historical literature
posted May 2006

Ungodly Carriages on Cape Cod

Gustavus Swift Paine

The New England Quarterly, Vol. 25 (2): 181-198.
June 1952

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    IN the first half of the eighteenth century, the Rev. Nathaniel Stone of Harwich (Brewster) had more influence on Cape Cod thinking than any other man. Firm in Calvinist piety, he fought against the Rev. Samuel Osborn of Pochet in Eastham (Orleans) from 1718 to 1738. After two decades of this remarkable controversy, Mr. Stone had Mr. Osborn removed. Then there were other developments.

    Nathaniel Stone was graduated in 1690 from Harvard, where he was "of note chiefly for petty offences committed with surprising regularity."1 In 1700 Harwich, organizing its church with eight members, made him its first pastor. He was sure "the ministry of Christ's appointment is ever to be devolved on superior persons from the foundation of the church," persons "distinguishingly qualified." Superior and distinguishingly qualified because he was a Harvard man, he was of God's elect among the foremost. Throughout his Cape pastorate of fifty-five years, he acted as if he were a bishop.

    Some opposed his arrogance. Quaker John Hammett wrote: "The prophets themselves were so far from ascribing their prophetic qualifications to a collegiate education that they wholly ascribe it to the spirit of God." If Nathaniel Stone "were a true minister of the gospel, endowed with humility and mortifying his pride, self-conceitedness, and ambition, he would not so often sound the trumpet of his own fame, and self-commendation, and so often court and persuade people to reverence and admire him."2 Cotton Mather called him a "wilful, furious, wretched minister," with "always grievous ways of embroiling the peace of the churches."3

1 Sibley's Harvard Graduates (Cambridge, 1933), iv, 79.

2 John Hammett, A Printed Sheet of Paper, Intitled, Caution to Erring Christians, Relating to the Ministry, by Nathaniel Stone . . . 1735 (Boston, 1738), Replied to by John Hammett, Jamestown A. C. 1736. (Printed 1739), 4, 5, 9, 31.

3 Massachusetts Historical Society Collections, Series vii, Volume viii (Cotton Mather's diary), 750, 759, and especially 813-915, where in a letter to Rev. Rowland Cotton he discusses the Stone-Osborn conflict.


    Mr. Stone's theology, to which most Brewster people perforce subjected themselves, was sour. "Fallen mankind lies before God as a company of dead, stinking, rotting carcasses, and He will breathe life and put the treasures of grace into which of them He pleaseth. . . . Unbelief will be punished with a perdition with an aggravation. . . . Unpardoned persons have in them the guilt of actual sins. When they come to be capable of acting, original corruption breaks forth in them into act."4 Fixed theology had no room for real inquiry.

    He had no authority to interfere with any other church. To the northeast, the nearest church was at Eastham. There, March 18, 1717, amid huge snowdrifts, the "learned, pious, and faithful" Rev. Samuel Treat died.5 For a year Eastham looked around for a new pastor. First it invited the Rev. William Hubbard, who declined. Though apparently Mr. Stone had no candidate, he was suspicious of his neighbors.

    Probably through the somewhat liberal Rev. Rowland Cotton of Sandwich, the Eastham brethren approached Samuel Osborn, who had been several years the Sandwich schoolmaster. Now at Plymouth, he preached occasionally when the Rev. Ephraim Little was away. Schoolmasters often become ministers. Several questions arose about Mr. Osborn's fitness. East-

4 Nathaniel Stone, A Very Brief Account of the Wretched State of Man by the Fall (Boston, 1731), 135, 101, 22.

5 Enoch Pratt, A Comprehensive History ... of Eastham, Wellfleet, and Orleans (Yarmouth, 1844). Other accounts are in William Allen, An American Biographical and Historical Dictionary (Cambridge, 1809), and Josiah Paine, Eastham and Orleans Historical Papers (Yarmouthport, 1914), which speaks of the Hubbard call, as does Alfred Alder Doane, The Doane Family (Boston, 1902). For Osborn's teaching in Sandwich see items from Sandwich records in C. C. P. Waterman, "The History of Sandwich, Mass.," Barnstable Patriot, beginning July 3, 1883. 105-110 in a reprint.

