BEDFORD - (Continued.)
BY REV. IRA C. TYSON. 1
To gather up the records of the past and present, and faithfully transmit them to the future, is a duty which one
generation owes to another. Especially is this true with reference to the history of God's people, whose experiences
of faith afford an illustration of Divine grace and mercy.
The early struggles of the church of Christ in the New World, its growth and development amidst all the adversities
through which it passed, its aspect as a moral and spiritual power in the land during this centennial year, with
the grand future which seems to open up before it, are points of ever-increasing interest as the lapse of time
brings us nearer to the glorious consummation.
A general interest attaches to the history of the New England churches. In all the great cities of the West, and
in every village and hamlet, are to be found the representatives of these old New England towns. To them, as well
as to ourselves, the history of the church in which their early lot was cast, and within whose walls there cluster
to many precious memories, must ever be a matter of absorbing interest. To gather up these recollections of the
past as connected with the Presbyterian Church in Bedford is the object we have at present especially in view.
This task is the more pleasing from the fact that in all its history this church has sustained an honorable record.
Its early struggles the blessings of Divine grace which have been visited upon it, along with the general character
of its ministry, afford us material for the most pleasant retrospect, and give us facts to make up a history which
no church need wish to forget.
The Presbyterian Church in Bedford claims a common origin with those who planted the venerable church in Londonderry,
N. H. Although the date of its organization is a few years later, yet the most of the original settlers came direct
from Londonderry to Bedford. In the original memorial to Governor Shute, of Massachusetts, dated 1718, wherein
the memorialists, "Inhabitants of ye north of Ireland," requested encouragement to come to this country
and settle, we find many names of those who were closely identified with the early history of this town. They trace
their origin, therefore, back to Scotland, and to Scottish Presbyterianism. Their ancestors were the men who came
from Argyleshire, in 1612, to the counties of Ulster, Antrim and Londonderry, in the north of Ireland, who were
foremost in the memorable siege of Londonderry, by which the Papal restoration in England, under James II., was
successfully resisted; and who, having thus fought for their liberties, especially for the liberty to worship God,
refused conformity to the Church Establishment, and chose rather to suffer the privations of a life in the wilderness
than yield to the dictation of a persecuting hierarchy.
While the most of the early settlers of Bedford were thus of Scottish extraction, receiving the title of Scotch-Irish,
because of their temporary residence in the north of Ireland, there was, also, a Puritanical element in the early
settlement of the town. The government of Massachusetts, claiming jurisdiction over the province of New Hampshire,
gave to the soldiers who fought in the Indian War of 1675, commonly known as the Narragansett War, grants of land
in various places in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. These grants of land were numbered from one to seven. No.
5 comprehended all the territory of the present town of Bedford, with that portion of the town of Merrimack lying
north of the Souhegan River and west of the Merrimack, with so much of Manchester as is embraced within the present
limits of Piscataquog. These lines were altered at a more recent date.
The tract of land thus assigned to the Narragansett soldiers received the name of Souhegan East. A few of the original
proprietors only became actual settlers, the others for the most part selling out their rights to those who were
willing to enter and occupy the land. Those who came were mostly from towns in the vicinity of Boston, and were
probably of Puritanic extraction. But the Scotch-Irish element, in a short time, largely predominated.
The Scotch-Irish and Puritans, however they may have differed in national characteristics, made common cause in
religious principle. The same religious persecution which drove the Puritans from England forced the Presbyterians
of the north of Ireland to seek for freedom and independence in these western wilds. They were alike men of deep
religious convictions, and made the service of God the principal business of life. It was because of these deep
convictions that they were willing to give up the comforts
1 A Historical Discourse.
270 HISTORY OF HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, NEW HAMPSHIRE.
and luxuries of civilized society, and endure the privations that are incident to the settlement of a new country.
The very first duty to which they turned their attention was the building of a meeting-house and the settlement
of an ordained ministry. To secure these privileges at the earliest opportunity, lands were set off in the original
grant for the first minister who should settle among them, and other lands for the use of the ministry afterwards.
At that early day the idea of the church and state existing independently of each other, however it may have existed
in the minds of some, had not been practically carried out to any extent. We find, therefore, that the business
of the church, as well as that of the town, was all done in town-meeting. The town voted to build meeting-houses,
to support the gospel, to call ministers, to apply for their dismission and everything else pertaining to the cause
of religion. This may account for the fact that we have no sessional records of this church prior to the year 1804,
or any other church records except those which are found in regular reports of the town.
The meeting of Narragansett grantees, at which they divided themselves into seven distinct societies, and assigned
Souhegan East to No. 6, was held in Boston Common, June 6, 1733.
