Founders of the Massachusetts Bible Society - 1809

The Massachusetts Bible Society began on July 6, 1809 and is an ecumenical, Christian organization dedicated to promoting Biblical literacy, understanding, and dialogue. This blog lists brief biographies of our founders who gathered in the Massachusetts State House Senate Chamber on that historic day to sign the Charter founding MBS. Please visit our website:

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Mr. Luther Wright

Born in Acton on April 19, 1770, Luther Wright graduated from Harvard in 1796, studied theology, and was ordained to the First Church of Christ in Medway, where he served from 1798 to 1815. The history of the town of Medway credits Rev. Wright with “bringing about the renewed fellowship of the First and Second Churches in town, after an alienation of thirty-two years.”

He also served on the school committee in that town and, like founder Samuel Kendal and so many others, he took in many students to prepare them for college. The history of Medway records that “The Rev. Mr. Wright, in person, was a short, thick-set man, of fair, full countenance…He was devoted to his work, and while he met with some discouragements, he was loved by his people, and showed himself a man of ability and sagacity.”

That success not withstanding, Rev. Wright resigned that parish in 1815. He then accepted a call to minister at the Congregational church in Barrington, RI in Jan. 1817, where he began their first Sunday School. He was part of the Knights Templar in that town, knighted in April, 1818. Despite Rhode Island history books calling his ministry successful, he resigned from that church in 1821. From 1825-1828 he ministered in Tiverton, RI as supply. He retired to Woburn for the last decades of his life. He and his wife had no children and he died in Woburn on June 21, 1858.

Here ends the listing of the founders of the Massachusetts Bible Society

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Mr. Francis Wright

Not only an MBS founder but one of its first Trustees, Mr. Wright was a tobacconist by trade and was a deacon in the Long Lane (Federal Street) Church. It was Francis Wright who wrote the letter calling William Ellery Channing to be the minister at that church. Mr. Wright served as a Boston selectman and became the inspector of tobacco, butter, and lard. He was elected in 1807 to be part of the convention to determine the Massachusetts constitution. He died in 1812.

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Mr. Ebenezer Withington

Born in Stoughtonham (now Sharon), Mass. on March 29, 1769 and married to the niece of John Hancock, Mr. Withington was first Rev. Withington, ordained in 1798 to the pulpit in Plympton, Mass. After three years, ill-health forced him to resign his pulpit and profession at which time he entered the life of business with the firm of Withington & Emery, specializing in goods from the West Indies. That would have meant molasses, rum, and sugar. It is unknown whether the firm ever engaged in the additional slave trading so often associated with such ventures.

Mr. Withington also conducted a private school in Boston where he helped to school Wendell Phillips, the son of founder John Phillips. In 1822 he moved to Vermont and later to Montreal. He returned to Boston in 1827 where he remained until his death on April 6, 1831.

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Mr. Sidney Willard

The son of Harvard President Joseph Willard, Sidney Willard was born in Beverly on Sept. 19, 1780, graduated from Harvard in 1798, and prepared for ministry. During his time at Harvard he had been the librarian, a position he continued after his graduation. (Harvard Library is pictured here.) He was approved as a preacher in 1801, and was invited to settle in Wiscasset, but refused that call. He was not ever settled in a church, having his heart set on college employment.

In 1806 he moved from his position as librarian to the Hancock Professor of the Hebrew and other Oriental Languages. While often peripheral in today’s curriculum, a Hebrew oration at commencement was required at Harvard until 1817. A book of Harvard Reminiscences speaks of his teaching: “No man could have shown more patience than he manifested in the class-room: but nine-tenths of his pupils studied Hebrew solely because they were going to be ministers, and it was then discreditable to a minister to be utterly ignorant of Hebrew; while the general endeavor was to minimize the knowledge of it to the lowest degree.” While the Hebrew grammar he wrote was light-years better than the previous standard, the same source also records, “But the proportion of grateful students — I will not say scholars — in the Hebrew tongue was, and I suppose still is, less than the one thankful leper bore to the ten that were cured.”

Latin was also added to his curriculum in 1827, and with a burden too overwhelming, he resigned his professorship four years later. He also spent three years as mayor of Cambridge and was several times a member of the House of Representatives. A member of the Anthology Society, he also started the North American Review and the American Monthly Review. Sidney Willard died on December 6, 1856.

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Rev. Samuel Webber, DD

When the names of our founders were recorded on July 6, 1809, Rev. Webber’s name headed the list. Himself a 1784 Harvard graduate, he was ordained a Congregational minister in 1787. In 1806 he was selected as the thirteenth President of Harvard College, thrown into the conflict between founders Eliphalet Pearson and Henry Ware and their various supporters.

