Their reverend beards that swept their bosoms wetMr. Neal, who was a member of his household, says: ‘We were at breakfast—it was rather late. “ Where on earth is your good husband?” said I to Mrs. Pierpont. “In bed making poetry,” said she. “Indeed!” “Yes, flat on his back with his eyes rolled up in his head.” Soon after he appeared looking somewhat worse for his labor. “Here,” said he, “tell me what you think of these two lines,” handing me a paper on which they were written with the beauty and clearness of copper plate. “Charming,” said I. “And what then? What are you driving at?” “Well, I was thinking of Olivet, and then I wanted a rhyme for Olivet, and these express the picture of the apostles before me, their reverend beards all dripping with the dews of night.” ’ [p. 81] Take this touch of Moses on Sinai:
With the chill dews of shady Olivet.
There blasts of unseen trumpets long and loud,Or this of Moses receiving the Law:—
Swelled by the breath of whirlwinds rent the cloud.
His sunny mantle and his hoary locksMany of his shorter poems, for their force of devout sentiment or moral feeling have entered into our literature and held their place for two generations with no signs of losing it. Among the best known poems are the following: ‘The Exile at St. Helena,’ ‘The Address of Warren to the American Soldiers,’ ‘The Pilgrim Fathers.’ The highest flight of his fancy and his best contribution to our literature is ‘Passing Away.’ He was also the author of many fine hymns, besides a great number of temperance and anti-slavery poems. Mr. Pierpont was graduated from the Divinity School of Harvard College in 1818 in the class with Convers Francis, John G. Palfrey, Jared Sparks and Geo. Bancroft, all of them men who made a special mark upon their time. In 1819 he was called to be the minister of Hollis Street Church, Boston, succeeding the Rev. Dr. Holley, a man of eminence in his profession. The church was one of the most important in the city, and it seemed as if he were entering upon a new and happier day. He was now thirty-four years old, of superior ability and education and of wide experience of life. Added to his gifts and attainments were his pleasing social quality, a commanding presence, and his oratorical power. He was a fine natural reader of Scripture and hymns, which gave to his pulpit services unusual attractiveness and dignity. His preparation of sermons was made with most conscientious care, writing in full the two discourses for morning and afternoon, writing also and committing [p. 82] to memory the prayers as well. It was a congregation of cultured people accustomed to a high order of preaching, and they found satisfaction and delight in his ministry. I have read nearly all of his printed sermons, about twenty in all, and they are marked by a pure literary style, careful in statement, earnest in feeling and rich in literary and historical illustration. They fall into two classes, though not infrequently the two classes appear in the same discourse. One class is that of sermons of elevated sentiment touching personal conduct and character, deeply religious in their tone. The other, that of sermons strictly if not severely logical, intended to convince the understanding of those who heard them and persuade them to action. It is in these discourses that the trained lawyer is evident. Steps in the argument which the preacher would usually take for granted are made with the utmost care, as if he were appealing to a jury for a judgment, and for a judgment that will affect themselves. This method is most clearly seen in two discourses on ‘The Moral Rule of Political Action,’ the purpose of which was to apply this rule to the question of slavery and convince his hearers that the higher law of morals, which was the law of God, was the one they must obey. Still another on ‘The Covenant of Judas,’ was of the same kind, minute to the last degree in tracing through the Scriptures the whole doctrine of the force of covenants, agreements or vows, for the purpose of showing that if the Constitution of the United States had made an agreement with slavery—which he did not believe—it must be set aside by the enlightened conscience, for we ought to obey God rather than men. One other sermon, ‘The Burning of the Ephesian Letters,’ from the account in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, is most ingenious and skilful in its preaching against the evil of the manufacture and sale of intoxicants, without any word in it concerning the traffic which he was so subtly denouncing and overwhelming with disgrace. I cannot speak precisely as to dates, but from twelve to fifteen years of Mr. Pierpont's ministry passed not [p. 83] alone with satisfaction to his people, but with their