Art Bradbury – Reverend Eliphalet Williams Doctor of Divinity (1726-1803)
Reverand Doctor Eliphalet Williams, was East Hartford’s Revolutionary War Minister. He succeeded Reverand Samuel Woodbridge (who has his own podcast site) as the 2nd minister of Hartford’s Third Ecclesiastical Society in 1748. He also became the last minister of the Society, since in 1783 during his 56 years of ministry, East Hartford separated from Hartford as its own town.
Born in Lebanon in 1726 to a family famous for its ministers, he graduated from Yale with a fluency in Latin and from which he later obtained his Doctorate of Divinity.
His brother, William, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. It is his portrait and signature that illustrates the podcast marker.
The Meeting House from which ‘Dr. Williams preached (its former site is marked by a large boulder with bronze plaque where Pitkin Street meets Main Street) was also where the elected Selectmen met and public meetings were held. As well as payment of cash, Eliphalet’s salary also included allotments of grain and cords of firewood.
The following, giving some insights into the man and his time is taken from the book: East Hartford: Its History and Traditions, written and published by Joseph O. Goodwin in 1879. This book by a prominent member of a founding family, contains many first-hand memories, and is a town treasure.
A gambrel-roofed house was built for Dr. Williams on the east side of Main St. near the Meeting House. It had large rooms with low ceilings over which was an immense attic and a small uninsulated room under the rafters called the “black hole” being the sleeping space for his black females slaves – a torturous icebox in winters and sweat-box in the summers. Even by the clergy, a slave being a human being was given minor consideration, if at all.
In his two parlors, beautifully paneled with wainscoting and built-in cupboards topped by hand-carved scallop shells, was tacked on the first wallpaper in town.
He was a sturdy theologian of the old school, not noted for tolerance and able
to “scatter away evil with his eye.” He preached out against other competing Protestant sects, like the Baptists, coming to the area, although after a son joined one, he expressed less contempt of them.
He wore old-time minister’s dress of knee-breeches with black stockings, straight-buttoned waist coat with the wide white bands of his clerical collar hanging down on his chest. A big white wig, so large a child once called it like a lamb sitting on his head, was topped by a large broad-brimmed hat.
He was quite fond of smoking from a long clay pipe. Plus, on Sundays he would have one of his slave women stay home from church services to make and have ready his favorite drink of shrub, from his own recipe of 1/3 grape juice and 2/3 rum served iron hot.
His sermons were held in high esteem, and often printed and widely dispersed in the form of tracts which can still often be found and purchased on the Internet.
He preached the sermon for the funeral of Governor William Pitkin who died in office in 1769, as well composing the long, elegantly phrased epitaph on the Governor’s impressive table stone monument, also a podcast site.
Anything but revolutionary in temperament, he nonetheless supported the cause of the colonists against British tyranny, but did so with the intent of calming passions and retaining the principles of the Puritan fathers.
Even when quite feeble with age, he still refused to retire and died quietly in 1803 at the age of 77 – still the minister of his flock.