THE SYMMES MEMORIAL
Rev. ZECHARIAH SYMMES was the ancestor of most of those who bear the name in America, so far as is known. He was born in England of most respectable and worthy parents, who had been steadfast in the faith of the gospel, even in the worst of times.
His grandfather, WILLIAM SYMMES, was a truly religious man, and a firm protestant, in the reign of the bloody Queen Mary, from 1553 to 1558. His wife was like-minded. Their son:-
Rev. WILLIAM SYMMES, was ordained to the ministry of the gospel in that famous year 1588. He exercised his office faithfully, at a time when it exposed him to great suffering. Queen Elizabeth was afraid of carrying the Reformation too far. She had set up a standard of her own in things ecclesiastical, retaining many of the old Popish rites, and she determined that all her subjects should conform to it. She inherited the stern, unrelenting spirit of her father, and was fond of the old ceremonies in which she had been educated. The year after her accession, the parliament made her the supreme head of the Church of England, and conferred on her the right of regulating all its affairs. Her authority was thus made to supersede the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ; and the power thus conferred she was not slow to exert. She was in effect the Pope of England.
She claimed, and pretended to exercise, supreme authority in matters of faith, to determine what every man between the four seas should believe, in what manner he should worship God, and what should be the terms of his acceptance with his Maker. To enforce these high claims a court was erected, called the Court of High Commission, which was little else than the Spanish Inquisition in disguise. If any persons did not conform precisely to the orders and decrees of this tribunal, the court were authorized to punish them by fine or imprisonment, at their discretion. This power was exercised with the most unrelenting severity. Many of the best people in England, both ministers and laymen, were fined far beyond their ability, and to their utter ruin; others were shut up in prison without a trial, and kept there for months and even years, none of their friends, not even their wives, being allowed to speak to them except in the presence of the jailor, and twenty or more excellent ministers perished in jail. Many hundreds of faithful ministers, whose only offence was that they chose to obey God rather than man, were turned out of their parishes, and their families left to starve. Some, of whom the world was not worthy, were executed as felons.*
* Henry Barrow, a lawyer, John Greenwood and John Penry, clergymen, to gratify the spite of an angry prelate, were executed without any legal authority, and by the mere sentence of the High Commission, in 1593, after being kept three years in prison.
Such things rendered the condition of upright, conscientious men in England intolerable. To escape the sufferings which awaited them there, great numbers went over to Holland, and thousands at length sought refuge beyond the stormy Atlantic. It was such a state of affairs which, in the reign of the weak and bigoted Charles Stuart, compelled ZECHARIAH SYMMES and his family to emigrate to America.
Amid all these dangers our Symmes ancestors stood firm. Cotton Mather relates that Rev. William Symmes charged his sons Zechariah and William never to defile themselves with any idolatry or superstition, but to derive their religion from God's holy word, and to worship God as he himself has directed, and not after the devices and traditions of men. He says, in a passage preserved by Cotton Mather: "I went to Sandwich in Kent to preach, the first or second year after I was ordained a minister, in 1587 or 1588, and preached in St. Mary's, where Mr. Rawson, an ancient godly preacher, was minister, who knew my parents well, and me too at school." How long he remained at Sandwich we do not know.
He had at least two sons, ZECHARIAH and William. It is uncertain whether William came to America. *
* Could he have been the father of Miss Sarah Simes, who died in Cambridge, near Boston, June 11, 1653 ?
There is no evidence that he did come, as we have found his name in no early record, save his brother's will. He was living in 1664, as we learn from the document just mentioned. From that document we infer that he possessed some property, some of which had been used for the relief of the suffering brother and his family.