high appreciation of him and pride in him. Then a change took place on the part of some of them, due especially to his preaching on such agitating subjects as temperance and slavery. The sermons which were the cause of this division of feeling are not to be found. Those I have spoken of are of a later date when the controversy was well under way. But at the beginning, there was much outward kindness; for after the unrest began, in 1835, his parish gave him a year's vacation when he went abroad, they paying his salary and supplying the pulpit in his absence, besides giving him a generous sum of money for his journey. One cannot tell what was in their mind, whether they supposed rest would change his conviction as to his duty, or whether a sense of obligation to them for their favor would accomplish the end they so much desired. It is clear that his course was one deliberately chosen which he could not put aside, for as early as 1838, not more than two years after his return to his pulpit, at a meeting of the proprietors of the church, it was ‘Voted; That the members of this society have viewed with deep regret the zeal of their reverend pastor in those exciting topics which divide and disturb the harmony of the community, thereby alienating his friends and diminishing his usefulness as the Christian teacher of this society; that they believe the precepts of the gospel do not warrant him, as a Christian minister, in interfering with the established laws of the land; but that the alteration of old and the adoption of new laws belong to legislators duly elected for that purpose; that they believe he was settled as the teacher of the doctrines and virtues of the Saviour of the world, who did not interfere with the civil law, but whose object it was to promote peace on earth and good will among men. Voted; That a committee of five be appointed to confer with the Rev. John Pierpont upon his duties and relations to this society, and that they be requested to report at an adjourned meeting.’ Here was the beginning of a controversy that was [p. 84] seven years in reaching its culmination. It must be briefly told in this paper, though the reading of a thick volume of six hundred pages has been necessary to the understanding of it. But a little explanation is required to set the matter fairly before us. First, as to Hollis Street Church. It was a church owned and controlled in law, not by the body of worshippers who rented pews in it, but by the proprietors. The proprietors were the owners of pews, who were legally responsible for the expenses of the church. Those who rented pews from the proprietors had no legal voice in the conduct of the parish. If their opinion was asked on any matter, such as the choice of a minister, it had no binding force, it was only desired so that the proprietors might form a judgment as to the course it was wise to pursue. In this whole controversy, therefore, it is not the congregation that is concerned, it is the pew-owners or proprietors as the legally responsible party. It is further necessary to the understanding of Mr. Pierpont's legal rights as minister to remember that he was settled under the old Congregational regime as a life-settlement. The proprietors could not dismiss him at will, they could only dismiss him by his consent unless for cause the Supreme Court should remove him, or an ecclesiastical council of churches, regularly and legally called, should vote to dissolve the connection between him and his parish, then the Supreme Court could give their decision legal force and bring his ministry to an end. This is the legal aspect or status of this controversy which will appear in what follows. An end of the matter could have been made at once by the resignation of the pastor. But there were good and sufficient reasons why he could not take this course. First of all, a vital principle was involved, that of the freedom of the pulpit. If a minister was to be put down because of his preaching upon questions of pressing moral interest, and this by a minority whose business was affected by such preaching, then the minister had [p. 85] ceased to be a teacher of truth and righteousness and had become a hireling to do the bidding of his supporters. The church would have the contempt of all right-minded men if such a view of the ministry could be held. It was a question of deep significance not only to this special church, but to the cause of religion as well, and in taking his stand against such proscription, Mr. Pierpont was doing more than to defend his personal rights; he was defending the integrity of the pulpit; he was defending the cause of pure religion to a rightful place as a moral force in the world. But, further, the controversy of the proprietors of