|An old post card share from Stearns Family Project|
1880 census shows there was an Albert G Morton, aged 75, born 1805, preacher of the Gospel, living in Salisbury with his wife Fanny. In the history of Essex County Massachusetts, Volume 2, there’s a quote from an address given in 1885 at Rocky Hill to honor the centennial of the church. The address reflects that a Benjamin Sawyer was at a church in Amesbury as well as Rocky Hill, and he served at Rocky Hill til he died in 1871 at which point, “for the summer season, by Rev. Albert G Morton, an aged Baptist clergyman, who still remains with this people, honored and respected by all” The speaker is Rev. S. J. Spaulding.
A Memorial By Rev. Martyn Summer Bell, D. D.
Another friend of my father's— whom I knew well, but who was so much of another generation that he seemed to me quite like a prophet of old, and standing upon a peak of such unapproachable grandeur that I could hardly claim more than an acquaintance without presumption, was Rev. A. G. Morton, of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. It was about 1853 or 1854, when I was some six or seven years old, that he came within my range at the first, but afterward his visitations were more or less frequent for a number of years. At this period he was in the prime of his strength and usefulness, along in the middle forties and fifties. My father was a man of medium stature, and so were several of the ministers who were his closest associates, and Brother Morton, with his stalwart frame and massive head, towered above them as did Moses over the princes of Israel. It is not to be forgotten that the subject of this sketch came from Pilgrim stock, and was in the direct line of descent from that George Morton, "the immigrant," who landed from the good ship Ann at Plymouth town in 1623. Others of his family attained distinction, for Marcus Morton, a cousin, has his name in the honorable list of the governors of Massachusetts, and there was a Justice Morton, of the Supreme Court, who was a near relative.
Albert G. Morton was born in East Freetown, which is situated in the southeastern part of Massachusetts, with the cities of New Bedford and Fall River in close proximity. The date of his birth was
August 4, 1804. His parents were Job Morton and Patience Purinton Morton. The father followed the occupation of a farmer, but he had been graduated from Brown University and was known as a capable Greek scholar, who could read his New Testament in the original tongue. Introduced into such a home, the boy had a zeal for learning and an acquaintance with affairs that came as natural as breathing. What rugged vitality this family possessed may be reckoned from the fact that among the six sons and one daughter of Job and Patience Morton there was not a death for seventy years.
Albert preached his first sermon at North Dartmouth, which is also near New Bedford, in 1825, and it so happened that the maiden effort occurred the day before he reached his majority. Those were the days when Christian young men assumed responsibilities early. From that time onward he preached as opportunity offered, but he took his first regular charge in the West Mansfield Christian Church in 1829, and here it was that he married Fannie Williams and had his home for fifteen prosperous and happy years.
In 1844, he was called to the church in New Bedford, where he succeeded in building up a strong congregation. In this period the coast region of Massachusetts was the recruiting ground for adventurous seamen, and these men were of such capability that many rose to be mates and captains, and many to be owners of their own vessels. They sailed far and wide on commercial or whaling voyages, and their children's children still keep in their parlors seashell and whales' teeth curiously carved, as souvenirs of their ancestors' voyages on the vast deep. Those ancestors, when they retired from the active list of the seas, became a very influential class in the community, and were rightly esteemed for their wisdom in counsel and for their general intelligence. For the young minister to have become so soon a leader among these leaders of the community is a token of his own powers of judgment and of his real strength in pulpit ministration.
After eight years in the New Bedford field, he accepted the charge of the Broad Street Christian Church in Providence, R. I., where he labored for the next six years with similar success.
Leaving Providence in 1858, he took the pulpit of the Salisbury Point Church, in Massachusetts, of which he remained the beloved pastor up to 1874.
It was sometime in 1862 or 1863 that I first paid particular attention to Father Morton's preaching. Among my other duties just then, I was assistant to the organist of the Providence Church, of which my father was pastor. The organist presided at the front of the organ, while the assistant manipulated the bellows at the rear. It seemed as if this task was the most important of all, for it is clear that when the wind was lacking the most talented organist was helpless and inert. But the choir loft, being in the opposite end of the church from the pulpit, made it possible for the assistant to the organist, and for the choir as a whole, to observe from a good vantage point all that went on in the pulpit. And so one day when Mr. Morton was supplying in the absence of the pastor, it was given to me . to study his method of pulpit delivery. He stood there in the desk, erect, strong, and masterful. His eyes behind his spectacles and under his prominent eyebrows were sharp and penetrating and seemed to pierce to the inner thought of his hearers. Lying on his Bible, or occasionally held in his hand, was a little slip of paper, on which he had written a few notes or "heads" of his discourse, although he barely glanced at this once in a while, but kept his gaze upon the congregation before him. After the announcement of his text, he commenced to preach in slow and impressive tones and developed his theme in choice and elegant phrases, which were as clear-cut as if they were read out of a book, which had been composed for the benefit of an assembly of divines. As he warmed with his message, his voice would rise and the pace would be augmented, but he was at no time a rapid speaker and his style never lapsed from its refined diction and scholarly balance.
At another time, possibly about five years later, I had again the privilege of hearing Father Morton in the same church, while I sat in the pew before him. Again I listened to his wonderful command of thought and language, and, being by this time something of a preacher myself, I had a better appreciation of what such a polished delivery signified. When we met soon after in the home of a mutual friend, I inquired of himas to his method of sermonic position. He said that he had never written a sermon in full and that his construction of sentences and paragraphs was wholly mental. He prepared the plan of his sermon in the briefest outline, usually on the back of an envelope or a similar scrap of paper. Sometimes in bed, or resting in his library, he would think out sentence after sentence, being careful to make every sentence plain and concise, and expressed in the best English at his command. It was a splendid method for himself, and yet the fact that he had no manuscripts to leave behind him was a serious loss to the world. This sentiment I have heard expressed again and again from the lips of some of our ablest ministers in New England.
After he retired from the Salisbury Point pulpit in 1874, he preached occasionally as a pulpit supply for pastors in his own and other denominations. And it was his custom, which grew into a regular habit, once a year as long as his strength permitted, to preach a sermon in the summer in the old church on Rocky Hill, which was opened at such times for this purpose. And to these annual sermons the people crowded from far and near, and it became a great event to listen to this venerable preacher, who could preach such magnificent sermons in the last decade of his own century.
His death occurred at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Sarah A. Foster, at Lubec, Maine, on February 6,1899, at the advanced age of ninety-four years and six months. His funeral was held in the Salisbury Point Christian Church and was conducted by the pastor, Rev. Mr. Lambert, who was assisted by Rev. L. W. Phillips and Rev. I. H. Coe. The interment was at East Freetown, the place of his birth and his early home. He had been a preacher of the gospel for over seventy years, during which unusual period his words and life had been a constant source of inspiration and blessing to our New England churches and to all who were privileged to sit in his congregations. The memory of the just is blessed.
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