Rev. ZECHARIAH SYMMES, son of Rev. William, and grandson of Mr. William Symmes, already mentioned, was born at Canterbury, in England, April 5, 1599. He gave evidence of piety at an early age. He was educated at Emmanuel College, in the University of Cambridge, where he was graduated in 1620. The next year he was chosen lecturer at St. Anthony, or Antholine's, in the city of London. Being frequently harassed by prosecutions in the Bishop's courts *
* The execrable William Land was then Bishop of London, a fit instrument of arbitrary power. He was archbishop of Canterbury from 1633 to 1644. He was beheaded on Tower Hill for his agency in subverting the liberties of England, Jan.10, 1644-5.
for his nonconformity, he removed to Dunstable in Bedfordshire, thirty-four miles N.W. from London, in 1625 where, as rector, he continued for eight years his labors in the gospel. Still annoyed by prosecutions of this nature, he at length determined to remove to America.
He arrived in Boston, with his wife and seven children, in the ship Griffin , September 18, 1634. This ship brought over about two hundred emigrants, among whom were William and Anne Hutchinson and Rev. John Lothrop. Mr Lothrop, after preaching in Scituate, settled in Barnstaple in 1639. This emigration, and others that took place in the six years following, were greatly promoted by an apprehension now entertained by godly people in England, that there "was a special providence of God in raising this plantation, which generally stirred their hearts to come over" . Mr Lothrop, for instance, was accompanied in his voyage by about thirty of his former charge in London.
Mr. Symmes, and his wife Sarah - of whom more in the sequel - were admitted to the church in Charlestown, December 6, 1634. On the 22nd of the same month, on a fast-day appointed for the occasion, he was elected and ordained their teacher.
There is no reason to doubt that Mr. Symmes was set apart to the ministry of the gospel by the church in Charlestown themselves, on the very day of his election. He had received Episcopal ordination in England; but our fathers, on their arrival in this country, threw off entirely the yoke of bishops, which had set so uneasily on their necks. The churches of New England, in the early times, claimed and exercised the power of ordaining their own officers - pastors and teachers, as well as deacons and ruling elders. Rev. John Wilson, the first minister in Boston, was set apart to his office, August 27, 1630, by imposition of the hands of the church. "This was done" , says Gov. Winthrop, "only as a sign of election and confirmation, not of any intent that Mr. Wilson should renounce his ministry received in England." Rev. John Cotton was chosen teacher of the church in Boston, October 10, 1633, and on the same day, immediately after, the pastor, Mr. Wilson, and two ruling elders, laid their hands on him, in behalf of the church, solemnly designating him to his holy office. Rev. Thomas Carter, the first minister of Woburn, was ordained by the laying on of hands of two private members of the church, one of whom probably was Edward Johnson, the author of the "Wonder-Working Providence" . The transaction, which took place December 2, 1642, is minutely related both in the town records and by Johnson in the Wonder-Working Providence .
Nine ministers were present, one of whom was Mr. Symmes, the nearest minister, yet none of them took part in the ordination. Mr. Carter himself preached and prayed. Other instances of this sort might be mentioned, all of which show that such was the prevailing, as it was the primitive practice. *
* It was held, and such is the theory at the present time, that by the appointment of Christ himself, all church power, under Christ, resides in the church itself; i.e.: in the body of church members. Every church, therefore, has the right of choosing its own officers; a right which no man can take from it. But the power of election implies and includes the power of ordination. For, as the Cambridge Platform says, "Ordination is nothing else but the solemn putting a man into his place and office in the church, whereunto he had right before by election. Ordination is to follow election. Ordination doth not constitute an officer, nor give him the essentials of his office..... In churches where there are elders, imposition of hands in ordination is to be performed by those elders..... For if the people may elect officers, which is the greater, they may much more impose hands on ordination, which is less."
To this practice the churches of New England seem to have adhered for many years. The earliest instance of departure which has been observed, was at the ordination of Rev. Moses Fisk, of Braintree (now Quincy), September 21, 1672, when Rev. Mr. Oxenbridge of Boston and the deacons joined in the laying of hands. This is Mr. Fisk's own account.
At length, near the close of that century, ministers began to claim the power of imposition of hands in ordination as their exclusive right, and the churches by courtesy yielded it to them. Still, to the present day it is held that ministers, in ordination, act only in behalf of the church as their agents, by their appointment, and not by any right in the ministry itself.