the church with him had reached such a state of feeling that charges were made against him at a meeting of the proprietors which impeached his integrity and honor in certain business affairs which he conducted. These charges, I may say, briefly concerned his violation of an agreement as to the copyright of his ‘American First Class Book’; his contract to furnish letters during his trip abroad to the Boston Gazette, and his sale of the right to manufacture a razor-hone, which was not his invention, but had been loaned to him by a parishioner for the purpose of making one for his own use. Such charges could not go unanswered. To withdraw from his pulpit after they were made was to admit their truth and to have his reputation as a minister and a man hopelessly ruined. In order that the case might be heard and decided by a competent tribunal, an appeal was taken to a council of churches called by both parties to the controversy. This failed for the reason that the proprietors had changed the issue agreed upon, and he would not consent to be a party to the council on their terms. Then the proprietors took the next and only course left to them to bring about his dismission from their pulpit; they called an ex-parte council of churches preferring grounds of complaint against him and asking that he be regularly dismissed by the council because of them. The council was summoned as an ex-parte council [p. 86] called by the proprietors, but in the preliminary proceedings an understanding was reached between Mr. Pierpont and the proprietors, and it became a Mutual Ecclesiastical Council. Both parties were represented by able lawyers, well known to the bar in their time, and it was nearly six months after the council assembled before it dissolved. Its sessions were not continuous, but they were frequent, and a large amount of evidence was presented. The unanimous opinion of the council, composed of the ministers and delegates of twelve churches, was, ‘That, although on such of the charges preferred against the Rev. John Pierpont, as most directly affect his moral character, the proof has been altogether insufficient, yet on other charges such an amount of proof has been brought forward as requires this council to express their disapprobation of Mr. Pierpont's conduct on some occasions, and in some respects, but not sufficient, in their opinion, to furnish ground for advising a dissolution of the connection between him and his parish.’ That the decision of the council was a just one there is every reason to believe. But it was none too generous to him. For it was but a small number of his brethren in the ministry who supported him in his controversy, some thinking his course extreme, others thinking, as the council said, ‘that it had been marked by a degree of harshness, personality, ridicule and sarcasm at variance with Christian meekness.’ They seem not to have understood him, and therefore were unable to put themselves in his place. A man of so strong characteristics must have the defects of his virtues. Standing first for truth and righteousness as the supreme things, and then for his integrity and honor, does not induce the gentleness of the dove, and that his speech should have been now severe and now mixed with scorn for meanness, would be what we have a right to expect. Dr. Channing seems not to have thought him deserving of censure since he wrote to him, ‘Should it be the issue of your [p. 87] present controversy that some ten or twelve of those who now oppose you should withdraw from your society, and their places be filled by others who sympathize with you and will sustain you in your course, the pulpit of Hollis Street Church will stand higher than any other in the city.’ A word of explanation should also be said concerning the reasons why Mr. Pierpont was engaged in some matters of secular business which appear in this controversy. At the time of the failure of the business with which he was connected in Baltimore, he refused to avail himself of the legal exemption from his debts, and held himself morally bound to pay them. This laid upon him a considerable burden, and his engagements in business during his ministry were for the purpose of discharging that obligation, an obligation which he faithfully kept. He was one who preached righteousness and practiced it. Let it be remembered to his honor. It has been painful to go into the question at issue between Mr. Pierpont and his parish to the extent I have felt obliged to do, but it is a matter of history, and the fair fame of a man we have much reason to regard is at stake, a man of fine gifts, a self-sacrificing lover of his kind, and it is best we should see him as he was. The council dissolved in 1841. He continued his ministry for