Welcome to week 72 of Bidwell Lore! For part 3 of this series, John Demos moves forward in time almost 30 years to imagine Reverend Bidwell’s life during the last week of December, 1779. For today’s installment, we share December 27, 28 and 29. The previous two installments imagined a week in April 1752, which you can read HERE and HERE.
Section 3 – December 27-29, 1779
A.M. Mr. Solomon Garfield came to me from ye town meeting, to desire me to pray with the, and give my advice, they being assembled upon ye very important affair of ye plan of government for ye commonwealth. Went & prayed and joined in the voting; voted ye Bill of Rights; voted ye Introduction of ye first part of government; then adjourned. (1) Amasa Curtis came to beg my assistance with his father-in-law, but I refused to meddle with his quarrels. Hezekiah Culver brought me my watch from Mr. Cranch; the new crystal cost 12 dollars. Mrs. Tillotson dined with us.
P.M. Read part of ye Biographical Dictionary, the lives of Confucius, etc. Received a letter from Benjamin Gold, dated Hartford, Oct. 19, 1779, open and dirty, desiring a contribution. Toward sundown came from Sheffield Isaac Winchester, to live here. His uncle, Mr. Nehemiah Hart accompanied him. I told Mr. Hart that I would do what I could, conveniently and reasonably, in teaching ye lad reading, writing, and cyphering, according as his business in raking care of my cattle, cutting ye wood, etc. would give opportunity, and as his capacity should admit. This was in answer to what Mr. Hart delivered to me as ye boy’s mother desired him.
A very cloudy day. It snowed some part of ye morning, then abated but grew very dark. (2) Ye obscurity increased, as by 11 it was too dark to read unless by ye window; by 12 I could not ready anywhere in ye house. We were forces to dine by candlelight. It was very awful and surprising our Lord’s message to us on ye darkness of sin. In the P.M. people came flocking to ye meeting house, and desiring my presence; some were in great apprehension. I went and prayed with them, and preached a sermon to them extempore from Joel 2, 1, and they very attentive. Through divine goodness ye light gradually returned, and I wrote this about 3. At eve I went to supper at Mr. Heath’s. Mr. Chadwick and Capt. Merrill there also. We had some discourse about several passages concerning God permitting evil, and on ye fallen spirits and pharaoh, that they ought to bless God for their existence. I answered (among other things) our Lord’s saying of ye traitor, “It were good for that man if he had never been born.” Ye night was exceedingly dark, insomuch that I could not without difficulty find my way home. Several on ye committee which sat at Deacon Hale’s on ye affair of ye form of government were lost in ye way, and did not get home at all.
A.M. Much perplexed by my silver tankard missing from ye chest in ye parlor. Mr. Binney brings Jacob Hawes, heretofore of Springfield, to see me. He offer to buy sheep of me, but I don’t incline to see ye part without his taking ye whole. Was called away to see a young son of Capt. Alexander Brown, viz his son William in his 12th year, who was thought to be under extremely dangerous symptoms. I go in his sleight and prayed with them. Mr. Samuel Holliday and Mr. Ebenezer Chadwick came with their teams and brought wood; the former two loads, the later one.
P.M. Son Barnabas ill in his stomach. Mrs. B. administers physic; he takes some benefit. Deacon Hale came to acquaint me that there was come to his home an Indian in gentleman’s habit, who was a scholar and preacher from Dartmouth College. I sent for him, his name was Daniel Simon. His credentials were, besides his diploma and name in ye catalogue, his recommendation by President Wheelock, ye tutors and trustees. I also examined him myself. The Deacon urged that he might preach in ye afternoon, and he would take care to notify people. I could not refuse. He dined here. At 4 p.m. a congregation gathered. He preached on Peter, 2, 7: “To them who believe He is precious.” It was a serious and methodical discourse. Several came in at eve to see him, and he lodged here.
The diary comes to an end next week….
(1) Massachusetts, no longer an English colony, was now in the process of establishing its state government. Individual towns, like Tyringham, were asked to debate and ratify the articles of the proposed constitution.
(2) This and the following lines refer to what was called “dark day.” Periodically, in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, New England was beset with a think cover of smoke, blown east and south from massive forest fires in Canada. Of course, people of the time had no way to understand the source; instead, they saw dark days as “providential.”