"Hist. Dorchester," Chapter XII, pp. 261-266.
October 22, 1695, was the usual lecture day in this town, but was set apart for the purpose of ordaining Rev. Joseph Lord in the ministry, to go to South Carolina. There were messengers from the Churches in Roxbury, Nonantum, Boston, Milton and Charlestown. Mr. Lord first prayed, then preached a sermon from 5th of Matthew 13th verse. Mr. Morton, of Charlestown, gave the charge, and Mr. Hobart the right hand of fellowship. Those who entered into church covenant with Mr. Lord, were Joshua Brooks and Nathaniel Billings, of Concord; William Norman, of Carolina; William Adams, of Sudbury; Increase Sumner and William Pratt, of Dorchester; George Fox, of Reading; and Simon Dakin, of Concord. It is probable that Nathaniel Billings was a relative of the individuals of that name in this town, and it is not unlikely that Mr. Norman came on from Carolina for the purpose of encouraging this early missionary enterprise. Rev. John Danforth preached to this company upon parting, and their friends accompanied them to the place of embarkation, where they took leave of each other, "after kneeling down and mingling their supplications" to God, "with every expression of christian tenderness."
Their journey and settlement were beautifully described by Professor John B. Mallard, in a Centennial Address delivered before the people of Midway, Georgia, on December 6, 1852, but not published. He says, "The Macedonian cry of the pious in Carolina was heard in New England, and the religious sentiment of the Dorchester settlers was awakened. They had planted the first Church in Connecticut, and now they were ready to gather another to send to the far distant borders of the south." "On the 5th of December the first missionaries that ever left the shores of New England, were offering up their evening prayers from the decks of two small vessels in the bosom of the Atlantic. What an interesting company did those two frail barks contain! Infancy, not knowing whither it went; youth, with all its joyousness; middle age, with its conscious weight of responsibility; the old and the young; the strong and the weak; the protector and the protected!"
"Landing on the shores of Carolina they threaded their way to the Ashley river; and twenty miles from the abode of civilized man — in the midst of an unbroken forest — where wild beasts prowled, they fixed their habitation; and on February 2, 1696, under the boughs of a weather-beaten oak (still standing and stretching its branches over the resting-places of the dead), they took the sacrament of the Lord's supper, renewed their vows and gave public thanks to that Being who had led them on in safety." This was the first sacrament ever celebrated in Carolina.
These people called their new home Dorchester, and soon erected a meeting-house, and established the Congregational order of church government, under which they flourished. Rev. Hugh Fisher succeeded Mr. Lord in the ministry there. The latter returned to Massachusetts, and was settled at Chatham. Rev. John Osgood followed Mr. Fisher, and was ordained in 1735. The increase of inhabitants made it necessary to occupy more land than could be found in their neighborhood to answer their wants. The unhealthiness of the place also tended to make them dissatisfied with their abode; and on May 11th, 1752, three persons from this settlement set off upon an exploring expedition, having heard of more favorable locations in the adjoining colony of Georgia. They returned and made a favorable report of the land they had found, and proposed a removal. The proposition was favorably received by a majority of their number; but some were reluctant to part from the homes which had cost them so much toil, and had become endeared to them through the hardships invariably connected with new settlements.
On the 6th of September, 1752, Mr. Benjamin Baker and Mr. Samuel Bacon, with their families, arrived at Midway, in Liberty County, Georgia. This place was called Midway, because it stood about half way between the rivers Altamaha and Ogechee. Mrs. Baker died the day after their arrival. Their minister, Rev. Mr. Osgood, finding a general desire among those who remained in Carolina to remove, accompanied them to Georgia, where the whole Church and society eventually settled. "The Secretary of the Colony of Georgia, in a letter to Benjamin Martyn, in England, dated August 7th, 1755, sets down the number of those who removed from Carolina to Georgia (in 1752), as 816 men, women and children." He also wrote in the highest terms of the character of these settlers, whose reputation had preceded them and had grown as they became better acquainted. He says, "I really look upon these people moving here, to be one of the most favorable circumstances that could befall the Colony." More than one hundred years have elapsed since their removal to Midway, and their descendants still retain those traits of character which in their ancestors called forth the praise of the Secretary of the Colony. They still adhere to the Congregational system of church government, and "the village church and the village school" have been and still are the glory of the place.
This settlement has furnished Georgia with two governors; two of its most distinguished judges; the Theological Seminary of South Carolina and Georgia with an able professor; the Methodist Episcopal Church with an influential and pious bishop; the Presbyterian and Baptist Churches of that State with many of their ablest and most useful ministers; and six of her sons have been called to professorial chairs in collegiate institutions.
Their minister, Mr. Osgood, died in August, 1773, and different persons officiated for them until 1777, when Mr. Moses Allen, of Northampton, Mass., was settled. He was taken prisoner by the British in 1778, and confined several months in their prison ships. Being a true patriot, and wearied with confinement, he attempted to regain his liberty by throwing himself into the river in order to swim to an adjacent point, but was drowned in the attempt. The enemy, under General Provost
The patriotism of the people of Liberty County, during and previous to the Revolutionary war, was known throughout the country. They chose to take part with their brethren in the contest which they supposed would ensue, and not being able at first to bring the people of Georgia up to their standard, they joined the Continental Congress on their own account, and chose Dr. Lyman Hall to attend the same at Philadelphia, where he signed the Declaration of Independence. Soon after, four more delegates were sent from Georgia. Dr. Hall was a native of Connecticut, a graduate of Yale College, and in 1783 was elected Governor of Georgia.
Rev. Dr. Holmes remarked the great difference between these people and the natives of the place, and observed that they "differed as greatly from all surrounding inhabitants as did the Jews from the Canaanites." The late Rev. Dr. Codman, of Dorchester, visited this place a short time previous to 1830, and was struck with the same peculiarity.