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Full text of "Appreciation of Calvin Chapin, D. D., of Rocky Hill, Conn."

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Of (he South Congregational Church, 
Hartford, Conn. 


From a portrait in possession of Arthur Reed Kimball, 
of Waterbury, Conn. 







Of the South Congregational Church, 
Hartford, Conn. 



MAY 1st, 1908, ARE AS FOLLOWS : 

MR. GILBERT W. CHAPIN, Hartford, Conn., . . President. 

MR. MERRICK W. CHAPIN, Hartford, Conn., . . Sec. -Treasurer. 

MR. TERRY J. CHAPIN, Suffield, Conn., . . . Recorder. 
HON. ARTHUR B. CHAPIN, Holyoke, Mass., 
DR. WALTER H. CHAPIN, Springfield, Mass., 

MR. WM. H. G. CHAPIN, Parkersburg, W. Va., . . j 

> Vice- Presidents. 
REV. CHARLES B. CHAPIN, Rochester, N. Y., 

MR. CHARLES S. BLAKE, Hartford, Conn., 

MR FRANK M. CHAPIN, Pine Meadow, Conn., 


Executive Committee. 

MR. FREDERICK W. CHAPIN, . . Springfield, Mass. 
MR. HENRY G. CHAPIN, . . . Springfield, Mass. 
MR. WILLIAM H. CHAPIN, . . . Springfield, Mass. 


BEGINNING on Sunday, September twenty-one, nine- 
*-* teen hundred eight, and continuing through Tuesday, 
September twenty-three, the old town of Rocky Hill, Conn., 
celebrated the one hundredth anniversary of the Congrega- 
tional Meeting House with an Old Home week. Two special 
gifts marked the celebration. One was the completion of the 
Chapin Memorial Parsonage, which stands on the crest of the 
hill, west of the church, on what is known as Chapin Street, 
and on land originally owned by Calvin Chapin, D. D., for 
fifty-six years, from seventeen ninety-six to eighteen-fifty-two, 
pastor of the church. The other gift was that of an organ 
for the church, which has just completed its century. In 
connection with the celebration, the Rev. Edwin P. Parker, 
D. D., pastor of the South Congregational Church in Hart- 
ford, was invited to speak a word of appreciation of Dr. Calvin 
Chapin, a word so perfectly spoken as to deserve perpetuation 
beyond passing publication in the newspapers of the day. 
For that reason, the privilege of issuing this little brochure in 
the series of Chapin Family Association Publications, has 
been sought by and given to a great-grandson of Dr. Chapin, 
Arthur Reed Kimball of Waterbury, Conn. 




I. Rev. Dr. Calvin Chapin . . Frontispiece 

From a portrait in possession of Arthur Reed Kimball 
of Waterbury, Conn. 

II. Rocky Hill Congregational Meeting-House . 7 

Dedicated September 22, 1808. 

III. The Old Home of Calvin Chapin, D. D., of 

Rocky Hill 9 

Now the residence of H. H. Humphrey. 

IV. Chapin Memorial Parsonage . . . . 1 1 

Built igo8. 


Dedicated, September 22, 1808. 

REV. DR. EDWIN P. PARKER, pastor of the South 
Congregational Church in Hartford, gave the following 
address on Rev. Dr. Calvin Chapin : 

" Shortly after I came to live in Hartford, in the year 1860, 
some kind of ecclesiastical meeting called me to Rocky Hill 
and its meeting house. Not quite nine years before that Dr. 
Chapin had ceased from his labors in that parish. I found 
the place thronged with memories of the former pastor. His 
personal atmosphere pervaded the town. His spirit seemed 
to linger on the premises. I became aware that a remarka- 
ble man had lived and labored there, about whom I desired to 
know more and more. The more I inquired concerning him, 
the more I felt as they did who would end anecdotes about 
him by saying, " Oh, you ought to have known Dr. Chapin ! " 
As if there had never been in all these parts another like 
him, as, indeed, is true. There was little difficulty in becom- 
ing acquainted with his characteristic traits and qualities. 
Dr. Hawes, then in vigorous health, had known him intimately 
for more than thirty years. Deacon Seth Terry had known 
him longer than that, and there were many clergymen and 
laymen who were familiar with his remarkable doings and 
sayings. Therefore, I feel competent to speak of him as 
almost from acquaintance or recollection. 

