1796: Rev. Chandler Robbins to Jane (Robbins) Goodwin


Grave Stone of Rev. Chandler Robbins

This letter was written by Rev. Chandler Robbins, D. D., (1738-1799), the son of Rev. Philamon Robbins (1709-1781) and Hannah Foote (1712-1776). Rev. Robbins was married to Jane Prince (1740-1800) in 1761 and had several children: Isaac Robbins, Chandler Robbins (1762-1834), Jane Robbins (b. 1764), Hannah Robbins (1768-1837), Philemon Robbins (1777-1826), Samuel Prince Robbins (1778-1823), and Peter Gilman Robbins (1781-1852).

Rev. Robbins wrote the letter to his daughter Jane, the wife of Francis LeBaron Goodwin (1762-1816) of Frankfort, Maine. Francis was the son of Nathaniel Goodwin and Lydia LeBaron of Plymouth, Massachusetts. In the letter, Robbins implores his daughter to join her brother Isaac in embracing Christianity so that she might enjoy the “saving Power and Grace of God.”

On page 202 of his book, God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution, Thomas S. Kidd writes, “In the early 1790’s, new revivals began to ripple through New gland. Chandler Robbins of Plymouth, Massachusetts, knew the New England revival tradition well; he was the son of the prominent Great Awakening revivalist Philemon Robbins. In 1793, with the conversion of scores of people in his Congregationalist church, Chandler Robbins saw his congregation emerge from what he called spiritual ‘stupidity.’ The town’s character had changed so dramatically that some believed that they might be seeing what Robbins called the ‘commencement of that joyful period, so often spoke of in promise and prophecy…the latter day glory of the church.’ Expectations for dramatic spiritual change became more heightened, and 1798 saw a spate of awakenings in New England.”

Robbins also writes of his daughter Hannah, who was the wife of Benjamin Ives Gilman (1766-1833), one of the early settlers of Marietta, Ohio.

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Francis L. B. Goodwin, Esqr., Frankfort, Penobscot River [Maine]

Plymouth [Massachusetts]
March 14th 1796

My very dear daughter,

We received yours of February 5th only 4 days ago. Heard accidentally that it came by Seth, one of John Kempton’s sons. ¹ As Dolley told me, he is here on a visit or at Boston, but have not seen him. I wish I could for I hear he gives his relations here an account of a remarkable awakening & time of great sincereness among you, tho’ he himself does not appear to be very much acquainted with or solicitous about such things, as I learn. Yet he owns it is  something very remarkable and that numbers near you have, hopefully been made the subjects of a saving change.

O my dear, dear Janey. This is a change which I have so often told you & my other dear children yet you must be the subjects of, or be forever separated from all your Godly connections & from all your redeemed forever after this short life is ended. Thousands of worlds would I give were it in my power to know that you, my very dear child were one of the happy number that has been brought to bow to a foreign God & accept of His dear Son for your only Savior. This obtain, & you will be made for Eternity. Destitute of this & a whole universe can’t help or make you happy. O that you & all yours may be favored subjects of the saving power & Grace of God. “Seek Him & (he promises) he will cast thee off forever.”

We have very lately received letters from all our absent children. Chandler is better of a hurt he received in his stomach. His family well. Hannah also & hers all well. Dear Isaac also writes beautifully — enjoys good health — & wrote is infinitely more, enjoys the Light of God! Countenance & a sweet calm sense of your love & favor of his dear Redeemer & longs for the conversion & salvation of his dear Brothers & Sisters, & prays earnestly for it, as the one thing useful for them & himself. He writes, “O may I not have some one of them to accompany me in our Travel to the promised land? How should I enjoy _____ and adds, “Tell them that tho’ their lives were 10,000 times greater & more in number than they are, yet the Blood of J______, yea one drop of that precious Blood is sufficient for & will sweetly wash you all away.” O what a change this in that dear brother of yours. I hope, my dear, dear Janey will be one that will accompany him to that promised land. Think not that anything or everything that this ____ will ever make you happy without an interest in Jesus Christ & the love & favor of God. O my child, now is your time & ’tis an accepted time. To delay another so favorable opportunity. The Sprit of God is come near to you. O give him not away. It may be to your eternal hurt. Let no opposition, discouragement, _____, temptation, fears, objection or worldly complication divert your attention to the salvation of your precious, never dying soul. If that is lost, all is lost forever. May you & your dearest husband resolve to devote yourselves to God & go hand in hand in the way to Heaven. These things are _______, but ____, I know appear so, in a dying hour, to you & to us all. O secure peace for that solemn hour!

I have lately been an eye witness to the ______ benefit of this Blessing in one, in her last moments — Amaziah Harlow’s wife. She was Lucy Torrey. A short sickness, Canker Rash — died last week, but then found the happiness of having obtained grace with God thro’ her blessed Mediator. She has been & lived like a Christian for a number of years & at last longed to go & be with Him whom her soul loved & triumphed sweetly over the last _____. That disorder has carried off numbers here, chiefly children, but is now very much abated.

