Here, gathered in our beloved South Dakota, are a few members of our Williamson / Mattson Clan. Charles and Luella are to be blamed (be kind, they didn't know what they were doing). We're generally a happy bunch and somewhat intelligent (notwithstanding our tenuous grasp on reality). I'm also proud to say that most of us still have our teeth.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Rev. Thomas Carter. Our 9th Great Grandfather. A Humble and Pious Man.

A Painting of our Great Grandfather's Ordination as the First Minister
Ordained into the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1642.

From the Fortress of Solitude.
Overlooking the Pleasant Grove

Dear Clan,
Tonight I want to introduce you to our 9th Great Grandfather, the Rev. Thomas Carter (1608 to Sept. 5, 1684). He was a Puritan Minister and the first minister ordained in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1642. He was a humble and honest man that was loved by his community.

A Biography of our 9th Great Grandfather:

The Rev. Thomas Carter was a admitted to St. John's College, Cambridge University, April 1, 1626. He received his Bachelor of Arts in January, 1629/30, and his Master of Arts in 1633.

It is interesting to note that our Great Grandfather, the Rev. Thomas Carter was for several years (1628-1633) a fellow student at Cambridge University with the Rev. John Harvard, the founder of Harvard College. They both came to America and settled in neighboring towns. It is probable that they were well acquainted while at the university. Both entered the ministry. Both were made freemen of the Colony of Massachusetts in the same year, 1637. The next authentic information on Thomas Carter is the fact of his being admitted a freeman of Dedham, Mass., March 9, 1636/7 . . . being "presented" by Philemon Dalton. (Dedham Records.)

From the records it seems that Thomas Carter was preaching in Dedham, and at this time was filling the office of Elder in the church at Watertown. In Watertown, Thomas Carter was granted a homestead of ten acres and, in 1642, a farm of 92 acres and a lot in the town plot.

Thomas Carter preached in Woburn for the first time Dec. 4, 1641. This was the second service of public worship ever held in the new town. His sermon was based on a passage in Gen 12. The town records wrote of the sermon "incouraging to trust in the Lord for the Means." This sermon or his previous reputation seems to have impressed the people of Woburn, for the Town Records state: 1641, Dec. 19.
“They now all at Mr Carter, who was very backward to promise anything, but only to bee helpful to them at sum tims which was very seldom."
The ordination of Mr. Carter as a minister came about as follows:
Aug. 14. A Church gathered at Woburn. Mr. Knowles, (assistant pastor of Watertown) Mr. Allen, (pastor of Dedham) Mr. Symes, Mr. Carter and divers other godly and faithful ministers of Christ held out the wright hand of fellowship in the name of the other Churches." After much persuasion, Mr. Carter finally yielded a reluctant consent and became the first minister in Woburn, being ordained November 22, 1642.
In Winthrop's "History of New England from 1630 to 1649” you can read the following account of the ceremony:

The village at the end of Charlestown bounds, was called Woburn when they gathered a church, and this day Mr Carter was ordained their pastor with the assistance of the elders of other Churches; some difference there was about his ordination; members fit to solemnize such an ordinance, they would desire some of the elders of the other Churches to have performed it; but others supposing it might be an occasion of introducing a dependency of Churches, etc., and so a presbytery, would not allow it, so it was performed by one of their own members, but not so well or orderly as it ought.
Capt. Edward Johnson, one of the principal founders both of the church and the town, was present on this occasion, and described the ordination in his "Wonder Working Providence" (published in 1654):
After he (Thomas Carter) had exercised in preaching and prayer the greater part of the day, two persons in the name of the Church laid their hands upon his head and said, We ordain thee Thomas Carter to be Pastor of this Church of Christ: then one of the elders present, desired of the Church, continued in prayer unto the Lord for his more especial assistance, of this his servant in his work, being a charge of such weighty importance as is the glory of God and the salvation of souls, that the very thought would make a man to tremble in the sense of his own inability to the work.
At his ordination, the town presented him with a house, which they built for his use, and also gave him a salary of £80 per year, one-fourth of which was to be in silver, the remainder in various necessaries of life, at current prices. This compensation was increased in 1674 by the grant of twenty cords of wood annually, to be delivered at his door. From the time of his ordination, Mr. Carter ministered constantly to his people without the help of an assistant for thirty-six years, when the Rev. Jabez Fox was chosen assistant pastor. He continued in the service with Mr. Fox for six years more until his death in 1684, thus making the entire period of his ministry at Woburn more than forty-two years.
Johnson, in his "Wonder Working Providence," speaks of Thomas Carter as a "reverend Godly Man, apt to teach the sound and wholesome truths of Christ" and one who had "much encreased with the encreasings of Christ Jesus."