The proprietors of No. 5 took immediate measures to have their land divided up into lots for occupancy, and voted
that each alternate lot should be marked for a settler. The land was then an unbroken wilderness; nor does it appear
that there were any actual settlers in the town until the fall of 1737. The proprietors, however, continued to
hold meetings in Boston, and in the winter of 1737-38, a number of settlers having taken up lands in the town,
the question of building a meeting-house began to be discussed. At a proprietor's meeting in February, 1738, a
committee was chosen to fix upon the cost and dimensions of a meeting-house, and to report. They even went so far
at this meeting as to locate the proposed meeting-house "on a knoll of common land, about twenty-five rods
eastward of the Eleventh Range." Subsequently, the southern part of Souhegan East was set off to Merrimack,
which necessitated the location of the meeting-house in another place. But the "knoll" referred to took
the name of "Meeting-House Hill," and is so called to this day.
For the convenience of non-settlers, the meetings of the proprietors continued to be held in Boston, at the house
of Luke Verdy, inn-holder, and also at the house of Pelatiah Glover, sign of the "Three Horseshoes."
At these meetings the question of building a meeting-house continued to be earnestly discussed. Several times it
was put to vote whether they should proceed to build, but each time negatived. The settlers were as yet few in
number, their means limited and the way did not appear to be open to begin the building of a meeting-house. Money,
however, was raised for the purpose and placed in the hands of a building committee. The names of this committee
were Edward White, John Goffe and Moses Barron.
The settlers, however, were not altogether destitute of religious privileges. At several of the proprietors' meetings,
held from 1738 to 1748, they voted money to pay for preaching, appointed committees to secure the same and named
the places where preaching services should be held. The sums thus raised provided for only a part of the time;
the rest of the year they were accustomed to go to Londonderry, a distance of twelve miles, crossing the Merrimack
River at Goffe's Falls and performing the journey, many of them, on foot.
The first Presbytery in New England was organized at Londonderry, April 16, 1745. It was called the Presbytery
of Boston. It was composed of Rev. John Moorhead, of the Federal Street Presbyterian Church, Boston; Rev. Robert
Abercombie, of Pelham, N. H.; and Rev. David McGregore, or Londonderry, with the congregations under their charge.
The elders who met with them were James McKean, Alexander Conkey and James Heughs. They voted "To act so far
as their present circumstances would permit them, according to the word of God and constitution of the Presbyterian
Church of Scotland, agreeing with that perfect Rule." At a meeting held in Boston, 1746, this Presbytery licensed
its first candidate to preach the gospel. His name was Daniel Mitchell, a native of the north of Ireland and a
graduate of the University of Edinburgh.
At a meeting of the Presbytery of Boston, held in Boston, November 11, 1747, we find the first reference to Souhegan
East. The following is the minute upon the records of Presbytery:
"Upon application made by Andrew Cochran, in ye name of the Inhabitants of Souheggen and Litchfield, for Mr.
Mitchell to supply them for a time, the Presbytery appointed him to supply them until the second Sabbath of March
At a meeting held in Pelham, June 14, 1748, Mr. Mitchell reported "that he had obeyed the appointment of Presbytery
and their committee."
There were, doubtless, other men who supplied them before this; but Mr. Mitchell's name is the first which appears
in any of the records; certainly the first sent them by the Presbytery. In their application we observe their attachment
to Presbyterian order and their desire to secure the institutions of religion among them. Mr. Mitchell was afterward
settled over the Presbyterian Church at Pembroke, N. H., and died December 16, 1776.
At the same meeting of Presbytery at which Mr. Mitchell reported, Pelham, June 14, 1748, another petition for supply
was made from "Swaheggen." At the same meeting Rev. David McGregore presented the name of Mr. Alexander
Boyd, a young man of a liberal education. He produced certificate of his attending the study of divinity at the
University of Glasgow, and having submitted to a thorough exam-
ination and subscribed to the Confession of Faith, he was licensed to preach the gospel.
At the next meeting of Presbytery, Londonderry, October 4, 1748, "Presbytery thought proper that Mr. Boyd
should supply Kingstown the next three Sabbaths and then immediately after four Sabbaths to Litchfield and Swaheggen."
It would appear from a subsequent minute that Mr. Boyd, having received a call to Kingstown, did not fulfil his
The date of the ecclesiastical organization of the church in Bedford has long been a matter of doubt. It is not
given in any of the town records, nor does it appear in our published town history, except the general statement,
(p. 140,) that it was organized by the Boston Presbytery. The recent recovery of a portion of the old records of
this Presbytery enables us to fix the exact date of organization, and I here insert the minute in full, as a most
important fact for future preservation.
The Presbytery of Boston met in Boston August 15, 1749. The members present were Rev. John Moorhead, Boston; Rev.
Jonathan Parsons, Newbury; Rev. David McGregore, Londonderry; Rev. Robert Abercrombie, Pelham. Elders, Richard
MacCleur, Ralph Cross, John Craig. Mr. Abercrombie presided as moderator. In the proceeding of this meeting appears
the following minute:
"Mr. Patten appeared as Commissioner from Souheggan, presenting a memorial, wherein that people acknowledge
their subjection to the Presbytery, and petition for supplys."
