The ecclesiastical history of Beverly begins with the following petition, which was presented to the Church in Salem in the winter of 1666.
"We, whose name are underwritten, the brethren and sisters on Bass-river-side, do present our desires to the rest of the church in Salem, that, with their consent, we and our children may be a church of ourselves, which we present unto Mr. Hale, desiring him to join us and to be our pastor, with the approbation of the rest of the church." Signed by Roger Conant and forty-eight church members, with twenty-four not in full communion.
This petition was not granted until July 21, 1667, when Mr. Hale was again invited to become their minister, and was installed at the organization of "The Church of Christ at Bass River." Beverly was set off from Salem in 1667, but her inhabitants, anticipating such autonomy, began earlier to keep records.
Mr. Hale, thus abundantly cared for, ministered to the First Church until 1700. Like his brethren of the vicinity, he was an active participant in the persecutions of the " witchcraft delusion" of 1692, until his own wife was accused. This broke the spell for him and for the community. It could not be believed that good Mistress Hale was in league with " the powers of darkness."
Mr. Hale was succeeded by a long line of godly and eminent men ; among them Joseph Willard, called to the presidency of Harvard, and Joseph McKean, first president of Bowdoin, whose pastorate terminated in 1802.
The seceders from the First Church were relieved of the necessity of forming a new organization. A new church had been already formed Nov. 9, 1802, under the name of the Third Congregational Church of Beverly, the Second Parish Church having been organized in 1713 at North Beverly. The name was afterwards changed to the Dane Street Congregational Church in 1837.
The original members, worthy to be held in sacred memory, were Thomas Appleton, Isaac Haskell, William H. Lovett, Caleb Wallis, Polly Brown, Abigail Lovett, and Elizabeth Pickard.
Of these the Dane Street historian has written : "Thus the foregoing seven persons, inheriting the distinguished abilities of their fathers and the sterling virtues of their mothers, born for purposes predetermined in the high council of heaven, not identified with any church, were mutually drawn towards each other; entered into covenant relations together, and by confederate action rose to the high plain of leadership, on which they set up a standard as a rallying point for a people distracted by fruitless controversy and the bitterness of sectarianism, which in its throes well-nigh rent the kingdom of heaven asunder, and opened a gulf in the midst of the people that may never be bridged over, or not until the asperities growing out of the circumstances are softened by time and reason."
To these seven chosen and faithful souls, taunted as "new lights without a sounding board," came the fifty seekers for the " true doctrines of grace," forming at once the nucleus of a strong and aggressive body. Even before organization, these noble seven had built a house of worship, entailing great sacrifice upon themselves. Now the greatly strengthened church was ready to enter upon its work of preaching the gospel by settling a pastor.
Joseph Emerson, the first pastor, was born in Hollis, N. H., Oct. 13, 1777. Graduating from Harvard in 1797, he took charge of the academy at Framingham for a year, leaving to study divinity under Dr. Emmons. Declining a tutorship at Harvard, he accepted the call of the Third (Dane Street) Church, where he remained until dismissed, Sept. 21, 1816. At his ordination, Sept. 21, 1803, "the exercises were introduced by a pertinent and solemn address to the crowded assembly, from Rev. Mr. Hopkins; introductoiy prayer by Rev. Mr. Kellog; sermon by Rev. Dr. Emmons, from Eph. iii. 10; consecrating prayer by Rev. Dr. Dana; concluding prayer by Rev. Mr. Bailey."
On leaving Beverly Mr. Emerson traveled extensively for his health, and was engaged in educational work for a time, delivering occasional lectures. He died at Weathersfield, Conn., May 13, 1833, in the fifty-sixth year of his age.
"In person he was tall and slender; complexion dark; eyes hazel, and expression mild. His motions were quick, but not strong; and in the latter part of his life he was emaciated by disease. He was inclined to reserve.—but a welcome guest and desirable companion. As a studeint he was diligent almost beyond the bounds of prudence; as a teacher of youth, original, practical, and successful; as a Christian, characterized by the habitual fervor of his feelings."
It is to be regretted that no good portrait of Mr. Emerson is known to be in existence.
February 18, 1818, the Rev. David Oliphant was installed as pastor. Mr. Oliphant was born at Waterford, Saratoga County, N. Y., Nov. 9, 1791. He united with the Reformed Dutch Church in Kingston, N. Y., but pursued his studies at Ballston Academy (1805), Union College (1809), and Andover Seminary (1813). His first pastorate was at Keene, N. H. (May 25, 1815-Dec. 1, 1817). He was installed at the Third (Dane Street) Church, Feb. 18, 1818, and dismissed Feb. 17, 1834; was pastor of the Second Congregational Church at Wells, Me., 1834-1838 ; supplied for the Congregational Church at Plaistow, N. H., for a time, and afterwards at North Haverill, Mass., for more than fourteen consecutive years. From 1852 until his death, 1865, he resided at Andover, Mass. Mr. Oliphant was a man of strong personality and intense convictions, neither of which were ever concealed or softened. He was a leader in the reforms of the day, especially in the cause of temperance. Because of this and other differences of opinion with the Church their relations became strained, culminating in the termination of the pastorate, and the withdrawal of eighty-three members to form the Washington Street Church. This is now a strong and prosperous organization, between which and the parent church exist the kindliest feelings of sympathy and co-operation.
Rev. Joseph Abbot was ordained pastor Oct. 13, 1834, at which time the present church edifice was dedicated. This, his first and only pastorate, lasted until Dec. 5, 1865,—one of the many long pastorates for which Eastern Massachusetts is noted.