a time with much dissent and bitterness on the part of the strong minority opposed to him. His salary was kept back to the amount of more than three thousand dollars, and he had to bring suit to obtain it. Finally, against the advice of his friends in the church, in May, 1845,he voluntarily resigned his pastorate, and the long struggle was at an end. After a period of rest he became minister of a church in Troy, N. Y., which, together with lecturing on various subjects, but chiefly on temperance and slavery, filled his time till, in August, 1849, he became minister of the First Parish in Medford, where he remained until 1856. Singularly enough he came here to a church which had [p. 88] suffered from the same causes he had been familiar with. But for such as could bear his strong meat, who did not object to a religion mixed with morals, his ministry was a pure delight. His social charm, his remarkable gift as a reader of Scripture and hymns, the force and eloquence of his preaching were long remembered, and his influence was powerful for good. Early in the war of the Rebellion, when he was seventy-six years old, at his own request he received an appointment as Chaplain in the Twenty-second Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers, requesting of Gov. Andrew ‘that the regiment should not go around Baltimore.’ But firm as was his patriotic heart he was not equal to the hardships of camp life, and Secretary Chase of the U. S. Treasury gave him a position to collate and condense the decisions of the Treasury Department in regard to customs since the establishment of the government. This clerical task received high praise for the clear intelligence with which it was done, and it was while engaged in it that he returned to Medford for a brief visit. On Sunday morning he had attended church where it had been his happiness to be the minister, and the next day, August 27, 1866, his spirit had quietly passed to its rest. The monument commemorating him at Mt. Auburn describes him as ‘Poet, Patriot, Preacher, Philosopher, Philanthropist.’ He was all these. Most of all was he a lover of truth, so earnest that no frowns of the cultured and polite could keep him from espousing a cause which had won the conviction of his mind. He accepted the then science of phrenology, though it brought opprobrium upon him. He was a believer in spiritualism, convinced that its phenomena justified its claims, and he did not cherish the belief in private, but advocated it on the platform, in gatherings set apart to teach and commend it. He was so good a patriot and so true a lover of humanity that for these he willingly sacrificed the enviable position he had held in the pulpit. We cannot avoid the wish that truth and righteousness were so welcome in our world that a man of his worth could use his powers [p. 89] to set the world farther forward rather than have to contend inch by inch for the good he loved and nobly served. But that he had the will so to contend and win the right for which he stood, deserves high regard. He was not a prophet to say the smooth things which would make his lot easy, but to say the true things if sometimes the hard ones, which have won him the honor of man, as from the beginning of his heroic life he must have had the praise of God. Rev. John Pierpont was descended from 1James Pierpont of London, England; 2John Pierpont and Thankful Stowe of Roxbury, Mass.; 3Rev. James Pierpont of New Haven, Conn., and Mary Hooker; 4James Pierpont of Boston and New Haven and Anne Sherman; 5James Pierpont of Litchfield, Conn., and Elizabeth Collins. Rev. John Pierpont was married September 23, 1810, to Mary Sheldon Lord, daughter of Lynde and Mary (Lyman) Lord, who died at Medford, Mass., August 23, 1855. His children were:— 1William Alston, born July 1, 1811,at Litchfield, Conn., married Mary C. Ridgway of Syracuse, N. Y. 2Mary E., born September 18, 1812, at Newburyport, Mass. 3Juliette, born July 30, 1816, at Baltimore, Md., married James S. Morgan of Hartford, Conn. 4John, born November 24, 1819, at Boston, Mass. 5James, born April 25, 1822, at Boston, married Millicent Cowen of Troy, N. Y. 6Caroline Augusta, born August 21, 1823, at Boston, married J. M. Boardman of Macon, Ga. Mr. Pierpont married for his second wife Mrs. Harriet Louisa Fowler, widow of Dr. George W. Fowler, by whom there were no children.
Shone like the robe of winter on the rocks.
Where is that mantle? Melted into air.
Where is the prophet? God can tell thee where.
Strangers in Medford, (continued from vol. 6, no. 3).
|Fillebrown, Sarah||Cambridge,||Jan. 4, 1768||At house of Ezekiel Hall.|
|Reading,||May 31, 1757||Jan. 4, 1758||In house of Wm. McClinton.|
|Fisk, Mary||Jan. 30, 1791|
