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Reverend Nathan Stone sermons

Identifier: MSS 0380

Scope and Content Note

The collection comprises twenty-five sermons and several sermon fragments which span the period 1705 to 1774. The two earliest are attributed to Nathanael Stone, and the rest to his son, Nathan Stone.

Most of the sermons were preached at the Meeting House in Southborough, Massachusetts, and the dates and locations preached are generally provided. A few even record whether they were given in the morning or the afternoon, and almost every sermon includes the scriptural passage upon which the sermon was based. All but a few of these sermons were written by Nathan Stone. Two of them are dated 1705 and were given at Harwich, suggesting that they were written by his father, Nathanael Stone. Several of the remaining sermons were delivered in other locations, such as Marlborough and Westborough. Stone's conservatism and deep concern for the state of his parishioners' souls is very evident in his sermons, which frequently speak of sin and redemption.

The sermons themselves were written on small sheets of paper, many of which had been stitched together. Some bear signs of water damage, though none are illegible. It is also interesting to note the deterioration of Stone's handwriting, quite evident in the later sermons.


  • Creation: 1705-1774


Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections, University of Delaware Library,

Biographical Note

Reverend Nathan Stone (1708-1781) led the church in Southborough, Massachusetts, beginning in 1730. A religious conservative, like his father Nathanael Stone of Harwich, Massachusetts, he also served as secretary to the powerful "Marlborough Association" of local ministers.

The Reverend Nathan Stone was born in Harwich, Massachusetts, on February 18, 1708 to Nathanael (1667-1755) and Reliance [Hinkley] Stone (d.1759). Nathan Stone's paternal grandfather, Simon Stone, was the first of his family to come to America from England -- sometime between 1653 and 1667 -- and his son Nathanael (sometimes spelled Nathaniel) was the first minister of Harwich. Nathan's maternal grandfather was Thomas Hinkley, governor of the Plymouth colony from 1680 to 1692. Nathan attended Harvard College, leaving in 1726 after participating in a student riot, but returned to continue his studies in 1729. In 1730, Nathan was ordained reverend for the newly created town of Southborough, Massachusetts, and soon became an influential and highly respected member of the community.

He was elected secretary to the "Marlborough Association," a post he held for many years. This association comprised a collection of ministries from local towns which met for the purposes of mutual assistance, and to guide the spiritual direction of the area's inhabitants. In an age when there was still no clear-cut division between Church and State, this body wielded a great deal of power. Nathan also contributed to Ezra Stiles' book, The Ecclesiastical History of British North America, with an account of the history of Southborough. On October 21, 1734, Nathan married Judith Fox, daughter of Reverend Jabez Fox of Woburn. She died in childbirth, however, in February 1748, leaving him a widower with several children. Three years later he married again, this time to Mary Thacher, daughter of Middleborough Reverend Peter Thacher.

Nathan Stone, like his father, was religiously conservative, holding fast to traditional Puritan ideals, and was firmly opposed to the radical revivalism of the Great Awakening that was occurring around him in the late 1730s and early 1740s. Though he managed to keep the majority of his congregation from succumbing to these influences, he could not stem the tide of social and religious "laxness" that began to overtake the colonies in the years before the American Revolution. By the 1760s, the tightly-knit religious community of his youth was rapidly coming apart, the Puritan ethics he so revered were disappearing, and New England colonists were quickly becoming radicalized in their opposition to the Crown. Nathan Stone was horrified by the Boston Tea Party, and watched with disapproval as Southborough and other local communities began to organize their own militias. Indeed, by the 1770s, Nathan Stone had become so frustrated with his congregation's reactionary tendencies towards Britain that he would openly berate them from the pulpit, even naming those individuals whose activities did not meet his strict ethical standards.

As the inevitability of open conflict became apparent, Stone continued to urge reconciliation and caution to his parishioners. Yet, by the late 1770s his attitude had changed, and he came to accept the war for independence as a just one. Nathan Stone died on May 31, 1781, and several weeks later the town held a day of prayer and fasting in his honor.

Noble, Richard E.Fences of Stone: A History of Southborough, Massachusetts. Portsmouth, NH: P.E. Randall, 1990.Savage, James.Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England. vol 4. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1994.


.33 linear foot (1 box)


Reverend Nathan Stone (1708-1781) led the church in Southborough, Massachusetts, beginning in 1730. A religious conservative, like his father Nathanael Stone of Harwich, Massachusetts, he also served as secretary to the powerful "Marlborough Association" of local ministers.


The sermons are arranged in chronological order.


Purchase, December 1986.

Related Materials in other Repositories

Nathan Stone Sermons, 1729-1730, Connecticut Historical Society.

Nathanael Stone sermons, 1708-1714, Massachusetts Historical Society.

Shelving Summary

  1. Box 1: Shelved in SPEC MSS manuscript boxes (1 inch)


Processed by Arthur Siegel, November 1998. Encoded by Jaime Margalotti, May 2014.

Finding aid for Reverend Nathan Stone sermons
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
2014 May 22
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

181 South College Avenue
Newark DE 19717-5267 USA