Before ascending to the presidency of the college, Rev. Webber had been the Hollis Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, writing a book on mathematics that served for many years as the only textbook on the subject in New England. He also had served on the commission that drew the boundaries between the U.S. and the surrounding British Provinces, boundaries that were later recognized by the Treaty of Paris. He was the Vice President of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Rev. Webber was born in Byfield, Mass. Jan. 13, 1760 and died suddenly on July 17, 1810 at just 51 years of age, after which fellow founder John Thornton Kirkland succeeded him as Harvard’s President. Founder Henry Ware gave his eulogy.

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Mr. Isaac Warren, Jr.

Isaac Warren, Jr. is something of a mystery. The man most frequently listed as “Isaac Warren, Jr.” was born in 1745 in Woburn and was an almanac maker. However there is no clear connection either to Deacon Isaac Warren, or to other founders. Deacon Isaac Warren had a son named Isaac born in Charlestown on Aug. 9, 1787. While in most genealogies he is listed as Isaac Warren 3rd, his baptismal record lists him as Jr., making him the favored candidate for our founders list. It appears that Deacon Isaac Warren’s son was cut down in his prime, as his death date is recorded as Oct. 13, 1815, making him just barely 28 years old.

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Deacon Isaac Warren

Born in Charlestown on July 30, 1758, Deacon Warren was “a dignified gentleman and a merchant of ability and large means.” Not surprisingly, he was one of the first vice-presidents of the Warren Institution for Savings, and part of his “large means” went to endow Warren Academy in Woburn in 1827.

He selected Woburn as a location because of a recent revival in that town and his belief that the Holy Spirit was active there. Indeed it was stipulated that only orthodox Calvinists should be allowed to teach at the new school. Mr. Warren also gave liberally for the education “of pious indigent young men for the ministry” and also to Middlebury College.

As for the man who had become his pastor at the Charlestown church where he served as Deacon (fellow founder Jedidiah Morse) Deacon Warren complained that those in the congregation were “daily sighing, and longing for opportunities for christian conversation, with their minister, not on disputes, and controversies, or Politics, but on real, internal, and experimental religion.” Mr. Warren died on March 19, 1834.

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Rev. Henry Ware

Born in Sherburne, Mass. on April 1, 1764, Rev. Ware could hardly have been aware of the church conflicts his life would foment. He graduated from Harvard in 1785, studied theology under Rev. Hilliard, and was settled at the Parish in Hingham on October 24, 1787. Diligent in his work, it was said that he could not go to sleep on Sunday night until he had made preparations for the following Sunday’s sermon. Ironically, his sermons often spoke against factionalism and dissent.

He became known for his liberal views while at Hingham and when in 1805 he was invited to become the Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard, the battle for the soul of Congregationalism was engaged. As is obvious from these biographies, the vast majority of clergymen in Massachusetts and beyond received their training at Harvard. Would they thus be swayed away from orthodoxy? Since there would be no formal seminary at Harvard until 1811, scarce would be the young man who did not learn something of faith from Rev. Ware.

Objections and support poured into Harvard’s offices, with raging debates over whether the Mr. Hollis for whom the professorship was named was truly a Calvinist or not. In the end, Rev. Ware was given the post. Fellow founder Eliphalet Pearson resigned his post in protest and worked to found Andover Seminary to teach orthodox principles. The debate surrounding Rev. Ware’s appointment led to the eventual split of the Unitarians from the Congregationalists, a painful rupture in New England Church life that would continue to split churches and collegial bonds throughout his lifetime.

Henry Ware remained in his post until 1840, when failing eyesight urged his resignation, although he continued for two more years in the chair of pulpit eloquence. He died in Cambridge on July 12, 1845.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Deacon John Walton

John Walton was born in Cambridge on October 29, 1770, graduated from Harvard in 1783 and the following year went to Pepperell as a physician. He served in that capacity a full 60 years and was a deacon of the church in that town as well as a Freemason. He died in Pepperell on December 21, 1862 at 92 years of age.

Deacon Walton’s church went through the liberal/orthodox turmoil in the 1830’s, when Deacon Walton and two others sent a letter to the orthodox pastor requesting a six-week supply of his pulpit by a liberal colleague. The church subsequently became Unitarian and a meeting was held in Deacon Walton’s home to ascertain whether the church records of the time were free of the bias of the orthodox pastor.

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Mr. Samuel H. Walley

Born in Boston on April 12, 1778, Samuel H. Walley was the first treasurer of MBS and the son-in-law of MBS President William Phillips. Mr. Walley was at the time of our founding a deacon in the Federal Street Church, transferring to Old South in 1818.

