Belcher carted to Ipswich

Carted back to Ipswich, 1714

Jeremiah Belcher was born about 1613, came to New England in the spring of 1635 and settled in Ipswich, where he became a proprietor, was admitted freeman on Mar. 13, 1638-9. He was granted a house lot on today’s Market Street between Saltonstall Street and the Ipswich River, and acquired over 100 acres of land by grant and by purchase. He was a merchant and served in the local militia, elected Sergeant before 1660. He served as a selectman for the town of Ipswich in 1665.  He died in March, 1692-3. Jeremiah Belcher had eleven children, including his eldest son, the Rev. Samuel Belcher. Belcher Street in Essex, formerly a part of Ipswich, is named after this family.

In the Old North Burying Yard on High Street in Ipswich lies the body of the Reverend Samuel Belcher. Born in Ipswich in 1639, he graduated from Harvard College in 1659, studied for the ministry, and was preaching at Kittery, Maine as early as 1663. In 1668 he married Mary, daughter of Rev. Thomas Cobbett of Ipswich.

In 1665 he went to the Isles of Shoals, where his wife died about 1679. He continued preaching there as late as 1686, but left in the early 1690s because of ill health. He attempted to move back into the house he had built on a parcel of land adjoining the River where EBSCO is now located, that had  been granted to his father Jeremiah Belcher. He was denied entrance by his mother-in-law Mrs. Mary Belcher, the widow of his deceased father, whom he out of kindness and respect had left in the house, but in November 1692, she conveyed the lot to him.

In 1698, Rev. Belcher became the first settled minister in the parish in West Newbury. The Rev. John Barnard, refered to him as “a good scholar, a judicious divine, a holy and humble man.” While in West Newbury he married Mercy, widow of Rev. Samuel Brackenbury of Rowley.

About 1711, the infirmities of age compelled him to retire from the ministry. and he removed to his native town, Ipswich, where he died Mar. 10, 1714-15.

It is said that the Rev. Belcher was dependent on his neighbors’ kindness in his later life. Much to the supposed discredit of the parish, the story was often told that when he grew old and unable to preach, his parishioners cast him off and carted him back to Ipswich, his native place.

The Rev. Belcher was settled, as was then the custom, as their pastor for life, with this proviso: that if he remained in town, he should have the use of the parsonage house and land as long as he lived; but if he chose to leave town, they should revert to the parish. Preferring, when no longer able to preach, to spend the few remaining days of his pilgrimage in his native place, he relinquished the use of the parsonage, and had his goods and furniture put into the oxcart for removal. He then said to his friends,

“If you will place the beds in the cart properly, I will ride with the goods, as I can go that way easier than any other.”

This was accordingly done, the old gentleman was placed on the bed, and, at his own request, he was literally carted from West Newbury to Ipswich.

Tombstone of Rev. Samuel Belcher at the Old North Burying Ground
Tombstone of Rev. Samuel Belcher at the Old North Burying Ground

Ipswich, March 12, 1714: This day we buried Rev. Samuel Belcher in a good old age, having lived near 76 years. He was for many years a preacher of the gospel at the Isle of Shoals and afterward settled at Newbury. His religion was pure and undefiled. His divinity sound and orthodox, his conversation very cheerful and agreeable, yet grave withal. But that which highly distinguished him in his order was his excellent gift in preaching, nothing being more entertaining than his ordinary sermons. Like a well-instructed scribe, as he was, he always brought forth things new and old, profitable and pleasant. A few months before his death he removed to Ipswich, the place of his birth.


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