Whately — The Church Of Christ In Whately

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

      The articles of faith and covenant were signed, or consented to, by the following persons: Salmon White, Simeon Wait, Richard Chauncey, Nathan Graves, David Scott, Thomas Crafts, Daniel Morton, Israel Graves, Benjamin Smith, Philip Smith, Elisha Frary, Joshua. Belding, John Wait, Jr., David Graves, Jr., Elisha Belding, Oliver Graves, David Graves, Sr., Joseph. Belding, Sr., Rebecca Graves, Ebenezer Bardwell, Elizabeth Bardwell, Elizabeth Belding, Submit Scott, Abigail Smith, Martha Wait, Eunice Graves, Mary White, Ruth Belding, Mary Wait, Abigail Crafts, Lydia Stiles, Ruth Stiles, George Prutt, Sarah Smith, Sarah Smith, Jr., Abigail Graves, Jemima Scott, Abigail Scott, Anna Belding, Margaret Belding, Sarah Wells, Eleanor Morton, Miriam Frary, Elizabeth Chauncey, and Abigail Smith, —45 in all.
      A council for the ordination of Mr. Wells was called, which met Sept. 25, 1771, at place prepared under the shade of two large oaks standing near where the church was afterward built, and, in a solemn manner, set him apart to the "work of the ministry,—being made an overseer of the church or flock of Christ in Whately by the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery.
      The Rev. Rufus Wells was born in Deerfeld, in September, 1748, and was a son of Dr. Thomas Wells, the first physician of that town. He graduated at Harvard in 1764, and was, licensed to preach in 1769. He married Sarah Porter, of Ashfield, in 1776, who died in 1796, which greatly afflicted him and caused him to become temporarily deranged. Happily; he was completely restored, and in 1802 married Mrs. Temperance Severance for his second wife. In 1822 a colleague was appointed him, but he continued his pastoral relation until his death, Nov. 8, 1834, having spent sixty years of his ministerial life in Whately. He wrote more than 3000 sermons, the last one, by a strange coincidence, being on the text from Hebrews iv. 9: "There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God." In his ministry he baptized 956 persons and married 305 couples. His last recorded public act was the performance of the ceremony at the marriage of his granddaughter, Sarah Wells, to Silas Rice, Nov. 8, 1831. In accordance with the custom of those times, Mr. Wells combined other work with his ministerial duties, managing a large farm and being conveyancer, and was as successful a business-man as a minister. He was the father of nine children, and closed his long and eventful life universally respected.
      Mr. Wells' colleague was the Rev. Lemuel P. Bates, who was ordained Feb. 18, 1822, and was dismissed Oct. 17, 1832. He graduated at Williams College in 1818, and also at Princeton. He removed to the West, and died at Alton, Ill., in 1860.
      For about four years the church was destitute of a pastor,--the pulpit being supplied in the mean time by Revs. Packard and Eastman, --but on the 16th of March, 1836, the Rev. John Ferguson was installed the third pastor, and preserved that connection until June 17, 1840. He was born in Scotland in 1785, and came to America in 1806. After he left Whately he became an agent of the American Tract, Society,
      Again a vacancy followed, extending through five years, in which time the supplies were the faculty of Amherst College, and the Revs. Moses Chase, Sumner, Lincoln, and others.
      Sept, 30, 1845, the Rev. J. H. Temple, of Framingham, was ordained the fourth pastor, and was dismissed March 24, 1852, He was born March 2, 1815, and fitted to enter college in 1836, but was prevented by his eyesight failing. He attended lectures at Amherst and became a successful teacher, and was the author of several text-books and historical works.
      His successor in the pastoral office at Whately was the Rev. Charles N. Seymour, who was installed March 9, 1853, and dismissed April 27, 1859. He graduated at Trinity College in 1841, and studied theology at New Haven. After leaving Whately he removed to Brooklyn, Windham Co., Conn.
      The sixth and last regular pastor, up to this period (1879), was the Rev. John William Lane, who graduated at Amherst in 1856, and at Andover in 1859. He was ordained Oct. 17, 1860, and dismissed in March, 1878. Since that period the pulpit has been supplied by Prof. Tyler, of Northampton, and others.
      The meetings of the church were held at Oliver Morton's house for a number of years, and probably for a short time at the house of the pastor. In December, 1771, provision was made for a meeting-house, and David Scott, Thomas Crafts, Joseph Belding, Noah Bardwell, and David Graves, Jr., were appointed to carry out the purpose of the town. Boards and joists were sawed at the mill of Adonijah Taylor, and the next year shingles were purchased. Oct. 5, 1772, it was decided to set up the meeting-house the next spring in the Chestnut Plains Street, between the house of Oliver Morton and that occupied by the pastor. Salmon White, Edward Brown, Oliver Graves, Joseph Belding, Jr., and David Scott were chosen a building committee, and the town voted a tax of £80 on the ratable polls and property of the inhabitants to erect the house.