Samuel Walley was also a trustee of Andover Seminary, President of the Massachusetts Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and Vice President of the Suffolk Savings Bank for Seamen & Others among other organizations. For eighteen years he was President of the Massachusetts Sabbath School Society. Mr. Walley died in Andover on July 25, 1850.

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Mr. Dudley A. Tying, Esq.

The man chosen to record the events of the founders meeting, Dudley Atkins Tyng, served such roles in many of the contemporary societies. He was born Dudley Atkins in Newburyport on September 3, 1760 and took the name of Tyng after inheriting the estate of James Tyng of Tyngsborough glass. Interested in business he was also part of the corporation of the Newburyport Hosiery Company.

As was true of many of our founders, Mr. Tyng was also a member of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, and in that capacity he took great interest in finding a way to serve the religious needs of those on the Isle of Shoals. In an 1801 letter, he describes their initial state of ignorance and depravity for want of religious instruction.

Apparently this was a cause taken up by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, which erected a stone house (pictured here) to serve as school, church, and lighthouse. They then provided a minister. The 1801 letter by Mr. Tyng is requesting further funds to build a house for that minister on the island, since the clergyman currently lived on another island and had to make the hazardous trip by boat to minister to the people.

An Episcopalian, his obituary noted of his piety that it “was ardent, without the least tincture of fanaticism, and his views of religion were sound and rational without bigotry or intolerance.”

After holding office in Newburyport, where he was a member of the Knights Templar, he became the reporter for the Massachusetts Supreme Court, an office that he held until his death on August 1, 1829.

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Rev. Joseph Tuckerman

Known as the “father of American social work,” Rev. Tuckerman was born to founder Edward Tuckerman, Jr. on Jan. 18, 1778. He graduated from Harvard in 1798, a classmate of William Ellery Channing (who joined the efforts of MBS at its second meeting on July 13, 1809), with whom he enjoyed a life-long friendship. He studied theology, being ordained to the church in Chelsea in 1801.

His voice beginning to fail, he resigned that pulpit in November of 1826 and became a minister-at-large in Boston, where he founded and led the Benevolent Fraternity of Unitarian Churches. His ministry in Boston was designed on the one hand to help those in need and on the other to convert the sensibilities of the rich and powerful to be more considerate of those of lesser station. He proposed doing the latter by giving them the opportunity for personal involvement with the poor. He brought to that work not only the compassion of a pastor, but knowledge gleaned from a scientific study of pauperism.

William Ellery Channing related of Rev. Tuckerman, “He saw distinctly the vices which are often found among the poor, their craft, and sloth, and ingratitude. His ministry was carried on in the midst of their frequent filth and recklessness. The coarsest realities pressed him on every side. These were not the scenes to make an enthusiast. But amidst these he saw, now the fainter signs, now the triumphs of a divine virtue. It was his delight to relate examples of patience, disinterestedness, piety, amidst severest sufferings. These taught him, that, in the poorest hovels, he was walking among immortals, and his faith in the divinity within the soul turned his ministry into joy.”

His efforts in this regard were so successful that they were modeled in France and England, with the Tuckerman Institute of Liverpool founded in his name. He not only set the stage for modern social work, but he was a precursor of the social gospel movement.

Much work took a toll on his health, and Rev. Tuckerman took a trip to Havana to try to recover, but died there on April 20, 1840.

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Mr. Gustavus Tuckerman

Gustavus Tuckerman was born on April 26, 1785 and also entered the merchant life, specializing in hardware. He made frequent trips to Europe, one of which resulted in his 1816 marriage to Jane Francis, which took place in England. Their daughter, Jane Tuckerman, became known for being a close confidant of Margaret Fuller, the journalist and woman’s rights activist.

A supporter of the Boston Athenaeum and the Boston Dispensary, Gustavus Tuckerman died on Jan. 15, 1860.

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Mr. Edward Tuckerman, Jr.

Another member of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts, Edward Tuckerman, Jr. was born in Boston on Dec. 27, 1740. He worked as a baker in the South end for 50 years, during which time he achieved success by developing a biscuit that could stay fresh on long ocean voyages. During the Revolution he was a second Lieutenant of the train of artillery in Boston.

At the peak of his career, Mr. Tuckerman employed 300 men and supplied bread to the ports of New England. He was a businessman who did well, but he was also a businessman who did good for his fellows. On each New Year’s Day he called together his delinquent customers and forgave the debt of every one who acknowledged his inability to pay.

