Sunday, April 22, 2012

Gershom Hobart, 1645-1707

My 8th great grandfather, Gershom Hobart, was born to Reverent Peter Hobart and his wife, Elizabeth Ibrook, in Hingham, Massachusetts, in December 1645. Gershom followed the examples of his older brothers, Joshua and Jeremiah, and graduated from Harvard University.  His brothers Nehemiah and Japhet also received their degrees from Harvard the same year, in 1667.  After graduating, he returned to Hingham, where he was living when he made freeman at the May session of the General Court in 1673.

In April 1676, Gershom married Sarah Aldis in Dedham, Massachusetts, and they went on to have as many as 12 children together. 

In June 1677, John Cotton wrote to Increase Mather saying that he had employed Gershom to preach "because he was forced from his worke," and procured a contribution for him.  Because they looked "upon [Gershom] as low," the deacons made an additional gift from the church treasury, in addition to what John Cotton was already paying him.

Soon after, Gershom accompanied or followed the settlers, who, after the destruction of Groton by the Indians in 1676, returned in the spring of 1678.  On June 29, 1678, the settlers made him liberal grants of land and privileges, if he would "accept of ye call and come to settle among" them "to be ye Townes Minister & the churches officer." He was ordained as minister of the Congregational Church there on November 26, 1679.

In 1680, records show that Gershom was to be paid "seaventy pound for this year [1681]: ensuing and to pay him in corn Indian wheat Rye barley at price curant as the court stat it and in other provission as god blesse us withall and 30 cord of wood to be proportioned by the sellect men according to every mans proportion to be payd by the first of March." Later, his salary was reduced to 50 pounds, one quarter of it to be paid in money.

It appears that Gershom did not live harmoniously with his parishioners in Groton. They differed at first about the location of the new meetinghouse (the old one had been burned down by the Indians in 1676), and then about his salary.

In 1682 it was voted that "the salackt men doe mak and maintain pase and love one with an other in the town and ashpashaly with m. hubard [Hobart] in incoridging him in his work by forwarding won and other in being wiling to alow him honorabl maintanans as the law darackts in pay and they warn the in habitants to gather till thay be agreed with him and the salack men mak no rate till the town be agreed with him."

Unfortunately the disagreements over his salary continued, and in December 1685 it was voted that Gershom had "set himself at liberty from the said town as to any engagement from him as their minister as also he has freed the town from any engagement to refusing and slighting what what the said town had offered him for his salary." A vote was held to increase Gershom's salary, but it did not restore peace.  It seems the primary problem was a scarcity of money, and disagreement over whether corn and other supplies could be used by settler families to pay their portion of Gershom's salary.

Gershom decided to leave the town sometime in 1689, and the town made proposals to him to return in 1690 and again in 1693.

Gershom came back with his family sometime before January, 1694.  In July of that year, the Indians attacked the town again. They killed more than 20 people, and carried away more than a dozen. During the attack, "Mr. Gershom Hobart, the Minister of the Place, with part of his Family, was Remarkably preserved from falling into their Hands, when they made themselves the Masters of his House; though they Took Two of his Children, whereof the one was Killed, and the other [Gershom, Jr., my 7th great-grandfather] some time after happily Rescued out of his Captivity." A captive, who escaped from the Indians and arrived at Saco on April 25, 1695, reported that "Mr. Hobart's son Gershom is well at a new Fort a days journey above Nerigawag [Norridgewock], Master's name is Nassacombewit, a good Master, and Mistress."  A ransom was paid, and Gershom, Jr., was reunited with his family, after having spent about a year in slavery.

Gershom Sr. continued to preach in Groton until 1705. The town of Groton experienced many difficulties during that time.  A petition to the General Court from the town of Groton in January 1704 speaks of the "grat damidg & discoridgment and spashaly this last yere having lost so many parsons som killed some captivated and som ramoved and allso much corn & cattell and horses & hay wharby wee are gratly Impoverrished and brought vary low." The petition represents Gershom as having been "for above a yere uncapable of desspansing the ordinances of God," and that neighboring ministers advised them to "hyare another minister and to saport mr hubard [Hobart] and to make our adras to your honors...for we are so few & so por that we canot pay two ministers nathar are we willing to live without any." Twenty pounds were granted by the Court to the town of Groton to pay another minister and to "help them under the present Disability of their Pastor Mr. Hubbard [Hobart]."

Gershom died in Groton on December 19, 1707. His wife Sarah died on April 14, 1712.

Source: Biographical Sketches of Graduates of Harvard University.

Note: Groton, where Gershom preached and lived, is five minutes from our home.

Another note, about Gershom's brothers: Japhet, who graduated from Harvard the same year as Gershom, trained to be a medical doctor, and left on a ship for England as the ship doctor shortly after graduation.  His intention was to then continue on to the East Indies, but he was never heard from again. Family tradition states that Japhet "travelled into foreign parts, renounced his Religion, & became a Romanist, & died a Cardinal or some great Dignitary in the Church of Rome." The brother with whom Japhet and Gershom graduated, Nehemiah, went on to become a preacher in Newton, and a Senior Fellow at Harvard.  His obituary in the Boston News-Letter, stated that Nehemiah was "Senior Fellow of Harvard College, an excellent scholar, divine, and Christian; very much lamented throughout the whole Province." One of his successors at Harvard wrote that in Nehemiah "shone the scholar, the gentleman, and the Christian...An unshaken harmony subsisted between him and his people through life." He had a "serious and winning manner of address, which caused his congregation to hang upon his lips."

1 comment:

Leslie said...

ooo, awesome about those early Harvard grads! Very cool stuff.