J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Friday, December 25, 2009

“So much for Christmas”

Here are entries from the diary of Manasseh Cutler (1742-1823) in 1765. At the time, this Yale graduate was teaching school in Dedham, starting to court Mary Balch, and trying to figure out his career.

Cutler was a Congregationalist, but on this trip to Boston he investigated the holiday rituals of the Anglicans.

Dec. 24, Tuesday. Set out for Boston in the carriage with Miss Polly Balch; very cold. Spent the evening at Captain Hart’s. Lodged at Mr. Williams’. It being Christmas eve the bells in Christ Church were rung, chimed, played tunes, etc. Christ Church is a large brick building, situated at the north end, and is the first church [i.e., Anglican place of worship, not a meeting-house] founded in the town.

Dec. 25, Wed. Christmas. Went to church at King’s Chapel, where was a very gay and brilliant assembly. Several intervals, in reading service, made for singing anthems, which were performed extremely well. Service was read by Parson [Henry] Caner, and a sermon preached, or rather a harangue pronounced by Parson Trouback [John Troutbeck]. After the sermon a collection was made for the poor. Then the sacrament was administered (which I did not tarry to see).

Dined at Mr. Williams’. A very handsome dinner.

In the afternoon service was read, and anthems sung, but no sermon. This church is built of stone, is very beautifully adorned with carved pillars, several images, etc. Here is a very good set of organs, but no bells, as the steeple is not erected. This is the most grand church in town, where His Excellency [i.e., the governor] is obliged to attend.

This evening we came to Roxbury and spent it very agreeably at Mr. Increase Sumner’s, and lodged at Mr. Samuel Sumner’s.

Dec. 26, Thurs. This morning began to snow. At 10 o’clock we set out for the city of Tiot (Indian name of Dedham), and came to an anchor at Dr. [Nathaniel] Ames’, where we dined, drank tea, and spent a very agreeable evening. We came home at 10 o’clock. As it had cleared up, and was a bright moonlight night, and not cold, we had a very pleasant ride. So much for Christmas.
Cutler tried the whaling business, studied law, and finally became a minister in 1771. During the Revolutionary War he was a chaplain, but also studied medicine. In the 1780s Cutler promoted settlement in Ohio, investigating the pre-Columbian mounds in that territory, but he returned to Massachusetts and ended up serving a couple of terms in Congress. So, though he remained the Congregationalist minister in Hamilton, I’m not sure he really settled on a career.

The picture above is King’s Chapel today, courtesy of Light Boston.

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