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 (Original)
Town of Hallowell Officials
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 77 (May 11, 1785 mtg)   78 (May 11, 1785 mtg) 



folio 77 (May 11, 1785 meeting)

Warrant for May
Meeting AD 1785

To Thomas Sewall Constable of the Town of Hallowell. Greeting
In the name of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts you are required forthwith to warn all the inhabitants of the Southerly part of the town of Hallowell Quallified according to Constitution to meet att the meeting in said town on Wednesday the Eleventh day of May Next at one o'Clock afternoon, to choose a person to represent them in the general Court appointed to be convened and held for the government service at the State house in Boston on such other place as may be appointed agreeable to Constitution upon the Last Wednesday of May Next -- and make return of this warrant with your doings thereon, to the Select Men, on or before said Eleventh of May dated at Hallowell this 25th of April 1785

and you are likewise required to warn all the inhabitants of said Southerly part of Hallowell.Quallified to vote in town affairs to meet att the Meetinghouse in said Town on Wednesday the Eleventh day of of May Next at Two o'Clock afternoon to act on the following articles viz.

1st To choose a Moderator to regulate said meeting.
2nd To choose a surveyor of lumber in the room as Ephm. Ballard, who was chosen last March meeting and declines taking the oath.
3ly To see if the Town will Choose a Committee, to procure preaching in the Town the summer ensuing or as long as they shall think proper.
4ly To see if the Town will do any thing about impowing Isaac Savage Second[ ] , Constable for the year 1780, to compleat his collection of Taxes as his Bate Bills were Burnt, and to act thereon as the Town shall think proper.
5ly To choose a Committee to Examin the accounts, and demand of the several Late Constables or Collectors of Taxes and report to the Town what they shall judge is reasonable to be allowd and paid them
6thly- To hear the report of the Committee that was chosen to look out two hundred acres of Land for a Ministerial Lott and to act thereon as the Town shall think proper and make return of this warrant as aforesaid.
  April 29th 1785
Ephm. Ballard
Saml. Bullen