Martha Ballard's Story
Chapter 5

Foster's dismissal is debated

On September 9, 1788, Martha noted, "thee Town mett to hear Revd mr Fosters Proposals but did not axcept them." By the Fall of 1788, Foster's relations with the town had deteriorated so badly that he offered to sever his connections with the town if they would pay him 200 pounds. They refused.

Martha seemed to rally for the Rev. Foster, commenting more vocally than usual on the quality of his sermons. Take a look at the entry Martha wrote five days after the town refused Foster's proposal. Martha declared "Revd mr Foster Deliverd two Exelent Discorases from Psalm 90 & 12 vers." The psalm reads: "so teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom..." Was this a pointed reference by the Rev. Mr. Foster to his own precarious situation? One can't help but think so.

And what about Martha's entry the following Sunday? Here, again, she enthusiastically endorses the Rev. Foster: "the revd mr Foster Delivd 2 fine Discoarses from Romans 10."

When the town decided to take action on October 30, Martha wrote, "mr Balard been to Town meeting. they have apointed a Counsel." The "Counsel" she was referring to was a church council empowered to judge Isaac Foster's fate.

Link to the October 30 town record on the appointing of a church council

When the church council met at Pollards Tavern in November, Martha was there. Her diary contains the only evidence of the grievances that were presented. "I went to mr Pollards to heare what was Laid before the Revd. Counsil Examined Evidences against Revd mr Foster," she recorded on November 20. And the next day, "I attended at Counsil to hear the Evidences Examind. Margarett Fox gave a very Contirary Evidence Concerning her working on the Sabath from what Shee Did when Calld in the Cause of Capt Sewalls Defameing the Revd mr Foster." Apparently one of the charges laid against Rev. Foster was Sabbath-breaking, and Rebecca's servant Margaret Fox testified differently before the council than she had during the Foster/Sewall slander case.

After the two-day hearing, the council recommended that the town dismiss Foster. One month later, we find Martha's record of Foster being officially dismissed at town meeting: "Clear & Cold. mr Ballard attended Town meeting. there was a vote passt that the revd mr Foster Should not preach in the meeting hous anymore."

Link to the December 18 town records, to find out about the vote against Foster and the conditions of his dismissal.

Martha looks after the Fosters
The town meeting gave special directions to the church sexton: he was to forbid Foster from ever setting foot in the meeting house.

Table of Contents

Martha Ballard's Diary

View Text
View Text
View Frames version

September 9, 1788 (Tuesday)

Diary entry for Sep. 9, 1788. View Text (link at top) to see text version.