Sabbath in Puritan New England
Alice Morse Earle

Part 1 out of 4

Produced by Distributed Proofreaders

PG Editor's Note: In addition to various other variations of grammar and
spelling from that old time, the word "their" is spelled as "thier" 17 times.
It has been left there as "thier".



Alice Morse Earle

Seventh Edition

To the Memory of my Mother.


I. The New England Meeting-House
II. The Church Militant
III. By Drum and Horn and Shell
IV. The Old-Fashioned Pews
V. Seating the Meeting
VI. The Tithingman and the Sleepers
VII. The Length of the Service
VIII. The Icy Temperature of the Meeting-House
IX. The Noon-House
X. The Deacon's Office
XI. The Psalm-Book of the Pilgrims
XII. The Bay Psalm-Book
XIII. Sternhold and Hopkins' Version of the Psalms
XIV. Other Old Psalm-Books
XV. The Church Music
XVI. The Interruptions of the Services
XVII. The Observance of the Day
XVIII. The Authority of the Church and the Ministers
XIX. The Ordination of the Minister
XX. The Ministers
XXI. The Ministers' Pay
XXII. The Plain-Speaking Puritan Pulpit
XXIII. The Early Congregations

The Sabbath in Puritan New England.


The New England Meeting-House.

When the Pilgrim Fathers landed at Plymouth they at once assigned a Lord's
Day meeting-place for the Separatist church,--"a timber fort both strong
and comely, with flat roof and battlements;" and to this fort, every
Sunday, the men and women walked reverently, three in a row, and in it they
worshipped until they built for themselves a meeting-house in 1648.

As soon as each successive outlying settlement was located and established,
the new community built a house for the purpose of assembling therein for
the public worship of God; this house was called a meeting-house. Cotton
Mather said distinctly that he "found no just ground in Scripture to apply
such a trope as church to a house for public assembly." The church, in the
Puritan's way of thinking, worshipped in the meeting-house, and he was as
bitterly opposed to calling this edifice a church as he was to calling the
Sabbath Sunday. His favorite term for that day was the Lord's Day.

The settlers were eager and glad to build their meeting-houses; for these
houses of God were to them the visible sign of the establishment of that
theocracy which they had left their fair homes and had come to New England
to create and perpetuate. But lest some future settlements should be slow
or indifferent about doing their duty promptly, it was enacted in 1675 that
a meeting-house should be erected in every town in the colony; and if the
people failed to do so at once, the magistrates were empowered to build it,
and to charge the cost of its erection to the town. The number of members
necessary to establish a separate church was very distinctly given in the
Platform of Church Discipline: "A church ought not to be of greater number
than can ordinarilie meet convenientlie in one place, nor ordinarilie
fewer than may convenientlie carry on church-work." Each church was quite
independent in its work and government, and had absolute power to admit,
expel, control, and censure its members.

These first meeting-houses were simple buildings enough,--square log-houses
with clay-filled chinks, surmounted by steep roofs thatched with long
straw or grass, and often with only the beaten earth for a floor. It was
considered a great advance and a matter of proper pride when the settlers
had the meeting-house "lathed on the inside, and so daubed and whitened
over workmanlike." The dimensions of many of these first essays at church
architecture are known to us, and lowly little structures they were. One,
indeed, is preserved for us under cover at Salem. The first meeting-house
in Dedham was thirty-six feet long, twenty feet wide, and twelve feet high
"in the stud;" the one in Medford was smaller still; and the Haverhill
edifice was only twenty-six feet long and twenty wide, yet "none other than
the house of God."

As the colonists grew in wealth and numbers, they desired and built better
sanctuaries, "good roomthy meeting-houses" they were called by Judge
Sewall, the most valued and most interesting journal-keeper of the times.
The rude early buildings were then converted into granaries or storehouses,
or, as was the Pentucket meeting-house, into a "house of shelter or a house
to sett horses in." As these meeting-houses had not been consecrated, and
as they were town-halls, forts, or court-houses as well as meeting-houses,
the humbler uses to which they were finally put were not regarded as
profanations of holy places.

The second form or type of American church architecture was a square wooden
building, usually unpainted, crowned with a truncated pyramidal roof, which
was surmounted (if the church could afford such luxury) with a belfry or
turret containing a bell. The old church at Hingham, the "Old Ship" which
was built in 1681, is still standing, a well-preserved example of this
second style of architecture. These square meeting-houses, so much alike,
soon abounded in New England; for a new church, in its contract for
building, would often specify that the structure should be "like in every
detaile to the Lynn meeting-house," or like the Hadley, Milford, Boston,
Danvers, or New Haven meeting-house. This form of edifice was the prototype
of the fine great First Church of Boston, a large square brick building,
with three rows of windows and two galleries, which stood from the year
1713 to 1808, and of which many pictures exist.

The third form of the Puritan meeting-house, of which the Old South Church
of Boston is a typical model, has too many representatives throughout New
England to need any description, as have also the succeeding forms of New
England church architecture.

The first meeting-houses were often built in the valleys, in the meadow
lands; for the dwelling-houses must be clustered around them, since the
colonists were ordered by law to build their new homes within half a mile
of the meeting-house. Soon, however, the houses became too closely crowded
for the most convenient uses of a farming community; pasturage for the
cattle had to be obtained at too great a distance from the farmhouse;
firewood had to be brought from too distant woods; nearness to water
also had to be considered. Thus the law became a dead letter, and each
new-coming settler built on outlying and remote land, since the Indians
were no longer so deeply to be dreaded. Then the meeting-houses, having
usually to accommodate a whole township of scattered farms, were placed on
remote and often highly elevated locations; sometimes at the very top of a
long, steep hill,--so long and so steep in some cases, especially in one
Connecticut parish, that church attendants could not ride down on horseback
from the pinnacled meeting-house, but were forced to scramble down, leading
their horses, and mount from a horse-block at the foot of the hill. The
second Roxbury church was set on a high hill, and the story is fairly
pathetic of the aged and feeble John Eliot, the glory of New England
Puritanism, that once, as he toiled patiently up the long ascent to his
dearly loved meeting, he said to the person on whose supporting arm he
leaned (in the Puritan fashion of teaching a lesson from any event and
surrounding): "This is very like the way to heaven; 'tis uphill. The Lord
by His grace fetch us up."

The location on a hilltop was chosen and favored for various reasons. The
meeting-house was at first a watch-house, from which to keep vigilant
lookout for any possible approach of hostile or sneaking Indians; it was
also a landmark, whose high bell-turret, or steeple, though pointing to
heaven, was likewise a guide on earth, for, thus stationed on a high
elevation, it could be seen for miles around by travellers journeying
through the woods, or in the narrow, tree-obscured bridle-paths which were
then almost the only roads. In seaside towns it could be a mark for for
sailors at sea; such was the Truro meeting-house. Then, too, our Puritan
ancestors dearly loved a "sightly location," and were willing to climb
uphill cheerfully, even through bleak New England winters, for the sake of
having a meeting-house which showed off well, and was a proper source of
envy to the neighboring villages and the country around. The studiously
remote and painfully inaccessible locations chosen for the site of many
fine, roomy churches must astonish any observing traveller on the byroads
of New England. Too often, alas! these churches are deserted, falling down,
unopened from year to year, destitute alike of minister and congregation.
Sometimes, too, on high hilltops, or on lonesome roads leading through a
tall second growth of woods, deserted and neglected old graveyards--the
most lonely and forlorn of all sad places--by their broken and fallen
headstones, which surround a half-filled-in and uncovered cellar, show
that once a meeting-house for New England Christians had stood there. Tall
grass, and a tangle of blackberry brambles cover the forgotten graves,
and perhaps a spire of orange tiger-lilies, a shrub of southernwood or of
winter-killed and dying box, may struggle feebly for life under the shadow
of the "plumed ranks of tall wild cherry," and prove that once these lonely
graves were cared for and loved for the sake of those who lie buried in
this now waste spot. No traces remain of the old meeting-house save the
cellar and the narrow stone steps, sadly leading nowhere, which once were
pressed by the feet of the children of the Pilgrims, but now are trodden
only by the curious and infrequent passer-by, or the epitaph-seeking

It is difficult often to understand the details in the descriptions of
these early meeting-houses, the colonial spelling is so widely varied,
and so cleverly ingenious. Uniformity of spelling is a strictly modern
accomplishment, a hampering innovation. "A square roofe without Dormans,
with two Lucoms on each side," means, I think, without dormer windows, and
with luthern windows. Another church paid a bill for the meeting-house roof
and the "Suppolidge." They had "turritts" and "turetts" and "turits" and
"turyts" and "feriats" and "tyrryts" and "toryttes" and "turiotts" and
"chyrits," which were one and the same thing; and one church had orders
for "juyces and rayles and nayles and bymes and tymber and gaybels and a
pulpyt, and three payr of stayrs," in its meeting-house,--a liberal supply
of the now fashionable _y_'s. We read of "pinakles" and "pyks" and
"shuthers" and "scaffills" and "bimes" and "lynters" and "bathyns" and
"chymbers" and "bellfers;" and often in one entry the same word will be
spelt in three or four different ways. Here is a portion of a contract in
the records of the Roxbury church: "Sayd John is to fence in the Buring
Plas with a Fesy ston wall, sefighiattly don for Strenk and workmanship
as also to mark a Doball gatt 6 or 8 fote wid and to hing it."
_Sefighiattly_ is "sufficiently;" but who can translate "Fesy"? can it
mean "facy" or faced smoothly?

The church-raising was always a great event in the town. Each citizen was
forced by law to take part in or contribute to "raring the Meeting hows."
In early days nails were scarce,--so scarce that unprincipled persons set
fire to any buildings which chanced to be temporarily empty, for the sake
of obtaining the nails from the ruins; so each male inhabitant supplied
to the new church a certain "amount of nayles." Not only were logs, and
lumber, and the use of horses' and men's labor given, but a contribution
was also levied for the inevitable barrel of rum and its unintoxicating
accompaniments. "Rhum and Cacks" are frequent entries in the account books
of early churches. No wonder that accidents were frequent, and that men
fell from the scaffolding and were killed, as at the raising of the
Dunstable meeting-house. When the Medford people built their second
meeting-house, they provided for the workmen and bystanders, five barrels
of rum, one barrel of good brown sugar, a box of fine lemons, and two
loaves of sugar. As a natural consequence, two thirds of the frame fell,
and many were injured. In Northampton, in 1738, ten gallons of rum were
bought for L8 "to raise the meeting-house"--and the village doctor got "L3
for setting his bone Jonathan Strong, and L3 10s. for setting Ebenezer
Burt's thy" which had somehow through the rum or the raising, both gotten
broken. Sometimes, as in Pittsfield in 1671, the sum of four shillings was
raised on every acre of land in the town, and three shillings a day were
paid to every man who came early to work, while one shilling a day was
apportioned to each worker for his rum and sugar. At last no liquor was
allowed to the workmen until after the day's work was over, and thus fatal
accidents were prevented.

The earliest meeting-houses had oiled paper in the windows to admit the
light. A Pilgrim colonist wrote to an English friend about to emigrate,
"Bring oiled paper for your windows." Higginson, however, writing in 1629,
asks for "glasse for windowes." When glass was used it was not set in the
windows as now. We find frequent entries of "glasse and nayles for it," and
in Newbury, in 1665, the church ordered that the "Glasse in the windows
be ... look't to if any should happen to be loosed with winde to be nailed
close again." The glass was in lozenge-shaped panes, set in lead in the
form of two long narrow sashes opening in the middle from top to bottom,
and it was many years before oblong or square panes came into common use.

These early churches were destitute of shade, for the trees in the
immediate vicinity were always cut down on account of dread of the fierce
fires which swept often through the forests and overwhelmed and destroyed
the towns. The heat and blazing light in summer were as hard to bear in
these unscreened meeting-houses as was the cold in winter.

"Old house of Puritanic wood,
Through whose unpainted windows streamed,
On seats as primitive and rude
As Jacob's pillow when he dreamed,
The white and undiluted day."

We have all heard the theory advanced that it is impossible there should be
any true religious feeling, any sense of sanctity, in a garish and bright
light,--"the white and undiluted day,"--but I think no one can doubt that
to the Puritans these seething, glaring, pine-smelling hothouses were truly
God's dwelling-place, though there was no "dim, religious light" within.

