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The History of Cambridge: From Appleton Until 1800

5. Years from Appleton Until 1800

Nathaniel Appleton

Nathaniel Appleton.
From First Church Archives.

Mr. Brattle was succeeded by the Reverend Nathaniel Appleton, who was ordained the same year.

A farm of 500 acres, lying at a remote part of Lexington, toward Bedford, “given in former time by the proprietors of the town for the use of the ministry in this town and place,” was sold in 1719; and the avails (excepting 130 pounds for the erection of a new parsonage house) were appropriated to the establishment of an accumulating fund, for the purpose originally designed by the donation. It was Mr. Appleton’s proposal, (which has been carried into effect) that the minister should receive two thirds of the interest, and that the other third should be added to the principal, that it might be “a growing estate.” This fund, by its own accumulation, and by the addition of the product of ministerial lands, sold in 1795, has become greatly auxiliary to the support of the ministry. In 1732, the inhabitants of the north-westerly part of Cambridge were, by an act of the Legislature, formed into a distinct and separate Precinct. On the Lord’s day, September 9, 1739, a church was gathered in this precinct, by the Rev. Mr. Hancock, of Lexington: and, on the 12th of the same month, the Reverend Samuel Cooke was ordained its pastor. On this occasion, the first church in Cambridge voted, that 25 pounds be given out of the church stock to the second church in Cambridge, “to furnish their communion table in a decent manner.” (74)

In 1734, the town received 300 pounds from the General Court, toward defraying the expence of repairing the Great Bridge over Charles river; and, together with a vote of thanks to the Court, voted thanks to Jacob Wendell, Esquire, and Mr. Cradock, for their kindness in procuring and collecting a very bountiful subscription for the same purpose. (75)

The Third Court House 1758-1816

The Third Court House 1758-1816

In 1736, a committee, chosen by the church to consult with the pastor respecting measures to promote a reformation, proposed and recommended to the church, as what they “apprehended might be serviceable for reviving religion, and suppressing growing disorders,” that there be a number of wise, prudent, and blameless Christians chosen among themselves, whose special care it should be, to inspect and observe the manners of professing Christians, and such as were under the care and watch of the church. The proposal was adopted, and a committee was appointed, for the purpose expressed in the recommendation. This committee, which was a kind of privy council to the minister, though without authority, appears to have been very serviceable to the interests of religion; and it was renewed annually, for the space of about fifty years.

In 1756, the present Court House in Cambridge was built.

An early engraving of Christ Church, Cambridge. The church was completed in 1761

An early engraving of Christ Church, Cambridge. The church was completed in 1761. From The Biography of a Church

Sillouette of East Apthorp, first rector of Christ Church  c. 1761.

Sillouette of East Apthorp, first rector of Christ Church
c. 1761. From The Biography of a Church

The present church, in the First Parish in Cambridge, which is the fourth, built in this parish, was raised November 17, 1756; and divine service was first performed in it July 24, 1757. The bell, now in use, was given to the society, by Captain Andrew Belcher, in the year 1700; at which time the town gave “the little meeting-house bell to the farmers,” or Lexington. The bible, for the pulpit, was the gift of the Honourable Jacob Wendell, Esquire, of Boston, in 1740. The present clock was procured by subscription in 1794.

In 1761, five or six gentlemen, each of whose income was judged to be adequate to the maintenance of a domestic chaplain, were desirous to have an episcopal church built, and a missionary fixed, at Cambridge. This year, accordingly, a church was erected: and the Reverend East Apthorp took charge of it, as missionary from the Society for the propagation of the Gospel in foreign parts. (76)

The inhabitants of Cambridge early discovered a zealous attachment to the liberties of their country. On the occasion of the memorable Stamp Act, it was voted, October 14, 1765, “as the opinion of the town, That the inhabitants of this Province have a legal claim to all the natural, inherent, constitutional rights of Englishmen, notwithstanding their distance from Great Britain, and that the Stamp Act is an infraction upon these rights.” After stating its oppressive tendency, the vote proceeds: “Let this Act but take place, Liberty will be no more: trade will languish and die; our Medium will be sent into his Majesty’s exchequer; and Poverty come upon us as an armed man. The town, therefore, hereby advise and direct their representatives by no means whatsoever to do any one thing that may aid said Act in its operation; but that, in conjunction with the friends of liberty, they use their utmost endeavours that the same may be repealed: and that this vote be recorded in the Town Books, that the children yet unborn may see the desire that their ancestors had for their freedom and happiness.” (77)

