Church Votes, Proceedings, Covenant & Important Dates
Extracted From Early Annals Of Newington
Comprising The First Records Of
The Newington Ecclesiastical Society
And of the Congregational Church Conneced Therewith;
With Documents & Papers Relating to
The Early History of the Parish
Transcribed & Edited by Roger Welles
Clerk of the Society & Church
[Transcribed by Dave Swerdfeger]
CHURCH VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS.(is explained as follows: "N. B.—The leaves cut out in the preceding part, contained minutes of transactions, in way of discipline, of some disorderly members of the church, who are long since dead, and for obvious reasons, especially respecting their descendants, it was thought best (they) should he buried in oblivion till the day of the final account, when God will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. Except the following votes of the church.")
At a meeting of the pastor and brethren of the church in Newington, March 31, 1757:
Whereas, through the prevalence of corruption and the abounding of iniquity in this evil day, many scandals are committed by such as are under the bond of the covenant and ought to be watched over by the church, too many of which, by the neglect of a proper brotherly dealing, according to the rules of God's word, pass without due notice being taken of them, Therefore, for the more effectual preventing or remedying such evils, and towards the revival of a more strict and regular discipline in this church, it is agreed and voted by this church, That Samuel Churchill, Peletiah Buck, and David Webster be added to the standing committee heretofore chosen, to advise with and assist the pastor in cases of difficulty which may arise, and particularly, to look into the propriety and regularity of any charge offered to be laid before the church, and prepare matters, if need be, for their hearing; and that the said committee be further desired and empowered to take notice of and deal with any members of the church who, by common report, are guilty of scandal, when private brethren, who are knowing to the scandal, neglect their duty of attending the rules of the gospel, and to endeavor to heal and remove public scandal, or if they see it necessary, to bring them to a regular public hearing before the church.
Also voted, That if any member of this church, who is knowing to any scandal committed by another member, and shall spread it abroad or make it public, without first taking the steps of dealing with an offending brother, prescribed Math. 18, 15, &c., shall be accounted an offender, and upon conviction thereof shall make gospel satisfaction, or otherwise be dealt with as in other cases of scandal.
At a meeting of the pastor and brethren of the church in Newington, July 2, 1761, the question was put, Whether this church would now proceed to make choice of a deacon, to supply the place of Deacon John Deming, late deceased, Voted in the affirmative, Whereupon John Camp was chosen to the office of a deacon, and accepted it. At the same meeting, Deacon John Camp was appointed one of the standing church committee. At a meeting of the pastor and brethren of the church in Newington, October 29, 1761, The church proceeded to make choice of Joseph Andrus to be one of the standing church committee, in place of Mr. Josiah Deming, lately removed by death.
January 4, 1770, At a church meeting, &c., Voted, That William Welles, Joseph Hurlbut, and Dr. Samuel Richards be added to the standing church committee, to fill up the vacancies made by death or removal. Sometime in the year 1775: At a meeting of the pastor and brethren of the church in Newington, On motion of the pastor, the brethren of this church manifested their opinion that the practice of this, and of many other churches in New England, called. the "half-way covenant," i.e., admitting persons to own the covenant and to have their children baptized, while yet they absented from the Lord's table, was unwarrantable, not authorised by any scriptural precept or example, and therefore consented and agreed that said practice should, for the future, be discontinued and laid aside in this church. Attest, JOSHUA BELDEN, Pastor.
The above vote having been lost, yet being well remembered by the pastor, is now inserted among the church records.(This vote is inserted in Dr. Brace's church records under date of March, 1806.) J. BELDEN.
May 2, 1776. At a church meeting, &c. Voted, This church taking into consideration the usual practice of persons owning the covenant and enjoying some privileges in the church, and afterwards renewing the covenant again when they would come into full communion with the church, and that this practice is misconstrued by some as if there were two convenants, one not so strict and solemn as the other. To prevent such mistakes.
