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 57 (May 8, 1786 meeting)


At a meeting of the town of Hallowell, convened agreeable to notification on Monday, the eighth day of May, A.D. 1786. The meeting being opened, proceeded as followeth, viz.

  1. Voted by ballot, and chose Mr. Samuel Bullen, Moderator.
  2. Motion being made "To see if the town will vote to give Mr. Isaac Foster jun. of Stafford, in the State of Connecticut, an invitation to settle in this town in the work of the Ministry."
    Voted, by polling the house, and it passed in the affirmative by a majority of fifty seven for, and four against it.
  3. Voted, and chose James Howard esq. Benjamin Pettingill esq. Deacon Samuel Cony, Mr. Noah Woodward, Mr. Jonathan Davenport, Mr. Jeremiah Ingraham, Mr. Samuel Badcock, Capt. Enoch Page, Lieut. Simon Dearborn, Capt. Henry Sewall, Capt. Nathan Weston, Capt. Daniel Savage, Mr. James Page, Mr. Ezekiel Page, and Daniel Cony to draught and report to the town, what stipulations in their opinion, will proper on the part of the town to make to make to Mr. Isaac Foster for his support and maintenance.

Then voted to adjourn this meeting twenty minutes, then to meet again at this place.

1786 Saml. Bullen, Moderator.
  Met, according to adjournment, and the Committee reported,
That it is their opinion, that the town pay, and do hereby promise to pay the said Mr. Isaac Foster the sum of one hundred pounds annually, the first payment to be made at the expiration of one year from the time of his ordination, which sum shall be considered as a yearly salary, to enable him to support his family, and to be paid him upon condition, that he does accept of the town's invitation and proposals; and shall formally & regularly receive ordination: This stipulation to continue and to be in force so long as he the said Mr. Isaac Foster continues to be the town's Minister & public teacher. And also, the further sum of fifty pounds settlement.
  In behalf on the committee, Benja. Pettingill, Chairman.

The above, or within report being read two several times in town meeting, was unanimously voted and accepted so far as it respects the annual salary; and also, voted,
That the town will pay as a settlement fifty pounds at the time of Ordination, and the further sum of ten pounds per year, for five