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
View Image
View Image
View Frames version

 77 (May 11, 1785 mtg)   78 (May 11, 1785 mtg) 


folio 78 (May 11, 1785 meeting)


Hallowell. April 28th 1785. This Certifieth that I have Executed the foregoing warrant agreable to the Directions thereof.
Thomas Sewall, Constable

Also another Warrant of the Same Tenor, and for the Same purpose was committed to George Botton, Constable, for to warn the Northerly part of the town of Hallowell, and executed by him accordingly

Att a Meeting of the Inhabitants of the Town of Hallowell, Legally Notified and held att the Meetinghouse in said Town on Wednesday the Eleventh day of May AD 1785. The Meeting being opened proceeded to Begin as followeth. Viz.
Voted to send a Representative to the General Court the year ensuing
Voted. Then, and chose Joseph North Esq. as a Representative for the year Ensuing, for this Town
Voted and chose Mr. Saml. Bullen Moderator
Voted under the second article, to dismiss said article

Voted under the third article and chose Capt. Henry Sewall, Dr. Daniel Cony, & Joseph North Esq. for said Committee.
Voted under the fourth article, that Mr. Noah Woodward be a person as a committee for this Town to go with Mr. Isaac Savage 2nd, to make Enquiry and Examination, disputing the Tax that was committed to said Savage to collect, in order, if possible, to estimate and determine what is yet uncounted.
Voted under the sixth article, that the Committee be continued, for to prosecute the business, respecting the Ministerial Lott of Land.
Voted to remit to Mr. Moses Case his Tax that was in Mr. Ephraim Ballard, Tax Assessor
Voted to dissolve this meeting.

Attest Samuel Bullen Moderator
Extract from the Minutes
Attest Story Town Clerk