Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Milton Seventh Day Baptist on an anniversary

The Milton Seventh Day Baptist Church is preparing to celebrate the 175th anniversary of its founding on November 12th 1840. Yesterday I spent several hours looking through that church's vault hoping to find some materials about the church's history that could be displayed. I grew up in that church and for a time, as a teenager, served on its history committee. I knew at least a few things that I might find, among which were the minute books for the business meetings of the church dating back to the founding. They were there. Somehow they survived the fire that destroyed the first church building in 1932. During the Great Depression the current building was constructed.

I have always been interested in the controversy in the 1870s that resulted in a very acrimonious split in the church. It was occasioned by the dismissal of the pastor and involved Ezra Goodrich, the son of the founder of Milton on one side, and W.C. Whitford, a previous pastor and president of Milton College, on the other. The minutes for that period recount the dispute and although I don't possess copies yet I hope to at some point. I do have some other materials. The pastor who was dismissed was L.C. Rogers and one result of the split was the Milton Junction Seventh Day Baptist Church a short distance to the west.

This excerpt from a letter explains feelings of those who supported Pastor Rogers:
Here is a copy of my husband's letter to Charles in which he says in reply to your question what L.C. expects to do. I think it safe to say that he expects to remain in Milton until he gets what's due him for his services. "If it takes all summer." As I understand it the question stands thus: L.C. claims that he contracted in good faith with the Church & Society as known in their act of incorporation and has thus far (till Church, meeting of Feb. 7th) received his pay from the funds of the C&S, they thereby acknowledging their obligation. But a faction of the church came to the conclusion (as it seems to me) that the preaching was rather too religious for Milton. Another trial was the reading of the Commandments every Sabbath knowing as preacher must that more or less of the Sunday students from the College were in attendance and some other equally grievous acts of his were a sufficient reason for his removal in the estimation of said faction. But as the faction could not control the C&S they managed by packing a church meeting and deposing of L.C. from the chair which of right and by custom belonged to him and filling his place with one of their tools they succeeded in getting a majority vote in favor of a notice to L.C. to vacate the desk as pastor at the end of three months. .... (the entire letter in pdf)
Those left in control of the Milton church set forth their position in a "Letter Missive" to other churches in the denomination asking them to send delegates to arbitrate the dispute:

 The entire "Letter Missive" (pdf).

Nothing about this story is edifying but conflict always makes more interesting. Most of the Milton church's history is less dramatic but undoubtedly more appropriate.

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