Sewell, in his History of Woburn, says:
Mr. Carter appears to have lived secluded in great measure from the world; and hence he is seldom if ever named in history among the eminent clergymen of his day. Still there is abundant evidence that he was a very pious, exemplary man, an able and sound preacher of the gospel, and one whom God honored and prospered in his work. Under his ministrations, the church was greatly enlarged and built up, and the town flourished, and was for the most part in peace.
In the following lines addressed to him in the "Wonder Working Providence", Mr. Carter is represented as a plain, but faithful and successful minister; a pastor of distinguished humility and meekness, and in gentleness toward his flock:

"Carter, Christ hath his wayes thee taught, and thou Hast not withheld his Word, but unto all With's word of power dost cause stout souls to bow, And meek as lambs before thy Christ to fall: The antient truths, plain paths, they fit thee best, Thy humble heart all haughty acts puts by; The lowly heart, Christ learns his lovely hest, Thy meekness shews thy Christ to thee is nigh. Yet must thou shew, Christ makes his bold to be As lions, that none may his truths tread down; Pastoral power he hath invested thee With; it maintain, leest he on thee do frown. Thy youth thou has in this New England spent, Full sixteen years to water, plant and prune Trees taken up, and for that end here sent; Thy end's with Christ; with's saints his praises tune."

Family, I give you our 9th Great Grandfather, The Reverend Thomas Carter.



  1. hi -- I'm not sure how you are descended from the Reverend Thomas Carter, but I just stumbled upon your post. He is my forebear as well.

    I thought you might find this interesting --- it's one of my favorite bits of insight about Thomas Carter, excerpted from one of the sources you've quote above, Sewell's History of Woburn:

    "...John Maningham, a student at law of the Middle Temple London, kept a diary that has been preserved in the British Museum which contains this grim definition of a Puritan. 'A Puritan is one who loves God with all his soul and hates his neighbor with all his heart.' This appears to be disputed by the life of Rev Mr Carter who followed rather the command of his Divine Master to love his neighbor as himself, never joining in persecution of Indians, Quakers, Baptists, Churchmen, or poor old women charged with witchcraft."

    I need to look into this a bit more, because the infamous Salem Witch Trials and persecution happened in the 1690s, well after the Reverend Thomas Carter's time, but perhaps it suggests that low-level persecution of "witches" had already been afoot during our ancestor's day, and he wanted no part of it.

    Susan Doran
    Portland Maine

  2. Rev Thomas Carter is my 9th Great Grandfather, doing research on him has been interesting.
    Mary De Leeuw
    Sinai, SD

  3. My husband, Norman Carter also is a direct descendant of Rev. Thomas Carter. We have lots of information on the Carter line if anyone is interested.

    Linda Carter

  4. I am also a direct descendant (8th Great Grandson) of Thomas Carter, although obviously from a different branch of the family tree. If anyone would like to contact me, my email is johnharbo@yahoo.com.

    All the best,
    John Harbison

  5. I too am a descendant of The Reverend Thomas Carter. My lineage follows his son Samuel's descendents.I believe I'm the 10th generation but I couldn't tell you for sure. Most of my family was settled in Susqehanna county PA. The Carter's owned a Dairy farm in Retta, PA for generations. My mother was one of 5 children and she had many cousins. We are surely a huge clan!

    James Carter Jones
    Denver, CO

  6. I too am a descendant of The Reverend Thomas Carter. My lineage follows his son Samuel's descendents.I believe I'm the 10th generation but I couldn't tell you for sure. Most of my family was settled in Susqehanna county PA. The Carter's owned a Dairy farm in Retta, PA for generations. My mother was one of 5 children and she had many cousins. We are surely a huge clan!

    James Carter Jones
    Denver, CO

  7. I too am a descendant of the Reverend Thomas Carter. My lineage follows his son Samuel's descendants. The eventually settled in Susquehanna County Pennsylvania and had a dairy farm in Retta, PA. My mother was one of five children and she had many cousins. We are surely a large clan!

    James Carter Jones
    Denver, CO