Baptists and the American Civil War: October 18, 1865

Civil War States MapIn much of the North, Baptist life has returned to as normal as possible in the wake of the war.

In the town of Metheun, Massachusetts, the Baptist church today celebrates a semi-centennial anniversary. A discourse delivered by Rev. K. S. Hall offers a brief summary of the church’s history, a narrative that includes a famous Baptist.

“For many years there had been persons of the Baptist faith scattered through the town, and Isaac Backus preached here as early as March 30, 1756. It is also known that Baptist sentiments were held by the Messer family in Methuen a century and a half ago, and that Jacob Whittier, of Methuen, was chosen one of the deacons of the Baptist Church in Haverhill May 9, 1765. Sometime during the last century a Baptist Church was constituted in the west part of Methuen, but no record is in existence of its formation or subsequent proceedings. A meeting-house was built about the year 1778, near the burying-ground west of the Bartlett Farm, and simply boarded and supplied with a floor. Services were held in it occasionally for some years, but some of the leading families removed from town, and the church ceased to exist. Religious meetings continued to be held occasionally at private houses, and baptisms were administered at different times, until the formation of the Baptist Society in Methuen, March 1, 1815, when a number of the inhabitants met at the house of ” Mr. Ebenezer Whittier, innholder,” and chose a committee to draft articles of signature, which were signed by seventy-one members during the first year. The Baptist Church was constituted March 8, 1815, and the recognition services were held in the house of Daniel Frye, now the ” Butters Place.” During the first year of its organization the church held religious meetings in different parts of the town, the church meetings being usually held at the house of Daniel Frye, afterwards chosen deacon. Charles O. Kimball, a licentiate of the Haverhill Church, commenced preaching June 25, 1815, and was ordained pastor of the church and society May 8, 1816.

In the summer of 1815 steps were taken for building a meeting-house, and it was finally voted to build a “two-story meeting-house” on a half-acre lot given by Bailey Davis, where the Baptist Church now stands. Several other lots were contemplated on which to build the house; one, the ” mill lot,” embracing a quarter of an acre near where the Town House now stands, and another on “Liberty Hill,” a little southwest of the stone church on the opposite side of the street. The house was built and publicly dedicated December 5, 1816. During the long pastorate of Mr. Kimball, the church seems to have been characterized by activity and zeal in its membership, and steadily increased in numbers and influence. For the first ten years all moneys for the support of preaching and other expenses connected therewith were raised by voluntary subscription; afterwards taxes were assessed on members of the society….”

Source: D. Hamilton Hurd, History of Essex County, Massachusetts, Volume 1, Philadelphia: J. W. Lewis, 1888, p. 787 (link)