Osborn stated his version of the whole controversy in A Church of Christ Vindicated (Boston, 1724), The Case and Complaint of Mr. Samuel Osborn (Boston, 1743), and in passages which Stone and others quoted in their pamphlets. Stone gave his version in The Result of a Council Held at Billingsgate in Eastham November 8, 1720 (Boston, 1720?), The Veracity and Equity of the Members of the Council Held at Billingsgate in Eastham, Asserted and Maintained (Boston, 1723), A Letter to the General Convention of Ministers of Massachusetts (Boston, 1734), and Postscript Renouncing Communion with the Church in Pochet, on Account of the Ill Conduct of S. Osborn, the Past or (Boston, 1732).


ham, assisted by the Rev. Mr. Cotton and other clergymen, investigated them and decided them irrelevant. May 19, 1718, it "unanimously" called Mr. Osborn as its pastor.

    Mr. Stone was aghast. He was against Mr. Osborn on four grounds: he was a stranger, he was ignorant, he had been immoral, and he was unorthodox. On these points Eastham had examined Mr. Osborn and satisfied itself. On September seventeenth, it got ready to ordain him.6

    That morning the storm broke. Mr. Stone had not dared meddle directly in the Eastham congregation. Outside he had busily talked with individual members. Most members were for Mr. Osborn. Deviously Mr. Stone persuaded a few to become dissidents. On the ordination morning, Justice John Doane of Billingsgate (Wellfleet), twenty miles away, "delivered in a paper" to the Eastham church. It was signed by "three male and fourteen female members," hitherto aloof from the proceedings, which they now opposed. The church, agitated but determined, went ahead and ordained Mr. Osborn. Three reputable ministers, the Rev. Rowland Cotton of Sandwich, the Rev. Joseph Metcalf of Falmouth, and the Rev. Ephraim Little of Plymouth, officiated.

    In defense, Mr. Osborn and his followers attacked the malcontents with a technicality. They found it "somewhat surprising" that "a company of women should rise up at that juncture" against the church for "boldly undertaking to settle a minister without their concurrence." Women! As Mr. Osborn said, "very likely they had never read" the venerable Doctor Increase Mather's statement that, though women may contribute to a minister's maintenance, "the Apostle allows not" their voting. "Let your women keep silence in the churches." What if these mere women considered Mr. Osborn unqualified? "It's not usual for candidates for the ministry to go to women for approbation or recommendation to that great work."

6 The quotations and paraphrases are from Church of Christ Vindicated, 4-6, 9, 13, 15-17, 19-21, 23.


    A few days after the ordination, the males and ten of the females, who had been stumbled by it, confessed their error in signing the paper, and asked forgiveness. Through that Cape winter, Mr. Osborn and his deacons, John Paine, who made whaleboats, and Joseph Doane, who recently captured the Whidaw pirates, planned to break down the resistance of the four other females. Being called, three of the women appeared at the Eastham church June 16, 1719. With them came Josiah Oakes, later the concupiscent Billingsgate minister, and the Rev. Mr. Stone who meant to defend the feminine die-hards.

    Acidly dignified, the church desired the two gentlemen and the three ''sisters to be in dealing" to withdraw so that it "should be together in private to concert measures for a regular proceeding." In private the members unanimously concluded it improper for Mr. Stone "without mission from his own church or call from us to be allowed to implead and interrupt us." When they threw open the door, and asked the ''sisters" in, Mr. Oakes and Mr. Stone came in too. The members at once desired Mr. Stone to go out. He argued with more than his usual spleen. The members "directed" him to withdraw. "So through much difficulty we obtained his absence."

    Mr. Osborn and his deacons suggested that the sisters had signed some other paper "which they might think would hurt them in case they came to any compliance." One sister pulled out a paper. "The pieces of it being gathered up appeared to be in Mr. Stone's handwriting." Most of the signers could not read. Some could write their names. Others made their marks. Mr. Stone had told them they were signing merely to promote "the gathering of a church at Billingsgate," because they lived so far from Eastham. Questioning confirmed what Mr. Osborn and his deacons assumed. Mr. Stone had inveigled these illiterate women into signing the papers, without their understanding that he was making them oppose Mr. Osborn. After the three "sisters" had "shown a great backwardness to give any answers," they admitted finally they had nothing against


Mr. Osborn, had indeed "never seen Mr. Osborn before that day." So they came to compliance.

    While persuading these women, Mr. Osborn's enemies said, he "shut the doors against their husbands . . . yea kept" the women "shut up several hours under . . . chastisement." Yet one husband, Medad Atwood, did remain in the room, "directed his speech to his wife" and the other sisters, and helped them change their disturbed minds. The church declared, "notwithstanding whatever hath been published to the contrary, that in the whole time they were before the church, there was nothing of rigor, harshness, or any sort of threatening used, to extort anything from them."