Curtains and window-blinds were unknown, and the sunlight streamed in with
unobstructed and unbroken rays. Heavy shutters for protection were often
used, but to close them at time of service would have been to plunge
the church into utter darkness. Permission was sometimes given, as in
Haverhill, to "sett up a shed outside of the window to keep out the heat of
the sun there,"--a very roundabout way to accomplish a very simple end. As
years passed on, trees sprang up and grew apace, and too often the churches
became overhung and heavily shadowed by dense, sombre spruce, cedar, and
fir trees. A New England parson was preaching in a neighboring church which
was thus gloomily surrounded. He gave out as his text, "Why do the wicked
live?" and as he peered in the dim light at his manuscript, he exclaimed
abruptly, "I hope they will live long enough to cut down this great
hemlock-tree back of the pulpit window." Another minister, Dr. Storrs,
having struggled to read his sermon in an ill-lighted, gloomy church, said
he would never speak in that building again while it was so overshadowed
with trees. A few years later he was invited to preach to the same
congregation; but when he approached the church, and saw the great
umbrageous tree still standing, he rode away, and left the people
sermonless in their darkness. The chill of these sunless, unheated
buildings in winter can well be imagined.

Strange and grotesque decorations did the outside of the earliest
meeting-houses bear,--grinning wolves' heads nailed under the windows and
by the side of the door, while splashes of blood, which had dripped
from the severed neck, reddened the logs beneath. The wolf, for his
destructiveness, was much more dreaded by the settlers than the bear,
which did not so frequently attack the flocks. Bears were plentiful enough.
The history of Roxbury states that in 1725, in one week in September,
twenty bears were killed within two miles of Boston. This bear story
requires unlimited faith in Puritan probity, and confidence in Puritan
records to credit it, but believe it, ye who can, as I do! In Salem and in
Ipswich, in 1640, any man who brought a living wolf to the meeting-house
was paid fifteen shillings by the town; if the wolf were dead, ten
shillings. In 1664, if the wolf-killer wished to obtain the reward, he was
ordered to bring the wolf's head and "nayle it to the meeting-house and
give notis thereof." In Hampton, the inhabitants were ordered to "nayle the
same to a little red oake tree at northeast end of the meeting-house." One
man in Newbury, in 1665, killed seven wolves, and was paid the reward
for so doing. This was a great number, for the wary wolf was not easily
destroyed either by musket or wolf-hook. In 1723 wolves were so abundant
in Ipswich that parents would not suffer their children to go to and from
church and school without the attendance of some grown person. As late as
1746 wolves made sad havoc in Woodbury, Connecticut; and a reward of five
dollars for each wolf's head was offered by law in that township in 1853.

In 1718 the last public reward was paid in Salem for a wolf's head, but
so late as the year 1779 the howls of wolves were heard every night in
Newbury, though trophies of shrivelled wolves' heads no longer graced the
walls of the meeting-house.

All kinds of notices and orders and regulations and "bills" were posted on
the meeting-house, often on the door, where they would greet the eye of
all who entered: prohibitions from selling guns and powder to the Indians,
notices of town meetings, intentions of marriage, copies of the laws
against Sabbath-breaking, messages from the Quakers, warnings of "vandoos"
and sales, lists of the town officers, and sometimes scandalous and
insulting libels, and libels in verse, which is worse, for our forefathers
dearly loved to rhyme on all occasions. On the meeting-house green stood
those Puritanical instruments of punishment, the stocks, whipping-post,
pillory, and cage; and on lecture days the stocks and pillory were
often occupied by wicked or careless colonists, or those everlasting
pillory-replenishers, the Quakers. It is one of the unintentionally comic
features of absurd colonial laws and punishments in which the early legal
records so delightfully abound, that the first man who was sentenced to and
occupied the stocks in Boston was the carpenter who made them. He was thus
fitly punished for his extortionate charge to the town for the lumber
he used in their manufacture. This was rather better than "making the
punishment fit the crime," since the Boston magistrates managed to force
the criminal to furnish his own punishment. In Shrewsbury, also, the
unhappy man who first tested the wearisome capacity and endured the public
mortication of the town's stocks was the man who made them. He "builded
better than he knew." Pillories were used as a means of punishment until
a comparatively recent date,--in Salem until the year 1801, and in Boston
till 1803.

Great horse-blocks, rows of stepping-stones, or hewn logs further graced
the meeting-house green; and occasionally one fine horse-block, such as the
Concord women proudly erected, and paid for by a contribution of a pound of
butter from each house-wife.

The meeting-house not only was employed for the worship of God and for town
meetings, but it was a storehouse as well. Until after the Revolutionary
War it was universally used as a powder magazine; and indeed, as no fire in
stove or fireplace was ever allowed within, it was a safe enough place for
the explosive material. In Hanover, the powder room was in the steeple,
while in Quincy the "powder-closite" was in the beams of the roof. Whenever
there chanced to be a thunderstorm during the time of public worship, the
people of Beverly ran out under the trees, and in other towns they left
the meeting-house if the storm seemed severe or near; still they built no
powder houses. Grain, too, was stored in the loft of the meeting-house for
safety; hatches were built, and often the corn paid to the minister was
placed there. "Leantos," or "linters," were sometimes built by the side of
the building for use for storage. In Springfield, Mr. Pyncheon was allowed
to place his corn in the roof chamber of the meeting-house; but as the
people were afraid that the great weight might burst the floor, he was
forbidden to store more than four hundred bushels at a time, unless he
"underpropped the floor."

In one church in the Connecticut valley, in a township where it was
forbidden that tobacco be smoked upon the public streets, the church
loft was used to dry and store the freshly cut tobacco-leaves which the
inhabitants sold to the "ungodly Dutch." Thus did greed for gain lead even
blue Connecticut Christians to profane the house of God.

The early meeting-houses in country parishes were seldom painted, such
outward show being thought vain and extravagant. In the middle of the
eighteenth century paint became cheaper and more plentiful, and a gay
rivalry in church-decoration sprang up. One meeting-house had to be as fine
as its neighbor. Votes were taken, "rates were levied," gifts were asked
in every town to buy "colour" for the meeting-house. For instance, the new
meeting-house in Pomfret, Connecticut, was painted bright yellow; it proved
a veritable golden apple of discord throughout the county. Windham town
quickly voted that its meeting-house be "coloured something like the
Pomfret meeting-house." Killingly soon ordered that the "cullering of the
body of our meeting-house should be like the Pomfret meeting-house, and the
Roff shal be cullered Read." Brooklyn church then, in 1762, ordered that
the outside of its meeting-house be "culered" in the approved fashion.
The body of the house was painted a bright orange; the doors and "bottom
boards" a warm chocolate color; the "window-jets," corner-boards, and
weather-boards white. What a bright nosegay of color! As a crowning glory
Brooklyn people put up an "Eleclarick Rod" on the gorgeous edifice, and
proudly boasted that--Brooklyn meeting-house was the "newest biggest and
yallowest" in the county. One old writer, however, spoke scornfully of the
spirit of envious emulation, extravagance, and bad taste that spread and
prevailed from the example of the foolish and useless "colouring" of the
Pomfret meeting-house.

Within the meeting-house all was simple enough: raftered walls, sanded
floors, rows of benches, a few pews, and the pulpit, or the "scaffold,"
as John Cotton called it. The bare rafters were often profusely hung with
dusty spiders' webs, and were the home also of countless swallows, that
flew in and out of the open bell-turret. Sometimes, too, mischievous
squirrels, attracted by the corn in the meeting-house loft, made their
homes in the sanctuary; and they were so prolific and so omnivorous that
the Bible and the pulpit cushions were not safe from their nibbling
attacks. On every Sunday afternoon the Word of God and its sustaining
cushion had to be removed to the safe shelter of a neighboring farmhouse or
tavern, to prevent total annihilation by these Puritanical, Bible-loving

The pulpits were often pretentious, even in the plain and undecorated
meeting-houses, and were usually high desks, to which a narrow flight of
stairs led. In the churches of the third stage of architecture, these
stairs were often inclosed in a towering hexagonal mahogany structure,
which was ornamented with pillars and panels. Into this the minister
walked, closed the door behind him, and invisibly ascended the stairs;
while the children counted the seconds from the time he closed the door
until his head appeared through the trap-door at the top of the pulpit. The
form known as a tub-pulpit was very popular in the larger churches. The
pulpit of one old, unpainted church retained until the middle of this
century, as its sole decoration, an enormous, carefully painted, staring
eye, a terrible and suggestive illustration to youthful wrong-doers of the
great, all-seeing eye of God.

As the ceiling and rafters were so open and reverberating, it was generally
thought imperative to hang above the pulpit a great sounding-board, which
threatened the minister like a giant extinguisher, and was really as devoid
of utility as it was curious in ornamentation, "reflecting most part an
empty ineffectual sound." This great sound-killer was decorated with carved
and painted rosettes, as in the Shrewsbury meeting-house; with carved ivy
leaves, as in Farmington; with a carved bunch of grapes or pomegranates, as
in the Leicester church; with letters indicating a date, as, "M. R. H." for
March, in the Hadley church; with appropriate mottoes and texts, such as
the words, "Holiness is the Lords," in the Windham church; with cords and
tassels, with hanging fringes, with panels and balls; and thus formed a
great ornament to the church, and a source of honest pride to the church
members. The clumsy sounding-board was usually hung by a slight iron rod,
which looked smaller still as it stretched up to the high, raftered roof,
and always appeared to be entirely insufficient to sustain the great weight
of the heavy machine. In Danvers, one of these useless though ornamental
structures hung within eighteen inches of the preacher's nose, on a slender
bar thirty feet in length; and every Sunday the children gazed with
fascinated anticipation at the slight rod and the great hexagonal
extinguisher, thinking and hoping that on this day the sounding-board would
surely drop, and "put out" the minister. In fact, it was regarded by many
a child, though this idea was hardly formulated in the little brain, as
a visible means of possible punishment for any false doctrine that might
issue from the mouth of the preacher.

Another pastime and source of interest to the children in many old churches
was the study of the knots and veins in the unpainted wood of which the
pews and galleries were made. Age had developed and darkened and rendered
visible all the natural irregularities in the wood, just as it had brought
out and strengthened the dry-woody, close, unaired, penetrating scent which
permeated the meeting-house and gave it the distinctive "church smell." The
children, and perhaps a few of the grown people, found in these clusters
of knots queer similitudes of faces, strange figures and constellations,
which, though conned Sunday after Sunday until known by heart, still seemed
ever to show in their irregular groupings a puzzling possibility of the
discovery of new configurations and monstrosities.

The dangling, dusty spiders' webs afforded, too, an interesting sight and
diversion for the sermon-hearing, but not sermon-listening, young Puritans,
who watched the cobwebs swaying, trembling, forming strange maps of
imaginary rivers with their many tributaries, or outlines of intersecting
roads and lanes. And if little Yet-Once, Hate-Evil, or Shearjashub chanced,
by good fortune, to be seated near a window where a crafty spider and a
foolish buzzing fly could be watched through the dreary exposition and
attempted reconciliation of predestination and free will, that indeed were
a happy way of passing the weary hours.


The Church Militant.

For many years after the settlement of New England the Puritans, even in
outwardly tranquil times, went armed to meeting; and to sanctify the Sunday
gun-loading they were expressly forbidden to fire off their charges at
any object on that day save an Indian or a wolf, their two "greatest
inconveniencies." Trumbull, in his "Mac Fingal," Avrites thus in jest of
this custom of Sunday arm-bearing:--

"So once, for fear of Indian beating,
Our grandsires bore their guns to meeting,--
Each man equipped on Sunday morn
With psalm-book, shot, and powder-horn,
And looked in form, as all must grant,
Like the ancient true church militant."

In 1640 it was ordered in Massachusetts that in every township the
attendants at church should carry a "competent number of peeces, fixed
and compleat with powder and shot and swords every Lords-day to the
meeting-house;" one armed man from each household was then thought
advisable and necessary for public safety. In 1642 six men with muskets and
powder and shot were thought sufficient for protection for each church. In
Connecticut similar mandates were issued, and as the orders were neglected
"by divers persones," a law was passed in 1643 that each offender should
forfeit twelve pence for each offence. In 1644 a fourth part of the
"trayned hand" was obliged to come armed each Sabbath, and the sentinels
were ordered to keep their matches constantly lighted for use in their
match-locks. They were also commanded to wear armor, which consisted of
"coats basted with cotton-wool, and thus made defensive against Indian
arrows." In 1650 so much dread and fear were felt of Sunday attacks from
the red men that the Sabbath-Day guard was doubled in number. In 1692, the
Connecticut Legislature ordered one fifth of the soldiers in each town to
come armed to each meeting, and that nowhere should be present as a guard
at time of public worship fewer than eight soldiers and a sergeant. In
Hadley the guard was allowed annually from the public treasury a pound of
lead and a pound of powder to each soldier.

