Sabbath-School (1888) [3/4]

We have thus far hastily glanced at some of the progressive steps during the first score of years of our school’s history. [*1] The fifty years of history that remain are remarkable in two ways: first, for the few superintendents who have conducted the school; and, second, for the remarkable length of the term of service of two of them. With the exception of seven years of this half-century, the school has been successfully led by two, who were pillars in this church, whose names stand out as prominently in our memories as these memorial windows stand in the adornments of this ancient church, which they watched over and defended till they were called up higher. [*2]

Deacon Amos Hartwell and Marcus B. Webber superintended this school forty-three years. The former, Deacon Hartwell, served eighteen years consecutively. These years were at the beginning of this half-century which we are now reviewing. To say to the older of my hearers that these were years of the school’s prosperity is needless, for all who recall that genial countenance, that soothing voice, and modest, unassuming man of God, know full well how much this church and school are indebted to him. To the younger of the school, permit me to say that this window at my right is not only to the honor of a beloved deacon of this church, but to the memory of one who loved the children, and sacrificed much in their behalf. Sabbath-school concerts, which have become such a marked feature of the school, were started under Deacon Hartwell and his pastor, Rev. S. Hopkins Emery. Deacon Hartwell lived three miles from the church, yet he seldom missed a service. His many cares as a busy farmer did not prevent him from laboring for the chil-

[ p 22 ]

dren as well as for the whole church and its individual members. The records of the school kept by Deacon Hartwell speak plainly of the system with which he conducted his affairs. That one living at such a distance should make notes of the weather and condition of the highways in his records of the school is not remarkable, but that he should have found time to keep a register of the school, with all of his other cares, is worthy of note. From his record of 1843 the following is gathered: —

October 22. Little stormy. Susannah Fitch left this month to attend Mount Holyoke Seminary. She has been a member of the school from her infancy. Sustains a good character. Is a professor.

Isaac L. Watts followed Deacon Hartwell; and with the assistance of the pastor, Rev. H. J. Patrick, the school prospered. The quarter of a century of Mr. Webber’s service was broken by one year, when he felt obliged to rest from the cares that were increasing each year. During this year, Rev. H. A. Hanaford, the pastor, was acting superintendent, and Deacon H. A. Gleason assistant. The good work was maintained during the year.

Mr. Webber’s term of service, which was terminated by his death, Feb. 12, 1886, covered more than a third of the entire history of the school. The progressive steps taken during his term of office, twenty-five years, are familiar to many of us. I deem it not unjust to the memory of his predecessors to say that his was the most eventful part of the school’s history; and this is not attributable altogether to the perseverance and energy of the man, but due in part to the wonderful progress made in the art of teaching, both secular and religious, in this quarter of a century. It was the cir-

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cumstances that made the superintendent in this case, however much difference in opinion there may be as to the general application of the principle. Circumstances made him the superintendent which he was; but God only made him and others who have preceded him devoted, unselfish, Christian workers. [*3][^1]

Mr. Webber was a man who kept informed upon the topics of the day; and, when a plan seemed wise to him, he was ready to try it. His calm, persevering disposition led him to continue a trial until all the benefits that could be possibly derived from it were realized by the school. The general use of telegraph and telephone, the wonderful strides of progress in printing and of illustrations, the International Sabbath-school Lesson series, whereby millions of people are studying the same Scripture at the same time, have all brought their benefits to bear upon the work of Sabbath-schools in these twenty-five years. Object teaching in all lines of instruction came into general use within the latter part of Mr. Webber’s charge of this school, and he was among the first to apply those phases of this advance movement. [*4]

The benefits of this line of instruction have been as noticeable in the concerts as in the weekly lessons; and it is a fact that, under the peculiarly skilful management of Mr. Webber, object teaching has become a work of art, as carried out in the concerts. Mr. Webber’s real capacity showed itself to its fullest extent in the Sabbath-school concerts. He never allowed the paraphernalia used in the exercises to detract the youthful mind from the great lesson designed to be taught.

