Chapter Eight

The Contribution of Laymen to the Work of the Church

 

For the most part the preceding chapters in this history have dealt with the lives and the activities of the clergy who were instrumental in the guidance and the growth of this mother parish through periods of difficulty and discouragement, through lean years and those of prosperity.
 

Surely, as a body of men, they were faithful to their great trust and they are worthy of being remembered in the annals of the parish.
But it would be an unpardonable omission not to mention the part the laymen have taken through the years in the problems and the burdens that inevitably were the responsibility of those who by their painstaking labors and planning and financial aid contributed to the growth and prosperity of the parish and diocesan life.
 

Mention has been made of Captain Jehiel Hawley, who for many years gathered together the early settlers at his home on Sunday mornings and conducted the service of Morning Prayer. He earned for himself the right to be called the founder of the parish.
Then came the names of Nathan Canfield, Zadock Hard, Caleb Dayton and Luther Stone who were delegates from this parish to the convention of 1790.
 

This convention was held at the home of Dr. Luther Stone for the transaction of business after services had been held at the church.
For one hundred years the Canfields, Hawleys, Bucks, Holdens, and the Hards have been identified with the church in this parish.
Nathan Hawley and Lemuel Buck were the building committee of the first church. Nathan Canfield was also one of the Selectmen of the Town. Abel and Andrew Hawley were wardens soon after the organization of the parish and Noble Hard, Zadock Hard, Curtiss Hawley, William S. Holden and Grin Hard are the names of a few of those who were active on the Vestry during the first half century of the parish life.
 

Many laymen entered the ranks of the clergy from this parish. Among them: The Rev. Eli Hawley Canfield, DD, the Rev. Fletcher J. Hawley, DD, the Rev. Anson B. Hard who was born and brought up here, whose sister was the mother of the Rev. Dr. Coit, the founder of St. Paul’s school, Concord, New Hampshire; the Rev. Dr. Jordan Gray who was drowned in Berkshire, Franklin county, in crossing Trout Creek on his way to church, and his brother, the Rev. Nelson Gray who was rector of Christ Church, Georgetown, DD, were born and brought up in Arlington. Abijah Hawley, son of Captain Jehiel Hawley, and Gould Buck, son of Lemuel Buck of Arlington, two farmers, left Arlington in 1790 and went to Fairfax, Franklin county, and laid the foundations of the church there at Buck Hollow. They and their descendants have been the mainstay of the church in that community from that time to within recent years.
 

The original founders of the parish were succeeded by Sylvester Deming, Enos Canfield, Anson Canfield, Samuel Canfield, Galen Canfield, Cyrus B. Hills, John B. Lathrop, Noble Hard, Zadock Hard, Simeon Cole, John Holden, Sylvanus Hard, Martin C. Deming, Curtis Hawley, Asahel Hurd, and Harmon Canfield in a later generation. Of Harmon Canfield, Bishop Bissell said: "He was a man of great ability, eminent legal attainments, devoted loyalty to the church, a valuable member of the Standing Committee, legal advisor of the Ecclesiastical court, member of the board of Land Agents, and trustee of Vermont Episcopal Institute."
 

Sylvester Deming, second, was another outstanding laymen who is thus commended by the late Thomas H. Canfield: "He was a zealous churchman, no layman ever in the diocese being better informed as to the principles and doctrines of the Holy Catholic Church and able to give a clear reason for the Faith that was in him."
 

In the early days of "Father Bronson" there was another layman, Bethuel Chittenden, who entered the ranks of the clergy in middle life and was a leader in the councils of the church in Vermont in the early days. Bethuel Chittenden, a younger brother of Governor Chittenden, came from Connecticut in 1773, and settled in Tinmouth.
 

He was a man of rare qualities and was respected and often consulted, because of his integrity, good judgment and common sense.
During the years he was at Tinmouth, he, like Captain Hawley, gathered his neighbors together and read the service and a sermon to them. Father Chittenden, as he was called, had at first no intention of entering the ministry.
 

He was a man of limited education, but he was so impressed by the scarcity of the clergy and the need of men to come to the rescue of the Church, particularly in connection with the Land Grants, that he decided to devote the rest of his life to the work of the Church.
And so, at the age of forty-nine, he left his farm, went to Connecticut, and was ordained Deacon by Bishop Seabury, June first, 1787, and Priest in New London, June twentieth, 1794.
 

In 1790 he went to Shelburne where he labored for nearly twenty years. He was President of the Convention from 1784 to 1808, and his voice was always heard with attention and interest.
 

The descriptions of his sacrifices and hardships in conscientiously fulfilling his ministry are most absorbing in interest.
Upon horseback he visited the scattered members of the Church in Northern Vermont, going from town to town, baptizing and administering Holy Communion.
 

The Rev. Abraham Bronson and he were for ten years about the only clergymen in the state, and at the time of his death in 1810, there had been no increase in numbers since 1790.
 

However, the seeds sown by him while a farmer in Tinmouth, and later as Priest and Missionary were so fruitful that in almost every parish there are traces of his work.
 

Thomas Hawley Canfield, Secretary of the Diocese in 1890, was a descendent of the fourth generation of both the eminent men whose name he bears. He was baptized in St. James’ Church December twelfth, 1824 by the Rev. Abraham Bronson. He later became a communicant of St. Paul’s Church, Burlington. He was also Secretary of the Diocesan Convention for thirty-four years.
 

