Search This Blog

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Reverend Joseph Park, My 6th Great Grandfather

March 12 1705 in Newton MA to March 1 1777 in Westerly RI

AHA!  A granddad who graduated from Harvard!!!

Ok, so he graduated when Harvard was a college in Cambridge and was much smaller, but Harvard is Harvard, even in 1720 when he earned his B.A. and 4 years later earned his M.A in Religion.  The graduating class for 1720 was less than 40 in number!

After so much education, Joseph was ordained in 1730 and moved to Westerly RI to begin his own ministry.

In 1732 Grampa Joe and Gramma Abigail Green became husband and wife.

Reverend Park's home:  From The Avery, Fairchild & Park families
 of Massachusetts, Connecticut & Rhode ... By Samuel Putnam Avery

Grampa Joe was appointed as a missionary to Native American Indians - including the Narragansett Tribe -  and to also minister, of course, to any and all English who might attend his services in Westerly.   Grampa built his home for his wife, his children, and his always welcomed parishioners.  

Few Native Americans attended his services, meaning that his missionary work was slow to evolve. In the 1740s a large number of the Narragansett tribal members converted to Christianity, during the 1741-42 major religious revival known as the Great Awakening. Grampa Joe, as were other preachers, known as a "New Light" minister and ministry.  Joe's New Light Congregational church ministered to the English and the Indians.  

Grampa Joe wrote in letters that this religious conversion helped the Narragansett to adapt to the English colonial life, including less drinking, quarreling, and more education.  A letter he wrote in 1744 relayed "there is among them a change for good respecting the outward as well as the inward man.  They grow more decent and cleanly in their outward dress, provide better for their households, and get clearer of debt....they have been desirous of a School among them."  He, or others in his community, arranged to have an Indian Woman to "keep School" in a Wigwam.  Interestingly, the New Light churches failed when faced with the remaining Old Light ministers and shortly, by 1745, many of his English and Narragansett members withdrew to the leadership of the Narragansett Samuel Niles who evidently was a well thought of preacher though he was unable to read or write..  
           From "The Reservation Period" Chapter 4, Narragansett, Indians of North America.

So what do historians say Grampa Joseph was like?  Self-sacrificing, patriotic, public- spirited.  

His thoughtful and brave care of others and his self-sacrifice of himself did get him into hot water with the law and fellow citizens over smallpox outbreak. Rev. Joe took in a smallpox ridden woman who had been driven out by her town's fear of this horrendous illness. Joseph found himself tried for contempt for trying to help this woman. Not to be shackled by the fears of others, he preached a sermon in 1756 which vindicated his position and he remained a highly regarded man.

Abigail died in 1772; Joseph died 1777 at 72 after 45 years of successful ministry, though at times a bit bumpy!

In our family there are many encounters with American Indians, including marrying Native Americans.  Some encounters are harrowing such as that of Hannah Dustin, kidnapped by Indians who killed her babe and she avenged this death by scalping many of them.  Rev. Joseph Park's encounter was calmer, meaningful, and memorable.

Grampa Joe's and Grammy Abby's daughter Anne became my
 5th Great Grandmother with her husband Peleg Pendleton

For more on this man of God and his family:Some account of the Park family and especially of the Rev. Joseph Park, M.A., 1705-1777, and Benjamin Parke, L.L. D., 1801-1882