Thus we learn that nine months before the incorporation of the town, and while the settlers were yet destitute
of a place of worship, they made application and were received under the care of Presbytery, and became a regular
Presbyterian Church. Their meetings for worship were held in different parts of the town and in private houses.
The Mr. Patten referred to was probably Samuel Patten, as he, with Moses Barren and Thomas Vicary, were appointed
a committee at the proprietors' meeting to provide preaching that year. The Presbytery held another meeting at
Londonderry in October of the same year. Souhegan again petitioned for supplies, and "Mr. Boyd was appointed
to supply Litchfield two Sabbaths, Souhegan two and Suncook one."
The settlers, being desirous of securing more effective measures for supporting the gospel, and for their better
government as a people, now petitioned the Governor of the province, Benning Wentworth, Esq., for an act of incorporation,
giving as a particular reason for the petition that, "having been long destitute of the gospel, we are now
desirous of taking the proper steps in order to have it settled among us." They also stated that "your
petitioners, as to our particular persuasion in Christianity, are generally of the Presbyterian denomination,"
and they wished the gospel settled among them "in that way of discipline which they judged to tend most to
Governor Wentworth laid the petition before the Council, and, on the 19th of May, 1750, the act of incorporation
was passed, the district vested with town privileges and the place named Bedford.
Mr. Boyd, having fulfilled his appointment of the preceding October, Presbytery again appointed him, on the 5th
of June 1750, in accordance with petitions offered for supplies, "to preach ten Sabbaths at Souhegan, Suncook
In the mean time the inhabitants of the town of Bedford, acting in the spirit and intent of their petition for
incorporation, at once called a legal meeting and took measures to secure a settled ministry. The first meeting
after incorporation assembled, June 6, 1750, in Matthew Patten's house, and thence adjourned to his barn. Here
it was voted that the minister be entertained at Samuel Patten's, at the charge of the town. On July 3d they voted
one hundred and fifty pounds, old tenor, for preaching during the year, and, on the 7th of August, 1850, "Voted
there be a call given to Rev. Mr. Alexander Boyd to the work of the ministry of this town," with a salary
of three hundred pounds, old tenor, if he would accept.
Captain John Goffe, Deacon John Orr and Mr. Hugh Riddle were appointed a committee to prosecute the call to the
It is doubtful whether this call was ever formally presented to Mr. Boyd. I find no record of it in the proceedings
of Presbytery, and an article in the town warrant, called for January 21st of the following year, was, "To
inquire what is the reason why the committee for providing preaching to the town are so negligent in that business."
It is probable these brethren had good reason for their "neglect," as Mr. Boyd had been "sharply
rebuked" by his Presbytery for effecting a clandestine marriage before leaving Glasgow, and passing himself
in this country for an unmarried man. The Presbytery, however, continued his appointments, on his making a full
acknowledgement, expressing his sorrow and promising to adhere to her as his wife. This acknowledgement was unsatisfactory,
and Mr. Boyd was afterward summoned before a committee of Presbytery to account for his conduct. It is not to be
wondered at, therefore, that negotiations for his settlement in Bedford were at once terminated.
The question of building a meeting-house now began to be agitated anew, and, at a town-meeting, January 24, 1750,
a committee was chosen for the purpose.
Considerable difficulty arose as to the location of the meeting-house, the choice lying between the east or west
end of what was known as the Bell Hill, immediately south of what is now the centre of the town.
Not being able to agree, they summoned three friends from Londonderry to decide the question for them. This committee
chose the east of the hill, but their decision was equally unsatisfactory.
272 HISTORY OF HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, NEW HAMPSHIRE.
The building committee proceeded to prepare the timber for the meeting-house, and, finally, having abandoned both
ends of Bell Hill, at a town-meeting, held September 26, 1755, it was voted unanimously to locate the meeting-house
on land bought for the purpose, being part of No. 13 and 14 in the Tenth Range. Here the meeting-house was afterwards
In the mean time the people continued their efforts to secure a settled ministry.
At a meeting of Presbytery, in Boston, 1751, application was received from "Bedford, alias Souhegan,"
for a supply at discretion. At another meeting, in Boston, August 13, 1751, "Received a supplication from
Bedford, pleading for a supply."
At a meeting of Presbytery, at Londonderry, October 29, 1752, supplications were received from Palmer District,
Canterbury, Colrain, North Rutland, Litchfield, Derryfield, Bedford and Suncook. At this meeting Mr. Alexander
MacDowell, a licentiate of Presbytery, was appointed to supply a part of the time at "Bedford, Litchfield,
Derryfield and Suncook."
Mr. MacDowell fulfilled his appointments with reference to Derryfield and Bedford, both places giving him a call,
the people of Derryfield proposing to unite with Bedford in having him settled over the two places.
An article was put in the town warrant to see if they would unite with Derryfield in this call.