At a meeting of the proprietors of the common and undivided lands in Cambridge, in 1769, “all the common lands, belonging to the proprietors, fronting the college, commonly called the Town Commons, not heretofore granted or allotted to any particular person, or for any special or particular use,” were “granted to the town of Cambridge, to be used as a Training Field, to lie undivided, and to remain for that use forever.” (78)

The election of counsellors for the Province of Massachusetts was holden at Cambridge, in May, 1770, by order of Governor Hutchinson; in opposition to the Charter, and to the sense of the whole Province.

On the imposition of a duty on teas imported to America, by the East-India Company, several spirited resolves of the town of Cambridge, November 26, 1773, were closed with the following: “That this Town can no longer stand idle spectators, but are ready, on the shortest notice, to join with the town of Boston, and other towns, in any measures that may be thought proper, to deliver ourselves and posterity from slavery.” (79)

Boston Tea Party bicentennial commemorative postage stamp Learn more about the First Independent Thanksgiving.

Boston Tea Party bicentennial commemorative postage stamp
Learn more about the First Independent Thanksgiving. From the U.S. Postal Service

Fort Washington on Waverly Street was erected in 1775 to guard the mouth of the Charles River. It became a city park in 1857.

Fort Washington on Waverly Street was erected in 1775 to guard the mouth of the Charles River. It became a city park in 1857. From Cambridge Reconsidered, edited from original

On the great question, “Whether, if Congress should, for the safety of the Colonies, declare them independent of Great-Britain, the town would support them in the measure:” the inhabitants of Cambridge, May 27, 1776, unanimously and solemnly engaged such support, with their lives and fortunes. (80)

From the commencement of hostilities at Lexington, April 18, 1775, the tranquility of Cambridge was, for several years, interrupted, by the tumult of war. Many of the inhabitants left the town, and retired in to the interior parts of the country. The Seat of the Muses was now occupied by soldiers. It was at Cambridge that General Washington fixed his first encampment; and this was the place of the head-quarters of the American army, till the evacuation of Boston, by the British troops, in 1776. During this period the college was assembled at Concord.

George Washington takes command of the continental army, c. 1775. From a drawing by Paul Hawthorne, 1941.

George Washington takes command of the continental army, c. 1775. From a drawing by Paul Hawthorne, 1941. Courtesy of the Cambridge Historical Commission

John Adams presided over and helped with the composition of the Massachusetts Constitution. Initially adopted in 1780, it is the oldest governing constitution in the world.  Click here for the Massachusetts Constitution Web Page

John Adams presided over and helped with the composition of the Massachusetts Constitution. Initially adopted in 1780, it is the oldest governing constitution in the world. Click here for the Massachusetts Constitution Web Page. From Birth of a Nation: The First Federal Congress 1789-1791 (online exhibit).

The present Constitution of Massachusetts was framed at Cambridge, in 1779, by a Convention chosen by the several towns in the Commonwealth. It was referred to the consideration of another Convention. The inhabitants of Cambridge, after proposing several amendments, gave an example of a liberal patriotism, essential to every republican government, which must rest on the will of the majority. “Willing to give up their own opinion in lesser matters, in order to obtain a government whose authority might not be disputed, and which they wished might soon be established; they instructed their representative to the Convention,” in their name and behalf, to ratify and confirm the proposed form, whether the amendments be made or not.” (81)

In 1780, the church members on the south side of Charles river in Cambridge presented a petition to the church, “signifying their desire to be dismissed, and incorporated into a distinct church, for enjoying the special ordinances of the gospel more conveniently by themselves.” The church voted a compliance with their petition; and they were incorporated on the 23rd of February, 1783. The Reverend John Foster was ordained to their pastoral charge, November 4, 1784.

