The Official Story
Chapter 1

The New Minister

The town records reveal that Hallowell's choice of a new minister in 1786 was controversial. They also reveal that Judge North and Martha's husband were both involved. Take a look at the Hallowell 1785 and 1786 town records. You can see that Joseph North was chosen to be on the committee appointed by the town in May 1785 to "procure preaching," and that the town selectmen (including Martha's husband Ephraim) were chosen for this committee less than one year later. Why is evidence about church business found in the town records? Because the minister's salary was paid with town taxes -- so the choice of a new minister was up to the town meeting. (The separation of church and state evolved over the next hundred years.)

In the tumultuous years after the American Revolution, new religious beliefs and new religious sects (Baptists, Methodists, Unitarians, Universalists, and others) proliferated throughout New England, especially in frontier settlements. If you compare these maps of the churches in mid-Maine in the year 1790, in 1800, and in 1810 you can see how many new churches sprang up in the backcountry in just twenty years. This led to fights over which minister to hire with taxpayers' money. Conflicts erupted all over New England. In fact, two of the five ministers who participated in the ordination of Hallowell's new minister were deposed within five years. Religious controversy was in the air.

The town records also reveal that two candidates for the Hallowell job had already been turned down when Isaac Foster arrived from Connecticut, as a job candidate, to preach in April. On May 8, the town meeting voted to offer the young pastor a job; the vote was 57 to 4.

We can read the letter of acceptance Foster wrote. In it, he writes, "Permit me, my Brethren, to rely on your candor while I faithfully improve the talent God has given me for your spiritual good." All seemed well.

Did Martha say anything about hiring the new minister?

Indictment for an Assault
But the town clerk, Henry Sewall, mounted an attack against the young minister...

Table of Contents

Hallowell Town Records (Transcription by John Sewall)
Town of Hallowell Officials
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 56 (May 8, 1786 mtg)   57 (May 8, 1786 mtg)   58 (May 8, 1786 mtg) 



folio 56 (May 8, 1786 meeting)


this town the year ensuing in the General Court appointed to be convened and held for the Government's service at the State house in Boston, the last Wednesday of May instant.
       At the meeting to be held at two o' clock,

  1. Voted, and chose Capt.' Enoch Page, Moderator.
  2. Voted, to raise fifty pounds for the purpose of supporting a reading and writing school or schools.
       Also, voted, that the town be divided into six districts; each district to have its proportion of the money that may or shall be assessed for the purpose. Also, votedthat the Selectmen be a Committee to make and apportion said Division.
  3. Voted to dismiss this third article
    Meeting dissolved, Enoch Page, Moderator.
Extrat from the minutes, Attest, D. Cony Town Clerk

The Selectmen of town of Hallowell,
To Benjamin Brown, Constable of said town, Greeting.
In the name of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, you are

1786 hereby required forthwith to notify & warn all the freemen, inhabitants of this town, to meet at the Meeting house, on Monday, the eighth day of May instant, at two o' clock P.M.
  1. To choose a Moderator.
  2. To see if the town will vote to give Mr. Isaac Foster an invitation to settle in this town in the work of the Ministry.
  3. To see if the town will vote to grant a sum or sums of money for his salary and settlement.

Hereof fail not, and make return hereof, with your doings thereon, to us, or either of us at or before the time of said meeting.

      Ephm. Ballard } Selectmen
      D. Cony of
      H. Sewall Hallowell
  Hallowell, May 1, 1786.
Lincoln ss. May 6, 1786.
            Pursuant to this Warrant, I have notified & warned all the freemen, inhabitants of this town of Hallowell, to meet at the time & place, and for the purposes within mentioned
  Benj. Brown, Constable of the town of Hallowell.