On the 28th of March, 1753, the town voted not to join with Derryfield, and, at the same meeting, voted a unanimous
call to Mr. MacDowell, with one hundred pounds, old tenor, if he accept, and a committee appointed to prosecute
the call to Presbytery. In July of the same year another committee was chosen "to prosecute the call for Mr.
MacDowell to the 'Rev'd Presbytery,' and to procure preaching till the next annual meeting." Mr. MacDowell,
however, did not accept the call.
Mr. Samuel MacClintock was licensed to preach the gospel by the Presbytery of Boston, October 29, 1752. On the
14th of August, 1753, Mr. MacClintock was directed by Presbytery to supply half the time at Bedford, the other
half at Litchfield, Derryfield and Suncook, till next meeting. This appointment was renewed on the following November,
and his labors in Bedford gave evident satisfaction. At a town-meeting, October 1, 1754, it was voted, unanimously,
"to give Mr. Samuel MacClintock a call to the work of the ministry in the town of Bedford." In the following
January Presbytery renewed its appointment of Mr. MacClintock to supply Bedford, in connection with Windham, Litchfield,
Derryfield and Suncook. The people seem to have been very anxious to secure the services of Mr. MacClintock. They
voted him ?107 10s., new tenor, for his yearly stipend, took measures to lay a tax upon the unimproved land in
the town to build him a house, and agreed to cut twenty cords of wood annually for five years, and draw it to his
house, if he would accept. They also appointed Samuel Patten a commissioner to prosecute the call to the Presbytery.
At a meeting of Presbytery, August 22, 1754, held at Newbury, appears this minute, -
"The people of Bedford having sent a Petition to ye 'Presbytery requesting them to send one or more of their
number some convenient time between this and next meeting to moderate a call to Mr. Samuel MacClintock, the Presbytery
thereupon appointed Mr. MacGregore to perform that piece of service."
At the same meeting they voted that "Bedford shall have their proportion of time wholly in Mr. MacClintock."
The following November this appointment was renewed.
Mr. MacClintock did not accept this call, but negotiations with him continued. At a town-meeting May 6, 1756, it
was voted to renew the call made to him previously, at the same annual stipend, with this additional inducement,
that he should have nine Sabbaths to his own use during each year, till the town should feel able to pay him for
all or a part of those nine Sabbaths, for which they would allow him ten pounds, old tenor, per Sabbath.
The people of Bedford were not mistaken as to the character of the man whom they thus desired to settle over them.
Mr. MacClintock afterwards became one of the honored members of the New Hampshire ministry. He was graduated at
Princeton, 1751, settled at Greenland, N. H., 1756, served as chaplain in the army during the Revolutionary War,
admitted to an ad eundum Master's degree at Harvard, 1761, received the title of D.D. at Yale, 1791, and after
a ministry of forty-eight years at Greenland, died there in 1804.
During the time of these unsuccessful efforts to secure a settled ministry the work on the meeting-house continued
slowly. The carpenters who did the work complained that they were losing money on it, and the town voted them thirty
pounds, old tenor, additional. At length the work had so far progressed that the town-meeting, which had been previously
held in barns, was called to assemble "at the meeting-house frame," April 21, 1756. The accommodations,
however, seem to have been unsatisfactory, as they continued to assemble in barns for some time afterward.
Rev. John Houston, the first settled pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Bedford, was born in Londonderry, N.
H., in ___, 1723. The family belonged to the old Scotch-Irish stock, the name of Robert Houston appearing in the
memorial addressed to Governor Shute in 1718. Mr. Houston was educated in the College of New Jersey, which was
then located at Newark, 1 and graduated in 1753. Rev. Aaron Burr (father of the Vice-President of the United States)
was then president of the college, and gave to Mr. Houston, on his leaving college, the following letter, which
is still extant, and written in a clear, bold hand:
1 Removed to Princeton in 1756.
"This may certify all concerned, that Mr. John Houston has for some time been a member of New Jersey College,
and sound in communion with ye church of Christ in this place, and behaved himself according to the Rules of the
"A. BURR, Ps'd.
"Sept. 28, 1753."
On his return to Londonderry, Mr. Houston studied divinity under Rev. David McGregore; and having placed himself
under the care of Presbytery, parts of trial were assigned him, with a view to licensure. The subject of his Latin
exegesis was "An Dei Beneplacitum sit solum electionis fundamen," - a homily on 1 John iv. 18. After
having been examined in systematic and experimental divinity, and branches of humane literature, and subscribed
to the formula, he was, May 14, 1754, licensed to preach the gospel, being then about thirty-one years of age.
The examination was creditable to Mr. Houston, his classical and theological learning being above the average.
Presbytery made a minute of the fact that he had received the honors of the college at Newark. Mr. Houston was
immediately appointed to supply one Sabbath each at Windham, Bedford, Suncook and Nottingham, and afterwards two
days at a time at Windham and Bedford.