The First Church, Boston, was originally formed in Charlestown, July 30, 1630. *
* For some time they met for worship under the shadow of a great oak, "where", says one, "I heard Mr. Wilson and Mr. Phillips [afterwards of Watertown] preach many a good sermon". This tree was alive and flourishing nearly a century after.
But it being found difficult to cross the river, especially in winter, the church was removed to Boston, where a majority of its members resided, and a new church, consisting of sixteen men and their wives, and three unmarried men living on the north side of the river, organized in Charlestown, November 2, 1632. Of this new church, Rev. Thomas James, who arrived in Boston with Rev. Stephen Batchelor and Rev. Thomas Welde, June 5, 1632, was chosen the first pastor. It being customary for each church to enjoy the labors of two ministers, Mr. Symmes, in December, 1634, was ordained as colleague with Mr. James, taking on him the work of teacher, while Mr. James confined himself to pastoral labors. Difficulties soon arose between the two ministers, a majority of the people adhering to Mr. Symmes, which occasioned the calling of an ecclesiastical council. This council, on the 11th of March, 1636, advised Mr. James to ask a dismission, which was accordingly done. He went to Providence in 1637, and thence to New Haven, where he engaged in teaching. In October, 1642, he accompanied Rev. Messrs. Knowles of Watertown and Tompson of Braintree, in their unsuccessful mission to Virginia, returning with them in June of the following year. Not long after this, he returned to England; was resettled at Needham in Suffolk; was deprived of his parish for non-conformity, and died about 1678, aged 86. In all his trials he approved himself as a faithful servant of Christ, and appears to have been a truly good man. [Felt's Eccl. Hist. of New England].
The Rev. John Harvard, who, with Anna his wife, came over in 1637, was with her admitted a member of the Charlestown church, November 6 in that year. He graduated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, in 1631, and took his second degree there in 1635. He must have been, therefore, at this time, a young man. He has usually been reckoned one of the ministers of Charlestown, and a colleague* with Mr. Symmes.
* Eliot, in his biography, calls him "pastor of the church in Charlestown." In a list of its ministers, drawn up in modern times, and inserted in the second volume of the church records, Mr. Harvard is numbered among them. But all this appears to be founded in mistake.
But though a resident in Charlestown, and a member of that church, it is next to certain, says Rev. Samuel Sewall, that he never was called to office in that church. The only notice to be found of him in the church records is of his admission as a member, at the date already mentioned.
[See American Quarterly Register, vol. xi.p.49]. He died of consumption, September 14, 1638; and this fact appears, not from the church records, but from Danforth's Almanack for 1649, printed at Cambridge. But his generous bequest* to the college, which has long borne his name, has insured to him a perpetual remembrance. The legacy amounted to £779 17s 2d - a large sum for those days, and one half of his property. Johnson speaks of him as an earnest Christian and as an impressive preacher.
* As early as May, 1636, measures had been put in train for a college in Massachusetts. Salem was first proposed; but in November, 1637, the legislature resolved on the erection of a college in Cambridge, then a part of Newton, for the purpose of which it was agreed to give four hundred pounds, whereof two hundred pounds to be paid the first year, and two hundred pounds when the work was finished. - [Felt's Eccl. Hist. N.E., vol.i.pp254, 263,326]
Rev. Thomas Allen was admitted a member of the church in Charlestown, December 22, 1639 [old system], answering to January 1, 1640 [new system], and soon after, if not at the same time, became the colleague of Mr. Symmes. He was the teacher, whereas Mr. Symmes, from the time of the dismission of Mr. James, 1636, was the pastor. Mr. Allen was born in Norwich, England, 1608; graduated at Caius College, Cambridge, 1627; was minister of St. Edmund's Church in his native city, but was deprived for nonconformity, 1636, and came with his wife Anne to New England in 1638. It is supposed that she soon died, and that he married the widow of John Harvard. *
* The General Court, June 6, 1639, granted to Rev. Thomas Allen five hundred acres of land, "in regard to Mr. Harvard's gift." - [Felt's Eccl. Hist. N.E., vol i.p.377]
In 1651 Mr. Allen visited England, spent the rest of his life there, and published several books. In 1659, he was again minister in Norwich. He was again ejected, as were two thousand other faithful ministers, in 1662, but still preached to his people, as opportunity offered, till his death in that city, September 21, 1673, aged 65. [Am.Quar.Reg.vol xi., pp. 46, 49; vol. xiii.p44].
