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Jabez Chickering (minister)

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Rev. Jabez Chickering (November 4, 1753-March 12, 1812) was the minister of what is today First Congregational Church Norwood from July 3, 1776, to March 12, 1812.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Early life[edit]

Chickering was born in the Springfield section of Dedham, Massachusetts, present day Dover, on November 4, 1753 to Joseph and Rebecca (née Newell) Chickering.[2][3][4][1][5] The family lived at what is today 55 Haven St. in Dover.[2] Joseph, his six-year-old son and his four-year-old daughter all died within a week of each other in 1754.[2] Rebecca, her eight-year-old daughter also named Rebecca, and the 18 day old Jabez Chickering all survived.[2][3] After being taught religion by his mother, Chickering was found alone in his room praying one day when he was six years old.[3]

Rebecca remarried in 1757 to Deacon Joseph Haven, the first cousin of Jason Haven.[2] Joseph Haven's son, also named Joseph, studied under Jason Haven for the ministry.[2] Chickering studied theology under the minister in Springfield, Benjamin Caryl.[2][5] When Chickering's mother died in 1792, she left property to him and he then conveyed it to his step-brother, Noah Haven.[2]

In 1773-74, Chickering taught at the Colburn School.[4]

Family and later years[edit]

Chickering was graduated from Harvard College in 1774 with Fisher Ames and was a good student.[5][1][6][2][3][4] On April 22, 1777, Chickering married Hanna Balch, the daughter of Thomas Balch, his predecessor at the South Church.[7][4][3][8][9][10][5][11] They were married three years after the death of Hannah's father.[12]

Chickering and Hannah had six children, all raised in South Dedham.[12] One, a son, also named Jabez Chickering, was involved in the split of the First Church and Parish in Dedham and the Allin Congregational Church and the resulting lawsuit, Baker v. Fales.[13] The others were Lucy, Joseph, Elizabeth, Thomas, and Hannah.[12] Joseph became a minister and Thomas served in the military and fought in the War of 1812.[12] The daughter Hannah married Dr. John K. Briggs.[14][15] Chickering was 47 years old when his youngest daughter, Hannah, was born.[12] The family lived at 17 Walpole Street, the same house in which Chickering's wife grew up.[12]

Those who knew him described him as "a sprightly man, clear of voice, prudent and pacific in advice, remarkable in extemporary prayer.”[3] He would often carry peppermints to give to the children he met.[3] Chickering was a committed Federalist.[6]

He died, March 12, 1812.[1][16][3][4][5] For the nine months prior to his death, he was an invalid.[3]


The First Congregational Church of Norwood affixed a plaque to his crypt in the Old Parish Cemetery.[3] As of 2002, his 1806 house, "a fine example of the Federal style," still stands at the corner of Chickering Road and Walpole Street in Norwood.[17] After his death, a memorial window in his honor was placed in the meetinghouse.[15]


Chickering was settled as the minister in the Second Parish Church on July 3, 1776, and served until his death on March 12, 1812.[1][5][4][2][7][18][10][8][16][11] Manasseh Cutler attended his ordination.[7] Cutler was married to Chickering's wife's sister, Mary.[7] Chickering had two calls before he accepted the pulpit in South Dedham.[3]

In his 36 years at the church, he married 203 couples, added 78 congregants, and baptized 351 people.[3] He was a theological liberal but “without fear or interest he declared the whole counsel of God.”[3]

Library and charitable giving[edit]

On January 6, 1790, Chickering and 26 others began the Social Circulating Library for the people of South Dedham by lending out his personal collection.[19][20][21][22][8][23][24][16] In 1800, that library transitioned to the South Dedham Parish Library, for which there were officers, by-laws, and shareholders.[22][19] In that year, he donated $200 to the effort.[3] He collected 93 volumes to circulate, books that became the nucleus of the Morrill Memorial Library.[21][11] Today those books are on display at the Norwood Historical Society.[21][8]

Chickering held the books in a special bookcase he obtained from Thomas Balch.[3] That bookcase was later acquired and preserved by Fred Holland Day and is now held by the Norwood Historical Society.[3] In the final years of his life, Chickering gave his entire salary to charitable causes, including the library.[16][19][3][11]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Burgess 1840, p. 515.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 Lee, Elisha (Spring 2015). "The President's Letter" (PDF). Dover Tidings. The Dover Historical Society. VX (1). Retrieved June 4, 2021.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 Fanning, Patricia (January 29, 2020). "Rev. Jabez Chickering (1753-1812)". Old Parish Preservation Volunteers. Retrieved June 4, 2021.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Slafter, Carlos (1905). A Record of Education: The Schools and Teachers of Dedham, Massachusetts, 1644-1904. Dedham Transcript Press. p. 74. Retrieved June 6, 2021. Search this book on
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 Hurd, Duane Hamilton (1884). History of Norfolk County, Massachusetts: With Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men. J. W. Lewis & Company. p. 57. Retrieved June 6, 2021. Search this book on
  6. 6.0 6.1 Hanson 1976, p. 174.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Cutler, William Parker; Cutler, Julia Perkins (1888). Life, Journals and Correspondence of Rev. Manasseh Cutler, LL.D. R. Clarke. p. 56. Retrieved June 5, 2021. Search this book on
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Fanning 2002, p. 18.
  9. Grove 1997, p. 101.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Tolles 1973, p. 152.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Norwood 1906, p. 27.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 Fanning, Patricia (June 6, 2020). "Hannah Balch Chickering 1755-1839". Old Parish Preservation Volunteers. Retrieved June 4, 2021.
  13. Hanson 1976, p. 202-215.
  14. Grove 1997, p. 47.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Norwood 1906, p. 28.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 Smith 1936, p. 107.
  17. Fanning 2002, p. 18-19.
  18. Grove 1997, p. 11.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 Smith 1936, p. 279.
  20. Tolles 1973, p. 194.
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 Grove 1997, p. 112.
  22. 22.0 22.1 Fanning 2002, p. 45.
  23. Fanning 2002, p. 53.
  24. Canelli, Charlotte (May 18, 2009). "From the Library: Library is historic and modern". Wicked Local. Retrieved June 5, 2021.

Works cited[edit]

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