Rev. Valentine Wightman, Reverend (1681 - 1747)

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Birthplace: Kingston, Washington, Rhode Island
Death: Died in Groton, New London, Connecticut
Occupation: Minister
Managed by: Deanna Lynne McCombs
Last Updated:

About Rev. Valentine Wightman, Reverend -------------------- Valentine was a vigorous preacher, who presented religious conviction in plain and logical language. Nonetheless, he was often described as warm, serene and possessed of a mild disposition. He became highly sought after, traveling often to preach in other places. As early as 1710, Valentine had spear-headed a union of Connecticut and nascent New York Baptist Churches. In 1712, he preached at the New York City home of Nicholas Eyres and two years later performed twelve baptisms there during the night in order to avoid an angry mob that had been harassing the early Baptist congregation. In 1724, he and his brother Daniel ordained and installed Rev. Eyres as the first pastor of the first Baptist Church in New York City. Over the years, Valentine would participate in forming new Baptist churches throughout Connecticut and New York colonies. In 1725, Valentine published his "Letter on Singing Psalms," which was among the first published pamphlets in the New England colonies. Thus Valentine is listed among notable American writers in Allibone's Critical Dictionary of English Literature of 1858. Apparently, the pamphlet was not a popular success in its time-- singing was not a common part of worship, and the faithful seemed confused as to what to sing and how. However, in a very few years, Valentine's pamphlet on singing and worship participation would prove to be anticipatory of a major American religious movement, discussed below.

In 1727, Valentine participated in a famous debate in Lyme, CT, probably at the home of Nehemiah Smith, with the prominent Congregational Puritan minister Rev. John Bulkley of Colchester, CT. A transcript or account of that debate was published, but I have not seen it. Valentine would have probably argued for a more participatory style of worship, while Bulkley would have spoken in favor of the wisdom of the "standing order." In a sense, this debate would foreshadow the great conflict between the traditional churches of New England and the upstart evangelical tradition that would explode in the American colonies over the next two decades. Wightman and Bulkley maintained a vigorous debate in writing over the next few years.

Although Valentine's passions were clearly theology, and in particular, the growth of the Baptist church, he was also a hard-working farmer (like most clergy of that time). He bought and sold land, just like most colonists of the early 18th century. He owned land in Westerly, RI, just across the Pawcatuck River and a mere 10 miles from Groton. On August 31, 1726, Valentine sold his 250 acre Westerly parcel to John Willcox, a carpenter. He also purchased land in nearby Norwich, CT, which eventually was passed on to his sons.

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Reverend Valentine Wightman's Timeline

April 16, 1681
Kingston, Washington, Rhode Island
September 23, 1703
Age 22
Kingstown, Kings, Rhode Island
February 18, 1704
Age 22
Kingston, Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations
October 26, 1706
Age 25
Kingston, RI, USA
May 15, 1711
Age 30
Groton, CT, USA
November 24, 1712
Age 31
Groton, CT, USA
August 12, 1715
Age 34
July 1, 1717
Age 36
September 20, 1719
Age 38
Groton, Connecticut, United States
June 5, 1721
Age 40