Granville, Mass. First Congregational Church - Disciplinary Cases
During the colonial period, the local church often functioned as the legal authority in matters of morality. Parishioners were disciplined by the congregation in instances of intemperance (excessive drinking), adultery or fornication outside marriage, and other breaches of their duties as members of the Christian community. Punishment in such cases usually consisted of censure — a temporary restriction from attending services and participating in church business — until the guilty party made a formal confession or request for forgiveness.
Full transcriptions of these documents are available.
Ms. Adams was accused by Mr. Seymour of being "quarrelsome" and generally unpleasant to several neighbors over the summer of 1820. After considering each incident, a committee of church members brokered a resolution between the two.
|Complaint||Seymour, Asa||1820 November|
|Confession||Adams, Mehetabel||1820 December|
|Statement||Seymour, Asa||1821 January 19|
|Statement||Adams, Mehetabel||1821 January 21|
James and Margaret Burt
The Burts had a contentious relationship to the church, particularly regarding what each side regarded as proper procedure for resolving their difficulties.
|Complaint||Burt, Margaret (Margrate / Margarit)||1761 November 24|
|Request for a church meeting||Seaward, Ebenezer ; Spelman, John ; Strickland, John ; Coe, Samuel||1763 January 27|
|Request for a church meeting||Moore / Mores / Morse, Marvin||1766 December 21 - 1767 January 5|
|Church meeting minutes||Church Committee||1767|
|Advice of the Association committee||Williams, Stephen||undated|
|Request for reconciliation||Burt, Margaret (Margarit)||1767 January 29|
|Complaint and response||Coe, Samuel ; Church Committee||1767 December 2 - 1768 January 28|
|Confession||Hitchcock, Luke||1768 February 3|
|Complaint||Burt, Margaret||1771 January|
After delivering a child that did not survive under unclear circumstances, Mrs. Ellis was accused by Mr. Willcox of deception and improper conduct. She denied the charges and withdrew from the congregation. When Deborah and her husband William remained absent, despite repeated overtures by Rev. Cooley, the original matter was pursued further and Mrs. Ellis was excommunicated.
|Letter to Capt. & Mrs. Ellis||Cooley, Timothy||undated|
|Testimony of Sharon Rose||Cooley, Timothy||1802 November 27 & 28|
|Excommunication||[Church Council]||1803 November 3|
|Copy of excommunication||Cooley, Timothy||1803 November 3|
Sarah Gibbins / Gibbons
Mr. Perkins petitioned the church for a trial of Mrs. Gibbins after she confessed privately to his family that she had spoken unkindly about them and other neighbors to Mrs. Church, and that she had spread a rumor about Mr. Perkins having stolen Rev. Smith's cheeses. She later made a written confession to the church admitting to all charges.
|Testimony||Perkins, Phineas||1766 April 9|
After repeated bad behavior "in speech and action", the church reached out to Mr. Gibbons and encouraged him to repent. Although he made a confession and asked for reconciliation in 1804, it seems that Mr. Gibbons's "unchristianlike walk" persisted for over a decade. He eventually came to feel unwelcome and stopped attending services, declaring that he would not return until formally invited to do so.
|Advice against a new hearing||Committee||1803 March 22|
|Confession||Gibbons, Eli||1804 September 29|
|Complaint||Coe, Oliver||1819 April 29|
|Complaint||Coe, Oliver||1819 April 31|
|Confession||Gibbons, Eli ; Seymour, Asa||1819 June 30|
|Letter to Oliver Coe||Gibbons, Eli||1820|
|Letter to Timothy Cooley||Gibbons, Eli||undated|
The church found itself in a protracted and contentious process when trying to choose a new deacon. The people most heavily involved included Luke Hitchcock, James Burt, and Samuel Coe. After Hitchcock was chosen, some church members were still uneasy with him serving in that office due to perceived flaws in his character.
|Church meeting minutes (digest)||Smith, Jedidiah||1757 January 20 - 1761 June 25|
|Committee meeting minutes||Ballantine, John||1761 April 1|
|Complaint and response||Spelman, John||1762 May 19|
|Complaint||Burt, Margaret (Margarit)||1762 March 15|
|Church meeting minutes (digest)||Smith, Jedidiah||1763 January 27 - April 21|
|Church meeting minutes (digest)||various scribes||1765 October 20 - 1766 February 16|
|Church meeting minutes (digest)||various scribes||1766 January 28 - February 2|
|Church meeting minutes (digest)||various scribes||1769 March 27 - June 1|
|Church meeting minutes (digest)||various scribes||1769 July 27 - 1771 February 11|
In these two versions of Mr. Miller's confession, he admits to spreading unconfirmed rumors that "Mr. Gerard Pratt ... was the father of Lidiah Stiles' bastard child", and asks the church's forgiveness for his "breach of the Ninth Command[ment]" against lying.