He was called "a holy man of God and faithful servant of Christ."
Mr. Symmes had one other colleague, in the person of Rev. Thomas Shepard, born in London, England, April 5, 1635, eldest son of eminent Thomas Shepard, of our Cambridge; grad. H.C. 1653; was ordained teacher of the church in Charlestown, April 13, 1659. The imposition of hands was by Mr. Symmes, Rev. John Wilson of Boston, and Rev. Richard Mather of Dorchester, at the express desire of the church, and acting in their behalf. [Ibid, vol. xii. p.244]. He died suddenly, of smallpox, caught while visiting one of his flock, December 22, 1677. President Oakes, in a Latin oration, pronounced at the Commencement after his death, extolled him "as holding the first rank among the ministers of his day."
Mr. Symmes was admitted freeman of the colony, May 6, 1635.
Not long after his settlement in Charlestown he became involved in the celebrated controversy with Mrs. Ann Hutchinson * and the Antinomians.
* She was the daughter of Rev. Francis Marbury, of Lincolnshire, and was baptized at Alford, July 20, 1591. At the age of twenty she was married to William Hutchinson, a prosperous merchant of that place. At the time of the controversy spoken of in the text, she was forty-five years of age, and had several children already come to maturity. She was an exceedingly capable and resolute woman. After her banishment from Massachusetts, she and her husband went to Rhode Island, where he died in 1642. She then went to reside under the Dutch jurisdiction at Pelham Neck, near New Rochelle, New York, where she was killed by the Indians, with most of her family, in September of the following year. Some of her children and grandchildren arose to wealth and distinction in Massachusetts. Thomas Hutchinson, her great-great-grandson, was governor of that providence, 1771-74.
The following is the testimony given by Mr. Symmes on the trial of Mrs. Hutchinson before the court at Newtown (now Cambridge) in 1637. We find it in Hutchinson's History of Massachusetts, published in 1767.
"For my own part, being called to speak in this case, to discharge the relation wherein I stand to the Commonwealth, and that wherein I stand to God, I shall speak briefly.
"For my acquaintance with this person, I had none in our native country, only I had occasion to be in her company once or twice before I came, where I did perceive that she did slight the ministers of the word of God. But I came along with her in the ship, and it so fell out that we were in the great cabin together, and therein did agree with the labours of Mr. Lathrop and myself, only there was a secret opposition to things delivered. The main thing that was then in hand was about evidencing of a good estate, and among the rest about that place in John concerning the love of the brethren. That which I took notice of was the corruptness and narrowness of her opinions; which I doubt not I may call them so; but she said, when she came to Boston there would be something seen...
"And being come, and she desiring to be admitted a member, I was desired to be there, and then Mr. Cotton did give me full satisfaction in the things in question.
"And for things which have been here spoken, as far as I can remember, they are the truth: and when I asked her what she thought of me, she said, Alas! you know my mind long ago. Yet I do not think myself disparaged by her testimony; and I would not trouble the court, only this one thing I shall put in, that Mr. Dudley and Mr. Haines were not wanting in the cause, after I had given notice of her."
Thomas Dudley came to New England with Winthrop in 1630; was deputy governor of Massachusetts, 1630-1633; governor, 1634 and 1640; died July 31, 1653. John Haynes came with John Cotton in 1633; was governor, 1635; governor of Connecticut many years; died March 1, 1654.