    That was a trying day for Mr. Stone, who fumed nearby. The revolt he had plotted was collapsing. One of the women, however, originally stumbled at Mr. Osborn's settlement, "wholly absented herself" from that disciplinary meeting. Raging, Mr. Stone knew he could depend on her. The careful records give us a curious insight into the character of Mr. Stone, who worked to "kill the very root of sin."7 Evidently that night, after his exclusion from the dealing with the sisters, he rode home, and assuaged his tensions forthwith by passionately begetting another baby.8

    The one woman remaining rambunctious was Hannah, niece of the stirring Rev. Peter Hobart of Hingham, and wife of Billingsgate Justice John Doane. She had been going through difficult times. At the distressing age of fifty, she had recently lost at sea a beloved son, Captain Joshua Doane, only twenty, soon after his wife, seventeen, had died.9 Now a leg

7 Nathaniel Stone, Rulers are a Terror . . . (Boston, 1720), 13.

8J. Gardner Bartlett, Simon Stone Genealogy (Boston, 1926), 66, 67. This shows that Hannah, eleventh child of Nathaniel Stone, was born March 26, 1720, and died June 7, 1720. The meeting with the "sisters" was June 16, 1719. The exact number of days that elapsed is that which some authorities give as the "normal" period of human gestation. At any rate, Stone begat this Hannah amid the fury about the "sisters."

9 The Doane Family, 499, shows she was born in Hingham October 4, 1666. Mayflower Descendant, x, 20, shows her death September 4, 1731, in her sixty-fifth year. The same page shows that Capt. Joshua Doane, her son, was drowned


sore kept her from communicating with Mr. Osborn's church, to which she legally belonged. Though Cape men were this year making a road from Harwich through Billingsgate to Truro, she would have had to ride horseback twenty miles each way through sand.10 At home she used her changing energy in reviling Mr. Osborn, while she eagerly abetted Mr. Stone. She was not only stumbled but outraged.

    For over a year Mr. Osborn and his church endured at a distance her ranting and railing. Then, on October 22, 1720, they admonished her for "moral scandal," meaning general belligerency.11 She requested time to give them her "mature thoughts." Two weeks later she called an ecclesiastical council to meet on November eighth at her Billingsgate house for a "hearing of the case." Theoretically any aggrieved member had a right to do that, but the Eastham church refused to go. "We were surprised that three . . . ministers and two deacons should get together in such a sudden and secret manner upon Mrs. Doane's call (a person . . . under admonition for ungodly carriage)." The council of those five, with Mr. and Mrs. Doane, reiterated the old charges against Mr. Osborn, and justified Mrs. Doane.

    Thereupon the Eastham church admonished her again for "ungodly conversation." Volubly obstinate, she requested a letter of dismissal, and then rejected it as unsatisfactory. The church promptly excommunicated her, delivering her body to "Satan for the destruction of the flesh"—her leg sore was worse—"that her spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus."

    Mrs. Doane was dismayed. She had decided to go for medical help to Boston, where her husband had for some years prospered as a distiller.12 Now neither North nor South

November 29, 1716, aged about 20 years and 8 months, and that his wife, Mary, died July 2, 1716, aged 17 years and about 9 months.

10 Church of Christ Vindicated, 2; Comprehensive History, 60; Frederick Freeman, Cape Cod (Boston, 1860-1862), 1, 358; and Result of a Council Held at Billingsgate, 39.

11 Church of Christ Vindicated, 25, 26, 28. For the council see Result of a Council, and Veracity and Equity.

12 Doane Family, 35.


church, wherein she might "wait for further discoveries of the mind of God unto me," could admit her.

    Another council met May 7, 1723, at Eastham, nearly five years after Mr. Osborn's ordination, to "give their advice upon the difficulties." This council found "just grounds" for the second admonition to Mrs. Doane, "on account of her railings."13 It recommended, however, that the church "take off the ... excommunication, and look upon her as a member under admonition as before." If she signed a confession left by the council for her, the church, at her request, could give her another letter of dismissal. That, leaving her accused instead of the accuser, in no way mollified Mrs. Doane. Confession! What had she to confess? She raged on to her inexorably approaching apoplectic doom.14