You say you have wrote once before since you received ours &c. by J. Holmes. I am sorry to say we never received it and was wondering what was the cause of so long silence, so much that I at last could content myself no longer & wrote a long letter to you at the beginning of February & sent it to Gen’l Goodwin in Boston & he have it, he saysm to Esqr. Parker of Penobscot who said he should see Mr. G. soon. I hope you’ve received it. Am ___bly glad to receive this dated on your birthday. O my daughter, how the time flies & is wafting along to a rewarding eternity! You are more than 32 years of age in life! Tis a vapor that soon flies away.

You thank us for those matters &c. sent you. My dear child, you are more than welcome a 1000 times & wish we could do 10 times as much for you. Sammy is at college & I trust does well. The other two at home as usual & Aunt & hers all well & desires love to you all. Nothing special further that I recollect.

Capt. Levr. & June Russell are married. Mrs. E[unice (Marston)] Goodwin [widow of Lazarus Goodwin] & John Watson not yet married — it will be in April. I mean to send this by Post & will pay the postage & I wish you would write me every now & then in the same way & not pay the postage. Am glad we can do so. Wish you could get a letter here for Isaac & Hannah soon and to go by Mr. Prince & Joseph ____ who purpose going to Ohio to Lee & Co, this spring — perhaps in May. Doubless you can.

Your friends here all well & love you but I fear many of them live as “without God in the World” & what will be their end after a few days of the enjoyments & gratification of this short life? May God bless you, my dearest daughter & all your dear household, &c. may his gracious presence be with you in the approaching hour & grant you salvation & put a new song of praise into your mouth, both in temporal & spiritual salvation. Your mother unites in the tenderest wishes & love with your affectionate father, — Chandler Robbins

N. B. Write whether the Post Office is Shutes’s or Black’s & whether in the town of Penobscot or Prospect where letters are left.

15th. P. S. Since writing this letter I have had the pleasure to see Seth Kempton who has just one out from here. I was very glad to see him. I made many inquiries as you may well suppose, about every religious relation to you & yours. He is young but appeared to be a clever, modest youth. He gives not much of an answer about your religious state of things there though says many have become very serious & yet Esqr. Goodwin acts very prudently about it & that if he don’t approve some things among some of them, yet professes to be good. Yet (Seth says) the Esqr. is willing everyone should enjoy liberty of confession & he is no opposer &c. &c. But Seth’s attention at ___ seems wholly engaged about going with Mr. Prince to see the Ohio Co. & I rather incline to think he will go if Prince & C____ go. The prospects there, to be sure, since the peace with Indian Nation is very encouraging and people are going there from all parts of the U. States. Col. [Benjamin] Tallmadge, the Alderman of Connecticut, who is agent & treasurer for the Ohio Company of Proprietors has been at Marietta all winter making ____ & getting the affairs of the Company, has just returned, I hear. Expect to leave letters for Hannah by him & will write you soon. Seth tells me the Post stops at Col. Shute’s or Capt. Black’s. Is it in Frankfort? or Prospect? so that I may know how to direct if I write in future by the Post. Yours, – C. R.

¹  “Seth Kempton, born in 1773 at Plymouth, Massachusetts, was the third son of Capt. John Jr. and Mary (Hatch) Kempton. Seth and Lucy Brown were published to marry in Orrington, Maine, and they were married on 10 September 1798. She was born 20 June 1778. Seth moved from Plymouth to Maine with his father. In 1798 he was among those who made a petition to the general court in Boston for the township of Hampden, Maine. He was one of the settlers on township No. 2 at West Hampden and he represented Hampden from 1807 through 1811. He also petitioned for a Masonic Lodge at Orrington. He was a hatter by trade. The Kempton Coat of Arms was brought from Plymouth to Maine with the family when they moved there. Seth took it with him to Michigan when he moved from Maine with his family in 1830. Seth, with his wife and children, is believed to have tavelled from Maine to Michigan by ox cart. Seth settled in North Adams (Hillsdale County), Michigan where he died in 1836. Lucy (Brown) Kempton died in 1872.” [Source: The Kempton Family]

Lucy Brown married Seth Kempton, Sr., on September 10, 1798, in Orrington, Maine. Their Children were all born in Hampden, Penobscot, Maine. Seth was born in Plymouth, MA, September 15, 1773, and died in 1836 in North Adams, Hillsdale, Michigan. Their children (all born between 1798 and 1817) were all born in Hampden: Stillman Kempton, Seth Kempton, Jr., Zacheus Kempton, Lucinda Kempton, David Brown Kempton, Harvey Kempton, Eliza Kempton, Joseph Stillman Kempton, Lucy Brown Hall Kempton, Lucinda Hall Kempton, and Joseph Kempton.


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