The negotiations with Mr. MacClintock having failed, the people now turned their attention to Mr. Houston, and
at a town-meeting, August 5, 1756, it was "voted unanimously to give Mr. John Houston a call to the work of
the ministry in this town." A committee was appointed to treat with him. At an adjourned meeting, August 7th,
it was voted to give him "six hundred pounds, old tenor, or new tenor equal thereto;" but this vote was,
on the 30th of the month, reconsidered, and it was finally agreed to give him "equal to forty pounds sterling
in old tenor, as the law shall fix the rate of dollars or sterling money, and that what number of Sabbath-days
they should think themselves unable to pay he should have, to his own use, deducted out of the aforesaid sum."
It was also ordered that the committee should agree with Mr. McGregore to moderate in a call, should Mr. Houston
The work on the meeting-house still went on slowly. Special committees were appointed, one to "shingle and
board it," another to procure sashes and put them in, another to underpin and another still to lay the floors
and make the doors and window-frames. There was no contract-work; all had to be done by committee, and sometimes,
the committees refusing to serve, others had to be appointed, which caused much delay, and must have been vexatious.
But, however slow the progress, they paid as they went, and thus avoided the burden of a debt.
The winter of 1756 wore along, and it was still uncertain whether Mr. Houston would accept his call; the town appointed
other committees to procure preaching. At length, however, Mr. Houston signified his acceptance of the call, and
in July of 1757 "forty pounds" were voted to defray the charges of the ordination.
Mr. Houston was ordained as pastor of the church of Bedford on the 28th of September, 1757. The ordination sermon
was preached by Rev. Jonathan Parsons, of Newbury, from 1 Timothy i. 2. Rev. David McGregore gave the charge, and
other ministers took part in the services. From Matthew Patten's journal we learn that the text of Mr. Houston's
first sermon after his ordination was "Fear no, little flock; it is your Father's good pleasure to give you're
the kingdom." "Very appropriate," says Mr. Savage, "as it must have been a small church in
the midst of the wilderness."
On his settlement, Mr. Houston, as first pastor, according to the provision of the original proprietors, came into
possession of certain lands in the town. The people of Merrimack having then no settled ministry, and being, many
of them, of the Presbyterian persuasion, attended worship in Bedford. This was somewhat inconvenient, and in 1758
the town voted to allow the people of Merrimack who paid rates to support the gospel in Bedford "so many Sabbath-days
of our Rev'd Pastor's time for public worship, to be held at John Burns', as they pay in proportion with us toward
his annual salary for the present year, if our Rev'd pastor be willing."
The details of Mr. Houston's ministry are such as were common to the New England ministry of that time. There were
many hardships, incident to the building up of a church in a new country, but he addressed himself to the work
with zeal and energy, and during his pastorate the church gradually increased in strength and influence. He gave
especial attention to catechetical instruction, and was much interested in the young people of his charge. He was
conscientious and earnest in his piety, devoted to the cause of his Master, and labored earnestly for the spiritual
welfare of the people under his charge. During the earlier years of his ministry he seems to have enjoyed the respect
and confidence of his people, and was happy in his relations with them. But at the beginning of the Revolutionary
War general dissatisfaction arose against him, because of his adherence to the cause of the mother-country. In
taking this position Mr. Houston was undoubtedly conscientious, and acted in accordance with what he believed to
be the will of God in the matter. Time has sufficiently demonstrated that he erred in judgment. But we who are
removed from those scenes of intense excitement can afford to impute to him only such motives as were dictated
by what he understood as his duty in the matter. In giving a faithful record of the facts as they occurred, it
is due to the memory of one who, in all other respects, bore an irreproachable character, to regard this great
mistake of his life as resulting from an error of the head and not of the heart.
The first intimation we have of a feeling of disaffection of the people of Bedford against their pastor appears
in a call for a town-meeting, dated May 2,
274 HISTORY OF HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, NEW HAMPSHIRE.
1775. It was immediately after the news of the battle of Lexington, and the excitement of the people throughout
New England was at the highest pitch. The article in the warrant was "To see what method the town will take
relating to Rev. John Houston in these troublesome times, as we apprehend his praying and preaching to be calculated
to intimidate the minds of his hearers and to weaken their hands in defense of their just rights and liberties,
as there seems a plan to be laid by Parliament to destroy both." The meeting, which was called for the 16th
of May, voted to shut the doors of the church against the pastor and to stop the payment of his salary till he
should come to a sense of his duty. Mr. Houston made a statement of his position to the town, but it was declared
to be unsatisfactory.
On the 15th of June, 1775, the town voted his dismission, and adopted a strong resolution condemning his course.
As Presbyterians, however, they recognized the fact that he was still pastor of the church. It had been the practice
in former years to vote him a certain number of Sabbaths to himself, ranging from four to ten. At the meeting of
March 27, 1776, they voted him the whole year to his own use. In the mean time they requested him to join with
them in their application to Presbytery for a dissolution of the pastoral relation, and a committee was appointed
for that purpose.