    From two members of the Chatham church, Mr. Osborn got statements about those there who opposed the Rev. Joseph Lord's going to Mrs. Doane's Billingsgate council. When Mr. Lord promptly retaliated by excommunicating these two men, Mr. Osborn's church took them in, contrary to ecclesiastical rules, and encouraged them to "condemn this ordinance of God."15

    Billingsgate got into mad physical turmoil because the Rev. Josiah Oakes had a child too soon. About the same time the Rev. Benjamin Fessenden, Sandwich successor of the "memorable" Rev. Rowland Cotton, refused to confess fornication before marriage. His church was in upheaval.16

13 Church of Christ Vindicated, 47-49. In this council were ten distinguished ministers, including Experience Mayhew who (N. E. Gen. Reg., xiii, 209) was a brother-in-law of Stone.

14 Mrs. Doane's obituary in Boston News Letter for September 6, 1731, tells in detail of her death from apoplexy.

15 Letter to the General Convention, 1. See also William C. Smith, History of Chatham.

16 Colonial Society of Massachusetts Publications, xxii, 235, 291. Also Sibley's Harvard Graduates. See also Massachusetts Archives, xi, 448-465. Mayflower Descendant, xv, 69, shows that Nathaniel Stone married Oakes and Margaret Haugh November 10, 1724, and that their daughter Hannah was born May 19, 1725, and that the church dismissed Oakes that very day. Acts and Resolves of the Province of Massachusetts Bay and Wellfleet records in Mayflower Descendant have many items about the Oakes affair.


    In speech and writing, wild, ungrammatical, and insulting, Mr. Lord of Chatham, egged on by his wife's brother-in-law, Mr. Stone, insinuated that Mr. Osborn had part in these ructions.17 When Mr. Osborn's example caused these others to sin,18 his adherents intrigued, as if in spite, to rend the churches. The Osborn crowd hinted that Doane distillery money bribed one minister, probably the Rev. John Avery of Truro, to support the Doane-Stone cabal.19 So it all went on, there on Cape Cod, round and round.

    In that bitter, complex church fracas, Cape Codders showed tremendous endurance. Theological northeasters again and again shook the Cape: from Mr. Stone's Harwich and Mr. Osborn's Pochet to Mr. Fessenden's Sandwich, the Billingsgate of Mr. Oakes and the John Doanes, and Mr. Lord's Chatham. Storms always reinvigorate the peculiar Cape character.

    Meanwhile Mr. Osborn was having considerable success in his ministry. His church had divided its large territory into two: the innocuous Rev. Benjamin Webb shepherded the northern Eastham flock,20 and Mr. Osborn took the southern Pochet half. The latter helped people improve their meagre farming, and showed them how to dry and use peat from the bogs.21 A mature, youngish man with a light, friendly manner, he had spontaneous enthusiasm for service to the Cape. His church grew, because he introduced to grandchildren of original settlers doctrines and practices that seemed fresh and adventurous.

    With sorrow Mr. Stone set down in his records that during ten years his church had admitted only thirteen males.22 About

17 Letter to the General Convention and Church of Christ Vindicated.

18 Letter to the General Convention. Records of the Brewster Congregational Church (Boston, 1911). This tiny edition gives the unexpurgated records. Expurgated records are in Mayflower Descendant.

19 Result of Council, 23.

20 Sibley's Harvard Graduates, vi, 112, 113 (Boston, 1942). Allen's American Biographical and Historical Dictionary gives a favorable estimate of him.

21 Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll., Ser. 1, Vol. 8. (Probably by Rev. James Freeman, 1802.) All accounts of Osborn mention the peat.

22 Records of Brewster Congregational Church.


his enemy's success he asserted: "It's readily acknowledged that God is very sovereign in making use of what occasions or means He pleases, for doing good to souls. Yet misguided zeal in people may easily mistake, regarding the success of a ministry." He denied, however, that a fellow minister, presumably Mr. Lord, had said of Pochet under Mr. Osborn, "that the devil's kingdom use to increase faster than that of Christ."23 The situation at the center of the Cape was intolerable.

