The early nineteenth century was a time of great religious change in New Hampshire. New Christian sects were sprouting up, including the Millerites, (now Seventh Day Adventists), the Mormons, and also a little known sect with its roots in Warner, New Hampshire called the “Osgoodites.”
The founder of the Osgoodites was Jacob Osgood, son of Philip & Mehitable (Flanders) Osgood. He was born in South Hampton, New Hampshire 16 March 1777, and moved to Warner with his family as a young boy. He married Miriam Stevens, daughter of Jonathan Stevens of Sutton. In 1812 he built a low, unpainted house with ragged chimneys on his hundred-acre farm on the Mink Hills in the upper part of Warner. His physical weight sometimes reached 350 pounds. He was “a man of considerable ability and of the warmest sympathies.”
The Osgoodites were honest and charitable Christians. They also rejected Calvinism,
Universalism and Freewill Baptist theology. They believed that everything established by law was from the devil, and were particularly opposed to paid ministers, lawyers, magistrates (judges), and town meetings. They did not approve of a fighting religion and refused to “appear armed and equipped as the law directs with gun, knapsack, priming wire and brush” on militia training days. As a result they were arrested, sometimes jailed, and their crops and cattle sold by the sheriff to pay the fines and taxes.
They used laying on of hands to heal the sick, rather than use the skills of the local physicians. (Considering the limited knowledge of the medical profession of that day, this may not have been a bad thing). One of the “Osgoodites,” Josiah Flames, died and he mentions this beliefs on his tombstone:
“Josiah flames died May 29, 1838, aged 60.
He was a blessing to the saints,
To sinners rich and poor;
He was a kind and worthy man,
Hes gone to be no more.
He kept the faith unto the end,
And left the world in peace.
He did not for a doctor send,
Nor for a hireling priest.”
The religious meetings of the “Osgoodites” consisted of one service, all taking part. Songs, prayers, and “exhortations” were intermixed. When there became a lull, unlike the Quakers, they did not sit in silence. Jacob Osgood, without rising, would close the exercises in these words. “If there’s no more to be said, meeting’s done.”
About 1830 they held a “revival meetings” on Kearsarge mountain. The Osgoodites composed a song (referring to this fact) which was very popular in their meetings for years. It consisted of twelve or fifteen verses, the first of which was as follows:
“In eighteen hundred thirty-two
A band of locusts hove in view:
They were quite thick in every town:
They had great meetings all around.”
In dress the Osgoodites were different than their neighbors. The men wore their hair long and unkempt, while the style of their clothes was outmoded. The dress of the women were cut straight and entirely plain, and they wore a white kerchief across their shoulders. Women wore a linen bonnet in summer and a woolen hood in winter, with their hair being long and plain.
Jacob Osgood died 29 November 1844, and Nehemiah Ordway and Charles H. Colby became the ruling elders.
The Osgoodites never attained widespread importance, and indeed the sect was limited to a few towns in the State of New Hampshire (mostly Warner, Sutton, Canterbury, and Northfield). Jacob Osgood was the real force behind the movement. Those who succeeded him failed to maintain or increase their numbers. Meetings came to be held more and more infrequently and before 1890 they had ceased altogether.
According to the town histories, Sally Grover, daughter of Edmund & Dorcas (Merrill) Grover, born 10 November 1813, who died September 5, 1897 in Northfield, New Hampshire was the last of the Osgoodite sect. Her death certificate states her parentage as daughter of Stephen, but this is incorrect, as Stephen was her brother.
–History of the Osgoodites, from History of Warner NH–
– History of the Osgoodites, from the Canterbury Town Report.
– History of the Osgoodites (with different details), from the History of Northfield NH
[Editor’s note: this story was updated 7 August 2015]