From Mr. Webber’s diaries, to which I have had access, I find that he planned the general exercises for the Sabbath-school sessions with something of the

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care that a faithful pastor prepares for the pulpit service. Each hymn to be sung and the Scripture to be read were selected before coming to church. The points to be brought out by the use of the blackboard exercise were all recorded and elaborated. Admission of new pupils and withdrawals were carefully noted. Under date of July 7, 1861, he writes,

“Wallace G. Webber admitted.”

Dec. 12, 1864, he records as follows:

“The school presented me with the following useful volumes: complete set of Barnes‘s Notes, Cruden’s Concordance, Kitto‘s Cyclopaedia, Colgate’s Atlas, and a subscription for the Congregationalist for two and one-half years.”

Time can never reveal to us the harvests of good that have come from the seed sown by the superintendents of this school during the seventy years now closing. There are many now living in different parts of this land who turn with grateful remembrance to the lessons learned in this school under the leadership of the only superintendent whose term of office closed with his death. Every tinted glass in yonder memorial serves to emphasize the gratitude of the many who caused it to be placed there. His memory will ever be kept green with us; [*5] and coming generations shall speak his praise, for they shall share in the legacy bestowed upon us by his dying words:

“My last wish for the Sabbath-school is that the Spirit of the Lord may descend with great power; and, if my death can do what my life has failed to do, I am willing to give my life for the dear Sabbath-school.”

What a beautiful conclusion of a quarter of a century’s work for the Sabbath-school which he loved! It is as though an artist, when viewing the masterpiece of his life, adds one stroke with his brush that lets down upon the canvas the higher light of the unseen world. He, and all

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like faithful ones, will be remembered by what they have done.*

One has said,

“Time brightens the record of patriotism and honors sacrifice.” [*7]

It is the element of patriotism that prompts men and women to labor for the good of others. We hail with gladness the shadows of four of those who have labored and sacrificed here, and their record brightens with each passing year. The teachers of the school have ever been faithful helpers of the superintendents, but never was their fidelity to the cause more apparent than when they stood by the silent form of the one who had led them for a quarter of a century. There were those who solemnly pledged themselves to the interests of the school; and many prayers ascended from honest hearts for a continuance of God’s favor, which we have every reason to believe is ours. Mr. W. G. Webber was chosen to fill the vacancy, and under his leadership the school has more than maintained its creditable record.

The home department plan has greatly increased the membership. By this, a good number of our people are connected with the school, while they are unable to attend the weekly sessions for study. They devote the half-hour each week to the study of the same Scripture, and contribute to the running expenses while in their homes.

The Superintendents’ Union, of which Mr. M. B. Webber was a valued member, finds in our present leader one who is fully awake to the demands of the

* While a chorus of seventy members of the school sang “Remembered by what I have done,” portraits of Rev. Samuel Stearns, Deacon Amos Hartwell, Mr. Moses Hayward, and Mr. Marcus B. Webber were unveiled by four of their descendants. [*6] That of the founder of the school was the gift of his life-long friend, Mr. Moses Hayward; the portrait of Mr. Hayward was given by his children; Mr. Edward A. Hartwell, of Chicago, testified of his regard for the school by the gift of the likeness of his father; and that of the only superintendent who died while in service was the gift of his children.

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day; and many of the helpful plans recently adopted by our school have originated through the conference held each month at the Union. [^1]

All interested in the school appreciate the valuable services of each superintendent who has labored to bring the school to these days of prosperity; but they do not fail to remember that, without the faithful corps of teachers who have aided each, the work could not have been carried on. They also remember with gratitude the counsel and aid rendered the superintendents and teachers by the several pastors who have ministered here. From a record made Jan. 1, 1843, it may be seen that the pastor, Rev. S. Hopkins Emery, was making an especial effort to have the members of the school read the Bible each day; and in that year about seventy-five read the Bible through in course. Until a comparatively recent date, two sermons were required of the pastor each Sabbath; and, as the Sabbath-school convened directly after the morning service for some years, it was impossible for the preacher to conduct a class, but the superintendent was sure of his sympathy. It was during the pastorate of Rev. Mr. Emery (1841 to 1845) that the chapel was built, of less than one-half its present size. It was enlarged during the pastorate of Rev. Henry J. Patrick. These improved facilities for work added to the interest of the members of the school. The youngest of us have watched with deep interest the late additions and adornments to our Sabbath-school room, and are reminded of former members of the school, Mrs. Emily Kimball and Mrs. Betsey B. Jones, whose munificence aided us in procuring them. [*8] In the class register of 1838, the name of the former is seen,

“Emily Skelton, aged 14 years.”

