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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 93 (Mar 6, 1786 mtg)   94 (Mar 6, 1786 mtg)   97 (Mar 6, 1786 mtg) 


folio 94 (March 6, 1786 meeting)

  Warrant for March Meeting AD 1786 Cond 94
article &
13th To see if the Town will vote to give the Revd. Seth Noble an invitation to settle in this Town in the Work of the Ministry.
14th To see if the Town will accept of the alteration of the County road, - from burnt Hill to the Cosway Easterly of Mr. Samuel Comings.s.
dated Hallowell Feb.y 20th 1786.
Ephm Ballard } Select
Samu Bullin
Isaac Clark
Lincoln Ss.
  agreeable to the above Warrant I have Notified and warned all the Free Men in my district -- agreeable to Law -- to meet at the place and time appointed --
Hallowell March 6th 1786

Tho.s Sewall Constable

  Viz., Also another Warrant of the sameTenor and for the same purpose, was directed to Mr. George Bolton Constable for the Northerly district and Executed by him accordingly, and is put upon file with the above.