Dr. Abbot was born in Philadelphia, Pa., Aug. 16, 1808. After studying in the city schools and at the University of Pennsylvania, he took his Senior year at Union College, graduating in 1827 and receiving his A. M. degree the following year. Returning to the University of Pennsylvania, he spent two years in the study of medicine. While thus employed he made a profession of religion, and joined the First Presbyterian Church at Philadelphia. Drawn by the scholarly reputation of Professor Stuart, he went to Andover for his seminary course, spending a fourth year in post-graduate study. During the years 1831 and 1832 he supplied the Presbyterian Church at Newbury-port, Mass., and was there married. Accepting the call of the Dane Street Church, he remained a citizen of Beverly until his death, April 9, 1867. Dr. Abbot is well remembered in the community as a man of scholarly attainments, of ardent temperament, a fine preacher, an active citizen, and remarkable for purity and simplicity of character.
Rev. Eugene H. Titus was born in Stockbridge, Vt., Nov. 16, 1834. In 1850 he removed with his father's family to Boston, where he was converted, and joined the Mt. Vernon Church, then deciding to study for the ministry, he prepared at Phillips Academy, graduated from Williams College in 1862, and from Andover Seminary in 1865. In February of the following year he was ordained pastor of the Dane Street Church, but was compelled to resign at the close of the first year on account of ill health. He was twice settled after this: at. Bethel, Me., and Farmington, N. H., both of which pastorates he was forced to resign by reason of failing health. He died at Georgetown, Mass, July 21, 1876. Mr. Titus was a man of marked evangelistic spirit and power, and the year of his pastorate was made memorable by a great ingathering.
Rev. Orpheus T. Lanphear was installed Oct. 23, 1867. He was born in West Fairlee, Vt., 1820; and studied at the University of Vermont, from which he received the degrees of A.B. in 1845, A.M. in 1849, and D.D. in 1871. Was graduated from Andover Theological Seminary in 1848, and ordained Oct. 25, 1849. Before coming to Beverly he had held pastorates of Congregational Churches in Derby, Vt.; High Street Church, Lowell, Mass. ; Second Church, Exeter, N. H.; and College Street Church, New Haven, Conn. Since leaving the pastorate of this Church, in 18S0, Dr. Lanphear has retired from active service, and has been an honored resident of Beverly.
Rev. Samuel W. Eddy was born in Stittville, Oneida County, N. Y., April 20, 1854. His boyhood was spent in Central New York, and he graduated from Hamilton College in 1875. For three years he was principal of Griffeth Institute, Springville, N. Y. ; and from there went to Union Seminary, graduating in May, 1881. In July, 1881, he entered upon his first and only pastorate. He continued with this Church for five years, and so endeared himself to the people that when his health became impaired and his voice failed him, and he desired to present his resignation, the church would not hear of it, but granted him leave of absence for one year. Mr. Eddy spent this year in California, but at its close was obliged to press his resignation, which was reluctantly accepted. He died at Redlands, July 22, 1888.
Rev. Sherrod Soule was called to the pastorate in April, 1888. He was born at Hampton, Conn., Oct. 29, 1860. Prepared for college at the Danielson, Conn., High School, and the Preparatory Department of Oberlin College. After finishing the Freshman year at Oberlin he removed to Amherst, was graduated in 1885, and from Union Theological Seminary in 1888. During the last year of the Seminary course he was Pastor's Assistant to Dr. Chas. H. Parkhurst, of the Madison Square Presbyterian Church. Was ordained and installed at the Dane Street Church, June 17, 1888, and dismissed in February, 1892, to accept a call to the Congregational Church of Naugatuck, Conn., where he still remains.
Rev. William B. Geoghegan was born Aug. 31, 1864, at Baltimore, Md. His boyhood was spent at Petersburg, Va., whence he removed to graduate at the Baltimore City College. After studying medicine one year he turned to the ministry, and was approbated to preach by the Methodist Episcopal Conference. After preaching one year he went to Boston University for two years, and for the following two years was Assistant at the Kutaw Street M. E. Church of Baltimore. Returning to Boston University, he received the call to Dane Street Church before completing his course, and was ordained and installed June 16, 1893. His religious views undergoing a change, he presented his resignation, which was accepted, and he was dismissed Sept. 5, 1894. Soon afterwards he accepted a call to the Old South Church (Unitarian) of Beverly, where he remained one year. At present he is without charge.
Rev. Francis J. Van Horn, the present pastor, was born Oct. 18, 1865, at Northfield, Ohio. Was graduated from Oberlin College in 1890, and from Oberlin Theological Seminary in 1893. Was pastor, during one year of the Seminary course, of the Lakeview Congregational Church of Cleveland. Was called in June, 1893, to the Columbia Congregational Church of Cincinnati, where he was ordained and installed October 5th following. Resigned to accept a call to the Dane Street Church, where he was installed June 20, 1895.
These are but the barest facts in outline. Back of these is a wealth of incident and anecdote, personal reminiscence and affection, which lies utterly outside the purpose and scope of this sketch. The longest pastorate was 31 years, the shortest 1 year. The average length, excluding the present and periods of vacancy, is 11 years. The average of the first three was 20 years, and of the last three a little more than 3 years, showing the tendency to become "modern" in certain ill respects as well as along the best lines. The Dane Street pulpit has always been a place of honor and influence at home and abroad. It has stood fearlessly for the truth in the effort plainly and practically to hold up Christ as the Saviour of the world, and its preaching has been in no small degree "in demonstration of the Spirit and of power."
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