Biographical Sketch of the
Free Will Baptist Church

From the "Free Baptist Cyclopaedia"  Historical & Biographical  by  Rev G. A. Burgess. A. M. & Rev. J. T. Ward, A.M.  Free Baptist Cyclopaedia Co. 1889, page  567 to 571. Contributed by David C Young 
Rhode Island, from its sterling attitude on religious liberty, and from its early acceptance of Baptist principles, furnished fertile territory for the vigorous growth of Free Baptist interests. No state church fettered Rhode Island. John Colby, on his second visit to the state, within the year 1812, organized in Burrillville (now Pascoag) December our first, and for eight years our on1y church in the state. Colby preached  regularly in Burrillville, and repeatedly in Smithfield and Gloucester, and in the adjoining towns of Uxbridge and Douglass, Mass. In June, 1813, when he left the church, it numbered seventy-five earnest souls united in Christian love. In November the church sent a man with a carriage to Vermont and brought back their leader.

Spotted fever during the winter made funerals frequent. Sept. 24, 1814, he held what was called a Quarterly Meeting [Q. M.] at Burrillville with the one church. George Lamb, from Maine, and other ministers were present. Many came to hear the word, and revival spread into Gloucester and Smithfield. He found his doctrines well received, and the people willing to contribute to his support. In May, 1815, when Colby was obliged through a hemorrhage of the lungs to seek rest in Vermont, George Lamb and Joseph White, of Maine, spent several months in this field. In September Colby returned, bringing John Buzzell with him. Moses Cheney had come also. Their combined services left a salutary influence upon the community.

By invitation Colby and White spent the evening of July 1, 1816, with Governor Jones. The evening was closed by prayer, in which the governor was very earnest in his supplication for the health of Colby. Thus very different was the reception of our free gospel from what it had been in other commonwealths. The death of Colby in November, 1817, left his Rhode Island interests to the care of his associates. In October, 1818, Clarissa H. Danforth, of Vermont, preached her first sermon in Burrillville. Most of her time for several years was spent in the state. The great revival commenced at Greenville, Smithfield, in July, 1819, and continued with power for sixteen months. It extended throughout the state among all denominations. In all the work this consecrated woman was a power for good. With Joseph White she organized the second church in the state at Greenville in 1820.

Daniel Quimby was also present. In five months his church numbered 120 members, with branches in Gloucester, and Mendon, Mass. Ray Potter, who had been ordained by the Six Principle Baptists, organized a Free Baptist church in Pawtucket With in a year a church of in 1820. First Smithfield Church, Greenville, sixty or seventy members was gathered and $1,000 raised towards a house of worship. The Pascoag, Greenville and Pawtucket churches met in Burrillville Oct. 13, 1821, and organized the Rhode Island Q.M. Seven Free Baptist Ministers were present, including Timothy Morse, Reuben Allen, and Benj. Tollman. White was chosen moderator and Potter clerk. The Pawtucket church requested the ordination of Daniel Green, which took place the next day. Allen preached the sermon.

Eli Towne came to Rhode Island immediately, after his ordination in 1822 by the New Hampshire Y. M. He preached at the August Q. M. in Gloucester. Daniel Williams was ordained in 1822. While Joseph White was absent in Maine through his wife's illness, Zachariah Jordan labored in his stead. The Free church of Middletown, Conn., was orgainized by Rev. Josiah Graves, who for sixteen years had been an acceptable Calvinistic Baptist minister. Mrs. Graves was a sister to the mother of David Marks. After mutual visits Graves and his church united with the Rhode Island Q. M. The heretical doctrines and course of action of Ray Potter resulted in January, 1823, in II's withdrawal from the Q. M. with the majority of the Pawtucket church. A few of the church, with Daniel Green, remained faithful. Morse and Allen went to their assistance, and during two months a sweeping revival continued in which forty were added to the church.

The labors of Allen and Swett were amply blessed in Rehoboth and Attleborough, adjoining towns in Massachusetts. Morse spent most of the time there, and in August the old Rehoboth church of eighty members United with the denomination. This church had been gathered by the evangelical preaching of Whitefield, and since 1777 had stood independent and practiced immersion and open communion. The October session of the Q. M. was held at Burrillville. In eleven years the church organized by Colby of nine members had grown to 160, and six other churches had united with the Q. M., with an aggregate membership of 544. The Q. M. had four ordained and six unordained preachers. Within two years R. Allen had baptized 120. The church in Foster, gathered by Daniel Williams, united with the Q. M. in 1824, The death of Graves in 1825 left the Middletown church without a pastor, and consequently it was lost. White and Thornton (ordained in 1825) were soon withdrawn from active labor through death.

In 1826 Zalmon Tobey, of Providence, of classical education, having experienced many trials with his brethren, the Calvinists. in 1826 united with the Free Baptists. He rendered efficient service by publishing the, Freewill Baptist Magazine. In 1830 it was discontinued. In January, 1828, at the Q. M. held in Pawtucket, Tobey gave a report of' the first General Conference in Vermont, which he had visited. He also gave the hand of fellowship to Rev. Allen Brown, of Providence, who from his views on free grace had left the Calvinistic Baptists. Sermons were preached by Martin Cheney and Ebenezer Scales; Levi Chase was ordained.