At the formation of the Synod of New England, at Seabrook, N. H., May 31, 1775, three Presbyteries were constituted
out of the old Boston Presbytery, namely: the Eastern, or Presbytery of Salem; the Middle, or Presbytery of Londonderry;
and Western, or Presbytery of Palmer. On the division of these Presbyteries, Mr. Houston and his congregation were
united to the Presbytery of Palmer, and he was directed by Synod to convene the new Presbytery and moderate the
first meeting. The position he had taken on the state of the country, however, had rendered him unpopular with
his ministerial brethren, and the unfriendliness resulting therefrom led him to omit the duty assigned him by the
Synod. Thereupon the Synod directed the Rev. Moses Baldwin, of Kingston, to act in his stead, and Mr. Houston having
promised that he would satisfy both the civil authority and the Synod for the course he had taken, was recommended
to bring the evidence of such satisfaction to his Presbytery, and through them to the Synod. This action was taken
in September, 1776, more than a year after his dismission by the act of the town, and while he was as yet ecclesiastically,
although not practically, pastor of the church.
The Synod met at Londonderry, September 3, 1777. At this meeting a committee from Bedford appeared and asked the
advice of Synod respecting their troubles with their pastor. Mr. Houston, being present, was interrogated as to
his promise to give satisfaction to Synod respecting his conduct. It appearing that he had not done so, he was
deemed guilty of a breach of promise and contempt of Synod, and deprived of his seat in the body until he should
give satisfaction to the Synod for his conduct, either directly or through his Presbytery. The committee from Bedford
was also directed to bring the matter of their grievances before their Presbytery in the regular way.
The following year, September 3, 1778, at Londonderry, the Synod reaffirmed its action respecting Mr. Houston,
declaring his contempt of Synod to be highly blamable, but promised to recommend him to the churches as a member
in good standing on his compliance with their requisition. At this meeting of Synod, Bedford congregation and Mr.
Houston were annexed to the Presbytery of Londonderry, and that Presbytery was directed to take cognizance of their
affairs. Before the adjournment of the meeting, however, the troubles in Bedford again came up for discussion,
and, both parties agreeing, the Synod passed the following resolution:
"Whereas, There appears to be a dissatisfaction among the people of Bedford relative to the Rev. Mr. Houston,
whereby he is not likely to be useful among them in the ministry, by consent of both parties, this Synod do dissolve
his pastoral relation to said congregation."
Mr. Houston is described as having been of a stern and inflexible disposition, but the progress of the war, coupled
with the almost universal condemnation of his countrymen, led him, subsequently, to modify his position. He had
stood out in defense of his views to the point of surrendering his pastoral charge and losing his standing in the
Synod. But now, being left free to act according to his own will, he appeared before the authorities of the State
and took the oath of allegiance, of which the following is a copy:
"State of New Hampshire: In Committee of Safety, October 28, 1778.
"This may certify all persons that the Rev. John Houston has taken the oath of allegiance and fidelity to
this, and the United States of America.
"Attest: M. WEARE, Chairman."
At the meeting of Synod, at Windham, the following year, September 15, 1779, Mr. Houston's name appears on the
roll of Synod, and also the following minute in the record of its proceedings:
"A report being given by Mr. Stickland and Mr. Williams that the Rev. Mr. Houston brought from the State of
New Hampshire a testimonial satisfactory to this Synod, do now restore him to full standing with this body."
Mr. Houston's name appeared on the roll of Synod up to the time of its dissolution, 1782. He remained in connection
with the Presbytery of Salem, which succeeded the Synod, until 1785, when, in June of that year, at a meeting in
Sylvester, the Presbytery gave him the following letter of dismission and recommendation:
"Voted, unanimously, that the Rev. John Houston (agreeable to his petition to us) be dismissed from this body,
and recommended to the churches wherever God in his Providence may call him."
He afterwards united with the Associate Presbytery. Mr. Houston continued his residence in Bedford,
Preaching as he had opportunity, and making, occasionally, what might be called missionary tours into Northern
New Hampshire and Vermont. He died February 3, 1798, aged seventy-five years.
From the time of Mr. Houston's dismission, 1778, until 1804, a period of twenty-six years, the church was without
a stated pastor. How it survived this long period without the stated preaching of the gospel it is difficult now
to understand. The whole period is almost a total blank with respect to any matters of historical interest. The
names of Benjamin Smith and James Little (elders) occasionally appear on the rolls of Presbytery and Synod as delegates
In the records of the town we find that a certain sum of money was voted annually to provide preaching. Rev. William
Pickles, a native of Wales, and a man of considerable pulpit power, supplied them statedly about two years, from
1787 to 1789, but aside from this there was no regular preaching in the town. During this long period of destitution
the church members became much scattered, and there was almost no spirituality in the church. No revivals of religion
are recorded, and it would seem that there had as yet been no general religious interest in the church from the
beginning of its history, although there were, undoubtedly, some conversions under the ministry of Mr. Houston.
