We have received a request from the “Committee on the Restoration of their Records,” in Middleton, that an article
lately published in the Evening Journal of Salem, together with the accompanying communication, for the better
enlightening of the public, in regard to the circumstances stated, should appear in our columns. Had there never
been any extended publication on the subject, we should not, we presume, be asked and certainly should not be disposed,
to give publicity to these disagreeable matters, beyond their sphere of traditionary rehearsal. But the publication
of the article below, and the distribution of “a large number of extra copies” of the paper containing the same,
seems to give the Committee some claim upon us to comply with their request:--
[From the Evening Journal.]
THE LOST RECORDS. A little more than one hundred and twenty five years ago, in a small town not twenty miles from
Salem, was gathered a little Congregational Church. They made their Records in a large book, made of very thick
paper, and bound with strong cords, with a cover of the most substantial materials. Here with much care they recorded
he names of their Ministers, dates of their settlement, --in shore, the names of all its officers and members,
together with their births, baptisms, marriages and deaths, for a period of more than a century. The Society, or
Parish, meanwhile becoming less and less Evangelical, at this time, refused to unite with the Church in settling
a Minister, for no other reason than that he was too Orthodox; whereupon they (the parish) took the Meeting House,
by a small majority, in order to procure preaching to suit them. The Church, thus turned out of doors with their
Ministers, Church Officers, and every member save two or three, resorted to a school house to worship; leaving
behind their old church service and about half their funds, rather than obtain them at the expense and trouble
of a lawsuit as they were in the hands of those who would not give them up without. Here they worshipped the God
of their fathers, with none to molest or make them afraid. The sympathies of good men were enlisted in their behalf
by the story of their wrongs, and the means to build a new Meeting House (coming mostly from abroad) was soon furnished.
While the separation from the old Society was in progress, the Clerk of the Church put this old book into the hands
of a lawyer in Salem, for examination and advice, after which it mysteriously disappeared. The Clerk called in
vain, no one could tell what had become of it, and, after many fruitless inquiries, it was, with many regrets for
the loss of their Covenant, By-laws, and history, given up.
They bought a new book, and from poverty, or hoping soon to find the old one, purchased a very cheap one, costing
probably less than a dollar. In this, for about twenty years, they made their Records, which nearly filled it.
At this period a young Minister was settled, and the old book made its appearance with a countenance radiant with
intelligence and hope, not a word or a mark had disfigured its fair face. It was received with joy, and from it
the pastor gathered one or two very interesting historical Sermons, which were listened to with great solemnity,
as being, as it were, a voice from the dead. In a book containing so much interest, the pastor had a great desire
to place his Records by the side of his illustrious predecessors. Therefore into this book he transcribed about
sixteen pages, which he had already written in the other book, taking care to leave space for the remainder to
be transcribed when the Church should so order; feeling perfectly justified in so doing, as far as his own Records
went; after which, it is supposed, he said to himself, Now these old leaves can be of no use to the Church, and
may be to me, with them, and by the
Puritan Records Apl 19 1855
aid of minutes taken with pencil at after meetings, I could maek out the whole of my ministry, retaining about
forty pages, therefore I will take them out, and no one can say that I wished to conceal them, as they contain
nothing against me; besides, there is living proof now to be had that what I have left is nothing but truth, and
no trouble can possible arise from this act of mine.
But, alas, in his distant home, surrounded by a happy and beloved people, where he has just commenced his labors,
with a prospect of an immediate revival, he is surprised to find, by a letter, that he is tracked as a culprit.
But he says to himself, I have done my best, and left them a fair and clean Record; if they (there is only a few
such) are not satisfied with what I have left, they will not be with anything I can do, therefore I will not trouble
myself about the matter, the whole truth will soon be known.
The old book was found in the house of one of those who would not go with the Church when they left the old Society,
after his decease. He probably obtained it at the office of the Attorney in Salem, from one of his clerks, supposing
the rightful owner called for it. It appears now that things have by some means been reversed, and that the …………..,
on the part of a few, a great desire to loos………..there is now no other Church, nor ever has been, who would own
it, and we must, however hard it may talk about some of us of late.
ONE OF THEM.
“THE LOST RECORDS.”
MESSRS. EDITORS: --An article in the Evening Journal of the 7th of March, might lead the readers of it into
error; some facts material to a perfect knowledge of the case being omitted. We are informed by the writer “that
they made their Records in a large book.” The book is eight inches in length, six inches in breadth, and about
one inch in thickness, made of thick, course, rough paper, not ruled, and contains about sixty page of blank paper.
This book was for a long time in the possession of Deacon P., one of “the church thus turned out of doors,” and
we can find no person that has any knowledge of its having been lost, but the writer of the article in the Journal.
It was borrowed by Deacon B., who promised positively to return it, and, that he may comply with his promise, claims
the right of keeping the “old book” in his possession. No one ever considered this “old book” to be the property
of the Church, over which “a young minister was settled,” and that affords a most satisfactory reason why the Records
of that Church were not made in that “old book.”
With a knowledge of these facts by “the young minister,” this “old book,” was lent to him by Deacon B. The “new
book,” described as “a very cheap one,” is in length and breadth one third larger than the old one, about equal
in thickness, containing now twenty four pages of blank paper, which is ruled, is good paper to write on, and bound
in modern style. The writer says, “it is nearly filled up;” yet it contains twenty-four pages of blank paper more
than the “old book,” each page being one third larger. The “young minister,” after having made his Record in “the
new book,” transcribed the Record to the “old book,” which he had borrowed, and cut out and carried away, all the
Church Record for the time he was Clerk, amounting to eighteen pages.
The Church are of opinion that the transcript left by “the young Minister,” is no Record; and in this opinion they
have the concurrence of eminent clergymen and lawyers. Suppose a Town Clerk of Danvers, after having been in office
four years, and about to remove from the town, should borrow some “old book,” the property of Salem, before Danvers
was set off, and into that “old Book” transcribe all the Records he had made, and cut out every leaf of the Record
he had made in the Danvers books, and take them away; would such a transcript be the Record of Danvers? We think
not; yet this is a parallel case. The Church, by an unanimous vote, directed their Clerk to write to this “young
minister,” and ask for a return of their Record. This he did several weeks since, but our “young minister” has
not deigned to make any reply to the Clerk, or to return the Record. And is it a crime for the Church the restoration
of their property,--Records which properly belong to them? Yet this is all the ground the writer of that article,
has for the assertion, “that he (the young minister) is tracked as a culprit.”
As a justification of the act of copying, the writer says, “the pastor had a great desire to place his Records
by the side of his illustrious predecessors.” In “the one or two very interesting historical sermons,” which the
pastor gathered from the “old book,” the character he gave to some of his predecessors was any thing but illustrious.
They were censured in no measured terms, and his hearers might reasonably come to the conclusion that he would
have considered it rather a disgrace than an honor, to be placed in such company. The writer makes his “young minister”
say, “No one can say that I wished to conceal them, (the Records,) as they contain “nothing against me.” We think
no one present at the Ecclesiastical Council, of January, 1854, or who had read its decision (always excepting
the writer and young minister,) would be likely to concur in that opinion.