A church was organized by Horatio N. Loring at Middleborough, Mass., where sixty had been converted. At the August Q. M. at this place an itineracy was appointed and funds were raised for the support of John M. Yearnshaw for a year or two in his service with the weaker churches. The church in Olneyville was organized Nov. 1828, and Martin Cheney, a convert of Tobey's, entered upon a long and efficient pastorate. Cheney had been ordained April 24, 1825, by Zalmon Tobey, Allen Brown, Henry Tatem and Rev Potter. Soon Tobey and Brown joined the Free Baptists, and Cheney soon after followed. His church united with the Q. M. about a year after its organization. At first it consisted of but eleven members. In a single year sixty-one were added by baptism and fourteen by letter. In September, 1829, Timothy Morse joined the pastor, Daniel Green, at Pawtucket in a series of meetings, and forty were added to the church.

The church in Smithfield this year received thirty additions, and most of the other churches were revived. The churches of the Q. M. consisted of the Burrillville (Pascoag) organized in 1812 Smithfield, and Pawtucket, I820 ; Middletown, Conn., 1821 ; Gloucester, R.I, and Taunton, and Waterford, Mass., 1822; Troy, and Meridon, Mass., 1823 Foster, 1824 ; Cranston, Olneyville, and Middleborough (Mass.1828, and Providence, 1829.

In 1832 the Troy and Waterford churches had given place to the Second Smithfield and Rehoboth churches, and the Fourteen churches of the Q. M. had fifteen ministers and 1291 members. In 1833 the Warwick church was added: in 1835 the Third Smithfield and Scituate, (North Scituate) churches reported, and the Foster church had branch established in Killingly, Conn. The seventeen churches had twenty-one ministers and 1371 members. In 1836 six churches were added to the roll-the Ware and Sutton churches in Massachusetts, East Hartford church in Connecticut ; Foster (Foster and Gloucester church ; the  Abyssinian church in Providence, and the Central church in Warwick. The twenty-three churches had twenty-three ministers and 1606 members.

In 1837 several churches in Massachusetts reported, and the RHODE ISLAND and MASSACHUSETTS Y. M. [Yearly Meeting] was formed with two Q. M's, the Rhode Island Q. M. and the Boston Q. M. THE, RHODE ISLAND Q. M. retained all the churches which were formerly connected with it. In 1837 the Roger Williams church Providence) united with the Q. M., and the twenty-four churches had twenty-one Ministers, and 1829 members. In 1838 the First Tiverton church and Fourth Baptist church in Newport joined; 295 were baptized during the year, and the membership was 2,226. The next year the New Shoreham (Block Island) church reported and the membership arose to 2,648. In 1840 the Taunton and Grafton churches reported. But the East Hartford and North Providence churches had become pastorless and were lost. In 1841 the five western churches were dismissed to form the WESTERN RHODE, ISLAND Q. M, and the sixteen remaining churches were First and Second Smithfield, Scituate, Pawtucket, Olnevville, Roger Williams, Abvssinian (Second Providence), Warwick, Warwick Central, Tiverton, R. I., and Taunton, Middleborough, Grafton, Rehoboth, Sutton, and Ware, Mass. They had seventeen ministers and 1,663 members. The Ware, Mass., church united with the Dover, Vt., Q. M. In 1842 nearly every church was revived, 563 were baptized, and Cranston, North Providence, and New Shoreham again reported. A church was enrolled in North Kingston, and nineteen churches had twenty-one ministers and 2,470 members. In 1844 356 were baptized, and the membership rose to 2,763. In 1845 the Pawtucket church reported, and the Charlestown and Richmond church appeared. The First Boston church, J. W. Holman pastor, was enrolled for a few years.

In 1846 the Second South Newport New Shoreham and churches were added. The Q. M. had twenty-nine ministers. Several pastorless churches failed to report. The FaIl River and South Kingston churches reported as not connected with any Q. M., but joined in 1847. Thirty-six ministers were connected with the Q. M. In 1850 the New Bedford, and Morning Star (Gloucester) churches were enrolled, and the twenty-seven churches had thirty-eight ministers and 2,688 members. In 1852 the, Third Providence (Park Street) and Warwick churches were added. In 1854 the Waterford church joined. In 1855 the Fall River, Gratton and North Kingston churches, having failed to report for some years, were lost, but the Barneyville church, with W. Pierce, pastor, and the Second Taunton church were added. The twenty-six churches had twenty-six ministers and 2,256 members. Over three hundred dollars were gathered annually for missions. In 1857 the Johnston (Graniteville) church was added from the Six Principle Baptists. In 1859 the Mashapaug (Auburn) church joined. By 1860 the Middleborough and Richmond churches, having become pastorless and reduced, disappeared, and twenty-two churches had thirty-four ministers and over 2,500 members, and as many Sunday-school scholars.
III 1861 the Q. M. gave up its quarterly sessions, and adopted an annual meeting with the name, RHODE ISLAND Association. In 1863 the Farnumsville ( Mass.) and Warren churches joined, and twenty-five churches had thirty-eight ministers and 2,587 members. In 1867 the Pascoag (Burrillville) church joined from the Western Rhode Island Q. M. The Charlestown and Richmond church was revived under its new pastor, Rev. J. N. Rich, and was named the Carolina church; the Third Providence church was enrolled as the park Street;  the Second Taunton as the Weir Street. The next year the Second Providence church appeared as Pond Street. The New York City church was added. In 1869 the Pontiac church joined, and twenty-seven churches had twenty-seven ministers and 2,909 members.

