William Walter, D.D. (1737 - 1800)

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Birthplace: West Roxbury, Suffolk, Massachusetts
Death: Died in Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States
Occupation: 3rd Rector of Trinity Church of Boston
Managed by: Erica Isabel Howton, (c)
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Immediate Family

About William Walter, D.D.

Rev. Dr. William Walter

  • b. 7 Oct 1737, West Roxbury, MA
  • edu. HC 1756 AB AM; King's Coll., Aberdeen 1784 DD
  • sett. Boston, MA; Shelburne, NS
  • rem. Episcopalian ord. 1764, England
  • d. 5 Dec 1800, Boston, MA
  • Parents: Rev. Nathaniel Walter (1711 - 1776), Rebecca Abbott
  • Married: Lydia Lynde

Reverend Walter tried to maintain a neutral stance between the Loyalists and Revolutionaries within his congregation. As such, Reverend Walter remained in the good graces of Patriots and Loyalists alike until an unfortunate incident occurred. In February 1776, just as Paine’s Common Sense was making a splash, Reverend Walter was accused of trying to spread smallpox within the Patriot army. A vaccine for smallpox had recently been invented, but there was great controversy as to whether the vaccine did more harm than good. People who were inoculated could spread the disease to others for a period of time, so the vaccinated had to go into temporary quarantine.

The incident in question involves a small boy who accused Reverend Walter of forcing inoculation on him. The boy claimed that Reverend Walter then instructed him to go to a Patriot army base where the boy came down with the pox. This placed the Patriot army in danger of contracting the disease. Though it is difficult to imagine that this account was accurate, certain Bostonians apparently accepted the story and accused Rev. Walter of trying to spread smallpox within the Patriot armed forces. They branded him a Loyalist and traitor.

As a result, Rev. Walter’s house was ransacked and he was forced to take refuge in England in 1776.

Trinity Church

From Wikipedia

1728-1827

When Boston's King's Chapel became overcrowded, some members of the congregation organized a new church beginning in 1728. The newly constructed Trinity Church opened in 1735. The wood building "was 90 feet long, and 60 broad, without any external adornment. It had neither tower nor steeple, nor windows in the lower story of the front. There were 3 entrances in front unprotected by porches. The interior was composed of an arch resting upon Corinthian pillars with handsomely carved and gilded capitals. In the chancel were some paintings, considered very beautiful in their day."

Ministers included Addington Davenport (1740-1746); William Hooper (1747-1767); William Walter (1767-1776); Samuel Parker (1779-1804); John Sylvester John Gardiner (1805-1830).

Parishioners included Peter Faneuil, Charles Apthorp, Philip Dumaresq, William Coffin, Thomas Aston Coffin, Leonard Vassall, Samuel Hale Parker. In 1789 George Washington worshipped at the church.

biography

Rev. William Walter, the subject of this sketch, was a nephew of Thomas Walter. He was born in 1739, and graduated at Harvard College in 1756. Up to the time of the Revolution the preachers in the Episcopal church occupied the position of missionaries in the American colonies. ...

"His temper is innocently cheerful, open, and friendly. He has a tender and delicate sense of honor, a just idea of the truest honor. He is kind and compassionate, etc."

He was ordained by the Bishop of London the following year and became an assistant to the Rev. Mr. Hooper, whom he succeeded as rector of Trinity church, the third Episcopal church in Boston, being opened in 1735. It stood on the corner of Summer and Hawley Streets. It was a plain wooden structure without steeple or tower.

William Walter was a zealous supporter of the church and crown, and vindicated his sincerity by the sacrifices he made for them. His discourses are described as rational and judicious, "recommended by an eloquence, graceful and majestical." He was no knight errant, but while adhering to his own convictions with quiet persistency, he exercised a large charity towards all forms of faith and Christian worship. The degree[342] of D. D. was conferred on him by Kings College, Aberdeen, in 1784. In 1796 he was invited to deliver the Dudleian lecture at Harvard College and in 1798 he pronounced the anniversary discourse before the Massachusetts Humane Society, which was published.

Dr. Walter was a remarkably handsome man; tall and well proportioned. When in the street, he wore a long blue coat over his cassock and gown, wig dressed and powdered, a three-cornered hat, knee breeches of fine black cloth, and with silk hose, and square quartered sleeves with silver buckles. His countenance was always serene, his temper always cheerful; happy himself, he communicated happiness to all around him. In the desk he read the glorious service like one inspired; his voice was clear, musical and well modulated. In his family he was loved, reverenced and admired. His heart, his house, his purse, were ever open to the needy.

He married Lydia, daughter of Benjamin Lynde, the younger, of Salem, and by her had seven children. Her death occurred in 1798.

Dr. Walter continued his rectorship at Christ church until his death in 1800, at the age of sixty-one. The Rev. Dr. Parker, who preached his funeral sermon, delineated his character as ornamental to religion and to the church, to literature and humanity.

Dr. Walter's grandson, Lynde Minshall Walter, born in 1799, graduated at Harvard University in 1817. He established the Boston Evening Transcript in 1830, and was the first editor of the paper. His death occurred in 1842. Another grandson, William Bicker was born in Boston, April 19, 1796, and graduated at Bowdoin College in 1818. He studied divinity at Cambridge but did not preach. He became best known as an author, possessing an active fancy and a great faculty of versification. He contributed odes and sonnets and translations to the newspapers and in 1821 in Boston, he published "Poems" and "Sukey" a poem. In 1822 he went to the southern states to give lectures on poetry, but he died shortly after his arrival in Charleston, South Carolina, April 23, 1822.

This family so distinguished in ecclesiastical history of New England is believed now to be extinct. There were others of the name in Boston at an early period, who have perhaps left descendants, but they are not known to have any connection with this family.

Sources 

  1. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/39316/39316-h/39316-h.htm Project Gutenberg's The Loyalists of Massachusetts, by James H. Stark
  2. http://anglicanhistory.org/canada/ns/eaton/10.html The Church of England in Nova Scotia and the Tory Clergy of the Revolution] By Arthur Wentworth Eaton New York: Thomas Whittaker, 1891.
  3. New England Historical & Genealogical Register Page: 8:208
  4. Annals of the American Pulpit: Episcopalian. 1859  By William Buell Sprague. Page 226. "William Walter, D.D."

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Rev. Dr. William Walter's Timeline

1737
October 7, 1737
West Roxbury, Suffolk, Massachusetts
1766
September 30, 1766
Age 28
Salem, Essex, Massachusetts
1800
December 5, 1800
Age 63
Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States