"He came of excellent stock. He, Calvin Chapin, descend- 
ant of the fifth generation of Deacon Samuel Chapin, who 
came from England or Wales, was the fourth of six sons of 
Deacon Edward Chapin, a farmer of Chicopee Parish, Spring- 
field, Massachusetts, and grandson of another Deacon Chapin 
of that same parish. His mother was Eunice Colton of 
Longmeadow. He was born July 22, 1763. At the age of 
fifteen years he served for six months as a fifer in a militia 
company of the Revolution. He prepared for college under 
the instruction of Dr. Backus of Somers, Connecticut, entered 


Yale College in 1784 and was graduated with honor in due 
season. After spending two years as a highly successful 
teacher in Hartford and there decided to become a gospel 
minister, studied theology with Dr. Perkins of West Hartford 
for six months, and was there licensed to preach by the Hart- 
ford North Association. Meanwhile, in September 1791, he 
had been elected tutor at Yale College, and entered on that 
office that autumn. Dr. Stiles was then president of the col- 
lege, and numerous entries in his diary mention Tutor Chapin, 
and show a high appreciation both of his tutorial work and of 
his ability and success as a preacher. In 1794 he resigned 
his office at Yale, accepted a call of the church in Stepney 
Parish of Wethersfield, now Rocky Hill, and was ordained as 
pastor of that church composed of twenty-seven members, 
April 30, 1794, with an annual salary of $333, which contin- 
ued the same to the end of his long pastorate. The ordaining 
council comprised twenty-four pastors and delegates of neigh- 
boring churches, not one of whom survived him. 

" He married, February 2, 1795, Jerusha, younger daughter 
of Dr. Jonathan Edwards, and sister of Jonathan W. Edwards, 
with whom he lived in closest, sweetest intimacy for fifty-two 
years, and of whom he said, " She made my home the pleas- 
antest spot to me on earth." His entire ministerial life was 
spent, as has been said, in Rocky Hill, and that means that 
he was an acceptable preacher and a faithful pastor. Much 
more than most ministers of his time, he was a scholarly man, 
fond of classical and mathematical studies. 

" Such a light must needs shine out far beyond the bounds 
of his parish. His influence in behalf of all good causes was 
widely exerted. He was not an orator, but much better than 
that. He employed his time and expended his energies with 
more beneficent results to society, than most of the theologians 
whose work did not seem of much interest to him. He wore 
without fret the theological and ecclesiastical harness then in 
vogue, but concerned and engaged himself with matters more 
closely pertaining to social progress and improvement. Few 


of his works were printed or published except as they were 
printed on the minds and hearts of his contemporaries, and 
published as by translation into social life and public sentiment. 
He was one of Connecticut's great ministers few of them 
greater or more useful in the world, none of them sounder in 
judgment and practical wisdom, more kindly and lovable. 
From 1805 to 1831 he was a trustee of the Missionary Society 
of Connecticut, and intimately associated in the work of that 
society with my own predecessor, Dr. Abel Flint, who from 
1798 to 1824 was secretary of the same society. They were 
also associated in organizing and managing the Connecticut 
Bible Society (1809). Dr. Chapin was one of the five men 
who in 1810 projected and organized the American Board of 
Commissioners for Foreign Missions, was chosen its Recording 
Secretary, which office he held for thirty-two years. He was 
active in forming and fostering a Connecticut Society for the 
promotion of Good Morals (1813), became one of the Board 
of Visitors of Andover Seminary (1816) and served as clerk 
of that Board until he was seventy years old. He received 
from Union College in 1816 the honorary degree of Doctor of 
Divinity. From 1820 to 1846 he was a member of the cor- 
poration of Yale College, and all that while, except one year, 
a member of its Prudential Committee. 

"About the year 1806 serious difficulties had arisen among 
the missionaries employed by the Missionary Society of Con- 
necticut, in northern Ohio. The trustees gravely considered 
who of their number would best serve to deal with the delicate 
complications of the case. Dr. Chapin, though the youngest 
member of the Board, was selected for the service, and per- 
formed it to the entire satisfaction of his brethren, and to the 
great enlargement of the Society's operations and usefulness. 
He was an anti-slavery man. He was one of the earliest, 
most persistent and efficient promoters of the cause of tem- 
perance. As early as 1812 he took his stand for total absti- 
nence, and maintained it to the end, and lived to see wonder- 
ful results of his unpopular labors. (He even succeeded for 


a time in having his church disuse wine at the Holy Com- 
munion.) It is authentically related that he experienced 
some disadvantage from his zeal in this matter. In the early 
years of the iQth century Rocky Hill was somewhat celebra- 
ted for the quantity and quality of its cider. There was none 
better in the parish than that made by Dr. Chapin. His very 
best was produced by exposing barrels of cider to the extreme 
cold of winter. These would freeze considerably, and the 
precious part of the fluid was then obtained by boring through 
the frozen shell. It required three barrels of the original 
cider to make one barrel of this superior liquor, which, of 
course, was rather potent stuff. It was stored away in casks. 