Towards the close of the century there were decided indications of a desire to secure again a settled ministry.
It was voted in town-meeting that the money appropriated for preaching should be used only for those who would
come as candidates, and the committees appointed to secure the same were desired to apply to Presbytery for supplies
in a regular way. Early in the beginning of the century six new elders were appointed to serve with those already
in office, and Rev. Mr. Morrison, of Londonderry, was invited to ordain them and administer the Lord's Supper.
March 6, 1804, the town voted a call to the Rev. David McGregore, of Londonderry, and in May of the following year
Mr. McGregore accepted the same.
On the 5th of September, 1804, Rev. David McGregore was ordained and installed pastor of the church in Bedford
by the Presbytery of Londonderry, Rev. Dr. Morrison, of Londonderry, preaching the sermon.
Mr. McGregore completed his collegiate course at Dartmouth College in 1799, and studied for the ministry under
Dr. Morrison. Upon his settlement in Bedford the affairs of the church assumed altogether a more favorable aspect.
Meetings of session were recorded and delegates regularly chosen to attend meetings of Presbytery. In 1806 a regular
system of ministerial visitation was inaugurated, in which the elders alternately accompanied the minister. Numbers
were added to the church from time to time, and church discipline was more strictly observed. The year 1818 was
marked by a state of general religious interest, and during the year twenty-two persons were received into communion
with the church.
Mr. McGregore was a man of superior social qualities, and commanded the respect of his congregation, as well as
of his brethren in the ministry. Many of those who united with the church under his preaching became eminent for
usefulness, remaining firm in their attachment to the cause of the Master to the end of life. A few of them survive
to the present day, and still bear witness to the earnest gospel preaching and ministerial fidelity of the pastor
through whom they were converted to Christ.
During the earlier part of his ministry Mr. McGregore labored as a missionary in connection with the New Hampshire
Domestic Missionary Society, extending his tours into the northern section of the State. His labors were blest
in the awakening of considerable religious interest in the places where he preached.
The relations of Mr. McGregore with the people of his charge were marked by harmony and good-will throughout. During
his ministry the church increased in strength and influence, the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper were
regularly and more frequently administered and the general tone of morals and religion improved. He was a man of
sound doctrinal views and of good pulpit ability. His sermons, some of which are still extant in manuscript, evince
a logical mind and a diligent study of the Holy Scriptures. He is spoken of as having faithfully preached the gospel,
enforcing the practical duties of religion with great fidelity.
In April, 1825, Mr. McGregore apprised his church of his desire for a dissolution of the pastoral relation, and
requested them to unite with him in application to Presbytery for the same. Accordingly, the Londonderry Presbytery,
at its meeting at Nottingham West (now Hudson), on the last Wednesday in April, 1826, dissolved the pastoral relation
between Mr. McGregore and the church in Bedford. Mr. McGregore removed to Falmouth, in Maine, in 1831, and died
there October 18, 1845, aged seventy-four. He was the nephew of Rev. David McGregore, and great-grandson of Rev.
James McGregore, the first minister of Londonderry. His pastorate continued twenty-one years, as did that of Mr.
About the time of Mr. McGregore's dismissal a Presbyterian Society was formed in the town, in accordance with the
laws of the State, and to it the general affairs of the church were committed. While, therefore, the town negotiated
with Mr. McGregore on the terms of his dismissal, nothing appears in the records with regard to the call of his
On the 5th of July, 1826, Rev. Thomas Savage was installed pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Bedford by the
Presbytery of Londonderry, being its third settled minister. The sermon on the occasion was preached by the Rev.
Dr. Whiton, of Antrim, N. H.
276 HISTORY OF HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, NEW HAMPSHIRE.
Mr. Savage was born in Boston, September 2, 1793. He prepared for college at Phillips Academy, Andover, and graduated
at Harvard in 1813, the eleventh of his family who had graduated at that institution. Having pursued the study
of theology for three years at Cambridge, he accepted an invitation to become a private tutor in Louisiana. About
this time he experienced a change of views with respect to the system of theology he had adopted, and finished
his preparation under the care of the Mississippi Presbytery. By that body he was ordained to the work of the ministry
in 1822, and preached two years at Baton Rouge.
Returning North in 1824, he supplied the pulpit of Dr. Colman, of Dorchester, for one year, during his absence,
and immediately after received his first invitation to preach in this town.
Mr. Savage entered upon his life-work here under very encouraging circumstances. He was young, vigorous, finely
educated and fully imbued with the spirit and energy needed for his work. He was earnest in his piety, remarkable
for the urbanity of his manners and for the genial kindness of his disposition. He was, withal, an eloquent preacher,
possessing superior pulpit address and power, and soon won to himself the affection of his people, the esteem of
his ministerial brethren and the respect and confidence of the people of that part of the State where, during his
long pastorate, his name became the synonym, not of what it literally imported, but of those virtues which are
the embodiment of a perfect Christian gentleman. Politeness - genuine Christian politeness - was, in fact, his
distinguishing characteristic. To a temperament naturally genial were added the refinements of education and the
graces of the Christian life, making him, says Dr. Wallace, in his memorial discourse, "a model for the young,
a pattern for the Christian and an example to be imitated by that profession to which he was an ornament."