    Year after year Mr. Stone was unremitting in hostility. Many of Mr. Osborn's staunchest supporters died, including Deacon John Paine,24 the Rev. Rowland Cotton,25 and Cotton Mather himself, whom Mr. Stone insulted. Others eventually changed sides. The long fight split many families. Freeman was against Freeman, Paine against Paine, Doane against Doane.26 Cape society was like an old ship with creaking seams opening. On June 27, 1738, twenty years after Mr. Osborn began his ministry, another council met at Eastham to hear the old charges against him.27

    From the first, Mr. Stone insisted that Mr. Osborn was "an ignorant stranger coming out of Ireland without any letters of commendation from sober or religious people there."28 Ireland! That was enough to damn him. Mr. Osborn insisted that in 1717 he had brought to America a letter of commendation from the Rev. Robert Rainey of the Lordship of Newry, County Down.29 No minister saw this letter, and Mr. Osborn did not offer to produce it. He taught school at Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard, and five years in Harwich, Sandwich, and

23 Result of Council, 23.

24 Henry D. Paine, Paine Family Records (New York, 1880-1883).

25 La Verne C. Cooley, A Short Biography of the Rev. John Cotton of Boston and a Cotton Genealogy of His Descendants (Batavia, N. Y., 1945), 29.

26 See Doane Family for Justice John Doane of Billingsgate, who supported Stone, and his cousin, Justice Joseph Doane of Eastham (Orleans), who at first supported Osborn and then turned against him.

27 Eastham and Orleans Historical Papers, 11.

28 Result of Council, 22.

29 Ethel S. Bolton, Immigrants to New England, 1700-1775 (Salem, 1931), 149.


Plymouth.30 The Cape must have known him well before his Eastham settlement.

    Second, Mr. Stone stressed his opponent's ignorance. Mr. Osborn said he was educated in Glasgow.31 His writing, well reasoned and in good style, abounds in pertinent Scriptural and other allusions. Mr. Stone, deeming anyone ignorant who had no Harvard degree, reluctantly admitted he had no fault to find with Mr. Osborn's learning.32

    Third, Mr. Stone and Mrs. Doane objected to Mr. Osborn on the more serious ground that he was "upon court record as the reputed father of a bastard child."33 Mr. Osborn's reply to this was ungallant. According to Mrs. Doane, he said: "I did make courtship to Mercy Norton, with intent to make her my wife, but I understand she was ... of loose behavior, and ... of an ill family ... I have had foolish and sinful actions with her, but... I can't really say the child is mine ... I hope I have repented . . . and I hope God has forgiven me. Then I said . . . why did you take the child and play with it? ... He answered, I never took it in my arms, but one of the Nortons put it upon my knee, and I played with it as ... with a neighbor's child.... I said... why did you promise the mother to give it education? He said, I never had any discourse with the mother about giving it education or trade. . . . Yet those things which he thus denied are testified against him upon oath by persons at Martha's Vineyard."

30 Eastham and Orleans Historical Papers.

31 Doane Family, 499. This says in another place that he was educated in Dublin (Trinity College?). The statements about his early life are based on a pamphlet by Drusilla Doane Wyman giving the account of her father, Israel Doane (1760-1844), a grandson of Osborn.

32  Church of Christ Vindicated, 22.

33 C. E. Banks, The History of Martha's Vineyard (Vols. I, II, Boston, 1911, Vol. III, Edgartown, 1925), 383. Edgartown Vital Records, 160. Doane Family gives Osborn's legitimate children. He married Jedidah Smith, who was first cousin once removed of Reliance Hinckley, wife of Stone, January 1, 1710-1711. Samuel Osborn, Jr., bastard son of Osborn and Mercy Norton, was born later that year. He became a carpenter, married Keziah Butler, whose father was first cousin of Mercy Norton, had children and descendants. Mercy Norton married James Claghorn November 50, 1715 (Edgartown Vital Records, 156) and had more children. Claghorn became insane. Did Mercy Norton drive him crazy?


    Though most of that was true, would this considerable blemish prevent his being a good pastor? Before the ordination, the consulting ministers investigated the scandal and passed it over.34 Mrs. Doane and Mr. Stone harped on that bastardy in talk and print until everyone knew of it. Yet many ministers went on upholding Mr. Osborn, because they believed that, like other clergymen who had sinned, he had sincerely repented.

    To Mr. Stone, private repentance was not enough.35 There had to be public confession before the church. After that he would tolerate even a minister who had erred. He regarded favorably the Rev. Mr. Fessenden of Sandwich, who finally confessed, and the Rev. Mr. Oakes of Wellfleet. Many in his church were confessed fornicators. Some say he opposed Mr. Osborn mainly for cheerfully baptizing children born too soon. Mr. Stone baptized such babies and gladly received their parents into the church, but only after they publicly confessed. He opposed Mr. Osborn for not observing the strict Calvinist form of public confession.