" Well ! Dr. Chapin's parishioners had been accustomed to 
assemble each spring to give him a lift in cutting his firewood, 
and the Doctor, on such occasions, would produce pails of 
this precious cider for their refreshment, which made the 
gatherings very popular and pleasant. But when he ceased 
from cider-making and the cider itself was no longer forth- 
coming, the people began to lose all interest in the parson's 
wood-pile, and soon left it to his own exertions. 

" Dr. Chapin continued to discharge his pastoral duties with 
fidelity until November 1847, when, at the age of eighty -four 
years, he retired from active duty. Shortly thereafter his 
wife died, and on March i6th, 1851, in the 88th year of his 
life and the 57th of his single pastorate, he died peacefully, 
while sitting in his accustomed chair. Some years before his 
death he had written to Dr. Hawes requesting him to preach 
his funeral sermon, suggesting his favorite scriptural verse as 
a text, "For We Shall See Him as He Is." Dr. Hawes 
was unable to attend his venerable friend's funeral, and Rev. 
Mr. Tucker of Wethersfield preached on that occasion. I 
have read his sermon with some care. It is rather tame but 
one short sentence is worth all the rest, and more. In an 
inspired moment the good Mr. Tucker said of Dr. Chapin, 
" He was no driveler ! " 

" But Dr. Hawes, the next month after the funeral, and on 


the 5 7th anniversary of Dr. Chapin's settlement, did preach 
a sermon in loving commemoration of the grand old minister ; 
preached it in the church where Dr. Chapin had preached so 
many years ; a notable sermon, in Dr. Hawes' very best style ; 
which also I have recently read, and which gives a lifelike 
portraiture of the man : A sermon with a letter written some 
four years later by the same hand, is the mine from which al- 
most all the treasure of later obituaries of Dr. Chapin have 
been derived. Dr. Hawes shows us the tall, erect, well-pro- 
portional, vigorous frame of the man ; his ever cheerful and 
buoyant spirit ; his quick, clear, practical, penetrative mind ; 
his terse style of writing ; his most fascinating conversation ; 
his rugged simplicity, honesty, energy ; his unfailing stead- 
fastness in duty ; and then adds as perhaps, his most striking 
peculiarity, " His exuberant and boundless wit, which gave a 
complexion to his conversation and to his whole character." 
Dr. Chapin, when tutor in Yale College, had for a pupil him 
who afterwards was famous as President Day of the same 
college. He also wrote reminiscently of Dr. Chapin, 
mentioning especially "his instructive and engaging conver- 
sation, his playful humor and never failing cheerfulness and 
vivacity," and added, "He was the most uniformly happy 
man I have ever known." What a beautiful eulogy that ! 
Happy in his heritage, happy in his friends, happy in his 
work, happy in his home, happy in his church, happy in his 
undogmatic and simple and almost natural piety, happy in his 
views and hopes, happy in the serenity of his mind and in the 
summer sunshine that ever seems to have shed its blessings 
upon his heart and mind ! 

" Yes, I wish I might have known him who seems to me, 
on the whole, about the best -worth-knowing of all the minis- 
ters of that generation, in these parts ; if for nothing else, 
because being an intelligent and wide-awake minister, he had 
that almost priceless gift of exuberant wit and humor, as 
natural to him as his breath, says Dr. Hawes, who also says 
that in the very letter wherein Dr. Chapin solicited the favor 


of a funeral sermon for himself, that same wit crept in to 
upset even Dr. Hawes's great gravity. " Incurable " humor, 
says Dr. Hawes ! Thank God, incurable ! Wrought into 
his very soul and spirit, natural, exuberant, incurable ! We 
wonder if death impairs it and hope it does not ! That wit 
and humor, so thoroughly domesticated and familiar in his 
parish took wings and flew abroad everywhither, and have 
ever been intimately and inseparably associated with Dr. 
Chapin's name, without in the least derogating from his real 
and wholesome sanctity. 

" Somehow, thanks to Dr. Hawes and Dr. Robbins and 
many others, it verily does seem as if I had known Dr. Chapin, 
and were all the better for having known him, and if these 
words of mine shall serve to bring him up before your imagi- 
nation at all presentably, and make you feel a little as if you 
too had known him if not after the flesh, yet after the 
spirit I shall be abundantly recompensed for my slight 
labor of love therein."