As well as being a founder of MBS, he was one of the organizers of the Charitable Mechanic Association, serving as its first Vice President, a founder of the first fire insurance company in New England, and was for several years a state senator. Edward Tuckerman, Jr. was known as “One of Boston’s most worthy, useful, and respectable citizens.” His portrait pictured here was painted by Gilbert Stuart. Mr. Tuckerman was a member of Trinity Church, where his father had been an original pew holder. He was the father of founders Rev. Joseph and Gustavus Tuckerman and died on July 17, 1818.

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Mr. William Thurston, Esq.

The superintendent of the first Sunday School in the “orthodox” churches in Boston, Mr. Thurston was one of the founders of Park Street Church. In fact, the organizing meeting took place in his Beacon Hill home, where he was a neighbor of founder Daniel D. Rogers.

The Sunday School was not Mr. Thurston’s first experience with schools. He was born in Exeter, NH on September 29, 1772, and after graduating from Dartmouth in 1792, he took charge of a grammar school in Keene, NH the following year. He then went to Boston where he was admitted to the bar, but he continued working on committees for the primary schools in Boston along with founder Deacon Moses Grant. Mr. Thurston died on a foreign voyage in Naples, Italy on Aug. 25, 1822.

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Mr. Peter Thatcher, Esq.

Born in Malden on December 22, 1776, Peter Thacher graduated from Harvard in 1796 with thoughts of following his father (who was the pastor of the Brattle Street Church) into ministry. He taught at Phillips Academy the following year where he helped to instruct a young Daniel Webster.

Instead of ministry, however, Peter Thacher followed the example of his grandfather, Oxenbridge Thacher, and adopted not only his grandfather’s profession in Law, but in 1811 adopted his name as well, taking Oxenbridge as his middle name. Peter Thacher was admitted to the Suffolk bar in 1803.

In 1823 Peter Oxenbridge Thacher was appointed Judge of the Municipal Court of the City of Boston, a position he held until his death on Feb. 22, 1843. A federalist and classic conservative, Judge Thacher was known both as a very severe judge but also as the judge who expanded the legal use of recognizance by continually releasing juvenile offenders. He was targeted in 1832 by William Lloyd Garrison for implying to jurors that the rhetoric in an abolitionist newspaper might be an indictable offense as it could incite revolt or insurrection.

Judge Thacher was one of the founders and original Trustees of the Boston Athenaeum, as well as a founder of MBS.

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Mr. John Tappan

A bookseller by trade, Mr. Tappan was the Treasurer of the Massachusetts Bible Society from 1812-1835. Born in Brookline on July 26, 1781 and a member of the Federal Street Church, Mr. Tappan was involved in many of the benevolent societies of the day, but had a special passion for both MBS and the cause of temperance.

A founder of the United States Temperance Union, Mr. Tappan offered a $400 prize to Amherst College for the best essays on the subject given by a representative from each class of students. As a condition of the prize, he asked that all Amherst Students refrain from the use of wine, spirits, and tobacco for the entire college course. The students rejected that provision, but they did come up with the essays and apparently received the money anyway. Mr. Tappan also tried to promote his views with European governments, to predictably small effect.

In 1805 he was shipwrecked and adrift for several days with many others. In that time he made a large fork out of an oar, which he used first to catch fish to sustain them and then to attach a large silk handkerchief to alert rescuers. That same year he married the daughter of MBS founder Samuel Salisbury.

That inventiveness came in handy while he served MBS Treasurer during the War of 1812, when Bibles sent from the British Bible Society to one of the British Colonies were seized by American Privateers. When MBS determined that the Bibles should be restored to Britain, he first went to the Massachusetts Courts, trying to claim that the shipment was his own and simply should be restored to him. Of this claim the judge, after noting a number of irregularities in Mr. Tappan’s claim wrote:

“But there is another view, which is so decisive against his claim, that it is difficult to perceive in what manner it could ever have been sustained. Mr. Tappan is an American citizen domiciled in Boston, and now asserts an interest in an enemy's shipment made nine months after the war, in a trade between the enemy's ports. If there ever was a case, in which there could be no doubt that the traffic was illegal, it seems to me to be this case. Upon what pretence can an American citizen, after full knowledge of the war, claim to be rightfully engaged in a commerce with the public enemy, and in a trade too peculiarly his own, a trade between the mother country and its colony?”

The judge denied Mr. Tappan’s claim, but Mr. Tappan didn’t give up and purchased the shipment from the privateers on behalf of the Massachusetts Bible Society, who then made restitution to the British Society. Mr. Tappan died in 1871.

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Mr. John L. Sullivan, Esq.

