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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Folio 92 indicates a plan to form a committee to procure a preacher. Folio 98 records a vote to appoint the town's selectmen to "said committee." And Folio 107 shows that Ephraim Ballard was a selectman in 1786 -- so as a selectman, he was on the committee.

 92 (Mar 6, 1786 mtg)   98 (Mar 6, 1786 mtg)   107 (Apr 10, 1786 mtg) 



folio 92 (March 6, 1786 meeting)

Warrant for March
Meeting AD 1786
} 92

     The Selectmen of the Town of Hallowell.
     To the Constable of the Southerly district of said Town
     Greeting-- In the Name of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts you are hereby required forthwith to notify and warn all the Freemen, (within your district) inhabitants and belonging to the Town, to meet at the Meeting-house in said Town on Monday the Sixth day of March Next at Nine o'Clock in the forenoon then and there if the Town think proper to act and vote upon the following articles, Mentioned Expressed, and set fourth in this warrant, Viz.

1st. To Choose a Moderator to govern and regulate said meeting.
2d. To Choose all and Every such Town officer or officers as the Law directs and requires to be chosen in Town annualy in the Month of March.
3d To Choose a Deligate or Deligates to meet in Convention to be holden at Falmouth on the first Wednesday of September Next, to Consider of the greivances the inhabitants of the Counties of York, Cumberland, and Lincoln Labour under, and to adopt and pursue some orderly and peaceable measure to obtain relief.
4ly To vote for a register of Deeds, for the Westerly district of the County of Lincoln.
5ly To grant or raise such sum or sums of Money as the Town shall judge necessary for the use and support of the Ministry. Also for the use and support of schools. Also for the use and support of the poor of the Town and defraying the other Necessary Charges of the Town. and Also for the use and purpose of repairing the roads and highways in the Town.
6ly To Choose a Committee for the purpose of hiring Preaching. and Also a Committee to Examin and adjust the accounts of the Town, and Also the accounts and demands of the Late Constables.