The Reverend Thomas Carter

Erik M. Hanson

 

 

 

Presented to the Woburn Public Library by the late Leonard Thompson, Esq., in 1895.

 

ORDINATION OF REV. THOMAS CARTER
Woburn, Massachusetts, 22 November 1642, O.S.
From the Painting by Albert Thompson

 

      This painting is of great historic interest, since it represents some of the first settlers of Woburn, Massachusetts.  The establishment of the church preceded the incorporation of the town, as was customary in those days.  Woburn was originally a grant of land made in 1640, by the General Court of Massachusetts to Charlestown, and was known as "Charlestowne Village."  On 5 November 1640, the Church of Charlestown chose seven men as Commissioners "for the erection of a Church and Town upon the recent grant of the Court."  On 8 February 1641, the Commissioners came from Charlestown to find a suitable location.  The Meeting House was built on land now occupied by the Common.  The ordination, as illustrated, followed.  On 27 September 1642, O.S., the General Court incorporated Woburn with these five words:  "Charlestowne Village is called Wooburne."
        The characters represented in the painting are as follows:  Beginning at the left (standing) is John Cotton, Minister of the First Church of Boston;  Richard Mather, Minister of the First Church of Dorchester;  John Elliot, Apostle to the Indians from the FIrst Church of Roxbury;  Capt. Edward Johnson, one of the founders of both the church and town of Woburn;  Thomas Carter, one of the lay members of the church;  John Wilson, Minister of the First Church of Charlestown; and finally, a visiting minister, unnamed.  Seated on the bench with his hat beside him is Increase Nowell, Magistrate from Charlestown.  The others are members of the church. 

 

Biography

 

The Reverend Thomas Carter was a much-respected early settler of Massachusetts, and was ordained as the first pastor of the Congregationalist Church in Woburn, Massachusetts. The biographical information that follows has been gleaned from various sources. (Note, this is a ‘work in progress’, the final version will be available at a date TBA)

According to H.W. Carter, ('A Genealogy of the Descendents of Thomas Carter'):

 

'The birthplace and the parentage of the Rev. Thomas Carter, first minister of Woburn, Mass., cannot be stated with certainty, but there is no reasonable doubt that he was a native of Suffolk County, England, and there is ground for the belief that he was the son of James Carter, yeoman, of Hinderclay, Suffolk County, who will , dated August, 1625, proved Oct. 1, 1625, is on file at Bury St. Edmunds. . . .

 

'. . .We find that the Rev. Thomas Carter was matriculated a sizar of St. John's College, Cambridge University, April 1, 1626, at which university he took the degree of Bachelor of Arts in January, 1629/30, and that of Master of Arts in 1633.' Among the old records of St. John's College is a list of students 'who secured scholarships at the university, and is dated Nov. 5, 1628: "Ego Thomas Carter Suffolciensis admissus sum disciplus huju collegij pro migistro Spaldinge.' (I Thomas Carter, of Suffolk, am admitted as a student of this College on the Spalding scholarship).

 

'The Spalding scholarship was founded by William Spalding, yeoman, of Tamwarth, in Suffolk, who gave £60, and stipulated that the scholar was to be chosen from Bury St. Edmunds Grammar School, an institution founded by King Edward VI in 1550. According to the Bursar of St. John's College [in 1990], Mr. R.F. Scott . . . the record proves that the holder of the scholarship was not only a resident of Suffolk at the time, but that he was also a native of the county.

 

'In this connection it is interesting to note that the Rev. Thomas Carter was for several years (1628-1633) a fellow student at Cambridge University with the Rev. John Harvard, the founder of Harvard College, and that both afterward came to America and were settled in neighboring communities. It is more than probable that these young men were well acquainted while at the university. It is certain that a similarity of tastes and inclinations led them to immigrate to New England at about the same time, both entering the ministry. Both were made freemen of the Colony of Massachusetts in the same year, 1637. . . . The next authentic knowledge of Mr. Carter is the fact of his being admitted a freeman of Dedham, Mass., March 9, 1636/7 . . . being "presented" by Philemon Dalton. (Dedham Records.) His residence here, however, was brief, for previous to the formation of the church in Dedham, 1638, John Allin, afterwards chosen first minister of Dedham, "moved to ye Pastour of watertowne yet seeing divers of ther members lived with us & mr. Carter one of them had exercised some good time there & knew ye people better than I, that therefore it would please ther church to dismisse mr Carter & such other of ther members as they judged meete to prepare with us such as should be thought fitt for ye laying of ye foundation of a church society amongst us, but for some reasons he did not judge it either needful or according to order to dismisse any but unto a settled church & so refused ye request." From the above and other records it would appear that Thomas Carter had "exercised" his spiritual gifts already in Dedham, and at this time was filling the office of Elder in the church at Watertown, for the church records of Dedham, a year or two later, refer to "ye elders of Watertowne in a letter subscribed by mr Philip pastour; mr Carter mr How elders, testifying yt ye church ther" gave power to certain of their members residing in Dedham to unite with the Dedham church. In Watertown, Thomas Carter was granted a homestall of ten acres and, in 1642, a farm of 92 acres and a lot in the town plot. . . .