The extension of the chapel, together with the skill of Rev. Mr. Patrick for interesting the children, in-

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fused new life into the Sabbath-school concerts. The Bible scenes, hung in imagination upon the walls of the audience room through his graphic descriptions, still have their influence on the children of those days. The large place which Rev. William J. Batt occupies in the affections of our people was secured through his labors for the young while he was the minister here. Rev. George Lewis and Rev. Edward Chase did not fail to give the children their share of attention. The one-sermon plan was introduced during the brief but fruitful ministry of Rev. Otis D. Crawford. Thus he and his successors were able to devote more time to the school. The adult class, gathered and taught by Rev. George F. Lovejoy, was a tower of strength; and the present interesting classes conducted by the pastor, Rev. Edwin Smith, and E. G. Loomis, Esq., have a salutary effect upon the younger element in the school. They tend to encourage the young men to remain in the school when they reach the age that has been thought by too many to mark the limit of their need of the study of the Bible. Senator Frelinghuysen said,

“To go from the Sabbath-school to the Senate of the United States I consider no promotion.” [*9]

I would that the young men of Bedford might be moved by the same impulse.

The school has never been sufficiently large to have a separate infant department. Mrs. Susan Cole gave much attention for some years to gathering very young children. In 1869, she had a class of thirty. The youngest children are at present divided into small classes, in order to secure the advantages of more individual work. We have what might be termed an intermediate department, — a class of about thirty girls from seven to eleven years of age, who enjoy the faithful instruction of the wife of our pastor (Mrs.

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Smith). This is an interesting and highly important branch of the school, and doubtless the most difficult age to teach. Fortunately, the day has long since passed when “any one” is regarded as qualified to instruct little children in either religious or secular truths. Tact and talent are not only required, but a thorough knowledge of child nature and a loving Christian heart.

In the early days, the sessions being at nine o’clock in the morning, the school closed in time for all to march from the town hall to the meeting-house, and there be ready for the regular preaching service. The procession, in regular order, the younger classes at the head, with their respective teachers to lead, would enter the Common at the east side just as the pastor, with his family, entered from the west. The pastor’s friendly salutation of a low bow was offered to this flock, as it was to all of the congregation who had taken their seats before the minister arrived. None of the children went home without attending the service of the church. The present custom of sending children to Sabbath-school only is not to be commended. [^2]

This school had no constitution or by-laws for its government until about the year 1850, when a paper was drawn up and adopted as the code of laws for its guide. It provides for an anniversary observance on the third Sabbath of July, and an election of officers on the following Sabbath. The time for re-organizing and choosing officers was changed some years later to the beginning of the year. The first anniversary observance on record was at the close of the first quarter-century. From records made at that time by Deacon Hartwell, we gather the following. About three hundred and fifty have been connected

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with the school during the twenty-five years. Of these, one hundred and eighty-four have united with the church in this town. This is about fifty-three per cent.

In 1864, the forty-sixth anniversary was observed, when the total membership was 176; average attendance, 100; largest attendance, 122. The first cabinet organ was purchased in 1864, and first used March 13. The greatest anniversary observance was in 1868, when the semi-centennial was suitably observed. On that occasion, a large company of former members of the school gathered from far and near, and participated in the interesting and helpful exercises. President Stearns of Amherst College, an original member of the school, did honor to the occasion by an address such as that eminent scholar and lover of the town might be expected to give. [*10] Sadness, however, was mingled with that cup of joy; for one member of the school — Miss Lydia Dodge — was called up higher on that beautiful morning, and one — the secretary of the school, Alden Brown — passed away a few hours later.

