Nathaniel Thayer

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Nathaniel Thayer
Born (1769-07-11)July 11, 1769
Hampton, New Hampshire
Died June 23, 1840(1840-06-23) (aged 70)
Rochester, New York
Alma mater Harvard College
Spouse(s) Sarah Parker Toppan
Children 8
Parent(s) Ebenezer Thayer
Martha Cotton

Nathaniel Thayer (July 11, 1769 – June 23, 1840) was a congregational Unitarian[citation needed] minister.

Early life[edit]

Nathaniel Thayer was born in Hampton, New Hampshire to Ebenezer Thayer and Martha Olivia Cotton. His father was pastor in Hampton for many years. His maternal grandfather was John Cotton of Newton, Massachusetts, who was the great-grandson of John Cotton.[1][2]


Thayer graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy, then Harvard College in 1789 and was ordained junior pastor of a Congregational meeting house in Lancaster, Massachusetts on October 9, 1793. He received a Doctor of Divinity degree from Harvard in 1817.[1] The Lancaster congregation's fifth meeting house designed by Charles Bulfinch in 1816, was built during his tenure.

Respected for his "tact and sagacity", Thayer's involvement was often sought to settle ecclesiastical disputes across the state of Massachusetts. As a result, in his 47 years as a minister, he served on more than 150 church councils,[3][4] and he frequently drew up the decisions.[2]

For a number of years, Thayer was involved in a dispute with James G. Carter, then-Deacon of Thayer's congregation and later a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, over the latter's refusal to return funds donated toward the establishment of an instructional academy that failed to materialise. Thayer publicly denounced Carter's actions and called on him to reimburse donors of the failed project. Carter, however, refused and was eventually removed from his position as the church's Deacon. Messerli (1965) argues that Carter's alienation of Thayer (and, by extension, most of the state's clergy) significantly contributed to his loss to Horace Mann in the 1837 election for the position of Secretary of the just-established Massachusetts Board of Education, the first state board of education in the United States.[5]

Personal life[edit]

On October 22, 1795, Thayer married Sarah Parker Toppan, daughter of Christopher Toppan and Sarah Parker, by whom he had eight children.[1]

  • Sarah "Sally" Toppan Thayer (1796–1831)
  • Martha Thayer (b. 1798)
  • Mary Ann Thayer (b. 1800)
  • Nathaniel Thayer (1802) died of "fits" at 6 weeks
  • John Elliott Thayer (1803–1857), who married Adele Granger (1819–1892), the daughter of U.S. Representative Francis Granger in 1855. After his early death, she married Robert Charles Winthrop (1809–1894).[6]
  • Christopher Toppan Thayer (b. 1805)
  • Nathaniel Thayer, Jr. (1808–1883), who married Cornelia Patterson Van Rensselaer (1823–1897), daughter of Stephen Van Rensselaer IV.[6]
  • Abigail Thayer (1812–1834)

Thayer died June 30, 1840, in Rochester, New York at the age of 71, "while journeying for pleasure & improvement of his health, to the falls at Niagara on a trip for health reasons."[7]


  1. ^ a b c "Nathaniel Thayer. Papers, 1798-1844". Andover-Harvard Theological Library. Harvard Divinity School. 2005-11-22. Retrieved 2007-03-16. 
  2. ^ a b Wikisource-logo.svg Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1889). "Thayer, Nathaniel". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton. 
  3. ^ Sprague, William B. (1865) [1857]. Annals of the American Pulpit: Or, Commemorative Notices of Distinguished Clergymen of the Episcopal Church in the United States, Vol 5. New York: Robert Carter & Brothers. pp. 246–50. 
  4. ^ Wilson, James Grant; John Fiske, eds. ([1889] 1968). "Nathaniel Thayer". Appleton's Cyclopaedia of American Biography. VI. Gale Research. p. 73.  Check date values in: |year= (help)
  5. ^ Messerli, Jonathan C. (March 1965). "James G. Carter's Liabilities as a Common School Reformer". History of Education Quarterly. History of Education Society. 5 (1): 19–20. doi:10.2307/366934. JSTOR 366934. 
  6. ^ a b Reynolds, Cuyler (1914). Genealogical and Family History of Southern New York and the Hudson River Valley: A Record of the Achievements of Her People in the Making of a Commonwealth and the Building of a Nation. Lewis Historical Publishing Company. p. 1151. Retrieved 25 July 2017. 
  7. ^
  • Nathaniel Thayer, Papers, bMS 597, Andover-Harvard Theological Library, Harvard Divinity School; Papers, 1798-1844.
  • A sermon delivered before the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts in Boston, June 4, 1798: being the anniversary of their election of officers; Boston: Printed by Manning & Loring, 1798; 20pp
  • The preaching and practice of the apostles recommended as a model for the ministers of Christ: a sermon preached at the ordination of the Rev. Elihu Whitcomb, as pastor of the Christian Society in Pepperellborough, on the 3d. of July, 1799; Printed at Portland [Me.] by B. Titcomb, 1799. 22pp
  • A sermon delivered at Lancaster...Dec. 29, 1816; Worcester, 1817
  • A discourse, pronounced before His Excellency John Brooks, esq., governor, His Honor William Phillips, esq., lieutenant governor, the honorable council, and the two houses, composing the Legislature of Massachusetts, on the anniversary election, May 28, 1823; Boston, Printed by order of the legislature, 1823; 24 pp.
  • A discourse, delivered January 27, 1830, at the ordination of Rev. Christopher T. Thayer, to the pastoral care of the first parish in Beverly, MA. Salem: Foote & Brown, 1830; 36 pp.
  • Nathaniel Thayer. Records of the [Lancaster, Massachusetts Congregational] Church in the Case of Deacon James G. Carter and a Reply to the Communicate Made by him to the Brethren, on the Day of His Removal from the Office of Deacon; Lancaster, 1832

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