Milton’s Congregational Ministers of 1815-26

By Muriel Bristol | January 21, 2019

Scales’ History of Strafford County stated that Milton’s First (Congregational) Church was organized on September 8, 1815, by nine original members. They were Barnabas Palmer (1720-1816), Hatevil Nutter (1748-1831), Benjamin Scates (1747-1833), Abigail [(Folsom)] Scates, Deborah Wentworth, Mary Chamberlain, Achsah Palmer, Mrs. [Susanna (Shackford)] Nutter (1756-1848), and Elizabeth Roberts. (Rev. Curtis Coe signed also).

(Major Barnabas Palmer emigrated from Ireland, at the age of 16 years, i.e., circa 1736-37. He lost his right arm at the Siege of Louisburg in 1745. Note Mr. Nutter’s traditional Puritan name Hatevil: Hate-evil).

Scales goes on to say that Benjamin Scates was its first deacon and clerk, while Rev. Curtis Coe was its first pastor. The church remained under Rev. Coe’s care, and that of Rev. Dyer Burge, until Rev. James Walker took charge in 1819.

“This church worshiped in the old meeting-house until 1835” (Scales, 1914).

Rev. Curtis Coe

Rev. Curtis Coe (1750-1829) had been the long-settled minister at Durham, NH, from 1780 until 1806. His departure from there was a notable occurrence.

The first amendment to the US Constitution barred Congress from making any law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. However, the states were not so enjoined, except perhaps in their own state constitutions.

In New England, the Congregational church had been the established church since its very beginning, and was funded by tax money. Other denominations, such as Baptists, Methodists, Quakers, etc., were paying twice: compulsory taxes for an established Congregational church and then voluntary contributions for their own church.

In the early Federal period, New England dissenters, as the British would have termed them, began to object to this coercive arrangement. Some towns continued to collect the church tax, but attempted to distribute it in the proportions of the various denominations. But, for that, the town government needed to compile lists of who believed what, which was disturbing in itself. (Errors causing interventions, which cause further errors).

Rev. Coe took a dim view of disestablishment. He favored continuing a single tax-funded established church. His final “valedictory” sermon in Durham was a real pot-boiler. He blamed the “unfriendly conduct of some,” i.e., dissenters, for having disturbed the general harmony, having encouraged dissipation, and having made it impossible for him to continue. He resigned his Durham ministry over this issue, effective May 1, 1806.

Rev. Coe next purchased a farm in South Newmarket (now Newfields, NH) and declined offers from other parishes.

He entered the missionary field in the employ of the New Hampshire and Massachusetts Missionary Societies, laboring in the remote parts of New Hampshire and Maine from 1807 as long as he was able to preach (Fitts, 1912).

He is known to have preached occasionally at Stratham, South Newmarket, and various other places, including his fostering of a new Congregational church in  Milton, in and after 1815. Given that he resided in South Newmarket, and kept a farm there, his preaching in Milton can have been only occasional and within season. He died in South Newmarket, NH, June 7, 1829.

Rev. Dyer Burge [later Burgess]

From the following, it would seem that Rev. Coe’s associate, or successor, Rev. Dyer Burge (1784-1872), was in Colebrook, NH, as late as May 1815, and had gone off to Ohio sometime in 1817. If so, then the “year or more” that he spent in Milton must have been 1816, bracketed perhaps by the end of 1815 and beginning of 1817. He had been gone for over  a year, when the Rev. James Walker arrived as a Congregational missionary in early 1819.

burgess, dyer - detail
Rev. Dyer Burge

DYER BURGE – Son of Nathaniel and Lucretia (Scott) Burgess, was born in Springfield, Vt., December 27, 1784. He had no collegiate training, but studied theology with Rev. Abijah Wines, of Newport, N.H.; was ordained and installed first pastor of the church in Colebrooke, N.H., in 1810, and dismissed May, 1815. He then preached in Milton, N.H., a year or more, and probably spent some time in medical study, as he took the degree of M.D. from Dartmouth College in 1818. He went to Ohio in 1817, joined the Miami Presbytery, and labored for a time at Troy and Piqua, at the latter of which places he organized a church, and fifty years later participated in its semi-centennial. In 1820 he was installed at West Union, Ohio, where he remained till 1841, then removed to Warren, in the same state, and resided till his death, which took place August 31, 1872, in his eighty-eighth year. He took an honored position among the churches and ministry of Ohio; was a bold anti-slavery and temperance reformer, and a strong patriot. About the time of his leaving Colebrooke, he resumed the original name, Burgess, as did all the family, except Caleb, and his name with portrait, is included in the published Burgess genealogy (Vermont Chronicle (Bellows Falls, VT), June 9, 1877).