Other anniversaries have been observed. The annual return of the season of organization has generally been noticed in some impressive manner. When the school attained the age of threescore years, an interesting meeting was held. [*11] Among the speakers was Mr. Nathan A. Fitch, of Boston, a native of Bedford and former pupil here. The seed sown by Miss Susan Webber, a faithful teacher here nearly fifty years ago, has seen its fruitage in and through the active life of Mr. Fitch in Boston. [*12] About the year 1840, a little boy was seen by Miss Webber, upon a street of this village, on a Sabbath noon. His conscience had told him not to go, as he had on previous Sabbaths, to

[ p 30 ]

see some unprincipled men play games in a neglected building. This good woman spoke to the boy, asked him to come to the Sabbath-school and be one of her class. The smile and the words won the little fellow; and, under Miss Webber’s instruction, he received the impressions that led him to consecrate himself to the service of God and his fellow-men. In March, 1852, he united with the Baldwin Place Baptist Church, Boston. Mr. Fitch has been the superintendent of the Seaman’s Bethel Sabbath-school for twenty-eight years. He has as many as eleven nationalities under his care, and the work done under the leadership of Mr. Fitch has been productive of good results. He is president of the North Baptist Sabbath-school Convention, consisting of thirty-seven schools, and has a helping hand for every good work.

Some of the early question-books were Cumming‘s on the New Testament, Emerson’s Evangelical Primer, Watts’ Catechism; occasionally, for some advanced pupils, McDowell’s Questions on the Old Testament, and Mason on self-knowledge. [*13][^3][*14] After a time, the question-books were laid aside, and select portions of the Scripture were assigned; and the teachers asked such questions and made such comments as they thought best. Many parents continued the weekly instruction from the catechism, in addition to the regular public catechising by the pastor. Some of the pupils would commit so much Scripture to memory that it would be difficult for each to have an opportunity to recite all which they had prepared. The late President Stearns committed, for one recitation, the whole Book of Luke. His classmate, Mr. Eleazer P. Davis, was in attendance on that Sabbath. Mr. Oliver W. Lane, the teacher, did not find time to hear the entire recitation and do justice to the other members of his

[ p 31 ]

class. The advance steps in almost every direction have been for the better, but a greater familiarity with the Scriptures might be of lasting benefit to the youth of to-day.

The work of the temperance reform has always gone with the Sabbath-school work and has been a part of it. The leaders in the Sabbath-school have always been foremost in every reform movement. The first movement in temperance in Bedford was in the summer of 1828, when the school was ten years old. It was on the 28th of June, 1830, that the first temperance society was formed. The catalogue of members is headed by the name of the pastor, Rev. Samuel Stearns, who had some time before brought about a change in funeral services, causing the abandonment of the use of liquors on such occasions. The members were divided according to age, and designated thus: gentlemen, young gentlemen, young masters; ladies, young ladies, young misses. [^1]

Almost all of those whose names appear on the record of the temperance society were identified with the Sabbath-school. Of the list of “gentlemen,” there are but five known to be living; and but three of these are citizens of Bedford, — Albert Bacon, Elijah W. Stearns, and Eleazer P. Davis. [^4] Those living elsewhere are Moses Hayward and Leander Hosmer. Mr. Obadiah P. Johnson is the only one living of the “young gentlemen,” while none of the “young masters” are living. Of the “ladies,” there are two living, Betsey C. Merritt being the only resident of Bedford. None of the “young ladies” or of the “young misses” are known to be living. The society soon after its start consisted of seventy-five members, and soon increased to one hundred. The first pledge was somewhat lax, viewed in the light of present sentiments; but it was soon followed by an-

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other more stringent, and that by others, as the sentiment advanced. [^5]

The temperance work has ever been kept up in this school, and received a share of the time allotted to the Bible study. What better argument in favor of abstinence from alcoholic drinks can be offered than that it is conducive to longevity? And, to substantiate this, call the roll of the living members of Bedford’s first temperance society: [^6] Leander Hosmer, aged ninety-two years; Moses Hayward, eighty-eight years; Eleazer P. Davis, eighty-four years; Albert Bacon, eighty-six years; Elijah W. Stearns, seventy-five years. The late Captain Cyrus Page, who died at the age of eighty-six years, owed much of his mental strength and vivacity to his temperate life begun in this society. The general and powerful effect of this temperance movement through New England is shown in a note from the diary of Ralph Waldo Emerson, where he speaks of his journey on foot, with Hawthorne, to visit the Shakers at Harvard:

“The opportunities which the taverns once offered to the traveller of witnessing and even sharing in the jokes or the politics of the teamsters and farmers on the road are now no more. The temperance society emptied the bar-room. It is a cold place.” [*15]

The various branches of benevolent and missionary work where the young could be helpful have been introduced here. The school became early the dispenser as well as the receiver of good. It took in hand enterprises which reached out from its own borders.