No details that could add to safety on the Sabbath were forgotten or
overlooked by the New Haven church; bullets were made common currency at
the value of a farthing, in order that they might be plentiful and in every
one's possession; the colonists were enjoined to determine in advance what
to do with the women and children in case of attack, "that they do not hang
about them and hinder them;" the men were ordered to bring at least six
charges of powder and shot to meeting; the farmers were forbidden to "leave
more arms at home than men to use them;" the half-pikes were to be headed
and the whole ones mended, and the swords "and all piercing weapons
furbished up and dressed;" wood was to be placed in the watch-house; it was
ordered that the "door of the meeting-house next the soldiers' seat be kept
clear from women and children sitting there, that if there be occasion
for the soldiers to go suddenly forth, they may have free passage." The
soldiers sat on either side of the main door, a sentinel was stationed
in the meeting-house turret, and armed watchers paced the streets; three
cannon were mounted by the side of this "church militant," which must
strongly have resembled a garrison.

Military duty and military discipline and regard for the Sabbath, and for
the House of God as well, did not always make the well-equipped occupants
of these soldiers' seats in New Haven behave with the dignity and decorum
befitting such guardians of the peace and protectors in war. Serious
disorders and disturbances among the guard were reported at the General
Court on June 16, 1662. One belligerent son of Mars, as he sat in the
meeting-house, threw lumps of lime--perhaps from the plastered chinks in
the log wall--at a fellow-warrior, who in turn, very naturally, kicked his
tormentor with much agility and force. There must have ensued quite a free
fight all around in the meeting-house, for "Mrs. Goodyear's boy had his
head broke that day in meeting, on account of which a woman said she
doubted not the wrath of God was upon us." And well might she think so, for
divers other unseemly incidents which occurred in the meeting-house at the
same time were narrated in Court, examined into, and punished.

In spite of these events in the New Haven church (which were certainly
exceptional), the seemingly incongruous union of church and army was
suitable enough in a community that always began and ended the military
exercises on "training day" with solemn prayer and psalm-singing; and that
used the army and encouraged a true soldier-like spirit not chiefly as aids
in war, but to help to conquer and destroy the adversaries of truth, and to
"achieve greater matters by this little handful of men than the world is
aware of."

The Salem sentinels wore doubtless some of the good English armor owned by
the town,--corselets to cover the body; gorgets to guard the throat;
tasses to protect the thighs; all varnished black, and costing each suit
"twenty-four shillings a peece." The sentry also wore a bandileer, a large
"neat's leather" belt thrown over the right shoulder, and hanging down
under the left arm. This bandileer sustained twelve boxes of cartridges,
and a well-filled bullet-bag. Each man bore either a "bastard musket with
a snaphance," a "long fowling-piece with musket bore," a "full musket," a
"barrell with a match-cock," or perhaps (for they were purchased by the
town) a leather gun (though these leather guns may have been cannon).
Other weapons there were to choose from, mysterious in name, "sakers,
minions, ffaulcons, rabinets, murthers (or murderers, as they were
sometimes appropriately called) chambers, harque-busses, carbins,"--all
these and many other death-dealing machines did our forefathers bring and
import from their war-loving fatherland to assist them in establishing
God's Word, and exterminating the Indians, but not always, alas! to aid
them in converting those poor heathen.

The armed Salem watcher, besides his firearms and ammunition, had attached
to his wrist by a cord a gun-rest, or gun-fork, which he placed upon
the ground when he wished to fire his musket, and upon which that
constitutional kicker rested when touched off. He also carried a sword and
sometimes a pike, and thus heavily burdened with multitudinous arms and
cumbersome armor, could never have run after or from an Indian with much
agility or celerity; though he could stand at the church-door with his
leather gun,--an awe-inspiring figure,--and he could shoot with his
"harquebuss," or "carbin," as we well know.

These armed "sentinells" are always regarded as a most picturesque
accompaniment of Puritan religious worship, and the Salem and Plymouth
armed men were imposing, though clumsy. But the New Haven soldiers, with
their bulky garments wadded and stuffed out with thick layers of cotton
wool, must have been more safety-assuring and comforting than they were
romantic or heroic; but perhaps they too wore painted tin armor, "corselets
and gorgets and tasses."

In Concord, New Hampshire, the men, who all came armed to meeting, stacked
their muskets around a post in the middle of the church, while the honored
pastor, who was a good shot and owned the best gun in the settlement,
preached with his treasured weapon in the pulpit by his side, ready from
his post of vantage to blaze away at any red man whom he saw sneaking
without, or to lead, if necessary, his congregation to battle. The church
in York, Maine, until the year 1746, felt it necessary to retain the custom
of carrying arms to the meeting-house, so plentiful and so aggressive were
Maine Indians.

Not only in the time of Indian wars were armed men seen in the
meeting-house, but on June 17, 1775, the Provincial Congress recommended
that the men "within twenty miles of the sea-coast carry their arms and
ammunition with them to meeting on the Sabbath and other days when they
meet for public worship." And on many a Sabbath and Lecture Day, during the
years of war that followed, were proved the wisdom and foresight of that

The men in those old days of the seventeenth century, when in constant
dread of attacks by Indians, always rose when the services were ended and
left the house before the women and children, thus making sure the safe
exit of the latter. This custom prevailed from habit until a late date in
many churches in New England, all the men, after the benediction and the
exit of the parson, walking out in advance of the women. So also the custom
of the men always sitting at the "head" or door of the pew arose from the
early necessity of their always being ready to seize their arms and rush
unobstructed to fight. In some New England village churches to this day,
the man who would move down from his end of the pew and let a woman sit
at the door, even if it were a more desirable seat from which to see the
clergyman, would be thought a poor sort of a creature.


By Drum and Horn and Shell.

At about nine o'clock on the Sabbath morning the Puritan colonists
assembled for the first public service of the holy day; they were gathered
together by various warning sounds. The Haverhill settlers listened for the
ringing toot of Abraham Tyler's horn. The Montague and South Hadley people
were notified that the hour of assembling had arrived by the loud blowing
of a conch-shell. John Lane, a resident of the latter town, was engaged
in 1750 to "blow the Cunk" on the Sabbath as "a sign for meeting." In
Stockbridge a strong-lunged "praying" Indian blew the enormous shell, which
was safely preserved until modern times, and which, when relieved from
Sunday use, was for many years sounded as a week-day signal in the
hay-field. Even a conch-shell was enough of an expense to the poor colonial
churches. The Montague people in 1759 paid L1 10s. for their "conk," and
also on the purchase year gave Joseph Root 20 shillings for blowing the new
shell. In 1785 the Whately church voted that "we will not improve anybody
to blow the conch," and so the church-attendants straggled to Whately
meeting each at his own time and pleasure.

In East Hadley the inhabitant who "blew the kunk" (as phonetic East
Hadleyites spelt it) and swept out the meeting-house was paid annually the
munificent sum of three dollars for his services. Conch-blowing was not
so difficult and consequently not so highly-paid an accomplishment as
drum-beating. A verse of a simple old-fashioned hymn tells thus of the
gathering of the Puritan saints:--

"New England's Sabbath day
Is heaven-like still and pure,
When Israel walks the way
Up to the temple's door.
The time we tell
When there to come
By beat of drum
Or sounding shell."

The drum, as highly suitable for such a military people, was often used as
a signal for gathering for public worship, and was plainly the favorite
means of notification. In 1678 Robert Stuard, of Norwalk, "ingages yt his
son James shall beate the Drumb, on the Sabbath and other ocations," and in
Norwalk the "drumb," the "drumne," the "drumme," and at last the drum was
beaten until 1704, when the Church got a bell. And the "Drumber" was paid,
and well paid too for his "Cervices," fourteen shillings a year of the
town's money, and he was furnished a "new strong drumme;" and the town
supplied to him also the flax for the drum-cords which he wore out in the
service of God. Johnson, in his "Wonder Working Providence," tells of the
Cambridge Church: "Hearing the sound of a drum he was directed toward it by
a broade beaten way; following this rode he demands of the next man he met
what the signall of the drum ment; the reply was made they had as yet no
Bell to call men to meeting and therefore made use of the drum." In 1638
a platform was made upon the top of the Windsor meeting-house "from the
Lanthornc to the ridge to walk conveniently to sound a trumpet or a drum to
give warning to meeting."

Sometimes three guns were fired as a signal for "church-time." The signal
for religious gathering, and the signal for battle were always markedly
different, in order to avoid unnecessary fright.

In 1647 Robert Basset was appointed in New Haven to drum "twice upon Lordes
Dayes and Lecture Dayes upon the meeting house that soe those who live farr
off may heare the more distinkly." Robert may have been a good drummer, but
he proved to be a most reprehensible and disreputable citizen; in the local
Court Records of August 1, 1648, we find a full report of an astounding
occurrence in which he played an important part. Ten men, who Avere nearly
all sea-faring men,--gay, rollicking sailors,--went to Bassctt's house and
asked for strong drink. The magistrates had endeavored zealously, and in
the main successfully, to prevent all intoxication in the community,
and had forbidden the sale of liquor save in very small quantities. The
church-drummer, however, wickedly unmindful of his honored calling,
furnished to the sailors six quarts of strong liquor, with which they all,
host and visitors, got prodigiously drunk and correspondingly noisy. The
Court Record says: "The miscarriage continued till betwixt tenn and eleven
of the clock, to the great provocation of God, disturbance of the peace,
and to such a height of disorder that strangers wondered at it." In the
midst of the carousal the master of the pinnace called the boatswain
"Brother Loggerheads." This must have been a particularly insulting
epithet, which no respectable boatswain could have been expected quietly to
endure, for "at once the two men fell fast to wrestling, then to blowes and
theirin grew to that feircnes that the master of the pinnace thought the
boatswain would have puled out his eies; and they toumbled on the ground
down the hill into the creeke and mire shamefully wallowing theirin."
In his pain and terror the master called out, "Hoe, the Watch! Hoe, the
Watch!" "The Watch made hast and for the present stopped the disorder, but
in his rage and distemper the boatswaine fell a-swearinge Wounds and Hart
as if he were not only angry with men but would provoke the high
and blessed God." The master of the pinnace, being freed from his
fellow-combatant, returned to Basset's house--perhaps to tell his tale
of woe, perhaps to get more liquor--and was assailed by the drummer with
amazing words of "anger and distemper used by drunken companions;" in
short, he was "verey offensive, his noyes and oathes being hearde to
the other side of the creeke." For aiding and abetting this noisy and
disgraceful spree, and also for partaking in it, Drummer Basset was fined
L5, which must have been more than his yearly salary, and in disgrace, and
possibly in disgust, quitted drumming the New Haven good people to meeting
and moved his residence to Stamford, doubtless to the relief and delight of
both magistrates and people of the former town.

Another means of notification of the hour for religious service was by the
use of a flag, often in addition to the sound of the drum or bell. Thus in
Plymouth, in 1697, the selectmen were ordered to "procure a flagg to be put
out at the ringing of the first bell, and taken in when the last bell was
rung." In Sutherland also a flag was used as a means of announcement of
"meeting-time," and an old goody was paid ten shillings a year for "tending
the flagg."

Mr. Gosse, in his "Early Bells of Massachusetts," gives a full and
interesting account of the church-bells of the first colonial towns in that
State. Lechford, in his "Plaine Dealing," wrote in 1641 that they came
together in Boston on the Lord's Day by "the wringing of a bell," and it is
thought that that bell was a hand-bell. The first bells, for the lack
of bell-towers, were sometimes hung on trees by the side of the
meeting-houses, to the great amazement and distress of the Indians, who
regarded them with superstitious dread, thinking--to paraphrase Herbert's
beautiful line--"when the bell did chime 't was devils' music;" but more
frequently the bells were hung in a belfry or bell-turret or "bellcony,"
and from this belfry depended a long bell-rope quite to the floor; and thus
in the very centre of the church the sexton stood when he rung the summons
for lire or for meeting. This rope was of course directly in front of the
pulpit; and Jonathan Edwards, who was devoid of gestures and looked always
straight before him when preaching, was jokingly said to have "looked-off"
the bell-rope, when it fell with a crash in the middle of his church.

At the first sound of the drum or horn or bell the town inhabitants issued
from their houses in "desent order," man and wife walking first, and the
children in quiet procession after them. Often a man-servant and a maid
walked on either side of the heads of the family. In some communities the
congregation waited outside the church door until the minister and his wife
arrived and passed into the house; then the church-attendants followed, the
loitering boys always contriving to scuffle noisily in from the horse-sheds
at the last moment, making much scraping and clatter with their heavy boots
on the sanded floor, and tumbling clumsily up the uucarpeted, creaking

In other churches the members of the congregation seated themselves in
their pews upon their arrival, but rose reverently when the parson, dressed
in black skull-cap and Geneva cloak, entered the door; and they stood, in
token of respect, until after he entered the pulpit and was seated.