Rev. James Walker

Rev. James Walker, Jr. (1778-1826), was born in Concord, NH, July 26, 1778, son of James and Ruth (Abbott) Walker. He married in Bethel, ME, September 4, 1810, Martha Heath “Patty” Ingalls. She was born in Shelburne, NH, August 8, 1786. daughter of Moses and Susan (Heath) Ingalls.

James Walker headed a Bethel, ME household at the time of the Third (1810) Federal Census. His household included one male aged 26-44 years, one female aged 16-25 years, and one male aged under-10 years. The census taker enumerated his household between those of John Walker and Daniel Wight.

He is said to have been a merchant, who then studied for the ministry. He preached in Gilead, ME, as a Congregational missionary, between 1817 and 1818, before coming to Milton.

Rev. Walker preached alternatively at Farmington and Milton for a period of nineteen weeks. He interrupted his mission in March 1819, after an initial period of eight weeks, which suggests that he arrived first in or around January 1819.

The labours of Rev. James Walker, your Missionary at Farmington and Milton appear to have been in some measure successful. He found in Milton a little church, consisting of seven members, two males about seventy years age, and five females, nearly sixty. What a prospect is here! The church about to expire! But, says your Missionary, “The first lecture I preached, two were awakened, who now give evidence of piety. There are others, also, rejoicing in hope, who date their awakening at subsequent meetings. There was an unusual turning out to meeting; a solemn attention; and the minds of many were deeply impressed. Four obtained hopes before I left the place last winter.”

After a Mission of eight weeks, Mr. Walker left the place in March; but returned the first of June; and found that a few in both places had obtained hopes in his absence.

According to his journal, which is brought down to the 18th of August, there is a very general attention in Milton, throughout the town: the house of God, on the Sabbath, is unusually thronged; the people coming in from four or five neighbouring towns. The attentive eye suffused in tears, and the solemn countenance, indicate the presence of God, the Holy Ghost – especially has the administration of the Lord’s Supper been attended with a striking effect on the assembly. There have been seven or eight instances of hopeful conversion; several, of persons quickened, who had entertained hopes, but had not made a public profession; and some instances of special awakening. Six were added to the church, three propounded, and several others expected soon to be.

In Farmington, there was good attention to the word; four instances of hopeful conversion; five of special awakening; professors seemed engaged; and the prospect was, that a church would be organized before the close of his Mission. The people are exceedingly desirous to have a Missionary continued among them. This desire is manifested by the subscription of 100 dollars, in each of these towns, for your treasury (Whiting, 1819).

Rev. Walker remained in Milton for the rest of his life. He died here, September 4, 1826. Boston’s Columbian Centinel newspaper of September 16, 1826 (and September 20, 1826) noted his passing:

Rev. James Walker, Pastor of Congregational Church, died in Milton, N.H.

His widow, Martha H. Walker, died in Great Falls, NH, November 29, 1865, aged eighty-nine years (General Conference, 1867).

Next in sequence: Milton’s Congregational Ministers of 1827-46


Coe, Rev. Curtis. (1806). A Valedictory Discourse, Delivered at Durham, New Hampshire, April 27, 1806. Portsmouth, NH: William Treadwell.

Find a Grave. (2012, June 20). Maj. Barnabas Palmer. Retrieved from

Find a Grave (2011, December 31). Hatevil Nutter, III. Retrieved from

Find a Grave. (2013, November 10). Rev. Curtis Coe. Retrieved from

Find a Grave. (2009, February 19). Rev. Dyer Burgess. Retrieved from

Find a Grave. (2017, July 23). James Walker. Retrieved from

Fitts, James Hill. (1912). History of Newfields, New Hampshire, 1638-1911. Retrieved from

General Conference. (1867). General Conference of the Congregational Churches in Maine. Retrieved from

Hershock, Martin J. (2012). A New England Prison Diary: Slander, Religion, and Markets in Early America. Retrieved from

Scales, John. (1914). History of Strafford County, New Hampshire, and Representative Citizens. Retrieved from

Whiting, N. (1819). Religious Intelligencer. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2018, May 8). Gilead, Maine. Retrieved from,_Maine

Wikipedia. (2018, November 15). Newfields, New Hampshire. Retrieved from,_New_Hampshire

Wikipedia. (2018, November 18). Siege of Louisburg (1745). Retrieved from

Author: Muriel Bristol

"Lady drinking tea"

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