Voted, That this church are of opinion, That the public renewing the covenant is not to be held a necessary service of full communion for those persons, who have once understandingly given their public and personal consent to the covenant, but that such persons, leading regular lives, if they desire it (and if their desire being publicly notified, no objection be made,) may be admitted without being required publicly to renew the covenant again. Although we look upon the public renewing the covenant when persons come into full communion, even for those who have owned the covenant before, as a thing lawful and proper in itself, and what may be advantageous and to edification and ordinarily expedient to be done, yet as the usual practice has been, it is liable to misconstruction, and may lead the ignorant and inattentive into mistakes, it is not to be esteemed absolutely necessary, but may be dispensed with, when declined on this account.
At a meeting of the pastor and brethren of the church in Newington, August 14, 1782:
The question being put whether this church will make choice of a deacon to supply the place of Dea. John Camp, late deceased, Voted in the affirmative, Whereupon Elisha Stoddord was chosen to the office of a deacon, and accepted. At the same meeting Dea. Elisha Stoddord was appointed to be one of the standing church committee.
At a meeting of the pastor and brethren of the church in Newington, August 17, 1786, The question was put whether the church will proceed to choose a deacon to succeed Deacon Andrus, late deceased. Voted in the affirmative, but upon trial no choice was made, and several members being absent the meeting was adjourned to the 31st day of instant August.
August 31, 1786, The church met according to adjournment, and Charles Churchill, Esq., was chosen to the office of a deacon.
May 31, 1787, At a meeting of the pastor and brethren of the church in Newington, Voted, That the deacons of this church, for the time being, be appointed to receive and improve a legacy given to this church by the last will and testament of deacon John Deming for the lasting use and benefit of the church, agreeable to the design of said will.(Dea. John Deming, in his last will and testament, after giving a legacy to "Catherine, my beloved wife, during the time of her remaining my widow," makes one other legacy, as follows: "Item. I give to my son, Jedediah Deming, all the remaining part of my estate, both real and personal, that I have not already disposed of in this instrument, after my just debts are paid, with this only reserve, that in case he, the said Jedediah, die childless or without any heir begotten of his own body, then I will twenty pounds, lawful money, to the church of Christ, in Newington, to be improved for the lasting use and benefit of said church." Executed March 31, 1761. N. B. That by the church of Christ, mentioned in the last legacy of the foregoing testament, is to be understood a church in the parish of Newington, in Wethersfield, regulated according to the Religious Constitution of the Colony of Connecticut, owned and established by the authority of the same. This explanation made before signing." Dr. Brace, in his church records, has the following entry in relation to this legacy, "How the church fund was directed from 1761 to 1787, I do not find. (Probably it was not received till 1787. R. W.) The fund itself consisted of two ten pound notes. The interest has not been quite sufficient to defray the expense of the communion table. In 1803 there was a contribution to supply the deficiency of several years. In 1814 there was a contribution for the same purpose. In 1818 there was a contribution. In 1819, January 1, Deacon Origen Wells began to furnish the table, and after 21 years called for a contribution to supply the deficiency, about 810 in the whole 21 years. Sabbath, Jan. 5, 1840, the church contributed about $16 to repay Dea. Wells, and to furnish an advance for several years. The whole fund is now in the hands of Dea. Origen Wells, 866.66.6 for which Dea. Wells is accountable, and for which he pays the interest yearly. March 17, 1846."Dea. Wells resigned Nov. 29, 1849, on account of the loss of sight, when Jeremiah Seymour was chosen deacon in his place. This fund still remains in the hands of the deacons of the church.) Also voted, 5s. out of the church treasury to Deacon Elisha Stoddord, for a box, to secure the vessels for the communion table in.
August 5, 1790. At a meeting of the pastor and brethren of the church, Capt. James Wells was chosen to the office of a deacon in the church (to succeed Deacon Stoddord) and accepted it.
Feb. 24, 1803. At a meeting of the pastor and brethren of the church, by adjournment from instant Feb. 17, Daniel Willard was chosen to the office of a deacon in this church, to succeed Deacon Churchill, late deceased, and accepted the office.