Born in Saco, Maine in 1777, John L. Sullivan was the son of Governor James Sullivan, who served as Governor of Massachusetts from 1807-1808. John Sullivan graduated from Harvard in 1807 and became a civil engineer. Governor Sullivan had a special interest in canals and was President of the Middlesex canal, even while Governor, and the superintending of the canal passed to John Sullivan upon the Governor’s death in 1808.

As an inventor, John L. Sullivan spent much of his time in court, first defending his right to a patent for the invention of the steam tow boat and then to obtain the rights for using those boats exclusively on the Connecticut River.

He describes his invention in his petition to the legislature this way: “That after many experiments and much expense, your petitioner succeeded in adapting steam engines of a peculiar construction, to boats of the small burden Mail on our canals and rivers, so as to enable a steam boat of this size to contain a power of twenty or thirty horses, and to tow a number of luggage boats, and to overcome rapids by the same power applied to a windlass connected with the engine. Your petitioner now owns such a boat, and put the same in operation on the Merrimack river the last year.”

John Sullivan remained as superintendent of the Middlesex Canal for 16 years, and did much to turn rivers into canals for the purpose of serving commerce and, of course, his invention.

While successful in his petitions, the effect of the boats on the banks of the canal proved to be destructive, and the power of the boats to tow freight through the rapids insufficient, and so their use was discontinued. He did, however, manage to take the Massachusetts legislature up the river as far as Concord, NH without incident.

Unlike most other founders, John L. Sullivan does not seem to have traveled in the same benevolent societies of the time, nor was there record of church participation. He was, however, in the circle of the Massachusetts legislature and a Harvard graduate, both of which circumstances could have led to bonds with other founders. His son, Thomas Russell Sullivan, became a Unitarian minister in Keene, NH, suggesting that while the literature focuses on his inventions, there was a personal piety that may have led him to the Massachusetts Bible Society.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Deacon John Simpkins

One of the pall bearers at Samuel Salisbury’s funeral was a deacon from the New North Church, John Simpkins. Mr. Simpkins was born in Boston on Nov. 12, 1740, graduated from Harvard in 1786 and became an upholsterer. Deacon Simpkins was a Captain in the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Society, recruited in 1769, and served in the Revolution in the company of Cadets under the command of John Hancock.

For many years Deacon Simpkins was the senior and presiding deacon of the Congregational Churches of Boston as well as serving as the treasurer of the Massachusetts Missionary Society and the Mass. Charitable Society.

The Boston Mite Society was founded in Deacon Simpkins’ home when at a social gathering Grandmother Wollcott (the Mite Society’s founder) asked, "Why a society could not be formed to do good among the poor, by each member contributing one cent per week?" Deacon Simpkins replied, “I can now forbear drinking this glass of wine, and devote my cent to this purpose,” at which point the other guests followed the example of their host and the society was born.

Deacon Simpkins died on December 11, 1831 at 91 years of age, leaving a handsome estate and a mansion near the Brattle Street Church.

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Mr. Samuel Salisbury, Esq.

Samuel Salisbury was born on November 29, 1739, possibly making him the oldest man in the room, depending on the exact birthdate of Thomas Bumstead. The eighth of eleven children he attended Boston’s Latin School but not college.

He became a hardware merchant and, along with his brother, Stephen (who opened a store branch in Worcester), was among the largest wholesale importers in Boston. His mother came to live with him, an arrangement he found most difficult, writing to his brother, I have been made uneasy by our honoured Mother interfering and talking to me about the affairs of my family that my life has been thereby rendered very unhappy. You know very well that I could never bear it about the business of the shop, but by keeping things hid from her I could then make it out pretty well. But now my house is so nigh and she is so often finding fault with my conduct . . . which determines me to change my situation.”

As with most merchants of the time, he had conflicted loyalties during the Siege of Boston in 1774 and the economic disaster it created. In a letter to his brother in Worcester, Samuel Salisbury described John Hancock as a “Son of Liberty, Son of Hell” after purchasing some English writing paper from Mr. Hancock. Mr. Salisbury joined the covenant of those pledging not to buy or sell English goods only after many refusals to do so had earned him considerable displeasure among his fellows. Suffice it to say that he was not with founder Moses Grant dumping the tea overboard.

During the siege, Samuel initially stayed behind to watch over his store, but his family was allowed by the British to receive safe passage with their goods to Worcester where Samuel’s brother Stephen had gone. As things grew worse, Samuel also removed to Worcester.

Back in Boston, he continued to prosper after the Revolution, eventually owning a fine mansion on Summer Street in Boston. In 1791 he was elected a selectman. The portrait shown here was painted by Gilbert Stuart. Samuel Salisbury died on May 2, 1818 with an estate valued at $400,000.

