First series.
A Family Register for the People
By James N. Arnold
Editor of the Narrangansett Historical Register
"Is My Name Written in the Book of Life?"
VOL. VIII. Episcopal and Congregational
Published under the Auspices of the General Assembly.

Providence, R.I.:
Narragansett Historical Publishing Company

[Transcribed by Coralynn Brown]


With this volume is presented several records as kept by the Congregational and Episcopal churches of Bristol and Newport Counties, a few other churches and some records as kept by ministers. As our former volumes of Vital Records of matter as recorded by the various Towns were so very meagre in detail from 1800 to 1850, these volumes of church records cannot but supply a much needed continuation. One who has occasion to look at these church records will be surprised how different such things are viewed by different church organizations. We think the Baptists have made a very bad mistake in not paying more attention to these records, and we venture here the opinion that had these people kept as good a record as the Friends or even the Congregationalists and Episcopalians that now such a record would be invaluable and perhaps clear up many a problem which now cannot be solved. The Methodists were very slack in earlier years, but they have seen that such a course was wrong and have paid better attention to such matters in latter years, and we think the Baptists themselves are doing far better work in this field today than they have ever done before.

Many of our older churches are today regretting the loss of their first records and many are devising better means of preservation. The Baptists are doing a good work by having one of their churches written up each year, and published in their year book. It would not be a bad idea for churches to deposit their old records with the town clerks for safety, for certainly it is worthy of public care. We are shown a record of an extinct church that had found its way to the junk shop and had there been so fortunate as to come under the eye of one who had interest enough in it to preserve it from loss. Certainly such things should not be, and we trust every time such a thing occurs that there will be some friend near by to extend a preserving hand.


We still have occasion to thank the General Assembly that they have been pleased to consider our work and to have made such ample arrangements for the publishment of our proposed supplement. We feel a keener pride in our work as we see it approaching the concluding volumes, and are thankful that it has been so well received by the public and been spoken of so kindly. To both Dr. Henry E. Turner and Mr. R.H. Tilley, both of Newport, we are still indebted for favors, and also to the clerks and ministers of the churches here treated, for their kindness and interest in our work.



This Church was organized in November, 1704, although previous to this time there had been preaching here by different clegymen. At this meeting it was resolved, there being a number of godly people in this town, that were desirous of embodying into a church state, after some previous consideration, consultation and supplication, sent a letter to the neighboring churches asking them to consent to a church establishment at this place and requesting that Rev. Richard Billings might be recognized as their pastor, which request was complied with and a church established which has been large and influential ever since this date and has exerted itself towards the building up of the town.


This Society was organized Aug. 20, 1746, by an ecclesiastical council composed of pastors and delegates from the Congregational Church in Little Compton and the First Church in Rochester. Eleven persons that had formerly been members of the Little Compton Church were recommended as suitable persons to be organized into a church at Tiverton. They adopted a confession of faith and church covenant at this time, that they might enjoy the institutions of the gospel among themselves. These appear to have contituted at the time of its organization, but others soon united with them. On the day of organization the chuch made choice of Mr. John Sawyer, one of their number, to keep the record and enter the votes, etc. They extended a call to the Rev. Othniel Campbell to become their pastor, which call was accepted and he was installed Oct. 1, 1746. This church, like its parent in Little Compton, has done a vast amount of good in this vicinity.


Of the early history of the Congregational Church in Barrington, very little is known with certainty, as no records of its organization exist. There are good reasons for believing that the church was established between the years 1711 and 1717. Tradition says the first house of worship of the Congregational Church stood on Tyler's Point near the burial ground and north of it. Of this we have no satisfactory evidence. The first house of worship of which we have any record, stood on the main road just south of Maxfield's corner, on the north corner lot. In the year 1734, this house was taken down and rebuilt on the site now occupied. Mr. Heath, the minister, was absent at Bristol on the day of the removal of the house from the old to the new site, and on his return was asked by the remonstrants why he allowed the house to be taken down and carried away. "Ah!" said he, "the Israelites, under Aaron, made a golden calf while Moses was in the Mount, so this people have done this in my absence and I know not the reason for it." The third and present house was built in 1805-6, on nearly the same site and extensively repaired and remodelled in 1861. The first minister of the church of whom anything is known was the Rev. Mr. Wilson. His successors have been Revs. Samuel Torrey, Peleg Heath, Solomon Townsend, Samuel Watson, Luther Wright, Francis Wood, Thomas Williams, Benjamin R. Allen, Charles Peabody, Forrest Jeffords, Silas S. Hide, Francis Horton.


At different times in the history of Warren, the project of building an Episcopal Church has been proposed but deferred. Rev. Mr. Henshaw (afterwards bishop), preached very acceptably to the people in 1812, and was invited to settle in the town, but Bishop Griswold thought it premature and nothing was done. Rev. John Bristed, of St. Michael's Church, Bristol, was the first to begin permanent service. Nov. 4, 1828, a number of gentlemen, favorable to the building of a church, held a primary meeting which adjourned to the 10th, to give a wider notice. This meeting was held at the house of Freeborn Sisson at which time a church was organized. George Pearse, a resident of Swansea, was elected Senior Warden and George Munroe, the only communicant in the town at the time, Junior Warden. The following persons composed the first vestry:

Freeborn Sisson, William Carr, William Collins, John Stockford, Nathaniel Phillips, William Turner, Seth Peck, John Pearse, Amasa Humphrey, Charles Wheaton, John R. Wheaton. Services were held in Cole's Hotel on Main Street until the church was built.
In 1829 the church and society erected a neat and handsome church. On Easter Monday, April 19, 1830, Rev. Geo. W. Hathaway was elected the first rector. The church building was consecrated by Bishop Griswold, July 15, 1830.

