804, just previous to which time the meeting-house tower was supplied with a clock "with three faces." Mr. Williston preached two years, and was succeeded by Rev. James Taylor, who was ordained in 1807, and died while in the pastoral office, in 1831. His successors have been the Revs. Henry B. Holmes, Solomon B. Ingram, Austin Carey, Henry B. Hosford, Sereno D. Clark, E. D. Root, David Peck, and Wm. F. Arms, the latter being the pastor in charge in 1879.
      The First Church has adhered steadfastly to the orthodox faith, from the date of erection of the first meeting-house, in 1717, to the present time (1879). The second meeting-house, erected in 1792, was replaced in 1835 by the present structure, By a vote in town-meeting in 1831, the church society was instructed to form a parish separate from the town, and the measure was at once carried into effect.
      There were Baptists in Sunderland in 1783, and they objected to paying the town rate assessed for the minister's support, whereupon legal measures were brought to bear upon them; but they triumphed over the town, and in 1784 it was voted to relieve the Baptists of the minister's rate.
      A Baptist Church was organized in the north part of the town in 1822, near the Montague line, and was long known as the Sunderland and Montague Baptist Church. A church edifice was built in 1822, and since that time the society has continued to flourish. Among the early pastors were Revs. Hosea Trumbull, David Pease, Elias Johnson, Elijah Montague, Moses Curtis, Erastus Andrews, L. W. Wheeler, Lorenzo Rice, J. D. Donovan, Artemas Piper, Charles Farrar, A. W. Goodnow, and Samuel Everett. The present pastor (1879) is Rev. J. Robinson; number of present members, 42.

These pages are © Laurel O'Donnell, 2005, all rights reserved
and cannot be reproduced in any format without permission
This page was last updated on
05 Aug 2005