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Mr. Josiah Salisbury

One of several father-son teams amongst our founders, Josiah Salisbury was the son of founder Samuel Salisbury. Josiah was born in Worcester on Feb. 15, 1781, graduated from Harvard in 1798 and studied theology at the University of Edinburgh. He was also the brother-in-law of founder Jedidiah Morse.

After returning from Scotland, he was invited to settle in Providence, “but experience had convinced him that ‘his bodily strength was not equal to the effort required in continual preaching,’ to which being added ‘a natural reluctance to be the object of public attention, and extreme diffidence of his qualifications for usefulness as a minister,’ he decided, about a year after his return from Europe, to relinquish the profession. His pulpit performances, however, are said to have been excellent and highly acceptable.” Mr. Salisbury instead took the path of a merchant.

Josiah Salisbury spent some time in Dr. Channing’s church but found himself more in line with the Orthodox and became, like his father, a Deacon at Old South Church. A participant in many charitable endeavors, Josiah Salisbury was the person responsible for the profits from The Panoplist magazine being given to charity. He died in Boston on Feb. 10, 1826.

The History of Old South Church records part of his funeral sermon, which said, “His was a consistent character — always the Christian, at home and abroad, in the social circle and in the busy throng. As a deacon in a Christian church . . . his retiring disposition prevented his being as publicly active as some who sustain that important office. He never, however, shrunk from any obvious duty. In the various business transactions of the church, important services were frequently required of him, and always judiciously and promptly performed. To the poor of the church he was kind, attentive and liberal.”

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Mr. Timothy Rogers

Just a few weeks after our founding, Mr. Timothy Rogers became Rev. Timothy Rogers and was settled in the church in Bernardston, Mass. He married Mary Pierce the following year. After preaching Calvinism for twelve years, his theology shifted and it was under the leadership of Rev. Rogers that the church in Bernardston moved from the Orthodox to the Unitarian side of the aisle.

Of course such a shift took its toll and, with a number of members leaving for the Baptists or Methodists, Rev. Rogers was reduced to half time employment, becoming also employed by the Massachusetts Evangelical Society and the Society for Propagating the Gospel Among the Indians. While his biography would indicate that Timothy Rogers was one of our younger founders, his birth and death dates are unknown.

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Mr. Daniel D. Rogers, Esq.

The son of a revivalist preacher, Daniel Denison Rogers was born in Exeter, NH on May 11, 1751 and became a successful merchant in the dry goods business. Shortly after his 1781 marriage in Boston to Abigail Bromfield, the couple moved to London where they became very close to John and Abigail Adams.

When Mr. and Mrs. Rogers returned to the US, Abigail Adams wrote to her friend Mary Cranch, “There is not an other family who could have left London that I should have so much mist.” Shortly before returning to America, Abigail Rogers sat for a portrait by John Singleton Copley (pictured here), who also painted portraits of both John Adams and founder John Quincy Adams.

Later in life, Mr. Rogers moved into the business of stock and notes and invested in real estate. He was a member of First Church in Boston and died on March 25, 1825.

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Mr. Ebenezer Rockwood, Esq.

Born on June 2, 1781, Mr. Rockwood was the son of a Revolutionary War surgeon. He graduated from Harvard in 1802, and entered law. Mr. Rockwood had the reputation of a brilliant lawyer and evidenced great gifts as an orator. We can only imagine what such a gifted man might have attained in his career, for he died suddenly on May 8, 1815 at only thirty-four years of age.

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The Honorable Edward H. Robins

The son of the minister in Milton, Edward Hutchinson Robbins (as it is more frequently spelled) was born in Milton on Feb. 19, 1758, graduated from Harvard in 1775, and turned his mind toward Law. He was admitted to the bar in 1779. At only 21 years of age he was elected as a delegate to the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention, the youngest member of that body.

Mr. Robbins was Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1793-1802, judge of the probate court for Norfolk County, and was Lieutenant Governor from 1802-1806. Judge Robbins participated in the US Constitutional Convention, and was a member of Trinity Church in Boston.

Having owned some land in the District of Maine in 1786, the town of Robbinston, in Washington, ME was named for him at its 1811 incorporation. Mr. Robbins died in Boston on Dec. 29, 1829 and was the great-great grandfather of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

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Dr. Isaac Rand

Born in Charlestown on April 27, 1743, Dr. Rand was one of our oldest founders and, like his father before him, was a medical doctor. In fact, after his 1761 graduation from Harvard, he studied medicine with his father (also Isaac Rand) in Charlestown, before removing to Boston to finish his studies with Dr. Lloyd in 1764.

