Rev. William Waite was born June 9, 1731 in Rhode Island. He became a silversmith and a Baptist clergyman. He married Mary Nichols in 1751 in Rhode Island, where they supposedly remained until 1772 when they moved to the White Creek, New York area. They may also have first moved to the Dutchess County NY area, then to White Creek as so many others did. Rev. Waite planted a Baptist church in the area. A log building was constructed at what is now the intersection of County Route 68 and the North Hoosick Road (Curtis Corners, later called Barker’s Corners). According to Grace Niles, the first members in 1772 were Samuel Hodge, Peter Surdam, Obadiah and Levi Beardsley, Isaac Bull, a Mr. Biglow, Francis Bennett, Simeon Sweet, Thomas Sickles, and John Corey – along with Deacons Waldo and Goff who came to the area with Waite.
Only a few years after its founding, the church was nearly destroyed by the Battle of Bennington. About half the congregation sided with the British and half with the Americans. (Rev. William Waite fought in the Battle on the American side, helping procure supplies for General Stark). These events finished the church for about two years, but Rev. Waite was able to collect three other members and begin the work again. In 1779 the church was formally reorganized.
The sign at the site says the church building was burned during the battle, but there seems no record of that, while one report says it was used to house Hessian prisoners after the battle and another that the church continued to meet there until 1788 and that it was sold in 17901. By 1783/84 they were outgrowing the small log building and decided to build a bigger new one a half mile to the west at the corner of today’s present Andrews Road and County Route 68. However in 1784 Rev. Waite gave the church a piece of land from his farm in Center White Creek, two or three miles west of the previous building, where today’s Center White Creek Baptist Church still stands. A much bigger building there was begun at that time, and occupied in 1788 though not completed until after several years later. The log church was sold in 1790. The original building at the present site was replaced again by the present structure in 1855. Rev. Waite retired from preaching in 1793, though as we will see he wasn’t formally discharged until 1799.
The list of members at the reorganization in 1779 still exists. Forty-one men and twenty-six women are listed. William Waite’s wife is not on the list for some reason. William himself has “excommunicated” written in after his name, obviously sometime after 1779. Possibly the reason for this was that his son Benjamin Waite and Ann Waldo (Benjamin’s wife by that time) had had a child out of wedlock and didn’t seem the least repentant about it. Deacon John Waldo, Ann’s father, supported them. All three were excommunicated. On May 11 1782 at conference it was proposed that all that intended to go forward in the Church in Travel should renew Covenant (insert: and pass inspection) & did renew, Br. Wm Waite, Henry Smith, Ichabod Bump, Joseph Tanner, Charles Dake, Benj. Smith, Comfort Curtice, Wm. Brown. More names listed on subsequent date that include Wm Wait Jr2. But in July of 1784 Benjamin Waite and John Waldo publicly repented and were welcomed back into the church, which a couple of weeks later admonished William Waite and John Waldo to work out their remaining differences. Ann isn’t mentioned one way or the other.
I sympathize with William. His son got his good friend’s daughter pregnant, and evidently refused to marry her until after the baby was born. William was the founder and leader of the church and was on the hot seat in this matter, which was dividing the church. His relationship with John Waldo, a friend and one of his two deacons, was broken. I am sure many modern pastors can also sympathize!
Another possible cause of William Waite being excommunicated was the bad feelings that developed because William hadn’t been paid for his services, probably since he started the church. In September of 1791 William put his foot down, requesting that the church commit to paying him up to 40 pounds a year in the future for his pastoral care, apparently on the basis that the church had said he deserved something for his labor the month before in August. The church got around to taking the matter up on November 12. After much debate they seemed to be leaning towards the view that they did not have the means to pay him. Waite then requested they dismiss him in writing, but there was too much disagreement to do so. The matter went around and around and dragged on and on, with the situation deteriorating and William’s attendance becoming more irregular during 1792 and 1793, until he was finally formally dismissed in 17993.
My guess would be that whoever wrote the notes on the original 1779 list mistakenly assumed that William Waite’s written dismissal was from the Church (excommunication), rather than just from the pastoral position in the church that he held. Or perhaps he was excommunicated in 1799, as the notes say the church decided to “withdraw Waite”.
It helps to understand that the American economy was in an absolute mess after the Revolution. Simeon Covell wrote a letter from Dutchess County in 1786 while retrieving his children in which he states: “the distress which the people in general feel (viz) their trade ruined, by various means, which are obvious, to the smallest capacity, by many captures and depredations committed by the Algerians, England, France and Spain and likewise the Dutch, restricting their navigation so as to render it unprofitable. Nothing but anarchy and confusion throughout, Boston state at present prevented of the exercise of their own laws, by the mob, Vermont the same, New York state in distress for bread, by means of a vermin not much unlike a lows, which for two years past has destroyed all the wheat, so that the inhabitants buy at New York to supply the County of Dutches with bread, formerly such a wheat country.4”
Money was scarce, but by 1793 things had picked up and they could have paid him something!
My guess would be that this was the actual cause of William Waite being “excommunicated”.
In any case, in January of 1821, when his grandson’s wife Sally traveled down from Tinmouth, Vermont to visit, William seems to have been in good spirits and the family attended the Baptist Church together on Sunday. Elder Tinkham was the preacher at the time. Sally wrote that Mary, William’s wife, was “very feeble and like a child”. She died in 1822, and William in 1826. Their 11 children all seem to have survived them 5.
References for further research:
1There are some differences in the accounts of where the early church met and when, some saying it started in Walloomsac and moved to meet at Barker’s Corners after the Battle of Bennington, others saying it met at Barker’s Corners and that building was burned in the Battle. The historical marker at the site claims the latter. At one time there was a small cemetery there, but it has long since disappeared. Two stones are left.
2“Notes from Center White Creek books at Southern Baptist Archives in Nashville”, obtained by Mary Tribble in 2017.
3 “Notes from Center White Creek books at Southern Baptist Archives in Nashville”, obtained by Mary Tribble in 2017.
4 The letter is reported to have been published in “Historical Magazine”, the date and issue however is unknown, but had to be between 1866 and 1876.
5 Letter written in January 1821 by Sarah (Sally) Merriam Waite in Brandon, VT to her husband Samuel Waite in Philadelphia, PA. Samuel was at Columbia College (now George Washington University). Letter transcribed and emailed to Ted Rice by Mary Tribble.