The pastors, from Mr. Hathaway in 1878, have been John Kelley, Eaton W. Maxey, John Milton Peck, William C. Mills, Leander C. Manchester, William N. Ackley.


This church is number 3 in the diocese and among the oldest in New England. Munro's history of Bristol and their own published history give a long and faithful narrative. Indeed no one has yet attempted to write a sketch of Bristol without paying respect to this church. To these sketches the reader is referred for such information as he is in search of.


There is another church whose history has been repeatedly given in print as above remarked to which source the reader is referred for further information.


Henry Wight was born in Medfield, Mass., May 26, 1752, and graduated from Harvard College in 1782. He found but 36 members (seven males and twenty-nine females) when he assumed the charge of the church; 228 additions to its membership were made during his term of service. His ministry continuing for nearly half a century, longer than that of any other pastor, was characterized by catholicity in intercourse with other denominations and an amiability of spirit and fidelity to his convictions of right which won respect and confidence. He took an active interest in the political questions of the day and did not hesitate to introduce topics of this nature in his pulpit ministrations which offended some whose views differed from his and led to their withdrawal from the socity. He was singularly faithful in recording all the votes of the church and even the informal proceedings of conferences and committee meetings. He also kept for many years quite a full record of current events in the town, particularly of marriages and deaths, and this book has already proved to be of invaluable service in providing titles to property and to the bounties and pay of soldiers and others who died in the government service. (History of Bristol, page 224. Lane's Manual of the Church, page 136.)

How full this record was we leave our reader to see for himself, as the whole of it is published in this volume, and the compiler adds that he wished others had been as faithful as Mr. Wight in preserving such an invaluable record.


In the various sketches of Newport frequent reference is made to these churches whose origin commences with the 18th century. It is deeply a matter of regret that such a large portion of the early record of these churches has been lost. In our next volume we shall public what remains of it that does not appear in this volume and we refer readers who wish the history of the churches to the published matter as found in the various publications relating to Newport.

In our copy on page 400 the First church should be Newport instead of Bristol, as it here appears.


Dr. Shepard appears to have been a very paintaking and careful man in recording the Vital Report of his church, and where one can see such a careful hand and then find his predecessor recording nothing, it gives a decided opinion as to how these matters are looked upon by two men. Dr. Shepard's term was long and he did much to place his charge upon a firm foundation in the various paths of church work. Monro's Bristol has a very fine sketch of Dr. Shepard to which the reader is referred.


We regret that we have been unable to learn the early history of this church, and the records are such that much valuable data has been omitted. The history has been sadly neglected and this seems so singular to us when the church appears to have been so prosperous and influential for such a long term of years.


We have placed a sketch at the head of the section to which the reader is kindly referred. [trans note: ?????] We have also placed a sketch to the other churches that follow except the Bristol M.E. to which we refer the reader to the published sketches for further knowledge. [trans note: oh well].


I. That the marriages are given in duplicate, but that nothing beyond the original record, the names and date are given where the bride is placed first. That under the groom the notes are so extended as to include all the items of the record from whence it was taken. The reader will consider the bridge being placed first, therefore, as merely an index for him to consult the other entry in its proper place. Should they disagree, give the groom the preference, if possible. That the births and deaths are grouped so as to better enable the reader to see at a glance the names and dates in their natural order of the members of the family.

II. That the in indices etc. etc. [trans note: I am not transcribing the indices, sorry].

III. The spelling of the given names are as they stand on the Record in many instances, and when they are not far wrong. This accounts for the variety of spelling in this work.
IV. Every convenience that would aid the reader, and everything that would naturally perplex him, have been carefully studied. While not claiming perfection for our work, we would say that we have spared no pains in order to make it as simple as possible, and yet be comprehensive. How well we havbe succeeded in this must be left, however, to the reader to say.

V. We have not changed dates here given, but we give it just as it stands on the Record itself. We have observed, however, that the Scotch year is more general in this county than in any other that has come to our notice.


We have substantial encouragement so far that we feel able to here announce that we shall commence the new year (1896) with a new serial, entitled "Rhode Island Colonial Gleanings." These volumes will be faithrul transcripts of the first record books of the oldest towns in the State, and paper illustrating some important State question of history. They will afford much interest to the scholar and will be published so that every poor man can have a copy if he wishes one, as they will be published at popular prices.

The compiler's long experience in reading old manuscript, and his long and close study of our State history, places him in a position to do an able work. When it is taken into account the many perplexities and difficulties that have on every side beset his path, and of such nature that no other man in the State would have had the courage to face it, and then to see the noble work he has already done, the Vital Record alone is a monument to his industry. The grand work the city of Providence is now doing was put into successful operation by him, seconded by several thoughtful and intelligent gentlemen.
If the good people of our State will stand by us and our lamp of life holds out, we pledge outself Rhode Island will have no need to blush for one of her sons.

The compiler of these Vital Records means business, and he proposes to be a persistent and as untiring in the future as he has been in the past, and he does not propose and will not be put down, but means to be heard. "Hew to the line" is the motto on his banner, and the preservation in print of our historical treasures shall be his object, and he asks the endorsement and good fellings of every intelligent citizen of Rhode Island in his behalf, and he asks them to see it that he has a fair and square show.

All he asks for himself he is willing to concede to others, and stands ready to accord every courtesy to others that he expects others to grant him. The field is broad enough for all, and he only demands that those who enter it shall enter as scholars should enter and conduct themselves as gentlemen should toward each other, and be willing to learn of each other and assist when occasion demands. All that entre the field with these sentiments will find every day of the week and Sundays in the compiler a friend, adviser, sympathizer and man.

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