He was doubtful that the Revolution could succeed and thus sided with the Royalists, although he took no active part to support their cause. He remained in Boston during the time of the siege, and a book of medical biography by James Thacher in 1828 records: “His duties at this time were both excessive and arduous, and he acquired among the inhabitants a high character for charity as a man, as well as for skill as a physician.”

Dr. Rand petitioned for the incorporation of the Massachusetts Medical Society, becoming its President in 1898, and his opposition to quackery and insistence on accuracy in medical terms and language did much to advance his profession. This was true especially in the area of obstetrics, to which he turned a large portion of his energies.

Unfortunately, the passion that drove such a specialty was steeped in the culture of the day. Dr. Rand’s mentor, Dr. Lloyd had championed the cause “to rescue from the hands of unqualified females, the important branch of obstetrics, and to raise it to an honorable rank in the profession.” What Dr. Lloyd left unfinished, Dr. Rand completed, leaving the mixed blessing of obstetrics becoming valued and more greatly studied but leaving gifted women with one less avenue of practice.

Known for his learning and breadth of reading the Greek and Latin classics, Dr. Rand turned to the study of theology in his later years. He was also known for his charity to the poor, both generally through gifts to benevolent societies and specifically in helping individual families of his acquaintance. Practicing his craft well into his later years, the New England Magazine in 1897 records: The chaise in which he practiced in his latter days was a notable object. The width of it, though not equal to that of Solomon's temple, was several cubits.”

Dr. Rand died in Boston on December 11, 1822.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Rev. Eliphalet Porter, DD

The son of the parish minister in North Bridgewater, Eliphalet Porter was born there on June 11, 1758. He graduated from Harvard, studied theology with his father, and was ordained to the parish in Roxbury on October 2, 1782, where he remained until his death on December 7, 1833.

An overseer of Harvard College and a member of the Corporation, Rev. Porter was also involved in other benevolent societies of the day. At the church, Rev. Porter took on Rev. George Putnam as an associate in 1830, who said the following in Rev. Porter’s funeral sermon: “He knew no party but that whose bounds include the whole church of Christ. He never lent a hand in the work of division. He never kindled the fires of ecclesiastical discord. He never bore or followed the banner of religious warfare. He never bandied the bad words of exclusion and uncharitableness. Wherever he appeared, there was a mild and firm champion of Christian toleration, union and love. Though he, and such as he, had not power to prevent the mischief of dissension that have prevailed, yet his benignity of manner, his collected temper, his acknowledged wisdom, and his unfailing exhibition of a Christian spirit, have had on many occasions, and on many points, a soothing, directing, and most salutary influence in the affairs of the church.”

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Rev. John Pierce

John Pierce was born in Dorchester on July 14, 1773 and followed the path of so many other founders. He graduated from Harvard in 1793 (where his total college expense was $296.06!), taught for a bit, studied theology and then took a church. He accepted the call to Brookline (pictured here) in December of 1796 and was ordained there the following March, remaining in that charge for 50 years as the sole pastor, after which he consented to have a colleague join him.

A special love of Rev. Pierce was history and on the 50th anniversary of his ordination he preached a sermon rich with the history of church and town. That interest also drew him into many of the historical and genealogical societies of the day. At the Massachusetts Bible Society he served as secretary for 19 years and then took over as President upon the death of William Phillips, serving in that role for another 21 years.

He was also interested in the temperance movement and other social reform enterprises, aligning himself with related societies there as well. Rev. Pierce was secretary of Harvard’s board of Overseers for 33 years and used his strong singing voice to lead the singing of “St. Martin’s” at Harvard commencement dinners for 54 years.

While his published works consist mostly of sermons and addresses, he did leave eighteen volumes of memoir, principally a detailed accounting of the religious and theological turmoil of the day.

Like Francis Parkman, Rev. Pierce was grieved by the split in the Congregational Church. His eulogy says of this: “But he was only grieved, not alienated or embittered. He did not defy his former associates, or go into the opposite ranks to contend against them. He loved them just the same, — would not be driven from his familiar associations with them, — and, to the last, took as much interest in them and their institutions, their public occasions, and all their religious affairs, as he did in the affairs of those friends who were excluded with him, and who were ever ready to hail him as father, and reciprocate his confidence. And yet he was always true to his Liberal friends. When he found they were to be driven asunder from their old associations, be did not hesitate to go with them. And we know that to the end of his life he rejoiced that such had been his decision. It would have been violence to his whole nature to have joined what he always considered the illiberal side.”

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Mr. William Phillips, Esq.

Born in Boston on March 30, 1750, MBS President William Phillips was not healthy enough to receive a college education. Coming from both a wealthy and benevolent family (William’s two uncles founded Phillips Academy), William devoted his life to managing and distributing his father’s fortune.

