Methodism in Chesterfield New Hampshire

According to tradition, the first Methodist sermon preached in the town, and probably in New Hampshire, was in 1772, at the house of James Robinson, a Scotch dissenter, who settled in Chesterfield on the farm where his grandson, T. N. Robinson, now resides. Mr. Robinson, hearing from friends in New York of the zealous and devoted Philip Embry, sent a message desiring Mr. Embry to come and preach at his house, setting forth the good he thought might result from his labors. Mr. Embry saw fit to respond, and in the fall or early winter 1772, he came to town, the same year the Rev. Abraham Wood was settled pastor over the Congregational church. The result of Mr. Embry’s preaching was a revival, and a number professed a change of heart, among whom were the older persons in the neighborhood, and doubtless a class was formed, as they were reported to hold exclusive meetings, which gave to the neighborhood the name Christian street, which it retains to the present time. The little band looked forward with great anxiety to the return of Mr. Embry the following year, but they were doomed to be disappointed, as in August, 1773, he died. The effect upon the Robinson family was lasting and they were prepared to receive the itinerant at his first approach. Three of the daughters married Methodist ministers-Sarah married Rev. Ebenezer Bromby, of New York; Sybil married, in 1805, Rev. Martin Rutter, Mr. Rutter having preached his first sermon in the house of Mr. Robinson, and in Chesterfield his labors as preacher commenced; and Hannah married Rev. John Nichols, of Thomson, Conn. He was one of the early preachers of Chesterfield. George B. Robinson, a. grandson, was a local preacher, and two of the granddaughters married Rev. Orrin Fairbanks. Hannah, married first, died September 18, 1845, and Martha G. married Mr. Fairbanks after her sister’s death in 1846. The early labors of Mr. Embry formed a nucleus for Methodism. Jesse Lee came to Portsmouth in 1791, and the same year he visited Chesterfield. In 1792 and 1793, Lozenzo Dow often visited here, preaching wherever he found hearers. In 1794 Joshua Hall was appointed to preach in New Hampshire, and was in Chesterfield during the year, but he sought to establish Methodism in the central and eastern Darts of the state, to the neglect of Chesterfield. So little was accomplished that the appointment was withdrawn the following year. In the later part of this year, 1795, the first Methodist Episcopal society was organized in the state, at Chesterfield, with sixty-eight members. The following year Philip Wager was the first stationed preacher,, and reports Chesterfield circuit to be more than fifty miles square. From this time up to 1839 the records were lost, or are in the archives of the New England conference. The records of this station commence this year, (1839). Rev. C. L. McCurdy was preacher from June, 1839 to June, 1841; Alonzo Webster from June, 1841, to June. 1843; John Jones, from 1843 to June, 1845. This year the present church edifice was built. It was dedicated in November, 1844. Prior to this, meetings were held in.private houses, school-houses, and sometimes in the old academy building and in the Congregational church. The society has had regular preaching since, except in 1857-’58, having had twenty-one pastors during that time. T. L. Fowler is the present pastor.

At one time the church was large and wealthy, and in a flourishing condition; but that blight of New England, emigration to the west, with other causes, has reduced the church numerically and financially. During the past two years the church edifice has been repaired and placed on an average with rural churches. Much credit is due to the present pastor, who has not spared himself or time to make the “Mother of New Hampshire Methodism “presentable in her place of worship. The society acknowledges the many favors it has received from residents, but especially would it acknowledge the timely assistance of Wilder Harris, Esq., of Brattleboro, Vt., Hon. H. 0. Coolidge, of Keene, Hon. Wilder P. Clark, of Winchendon, Mass., all former residents of Chesterfield and attendants at public worship at the Methodist Episcopal church. Mr. Fowler has been closely connected with this church for the last twenty-four years. He was born in Bridgewater, N. H., October lo, 1823. His early educational advantages were limited. Afterwards he attended Bristol High school, Hebron academy. New Hampton institute and the Theological department of Newbury seminary. Mr. Fowler joined the New Hampshire conference of the Methodist Episcopal church at a session held at Great Falls, April 29, 1858, and received his first appointment for Pottersville, now a part of Harrisville. Here he labored one year. Seeing there could never be a strong and flourishing church in a small village with little to increase its growth and preoccupied by a Baptist church, and seeing an opening at the growing village of Marlboro, called the attention of the church to it as affording an opportune religious center. Failing to make the church see the importance of the location and the ease with which it could be obtained, he personally bought the Baptist house of worship, then standing unoccupied, repaired it at his own expense, and held meetings therein. In 1859, he organized a church and was appointed by conference to the new charge. Near the close of the year he sold the house to the church, and was appointed to Chesterfield the following year, 1861, and was re-appointed in 1862 and 1863. He was then located at his own request, and was appointed a supply for three years next following, up to April. 1868. In October, 1868, he was engaged to preach at Westport (Swanzey), which relation he sustained for three years. From October, 1872, to October, 1875, he preached for the Congregational society, at South Village. Westmoreland. In 1877, he preached half of the time in the Universalist church, in West Swanzey, and half the time at Westport. In 1878 he preached at the latter place, organized a church, and was appointed to supply that station for 1879. In April, 1882, he was again appointed to supply Chesterfield, which he has continued to do up to the present time. For the last twenty years he has been actively engaged in business pursuits, and for a number of years was engaged in the manufacture of lumber and wooden-ware. In 1877 he purchased the Wild’s farm, where he has since resided. This place possesses many attractions, affording a commanding view, fine scenery, a romantic glen and a beautiful cascade skirts its southern boundary.

Hurd, Duane Hamilton. History of Cheshire and Sullivan counties, New Hampshire. Philadelphia: J. W. Lewis. 1886.

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