Hawley — Religious Societies.
Extracted from "History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts, Volume II," by Louis H. Everts, 1879.
The formation of the first society antedates the organization of the town about fourteen years. On the 16th of September, 1778, at a council called for this purpose, at which were present the Revs. Nehemiah Porter and Jacob Sherwin, of Ashfield, Jonathan Leavitt, of Charlemont, and John Emerson, of Conway, was formed
The First Congregational Church In Hawley.
The articles of faith and covenant were signed by Thomas King, Nathaniel Rudd, Daniel Burt, Silas Hitchcock, Samuel Hitchcock, Abel Parker, Daniel Parker, Benjamin Smith, Nathaniel Parker, Josiah Graves, Mary Burt, Mary Hitchcock, Phebe Parker, Sarah Parker, Thankful Hitchcock, Martha Parker, Rebecca Parker, Abigail Graves, Sarah Cooley, and Elizabeth Smith.
The following additional names are reported: 1779, Nathaniel Hitchcock, Thomas King, Jr., Jane Gilmore, Timothy Baker, Widow Sarah Strickland, Mrs. Noah Cooley; 1780, Lucy King, Elizabeth Taylor; 1781, Phineas Scott, Mrs. Hosea Curtis. From 1781 to 1793 the records are lost; 1794, Catharine Warriner, Jonathan Spafford, Edward Porter, Wm. Farnsworth, Deborah Farnsworth, Noah Cooley, Jr., Asa Blood, Rhoda Blood, Elijah Harmon, Israel Clark, Dorcas Clark ; 1794, Mary Longley, Molly Crosby, Elijah Ford, Mercy King, Phebe Crowell; 1795, Sarah Longley, Joshua Scott, Rolland Sears, Thankful Sears, Nathan West, Sarah West, Martha Ruddork, Noah Pixley, Lydia Pixley, Zenas Bangs, Ruth Bangs; 1796, Urbane Hitchcock, A. Hall, Jotham Clark, Moses Clark; 1707, Lucy Longley, Stephen Jenkins, Amos Marsh, Josiah Wilcox, Priscilla Sears, Polly Grout, Rufus Baker; 1798, Elijah Field, Daniel Smith, John Farnsworth, Rebecca Hall, Mrs. Samuel Nims, and Mrs. Moses Clark.
The first meetings were held in dwellings and barns, and the Rev. Jacob Sherwin, of Ashfield, was the preacher, although not having a regular appointment. In 1792, the town voted to have preaching, and that half the meetings should be held at Col. Longley's, and the rest at the house of Abraham Parker; and £20 were voted to support the gospel. This year measures were taken to build a meeting-house, and Samuel Taylor, of Buckland, Aaron Rice, of Charlemont, and Wm. Wood were appointed a committee to pitch a meeting-house spot. After much controversy, it was decided in 1796 to build the meeting-house on 2½ acres of ground purchased of Abraham Parker, "who reserved the spruce growing on the same when the lot shall be cleared up." The house was
"to be 40 by 50 feet, and to be built by Joseph Longley, Edward Longley, Thomas King, Nathan West, and Hezekiah Warriner."
This house was used until 1824, when it was replaced by another edifice, near the old spot. In 1847 the present house of worship was built, in the southeastern part of the town. It is surmounted by a tower, and has a basement for vestry purposes. The house presents an attractive appearance, and has ample accommodations for 250 persons.
On the 23d of October, 1793, the Rev. Jonathan Grout was ordained the first pastor of the church, and continued in that relation until his death, June 6, 1835. A few years previous to that event he had the assistance of a colleague. He was born in Westboro' in 1763, and graduated from Cambridge in 1790, receiving his license to preach Aug. 7, 1792. His entire ministerial life, consequently, was spent in Hawley. The people whom he so long served erected a fine tombstone to his memory, bearing this epitaph:
"This stone was erected by the first parish in Hawley to the memory of the Rev. Jonathan Grout, who departed this life June 6, 1835, in the 73d year of his age, and the 42d of his ministry. He was the first minister in Hawley. Great unanimity among his people prevailed during the ministry of this devoted servant of Christ."
The Rev. Tyler Thatcher was installed the second pastor, May 14, 1834, and was dismissed Jan. 31, 1843. He was a native of Princeton, where he was born Sept. 11, 1801, and his ancestors for ten successive generations had been ministers. He graduated from Brown University in 1824, and was licensed to preach in 1825.
After Mr. Thatcher's connection had been dissolved the church was without a pastor six years, and was supplied four years by the Rev. John Eastman and two years by the Rev. William A. Hawley. The third and present pastor, the Rev. Henry Seymour, was installed Oct. 3, 1849, and has since been its faithful minister. He was born in Hadley, Oct. 20, 1816, and graduated from Amherst in 1838, finishing his studies at the Union Theological Seminary, New York, in 1842.
The original membership of the church was much augmented by frequent revivals. In 1807, 33 were added; in 1831, 64; in 1832, 31; and in 1816 the large number of 118. In that year the membership was reported at 265.
In 1825, 19 male and 25 female members were dismissed to form the West Hawley Church, and the following year only 179 were reported.
The members in 1878 were: males 28, females 48; non-resident, 17. A Sunday-school, organized in 1819, has been pretty successfully maintained since, and is at present superintended by Enos Harmon. It has 60 members. The church clerk is S. A. Clark.