Biography of Rev. John Adams of Durham NH

The next settled minister was the Rev. John Adams, son of Matthew Adams of Boston and nephew of the Rev. Hugh Adams. [1]See the Genealogy of the Adams Family of Durham New Hampshire He was born 19 June 1725 and was graduated at Harvard College in 1745. The two factions in the church that existed in the time of his uncle’s pastorate were still quarreling, and old Mr. Adams’ party, “who had for a long time been separated and were a distinct body by themselves,” were thought by the other party to have been too influential in the choice of the new minister. Gradually the opposition subsided with the lapse of time and the departure of some from the church militant. The articles of agreement with the Rev. John Adams contain some interesting touches of history :

Articles of Agreement made and Concluded upon the third day of October ano que Domeney 1748 and in the twenty Second year of his maiesties Reign Between John Adams now Residing in Durham in the provence of newhampshire Clerk of the one Part & Philip Chesle David Davis Stephen Jones Jun Benj* Smith Job Runals Nath Rendal Joseph Wheler Jos Glidden Saml Wille Daniel Rogers Benj* Mathes & Joseph Sias all of Durham afore said as a Committee of the said town lawfully chosen & appointed to contract & agree with the said John Adams for his sallerey as the Gospel minister of the s d town of the other part as follows that is to say where as the said town have lately invited & caled the said John Adams to settel among them the inhabitants of s<i town in the office & capasaty of a Gospel minister to them which call the said John Adams has been Pleased to accept & we being chosen for ye purpose afore said Have bargained & agreed and by the Presents Do Covenant Bargain & agree to & with the said John Adams to pay him and the s^ town shall hereby be obliged to pay the sd John Adams the yearly salary of five hundred pounds old tenor bills of Public Credit during the time that he shall continue in the gospel ministry in the sd town the sd yearly salary to commence the twenty fifth day of March next and for the Preventing of injustice & dispute between the sd town & the said John Adams by the alteration & change of the Value of the said bills it is further agreed by the sd parties to these Presents that the sd bills shall be fixed according to the following Rules of Computation with Respect to the said sum that is to say comparing the same with Indian Corn at thirty shillings old tennor a bushel Pork at three shillings old tenor a pound & beaf at one shilling and six pence old tennor a pound and in case the sd specis of Provision shall be dearer & the Price thereof Rise then the said yearly salary shall be increased & such a farther sum added thereunto as shall be equilvent & Propartionable to the Rising & Increas of the Price of such Provision above the Respective Prices herein before mentioned and in case the prices of the said Kinds of Provision shall fall & be lower than the Respective sums afores d than the sd yearly sallery shall be abated & such a sum deducted from the same as shall be Equelant & Proportionable to such fall & lowering of the sd Prices and in case one of said Kinds of Provision only shall alter in the price either derer of cheper then one third of the sd sum of five hundred pounds shall folow the sd price or the Rule of that Kind of Provision & be either in-creased or deminished in Proportion as aforesaid & the other Remaining the same then two thirds of the sd five hundred Pounds shall folow the said alteration in manner aforesaid — –

And it is hereby farther covenanted & agreed between the sd Parties to these Presents that ye said John Adams shall have hold & enioy the Parson-age house which the late Reverant Nicolas Gilman occupied & improved in said Durham and the ten acres of Parsonage land lying near to sd house which he improved also being part of the Parsonage lands belonging to sd town during the time of his ministry as afore said & the said John Adams doth hereby covenant and agree to and with the sd Commite that he will accept the afore said sum of five hundred Pounds to be paid in manner afore said with the improvement of the said house and land as afore said in full of all demands and claims for salary from the said town for his service in the capasaty afore sd and that he will Keep the sd house in good tenentable Repair at his own proper cost & charge. In testemoney whereof the said Parties to these Presents have hereunto interchangably set their hands and seals the day and year first above written.

Then follow the signatures of the persons above named. The acceptance of his call is also spread upon the town records as follows:

Durham, New Hampshire, October third 1748. Whereas it has pleased the Soverign Ruler & Dysposer of all things to incline and dispose the generalaty of the People of this place to attend to my Preaching amongst them with such satisfaction & approbation as that the freeholders of said town at there meeting held here on the day last Past were very unanemus in giving me an invitation & call to settel among them in the work of the ministry & to undertake & ingage in the office & duty of the Gospell ministry of the said town and after due Deliberation upon this weighty affair & considering the great unaninity of the people in this case which is the more Remarkable because of former Divisions among them I esteem the voice of the people in this case to be the voice of God and ading to this some par-ticuler call from God & secret intimation to my own Breast inclining me there-to I accept of the said invitation & call Promising as the Lord shall anable me faithfulley to the utmost of my ability to Discharge the Duties of that defficult and Important affair and in all things according to my Power to behave my self as becoms a minister of the Gospele of Jesus Christ & to be contented with such Satiesfaction Salery and Reward as shall be agreed between the Corn-tee of ye town and my self. In testemony where of I hereunto subscribe my name as in the Presents & in the favor of the Lord the day and year above writen —

John Adams.

On account of fluctuating prices the salary of Mr. Adams was changed, in 1774, to seventy-two pounds ten shillings of lawful money, half to be paid semiannually. New difficulties arose and he was dismissed 16 January 1778, after thirty years of service. He removed to Newfield, Maine, in 1781, where he preached and practiced medicine till his death, 9 June 1792. He married (1) 13 October 1752, Sarah Wheeler of Durham, (2) Hannah Chesley of Durham, and had fourteen children. About a century after his departure from Durham a copy of his manuscript records of marriages and baptisms during the years 1749-63 was obtained by Miss Mary P. Thompson from one of his descendants. There are one hundred and twenty marriages and three hundred and thirty-three baptisms. The Rev. John Adams was a man of ability in mechanics and music as well as in the work of the ministry. He took an active part in the events that led to the Revolution and was chairman of the first committee in Durham of Correspondence, Inspection and Safety. It is said of him that at times he was greatly depressed and at other times his genius flashed out in bursts of eloquence. Toward the close of his pastorate in Durham prejudices were excited against him “by a false and slanderous attack on his character by a worth-less woman.” Thus the lie of a disreputable person sometimes outweighs the truth as proclaimed and lived throughout thirty years, and those who believe such a lie are about as guilty as the liar. When he preached his farewell sermon in Durham, he requested his audience to sing, after his reading, a metrical version of the 120th Psalm, which certainly ministered to mortification, if not to edification.


Stackpole, E. S., Thompson, L. and Meserve, W. S. (1913) History of the town of Durham, New Hampshire : Oyster River Plantation with genealogical notes. [Durham? N.H. Pub. by vote of the town] [Web]


1See the Genealogy of the Adams Family of Durham New Hampshire

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