    In 1725 the benevolent Rev. Ebenezer Gay preached at Barnstable on "Ministers are men of like passions with others."36 That Mr. Stone knew, for all the while he was busily fathering children until he had a dozen, all properly born in wedlock. He was a good man. Mr. Osborn had only half as many, including the bastard.

    The fourth charge against Mr. Osborn was that he was "venting erroneous doctrines." Though he was a stranger

34  Church of Christ Vindicated, 5.

35 Records of Brewster Congregational Church gives scores of cases in which Stone heard confessions of fornicators and baptized their children. The most interesting was that of his favorite son, Nathaniel Stone, Jr., whom Rev. Mr. Stone married to Mary Bourne July 7, 1742, exactly a month after their first child was born. Mayflower Descendant, xxv, 63, and xxiv, 110. Simon Stone Genealogy shows that this daughter, Mary, lived to extreme old age, unmarried, but was long insane, and that two sons of Nathaniel Stone, Jr., were also insane. Wellfleet records in Mayflower Descendant show that Rev. Mr. Stone actually married Rev. Josiah Oakes to Margaret Haugh. I have not found the Oakes confession.

36 Ebenezer Gay, Ministers Are Men of Like Passions with Others (Boston, 1725). Sibley's Harvard Graduates, vi, 59.


from Ireland, had no Harvard degree, and once in young manhood had been too impetuous, no great disturbance might have ensued if his theology had been clear. When he was a candidate for the Eastham pastorate, the Rev. Rowland Cotton of Sandwich remarked,37 "I do not know that any minister of this association has ever tasted of Mr. Osborn's capacity and gifts for that sacred office." The association, hearing Mr. Osborn, gave him, at Mr. Stone's instance, "ten theological questions" to answer extempore.38 Only to the sixth, "What is the matter of a sinner's justification?" was his response inadequate. In spite of this one crux of his false teachings, the ministers approved him.

    "A sinner's justification" was the action whereby he was freed from the penalty of sin, and accounted or made righteous by God.39 Justification by faith was a conviction, operative in character and will, that the Scriptures and church teachings were true. Calvinists did not believe in justification by works. Mr. Stone said: "We may not. .. expect life by moral honesty, self-righteousness, common faith."40 Though "whosoever will may have the water of life freely . . . persons not renewed by special grace do not truly will that water."41 Only a minister, of the elect, could declare a sinner, after confession, the recipient of special grace. On this doctrine, Mr. Stone, who loved being an autocrat, was adamant.

    At an antagonistic council, Mr. Osborn courageously declared:42 "That men can do that upon the doing of which they shall certainly be saved . . . that men's obedience is a cause of their justification." Veering toward justification by works, he felt that his devout obedience to God and unquestionably

37  Church of Christ Vindicated, 6.

38  Church of Christ Vindicated, 6, 7.

39  Oxford English Dictionary.

40 Stone, A Very Brief Account, 100-101.

41 Nathaniel Stone, An Account of Pleas of Late Made . . . (Boston, 1739), 1. For orthodox Calvinism see Perry Miller, Orthodoxy in Massachusetts (Cambridge, 1933); The Puritans (New York, 1938); The New England Mind (New York, 1939).

42  The Case and Complaint of Mr. Samuel Osborn (Boston, 1743), 6.


good works for twenty-seven years, since his one youthful slip, had redeemed him.

    His accusers at the 1738 council said he "refused to subscribe to the confession of faith, denied original sin, the doctrine of grace, the doctrine of the Trinity, and justification by faith alone."43 Of this last, Mr. Osborn said, "I honestly confess that I do not know what you mean by it." On the other points he was ambiguous. Rejecting prime Calvinist tenets, he was practically a Free-wilier, an Arminian heretic. Instead of avowing that he was Unitarian, he maintained that he was orthodox. His importance in Cape religious thinking is that he was the first embryonic, groping Unitarian in a region not ready to change its old beliefs.

    In 1738, the general convention of ministers listened to a brave sermon by the Rev. John Barnard of Marblehead:44 "It is the right of every particular Christian to judge for himself, according to the best of his understanding, the sacred Scriptures, what are the articles of faith, and what is that worship which Christ requires him to believe and practice. ... It is a tyrannical imposition upon the liberties of the Christian church for any to attempt forcibly to reduce other churches to their scantling." Mr. Stone was determined to reduce to his scantling the Pochet church.