For thirty-five years he was a Trustee of the Vermont Episcopal Institute, serving for the most of that time as Treasurer.
 

At the Centennial Convention of the Diocese held in St. James Church, Arlington in 1890, Mr. Canfield made an address taking for his subject "The Part taken by Laymen in the Formation of Parishes and in Founding and Maintaining the Church in Vermont."
 

(The author is largely indebted to Mr. Canfield for the data of this chapter.)
 

"In looking back," he said, "from 1817 to the time when Captain Jehiel Hawley first commenced services in Arlington in 1764, a period of about fifty years, it will be seen that there had been but five resident clergymen, three of whom abandoned the ministry of the Church."
"Is it nor a wonder, then, that with such feeble help from the clergy; with all the prejudice against the Church of England; amid all the difficulties arising out of the conflicting claims of New Hampshire and New York concerning the Land Grants, and the exigencies of the Revolutionary War, the lay members of the church, ‘a feeble folk,’ should have been so true to their faith and should so manfully have resisted the attempts made by the legislature to sequester their lands? And how much we are indebted to their good judgment, foresight and firmness in maintaining their rights, for the benefits we are receiving in various ways; and especially from the Land Grants of the Venerable Society.
 

"We of the present day can hardly imagine the difficulties of those days, and as the late Bishop Philander Chase has said: ‘I confess with unfeigned satisfaction my admiration of those excellent and steadfast men - clergymen a few, laymen many - who shoulder to shoulder, by the help of God, kept alive the cause of the Church when it seemed to be hopeless, from becoming utterly extinct, thus preserving it to better times.’
 

Thomas H. Canfield was a successful businessman and the main builder and promoter of the Northern Pacific Railroad.
 

In later days may be named the following laymen who were leaders of the parish: Samuel Benedict, William S. Holden, Albert D. Canfield, Levine Hard, Frank N. Canfield, Fred S. Canfield, Jesse Burdett, Martin H. Deming, John Lathrop Burdett, Richard B. Leake, Albert E. Buck, Reuben H. Andrew and Clarence Dyer Gilchrist.
 

The following are the names of the present Vestry: George A. Russell, M.D., Senior Warden; Herbert Wheaton Congdon, Junior Warden and Clerk; Lawrence A. Cole, William J. Bevis, Robert Williams, Orange R. Baker, Walter E. Squiers, Gordon M. Hard and Frederick H. Brush, Treasurer, son of the Rev. G. R. Brush. These men have manifested the same devotion to the Church as their fathers before them.
 

Today there are two laymen living who have been communicants of the parish for over sixty years, Edward Canfield Woodworth and Charles Hawley Crofut, both descendants of pioneer families. Edward Canfield Woodworth was baptized in St. James Church and confirmed by Bishop John Henry Hopkins. He was Vestryman of the parish for fifty years and treasurer for fifty-five years.
The Vestry of the parish on the occasion of Mr. Woodworth’s retirement as Treasurer of the parish in 1928, presented him with the following testimonial:
 

"To Edward Canfield Woodworth: Faithful Churchman, devoted in worship and service, for fifty years Vestryman of St. James’ Parish; painstaking and accurate in the duties of his office, an upright and honorable citizen:
 

We, his associates, the Rector, Wardens and Vestrymen of St. James’ Parish, as a mark of our esteem and appreciation of his remarkable and efficient service present him this simple yet heartfelt testimonial of our love and confidence".
 

GEORGE ROBERT BRUSH,
Rector.
 

REUBEN H. ANDREW,
ROBERT WILLIAMS,
L. A. COLE,
A. E. BUCK,
R. B. LEAKE,
P. B. LATHROP,
B. L. HARD,
HERBERT WHEATON CONGDON,

Vestrymen.

 

Mr. Charles Hawley Crofut has been a life-long resident of Arlington and a highly respected citizen.
 

During his long life he has been much interested in the history of the town and parish, and has been of much assistance to the writer in the preparation of this book.
 

At the Sesquicentennial commemorating the entrance of Vermont into the Union, held at East Arlington on Memorial Day, 1941, Hon. Frank E. Howe, of Bennington, delivered an address in which he quoted at some length passages on the history of Arlington that had been prepared by Mr. Crofut.
 

It is fitting to observe that on this occasion, attended by approximately a thousand people, one of the first citizens of Arlington was honored.
 

A marker with its bronze plaque, presented by the Veterans of Arlington, as a memorial to Remember Baker, pioneer of Arlington and Revolutionary hero, was unveiled.
 

The inscription on the marker written by Mrs. Dorothy Canfield Fisher, is as follows:
 

"To Remember Baker, Vermont patriot. Defender of the New Hampshire Grants, Captain of the Green Mountain Buys, under Ethan Allen.
Born in Roxbury, Connecticut, he came to Arlington in 1764. Vital, energetic, young, like all those who settled this town.
 

Near this spot he built his home and was millwright of the first grist and saw mills in the new settlement. He was killed by Indians while scouting near St. John’s Canada.
 

Brave, life-loving, high-spirited, he risked all he had in the service of Vermont, Giving an example of devotion to his community which will never be forgotten by the men and women of Arlington."

 

 

Next | Back | History

 


www.stjamesarlington.org