At a meeting of the church of Christ in Newington, December 19, 1804, the following vote was passed by the brethren of the church, viz: Whereas the aged pastor of this church, through age and infirmities, being rendered unable to perform the public labors of the ministry, and has for some time desisted therefrom, desiring another pastor may be sought to supply his lack of service, accordingly, after trial, with his approbation and in concurrence with the voice of the society, we make choice of and do now call and invite Mr. Joab Brace to take the pastoral charge of this church and society, and settle in the gospel ministry with us. Unanimously voted in church meeting. Test, JOSHUA BELDEN, Pastor. At the same meeting, Voted, That the deacons James Wells and Daniel Willard, and Joshua Belden, jun., be a committee to act in concurrence with the committee appointed by the Society, in all matters that may be found necessary to effect the ordination of Mr. Joab Brace, among us in the ministry of the gospel. Test,
M. Joab Brace's answer to the Church.
The church of Christ, in Newington, having invited me to the pastoral charge of the said church, this is, therefore, in reliance on Divine aid, to signify my acceptance of their invitation. Newington, December 26th, 1804. JOAB BRACE.
CHURCH COVENANT AND ARTICLES OF FAITH. (In, the time of Mr. Belden.)
You believe, That there is one only living and true God, the Almighty Maker and constant Preserver of Heaven and Earth, the rightful Supreme Lord over all. That in God there are three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, who are the same in substance, equal in power and glory. That the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the word of God, and the only rule of faith and practice. You believe, That God made man, at first, in a holy and happy state; that all mankind, by their apostacy from and rebellion against God, have exposed themselves to his wrath and curse, have fallen into a state of sin and misery, and are utterly unable to deliver and save themselves; but that God, out of the infinite riches of his free grace, sent his only begotten son into the world, to be a Saviour, to die, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God; and that He has graciously made a promise of pardon and eternal life, and all the saving benefits of the Redeemer's purchase to all that sincerely repent of their sins, believe in, heartily receive, and rest upon Christ for salvation, as He is offered in the Gospel, who, at the last great day being raised from the dead, shall be adjudged to eternal life, but all others to everlasting punishment. And you do now, so far as in you lies, make choice of the living God for your God, your Sovereign Lord and portion forever; of God the father for your father, of Christ the Son of God for your Saviour and Redeemer, and of the Holy Ghost for your Sanctifier and Comforter, and of the Word of God for the rule of your belief and practice. (July 21, 1819. At a special meeting of the church in Newington, at the house of the pastor. Opened with prayer. After mature consideration it was voted, That the practice of demanding confessions of sins committed previously to a person's proposing to join the church be discontinued, and that instead of particular confession of individual sins, there be a clause expressive of general repentance, introduced into the covenant of personal dedication to God, viz.: "You do also make a solemn confession of all your past sins; you profess repentance before God, and promise amendment of life." (This clause is inserted at this point in the covenant, as copied into the pulpit Bible by Dr. Brace. There is no record of any action of the church making other changes during Dr. Brace's ministry. R. W.)
And you do now openly and solemnly dedicate and give up yourself and yours to God, to be wholly and forever his, to be guided by his spirit, to be ruled by his laws, to be disposed of by his Providence, and to be eternally saved in the Gospel way; promising, by the assistance of the blessed Spirit, that you will live soberly, righteously, and Godly all the days of your life; and, as the ordinary way of God's conveying grace and the blessings of the Redemption to the souls of men, is in and by his word and ordinances, you will make it your care and study to walk by this rule, to attend upon God and draw near to him in all the ordinances of the Gospel and ways of His institution, herein joining yourself with this church so long as God, in his providence, shall give you opportunity, submitting yourself to the watch, discipline, and government of Christ, therein regularly administered, that so you may be edified and built up unto eternal life. Thus you profess and promise, giving your unfeigned assent and consent.(In the copy in the pulpit Bible these last six words are omitted; also some other verbal alterations and omissions appear, among which may be mentioned the omission of the clause added to the covenant in which the church recognize new members. This omission was supplied by vote of the church passed Feb. 28, 1857, as follows: " Voted, That the following words be added to the covenant, by which the church will recognize new members. 'We, the members of this church, do now receive you into our fellowship, promising, through Divine help, to observe towards you all the duties which the Gospel enjoins upon us as members of the one body of the Lord.' This vote was passed at the suggestion of Dr. Brace's successor in the,pastoral office, Rev. William P. Aiken.) We do then receive you into our Christian communion and fellowship, praying that both you and we may find grace to be faithful.
