Chilmark’s early Abel’s Hill church by Sam Carroll

Sam Carroll

I have a copy of an old map showing a church at Abel’s Hill, beside the cemetery. It wasn’t Methodist, but it predates the middle road locations. Experience Mayhew preached there in the early 1700s, his father, John Mayhew (number 32 in Banks history) was the first circuit minister who lived in Quansoo , who became a preacher at Boston’s South Church and spoke against the King’s Stamp Act, just prior to the Revolution. His Son, Experience, wrote a detailed ethnology of the indigenous Wampanoag conversions, which is available in the West Tisbury Library. Including Abel, who was his first convert to Christianity.
In 1694, Matthew Mayhew wrote “A Brief History of the success of the Gospel among the Wampanoag of Martha’s Vineyard” in Chilmark. He mentioned twenty different languages were spoken at the time. And suggested that the Crown should learn from their example of local assemblies open to all citizens, Hashawockamuck, Aquinnah, Nobnocket, for example, were the tribal centers where all local affairs were discussed, and many early Christian conversions took place there and in private before any standing churches. Many of the founding principles of our country came from those discussions. Freedom of assembly, government by the people, regional conferences, were discussed up-island, at fireside before 1700.

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