In 1871 the mission in Sprague's hall culminated in the organization of the Greenwich Street church, Providence, and the building of a house of worship. Thirty-five ministers were reported in the association. In 1875, the Second Smithfield Church reported as the Georgiaville, and the Waterford as the Blackstone. Twenty-seven churches had thirty-one ministers, and over 3,000 members. In 1876 the Mashapqug church reported as the Auburn, and the pastorless churches in Fall River and Taunton (Weir Street) were lost. For over five years the twenty-five churches reported about thirty-five ministers and over three thousand members. In 1882 the mission interest in Arlington, planted by the Roger Williams church, was organized as the Arlington church. In 1884 the bond which had united the Massachusetts and Rhode Island churches for Greenwich Street Church, Providence. forty-five years was loosed and the Massachusetts and Rhode Island Y. M. was separated into three organizations: The Massachusetts Association, the Rhode Island Association, and the Western Rhode Island Q. M. (later the Connecticut and Western Rhode Island Association). In 1885 the South Rehoboth church joined.

In 1888 the Rhode Island  Association was the largest Q. M. of the denomination, exceeding by 250 the Bowdoin Q. M. (Maine). The association had 3,507 Members, thirty-five ministers and twenty-six churches, as follows : Arlington, Auburn, Barneyville, Block Island, Blackstone, Carolina, Farnunisville, Georgiaville, the Greenwich Street, Park Street, Pond Street, and Roger Williams in Providence, Johnston, New York City, North Scituate, Olneyville, Pascoag, Pawtucket, First Smithfield (Greenville), South Kingston, South Rehoboth, Taunton, Tiverton, Warren, Warwick Central (Apponaug), and West Greenwich.

2. THE BOSTON Q. M. See Massachusetts.

3. THE WESTERN RHODE ISLAND Q. M. (CONNECTICUT AND WESTERN RHODE ISLAND ASSOCIATION after 1883) was formed in 1841 of the five western churches set off from the Rhode Island Q. M., namely : the Burrillville, Gloucester (Chepachet ), Foster and Killingly (Foster), Foster and Gloucester, and Mendon, Mass. During the year the Sutton, Mass., church was added, and  the six churches had six ministers and 727 members. During the next year five ministers joined, 136 converts were baptized and there were 864 members. In 1844 there were 1086 members. In 1845, the Mendon church reported as Waterford. For five years the Q.M. continued with little change. In 1850, the Douglass, Mass., church joined, and the seven churches had ten ministers and 908 members. In 1852 the East Killingly, CT., and Shady Oak (East Putnam) churches were organized, and nine churches had thirteen ministers and 910 members.

In 1853 the Mendon church with M. J.Steere as pastor, disappeared. In 1854, the South Foster church was added, and the next year the Danielsonville, Conn., and Coventry churches. Eleven churches had fifteen ministers and 728 members. In 1856, the Morning Star (Gloucester) church joined with Chas.Wade, its pastor, from the Rhode Island Q. M. In small churches appeared, to endure for a few years, in Glendale, and South Killingly, CT. The thirteen churches had twelve ministers and 732 members. In 1859 the Glendale, Danielsonville, and Sutton churches were lost. In 1863 but one church was enrolled in Gloucester, instead of two, and the West Scituate and Westford churches appeared. Eleven churches had eleven pastors and 643 members, with as many Sunday school scholars.

In 1867, the Burrillville (Pascoag) church united with the Rhode Island Association, and the Second West Greenwich church was added. In 1869 the Gloucester church reported as the Chepachet and the South Foster as the Union. The South Killingly church disappeared. For several years the Q. M. had about ten churches, as many ministers and over five hundred members. In 1874 the Liberty Hill church was added. In 1878 there were twenty-one ministers. From 1879 there were over six hundred members. In 1883 the name became Connecticut and WESTERN RHODE ISLAND Association, but three sessions were held annually . The East Putnam church again reported. The association. in 1888, had 616 members, thirteen ministers, and ten churches, as follows : Chepachet, East Killingly, East Putnam, Foster,Morning Star, South Scituate. Union,Westford, 2nd West Greenwich, and West Scitute. 



Biographical sketch of the Free Will Baptist Church (Copy from "Free Baptist Cyclopaedia" Historical & Biographical by Rev G. A. Burgess. A. M. & Rev. J. T. Ward, A.M. Free Baptist Cyclopaedia Co. 1889, pages 567 to 571. Submitted by David C Young <mainegen@aol.com>, Free Baptist Cyclopaedia Historical And Biographical Page