 

'Mr. Carter preached in Woburn for the first time Dec. 4, 1641, this being the second service of public worship ever held in the new town, and took for his text a passage in Gen. xxii, of which sermon the town record says, "incouraging to trust in the Lord for the Means." This discourse or his previous reputation seems to have made a favorable impression upon the people of Woburn, for the Town Records state: 1641, Dec. 19. They now all at Mr Carter, who was very backward to promise anything, but only to bee helpful to them at sum tims which was very seldom." . . . .'

 

The ordination of Mr. Carter came about as follows:

 

' "Aug. 14. A Church gathered at Woburn. Mr. Knowles, (assistant pastor of Watertown) Mr. Allen, (pastor of Dedham) Mr. Symes, Mr. Carter and divers other godly and faithful ministers of Christ held out the wright hand of fellowship in the name of the other Churches." After much persuasion, Mr. Carter finally yielded a reluctant consent and became the first minister in Woburn, being ordained November 22, 1642.

 

In Winthrop's "History of New England from 1630 to 1649" is given the following account of the ceremony:--

 

"The village at the end of Charlestown bounds, was called Woburn when they gathered a church, and this day Mr Carter was ordained their pastor with the assistance of the elders of other Churches; some difference there was about his ordination; members fit to solemnize such an ordinance, they would desire some of the elders of the other Churches to have performed it; but others supposing it might be an occasion of introducing a dependency of Churches, etc., and so a presbytery, would not allow it, so it was performed by one of their own members, but not so well or orderly as it ought."

 

'Capt. Edward Johnson, one of the principal founders both of the church and the town, was present on this occasion, and thus describes the manner of the ordination in his "Wonder Working Providence" (published in 1654):

 

'After he (Thomas Carter) had exercised in preaching and prayer the greater part of the day, two persons in the name of the Church laid their hands upon his head and said, We ordain thee Thomas Carter to be Pastor of this Church of Christ: then one of the elders present, desired of the Church, continued in prayer unto the Lord for his more especial assistance, of this his servant in his work, being a charge of such weighty importance as is the glory of God and the salvation of souls, that the very thought would make a man to tremble in the sense of his own inability to the work."

 

'At his ordination, the town presented him with a house, which they built for his use, and also engaged to give him a salary of £80 annually, one-fourth of which was to be in silver, the remainder in various necessaries of life, at current prices. This compensation was increased in 1674 by the grant of twenty cords of wood annually, to be delivered at his door. From the time of his ordination, Mr. Carter ministered constantly to his people without aid for thirty-six year, when the Rev. Jabez Fox was chosen assistant pastor. He continued in the service with Mr. Fox for six years more until his death in 1684, thus making the entire period of his ministry at Woburn more than forty-two years.

 

'As to the personal characteristics of the Rev. Thomas Carter, Johnson, in his "Wonder Working Providence," above quoted, speaks of him as a "reverend Godly Man, apt to teach the sound and wholesome truths of Christ;" and one who had "much encreased with the encreasings of Christ Jesus."