    The council heard the charges against Mr. Osborn for exercising freedom of conscience, and for "strange, obscene, erroneous, and unguarded expressions . . . concerning God and His moral perfections." Everyone, including most Pochet people, was uneasy. Perhaps from sheer expediency, the council suspended and then removed the Pochet pastor.

    Triumphant, Mr. Stone brought the "brethren of Pochoh" to his feet. When they sent him a "written confession of their sin in precipitately settling Mr. Osborn" twenty years before,

43 Eastham and Orleans Historical Papers and Doane Family.

44 John Barnard, The Lord Jesus Christ, the Only and Supreme Head of the Church (Boston, 1738), 25, 26. For the charges against Osborn see Doane Family, Eastham and Orleans Historical Papers, and Compendious History, 57.


he magnanimously forgave them.45 Then he had Mr. Osborn arrested.

    "Being excluded the pulpit," Mr. Osborn broke the law by preaching in his house.46 He pleaded that under the gospel all places were alike holy, and worship accepted whether performed in the house, in the fields, or by the river side. The Barnstable court was "very stern and rough." When he paid his fine, he returned home, and continued preaching to the remnant of his people as before. "Yet the court never sent for me again upon any such account."

    At fifty-three, "I, in an advanced age, and my poor family were turned adrift to shift as best we could, nor could I help myself or family by disposing of my houses and little lands." Because of "many injurious insinuations . . . the poor deceived people . . . would buy nothing of me." His opponents said he refused to give up pastoral lands, which, however, they had deeded to him, his heirs, and assigns forever.47 They appointed Captain William Paine, son of Deacon John, to persuade him or threaten him with a suit. At length Mr. Osborn got some money for the property, and Captain Paine married his daughter. A grandson of that couple was John Howard Payne.48

    Mr. Osborn's Pochet successor was the Rev. Joseph Crocker, Harvard 1734, a Barnstable boy.49 Mr. Osborn characterized him as "a young man, who, in my opinion, ought rather to have been sent to school, than suffered to go into the pulpit to teach others." Mr. Crocker, a sound Calvinist, was dull.

    Now Mr. Osborn travelled "not much short of four thousand miles," urging ministers to help him get another place.50 At Salem in 1740 some liberal pastors gave him a gratifying

45 Records of Brewster Church.

46  Case and Complaint of Mr. Samuel Osborn, 13.

47 Eastham and Orleans Historical Papers.

48 Paine Family Records.

49  Case and Complaint, Sibley's Harvard Graduates, Allen, American Biographical and Historical Dictionary.

50 Case and Complaint.


letter. Of his beliefs, they wrote: "Taking them with a Christian, candid, and charitable construction, to us it appears, they will accord with the truths laid down in the gospel, and the doctrine generally received ... We earnestly wish for the time when Christians will be so wise as not to abound in their own sense, but instead of disputing with heat, and censuring one another, upon points merely speculative, and which don't concern Christian practice, they would duly attend to the Apostle's direction, Phil. 3: 15, 16, and practice accordingly." The chief signer was the amiable Rev. Ebenezer Gay, himself so heretical that many regard him as the father of American Unitarianism.51

    About 1742 in Boston, where his wife died, Mr. Osborn got a chance to preach in Brunswick, Maine.52 Massachusetts ministers warned the town. It voted that he should not be "employed in the public work of the ministry in this town for the future."53 Mr. Osborn wrote the Rev. Benjamin Colman and others of Boston: "Why should you prevent my preaching? Is it because I don't yell, and roar, and endeavor to affright weak people? Is it because I don't cry to them to come to Christ, and threaten them with being double-damned if they don't come to Christ?" That alluded to Mr. Stone's methods in Brewster. "In order to inspire men with love to and admiration of God and His goodness, I tell them that God did not create or give men being for His own sake, but for their sakes, that He might communicate happiness to them ... I persuade people to believe that religion consists entirely in acknowledgments of God, and in the imitating of His imitable perfections."54 How many Cape Codders or other New

51 Case and Complaint, 23. The other signers were the following prominent ministers: Daniel Lewis, Joseph Dorr, William Hobby, Samuel Mather, Benjamin Prescott, John Chipman (who was born in Barnstable), Peter Clark, Nathaniel Henchman, Charles Chauncy, John Gardiner.

52  Case and Complaint, 1. For his removal to Boston see Boston Registry, xv, 260, 266.

53 The resolution is in George A. Wheeler and Henry W. Wheeler, History of Brunswick . . . (Boston, 1878), 356.

54  Case and Complaint.


Englanders could then understand that kindliness? The Rev. Mr. Colman declared Mr. Osborn "an unconverted man."

