Joseph Capen

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Parson Capen House, built in 1683

Joseph Capen (1658–1725) was a Massachusetts clergyman. Capen was the son of John Capen of Dorchester, Massachusetts, by his second wife, Mary, the daughter of Samuel Bass of Braintree. Joseph Capen was a member of the class of 1677 at Harvard and was a minister in Topsfield, Massachusetts, from 1682 to his death in 1725.[1] Capen moved to Topsfield, Massachusetts, in 1682 to become the minister of the Topsfield town church. He was ordained as the successor of Jeremiah Hobart in 1684.[1] His predecessors set his prospects low: two of the past three ministers were unable to collect their salaries, and one of them went on trial for intemperance.[2] He had 7 children by his wife, Priscilla (1657–1743). After his death, Capen was succeeded by the minister John Emerson.[1]

In addition to his annual salary, the town granted Capen 12 acres of "land & medow [sic] & swamp" where he built his parsonage house, known today as the Parson Capen House.[3] Erected in 1683, this building has been preserved by the Topsfield Historical Society since 1913. It has been described by the National Park Service as “a perfect specimen of a New England colonial residence [and] also of the English manor house in America.” [4]

During the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, a member of Capen's congregation, Mary Eastey, was hanged for witchcraft. On July 8, 1703, Capen was among many other ministers[5] who signed an address to the general court that asked to formally clear the names of the accused.[6] Several eulogies written by Capen have also been preserved.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d "Joseph Capen". Biographical Sketches of Graduates of Harvard University, in Cambridge Massachusetts. Vol. II. Cambridge: Charles William Server, University Bookstore. 1881. pp. 519–522. 
  2. ^ Boulton, Alexander. "The Parson's Hearth". Retrieved 2011-02-15. 
  3. ^ Topsfield Historical Society (1895). George Francis Dow, ed. The historical collections of the Topsfield Historical Society, Volumes 1-4. Topsfield, Massachusetts: The Society. p. 53. 
  4. ^ National Park Service (2005-03-22). "Parson Capen House". Retrieved 2010-02-17. 
  5. ^ These men were: Thomas Barnard, Andover; Joseph Green, Salem; William Hubbard, Salem; John Wise, Ipswich; John Rogers, Ipswich; Jabez Fitch, Ipswich; Benjamin Rolfe, Haverhill; Samuel Cheever, Marblehead; Joseph Gerish, Wenham; Joseph Capen, Topsfield; Zacariah Symonds, Bradford and Thomas Symonds, Boxford. See Smith.
  6. ^ Smith, Sarah Saunders. "The Founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony". Retrieved 2011-02-15.