 

'Sewell, in his History of Woburn, says: "Mr. Carter appears to have lived secluded in great measure from the world; and hence he is seldom if ever named in history among the eminent clergymen of his day. Still there is abundant evidence that he was a very pious, exemplary man, an able and sound preacher of the gospel, and one whom God honored and prospered in his work. Under his ministrations, the church was greatly enlarged and built up, and the town flourished, and was for the most part in peace." By another it is said of him: During his ministry, which was prolonged more than forty-two years, there appears to have been the greatest harmony between him and the society". In the following lines addressed to him in the "Wonder Working Providence", Mr. Carter is represented as a plain, but faithful and successful minister; a pastor of distinguished humility and meekness, and in gentleness toward his flock, as rather exceeding than otherwise:

 

"Carter, Christ hath his wayes thee taught, and thou

Hast not withheld his Word, but unto all

With's word of power dost cause stout souls to bow,

And meek as lambs before thy Christ to fall:

The antient truths, plain paths, they fit thee best,

Thy humble heart all haughty acts puts by;

The lowly heart, Christ learns his lovely hest,

Thy meekness shews thy Christ to thee is nigh.

Yet must thou shew, Christ makes his bold to be

As lions, that none may his truths tread down;

Pastoral power he hath invested thee

With; it maintain, leest he on thee do frown.

Thy youth thou has in this New England spent,

Full sixteen years to water, plant and prune

Trees taken up, and for that end here sent;

Thy end's with Christ; with's saints his praises tune." '

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Descendants of Thomas (Rev.) Carter to Lois (Peabody) Wilson

 

    1      Thomas (Rev.) Carter   1608 - 1684

....        +Mary Parkhurst           1614 - 1687

.........   2          Timothy Carter  1653 - 1727

...............                     +Anna Fiske     1659 - 1715/16

....................    3          Martha Carter   1702 - 1757

..........................                      +John Bruce     1698 - 1764

...............................     4          William Bruce   1724 - 1803

......................................                      +Sarah Wyman 1734 - 1821

...........................................     5          Jerusha Bruce   1766 -

...........................................     5          Kendall Bruce   1767 -

...........................................     5          Lois Bruce        1776 -

...............................                 *2nd Wife of William Bruce:     

......................................                      +Abigail Kendall            1722 - 1763

...........................................     5          John (Rev.) Bruce[1]        1757 - 1809

.................................................                       +Lois Wilkins    1760 - 1828

......................................................      6  Frances Bruce           1799 - 1867

............................................................            +Lewis Franklin Peabody 1798 - 1861

.................................................................       7          Stephen Peabody  1829 - 1909

....................................................................... +Josephine Miller          1835 - 1904

............................................................................        8          Ralph Merton Peabody  1875 - 1944

................................................................................... +Clara Gertrude Anderson  1878 - 1965

........................................................................................9  Lois Georgianna Peabody   1909 -

.........................................................................................   Glenn Alden Wilson                 1910 - 1975

...................................................................................................10  Georgia Ann Wilson          1942 -

..............................................................................................….10  Alden Peabody Wilson      1934 -

...................................................................................................10  Nathan Robert Wilson       1940 -

...................................................................................................10  Peary Alan Wilson            1944 -

...................................................................................................10  Joseph Glenn Wilson         1946 -

...................................................................................................10  Andrew David Wilson       1950 -

...................................................................................................10  Mary Lois Wilson 1953 -

 

Bibliography

Burke, J.B., Burke's American Families with British Ancestry, Baltimore, 1977

Carter, H.W., A Genealogy of the Descendents of Thomas Carter, Norfolk, CT., 1909

Johnson, E.F., Woburn Records of Births, Marriages, Deaths

Locke, J.G., The Book of the Lockes, 1853

Middlesex County, Massachusetts, Land Transactions, 3:479-481

Peabody, S.H., Peabody Genealogy, 1909

Rice, F.P., Vital Records of Marlborough, Massachusetts

Smith, C.J. History of the Town of Mount Vernon, New Hampshire, 1967

Vital Records of Woburn, Massachusetts, Boston, 1904

Weis, F.L., Coloniel Clergy of Coloniel Churches of New England, 1936



[1] According to J.A. Vinton, 'The Upton Memorial' (1784): 'John Bruce graduated at Dartmouth College, 1781, and studied Divinity with the Rev. Benjamin Brigham, in Fitzwilliam, N.H. Bruce was ordained, 3 November 1785, pastor of the Second Church of Amherst, N.H., which, by separation of the northwest part of Amherst in 1803, became the church in Mont Vernon. He was pastor of that church for twenty-three years, until his death.' J.G. Locke (‘The Book of the Lockes’, 1853), mentions that 'he was judicious, exemplary, well esteemed, and saw among his people the good of Zion'.