Joseph Dow's History of Hampton: The Congregational Society

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The Congregational Society

An early movement was made for the formation of a religious society, that might, in connection with the church, make provision for the support of gospel institntions. A petition for an act of incorporation was presented to the Legislature at the fall session in 1796. The petitioners represented that they were conscientiously of the Congregational persuasion, as their ancestors had been from the first settlement of the town; that recently an unhappy dissension had arisen in the town, and a minor portion of the church and a major portion of the town had professed to he Presbyterians and had settled a minister of that denomination, from which act the petitioners had dissented; -- that they were desirous of enjoying the ordinances of the gospel agreeably to the dictates of their own consciences, and of being allowed in a corporate capacity to contract with, and settle a minister of their own persuasion: -- and they therefore prayed that they might he formed into a distinct parish.

An order of notice was served on the town, and a town meeting called for November 28, to take the subject into consideration. Capt. Jonathan Marston and Capt. Benjamin Shaw were chosen "a committee in behalf of the town, to appear at the General Court to oppose the granting of the petition." Their opposition was unavailing. The prayer of the petitioners was declared "to be consonant to the spirit of the Constitution and the unalienable rights of men." An act of incorporation was therefore granted, December 6, 1796, constituting the petitioners, eighty-one in number, with such others as might afterwards join them, a body politic and corporate with continuance and succession forever, by the name of the Congregational Society in Hampton, and enfranchising them and investing them with all such rights, privileges and immunities as were held or enjoyed by any other parish in the State. Provision was also made for admitting new members; and Joseph Dow,.Esq., was "authorized to call, and preside at, the first meeting" of the Society.

The first meeting was held at their usual place of public worship, three weeks after the passage of the act of incorporation. Col. Jonathan Garland was chosen clerk, and Joseph Dow, Esq., Maj. Josiah Dearborn and Colonel Garland, selectmen, or wardens. The selectmen were authorized to call all future meetings of the Society. Two days afterward they posted a warrant for a meeting, to act in relation to giving Mr. Appleton an invitation to become their pastor. At that meeting, January 17, 1797, a unanimous vote was passed to give him a call to settle in the work of the gospel ministry; and to give him as a salary the first year, £90, to be paid, £20 of it in provisions at the following prices, viz.: corn, 3 shillings per bushel; pork 3 pence, and beef, 2 pence per pound; also to give him the keeping of a horse, summer and winter; the second year, the same sum, and the keeping of a horse and two cows, and also to provide him with a convenient house and barn, if he should have occasion for them; afterwards, to give him £95 annually, to be paid in money and provisions as before; also to find him a house, barn and other necessary buildings, the summering of one horse, two cows and six sheep, and grass sufficient for hay for wintering them, and to furnish him with five cords of hard wood and five of pine, annually, during his ministry here.

These proposals were made on condition that Mr. Appleton should agree to release to the society all his right and title to all the parsonage lands and buildings and to all the property, of whatever kind, appropriated to the use of the ministry in the town, whenever he should be legally put in possession of them.

The church also met the same day and on their part unanimously voted a call to Mr. Appleton. Messrs. Jonathan Locke, Abraham P. Towle, Amos Knowles, John Dow and Benjamin Brown Shaw were chosen a committee of the church, and Col. Christopher Toppan, Joseph Dow, Esq, Col. Jonathan Garland, Maj. Josiah Dearborn, Samuel Drake, Samuel Mace and Abner Page, of the society, to wait upon Mr. Appleton and present him with a copy of these votes, and receive his answer.

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