James Osgood held the distinction of being the first minister of the Church of Christ in Stoneham, MA. He was born the first day of August, 1705, in Salem, MA, the youngest son of Deacon Peter and Martha (Ayers) Osgood. The elder Osgood was a tanner by trade and a member of the General Court. He must have done well at his trade, for he sent both James and his older brother William to Harvard University.
James found himself caught up in the student riot of 1722 at Harvard, managing to break glass to the value of 11 shillings. It seems he was more a victim of the uprising than an active participant, for when he took his MA in 1727, he stood out “as one of the soberest and quietest members of his class.” (Colonial Collegians: Biographies of Those Who Attended American Colleges before the War for Independence)
It wasn’t long after his graduation that James made the move 15 miles west from Salem to Stoneham to take up his post as the town’s first minister. An account of the Rev. Osgood’s appoinment is found in History of Stoneham, Massachusetts as follows …
The house built by Osgood was praised for its elegance:
“All the old residents will remember the parsonage of Parson Osgood. It stood on the corner of Green Street, about opposite the house of the late Reuben Locke, and was the best specimen of architectural style among us, which antedated the Revolution.” (History of Stoneham, Massachusetts. By William Burnham Stevens and Francis Lester Whittier. 1891.)
When James went to Stoneham, he brought his bride, Sarah, daughter of the Rev. John Fiske of Killingly, CT. They had two children, Abigail (b. 1737) and John (b. 1739). It is through Abigail that I descend from the Rev. Osgood; Abigail is the 6th g-grandmother of my maternal grandmother, Delia Jane Feister Irvine.
From 12 April – 28 November 1731, Rev. Osgood kept a diary in his neat and distinctive handwriting. The entries include notes on church meetings, ministerial duties, sermons delivered and the ordination of local clergy. Occasional entries also note the construction of his house, including the names of individuals who helped with the construction, visits to neighboring communities, and the weather.
The diary is now part of the collection at the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston. I’ve been in touch with a librarian at the MHS and found they’ve captured the diary on microfilm. I will be ordering a photocopy of the diary entries. I’m eager to get a glimpse into the life of my 8th great-grandfather, composed over 280 years ago!
The Rev. James Osgood died “suddenly of apoplexy” (i.e. cerebral hemorrhage or stroke). An account of his passing is found in the church books:
“The second day of March, 1746, Rev. Mr. James Osgood died and was Interred the fifth when his Corpse was carried to ye Meeting-House and there attended to the grave by several ministers and a great Concourse of People.” (History of Stoneham, Massachusetts)
The grave of James Osgood can be found at the Old Burying Ground in Stoneham.
- Rev. James Osgood memorial on Findagrave
- Sarah Fiske Osgood Hart memorial on Findagrave
- Stoneham Historical Society
- A genealogy of the descendants of John, Christopher and William Osgood, who came from England and settled in New England early in the seventeenth century (1894)
On a side note, James’ paternal grandmother was Mary Clements Osgood, one of those accused of witchcraft during the hysteria at Salem in 1692. If you’re interested in reading up on poor old Mary:
- Salem Witchcraft Papers – Mary Osgood
- Witches of Massachusetts
- List of people at the Salem Witch Trials (Wikipedia)