As already observed, he was a fellow-passenger, 1634, with Mrs. Hutchinson in the voyage from England. Mrs. Hutchinson had startled him and other passengers by some eccentricities and speculations of her own in matters of religion, and especially by "revelations" which she professed to have received. According to her statement, revelations from heaven were with her matters of frequent occurrence. After his arrival, Mr. Symmes felt it his duty to inform Boston church of what he had heard her say during the passage. This caused some delay in her admission to that church, which, however, took place in November.
Soon after her arrival, she began to hold meetings once or twice a week, at first for women only, afterwards meetings at which men as well as women were present. Sixty or eighty or even one hundred women attended these meetings, some of them from the principal families of the town. On these occasions she urged her peculiar opinions with great earnestness, and with no small measure of success. Among them were such sentiments as these:- That the outward life is not a sure test of character; that the evidence of our acceptance with God, need not, any part of it, be exhibited to the view of others; that the evidence of a man's piety is and must be shut up in one;s own breast, and cannot be increased by any outward manifestation. She insisted very strongly on an inward witness of the Spirit, amounting to an immediate revelation from God, that the person is in a state of favor and acceptance with him. Of course, if I have a promise coming immediately and specially from God that I shall be saved, what need of further evidence?
The ministers of the colony, who held that the evidence of a man's piety must, partly at least, be furnished by a holy life, and must therefore be patent, thus far, to the eyes of others; that a man must be a good man outwardly in order to be a true Christian - she denounced, in no measured terms, as holding a "covenant of works," and therefore as preaching no gospel at all. As she made herself very prominent in this affair, she was of course opposed by the ministers whom she thus misrepresented, and by none more decidedly that by Mr. Symmes.
The promulgation of Mrs. Hutchinson's views, in the manner and style which she chose to adopt, soon raised a prodigious ferment. The whole colony was shaken to its centre. Her teachings were regarded by the most judicious and sober-minded persons as not only dangerous to the souls of men, but as tending to revolution in the state. If, as she claimed, revelations from God were to be expected, and were actually enjoyed by her, not only in the affair of our salvation, but in reference to the more important concerns of life, these revelations having equal authority with the Scriptures, who could tell how far they might extend, what direction they might take, or what line of conduct they might prescribe for her followers? Suppose Mrs. Hutchinson to have a revelation requiring her followers to take the sword; what then?
Serious apprehension existed, therefore, that the whole fabric, civil and religious, for the erection of which our fathers had left their native land and incurred all the toils and perils of the wilderness, might be overthrown. The followers of this able and daring woman appeared likely to carry the controversy, thus awakened, to the most dangerous extremes. It became necessary, therefore, to resort to extreme measures. The General Court, impressed with the belief that the peace of the civil community and of the churches demanded a decisive course, found Mrs. Hutchinson and a large number of her adherents guilty of sedition, and proceeded to disarm, disfranchise and banish from the colony seventy-five of the more prominent men, and banished Mrs. Hutchinson herself. If this measure was a stretch of power, it at least saved the country from ruin. Mr. Symmes took part in these proceedings.
Mr. Symmes appears to have been held in esteem by his contemporaries, and when we remember who they were, this is no small praise. In regard to literary attainment, he appears to have been respectable. He had for those times a good library, containing the works of the able divines of his day. But so far as we can now discover, he was more distinguished for practical talent and general usefulness than for intellectual eminence. He must have been a man of no small ability to retain a firm hold of such a parish for so many years. He wrote his sermons, and left a large number of manuscript, most of them bound up in volumes. "He knew his Bible well", says Cotton Mather, "and he was a preacher of what he knew, and a sufferer for what he preached."