|Confession||Miller, Joseph||1769 February 27|
Joseph More(s) / Morse
Mr. More was called before the church to face accusations that he had expressed to several neighbors a belief that "many things recorded in ... the Bible were not given by divine inspiration" and that "it has many contradictions in it". He was further accused of neglecting his family's prayers in the home. After he admitted to all the charges but expressed no remorse, he was forbidden from attending worship services unless he repented.
|Invitation to Joseph More||Dickinson, Richard||1793 May 25|
|Admonition||Bradford, William||1792 June 1|
Mr. Pratt was denied admission to the church, despite his written dismission and recommendation from his prior congregation in Worcester, on the grounds of his opinion about procedures for addressing private grievances between individuals outside the formal discipline process. They were advised by a nearby church to admit him and try to change his views.
|Complaint against the church||Pratt, Phineas||1764 December 27|
|Advice from West Parish Church in Suffield||Williams, Stephen||1765 July 11|
The sole remaining document in this case is a second admonition sent to Mr. Rose after he refused to renounce his belief in "the doctrine of universal salvation", which the church council held to be dangerous to the congregation's spiritual health.
During the 1760s, a small group of members found themselves in such disagreement with the doctrine and governance of the church that they decided to stop attending services and providing financial support. Although the remaining members attempted to make amends, the decision was eventually made to cut ties. At least one of the "Separates" later asked to return.
|Concerns about the Separates||Seaward, Ebenezer ; Miller, Joseph Jr. ; Rose, Justus ; Rose, John ; Spelman, Aaron ; How, Ephraim ; Spelman, Oliver ; Spelman, Stephen ; Spelman, Charles ; Sweatman, Joseph||undated|
|Concerns about the fracturing church||Spelman, Aaron ; Spelman, Stephen ; Rose, Deborah ; Rose, Kezia||undated (circa 1763)|
|Letter to the Separates||Smith, Jedidiah||1762 November 19 - December 29|
|Decision to excommunicate the Separates||unsigned||1763 May 15|
|Request for advice||Dunham, Jabez ; Seaward, Ebenezer||1769 August 24|
This case involves a complicated financial matter involving Sgt. Spelman, Lt. Dan Robinson, the widow Hannah Austen of Durham, and a Mrs. Smith. The committee's judgment also includes testimony from Sgt. John Hambleton and George Pynchon, and it focuses more on the ethics of making and breaking promises than on the actual money that may have been owed.
|Complaint||Robinson, Dan||1762 August 24|
|Judgment||Church Committee ; Smith, Jedidiah (moderator)||1762 October 6|
Mrs. Stone was admonished very solicitously by a committee of her fellow members for her extended absence from worship and communion services, "expressing irreverence for the Redeemer", and denying the divine inspiration of some parts of scripture.
Mr. Sweetman seems to have been a habitual liar. His confessions from 1761 admit to an incident when he claimed to have paid his rates (taxes) in Chelmsford in order to avoid paying them to Granville. The complaints against him from 1769 involve his denial of accusations that he had cheated his neighbor out of logs the two were intended to share evenly.
|Confession||Sweetman, Joseph (redacted)||undated|
|Confession||Sweetman, Joseph||1761 April 9|
|Confession||Sweetman, Joseph||1761 September 28|
|Complaint||Robinson, Timothy||1769 May 1|
|Complaint||Seaward, Ebenezer||1769 May 1|
Mr. Tibbals seems to have been a bit of a scoundrel. In the first document, he seeks advice from the church committee on whether he should make a formal confession for a rumored sexual indiscretion with a Mary Rose that may lack sufficient proof for a court case. In the second, he and his wife ask forgiveness of the church for their repeated breach of the Seventh Commandment against fornication.
|Request for advice||Tibbals, John||undated|
|Confession||Tibbals, John (and his wife)||undated|
Mr. Rose recounts an incident at the home of Mr. Stow in which Mr. Troop claimed to feel that "the Holy Ghost was there".
Mr. Rose and Mr. Seaward made formal complaints to the church after Mr. Rose's repeated attempts to privately chastise Mrs. Walker for not attending family prayers in her own home were rebuffed.
|Testimony||Rose, Daniel ; Seaward, Enos||1758 September 5|
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