“Christian charity arouses true benevolence, and awakens and fosters the spirit of missions.” [*16]

The school was less than two years old when the Home Missionary Society was organized in this country; and the wonderful net-work of influence which has

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sprung from this small beginning has spread all over the land, from ocean to ocean, and from the Gulf to the northern seas, since the founding of the Sabbath-school of Bedford. Its record in every line of missionary work has been a most reliable indicator of its standing at home. Each “Morning Star” that has left our shores, bearing the glad tidings to foreign lands and the isles of the sea, has had its stockholders here. [*17]

During the civil strife that devastated our land, many of the members of this school cultivated their crop of cucumbers and brought the harvest returns to a head-quarters where quantities of pickles were prepared with the vinegar that had been purchased with funds earned by picking berries in the summer. These relishes were then forwarded to the brave men who had left their homes, here and elsewhere, to save the country. Some of the former members of this school gave up their young lives in defence of the right. Of Bedford’s heroic dead, the following names have had a place in the records of this school: Samuel W. Stearns, Charles W. Lunt, Charles W. Goodwin, Henry Hosmer, Clark C. Cutler, Charles Saunders, Albert Butler. [^1]

From Mr. Webber’s diary (before referred to), in the annual report of July, 1864, we copy:

“Number who are or have been in the army, twelve. Of a class of twelve young men belonging to the school in 1860, eight have been in the army.”

He also tenderly alludes to the death of three of the promising pupils, during the year, — Lottie Hosmer, Randall Hosmer, and Carrie Frost.

The American Missionary Society, organized in 1846, and the New West Education Commission, with other societies that have sprung up since the war, have been continually aided by this Sabbath-school of Bedford. [^7]

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Children of the plains have been given the rudiments of education and the truths of the gospel of peace in exchange for the war-whoop of their dusky parents, through the aid of Sabbath-schools, of which this has been one. [*18][*19] All of this and more has been done, while the school has been self-supporting. It is many years since the Church has been called upon to aid in the support of this her promising offspring. The last contribution made by the school was to the Asa Bullard Memorial Fund.


  • An historical [Sabbath-school] address (1888) pp 21-34


  1. [[ paragraph break ]]
  2. only is ∨ only, is
  3. self-knowledge. ∨ Self-knowledge.
  4. Bacon, ∨ Beacon,
  5. by an- ∨ by an
  6. And, to ∨ and, to
  7. Education ∨ Educational


  1. “score of years”: twenty years
  2. “this ancient church”: now First Church of Christ: 75 Great Road
  3. “God only”: God alone
  4. “charge”: superintendence
  5. “will ever be kept green”: will be enduring
  6. cf. “The everlasting memorial” (1857)
    in Hymns of faith and hope (pp 71-73)
  7. cf. Rollins’ “Lawrence” (1888)
    in Hurd’s History of Essex County: Volume I (p 917)
  8. “munificence”: great generosity
  9. cf. “How success is won” [1885] p 155
    NB: The original quotation is different.
    cf. “Dignity of station” (15 Nov 1844)
    in The gospel teacher (p 149) [ no scan ]
  10. cf. Brown’s History of the town of Bedford (1891) pp 54-55
  11. “threescore years”: sixty years
  12. “fruitage”: fruit(s)
  13. cf. Questions on the Old Testament (1859)
  14. cf. Mason’s Treatise on self-knowledge (1856)
    NB: This work was originally published in 1745.
  15. cf. Cabot’s Memoir of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1887) p 374
  16. cf. Temple’s History of the first Sabbath school (1868) p 46
  17. “Morning Star”: [ presumably ] guiding light
  18. “children of the plains”: [ now offensive ]: young Plains Indians
  19. “dusky”: [ now offensive ]: dark-skinned
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