Welcome! I really enjoy exchanging information with people and hope this blog will help with that. Some of the surnames I'm researching:

Many old Cape families including Kelley, Eldredge/idge, Howes, Baker, Mayo, Bangs, Snow, Chase, Ryder/Rider, Freeman, Cole, Sears, Wixon, Nickerson.
Many old Plymouth County families including Washburn, Bumpus, Lucas, Cobb, Benson.
Johnson (England to MA)
Corey (Correia?) (Azores to MA)
Booth, Jones, Taylor, Heatherington (N. Ireland to Quebec)
O'Connor (Ireland to MA)
My Mayflower Ancestors (only first two have been submitted/approved by the Mayflower Society):
Francis Cooke, William Brewster, George Soule, Isaac Allerton, John Billington, Richard Warren, Peter Browne, Francis Eaton, Samuel Fuller, James Chilton, John Tilley, Stephen Hopkins, John Howland.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Richard Chase 1715-1794, Dennis and Harwich MA

I find it interesting how many of my ancestors were not only deeply religious, but participated in “alternative” religions rather than following the majority. They were Separatists, Mormons, Quakers, Baptists, Methodists, and Newlighters. In early New England failing to support the established church could be damaging--people risked being fined or jailed for not paying the ministerial tax.

One of my ancestors with a strong religious bent was Richard Chase. He was pastor of the Harwich New Light and Baptist Churches.

Richard was born in Yarmouth (current day Dennis) on 3 March 1714/15, son of Thomas3 Chase (John2, William1 Chase) and Sarah Gowell, daughter of Richard1 Gowell.

On 21 January 1734/35, Richard married Thankful Berry at Harwich. Thankful was the daughter of Richard Berry and Rebecca Gray. They settled in Yarmouth (now Dennis) in the Sears neighborhood not far from Swan Pond.

Thankful had married first, in 1732, John Chase (son of John Chase and Sarah Hills) and they had one daughter, Mercy. John died in a fall from a horse before his only child Mercy was born.[i]
Richard and Thankful had 10 children: John, Samuel, Archelus, Berry, Richard, Rebecca, Thankful, Huldah, Abigail, and Phebe. All 10 children survived childhood, grew up and married. I descend through their son Samuel who married Zilpha Burgess. Zilpha was first married to Samuel’s brother John.

Richard and Thankful Chase were members of the New Light Church in the 1740s, where Joshua Nickerson was pastor and Richard served as a deacon. It was the first church of the denomination in Barnstable County and it caused considerable excitement and "a deal of discourse."  It admitted parishioners whether they were sprinkled at baptism (Congregational Church) or immersed as adults.[ii]

In 1751 a second church of the Separatists/Newlighters began in Harwich by members dismissed from Nickerson's church. Richard Chase of Yarmouth (now Dennis) was ordained pastor. Originally infants of members of the church were baptized. Richard eventually denounced infant baptism and the rite was abandoned, which caused a portion of the church council to censure him, which was later revoked.

On 29 September 1757 he formally gave up his commission as a New Light and was ordained as minister of the Baptist Church, an Anabaptist wing of the church. The Baptists were a no nonsense group. In 1757 four men were assigned to "take care of the Boys on Lord's Day and whip them if found playing."

On 31 March 1777, after almost 25 years of service, Richard was dismissed as pastor of the Baptist Church, due to disorderly conduct in his administration of the gospel. Maybe that’s code for displeasure with his Newlighter associations.  I’ve also read that he was dismissed for intemperance, but I’m not sure if there is substance to that theory.

According to Josiah Paine, Richard was not very gifted as a preacher.  His moral qualities were not so lofty or even so polished as the nature of the position he demanded.  Religiously inclined, he sought to lead, but failure was written on his banner, as his one desire as self conceit was so largely in his make up as to give discretion any power of bringing back a head strong bigot. Apparently not a fan of Richard! [iii]
I don’t have a deep understanding of 18th century religions in Massachusetts, but here is what I’ve gleaned in my bit of research. Toward the middle of the 18th century America experienced its first major religious revival with the period known as “The Awakening.” The supporters of The Awakening and its evangelical bent were Presbyterians, Baptists and Methodists. They became the largest American Protestant denominations by the first decades of the 19th century. Opponents of The Awakening or those split by it--Anglicans, Quakers and Congregationalists--were left behind. The fundamental premise of evangelicalism is the conversion of individuals from a state of sin to a "new birth" through preaching of the Word.

The Awakening split the Congregational and Presbyterian Churches into supporters, called New Lights, and opponents, called the Old Lights.  Many New Lights became Separate Baptists. Baptists differed from other Protestant groups by offering baptism (by immersion) only to those who had undergone a conversion experience. Infants were excluded from the sacrament, which generated enormous controversy with other Christians.
Richard Chase's gravestone Old Baptist Church Cemetery, N. Harwich
Thankful Berry Chase's gravestone Old Baptist Church Cemetery, N. Harwich

Richard died in Harwich on 14 January, 1794 at the age of 80. He and his wife Thankful are buried at the Old Baptist Church Cemetery in N. Harwich. Thankful lived to age 93 and her stone is in fairly good condition, but Richard’s is badly crumbling. An issue of the Mayflower Descendant recorded the inscription before the stone deteriorated: Rev. Richard Chase died Jan 14 1794 aged 80 years.




[i]Chase, John Carroll and Chamberlain, George Walter, Some of the Descendants of William Chase of Roxbury and Yarmouth, Mass., NEHGR, January 1933


[ii] Deyo, Simeon L., editor, History of Barnstable County, Massachusetts,  HW Blake & Co., New York, 1890

[iii] Josiah Paine Harwich Families, manuscript transcribed by Burt Derick from Paine's ledgers at NEHGS.

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