In 1783, in consideration of the “very advanced age, and growing infirmities,” of Dr. Appleton, a day of fasting and prayer was observed by the church and congregation, “to seek of God divine direction and assistance in the important affair of procuring a more fixed and settled preaching and administration of the word and ordinances among them.” A few days after, “at the general desire of the brethren of the church, as well as in compliance with his own inclination and earnest wishes,” Dr. Appleton appointed a meeting of the brethren of the church, for the purpose of choosing a colleague, for his assistance in the ministry. The church, accordingly, chose the Reverend Timothy Hilliard: and, the society concurring in the choice, he was installed the same year.

The Fourth Meeting House, South view, looking into the center of Harvard Square from Cambridge Common. The old meeting houses served many purposes socially, governmentally and religiously.

The Fourth Meeting House, South view, looking into the center of Harvard Square from Cambridge Common. The old meeting houses served many purposes socially, governmentally and religiously. From Cambridge Sketches by Cambridge Authors

The Fourth Meeting House South View

The Fourth Meeting House South View. From The Harvard Book: A Series of Historical, Biographical, and Descriptive Sketches (1875).

The aged and venerable Dr. Appleton, having, agreeably to his desire, lived to see his country again blest with peace, and his church furnished with a worthy pastor, departed this life, with calmness and resignation, early in the year 1784.

In 1786, the present alms-house, in Cambridge, was purchased, repaired, and devoted to the use of the poor of the town.

The conduct of the town of Cambridge, in the memorable Insurrection of 1786, was highly to its honour. A letter was directed to the Selectmen of Cambridge, written by desire of a meeting of Committees from several towns in the county of Middlesex, “requesting their concurrence in a County convention to be held at Concord on the 23rd of August, in order to consult upon matters of public grievances, and find out means of redress.” The letter being laid before the town, a vote was passed, “That the attachment of this town to the present constitution and administration of Government, and also to express our aversion to the use of any irregular means for compassing an end which the constitution has already provided for; as we know of no Grievances the present system of Government is inadequate to redress.” (82)

Mr. Hilliard died in 1790. He was succeeded in the ministry by the Compiler of this History, in 1792.

A “Friendly Fire Society,” consisting of twenty-eight persons, was formed in this town, in 1797. The object of this association is, to prevent, or mitigate, the evils occasioned by fire. It annually chooses a Chairman, Treasurer, Clerk, and Wardens; and already possesses a decent fund.

The Kine-Pox was introduced at Cambridge, this present year, by Professor Waterhouse, who imported the matter from England. The first who was inoculated for this disorder, in America, was Daniel Oliver Waterhouse, a son of the Professor.


74 ^ Church Records. The Rev. Mr. Cooke, “in whom,” as his epitaph justly states, “were united the social friend, the man of science, the eminent and faithful clergyman,” died June 4, 1783, in the 75 year of his age, and 44th of his ministry. He was succeeded by the Rev. Thaddeus Fiske, who was ordained April 23, 1788.

75 ^ Town Records.

76 ^ This church, called Christ Church, was opened October 15, MDCCLXI; and is considered, by connoisseurs in architecture, as one of the best constructed churches in New-England. Its model is said to have been taken from Italy. On its corner-stone is the following INSCRIPTION:

DEO. AITERNO.
PATRI. FILIO. SPIRITUS.
HANC.AEDEM.
SUB AUSPCIIS. ILLUSTRISS. SOCIETATIS.
PROMOVENDO. EVANGELIO.
IN. PARTIBUS. TRANSMARINIS.
INSTITUTAE.
CONSECRABANT. CANTABRIGIENSES.
ECCLESIAE. ANGLICANAE. FILII.
IN.
CHRISTIANAE. FIEDEI. ET. CHARITATIS.
INCREMENTUM.
A.D. MDCCLX.
PROVINCIAM. PROCURANTE.
V. CL.
FRANCISCO. BERNARDO.

Mr. Apthorp was educated at Jesus college in the University of Cambridge, in England, of which he was afterwards a Fellow. He proceeded A.B. in 1755, and has since received the degree of D.D. from one of the English Universities. Within a few years after his settlement at Cambridge, he went to England, and became settled in London, where he is still living.

77 ^ Town Records.

78 ^ Proprietor’s Records.

79 ^ Town Records.

80 ^ Ibid.

81 ^ Ibid.

82 ^ Town Records.

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