THE FIRST SETTLERS OF NEWINGTON.(These extracts are taken, by permission of Dr. Trumbull, from a manuscript history of Wethersfield, written by Hezekiah Belden, Esq., and deposited Nov. 8, 1855, (after his death,) in the rooms of the Historical Society, at Hartford. I was not aware of the existence of the manuscript till after the preceding pages were in press. R. W.)
Prior to the year 1700, an excellent tract of land lying west of the mountain, and known by the name of "Cowplain," was in the almost exclusive possession of the Indians. It was the residence of Sequin, the Sachem of the Wethersfield tribe, which at that time was numerous. The increase of population in the old town, and the consequent advance in the value of real estate, rendered removals necessary for a livelihood, and induced five men to commence the settlement of this part of the town. The names of three of these adventurous persons were Andrus, and the others Steel and Hun. The house of one of the Andruses stood a few rods south of the Congregational meeting house, that of Steel near the spot now occupied by the academy, and that of Hun in the north part of the parish. The house of Andrus was fortified and surrounded by a high wall, to guard against attacks of foreign Indians (those in the neighborhood being friendly disposed). To this fortress they, with their families, retired every night, and slept upon their arms. They were, however, never attacked by their savage enemies. The tract of land they settled being large and highly productive, they were soon joined by others, and in a few years grew into a considerable and prosperous settlement THE FIRST MINISTER OF NEWINGTON. Mr. Williams was the son of the Rev. William Williams of Hatfield brother of the Hon. Israel Williams and the Rev. Solomon Williams, D.D. His mother was the daughter of the Rev. Solomon Stoddard of Nortlampton. He was educated at Harvard College, graduating in 1711. From this time until his settlement at Newington, it is probable he resided on his estate in Wethersfield. He married Eunice, daughter of Mr. Thomas Chester, February 23d, 1714, by whom he had six children, Eunice, Elisha, Samuel, William, Mary, and Anne, two of whom only, Elisha and Mary, survived their father. His administration of the government of Yale College is spoken of as highly creditable to himself; and beneficial to the institution. Prudent and energetic in government, "he suppressed the vice and disorder that had long prevailed—introduced many- salutary and beneficial rules, and cultivated, among the graver studies that had before almost exclusively occupied the attention of the students, a taste for useful and polite literature." Among the distinguished graduates during his presidency, were President Wheelock, President Burr, Dr. Bellamy, Chief Justice Dyer, and Philip and William Livingston. It was in the same time that Bishop Berkley, pleased with the character of the College, and having ascertained by correspondence with Rector Williams, what was most necessary for its improvement, made several donations to it, among which were a thousand volumes of books, "the finest collection that ever came together, at one time, into America." President Williams retained his office for thirteen years, when he resigned on account of ill health, with undiminished (luster ?) and the "hearty thanks of the trustees for his good service." The office which he relinquished was one of high distinction, and gave him a station in society, above which, few in the country, not of royal appointment, were more elevated.
In 1745 we find him attending the chivalric expedition against Cape Breton, in the capacity of chaplain. The following year he was appointed a Lieut. Colonel in Col. Joseph Dwight's Regiment, raised for the proposed expedition against Canada. The pious and faithful pastor, the accomplished College President, the speaker of a popular assembly, the learned judge, the itinerant army chaplain, is hereafter known under his new designation of Colonel. At Louisburg his counsel was valued. "If you find any difficulty," writes Thomas Cushing to a friend having business there," take advice of Col. Choate and Rector Williams. " In his regiment, he was efficient and popular. When the Canada expedition was abandoned, there was delay in the payment of the officers and men, and in December, 1749, Col. Williams for the purpose of procuring a settlement was sent to England and effected the object of his mission. While in England he formed an acquaintance with a lady of superior accomplishments, Miss Scott, daughter of the Rev. Timothy Scott of Norwich, and sister of the Rev. Thomas Scott, the well-known writer of commentaries on the Bible, who married and accompanied him to America. In England he also became known to many persons of distinction. Dr. Doddridge, with whom he formed an intimate acquaintance, describes him as possessing" an ardent sense of religion, solid learning, consummate prudence, great candor and sweetness of temper, and a certain nobleness of soul, capable of conceiving and acting the greatest things without seeming to be conscious of having done them." After his return from England the remainder of his life was spent in the enjoyment of well earned repose at Wethersfield. He died July 24th, 1755, in the 61st year of his age. Mrs. Williams afterwards became the wife of the Hon. William Smith, historian of New York, and died in Wethersfield, June 13th, 1776. It has been truly said that "so great a variety of honorable occupations successively discharged is rarely recorded," as in the case of Elisha Williams.