Of his wife, Edward Johnson, in the Wonder-Working Providence, writes as follows: "Among all the godly women that came through the perilous seas to war their warfare, the wife of this zealous teacher, Mrs. Sarah Symmes, shall not be omitted. This virtuous woman, endued by Christ with grace fit for a wilderness condition, her courage exceeding her stature, with much cheerfulness did undergo all the difficulties of those times of straits, her God through faith in Christ supplying all wants, with great industry nurturing up her young children in the fear of the Lord; their number being ten [We have the names of twelve, of whom ten were then living], both sons and daughters; a certain sign of the Lord's intent to people this vast wilderness. God grant they may be as valiant in fight against sin, Satan, and all the enemies of Christ's kingdom, following the example of their father and grandfather, who have both suffered for the same; in remembrance of whom these following lines are penned:
"Come Zachary, thou must re-edify
Christ's churches in this desert-land of his,
With Moses' zeal, stamped unto dust, defy
All crooked ways that Christ's true worship miss.
With Spirit's sword and armour girt about,
Thou layedest on proud prelate's crown to crack,
And wilt not suffer wolves thy flock to rout,
Though close they creep, with sheep-skins on their back.
Thy father's spirit doubled is upon thee, Symmes !
Then war: thy father fighting died.
In prayer then prove thou a like champion !
Hold out till death, and Christ will crown provide."
If these lines have little poetic merit, they aptly express the spirit and life of the Charlestown pastor.
Woburn was settled from Charlestown in 1641. The first settlers had been members of Mr. Symmes's church and congregation. The first sermon ever preached in Woburn was by Mr. Symmes, November 21, 1641, from the text Jeremiah 4:3 "Thus saith the Lord, break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns." Very appropriate, certainly, to the occasion. Mr. Symmes was present at the formation of the church, August 24, 1642. On that occasion he "continued in prayer and preaching about a space of four or five hours." [Johnson's Wonder-Working Providence; Sewall's Hist. of Woburn] He was also present at the ordination of Mr. Thomas Carter, the first minister, December 2,following.
He preached the Election Sermon in 1648.
In July 1656, the Quakers first came to Boston. The sect then bearing that name were not the peaceable, order-loving citizens now known to us under that designation. They were people who, professing to have revelations and impulses directly from heaven, made it their special business to disquiet all who differed from them, to the utmost of their power. In England John Fox and others travelled through the land, declaiming against the ministers and churches, interrupting public worship, and refusing any respect the civil magistrate. Some of them, even females, went into meetings for public worship stark naked. Many opened their shops on the Lord's day, in defiance of the laws. Others went about the streets of London denouncing the judgments of God against the government. [Neal's Hist. of the Puritans, vol. iv. pp.175,176.]
The advent of these people to New England was dreaded as among the worst of evils. But in 1656, two Quaker women came from Barbados to Boston, as they expressly stated, to propagate their contempt of the ministry and of the civil power. A month later, several other Quakers arrived with similar intent. They continued to come. They would not have been molested, if they had been quiet and peaceable. But they were not peaceable. On Martha's Vineyard they tried to induce the Indians not to hear Mr. Mayhew, and not to read the scriptures. [Felt's Eccl. Hist. of N.E., vol. ii. p.162] In other places their conduct was in the highest degree riotous, turbulent and provoking. They were continually disturbing congregations assembled for public worship. Margaret Brewster went into a meeting-house with her face smeared over with black paint. Deborah Wilson went through the streets of Salem naked, as a sign to the people. Lydia Wardwell went into a meeting-house in Newbury, as naked as she was born. The Quakers in those days were not so much a religious sect as a band of miscreants. Bishop Burnet, whose opinion is worthy of respect, says they were dangerous to the peace of the community.
The General Court of Massachusetts passed an act against the Quakers, imposing heavy fines, sentencing offenders to prison and banishing them from the colony. Some of them, after being sent away, returned a second or third time, notwithstanding that the penalty of death was denounced upon them in case of their return. [Ibid, vol.ii. 211, et seq.; Palfrey, ii. 464, &c.]
The government were very reluctant to proceed to extremities. But exercising the right which every householder has to clear his house of disorderly persons, and finding that these wretches, after being sent away, would still return, and, as some of them avowed, for the express purpose of defying and trampling upon the laws of the land, the executive authority made use of the last resort: they hanged four of these Quakers. [Felt's Eccl. Hist. N.E., ii.pp. 208, 211 et seq. 254; Palfrey, ii. 464 et seq.] But they were not hanged for being Quakers; they were not thus dealt with, nor were they fined, imprisoned or banished, for opinion's sake, but for riot and sedition, for endeavoring the overthrow of the civil authority, and for disturbing the public peace.
