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Benjamin Holloway Bailey

1861 - 1867


Benjamin Holloway Bailey was born in Bolton, Massachusetts on July 5, 1829 to Holloway and Lucy Sawyer Bailey.  He grew up on the family farm in Northborough, Massachusetts where he attended district school before extending his education at Bridgewater Normal College, Leicester Academy, and Harvard College, where he graduated in 1854. He went on to teach high school in Chicopee and Providence. After a stint of studying the law, Bailey enrolled in Harvard Divinity School from which he graduated in 1860.  Bailey was reputedly a very sought-after ministerial candidate who quickly won the approval of and a call from Dedham church leaders, one of whom recounted that “He came here a young man, a fine scholar, of noble presence, in exceptionally vigorous health, with great strength of feeling, and rare readiness and aptness of utterance.” While living in Dedham Bailey met his wife, Emily F. Sampson whom he married on June 1, 1864 and with whom he had five children.

Bailey was First Church minister throughout the turbulent years of the Civil War. Although Bailey tried to avoid excessive partisan moralizing from the pulpit for fear of alienating some more conservative parishioners, war vicissitudes dramatically impacted his ministry and the activities of his congregation. To begin with, 33 of the church’s fathers and sons enlisted in the Navy and Army, fought in Virginia, North Carolina, South Caroline, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Georgia, and several of them died in the field, in hospitals, and in prisoner of war camps. Next, First Church women chaired the 24-member Ladies’ Soldiers’ Aid Society that made and distributed over ten thousand articles of clothing for men at the front, as well as providing medical supplies for hospitals treating wounded soldiers. Indeed, on Sunday, August 31, 1862, Bailey’s sermon was interrupted by a messenger who gave him word of the rout of Union forces (including a Dedham unit) with massive casualties at the 2nd Battle of Bull Run. “The announcement from the pulpit at the close of the service,” a witness remembered, “called [us] to duty of another kind. One of our homes was transformed into a factory for the afternoon, filled with generous hearts and busy fingers from other congregations … and before nightfall twenty- seven cases … of clothing, bandages, lint, jellies, cordials, and other necessities and comforts," were on their way to the Army hospitals. Lastly, after Appomattox, the Ladies’ Soldiers’ Aid Society morphed into the Ladies Freedman’s Aid Society which provisioned Yankee teachers in the post-Civil War South, one of whom pioneered the Port Royal experiment in South Carolina where many of the Radical Republican Reconstruction policies were first tried out.  Two other notable developments at First Church under Bailey’s leadership were the congregation’s 1865 initiation of fundraising for American Unitarian Association missionary activities and the beginning of lay-led prayer services and conferences in 1867.

Bailey resigned his Dedham ministry in October 1867, to assume the pastorate of the First Parish in Portland, Maine, where he remained for five years. Beginning in 1872 he next served in Marblehead, Massachusetts for twelve years.  While in Marblehead, Bailey resumed teaching and tutoring secondary students. Boys would either lodge with his family to study under him or were taught as day students. It was said of his tutelage, “For quickening the intelligence of dull or backward pupils he had an acknowledged gift.” After his time in Marblehead, Bailey moved on to Malden where he ministered at First Parish and served on the Malden School Committee. Bailey’s final clerical appointment was in Westford, Massachusetts where from 1897 till 1913 he ministered to the Westford Unitarian Church congregation and was a member of The Grange. Bailey died in Jamaica Plain in 1919 at the ripe age of 90.


Benjamin Holloway Bailey (1861-1867)
A brief history of the last three pastorates of the First parish in Dedham, 1860-1888 : a sermon preached November 11, 1888 : Beach, Seth Curtis, 1837-1932 : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive
Benjamin H. Bailey - Wikipedia
History of Dedham by Frank Smith:
Filing Cabinet: Ministers-1688-1897: First Church Papers- 1627-1965; Dedham Museum and Archive

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