On a tablet inscribed to his memory is the following memorial of him: "The Hon. Col. Elisha Williams shined in excelling gifts of nature, learning and grace. In benevolence universal. Firm in friendship; in conversation pleasant and instructive; in Religion sincere, unaffected, cheerful, truly humble, patient; fearless in the cause of God and truth; a pattern of conjugal and parental affection and humanity, a wise, great, and good man; 5 years he was an honor to the ministry in Newington, 13 years Yale College flourished under his pious, learned, faithful instruction and government, the glory of the College and ornament of his Country. He, after, filled and adorned several civil and military characters. Heaven claimed what was immortal that glad obeyed and dropped here the dust till Jesus comes. Obiit, 24 July, 1755. AEtatis 61 mo."
THE SECOND MINISTER.
Mr. Backus graduated at Yale College in 1724. Oct 1, 1729, he married Eunice, daughter of Rev. Timothy Edwards of East Windsor, and sister of the first President Edwards, by whom he had seven children, Clorinda, Eunice, Elizabeth—married Daniel Bissell of East Windsor; Esther, married Benjamin Ely of West Springfield, Simon married Rachel Mosley of East Haddam, and was settled in the ministry at Granby, Mass., and then at North M----, where he died a pauper, Jerusha, married Smith Bailey, Mary died unmarried as did the two eldest daughters.
THE THIRD MINISTER.
The Rev. Joshua Belden was the second son of Mr. Silas Belden, and born in Wethersfield, July 19, 1724. His mother Abigail was the daughter of Mr. Joshua Robbins of Wethersfield. He was educated at Yale College, graduating in 1743. He was a plain practical preacher of Evangelical truth and "shunned not to declare the whole counsel of God." A man scrupulously conscientious, of deep humility, and of devoted and ardent piety. He was married twice. First to Mrs. Anne Belden of Wethersfield, by whom he had ten children, nine daughters and one son. Four of the daughters died in early life, Abigail born Aug. 10, 1754, married Mr. James Lusk of Newington. Mary born Dee. 9, 1755, married Mr. Justus Francis of Newington. Anne, a mute, born July 7, 1759. Martha born July 24, 1761, married Doct. Joseph Lynde of Hartford. Octavia born Oct. 27, 1763, married Rev. Nathaniel Gaylord of Hartland. Rhoda born May 29, 1766, married Rev. Silas Churchill of New Lebanon, N.Y. Joshua born March 29, 1768, married Dorothy, daughter of Mr. Lemuel Whittlesey of Newington. For his second wife, Mr. Belden on the 14th Nov., 1774, married Mrs. Honor Whiting, widow of Capt. Charles Whiting of Norwich, and daughter of Mr. Hezekiah Goodrich of Wethersfield, by whom he had one son, Hezekiah, born Feb. 17, 1778, married Harriet Halsted Lyon, daughter of Underhill Lyon, Esq., of Rye, N.Y. Of the numerous family of Mr. Belden, five only survived him, four of his youngest daughters, and his second son. He was a man of sorrows, but he bore them like a Christian, his faith was triumphant. On the death of his second wife, standing over her lifeless body and gazing in silent grief for a short time in her placid countenance, he exclaimed, raising his hands and eyes to heaven, "I am dumb—I open not my mouth, for the Lord hath done it," then kneeling with his weeping family around him he poured forth his soul in prayer for resignation and support, and in thanksgiving that the object of his affection had been so long spared to him, as the solace of his life, and of assured hope in her death.
ROGER WELLES, Attorney and Counselor at Law, 333 Main Street, (Hill's Block, Room, 5.)
" April ye 10th 1748. Gideon Hun & Lydia, ye wife of Samuell Richards, were admitted to full communion," September, ye 23, 1750. Thomas Richards recommended(?) from ye church in South(?), were accepted to communion." Extracts from Rev. Joshua Belden's church records(not printed) taken from an early copy found in (?) Patterson (?), in Historical Society Library, Hartford.