It was also the honor-giving and deferential custom in many New England
churches, in the eighteenth century, for the entire congregation to remain
respectfully standing within the pews at the end of the serice until the
minister had descended from his lofty pulpit, opened the door of his wife's
pew, and led her with stately dignity to the church-porch, where, were he
and she genial and neighborly minded souls, they in turn stood and greeted
with carefully adjusted degrees of warmth, interest, respect, or patronage,
the different members of the congregation as they slowly passed out.


The Old-Fashioned Pews.

In the early New England meeting-houses the seats were long, narrow,
uncomfortable benches, which were made of simple, rough, hand-riven planks
placed on legs like milking-stools. They were without any support or rest
for the back; and perhaps the stiff-backed Pilgrims and Puritans required
or wished no support. Quickly, as the colonies grew in wealth and the
colonists in ambition and importance, "Spots for Pues" were sold (or
"pitts" as they were sometimes called), at first to some few rich or
influential men who wished to sit in a group together, and finally each
family of dignity or wealth sat in its own family-pew. Often it was
stipulated in the permission to build a pew that a separate entrance-door
should be cut into it through the outside wall of the meeting-house, thus
detracting grievously from the external symmetry of the edifice, but
obviating the necessity of a space-occupying entrance aisle within the
church, where there was little enough sitting-room for the quickly
increasing and universally church-going population. As these pews were
either oblong or square, were both large and small, painted and unpainted,
and as each pewholder could exercise his own "tast or disresing" in the
kind of wood he used in the formation of his pew, as well as in the style
of finish, much diversity and incongruity of course resulted. A man who had
a wainscoted pew was naturally and properly much respected and envied by
the entire community. These pews, erected by individual members, were
individual and not communal property. A widow in Cape Cod had her house
destroyed by fire. She was given from the old meeting-house, which was
being razed, the old building materials to use in the construction of her
new home. She was not allowed, however, to remove the wood which formed the
pews, as they were adjudged to be the property of the members who had built
them, and those owners only could sell or remove the materials of which
they were built.

Many of the pews in the old meeting-houses had towering partition walls,
which extended up so high that only the tops of the tallest heads could be
seen when the occupants were seated. Permissions to build were often given
with modifying restrictions to the aspiring pew-builders, as for instance
is recorded of the Haverhill church, "provided they would not build so high
as to damnify and hinder the light of them windows," or of the Waterbury
church, "if the pues will not progodish the hous." Often the floor of the
pews was several inches and occasionally a foot higher than the floor of
the "alleys," thus forming at the entrance-door of the pew one or two
steps, which were great stumbling-blocks to clumsy and to childish feet,
that tripped again when within the pew over the "crickets" and foot-benches
which were, if the family were large, the accepted and lowly church-seats
of the little children. Occasionally one long, low foot-rest stretched
quite across one side of the pew-floor. I have seen these long benches
with a tier of three shelves; the lower and broader shelf was used as a
foot-rest, the second one was to hold the hats of the men, and the third
and narrower shelf was for the hymn-books and Bibles. Such comfortable and
luxurious pew-furnishings could never have been found in many churches.

An old New Englander relates a funny story of his youth, in which one of
these triple-tiered foot-benches played an important part. When he was
a boy a travelling show visited his native town, and though he was not
permitted to go within the mystic and alluring tent, he stood longingly at
the gate, and was prodigiously diverted and astonished by an exhibition of
tight-rope walking, which was given outside the tent-door as a bait to
lure pleasure-loving and frivolous townspeople within, and also as a
tantalization to the children of the saints who were not allowed to enter
the tent of the wicked. Fired by that bewildering and amazing performance,
he daily, after the wonderful sight, practised walking on rails, on fences,
on fallen trees, and on every narrow foothold which he could find, as a
careful preparation for a final feat and triumph of skill on his mother's
clothes-line. In an evil hour, as he sat one Sunday in the corner of his
father's pew, his eyes rested on the narrow ledge which formed the top of
the long foot-bench. Satan can find mischief for idle boys within church as
well as without, and the desire grew stronger to try to walk on that
narrow foothold. He looked at his father and mother, they were peacefully
sleeping; so also were the grown-up occupants of the neighboring pews;
the pew walls were high, the minister seldom glanced to right or left; a
thousand good reasons were whispered in his ear by the mischief-finder,
and at last he willingly yielded, pulled off his heavy shoes, and softly
mounted the foot-bench. He walked forward and back with great success
twice, thrice, but when turning for a fourth tour he suddenly lost his
balance, and over he went with a resounding crash--hats, psalm-books,
heavy bench, and all. He crushed into hopeless shapelessness his father's
gray beaver meeting-hat, a long-treasured and much-loved antique; he nearly
smashed his mother's kid-slippered foot to jelly, and the fall elicited
from her, in the surprise of the sudden awakening and intense pain, an
ear-piercing shriek, which, with the noisy crash, electrified the entire
meeting. All the grown people stood up to investigate, the children climbed
on the seats to look at the guilty offender and his deeply mortified
parents; while the minister paused in his sermon and said with cutting
severity, "I have always regretted that the office of tithingman has been
abolished in this community, as his presence and his watchful care
are sadly needed by both the grown persons and the children in this
congregation." The wretched boy who had caused all the commotion and
disgrace was of course uninjured by his fall, but a final settlement at
home between father and son on account of this sacrilegious piece of church
disturbance made the unhappy would-be tight-rope walker wish that he had at
least broken his arm instead of his father's hat and his mother's pride and
the peace of the congregation.

The seats were sometimes on four sides of these pews, but oftener on three
sides only, thus at least two thirds of the pew occupants did not face the
minister. The pew-seats were as narrow and uncomfortable as the plebeian
benches, though more exclusive, and, with the high partition walls, quite
justified the comment of a little girl when she first attended a service in
one of these old-fashioned, square-pewed churches. She exclaimed in dismay,
"What! must I be shut up in a closet and sit on a shelf?" Often elderly
people petitioned to build separate small pens of pews with a single wider
seat as "through the seats being so very narrow" they could not sit in

The seats were, until well into this century, almost universally hung on
hinges, and could be turned up against the walls of the pew, thus enabling
the standing congregation to lean for support against the sides of the pews
during the psalm-singing and the long, long prayers.

"And when at last the loud Amen
Fell from aloft, how quickly then
The seats came down with heavy rattle,
Like musketry in fiercest battle."

This noise of slamming pew-seats could easily be heard over half a mile
away from the meeting-house in the summer time, for the perverse boys
contrived always in their salute of welcome to the Amen to give vent in
a most tremendous bang to a little of their pent up and ill-repressed
energies. In old church-orders such entries as this (of the Haverhill
church) are frequently seen: "The people are to Let their Seats down
without Such Nois." "The boyes are not to wickedly noise down there
pew-seats." A gentleman attending the old church in Leicester heard at
the beginning of the prayer, for the first time in his life, the noise of
slamming pew-seats, as the seats were thrust up against the pew-walls. He
jumped into the aisle at the first clatter, thinking instinctively that the
gallery was cracking and falling. Another stranger, a Southerner, entering
rather late at a morning service in an old church in New England, was
greeted with the rattle of falling seats, and exclaimed in amazement, "Do
you Northern people applaud in church?"

In many meeting-houses the tops of the pews and of the high gallery
railings were ornamented with little balustrades of turned wood, which were
often worn quite bare of paint by childish fingers that had tried them all
"to find which ones would turn," and which, alas! would also squeak. This
fascinating occupation whiled away many a tedious hour in the dreary
church, and in spite of weekly forbidding frowns and whispered reproofs for
the shrill, ear-piercing squeaks elicited by turning the spindle-shaped
balusters, was entirely too alluring a time-killer to be abandoned, and
consequently descended, an hereditary church pastime, from generation to
generation of the children of the Puritans; and indeed it remained so
strong an instinct that many a grown person, visiting in after life a
church whose pews bore balustrades like the ones of his childhood, could
scarce keep his itching fingers from trying them each in succession "to see
which ones would turn."

These open balustrades also afforded fine peep-holes through which, by
standing or kneeling upon "the shelf," a child might gaze at his neighbor;
and also through which sly missiles--little balls of twisted paper--could
be snapped, to the annoyance of some meek girl or retaliating boy, until
the young marksman was ignominiously pulled down by his mother from his
post of attack. And through these balustrades the same boy a few years
later could thrust sly missives, also of twisted paper, to the girl whom he
had once assailed and bombarded with his annoying paper bullets.

Through the pillared top-rail a restless child in olden days often
received, on a hot summer Sabbath from a farmer's wife or daughter in an
adjoining pew, friendly and quieting gifts of sprigs of dill, or fennel,
or caraway, famous anti-soporifics; and on this herbivorous food he would
contentedly browse as long as it lasted. An uneasy, sermon-tired little
girl was once given through the pew-rail several stalks of caraway, and
with them a large bunch of aromatic southernwood, or "lad's-love" which had
been brought to meeting by the matron in the next pew, with a crudely and
unconsciously aesthetic sense that where eye and ear found so little to
delight them, there the pungent and spicy fragrance of the southernwood
would be doubly grateful to the nostrils. Little Missy sat down delightedly
to nibble the caraway-seed, and her mother seeing her so quietly and
absorbingly occupied, at once fell contentedly and placidly asleep in her
corner of the pew. But five heads of caraway, though each contain many
score of seeds, and the whole number be slowly nibbled and eaten one seed
at a time, will not last through the child's eternity of a long doctrinal
sermon; and when the umbels were all devoured, the young experimentalist
began upon the stalks and stems, and they, too, slowly disappeared. She
then attacked the sprays of southernwood, and in spite of its bitter,
wormwoody flavor, having nothing else to do, she finished it, all but the
tough stems, just as the long sermon was brought to a close. Her waking
mother, discovering no signs of green verdure in the pew, quickly drew
forth a whispered confession of the time-killing Nebuchadnezzar-like feast,
and frightened and horrified, at once bore the leaf-gorged child from
the church, signalling in her retreat to the village doctor, who quickly
followed and administered to the omnivorous young New Englander a bolus
which made her loathe to her dying day, through a sympathetic association
and memory, the taste of caraway, and the scent of southernwood.

An old gentleman, lamenting the razing of the church of his childhood,
told the story of his youthful Sabbaths in rhyme, and thus refers with
affectionate enthusiasm to the old custom of bringing bunches of esculent
"sallet" herbs to meeting:--

"And when I tired and restless grew,
Our next pew neighbor, Mrs. True,
Reached her kind hand the top rail through
To hand me dill, and fennel too,
And sprigs of caraway.

"And as I munched the spicy seeds,
I dimly felt that kindly deeds
That thus supply our present needs,
Though only gifts of pungent weeds,
Show true religion.

"And often now through sermon trite
And operatic singer's flight,
I long for that old friendly sight,
The hand with herbs of value light,
To help to pass the time."

Were the dill and "sweetest fennel" chosen Sabbath favorites for their
old-time virtues and powers?

"Vervain and dill
Hinder witches of their ill."

And of the charmed fennel Longfellow wrote:--

"The fennel with its yellow flowers
That, in an earlier age than ours,
Was gifted with the wondrous powers,
Lost vision to restore."

And traditions of mysterious powers, dream-influencing, spirit-exorcising,
virtue-awakening, health-giving properties, hung vaguely around the
southernwood and made it specially fit to be a Sabbath-day posy. These
traditions are softened by the influence of years into simply idealizing,
in the mind of every country-bred New Englander, the peculiar refreshing
scent of the southernwood as a typical Sabbath-day fragrance. Half a
century ago, the pretty feathery pale-green shrub grew in every country
door-yard, humble or great, throughout New England; and every church-going
woman picked a branch or spray of it when she left her home on Sabbath
morn. To this day, on hot summer Sundays, many a staid old daughter of
the Puritans may be seen entering the village meeting-house, clad in
a lilac-sprigged lawn or a green-striped barege,--a scanty-skirted,
surplice-waisted relic of past summers,--with a lace-bordered silk cape
or a delicate, time-yellowed, purple and white cashmere scarf on her bent
shoulders, wearing on her gray head a shirred-silk or leghorn bonnet, and
carrying in her lace-mitted hand a fresh handkerchief, her spectacle-case
and well-worn Bible, and a great sprig of the sweet, old-fashioned
"lad's-love." A rose, a bunch of mignonette would be to her too gay a posy
for the Lord's House and the Lord's Day. And balmier breath than was
ever borne by blossom is the pure fragrance of green growing
things,--southernwood, mint, sweet fern, bayberry, sweetbrier. No rose is
half so fresh, so countrified, so memory-sweet.