    Marrying again, Mr. Osborn opened a school in Boston.55 He lived on forty years, trading in real estate at various places, and visiting grandchildren in Nova Scotia. Once, just before his dismissal from Pochet, he had preached to assembled ministers on "In your patience possess ye your souls."56

    Thriving Mr. Stone, splendid old conservative, soon found fresh enemies.57 In 1745 he advised George Whitefield and other itinerant New Lights to promote the gospel in wild "regions of these American colonies . . . where Christ is hardly named," and not to "enter into other men's labors" on Cape Cod "where the gospel is settled, and faithfully preached in ... purity." When we stand by his headstone behind the calm, lovely Brewster church, we should recognize that he fought an energetic fight, that he kept the Calvinist faith, and hope he has his crown of surely rather lugubrious rejoicing.

    What did those decades of ungodly carriages—for obviously many another "carriage" was as "ungodly" as Mrs. Doane's— mean to the Cape? Mr. Osborn presented terms that contradicted those of Mr. Stone. Most Cape Codders liked the familiar more than the novel. They needed a semblance of certainty. Like other New Englanders, they still preferred rigidity to flexibility. With severity around them, people felt that the unknown, or God, must be severe. Though Mr. Osborn's doctrine seemed attractive, it might be a snare of the devil. Going to church after the perplexities and dangers of the week, Cape Codders wanted a minister to tell them what was what. They continued to distrust freedom of thought. In their churches, they liked the controlled drama of submission to God's terrible

55 Boston Registry, xxviii, 276, gives his intentions October 19, 1743—he married Mrs. Experience Scudder Hopkins of Chatham. See also Doane Family and Smith, History of Chatham.

56  Case and Complaint.

57  The Declaration of Ministers in Barnstable County, Relating to the Late Practice of Itinerant Preaching (Boston, 1745), 4, and The Sentiments and Resolutions of an Association of Ministers (Boston, 1745).


will. Public confessions and repentances sometimes cleared away for them misgivings about exigencies in themselves and their surroundings. Outdoors they had storms, shipwrecks, and other hazards. Indoors they wanted security. Mr. Osborn's assurance that they could with free will work out the happiness God meant for them put more responsibility on them than did Mr. Stone's Calvinism. Semi-Unitarian preaching made them restless.

    Interfused with Cape Codders' knurly common sense today are traces of Mr. Stone's and Mr. Osborn's opposite views, adjusted, with many compromises, to their needs on that spare, sandy land where they quietly love the whole air even during storms. Like their functional houses, they are well oriented to winds—of doctrine—which they, in their bottom natures, enjoy. The Stone-Osborn asperities were good training for the development of those mental reservations which nowadays come to the surface as almost mirthless humor. Strains strengthened Cape individualities, helping people estimate more shrewdly many neighbors and relatives around them. Gradually Cape Codders have learned to value deep congeniality more than relationships of blood or of artificial organizations. Probably God foreordained that they should have free will.

    Eighteenth-century ideological changes throughout New England Cape Codders accepted only when they had tussled with them as deliberately and keenly as they struggled with fish they wanted and those they rejected. They were accustomed to throes. Through them they tenaciously maintained their Cape integrity. Often slow to act, they nevertheless found many of their beliefs evolving.

    Who really won the Stone-Osborn struggle? In his patience possessing his soul somewhere in a Boston graveyard, Samuel Osborn was at length the victor.58 Not only is his own church in Orleans—"They were mine!" he cried in his affection for its members—now "federated," but about the beginning of the

58 Eastham and Orleans Historical Papers.


nineteenth century Nathaniel Stone's church in Brewster, behind which its unswerving first pastor so peacefully lies, formally became Unitarian.59

59 F. L. Weis, The Colonial Clergy and the Colonial Church in New England (Worcester, 1936) indicates that the Brewster church became Unitarian, exact date unknown, in the pastorate of the Rev. John Simpkins. His wife was a daughter of Nathaniel Stone, Jr., and Mary Bourne, and granddaughter of the Rev. Nathaniel Stone. For Simpkins and his descendants see John R. Totten, Thacher-Thatcher Genealogy (New York, 1910-1919). Some of these descendants were local celebrities, such as Nathaniel Stone Simpkins, long editor of the Yarmouth Register, and some were rich. Rev. Nathaniel Stone would have been horrified if he could have known that Nathaniel Stone Simpkins was a Swedenborgian.