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 107 (April 10, 1786 meeting)


  The Select Men of the Town of Hallowell
       To Mr. Benjamin Brown Constable of said Town Greeting.
     In the Name of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, you are hereby required fourthwith to notify and warn all the in-habitants of this Town quallified according to the Constitution of the Commonwealth, to Vote for a Representative; to meet at the Meeting-house in Hallowell on Monday the first day of May Next, at one o'Clock after-noon, then and there to Choose a man to represent this Town, the year ensuing in the general Court, appointed to be held and Convened for the government's service at the State-house in Boston, on the Last Wednesday of May next.
     Also you are alike required to Notify an warn the freeholders and other inhabitants of this quallified to Vote in Town affairs to meet at the Meeting-house on the said first day of May at two o'Clock PM.
1st To Choose a Moderator to regulate said meeting.
2d To see if the Town will vote to grant or raise a sum of Money for the support of a reading & writing school or schools and Also to see if the Town will Vote that each quarter or such Divisions as shall be judged most for the general good of the Town. Shall have its proportion of the money granted.

To see if the Town will vote to grant or raise a sum of money, for the purpose of procuring a publick Teacher or preacher for the Town.
     Hereof fail not and make return of this warrant with your doings thereon to us (or either of us) at or before the time for said Meeting.

  Hallowell April 10. 1786.   EphBallard
D. Cony
H. Sewall
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