|Fisk, William||Wood End||May 31, 1757||Jan. 4, 1758||In house of Wm. McClinton.|
|Fitch, John B.||Aug. 31, 1797|
|Flora (negro)||Charlestown,||Dec. 12, 1765||Sept. 1, 1766||In family of Henry Putnam.|
|Floyd, Benjamin||Boston,||Mar. 23, 1767||Boarder in house of Noah Floyd.|
|Floyd, Hepsibah||Jan. 30, 1791|
|Floyd, Hugh||Maiden,||Mar. 15, 1759||In house of Benj. Parker, Jr. Tenant of Col. Royall before 1772.|
|Fowle, John||Aug. 31, 1797|
|Fowle, Mehitabel||Jan. 30, 1791|
|Fox, Catherine||Jan. 30, 1791|
|Freeman, Primas1 wife and family||Apr. 16, 1784|
|Jan. 30, 1791|
|Freeman, Richard||Jan. 20, 1740||Negro in house of John Hammon.|
|Freeman, Richard||Chelsea, October, 1761||Aug. 30, 1762|
|French family, A||Charlestown, May, 1751||Tenants in house of John Willis.|
|Frost, Rufus||Aug. 31, 1797|
|Frost, Mary||Cambridge, May 16, 1772||Daughter of Abraham Frost. In family of Moses Tufts.|
|Fuller, Benjamin||Lynn, May 7, 1764||In house of Wm. Hall.|
|Fury, Simon||Marblehead, October, 1770||In family of Ebenezer Hall, Jr.|
|Gallop, Susanna||Boston, Jan. 27, 1766||Nov. 8, 1766||In family of Thos. Patten.|
|Gardner, John||Boston, Jan. 13, 1763||In family of Samuel Stocker.|
|Gardner, Jonathan wife and child||Maiden, Oct. 24, 1768||Oct. 8, 1770||Boarder in house of Timothy Newhall.|
|Gary, Susannah||Stoneham, July 25, 1769||In house of Jos. Thompson.|
|Gates, Edmund Trowbridge||Jan. 30, 1791|
|Gill, Elizabeth||Maiden, Oct. 18, 1769||Oct. 8, 1770||Young woman in family of Aaron Hall.|
|Gill, Prudence||Maiden, Aug. 21, 1773||In service to Stephen Hall.|
|Gleason, Jacob||Jan. 30, 1791|
|Gleason, William||Aug. 31, 1797|
|Goddin, Jonathan||Jan. 30, 1791|
|Goddin, Thomas||Lexington, Dec. 19, 1763||Journeyman employed by Samuel Tilton.|
|Ipswich, April 24, 1764||Dec. 3, 1764||Tenant of Col. Royall.|
Main street, 1835-1850.(Reminiscences continued from Vol. VI., Page 20.) THE Medford house has the same general appearance today as years ago. It formerly had a fine hall which was used for dancing parties and public entertainments. A town meeting was held there in 1839. The large elm tree, with the pump under it, that stood in front of the stable, and the ten-pin alley have disappeared. The space between the house and the street was paved with cobblestones, and when the Lowell, Woburn, Stoneham, or Medford coach reined up to the door, the neighborhood was aware of it. It was a busy place in a busy town, and well patronized by the citizens and travelling public. The best-known and most popular landlords were James Bride and Augustus Baker. Directly opposite the hotel, on the site of the present police station, was the home of Nathan Wait, blacksmith. His buildings extended on Short street (Swan) to Union street, and his premises, on Union and Main street to the Sparrell estate. The three dwelling houses next south of the police station, and others in the rear, are on land which was Mr. Wait's orchard. Mr. Wait's shop was near Cradock bridge; he carried on business there for fifty years. Brooks' history accords him the honor of being the first to rescue a fugitive slave in the United States. He died in Medford, January 5, 1840. Jonathan Perkins, who married Nathan Wait's daughter, built, lived and died in the third house from the police station. It was the first dwelling built in Mr. Wait's orchard. John Sparrell, ship builder, surveyor of land, wood and lumber, and general business man, owned the next lot. His house is still in the possession of his family, and is known as No. 104 Main street. Captain Sparrell died March 29, 1876. Next south stands the house which in 1835 was the [p. 93] home of Benjamin Pratt, mason. These three estates, with gardens and orchards extending to Union street, were very pretty homes seventy years ago. Opposite Mr. Perkins' house and just south of the hotel is a large three-story double house, which was occupied by Captain Samuel Blanchard and James O. Curtis. The former was proprietor of coach and livery stable, constable, auctioneer and lieutenant colonel of militia. He lived in the side nearest the square. His stable was in the rear. He was well known in Middlesex and Suffolk counties. He was a large man, of fine physique, and was a loud, rapid talker. Later he moved to the Governor Brooks' estate on High street. He spent his last days in Sutton, New Hampshire. Mr. James O. Curtis was a leading ship builder. His yard was between Swan street extension and the river, near the site of the city stables (1903). He was a prominent man in town affairs. Later he removed to No. 196 Main street, which was built by Rufus Wade, shoe manufacturer, and is now occupied by Mr. James Golden. Mr. Curtis died in the house which he built at the corner of Main and Royall streets. Later tenants of the old house next the hotel