While some of these Quakers were in prison, Mr. Symmes visited them for religious conversation suited to their need. For this and similar efforts he was grievously reviled by the Quakers.
The latter part of the life of Mr. Symmes was embittered by the conduct of some of the members of his church, who were among the founders of the First Baptist Church in Boston. This church was originally gathered in Charlestown, about the year 1665. Thomas Gould, a member of Mr. Symmes's church, had a child born to him in 1655, which he withheld from baptism. For this, and for absenting himself from the worship and ordinances of that church, in disregard of covenant vows, he was repeatedly admonished, and at length, with some others, excommunicated. They were also prosecuted in the civil courts. The Baptist historians blame Mr. Symmes for the part he took in these proceedings. But he, in common with his brethren, honestly regarded Mr. Gould and his associates as disturbers of the public peace. They remembered the disturbances and murders caused by the Anabaptists in Germany the century previous. They feared the influence of the principles now held by the Baptists in common with those incendiaries. Mr. Symmes and those who acted with him are not to be blamed for not possessing the light we now enjoy. Moreover, the Congregationalists of that day supposed that as they had, at the cost of much labor, expense and suffering, procured on those shores an asylum for themselves and their brethren of like faith, it was a grievous wrong for persons of a different faith and maintaining other forms of worship, to intrude among them, when there was room enough elsewhere. They considered themselves as acting in self-defence. These considerations should shield them from the charge of persecution. The charge is utterly groundless. [Felt's Eccl. Hist. N.E., ii. 138, 151, 341, 362, 371, 513; Palfrey, iii. 89, 90.]
In 1648, and about that time, the salary of Mr. Symmes was ninety pounds sterling. Only one other minister in the colony, the eloquent and eminent John Cotton, of Boston, had as much. Thomas Weld of Roxbury, John Knowles of Watertown, and Ezekiel Rogers of Rowley, had eighty pounds each. Others had from seventy pounds each down to twenty pounds. Thomas Allen, the colleague of Mr. Symmes, had sixty pounds. These salaries and public taxes generally, were paid, for the most part, not in cash, but in the produce of the farm. [Felt's Eccl. Hist. N.E., ii, 3; Palfrey, ii. 57; Sewall's Hist. of Woburn, p.50. Silver was scarce; the most that had been brought over, was sent back to England for supplies.]
The church of Charlestown was gathered November 2, 1632, and the records, still in existence, and in good preservation, begin at that time. From that date till 1677, it appears that five hundred and twenty persons were admitted to full communion in this church, of whom two hundred were males. Of this period of forty-five years, thirty-seven years belonged to the ministry of Mr. Symmes. It is probable, therefore, that during his ministry more than four hundred persons were added to his church.
A synod, assembled in Boston in 1662, introduced into New England churches what has long been known as the "half-way covenant", whereby persons baptized in infancy, on coming to maturity and owning the covenant made by their parents at their baptism, were entitled to have their children baptized, without themselves coming to the communion. This new practice was strenuously resisted by many, while others, among whom was Mr. Symmes, were its zealous advocates. The practice was immediately introduced into his church. In this affair, as in others, he acted in concurrence with such men as Richard, Eleazar and Increase Mather, Thomas Shepard, John Wilson, John Allin, Samuel Whiting, Thomas Cobbett, John Higginson and John Ward. *
* The compiler hopes that in this instance, as in others, he will be understood simply as acting the part of the faithful historian, in stating the facts as they were. He does not undertake any justification of the practice.