For many years he was a state representative, eventually becoming Lieutenant Governor of the Commonwealth. He was a deacon at Old South Church from March 24, 1794 until his death on May 26, 1827, just a few months after his son Edward’s passing.

Although his early health was poor, it did not stop him from becoming involved in Society and societies. At the time of his death not only was he President of the Massachusetts Bible Society (as he had been since our founding), but was also President of The American Education Society, The Society for Propagating the Gospel, The Foreign Mission Society of Boston, The Congregational Charitable Society, the General Hospital Corporation, The Boston Dispensary and was an honorary Vice President in several other organizations both locally and in other parts of the country.

He was as liberal with his money as with his time and generally contributed between eight and eleven thousand dollars each year to a variety of charitable causes, including, of course, MBS. He bequeathed $62,000 to charitable organizations upon his death.

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The Honorable Jonathan Phillips

Born to founder William Phillips on April 24, 1778, Jonathan Phillips graduated from Harvard college in 1818, worked in the dry-goods and hardware business, and served as a state senator. He married the daughter of founder Samuel Salisbury.

He was known for both his intelligence and his wealth, which he shared generously in imitation of his father. He was the largest benefactor in Boston of an expedition to the arctic, gave $10,000 dollars to build a music hall and another $10,000 to the Boston Public Library.

Known for his steady demeanor, he was chosen to chair a particularly heated debate on December 8, 1837 at Faneuil Hall dealing with the murder of abolitionist Elijah Lovejoy, at which his good friend William Ellery Channing and his cousin Wendell Phillips also spoke.

He was part of a gathering of intellectuals called “The Friends,” and was a trustee of Massachusetts General Hospital and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Jonathan Phillips died on July 29, 1860.


The Honorable John Phillips

Although twenty years his junior, John Phillips was the cousin of MBS President William Phillips. He was born in Boston on Nov. 26, 1770 and married founder Samuel H. Walley’s sister, making the founders’ bond tighter still.

John Phillips graduated from Harvard College in 1788, studied law, became a prosecutor, and then served in the Massachusetts Senate, serving as that body’s president from 1813-1823. A noted orator, he gave the fourth of July oration before the people of Boston in 1794. Those were skills he passed to his son, the noted orator and abolitionist, Wendell Phillips.

John Phillips took part in the Constitutional Convention for the State of Massachusetts in 1820 and was part of the group that drew the first charter for the City of Boston in 1822. He was subsequently elected the city’s first mayor on April 16, 1822.

Always interested in education, he was a Trustee of Phillips Academy and also part of the Corporation of Harvard College, a seat that he maintained until his death on May 29, 1823. It was written of him that In politics he was fixed, but not stern; wary, but not suspicious; courteous in manner, but unyielding in principle—his independence never approximated to rudeness, nor could his condescension be mistaken for fear. His political friends and opposers knew where to find him, and the former never feared that he would trim for popularity, nor the latter ever led to suspect that he might be seduced by flattery or the promise of rewards.”

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Mr. Edward Phillips

Edward Phillips was born on June 24, 1782 and became a merchant, serving as a deacon at Old South Church starting on May 8, 1817. The son of MBS President William Phillips and brother to Jonathan Phillips, Edward’s last words were “God has given me the victory.” He died at 45 years of age on June 24, 1782.

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Mr. William Perkins

Born in Boston in 1742, William Perkins (along with founder Moses Grant) was known best for his role in the Revolution. His military career is recorded by the Sons of the Revolution: “William Perkins was Lieut. in Callender's Co. at battle of Bunker Hill, afterwards Captain of same Company. He was Captain in Knox's Regt. of Artillery, 1st January, 1776, in Crane's Regt. Artillery, January, 1777; commissioned Major of same, September 12, 1778 ; was at Valley Forge 1777-78 ; commanded the “Castle" in Boston Harbor till ceded to United States in 1798, with rank of Lieut. Colonel; was member of the Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati.”

His grandson of the same name was born in 1804, was long the treasurer of the Society of the Cincinnati and was a prominent member of King’s Chapel, making it likely that the Revolutionary War hero was indeed the man on our founding list. He died in 1812.

The Lynn Western Burial Ground has a large number of Revolutionary War heroes and although the date of death is obscured on the stone, the following inscription probably belongs to our Mr. Perkins:

“Here lyes Buried the Body of Mr. William Perkins, a Gentleman of liberall Education, he was bred at Harvard College & Commenced Master of Arts there in ye Year 1761. He was justly admired for his uncommon Abilities Natural & acquired his Literature exemplary Piety Modesty Meekness and many other Humane & Christian Virtues which rendered him lovely in every Relation of Life.”

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