The benches and the pew-seats in the old churches were never cushioned.
Occasionally very old or feeble women brought cushions to meeting to sit
upon. It is a matter of recent tradition that Colonel Greenleaf caused a
nine days' talk in Newbury town at the beginning of this century when
he cushioned his pew. The widow of Sir William Pepperell, who lived in
imposing style, had her pew cushioned and lined and curtained with
worsted stuff, and carpeted with a heavy bear-skin. This worn, faded, and
moth-eaten furniture remained in the Kittery church until the year 1840,
just as when Lady Pepperell furnished and occupied the pew. Nor were even
the seats of the pulpit cushioned. The "cooshoons" of velvet or leather,
which were given by will to the church, and which were kept in the pulpit,
and were nibbled by the squirrels, were for the Bible, not the minister, to
rest upon.

In many churches--in Durham, Concord and Sandwich--the pews had
swing-shelves, "leaning shelves," upon which a church attendant could rest
his paper and his arm when taking notes from the sermon, as was at one time
the universal custom, and in which even school-boys of a century ago had
to take part. Funny stories are told of the ostentatious notes taken by
pompous parishioners who could neither write nor read, but who could
scribble, and thus cut a learned figure.

The doors of the pews were usually cut down somewhat lower than the
pew-walls, and frequently had no top-rails. They sometimes bore the name of
the pew-owner painted in large white letters. They were secured when
closed by clumsy wooden buttons. In many country congregations the elderly
men--stiff old farmers--had a fashion of standing up in the middle of the
sermon to stretch their cramped limbs, and they would lean against and hang
over the pew door and stare up and down the aisle. In Andover, Vermont,
old Deacon Puffer never let a summer Sunday pass without thus resting and
diverting himself. One day, having ill-secured the wooden button at the
door of his pew, the leaning-place gave way under his weight, and out he
sprawled on all-fours, with a loud clatter, into the middle of the aisle,
to the amusement of the children, and the mortification of his wife.

Thus it may be seen, as an old autobiography phrases it, "diversions was
frequent in meeting, and the more duller the sermon, the more likely it was
that some accident or mischief would be done to help to pass the time."


Seating the Meeting.

Perhaps no duty was more important and more difficult of satisfactory
performance in the church work in early New England than "seating the
meeting-house." Our Puritan forefathers, though bitterly denouncing all
forms and ceremonies, were great respecters of persons; and in nothing was
the regard for wealth and position more fully shown than in designating the
seat in which each person should sit during public worship. A committee of
dignified and influential men was appointed to assign irrevocably to each
person his or her place, according to rank and importance. Whittier wrote
of this custom:--

"In the goodly house of worship, where in order due and fit,
As by public vote directed, classed and ranked the people sit;
Mistress first and goodwife after, clerkly squire before the clown,
From the brave coat, lace embroidered: to the gray frock shading down."

In many cases the members of the committee were changed each year or at
each fresh seating, in order to obviate any of the effects of partiality
through kinship, friendship, personal esteem, or debt. A second committee
was also appointed to seat the members of committee number one, in order
that, as Haverhill people phrased it, "there may be no Grumbling at them
for picking and placing themselves."

This seating committee sent to the church the list of all the attendants
and the seats assigned to them, and when the list had been twice or thrice
read to the congregation, and nailed on the meeting-house door, it became a
law. Then some such order as this of the church at Watertown, Connecticut,
was passed: "It is ordered that the next Sabbath Day every person shall
take his or her seat appointed to them, and not go to any other seat where
others are placed: And if any one of the inhabitants shall act contrary, he
shall for the first offence be reproved by the deacons, and for a second
pay a fine of two shillings, and a like fine for each offence ever
after." Or this of the Stratham church: "When the comety have Seatid the
meeting-house every person that is Seatid shall set in those Seats or pay
Five Shillings Pir Day for every day they set out of There seats in a
Disorderly Manner to advance themselves Higher in the meeting-house." These
two church-laws were very lenient. In many towns the punishments and fines
were much more severe. Two men of Newbury were in 1669 fined L27 4s.
each for "disorderly going and setting in seats belonging to others." They
were dissatisfied with the seats assigned to them by the seating committee,
and openly and defiantly rebelled. Other and more peaceable citizens
"entred their Decents" to the first decision of the committee and asked for
reconsideration of their special cases and for promotion to a higher pew
before the final orders were "Jsued."

In all the Puritan meetings, as then and now in Quaker meetings, the men
sat on one side of the meeting-house and the women on the other; and they
entered by separate doors. It was a great and much-contested change when
men and women were ordered to sit together "promiscuoslie." In front,
on either side of the pulpit (or very rarely in the foremost row in the
gallery), was a seat of highest dignity, known as the "foreseat," in which
only the persons of greatest importance in the community sat.

Sometimes a row of square pews was built on three sides of the ground
floor, and each pew occupied by separate families, while the pulpit was
on the fourth side. If any man wished such a private pew for himself and
family, he obtained permission from the church and town, and built it at
his own expense. Immediately in front of the pulpit was either a long seat
or a square inclosed pew for the deacons, who sat facing the congregation.
This was usually a foot or two above the level of the other pews, and was
reached by two or three steep, narrow steps. On a still higher plane was a
pew for the ruling elders, when ruling elders there were. The magistrates
also had a pew for their special use. What we now deem the best seats,
those in the middle of the church, were in olden times the free seats.

Usually, on one side of the pulpit was a square pew for the minister's
family. When there were twenty-six children in the family, as at least one
New England parson could boast, and when ministers' families of twelve
or fourteen children were far from unusual, it is no wonder that we find
frequent votes to "inlarge the ministers wives pew the breadth of the
alley," or to "take in the next pue to the ministers wives pue into her
pue." The seats in the gallery were universally regarded in the early
churches as the most exalted, in every sense, in the house, with the
exception, of course, of the dignity-bearing foreseat and the few private

It is easy to comprehend what a source of disappointed anticipation,
heart-burning jealousy, offended dignity, unseemly pride, and bitter
quarrelling this method of assigning scats, and ranking thereby, must have
been in those little communities. How the goodwivcs must have hated the
seating committee! Though it was expressly ordered, when the committee
rendered their decision, that "the inhabitants are to rest silent and
sett down satysfyed," who can still the tongue of an envious woman or an
insulted man? Though they were Puritans, they were first of all men and
women, and complaints and revolts were frequent. Judge Sewall records that
one indignant dame "treated Captain Osgood very roughly on account of
seating the meeting-house." To her the difference between a seat in the
first and one in the second row was immeasurably great. It was not alone
the Scribes and Pharisees who desired the highest seats in the synagogue.

It was found necessary at a very early date to "dignify the meeting,"
which was to make certain seats, though in different localities, equal in
dignity; thus could peace and contented pride be partially restored. For
instance, the seating committee in the Sutton church used their "best
discresing," and voted that "the third seat below be equal in dignity with
the foreseat in the front gallery, and the fourth seat below be equal in
dignity with the foreseat in the side gallery," etc., thus making many
seats of equal honor. Of course wives had to have seats of equal importance
with those of their husbands, and each widow retained the dignity
apportioned to her in her husband's lifetime. We can well believe that much
"discresing" was necessary in dignifying as well as in seating. Often,
after building a new meeting-house with all the painstaking and thoughtful
judgment that could be shown, the dissensions over the seating lasted for
years. The conciliatory fashion of "dignifying the seats" clung long in the
Congregational churches of New England. In East Hartford and Windsor it was
not abandoned until 1824.

Many men were unwilling to serve on these seating committees, and refused
to "medle with the seating," protesting against it on account of the odium
that was incurred, but they were seldom "let off." Even so influential and
upright a man as Judge Sewall felt a dread of the responsibility and of
the personal spleen he might arouse. He also feared in one case lest his
seat-decisions might, if disliked, work against the ministerial peace of
his son, who had been recently ordained as pastor of the church. Sometimes
the difficulty was settled in this way: the entire church (or rather the
male members) voted who should occupy the foreseat, or the highest pew, and
the voted-in occupants of this seat of honor formed a committee, who in
turn seated the others of the congregation.

In the town of Rowley, "age, office, and the amount paid toward building
the meeting-house were considered when assigning seats." Other towns had
very amusing and minute rules for seating. Each year of the age counted one
degree. Military service counted eight degrees. The magistrate's office
counted ten degrees. Every forty shillings paid in on the church rate
counted one degree. We can imagine the ambitious Puritan adding up his
degrees, and paying in forty shillings more in order to sit one seat above
his neighbor who was a year or two older.

In Pittsfield, as early as the year 1765, the pews were sold by "vandoo"
to the highest bidder, in order to stop the unceasing quarrels over
the seating. In Windham, Connecticut, in 1762, the adoption of this
pacificatory measure only increased the dissension when it was discovered
that some miserable "bachelors who never paid for more than one head and
a horse" had bid in several of the best pews in the meeting-house. In New
London, two women, sisters-in-law, were seated side by side. Each claimed
the upper or more dignified seat, and they quarrelled so fiercely over the
occupation of it that they had to be brought before the town meeting.

In no way could honor and respect be shown more satisfactorily in the
community than by the seat assigned in meeting. When Judge Sewall married
his second wife, he writes with much pride: "Mr. Oliver in the names of the
Overseers invites my Wife to sit in the foreseat. I thought to have brought
her into my pue. I thankt him and the Overseers." His wife died in a few
months, and he reproached himself for his pride in this honor, and left the
seat which he had in the men's foreseat. "God in his holy Sovereignty put
my wife out of the Fore Seat. I apprehended I had Cause to be ashamed of my
Sin and loath myself for it, and retired into my Pue," which was of course
less dignified than the foreseat.

Often, in thriving communities, the "pues" and benches did not afford
seating room enough for the large number who wished to attend public
worship, and complaints were frequent that many were "obliged to sit
squeased on the stairs." Persons were allowed to bring chairs and stools
into the meeting-house, and place them in the "alleys." These extra seats
became often such encumbering nuisances that in many towns laws were passed
abolishing and excluding them, or, as in Hadley, ordering them "back of the
women's seats." In 1759 it was ordered in that town to "clear the Alleys of
the meeting-house of chairs and other Incumbrances." Where the chairless
people went is not told; perhaps they sat in the doorway, or, in the summer
time, listened outside the windows. One forward citizen of Hardwicke had
gradually moved his chair down the church alley, step by step, Sunday after
Sunday, from one position of dignity to another still higher, until at last
he boldly invaded the deacons' seat. When, in the year 1700, this honored
position was forbidden him, in his chagrin and mortification he committed
suicide by hanging.

The young men sat together in rows, and the young women in corresponding
seats on the other side of the house. In 1677 the selectmen of Newbury
gave permission to a few young women to build a pew in the gallery. It is
impossible to understand why this should have roused the indignation of the
bachelors of the town, but they were excited and angered to such a pitch
that they broke a window, invaded the meeting-house, and "broke the pue in
pessis." For this sacrilegious act they were fined L10 each, and sentenced
to be whipped or pilloried. In consideration, however, of the fact that
many of them had been brave soldiers, the punishment was omitted when they
confessed and asked forgiveness. This episode is very comical; it exhibits
the Puritan youth in such an ungallant and absurd light. When, ten years
later, liberty was given to ten young men, who had sat in the "foure backer
seats in the gallery," to build a pew in "the hindermost seat in the
gallery behind the pulpit," it is not recorded that the Salem young women
made any objection. In the Woburn church, the four daughters of one of the
most respected families in the place received permission to build a pew in
which to sit. Here also such indignant and violent protests were made by
the young men that the selectmen were obliged to revoke the permission.
It would be interesting to know the bachelors' discourteous objections to
young women being allowed to own a pew, but no record of their reasons
is given. Bachelors were so restricted and governed in the colonies that
perhaps they resented the thought of any independence being allowed to
single women. Single men could not live alone, but were forced to reside
with some family to whom the court assigned them, and to do in all respects
just what the court ordered. Thus, in olden times, a man had to marry to
obtain his freedom. The only clue to a knowledge of the cause of the fierce
and resentful objection of New England young men to permitting the young
women of the various congregations to build and own a "maids pue" is
contained in the record of the church of the town of Scotland, Connecticut.
"An Hurlburt, Pashants and Mary Lazelle, Younes Bingham, prudenc Hurlburt
and Jerusha meachem" were empowered to build a pew "provided they build
within a year and raise ye pue no higher than the seat is on the Mens
side." "Never ye Less," saith the chronicle, "ye above said have built said
pue much higher than ye order, and if they do not lower the same within one
month from this time the society comitte shall take said pue away." Do you
wonder that the bachelors resented this towering "maids pue?" that they
would not be scornfully looked down upon every Sabbath by women-folk,
especially by a girl named "meachem"? Pashants and Younes and prudenc had
to quickly come down from their unlawfully high church-perch and take a
more humble seat, as befitted them; thus did their "vaulting ambition
o'erleap itself and fall on the other side." Perhaps the Salem maids also
built too high and imposing a pew. In Haverhill, in 1708, young women were
permitted to build pews, provided they did not "damnify the Stairway." This
somewhat profane-sounding restriction they heeded, and the Haverhill maids
occupied their undamnifying "pue" unmolested. Medford young women, however,
in 1701, when allowed only one side gallery for seats, while the young men
were assigned one side and all the front gallery, made such an uproar that
the town had to call a meeting, and restore to them their "woman's rights"
in half the front gallery.

