…over a covered bridge, along the twisting Hammond River and nestled into a mountain valley, sits a pretty little white sided church called the Smithtown United Baptist Church. This is probably my quintessential family historical church because not only did my ancestors start the Church, but my own grandmother went there as a youth and eventually became a member. I recall Gramma’s memories of the Sunday School picnics across the road at the river’s edge.
My great great great great Grandfather, James Beyea , gave up some of his newly inherited land so that this little Church could be built… and although his roots were as an Anglican, this land he gave to the Baptists.
Nine years earlier James’ father, James Beyea UEL, died. He was a staunch Anglican and he had, earlier in his life, invited a Baptist man to preach to the community. Why would a staunch Anglican invite the Baptists to share their ideas?
Descendant Andrew Beyea was the first published Beyea historian. He wrote “The History of French Village” and “A Biographical Sketch of the Beyea Family”. In these he tells the tale of a “club-footed itinerant Baptist preacher” named Giles Smith. He had just come from Sussex NB where they had tied him to his horse, backwards, and whipped the horse so that he bolted out of town. When he arrived in the Smithtown area he most certainly did not expect a joyous reception. God’s guidance led Giles to James Beyea’s homestead, and although the locals tried to get James to expell Rev. Smith in a similar way as Sussex had, James remembered his own father’s sufferings as a Huguenot and apparently said the following:
Since my forefathers, in their day,
had suffered so much for the sake of the Gospel,
my house will always be open to any person
who desires to preach its truth.
James followed this speech with an invitation to all his neighbours to listen to what the preacher, Giles Smith, had to say.
James’ wife, Martha Curry Sherwood Beyea was a tiny dark eyed beauty, with a touch of native blood, and she took the preacher’s words to heart. She really believed that this was the way that God was meant to be worshiped. Martha’s sister Rachel also felt the conviction to become a Baptist, and they shared, with their husbands, their newly energized faith!
James loyalty to Britain in the Revolutionary War reinforced his commitment to the Anglican Church, but thankfully his loyalty was not blind and one sided. James listened to the musings of his wife and supported her decision to believe in a different method of worship, although he decided to remain an Anglican. Rachel’s husband, Humphrey Bull, was not as tolerant, and he sought a legal way to prevent her from becoming Baptist (what the outcome of that was, I do not know).
In 1818, when there was enough local support to build a Baptist Church, the son of James Beyea, the Anglican, gave one acre of land for the building of the Smithtown United Baptist Church… in honour of his mother and in memory of his very tolerant father.
Buried at the Smithtown Baptist Church, NB, are my great grandparents, Harry & Annie (Barr) Beyea; my great great grandparents, James Henry & Phoebe (Smith) Beyea; my great great great grandparents, James & Dorcas Smith; my great great great great grandparents, Richard & Phoebe (Beyea) Smith. This Phoebe was the daughter and sister to the two James Beyea’s mentioned above.