New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

Rusagonis and George Garraty

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Why Bother Reading this Blog Post?: 

Posts about religious history are not popular. Neither was I attracted to the subject until I realized that it was a neglected topic that revealed a surprising amount about our ancestors. So, there may be some benefit in reading this. 

Why Not to Bother Reading this Blog Post!: 

These few pages chronicle an odd journey. The story starts out on the Oromocto Baptist history road until it reaches the river. It then exits at Rusagonis for a brief visit before wandering off in a different direction with George Garraty. 

So, it’s up to you and here it is: 

Oromocto River Baptists; Rusagonis; and George Garraty 

The present Baptist churches on the Oromocto River have their roots in the Newlight movement of pre-Loyalist days, when Henry Alline led the ‘Nova Scotia Great Awakening’ between 1776 and 1784. He visited Maugerville in 1779, and a Newlight church was established on the Saint John River. The patchwork of religious denominations became larger with the coming of the Loyalists, but the Newlights remained and grew, especially in rural areas. 

The Newlights were not really a religious denomination in that they had no central hierarchy or organization. Each congregation was separate and independent since they believed that “it may be profitable to call for advice, & Council from Sister Churches, which ought to be taken as far as it is warrantable by the word and Spirit of god, but their Judgment alone is not to be imposed on the major part of the church.” 

Another important feature of the Newlight congregations was their absolute reliance on rapturous heaven-sent personal experiences with Spirit of God; including a rapturous conversion which was evidence enough to justify membership in a congregation. Other observances such as creeds, catechisms and even covenants were rejected outright since no summary or side-text was acceptable in place of their only guide: the New Testament. Baptism was left to the individual since it was “non-essencial (and) ought not to be a bar of communion among true Christians.” 

I have been using the term ‘Newlight’, and the name ‘Allinite’ has also been applied as a general descriptor. For themselves, they used the name ‘Christian’ since this was the only name that they could justify based on the New Testament. 

These practices were outside the norm and the Newlights were considered to be incorrect in their religion. This was not only by the Church of England, as might have been expected, but also by Methodists and Baptists who were moving away from radical emotionalism. The Newlight congregations continued to multiply, however, which brought a sense of self-confidence and a desire to be accepted as a legitimate faith. 

In 1810, some Newlight churches became regular Baptist and closed communion to non-members in order to force compliance with the union. This created division and many people refused to join, including those on the Oromocto. 

A very great change came at a conference in Wakefield on October 13, 1832 when a new church was formed: the New Brunswick Christian Conference. In doing this, the Christian churches, or Newlights, had associated themselves with the Christian Connection of New England. This introduced an organization and an implied hierarchy that had not existed previously and was not accepted easily. Elder Samuel Hartt “could in no wise agree” with the decision, for example, but that battle was lost and he later changed his mind. 

The 1838 conference was preceded by a period of revival, and Christian churches were established in Blissville and Rusagonis in 1833, before the new church was established at the conference. 

There was a regular Baptist Church in Rusagonis in 1826, and Solomon Smith was a member. This church did not last, and Solomon Smith became one of the first deacons of the Rusagonis Christian Church and was later ordained. 

Thomas Smith was the first clerk of the Rusagonis Christian Church, and it was he who recorded its early history in the church book. He wrote that “the cause of religion was low” when George Garraty began preaching in Rusagonis in mid-1833. Garraty was a schoolmaster from Lincoln and also taught in Rusagonis. He began preaching before he was a member of the Christian Church and, by July 1, 1833, his preaching had developed into a revival. After several more weeks the people “consulted together and being the desire of the young Brethren and Sisters concluded by the strength of the Blessing of God to have a Christian Church organized.” This posed a problem, however, since George Garraty was not ordained. He would become Secretary of the Christian Conference and be ordained in November of 1833 only three months after joining the Church, but events were unfolding too rapidly for that. So they called upon Elder William Pennington to join them from “down the main river” to help them form a church. 

Garraty did not stay with the Rusagonis church since, in 1838, there was a meeting “in church with Elders Samuel Hartt, William Pennington, Abner Mersereau and Elder Hamilton from the United States… to take into consideration circumstances relating to George Garrety in consequence of his refusing to inact his brethren in causes at sundry times.” It was decided to summon Mr. Garraty to account for himself, but he did not respond positively. “We then read a letter … stating his reasons for not meeting with his brethren …. After we had considered the contents of the letter the church then spoke one by one when it was found that all present with the exception of one still wished to unite with their brethren in General Conference.” 

It sounds as though Garraty was unhappy with the formation of the New Brunswick Christian Conference, but this was not the whole story. He was accused of preaching false doctrine after he argued against the Conference’s support for a breakaway sect of the Christian Connection in New England. He, on the other hand, railed against the “peculiar revelations” claimed by church leaders and the radical enthusiasm which they promoted. He criticized the elders for being dishonest and dictatorial and for holding court where “there was always a little pope.” 

George Garraty was expelled from the Christian Church on October 5, 1838, whereupon he joined the Disciples of Christ, or simply the ‘Disciples’. Garraty remained an outsider. Joshua Barnes observed years later, that he was in Grand Manan “making divisions on every hand”. 

George Garraty was active with the Disciples for many years, and played a role in many congregations in Nova Scotia and in New Brunswick. 

A Final Note 

The Christian Church of the New Brunswick Christian Conference did not become known as the Free Christian Baptist Church until 1847. 

Anther Final Note 

Have you got different religious ancestors? It would be a great idea to write about it.


Written by johnwood1946

May 23, 2012 at 3:13 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

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