      "During the winter of 1772-73 the timber and materials were collected, and at a meeting held May 10, 1773, the town granted additional money, and voted that David Scott be master-workman to frame the house. The building was framed by what was called the 'try rule,' or the rule of six, eight, and ten--i.e., the sills, posts, and beams were framed and tried, and the braces were laid on to mark their bevels and length. (Master Scott's frame precept was, 'Make great mortises and little tenons, and your work will go together charming easy!') in the course of the two following months the house was framed, raised, and partially covered. At a town-meeting held July 8, 1773, it was voted to raise 40 pounds to go on and finish the meeting-house. The 'finish' then put on, however, was not of the highest order, as will be seen in the particular description which follows: On the outside the roof was well shingled, though it had no steeple or tower; the sides and ends were covered with rough boards chamfered together. The windows in the lower story were pretty fully glazed; those in the upper story were boarded up. There were three doors to the house, one each on the north, east, and south sides, that on the east side being reckoned the front door. These were made of rough boards, and not very tightly fitted. Thus uniform was the covering upon the outside. The inside had no 'finish' at all, except a ground-floor. The sides were destitute of both plastering and laths, and the framework of the galleries, the beams, girths, and rafters were all naked. A rough board pulpit, raised a few feet, was placed in the centre of the west side. Directly in front of the pulpit a carpenter's work-bench was left. The seat which was placed before this bench was claimed by the old ladies, that they might hear better and have it support for the back. The seats were nothing more than low slab forms; these were arranged without much regard to order, and were free to all. After some years, Mr. Wells nailed up a couple of boars on the left of the pulpit for the better accommodation of his wife; and a sort of pew, or bench with a back fixed to it, was fitted up by a few of the young men, on the east side near the door, capable of seating six or eight persons."

      In this state the house remained twenty-five years, resembling a barn, and in summer was the abode of hundreds of swallows, who made such a twittering noise that Mr. Wells never exchanged with any one during their stay, fearing that they would annoy the visiting minister.
      1797 the house was finished, and for the first time regularly consecrated. The pews were not sold, but each family or person was assigned particular seat, by a committee, according to his age or property, This arrangement proved so unsatisfactory to some that they absented themselves from the meetings, and in 1818 the practice of selling the pews was adopted. A portion of the proceeds from this source was applied to building a steeple upon the south end of the meeting-house, which was supplied with a bell in 1821. At first the signal was given by blowing a large conch an hour before service and again just before preaching began but, in 1795, the town voted that we "will not improve any body to blow the conch as a signal for meeting," and from that period until the bell was placed in position the people came at their pleasure.
      In 1843 the meeting-house was remodeled, but the frame, put up in 1773, being found perfectly sound, was left unaltered. The house stood in the middle of the street, at the hamlet, until 1867, when it was sold and removed. In that year the church purchased, and has since occupied, the meeting-house at the hamlet erected by the Second Congregational Church, which had dissolved a few years previous.
      From 1778 until March 18, 1816, the custom of "covenant privileges" prevailed in the church, by means of which a person might obtain a "half-way" membership.

      "An individual of good moral standing in society, who would acknowledge a belief in the doctrines of the gospel as set forth in the Confession of Faith, and would assent in part to the covenant, might be received by vote as a member in a limited sense. He thus became a subject for discipline, and might be complained against by full members. He had the privilege of baptism for himself and family, but was debarred from the communion of the Lord's Supper."

      In 1788, 25 members of the church, living in the western part of Whately, becoming dissatisfied with the vote of the town retaining the meeting-house at the hamlet, withdrew, and afterward became Baptists. In 1842 and thereafter 75 members withdrew to form the Second Congregational Church. The membership has frequently been augmented by revivals, and aggregates nearly a thousand persons. At present (March, 1879) there are 145 members, 25 of whom are non-residents.
      Nathan Graves, elected in October, 1771, was the first deacon of the church; Salmon White, elected in 1773, was the second. The subsequent deacons have been Thomas Sanderson, Levi Morton, John White, Eleazer Frary, James Smith, Justus White, David Sanders, Reuben H. Belden, Elias A. Dickinson, L. W. Hannum, Elihu Belden, John White, Myron Harwood, and Francis G. Bardwell.
      About 1820, Chloe Adkins and Ruth Dickinson gathered a number of children together for instruction in the Scriptures, but it is thought that no regular Sunday-school was organized until about 1826. It has usually been well attended, and at present has 80 members, under the superintendence of Chester
      K. Waite. From 1860 to 1877, Elihu Belden was the superintendent. The school has a library of 200 volumes.
      The prudential committee of the church is composed of S. W. Allis, Chester K. Waite, and Salmon P. White. Porter Wells is the parish clerk.

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26 Jun 2005