The town of Charlestown gave Mr. Symmes a tract of three hundred acres of land, extending from the north end of Mystic Pond to the borders of Woburn. In his will he calls it "my farm near Woburn". It continued for a long time within the limits of Charlestown, but is now included within the town of Winchester. A more particular description is reserved for the notice of his eldest son William, who owned it after his father's death. Part of it, fifty or sixty acres, remains in the possession and occupancy of his descendants to this day.
The town of Charlestown also granted to Mr. Symmes three hundred acres in the "Land of Nod", the history of which is as follows:
The town of Woburn was separated from Charlestown in 1642, but the divisional line between the two towns was not established till eight years after. There had been some misunderstanding about the line, which was at length quieted by an arrangement entered into July 29, 1650, by a committee mutually chosen. By this arrangement Charlestown relinquished to Woburn five hundred acres of land, beginning at the east corner of Edward Convers's farm, which was in Woburn, and running north to Charlestown Head Line; in exchange for which Woburn ceded to Charlestown three thousand acres lying further north.
Edward Convers lived near where the Orthodox church in Winchester now stands. His farm, of course, was in the neighborhood of his house, including what was long known as Convers's Mill, on the Mystic River, in the present village of Winchester, and now in the occupation of Joel Whitney, or very near it. Mr. Symmes's farm lay immediately west of the farm of Convers. The arrangement now entered into gave to Woburn the farms and lots on "Richardson's Row", now Washington Street, in Winchester, respecting a part of which there had been some dispute. But Woburn relinquished to Charlestown three thousand acres of land, of which the rights of property were to be vested in Charlestown, though considered to be within the bounds of Woburn. When Woburn was incorporated, October 1642, it was four miles square, and the three thousand acres lay at its northern extremity, within the limits of the present town of Wilmington. It was long known as the "Land of Nod", and is so called by many at the present day. [A mill at that vicinity is still called "Nod's Mill"]. This name was probably suggested by its forlorn condition, so far from church ordinances, which seemed to justify a comparison with that distant region to which Cain banished himself when he went from the presence of the Lord [Genesis 4:16]. This tract of land lay for many years in a neglected, uncultivated state. It was divided by Charlestown, in 1643, among twelve of her prominent citizens, of whom Mr. Symmes was one. The share given to him was three hundred acres; none had more that this, some had less. But the lots were not surveyed nor staked out till 1718, and were still considered of so little value, that several of the gentlemen resigned their grants to the town again. [Sewall's Hist. Woburn, pp. 8, 23, 29, 540, 541.] In 1671, Mr. Symmes's three hundred acres were valued at only five pounds.
Mr. Symmes continued to be pastor of the church in Charlestown till his death, which took place February 4, 1670-1 * at the age of 71 years and ten months.
* A different date is given in the New England General Register, vol. xiii. 207, viz.: February 24, 1671. But Mather, in his Magnalia, says Mr. Symmes died February 4, 1670, which of course is Old Style. Ten days must be added to make it conform to the New Style, and the true date, according to our present mode of reckoning, is February 14, 1671. This also corresponds with the date as given in Hobart's Journal and in Judge Sewall's interleaved almanac. (See Geneal. Reg., vii. 206). Moreover, the inventory is dated February 15, 1670-1.
His wife Sarah survived him, dying in 1676. Mather says his epitaph [It is to be regretted that this epitaph now exists only in the Magnalia] represents him as having lived with his wife forty-nine years and seven months, and as having had by her five sons and eight daughters. According to this statement he must have been married to her as early as July, 1621, the year after he graduated at college. He resided in London from 1621 to 1625, and his two eldest children seem to have been born there. We have the names of twelve children, none of whom were born previous to 1625.
He was honorably interred at the expense of the town. His grave was "covered and set comelie" by a stone-work laid in lime, together with a tomb-stone, procured by the selectmen of the town. The epitaph, which has been wholly effaced by the ravages of time, contained the following lines:
His will is dated January 20, 1664-5; it was proved March 31, 1671, and is recorded Midd. Prob. 3, 234. I have carefully examined the original document, written with his own hand, which I shall here quote exact and entire.
Click HERE to read The Last Will of Zechariah Symmes