Canton Historical Society


Zachariah Howard Was
Well-loved Minister




Zachariah Howard, the third rninister of the First Parish Church, was born in Bridgewater in 1758. He was ordained as the third minister on October 15, 1786 and his salary gives us an indication of the wage scale of that era. His annual salary was voted to be 90 pounds, and he was given a gratuity of 200 pounds "to lay a foundation for his comfortable and honorable support, half to be paid the first year and half the second year after his settlement." Ten cords of firewood were an annual grant while he remained single and twenty cords if he had a family or kept house for himself.

Apparently, Mr. Howard was satisfied with his economic lot until 1805, when he addressed a letter to the Town "respecting the depreciation of the currency and his suffering in consequence thereof." The Town, after due deliberation by a very large committee, voted the minister an addition of $150 for the ensuing four years. However, since he died on September 18, 1806, his raise in pay did not benefit Mr. Howard very long. We can only hope that he had eked out a comfortable existence from the 27-acre farm on Pleasant Street (The Little Red House) which he had bought in 1787, the year he was married to Miss Martha Crafts commonly known as "Patty".

Mrs. Howard was a kindly soul who outlived her husband by 50 years. In contrast to his relatively early demise at 48 years, she lived to be 95, residing in the same house she had occupied "in the happy days when her husband was the honored young minister of the Town."

Huntoon gives us a humorous glimpse into the married life of the Rev. Howard and his wife, who apparently was superstitious. On one occasion, when he returned home in the evening after visiting some of the neighbors the minister found his wife worrying because a whippoorwill had sat upon their doorstep and sung while her husband had been out. She felt this was a bad omen indicating that "something dreadful is going to happen."

"Oh, if that is all," replied the parson in this anecdote recorded by a writer in the Norfolk County Gazette, "don't be troubled, my dear, for if the Lord has any message to communicate to me, he must send a more important messenger than the whippoorwill I shall pay no attention to it."

When Mr. Howard died, the townspeople came in such numbers to honor him at his funeral that the galleries of the church were propped up beforehand. Perhaps the reason for his popularity is reflected in Huntoon's description of him:

"He was ever attentive to the wants of the needy and afflicted. He did not point religion in the dark and forbidding colors of austerity and sadness. To him it appeared in the smiling attitude of cheerfulness and hope. The undisputed doctrines of religion repentance, faith, love, and obedience constituted the body of his preaching"