In the freshness and vigor of his early life Mr. Savage devoted himself to the work of the ministry, and the results
of his labors were soon apparent. He immediately brought to the attention of the Session the duty of systematic
visitation, and a plan was adopted that had for its object "a revival of religion," by bringing the question
personally to the attention of all. The town was divided up into districts, and committees of visitation appointed
to go from house to house, pledging themselves "unitedly to engage in the work, immediately to go about it,
and not to grow cold or weary in it." The Sabbath-school, which had been previously held in school-houses,
without much interest, was now transferred to the church and held during intervals of Divine service, with happy
effects. On the 11th of October, 1827, a Thursday afternoon prayer-meeting was commenced, which has continued without
interruption until the present day, now almost fifty years. In 1829 a temperance reform began and a temperance
society was formed, through the joint influence of Mr. Savage, and a temperance discourse delivered by Dr. Justin
Edwards. The result of this movement was, that whereas seven places were licensed in the town during 1829, by the
selectmen, for the sale of ardent spirits, only two were licensed the following year.
These Christian efforts were ordered, in the Providence of God, as preliminary to that wonderful work of grace
which swept over the country in 1831. The church in Bedford was partaker, to a large degree, in that revival season,
and accessions were made at that time which have had a lasting influence upon the church and the word. At the May
communion of that year five were added on profession of faith; in September, ninety-one; and the following January,
seventeen, making one hundred and thirteen in all. This was certainly a most encouraging result for the young pastor,
and for a country church it certainly evinces a work of no ordinary magnitude. Many of those brought into the church
at that time became bright and shining lights in the world; nearly all of them continued to adorn the Christian
profession to the end of life, and some still survive to attest to the present generation the genuine nature of
the work of Divine grace in their hearts.
It was during this revival year that the question of building a new meeting-house first took definite shape. The
old building had stood and served its purpose for a period of seventy-five years, and was now too small and inconvenient
to meet the wants of the growing congregation. During the year 1831 subscriptions were started and an association
formed for building a meeting-house. The building was finished during the following year, and on Christmas Day,
December 25, 1832, the house was solemnly dedicated to the worship of Almighty God.
In the succeeding years Mr. Savage continued to enjoy the confidence of his people, and accessions were yearly
made to the membership of the church, as fruits of his ministry. In an historical discourse prepared and published
during 1841, he reported that two hundred and seventy-two had been added to the church on profession since his
settlement, being an average of eighteen per year.
On the 19th of May, 1850, the town celebrated the centennial anniversary of its incorporation. It was a great day
for Bedford. Many distinguished visitors, former residents of the town, and others, were present. It was estimated
that about two thousand persons participated in the festivities. The Hon. Isaac O. Barnes, of Boston, a native
of Bedford, delivered the centennial address. A history of the town - the joint work of Rev. Mr. Savage, Dr. P.
P. Woodbury and Mr. William Patten - was published, embracing most of the facts of interest connected with the
town history up to that date. It was the result of great labor and is an unusually interesting book of its kind.
Once more, near the close of his ministry, Mr. Savage was permitted to witness the Divine approval
of his labors in a revival of religion. In 1864 a revival began in Manchester, in connection with the preaching
of the evangelist, Rev. A. B. Earle. The work extended to Bedford. Special meetings were held, and a deep and general
interest prevailed. As a result, seventy-two persons united with the church during the year on profession of faith.
On the 3d of January, 1866, the pastoral relation between the Rev. Thomas Savage and the church in Bedford was
dissolved by the Presbytery of Londonderry. The pastorate of Mr. Savage extended over a period of nearly forty
years, and embraced the most important period of the church's history. He had succeeded in binding the church together
in harmonious action in all Christian work, and bringing it forward to rank with all the strong churches in the
State. His pastorate, on the whole, was eminently successful, and the influence of his labors will long be felt
upon the cause of religion in this community.
Mr. Savage did not long survive the termination of his pastorate. He died on the 8th of May, 1866, aged seventy-two
"As a preacher," says Dr. Wallace, "Mr. Savage was practical and impressive. He did not dwell so
much on the distinctive doctrines of the gospel as many preachers. He did not preach theology as a system. Yet
he preached salvation only by the cross. But its doctrines were mingled with precept, as the leaven pervades the
mass in which it is hidden. They appeared not as the veins penetrate the marble, but as the painter's color shades
Rev. Anton Little was installed pastor January 3, 1866; Rev. Ira C. Tyson, May 9, 1869; and Rev. D. Herbert Colcord,
the present pastor, September 8, 1881.
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