William J. Purington papers

Collection 4004

1855-1894, undated
(0.4 Linear feet ; 1 box)

Summary Information

Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Purington, William J.
William J. Purington papers
1855-1894, undated
0.4 Linear feet ; 1 box
Finding aid prepared by Weckea D. Lilly.
This collection consists of six manuscript volumes of William J. Purington, a nineteenth century Baptist minister who was originally from Maine and later settled in Hopewell, Mercer County, New Jersey. These volumes document Purington's thoughts on various religious matters and intellectual debates of the day, along with his preaching engagements (including marriages and funerals), travels, and other church-related and administrative activities.

Preferred citation

[Indicate cited item or series here], William J. Purington papers (Collection 4004), Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

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Background note

The Puringtons (Purinton) settled in Maine when they first came to the New World. Various branches of the family started to migrate southward about the fifth and sixth generations. Many of them resettled mostly in either Pennsylvania or Virginia. Issac and Rachel Purinton, William J. Purington's parents, remained in New England where they died on the family's farm. Upon invitation, drawing him out of Anson, Maine, Purington made his way to Washington, D.C., to minister at a church there. He later settled in Hopewell, Mercer County, New Jersey. He and his wife spent much of their lives traveling up and down the the eastern seaboard ministering to large and small Baptist congregations.

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Scope and content note

The William J. Purington papers are comprised of six volumes and one box that contains loose papers removed from the volumes. The collection documents Purington's life and work between the years of 1855 and 1894. They contain details on his preaching engagements and the many invitations he received to preach in numerous states along America's Eastern coast, from North Carolina to Maine. Mixed among his work-related entries are those with his personal thoughts on religion and theology wherein he interpreting religious passages and offered contrary opinions. Of the six volumes, one is a formal diary (Volume 4) that contains Purington's notes on his daily activities and general interactions. Genealogists may find especially useful his prolific recordings of marriages and funerals (Volumes 1 and 2). There is one volume in the collection (Volume 6) that did not originate from Purington.

Volume 1 (1855-1865) contains a mix of daily recordings of biblical texts, morning and afternoon devotionals, and what appears to be Purington's intellectual and philosophical engagement with ideas of the biblical text, which he had labeled as "Absolute Predestination." In most cases these engagements take on a question-and-answer structure. Other recordings include summaries of letters received, usually from other ministers, and his replies. There are several passages in the volume that are written in Latin. Purington wrote about a number of subjects including baptism, religious expression, hermeneutics and textual meanings of bible scripture, and the performative aspects of preaching. In one such passage, he suggests, "In what you teach be brief, that tractable and faithful minds may perceive and hold fast what is quickly spoken." Other recordings include notations of marriages, funerals, and lists of "Disbursing Accont", and daily weather conditions.

Volume 2 (1856-1894) is a record of marriages and funerals attended and/or officiated.

Volume 3 (1869-1885) recorded the events William attended, including regular monthly meetings and service. Of these engagements he also provided the theme of his discussion at the meetings, along with the verse from the Bible that inspired his speech. The last twenty pages of the volume serves as a record of "State of Account . . ."of years from 1871 to 1885. The account holders include the Southampton Old School Baptist Church and its corporation, the Second Baptist Church, the Harbourtown Church, and the First Baptist Church, all of Hopewell, New Jersey.

Volume 4 (1872-1875) is a diary of "Notes and Remarks" which are an eclectic recording moving from an assessment of the weather and its effects to provocative discussions of religious ideals and the bible to the letters he received that day to killing chickens and picking grapes for dinner. Perhaps a growing restlessness with himself on April 12, 1876, he offered a rather elaborate discussion of the weather and his work in the garden, and ends it simply, "This fills my diary." The last portion of this volume, about five pages, gives a list of "Post Offices and Names" in various U. S. states, Canada, and England.

Volume 5 (undated) contains Purington's "Comments Upon the Second Epistle of John," in which he offers an 84-page series of critical reflections of 2 John, Verses 1 through 13.

Volume 6 (1864, 1865) is titled "F. A. Chick's Arguments in the Affirmative." Whis volume was not composed by Purington, rather it contains a response by one F. A. Chick in support of the proposition "that capital punishment is justifiable." The last two pages of the volume contain another work by Chick, written June 1865, entitled “A Dissertation upon Gray’s Elegy in a Country Churchyard.”

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

 Historical Society of Pennsylvania , July 2016.

1300 Locust Street
Philadelphia, PA, 19107

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Controlled Access Headings

Geographic Name(s)

  • Southampton (Bucks County, Pa.: Township)

Personal Name(s)

  • Cullen, Thomas


  • Old School Baptists

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Bucks County Historical Society. A Collection of Papers Read Before the Bucks County Historical Society. [Easton, Pa.]: Published for the Society by B.F. Fackenthal, Jr., 1908.

Phillips, Stanley C. (ed.). The Selected Works of Elder Joseph L. Purington 1820-1874. Quitman, MS: The Pedestrian Publisher, 2014.

White, John Barber, and Lillian May Wilson. Genealogy of the Descendants of Thomas Gleason of Watertown, Mass. 1607-1909. Haverhill, Mass.: Press of the Nichols print, 1909.

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Collection Inventory

Box Volume

Volume 1 1855-1865 

1 1

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Volume 2 1856-1894 

1 2

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Volume 3 1869-1885 

1 3

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Volume 4: "Notes and Remarks" 1872-1875 

1 4

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Volume 5: "Comments Upon the Second Epistle of John" undated 

1 5

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Volume 6: "F. A. Chick's Arguments in the Affirmative" 1864, 1865 

1 6

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Box Folder

Items Removed from Volumes 1 and 4 n.d., 1875, 1893 

1 1

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