Infants were brought to church in their mothers' arms, and on summer days
the young mothers often sat at the meeting-house door or in the porch,--if
porch there were,--where, listening to the word of God, they could attend
also to the wants of their babes. I have heard, too, of a little cage, or
frame, which was to be seen in the early meeting-houses, for the purpose
of holding children who were too young to sit alone,--poor Puritan babies!
Little girls sat with their mothers or elder sisters on "crickets" within
the pews; or if the family were over-numerous, the children and crickets
exundated into "the alley without the pues." Often a row of little
daughters of Zion sat on three-legged stools and low seats the entire
length of the aisle,--weary, sleepy, young sentinels "without the gates."

The boys, the Puritan boys, those wild animals who were regarded with such
suspicion, such intense disfavor, by all elderly Puritan eyes, and who were
publicly stigmatized by the Duxbury elders as "ye wretched boys on ye Lords
Day," were herded by themselves. They usually sat on the pulpit and gallery
stairs, and constables or tithingmen were appointed to watch over them and
control them. In Salem, in 1676, it was ordered that "all ye boyes of ye
towne are and shall be appointed to sitt upon ye three pair of stairs in ye
meeting-house on ye Lords Day, and Wm. Lord is appointed to look after ye
boyes yt sitte upon ye pulpit stairs. Reuben Guppy is to look and order soe
many of ye boyes as may be convenient, and if any are unruly, to present
their names, as the law directs." Nowadays we should hardly seat boys in a
group if we wished them to be orderly and decorous, and I fear the man "by
the name of Guppy" found it no easy task to preserve order and due gravity
among the Puritan boys in Salem meeting. In fact, the rampant boys behaved
thus badly for the very reason that they were seated together instead of
with their respective families; and not until the fashion was universal of
each family sitting in a pew or group by itself did the boys in meeting
behave like human beings rather than like mischievous and unruly monkeys.

In Stratford, in 1668, a tithingman was "appointed to watch over the youths
of disorderly carriage, and see that they behave themselves comelie, and
use such raps and blows as in his discretion meet."

I like to think of those rows of sober-faced Puritan boys seated on the
narrow, steep pulpit stairs, clad in knee-breeches and homespun flapped
coats, and with round, cropped heads, miniature likenesses in dress and
countenance (if not in deportment) of their grave, stern, God-fearing
fathers. Though they were of the sedate Puritan blood, they were boys, and
they wriggled and twisted, and scraped their feet noisily on the sanded
floor; and I know full well that the square-toed shoes of one in whom
"original sin" waxed powerful, thrust many a sly dig in the ribs and back
of the luckless wight who chanced to sit in front of and below him on the
pulpit stairs. Many a dried kernel of Indian corn was surreptitiously
snapped at the head of an unwary neighbor, and many a sly word was
whispered and many a furtive but audible "snicker" elicited when the dread
tithingman was "having an eye-out" and administering "discreet raps and
blows" elsewhere.

One of these wicked youths in Andover was brought before the magistrate,
and it was charged that he "Sported and played and by Indecent Gestures and
Wry Faces caused laughter and misbehavior in the Beholders." The girls were
not one whit better behaved. One of "ye tything men chosen of ye town of
Norwich" reported that "Tabatha Morgus of s'd Norwich Did on ye 24th day
February it being Sabbath on ye Lordes Day, prophane ye Lordes Day in ye
meeting house of ye west society in ye time of ye forenoone service on s'd
Day by her rude and Indecent Behaviour in Laughing and Playing in ye time
of ye s'd Service which Doinges of ye s'd Tabatha is against ye peace of
our Sovereign Lord ye King, his Crown and Dignity." Wanton Tabatha had to
pay three shilings sixpence for her ill-timed mid-winter frolic. Perhaps
she laughed to try to keep warm. Those who laughed at the misdemeanors of
others were fined as well. Deborah Bangs, a young girl, in 1755 paid a fine
of five shillings for "Larfing in the Wareham Meeting House in time of
Public Worship," and a boy at the same time, for the same offence, paid a
fine of ten shillings. He may have laughed louder and longer. In a law-book
in which Jonathan Trumbull recorded the minor cases which he tried as
justice of the peace, was found this entry: "His Majesties Tithing man
entered complaint against Jona. and Susan Smith, that on the Lords Day
during Divine Service, they did _smile_." They were found guilty, and
each was fined five shillings and costs,--poor smiling Susan and Jonathan.

Those wretched Puritan boys, those "sons of Belial," whittled, too, and cut
the woodwork and benches of the meeting-house in those early days, just as
their descendants have ever since hacked and cut the benches and desks in
country schoolhouses,--though how they ever eluded the vigilant eye and ear
of the ubiquitous tithingman long enough to whittle will ever remain an
unsolved mystery of the past. This early forerunning evidence of what
has become a characteristic Yankee trait and habit was so annoyingly and
extensively exhibited in Medford, in 1729, that an order was passed to
prosecute and punish "all who cut the seats in the meeting-house."

Few towns were content to have one tithingman and one staff, but ordered
that there should be a guardian set over the boys in every corner of the
meeting-house. In Hanover it was ordered "That there be some sticks set up
in various places in the meeting-house, and fit persons by them and _to
use them_." I doubt not that the sticks were well used, and Hanover boys
were well rapped in meeting.

The Norwalk people come down through history shining with a halo of gentle
lenity, for their tithingman was ordered to bear a short, small stick only,
and he was "Desired to use it with clemency." However, if any boy proved
"incoridgable," he could be "presented" before the elders; and perhaps he
would rather have been treated as were Hartford boys by cruel Hartford
church folk, who ordered that if "any boye shall be taken playing or
misbehaving himself in the time of publick worship whether in the
meeting-house or about the walls he shall be examined and punished at the
present publickly before the assembly depart." Parson Chauncey, of Durham,
when a boy misbehaved in meeting, and was "punched up" by the tithingman,
often stopped in his sermon, called the godless young offender by name,
and asked him to come to the parsonage the next day. Some very tender and
beautiful lessons were taught to these Durham boys at these Monday morning
interviews, and have descended to us in tradition; and the good Mr.
Chauncey stands out a shining light of Christian patience and forbearance
at a time when every other New England minister, from John Cotton down,
preached and practised the stern repression and sharp correction of all
children, and chanted together in solemn chorus, "Foolishness is bound up
in the heart of a child."

One vicious tithingman invented, and was allowed to exercise on the boys,
a punishment which was the refinement of cruelty. He walked up to the
laughing, sporting, or whittling boy, took him by the collar or the arm,
led him ostentatiously across the meeting-house, and seated him by his
shamefaced mother on the women's side. It was as if one grandly proud in
kneebreeches should be forced to walk abroad in petticoats. Far rather
would the disgraced boy have been whacked soundly with the heavy knob of
the tithingman's staff; for bodily pain is soon forgotten, while mortifying
abasement lingers long.

The tithingman could also take any older youth who misbehaved or "acted
unsivill" in meeting from his manly seat with the grown men, and force him
to sit again with the boys; "if any over sixteen are disorderly, they shall
be ordered to said seats." Not only could these men of authority keep the
boys in order during meeting, but they also had full control during the
nooning, and repressed and restrained and vigorously corrected the luckless
boys during the midday hours. When seats in the galleries grew to be
regarded as inferior to seats and pews on the ground floor, the boys, who
of course must have the worst place in the house, were relegated from the
pulpit stairs to pews in the gallery, and these square, shut-off pews grew
to be what Dr. Porter called "the Devil's play-houses," and turbulent
outbursts were frequent enough.

The little boys still sat downstairs under their parents' watchful eyes.
"No child under 10 alowed to go up Gailary." In the Sutherland church, if
the big boys (who ought to have known better) "behaved unseemly," one of
the tithing-men who "took turns to set in the Galary" was ordered "to bring
Such Bois out of the Galary & set them before the Deacon's Seat" with the
small boys. In Plainfield, Connecticut, the "pestigeous" boys managed to
invent a new form of annoyance,--they "damnified the glass;" and a church
regulation had to be passed to prevent, or rather to try to prevent them
from "opening the windows or in any way damnifying the glass." It was
doubtless hot work scuffling and wrestling in the close, shut-in pews high
up under the roof, and they naturally wished to cool down by opening or
breaking the windows. Grown persons could not inconsiderately open the
church windows either. "The Constables are desired to _take notic_
of the persons that open the windows in the tyme of publick worship." No
rheumatic-y draughts, no bronchitis-y damps, no pure air was allowed to
enter the New England meeting-house. The church doubtless took a vote
before it allowed a single window to be opened.

In Westfield, Massachusetts, the boys became so abominably rampant that the
church formally decided "that if there is not a Reformation Respecting
the Disorders in the Pews built on the Great Beam in the time of Publick
Worship the comite can pul it down."

The fashion of seating the boys in pews by themselves was slow of
abolishment in many of the churches. In Windsor, Connecticut, "boys' pews"
were a feature of the church until 1845. As years rolled on, the tithingmen
became restricted in their authority: they could no longer administer "raps
and blows;" they were forced to content themselves with loud rappings on
the floor, and pointing with a staff or with a condemning finger at the
misdemeanant. At last the deacons usurped these functions, and if rapping
and pointing did not answer the purpose of establishing order (if the boy
"psisted"), led the stubborn offender out of meeting; and they had full
authority soundly to thrash the "wretched boy" on the horse-block. Rev. Dr.
Dakin tells the story that, hearing a terrible noise and disturbance while
he was praying in a church in Quincy, he felt constrained to open his eyes
to ascertain the cause thereof; and he beheld a red-haired boy firmly
clutching the railing on the front edge of the gallery, while a venerable
deacon as firmly clutched the boy. The young rebel held fast, and the
correcting deacon held fast also, until at last the balustrade gave way,
and boy, deacon, and railing fell together with a resounding crash.
Then, rising from the wooden debris, the thoroughly subdued boy and the
triumphant deacon left the meeting-house to finish their little affair;
and unmistakable swishing sounds, accompanied by loud wails and whining
protestations, were soon heard from the region of the horse-sheds. Parents
never resented such chastisings; it was expected, and even desired,
that boys should be whipped freely by every school-master and person of
authority who chose so to do.

In some old church-orders for seating, boys were classed with negroes,
and seated with them; but in nearly all towns the negroes had seats by
themselves. The black women were all seated on a long bench or in an
inclosed pew labelled "B.W.," and the negro men in one labelled "B.M." One
William Mills, a jesting soul, being asked by a pompous stranger where he
could sit in meeting, told the visitor that he was welcome to sit in Bill
Mills's pew, and that it was marked "B.M." The man, who chanced to be
ignorant of the local custom of marking the negro seats, accepted the kind
invitation, and seated himself in the black men's pew, to the delight of
Bill Mills, the amusement of the boys, the scandal of the elders, and his
own disgust.

Sometimes a little pew or short gallery was built high up among the beams
and joists over the staircase which led to the first gallery, and was
called the "swallows' nest," or the "roof pue," or the "second gallery." It
was reached by a steep, ladder-like staircase, and was often assigned to
the negroes and Indians of the congregation.

Often "ye seat between ye Deacons seat and ye pulpit is for persons hard of
hearing to sett in." In nearly every meeting a bench or pew full of aged
men might be seen near the pulpit, and this seat was called, with Puritan
plainness of speech, the "Deaf Pew." Some very deaf church members (when
the boys were herded elsewhere) sat on the pulpit stairs, and even in the
pulpit, alongside the preacher, where they disconcertingly upturned their
great tin ear-trumpets directly in his face. The persistent joining in the
psalm-singing by these deaf old soldiers and farmers was one of the bitter
trials which the leader of the choir had to endure.

The singers' seats were usually in the galleries; sometimes upon the ground
floor, in the "hind-row on either side." Occasionally the choir sat in two
rows of seats that extended quite across the floor of the house, in front
of the deacons' seat and the pulpit. The men singers then sat facing the
congregation, while the women singers faced the pulpit. Between them ran a
long rack for the psalm-books. When they sang they stood up, and bawled and
fugued in each other's faces. Often a square pew was built for the singers,
and in the centre of this enclosure was a table, on which were laid, when
at rest, the psalm-books. When they sang, the choir thus formed a hollow
square, as does any determined band, for strength.

