Deerfield — Ministers And Churches

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

      Rev. Samuel Willard, D.D., eminent Unitarian divine and author, son of William, of Petersham, born April 18, 1776. He graduated from Harvard College in 1803; was tutor at Bowdoin College, 1804-5. May 18, 1807, by a vote of 22 to 1, the church called him to "settle here in the work of the gospel ministry." This action was ratified June 4th, and a salary of $666.67 offered him. Mr. Willard accepted, and August 12th was fixed as the day for ordination. The council met August 11th, and reported the next day that although they found "the pastor elect to be a gentleman of rich talents and acquirements in theological knowledge, of a most amiable temper and disposition, and of an exemplary frankness and sincerity in communicating his opinions," "they did not discover in him that belief in the essential Divinity of our LORD JESUS CHRIST"—the doctrines of total depravity, the super-natural influence of the Holy Spirit, the doctrine of election, and perseverance of the saints-which they consider necessary, and therefore they could not proceed to ordain him. August 17th the church renewed the call, which was concurred in by the town, August 28th, by a vote of 114 to 34, the nays, with a single exception, being from Bloody Brook. Mr. Willard's "confession of faith" was printed and sent out with the invitations to a new council, by which he was ordained, Sept. 23, 1807. He married, May 30, 1808, Susan, daughter of Dr. Joshua Barker, of Hingham. Soon after the settlement of Mr. Willard most of the church members from the south part of the town withdrew, and afterward united in a church there. Mr. Willard became blind about 1820, but he continued his pastoral duty until Sept. 23, 1829, when he was dismissed at his request. He removed to Hingham, whence, after a few years spent in teaching, he returned to Deerfield in 1836, where he died, Oct. 8, 1859.
      The memory of Dr. Willard was wonderful. He learned the Bible by heart, and on hearing any random line of it could at once give the chapter and verse. He was equally familiar with the volume of hymns used in the Sunday service. Most of his literary work was done after he became blind. Some of his publications are "Deerfield Collection of Sacred Music," 1814; "Rudiments of Reading," 1815; "Original Hymns," 1823; "Sacred Poetry and Music Reconciled," 1830; "Rhetoric," 1831; "Introduction to the Latin Language," 1835; "Franklin Primer," "Improved Reader," "General Class Book," and "Popular Reader, "—a series of school-books which went through many editions,—with sermons, pamphlets on various subjects, contributions to magazines, etc., etc.
      Dr. Willard was a strong anti-slavery man, an ardent worker for temperance, interested in science, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In person he was of marked figure and face, grave in deportment, kindly and affable, a Christian gentleman, and an honest man.
      Rev. John. Fessenden graduated at Harvard College in 1818; Cambridge Theological School, 1821; tutor, 1825-27; was the fifth pastor of the First Church, and ordained May 19, 1830. Mr. Fessenden was a man of scholarly attainments. His sermons were written rather for the learned than the common people, and failed in interesting the young. He was singularly gifted in public prayer, and was amiable, diffident, and lacking in personal magnetism.
      In 1835 he preached before a party of Indians from Canada who claimed to be descendants of the captive Eunice Williams, and to be on a visit to the graves of her father and mother. This sermon was published. On his dismissal, May 31, 1840, Mr. Fessenden removed to Dedham, where, to some extent, he engaged in teaching.
      Daniel B. Parkhurst, son of Dr. William, of Petersham, was born Feb. 20, 1818. He was two years at Amherst and two years at Yale, where he graduated in 1836. He studied at the Cambridge Divinity School, and was ordained July 21, 1841. He was a man of rare promise, but preached only nine sermons, dying of consumption at Keene, N. H., Feb. 16, 1842.
      James Blodgett, A.M., graduated at Harvard College in 1841; at Divinity School, Cambridge, in 1843. He was ordained Jan. 17, 1844. His health failing, he was dismissed, June 16, 1845: He removed to Lexington, where he died July 11, 1845, aged thirty-three. He married, in 1844, Miss ______ Wellington, of Lexington. She died Oct. 11, 1845.
      Rev. John F. Moors was born in Groton; graduated at Harvard College in 1842; at Divinity School, Cambridge, in 1845. He was ordained Jan. 28, 1846, eighth pastor of the First Church; was dismissed April 9, 1860, and removed to Greenfield. He is further noticed in the history of that town.
      James K. Hosmer, son of Rev. Dr. George Hosmer, was born in Northfield, Jan. 29, 1834. He graduated at Harvard College in 1855; at Divinity School, Cambridge, in 1857. He was ordained Sept. 6, 1860. In September, 1862, he enlisted in Co. D, 52d Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers, which joined Gen. Banks' Louisiana Expedition. Declining a position in the military household of Gen. Banks, he was made corporal of the color-guard, and served through the campaign. He was in the actions of April 12th and 14th on the Teche; under Gen. Grover, and with him through the Red River Expedition, and at the siege and surrender of Port Hudson, July 8, 1863. Mr. Hosmer was dismissed, Sept. 2, 1866, to take a professorship in Antioch College. He is now a professor of the State University of Missouri, and author of "The Color-Guard,"—one of the most entertaining books which the Rebellion has brought forth; Boston, 1864,—"The Thinking Bayonet," 1865; "A History of German Literature," 1879; and is a liberal contributor to papers and magazines.
      Edgar Buckingham, A.B., son of Joseph T., was born at Boston, Aug. 29, 1812. He graduated at Harvard College in 1831, and was the principal of Northfield Academy, 1831-32; graduated at Cambridge Divinity School, 1835; settled minister at Dover, N. H., 1835; in Trenton, N. Y., 1840; in Troy, N Y., 1853; and Deerfield in 1868. He married, June 5, 1835, Sally Ann Hart. Mr. Buckingham has been a voluminous writer for newspapers and magazines. He was an early advocate of the abolition of slavery, especially in an oration delivered July 4, 1842. This was printed, as have been several of his sermons. Of the Unitarian denomination, but maintains the view that "the religion of Jesus Christ consists in obedience to God, unconnected with sectarian opinions." He has an active, ingenious mind and scholarly culture.

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