were George Hervey, Joseph N. Gibbs and others. Mrs. Luther Stearns owned a large house and stable with large lot of land near Emerson street. Her husband formerly kept a private school for boys. Her sons, George L. and Henry, had a large linseed oil factory on Union street, which was burned in 1849. Major George L. Stearns is famous as a friend of the freedmen, and organized many colored regiments during the civil war. Next to Mrs. Stearns lived Jacob Butters. He kept a grocery store on High street where the Opera House stands. His only son shipped as boy with Captain St. Croix Redman of Medford, and on his first voyage was killed at New Orleans by falling from the rigging. Mr. Butters rented a portion of his premises, and we recall William Thomas, stone mason, William [p. 94] Hadley, gardener, and Amos M. Hooper, hatter, who lived there. In the early thirties Mr. Butters moved a portion of the Blanchard Hotel from near the bridge to land below his house, and fitted it for two families. The first tenants were Rev. A. R. Baker of the Orthodox Church and Dr. Samuel Gregg. Later Mr. Butters moved into this house, and it is now occupied by his descendants. In the house next to Benjamin Pratt, on what was then the east side of Main street, but which is now called No. 2 Mystic avenue, some of the older tenants were Gilbert Blanchard, grocer, William Thomas, who at one time lived in Mr. Butters' house, Mrs. Rebecca Stearns, daughter of Caleb Brooks of West Medford, Ebenezer Chamberlain, hatter, Bartholomew Richardson, hatter, Mrs. Henry Withington and others. In the next house lived Mr. Amory Hartshorn and John T. White. Both were employed at Mr. Peck's hat factory. The latter colored hats; when his services were needed his presence was required night and day. He was constable, deputy sheriff and tax collector for many years. About 1850 he moved into his house on Ashland street, where he died. Jesse Crosby's wheelwright shop occupied the triangle made by the Turnpike (Mystic avenue), Union street and Mr. Hartshorn's premises. He removed to Nashua, New Hampshire, and was succeeded by Elbridge Teel. Later Thomas O. Hill, one of Mr. Teel's apprentices, was in partnership with him for many years. The youngest son and two grandsons of Mr. Teel now conduct a large business there under the old firm name of E. Teel & Co. The double house on the other side of Mystic avenue, facing the square, has had many tenants. We remember Mrs. Porter, who kept a private school, and Charles Pullen, who was the foreman at Stearns' oil mill. The Middlesex Canal passed under a bridge near Summer street. The depression which shows the old course of the canal can still be seen on the east side of [p. 95] Main street at this point. Summer street was at first called Middlesex street, and was built practically on the tow path of the canal. There was a large artificial basin between there and Royall street where canal boats tied up to unload. On the south bank of the canal was the Columbian Hotel, which in its day had been a fine dwelling house. This hostelry, as well as the Medford House, was kept by James Bride and Augustus Baker. In the Royall House lived Mrs. Ruth Tidd, a sister of William Dawes, who on April 18, 1775, rode out by way of Roxbury to warn the Middlesex farmers of danger. She was about the only person in Medford who indulged in a coach and pair of horses. They were often seen on the road, and always on Sundays on the way to church. The carriage road to the stable was over a portion of the present Royall street; the stable stood facing Main street, near the corner of Royall and Florence streets. It seems strange to think of the Stearns mansion, which stands well back from College avenue, as being on Main street, but in 1835 the only entrance was a long driveway from Main street, part of which is now known as Stearns avenue. Captain John King lived in the house at that time. Three of his four sons were sea captains, and two of them were lost at sea. The brick house now occupied by Mr. Horace E. Willis was built by Captain Nathan Adams about 812. Charles Wait, brickmaker, Peter Adams, farmer, Judge Capen and others have been tenants. Captain Nathan Adams owned a large milk farm on both sides of Main street, and had a milk route in Boston. He had very extensive orchards. His home was on the site of the Mystic House; it was afterward moved to the brick yard, and was almost wholly destroyed by fire. What remains has no resemblance to the original. Deacon Nathan Adams, Jr., had a milk farm further south, and his buildings stood about half way up Winter Hill. This dwelling was the last house in Medford until about 1840.
A Package of old letters.Extracts from letters written by Simon Tufts2 to Benjamin Hall, Jr.3