Our Illiterate Backwoods Preacher from Maine

A couple of minerdescent website visitors asked me Webber family questions this week.

I don’t think I ever shared this vignette about our 3rd great grandfather Charles WEBBER Jr  (1764 – 1737) or alternatively about his father, our 4th great grandfather  Charles B. WEBBER (1744 – 1719)

I’ve spent more time on the Webbers than any other ancestral line. Oliver WEBBER (1797 – 1864)  born in 1797 in Vassalboro, Maine is the oldest one I know for sure. The Webbers were original settlers in the area, Webber Pond is named for them and there are tons and tons of early records about the family. However, Oliver’s father is not recorded. Why are there no records for him, but there are lots of records  for  his many brothers and sisters?  Through the process of elimination using early census records, I determined that Oliver’s father was Charles Webber Jr. ((1764 – 1837) Why is there no record of his twelve children?  [Oliver deposed late in life that his grandfather was Charles B. WEBBER, so the early Webbers in the line are not in question. ]

Sorry to say, but Charles sounds he comes from the same american tradition as the the tea party. (though a preacher whose wife reads the bible for him is much cuter.)  I wonder how many bible verses he memorized.

The Second Great Awakening religious revival began around 1790, gained momentum by 1800, and after 1820 membership rose rapidly.

In the newly settled frontier regions,[Vassalboro was first settled in the 1760's], the revival was implemented through camp meetings. These often provided the first encounter for some settlers with organized religion, and they were important as social venues. The camp meeting was a religious service of several days’ length with multiple preachers. Settlers in thinly populated areas gathered at the camp meeting for fellowship as well as worship. The sheer exhilaration of participating in a religious revival with crowds of hundreds and perhaps thousands of people inspired the dancing, shouting, and singing associated with these events. The revivals followed an arc of great emotional power, with an emphasis of the individual’s sins and need to turn to Christ, restored by a sense of personal salvation. Upon their return home, most converts joined or created small local churches, which grew rapidly.  I wonder where Charles Webber got his ideas.

The Wallace W. Gilbert (1839 – 1916) mentioned below is the  grandfather of Margaret E Gilbert (invitation required) who provided a lot of the Coleman and Webber photos that I have on the minerdescent site.

Wallace’s wife Elvira Brown Coleman (1845 – 1930) was my great grandfather Guilford Dudley COLEMAN‘s (1832 – 1903) sister.  Oliver’s daughter Ellen Celeste WEBBER (1835 – 1881) was GD’s wife.  Ellen had an identical twin Emma who went to Bates.   I have identical twin sisters Janet and Ellen and the twin genes come from Ellen.  Ellen’s grandfather Isaac HAWES (1765 – 1840) had six sets of twins in his family.

I wonder if the fact Charles Webber was a crazy preacher has anything to do with there being no genealogical records of the names of his twelve children?  There are genealogy records for all the other Webbers in Vassalboro at that time and Webber Pond is a local landmark.

Genealogical sources are also divided about the name of Charles’ wife .  He may have married Ruth THATCHER 2 Apr 1792 in Yarmouth, Maine. He also may have married 18 Apr 1793 in Yarmouth to  Mary STURGIS.    Concerning the Cortright and Webber families in America 1925 states he married Judith CHADWICK and had twelve children.

If Charles’ wife indeed was “Polly” as mentioned in the vignette below then perhaps his wife was Mary Sturgis.   Polly is a common nickname for Mary.   Maybe he also married Ruth and she died young.  I believe the Judith Chadwick reference is a confusion with someone else.

Normally, a preacher was a college graduate.  (And all college graduates became preachers)  See my post College Graduates.

Illustrated History of Kennebec County 1892 -

One other place and kind of worship will not be forgotten so long as the links of tradition can touch each other – -  the church and teachings of Charles WEBBER, who resided on the river road near Riverside, in the house now occupied by Wallace W. Gilbert. Across the road, on what is known as the James S. Emery place, Mr. Webber erected a small edifice in the last few years of the last century. Here he had preaching of his own, and constituted himself the pastor.

What was more conspicuous in this arrangement was the fact that said Webber could not read, and depended upon his wife for that important attribute. He could readily grasp the scripture reading of his wife and give wholesome explanation thereon; and only once was his knowledge clouded, when his wife read “log” for “lodge” in the wilderness. His manner of announcing a text was: ” If Polly tells me aright you will find my text, etc.” He urged sinners to repent, often saying that it was as impossible for one to enter heaven as it was for a shad to climb a tree. His eccentricities and goodness survive him, as does the old church, which, on another site, is the residence of Freeman Sturgis.

Here another more sober account from a different source of Charles Webber’s ecclesiastical doings in 1805 Vassalboro.  It clearly states “Charles Jr”  Could one account be about the father and the other son?  or are they both about the same person?

Churches.—The first religious organization in Sidney was formed in the southwest part of the town, in 1791, by the Calvinistic Baptists, who named their church Second Vassalboro. Asa Wilbur and Lemuel Jackson, then local preachers, were the leaders. The former became the pastor in 1796, and in 1808 he represented the town in the general court of Massachusetts. The church was diminished in 1806, when nineteen members left to form the Second Baptist church, and was increased by a revival in 1811.

A powerful revival in 1805, under the preaching of Rev. Asa Wilbur, resulted in the formation of a second Baptist church, February 7, 1806. The organization was perfected at the house of Benjamin Dyer, on the river road, and signed by seventeen members: Nathaniel Reynolds, jun., Edmund Hayward, Asa Williams, Benjamin Dyer, John Sawtelle, Charles Webber, jun., Henry Babcock, Mary Matthews, Mary Reynolds, Jemima Dyer, Mercy Matthews, Thankful Faught, Elizabeth Andrews, Eunice Williams, Abigail Tuttle, Sarah Ingraham and Susanna Hayward.

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2 Responses to Our Illiterate Backwoods Preacher from Maine

  1. Pingback: Favorite Posts 2013 | Miner Descent

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