This letter was written by Cornelius Davenport (1818-1870), the son of Richard Davenport (1785-1868) and Rhoda Coe (1796-1868) of New Bedford, Massachusetts. Cornelius kept a store at 138 Union Street where he sold “hats, caps, and furs” to the clientele of the bustling maritime city. Aside from his civic contributions, Cornelius devoted himself to his church—the North Congregational Church & Society. He was the assistant superintendent of the Sabbath School and served in a long-standing capacity as its clerk. While fulfilling his duties as such, he penned the following letter transmitting an official offer of employment to Rev. Alonzo H. Quint to be the church’s next pastor. The letter was of a personal and sensitive nature, conveying information regarding the financial matters of the church. The church structure had been completed in 1836 but had undergone a substantial interior renovation in the early 1850’s that caused it to incur and carry a debt that had yet to be repaid as late as 1864, much to the annoyance (apparently) of Davenport.
The letter was addressed to Rev. Alonzo Hall Quint (1828-1896), a graduate of Dartmouth College and the Andover Theological Seminary. After serving as the pastor of the Congregation Church at Jamaica Plain for ten years, Rev. Quint entered the service of his country, joining the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry as its chaplain. Readers may be interested to know that Rev. Quint accepted the offer from the New Bedford Congregational Church and served there for for eleven years (1864-1875).
[Note: This letter is from the private collection of Matthew Wilmot and is published by express consent.]
New Bedford [Massachusetts]
March 15, 1864
You will receive with this official action of the North Congregational Church and Society inviting you to become their pastor, and I want yo say one or two things to you unofficially.
We have been without a pastor for six months, having heard a great many men preach, and you are the only man whom the Church could begin to unite upon, and they have given you every vote—very remarkable in so large a church. They are not only united but really enthusiastic, a great many having asked me what the prospect was of your coming here.
I have invariably said to them that you would probably come if they would wait patiently until you could leave the Army, and we in the meantime pay off the debts of the church.
Now my dear Sir, don’t fail to accept the call, but say what you please about the debt being paid as a condition to your acceptance, and it will be done.
There is a feeling here toward you which will warrant your taking this step if you wish to, and let me advise it as the people are abundantly able to pay—only get them at it. Please regard this part of the letter confidential.
I have conversed with some of our richest men upon the subject. They said they would not do anything about the debt until they knew that you were coming and if you decided to come, they would subscribe liberally towards cancelling the whole amount.
I think this alone presents a strong argument why you should accept our call, to say nothing of the unanimity of feeling among the people.
2nd. As to salary. It is $500 more than we have ever paid and the same as they pay at the Unitarian—the richest church in the city. And at the meeting, $2,000 was thought to be a sufficient sum. But if it does not meet your views, don’t decline the invitation on that account as I am authorized by a number of individuals to say to you that the matter shall be made satisfactory.
We feel that the call must be accepted for we really should not know where to look for another man who would unite our people.
You may like to know that Mr. Craig’s salary is $1500 but then our church is much larger and, as I told you when here, it is the old church—Mother of them all—and occupies a commanding position not only in this city but in all the region round about.
Now Sir, let me again urge you to accept our invitation to a settlement with us assuring you that everything will be done on our part to make your residence here agreeable to yourself, and pleasant for your family.
Hoping that these suggestions will find a corresponding echo in your heart, I remain truly your friend, — Cornelius Davenport
Rev. A. H. Quint
Army of the Cumberland
My passion is studying American history leading up to & including the Civil War. I particularly enjoy reading, transcribing & researching primary sources such as letters and diaries.