One other seat in the old Puritan meeting-house, a seat of gloom,
still throws its darksome shadow down through the years,--the stool of
repentance. "Barbarous and cruel punishments" were forbidden by the
statutes of the new colony, but on this terrible soul-rack the shrinking,
sullen, or defiant form of some painfully humiliated man or woman sat,
crushed, stunned, stupefied by overwhelming disgrace, through the long
Christian sermon; cowering before the hard, pitiless gaze of the assembled
and godly congregation, and the cold rebuke of the pious minister's averted
face; bearing on the poor sinful head a deep-branding paper inscribed in
"Capitall Letters" with the name of some dark or mysterious crime, or
wearing on the sleeve some strange and dread symbol, or on the breast a
scarlet letter.

Let us thank God that these soul-blasting and hope-killing exposures--so
degrading to the criminal, so demoralizing to the community,--these foul,
in-human blots on our fair and dearly loved Puritan Lord's Day, were never
frequent, nor did the form of punishment obtain for a long time. In 1681
two women were sentenced to sit during service on a high stool in the
middle alley of the Salem meeting-house, having on their heads a paper
bearing the name of their crime; and a woman in Agamenticus at about the
same date was ordered "to stand in a white sheet publicly two several
Sabbath-Days with the mark of her offence on her forehead." These are the
latest records of this punishment that I have chanced to see.

Thus, from old church and town records, we plainly discover that each laic,
deacon, elder, criminal, singer, and even the ungodly boy had his alloted
place as absolutely assigned to him in the old meeting-house as was the
pulpit to the parson. Much has been said in semi-ridicule of this old
custom of "seating" and "dignifying," yet it did not in reality differ much
from our modern way of selling the best pews to whoever will pay the most.
Perhaps the old way was the better, since, in the early churches, age,
education, dignity, and reputation were considered as well as wealth.


The Tithingman and the Sleepers.

The most grotesque, the most extraordinary, the most highly colored figure
in the dull New England church-life was the tithingman. This fairly
burlesque creature impresses me always with a sense of unreality, of
incongruity, of strange happening, like a jesting clown in a procession of
monks, like a strain of low comedy in the sober religious drama of early
New England Puritan life; so out of place, so unreal is this fussy,
pompous, restless tithingman, with his fantastic wand of office fringed
with dangling foxtails,--creaking, bustling, strutting, peering around the
quiet meeting-house, prodding and rapping the restless boys, waking the
drowsy sleepers; for they slept in country churches in the seventeenth
century, notwithstanding dread of fierce correction, just as they nod
and doze and softly puff, unawakened and unrebuked, in village churches
throughout New England in the nineteenth century.

This absurd and distorted type of the English church beadle, this colonial
sleep banisher, was equipped with a long staff, heavily knobbed at one end,
with which he severely and pitilessly rapped the heads of the too sleepy
men, and the too wide-awake boys. From the other end of this wand of office
depended a long foxtail, or a hare's-foot, which he softly thrust in the
faces of the sleeping Priscillas, Charitys, and Hopestills, and which
gently brushed and tickled them into reverent but startled wakefulness.

One zealous but too impetuous tithingman in his pious ardor of office
inadvertently applied the wrong end, the end with the heavy knob, the
masculine end, to a drowsy matron's head; and for this severely ungallant
mistake he was cautioned by the ruling elders to thereafter use "more
discresing and less heist."

Another over-watchful Newbury "awakener" rapped on the head a nodding man
who protested indignantly that he was wide-awake, and was only bowing in
solemn assent and approval of the minister's arguments. Roger Scott, of
Lynn, in 1643 struck the tithingman who thus roughly and suddenly wakened
him; and poor sleepy and bewildered Roger, who is branded through all time
as "a common sleeper at the publick exercise," was, for this most naturally
resentful act, but also most shockingly grave offence, soundly whipped, as
a warning both to keep awake and not to strike back in meeting.

Obadiah Turner, of Lynn, gives in his Journal a sad, sad disclosure of
total depravity which was exposed by one of these sudden church-awakenings,
and the story is best told in the journalist's own vivid words:--

"June 3, 1616.--Allen Bridges hath bin chose to wake ye sleepers in
meeting. And being much proude of his place, must needs have a fox taile
fixed to ye ende of a long staff wherewith he may brush ye faces of them yt
will have napps in time of discourse, likewise a sharpe thorne whereby he
may pricke such as be most sound. On ye last Lord his day, as hee strutted
about ye meeting-house, he did spy Mr. Tomlins sleeping with much comfort,
hys head kept steadie by being in ye corner, and his hand grasping ye rail.
And soe spying, Allen did quickly thrust his staff behind Dame Ballard and
give him a grievous prick upon ye hand. Whereupon Mr. Tomlins did spring
vpp mch above ye floore, and with terrible force strike hys hand against
ye wall; and also, to ye great wonder of all, prophanlie exclaim in a loud
voice, curse ye wood-chuck, he dreaming so it seemed yt a wood-chuck had
seized and bit his hand. But on coming to know where he was, and ye greate
scandall he had committed, he seemed much abashed, but did not speak. And I
think he will not soon again goe to sleepe in meeting."

How clear the picture! Can you not see it?--the warm June sunlight
streaming in through the narrow, dusty windows of the old meeting-house;
the armed watcher at the door; the Puritan men and women in their
sad-colored mantles seated sternly upright on the hard narrow benches; the
black-gowned minister, the droning murmur of whose sleepy voice mingles
with the out-door sounds of the rustle of leafy branches, the song of
summer birds, the hum of buzzing insects, and the muffled stamping of
horses' feet; the restless boys on the pulpit-stairs; the tired, sleeping
Puritan with his head thrown back in the corner of the pew; the vain,
strutting, tithingman with his fantastic and thorned staff of office; and
then--the sudden, electric wakening, and the consternation of the whole
staid and pious congregation at such terrible profanity in the house of
God. Ah!--it was not two hundred and forty years ago; when I read the
quaint words my Puritan blood stirs my drowsy brain, and I remember it all
well, just as I saw it last summer in June.

Another catastrophe from too fierce zeal on the part of the tithingman
is recorded. An old farmer, worn out with a hard Saturday's work at
sheep-washing, fell asleep ere the hour-glass had once been turned. Though
he was a man of dignity, for he sat in his own pew, he could not escape the
rod of the pragmatical tithingman. Being rudely disturbed, but not wholly
wakened, the bewildered sheep-farmer sprung to his feet, seized his
astonished and mortified wife by the shoulders and shook her violently,
shouting at the top of his voice, "Haw back! haw back! Stand still, will
ye?" Poor goodman and goodwife! many years elapsed ere they recovered from
that keen disgrace.

The ministers encouraged and urged the tithingmen to faithfully perform
their allotted work. One early minister "did not love sleepers in ye
meeting-house, and would stop short in ye exercise and call pleasantlie to
wake ye sleepers, and once of a warm Summer afternoon he did take hys hat
off from ye pegg in ye beam, and put it on, saying he would go home and
feed his fowles and come back again, and maybe their sleepe would be ended,
and they readie to hear ye remainder of hys discourse." Another time he
suggested that they might like better the Church of England service of
sitting down and standing up, and we can be sure that this "was competent
to keepe their eyes open for a twelvemonth."

All this was in the church of Mr. Whiting, of Lynn, a somewhat jocose
Puritan,--if jocularity in a Puritan is not too anomalous an attribute
to have ever existed. We can be sure that there was neither sleeping nor
jesting allusion to such an irreverence in Mr. Mather's, Mr. Welde's, or
Mr. Cotton's meetings. In many rigidly severe towns, as in Portsmouth in
1662 and in Boston in 1667, it was ordered by the selectmen as a proper
means of punishment that a "cage be made or some other means invented for
such as sleepe on the Lord's Daie." Perhaps they woke the offender up and
rudely and summarily dragged him out and caged him at once and kept him
thus prisoned throughout the nooning,--a veritable jail-bird.

A rather unconventional and eccentric preacher in Newbury awoke one sleeper
in a most novel manner. The first name of the sleeping man was Mark, and
the preacher in his sermon made use of these Biblical words: "I say unto
you, mark the perfect man and behold the upright." But in the midst of his
low, monotonous sermon-voice he roared out the word "mark" in a loud shout
that brought the dozing Mark to his feet, bewildered but wide awake.

Mr. Moody, of York, Maine, employed a similar device to awaken and mortify
the sleepers in meeting. He shouted "Fire, fire, fire!" and when the
startled and blinking men jumped up, calling out "Where?" he roared back in
turn, "In hell, for sleeping sinners." Rev. Mr. Phillips, of Andover, in
1755, openly rebuked his congregation for "sleeping away a great part of
the sermon;" and on the Sunday following an earthquake shock which was felt
throughout New England, he said he hoped the "Glorious Lord of the Sabbath
had given them such a shaking as would keep them awake through one
sermon-time." Other and more autocratic parsons did not hesitate to call
out their sleeping parishioners plainly by name, sternly telling them also
to "Wake up!" A minister in Brunswick, Maine, thus pointedly wakened one of
his sweet-sleeping church-attendants, a man of some dignity and standing
in the community, and received the shocking and tautological answer, "Mind
your own business, and go on with your sermon."

The women would sometimes nap a little without being discovered. "Ye women
may sometimes sleepe and none know by reason of their enormous bonnets. Mr.
Whiting doth pleasantlie say from ye pulpit hee doth seeme to be preaching
to stacks of straw with men among them."

From this seventeenth-century comment upon the size of the women's bonnets,
it may be seen that objections to women's overwhelming and obscuring
headgear in public assemblies are not entirely complaining protests of
modern growth. Other records refer to the annoyance from the exaggerated
size of bonnets. In 1769 the church in Andover openly "put to vote whether
the parish Disapprove of the Female sex sitting with their Hats on in the
Meeting-house in time of Divine Service as being Indecent." The parish did
Disapprove, with a capital D, for the vote passed in the affirmative. There
is no record, however, to tell whether the Indecent fashion was abandoned,
but I warrant no tithingman was powerful enough to make Andover women take
off their proudly worn Sunday bonnets if they did not want to. Another town
voted that it was the "Town's Mind" that the women should take off their
bonnets and "hang them on the peggs," as did the men their headgear. But
the Town's Mind was not a Woman's Mind; and the big-bonnet wearers, vain
though they were Puritans, did as they pleased with their own bonnets.
And indeed, in spite of votes and in spite of expostulations, the female
descendants of the Puritans, through constantly recurring waves of fashion,
have ever since been indecently wearing great obscuring hats and bonnets in
public assemblies, even up to the present day.

The tithingman had other duties than awakening the sleepers and looking
after "the boyes that playes and rapping those boyes,"--in short, seeing
that every one was attentive in meeting except himself,--and the duties
and powers of the office varied in different communities. Several of these
officers were appointed in each parish. In Newbury, in 1688, there were
twenty tithingmen, and in Salem twenty-five. They were men of authority,
not only on Sunday, but throughout the entire week. Each had several
neighboring families (usually ten, as the word "tithing" would signify)
under his charge to watch during the week, to enforce the learning of the
catechism at home, especially by the children, and sometimes he heard them
"Say their Chatachize." These families he also watched specially on the
Sabbath, and reported whether all the members thereof attended public
worship. Not content with mounting guard over the boys on Sundays, he also
watched on weekdays to keep boys and "all persons from swimming in the
water." Do you think his duties were light in July and August, when school
was out, to watch the boys of ten families? One man watching one family
cannot prevent such "violations of the peace" in country towns now-a-days.
He sometimes inspected the "ordinaries" and made complaint of any disorders
which he there discovered, and gave in the names of "idle tiplers and
gamers," and he could warn the tavern-keeper to sell no more liquor to any
toper whom he knew or fancied was drinking too heavily. Josselyn complained
bitterly that during his visit to New England in 1663 at "houses of
entertainment called ordinaries into which a stranger went, he was
presently followed by one appointed to that office who would thrust himself
into his company uninvited, and if he called for more drink than the
officer thought in his judgment he could soberly bear away, he would
presently countermand it, and appoint the proportion beyond which he could
not get one drop." The tithingman had a "spetial eye-out" on all bachelors,
who were also carefully spied upon by the constables, deacons, elders,
and heads of families in general. He might, perhaps, help to collect the
ministerial rate, though his principal duty was by no means the collecting
of tithes. He "worned peple out of ye towne." This warning was not at all
because the new-comers were objectionable or undesired, but was simply a
legal form of precaution, so that the parish would never be liable for the
keeping of the "worned" ones in case they thereafter became paupers. He
administered the "oath of fidelity" to new inhabitants. The tithingman
also watched to see that "no young people walked abroad on the eve of the
Sabbath,"--that is, on a Saturday night. He also marked and reported all
those "who lye at home," and others who "prophanely behaved, lingered
without dores at meeting time on the Lordes Daie," all the "sons of Belial
strutting about, setting on fences, and otherwise desecrating the
day." These last two classes of offenders were first admonished by the
tithingman, then "Sett in stocks," and then cited before the Court. They
were also confined in the cage on the meeting-house green, with the Lord's
Day sleepers. The tithingman could arrest any who walked or rode at too
fast a pace to and from meeting, and he could arrest any who "walked or
rode unnecessarily on the Sabath." Great and small alike were under his
control, as this notice from the "Columbian Centinel" of December, 1789,
abundantly proves. It is entitled "The President and the Tything man:"--

"The President, on his return to New York from his late tour through
Connecticut, having missed his way on Saturday, was obliged to ride a
few miles on Sunday morning in order to gain the town at which he had
previously proposed to have attended divine service. Before he arrived
however he was met by a Tything man, who commanding him to stop,
demanded the occasion of his riding; and it was not until the President
had informed him of every circumstance and promised to go no further
than the town intended that the Tything man would permit him to proceed
on his journey."

Various were the subterfuges to outwit the tithingman and elude his
vigilance on the Sabbath. We all remember the amusing incident in "Oldtown
Folks." A similar one really happened. Two gay young sparks driving through
the town on the Sabbath were stopped by the tithingman; one offender said
mournfully in excuse of his Sabbath travel, "My grandmother is lying dead
in the next town." Being allowed to drive on, he stood up in his wagon when
at a safe distance and impudently shouted back, "And she's been lying dead
in the graveyard there for thirty years."

Thus it may be seen that the ancient tithingman was pre-eminently a general
_snook_, to use an old and expressive word,--an informer, both in and
out of meeting,--a very necessary, but somewhat odious, and certainly at
times very absurd officer. He was in a degree a constable, a selectman, a
teacher, a tax-collector, an inspector, a sexton, a home-watcher, and above
all, a Puritan Bumble, whose motto was _Hie et ubique_. He was, in
fact, a general law-enforcer and order-keeper, whose various duties,
wherever still necessary and still performed, are now apportioned to
several individuals. The ecclesiastical functions and authority of the
tithingman lingered long after the civil powers had been removed or had
gradually passed away from his office. Persons are now living who in their
early and unruly youth were rapped at and pointed at by a New England
tithingman when they laughed or were noisy in meeting.


The Length of the Service.

Watches were unknown in the early colonial days of New England, and for a
long time after their introduction both watches and clocks were costly and
rare. John Davenport of New Haven, who died in 1670, left a clock to his
heirs; and E. Needham, who died in 1677, left a "Striking clock, a watch,
and a Larum that dus not Strike," worth L5; these are perhaps the first
records of the ownership of clocks and watches in New England. The time of
the day was indicated to our forefathers in their homes by "noon marks" on
the floor or window-seats, and by picturesque sundials; and in the
civil and religious meetings the passage of time was marked by a strong
brass-bound hour-glass, which stood on a desk below or beside the pulpit,
or which was raised on a slender iron rod and standard, so that all the
members of the congregation could easily watch "the sands that ran i' the
clock's behalf." By the side of the desk sat, on the Sabbath, a sexton,
clerk, or tithingman, whose duty it was to turn the hour-glass as often
as the sands ran out. This was a very ostentatious way of reminding the
clergyman how long he had preached; but if it were a hint to bring the
discourse to an end, it was never heeded; for contemporary historical
registers tell of most painfully long sermons, reaching up through long
sub-divisions and heads to "twenty-seventhly" and "twenty-eighthly."

At the planting of the first church in Woburn, Massachusetts, the Rev.
Mr. Symmes showed his godliness and endurance (and proved that of his
parishioners also) by preaching between four and five hours. Sermons which
occupied two or three hours were customary enough. One old Scotch clergyman
in Vermont, in the early years of this century, bitterly and fiercely
resented the "popish innovation and Sabbath profanation" of a Sunday-school
for the children, which some daring and progressive parishioners proposed
to hold at the "nooning." This canny Parson Whiteinch very craftily and
somewhat maliciously prolonged his morning sermons until they each occupied
three hours; thus he shortened the time between the two services to about
half an hour, and victoriously crowded out the Sunday-school innovators,
who had barely time to eat their cold lunch and care for their waiting
horses, ere it was time for the afternoon service to begin. But one man
cannot stop the tide, though he may keep it for a short time from one
guarded and sheltered spot; and the rebellious Vermont congregation, after
two or three years of tedious three-hour sermons, arose in a body and
crowded out the purposely prolix preacher, and established the wished-for
Sunday-school. The vanquished parson thereafter sullenly spent the noonings
in the horse-shed, to which he ostentatiously carried the big church-Bible
in order that it might not be at the service of the profaning teachers.

An irreverent caricature of the colonial days represents a phenomenally
long-preaching clergyman as turning the hour-glass by the side of his
pulpit and addressing his congregation thus, "Come! you are all good
fellows, we'll take another glass together!" It is recorded of Rev. Urian
Oakes that often the hour-glass was turned four times during one of his
sermons. The warning legend, "Be Short," which Cotton Mather inscribed over
his study door was not written over his pulpit; for he wrote in his diary
that at his own ordination he prayed for an hour and a quarter, and
preached for an hour and three quarters. Added to the other ordination
exercises these long Mather addresses must have been tiresome enough.
Nathaniel Ward deplored at that time, "Wee have a strong weakness in New
England that when wee are speaking, wee know not how to conclude: wee make
many ends before wee make an end."

Dr. Lord of Norwich always made a prayer which was one hour long; and an
early Dutch traveller who visited New England asserted that he had heard
there on Fast Day a prayer which was two hours long. These long prayers
were universal and most highly esteemed,--a "poor gift in prayer" being a
most deplored and even despised clerical short-coming. Had not the Puritans
left the Church of England to escape "stinted prayers"? Whitefield prayed
openly for Parson Barrett of Hopkinton, who could pray neither freely, nor
well, that "God would open this dumb dog's mouth;" and everywhere in the
Puritan Church, precatory eloquence as evinced in long prayers was felt to
be the greatest glory of the minister, and the highest tribute to God.

In nearly all the churches the assembled people stood during prayer-time
(since kneeling and bowing the head savored of Romish idolatry) and in the
middle of his petition the minister usually made a long pause in order that
any who were infirm or ill might let down their slamming pew-seats and sit
down; those who were merely weary stood patiently to the long and painfully
deferred end. This custom of standing during prayer-time prevailed in the
Congregational churches in New England until quite a recent date, and is
not yet obsolete in isolated communities and in solitary cases. I have seen
within a few years, in a country church, a feeble, white-haired old deacon
rise tremblingly at the preacher's solemn words "Let us unite in prayer,"
and stand with bowed head throughout the long prayer; thus pathetically
clinging to the reverent custom of the olden time, he rendered tender
tribute to vanished youth, gave equal tribute to eternal hope and faith,
and formed a beautiful emblem of patient readiness for the last solemn

Sometimes tedious expounding of the Scriptures and long "prophesying"
lengthened out the already too long service. Judge Sewall recorded that
once when he addressed or expounded at the Plymouth Church, "being afraid
to look at the glass, ignorantly and unwittingly I stood two hours and a
half," which was doing pretty well for a layman.

The members of the early churches did not dislike these long preachings and
prophesyings; they would have regarded a short sermon as irreligious,
and lacking in reverence, and besides, would have felt that they had not
received in it their full due, their full money's worth. They often fell
asleep and were fiercely awakened by the tithingman, and often they could
not have understood the verbose and grandiose language of the preacher.
They were in an icy-cold atmosphere in winter, and in glaring, unshaded
heat in summer, and upon most uncomfortable, narrow, uncushioned seats at
all seasons; but in every record and journal which I have read, throughout
which ministers and laymen recorded all the annoyances and opposition which
the preachers encountered, I have never seen one entry of any complaint or
ill-criticism of too long praying or preaching. Indeed, when Rev. Samuel
Torrey, of Weymouth, Massachusetts, prayed two hours without stopping, upon
a public Fast Day in 1696, it is recorded that his audience only wished
that the prayer had been much longer.

When we consider the training and exercise in prayer that the New England
parsons had in their pulpits on Sundays, in their own homes on Saturday
nights, on Lecture Days and Fast Days and Training Days, and indeed upon
all times and occasions, can we wonder at Parson Boardman's prowess in New
Milford in 1735? He visited a "praying" Indian's home wherein lay a sick
papoose over whom a "pow-wow" was being held by a medicine-man at the
request of the squaw-mother, who was still a heathen. The Christian warrior
determined to fight the Indian witch-doctor on his own grounds, and while
the medicine-man was screaming and yelling and dancing in order to cast the
devil out ol the child, the parson began to pray with equal vigor and power
of lungs to cast out the devil of a medicine-man. As the prayer and
pow-wow proceeded the neighboring Indians gathered around, and soon became
seriously alarmed for the success of their prophet. The battle raged for
three hours, when the pow-wow ended, and the disgusted and exhausted Indian
ran out of the wigwam and jumped into the Housatonic River to cool his
heated blood, leaving the Puritan minister triumphant in the belief, and
indeed with positive proof, that he could pray down any man or devil.

The colonists could not leave the meeting-house before the long sen ices
were ended, even had they wished, for the tithingman allowed no deserters.
In Salem, in 1676, it was "ordered by ye Selectmen yt the three Constables
doe attend att ye three greate doores of ye meeting-house every Lordes Day
att ye end of ye sermon, both forenoone and afternoone, and to keep ye
doores fast and suffer none to goe out before ye whole exercises bee
ended." Thus Salem people had to listen to no end of praying and
prophesying from their ministers and elders for they "couldn't get out."

As the years passed on, the church attendants became less referential and
much more impatient and fearless, and soon after the Revolutionary War one
man in Medford made a bargain with his minister--Rev. Dr. Osgood--that he
would attend regularly the church services every Sunday morning, provided
he could always leave at twelve o'clock. On each Sabbath thereafter, as
the obstinate preacher would not end his sermon one minute sooner than
his habitual time, which was long after twelve, the equally stubborn
limited-time worshipper arose at noon, as he had stipulated, and stalked
noisily out of meeting.

A minister about to preach in a neighboring parish was told of a custom
which prevailed there of persons who lived at a distance rising and leaving
the house ere the sermon was ended. He determined to teach them a lesson,
and announced that he would preach the first part of his sermon to the
sinners, and the latter part to the saints, and that the sinners would of
course all leave as soon as their portion had been delivered. Every soul
remained until the end of the service.

At last, when other means of entertainment and recreation than church-going
became common, and other forms of public addresses than sermons were
frequently given, New England church-goers became so restless and
rebellious under the regime of hour-long prayers and indefinitely
protracted sermons that the long services were gradually condensed and
curtailed, to the relief of both preacher and hearers.


The Icy Temperature of the Meeting-House.

In colonial days in New England the long and tedious services must have
been hard to endure in the unheated churches in bitter winter weather, so
bitter that, as Judge Sewall pathetically recorded, "The communion bread
was frozen pretty hard and rattled sadly into the plates." Sadly down
through the centuries is ringing in our ears the gloomy rattle of that
frozen sacramental bread on the Church plate, telling to us the solemn
story of the austere and comfortless church-life of our ancestors. Would
that the sound could bring to our chilled hearts the same steadfast and
pure Christian faith that made their gloomy, freezing services warm with
God's loving presence!

Again Judge Sewall wrote: "Extraordinary Cold Storm of Wind and Snow. Blows
much more as coming home at Noon, and so holds on. Bread was frozen at
Lord's Table. Though 't was so cold John Tuckerman was baptized. At six
o'clock my ink freezes, so that I can hardly write by a good fire in my
Wives chamber. Yet was very Comfortable at Meeting." In the penultimate
sentence of this quotation may be found the clue and explanation of the
seemingly incredible assertion in the last sentence. The reason why he was
comfortable in church was that he was accustomed to sit in cold rooms; even
with the great open-mouthed and open-chimneyed fireplaces full of blazing
logs, so little heat entered the rooms of colonial dwelling-houses that one
could not be warm unless fairly within the chimney-place; and thus, even
while sitting by the fire, his ink froze. Another entry of Judge Sewall's
tells of an exceeding cold day when there was "Great Coughing" in meeting,
and yet a new-born baby was brought into the icy church to be baptized.
Children were always carried to the meeting-house for baptism the first
Sunday after birth, even in the most bitter weather. There are no entries
in Judge Sewall's diary which exhibit him in so lovable and gentle a light
as the records of the baptism of his fourteen children,--his pride when
the child did not cry out or shrink from the water in the freezing winter
weather, thus early showing true Puritan fortitude; and also his noble
resolves and hopes for their future. On this especially cold day when a


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