Matthias Gossett, Sr.
Matthias Gossett, Sr. (1736-1812?) — A Clergyman?
Analysis & Conclusions Regarding Frederick Parish Vestry Records & Keepers of The Poor
(Revised September 2015)
The Evangeline Newcomer book, The Family of Gossett, has created or perpetuated a myth that Matthias Gossett, Sr. (1736-1812?) was a clergyman based upon two assumptions:
(1) Marriages performed and recorded in Bourbon Co, KY by a Rev. Matthias Gossett. The small number of marriages recorded in Bourbon Co, KY where performed by his grandson, the Rev. Matthias Gossett (1798-1874), son of Jacob Gossett. (See Part IV)
(2) “Vestry held for Parish of Frederick, Virginia, (meeting held) on 18th day of November, 1768. To Matthias Gossett for burial of Benjamin Bright 3 S 5-0.” Newcomer, p. 66. This is the subject of this analysis.
The Vestry record on microfilm was ordered and reviewed in December, 2011, by the authors. The microfilm entitled Frederick Parish, Frederick Co, VA, Vestry Book, 1764-1818, is divided into two components:
(1) 1764-1780, parish records, Vestry officers, collections of levy, care of poor and parish accounts;
(2) 1780-1818, records included minutes and accounts of “Keepers of the Poor” (Frederick Co, and City of Winchester).
The microfilm is available through FamilySearch.org, FHL US/Can Film # 31331 (Source # 8).
Although the microfilm was difficult to read, the Vestry Records of Frederick Parish, Virginia, revealed substantial information upon which various conclusions can be made. This is tempered by reading other historical documents from that time period as well as reviewing information from other researchers, who are revealing new data on that region and time. The author's perspective and conclusions are tempered as an ordained elder of the United Methodist Church, which has its roots in the Church of England.
The Church of England from 1764 -1818 was not well received by the general population in this part of Frederick County, VA. The Church of England was established there, but appeared, to act as more of a social service agency, helping the poor, the elderly, the orphans and bastard children. In this time period not only was it difficult to maintain a fully ordained clergyman in the parish, but the American Colonies began their claim to autonomy and separate from English rule.
In the 1764-1780 the Vestry records reflected specific Church of England functions for which there was an outlay of money or actions taken.
(1) Rectors (ministers) were the paid clergy who held services of worship, serving the main church and itinerating between four other chapels in the parish. These included Cunningham’s Chapel, Morgan’s Chapel, McKay’s Chapel, and Muhlenburg Chapel, and others that might evolve in the Parish.
(2) Readers, whose only function was to read scripture and not interpret or preach, were paid for reading at the chapels at scheduled services.
(3) Sextons (custodians) were paid for cleaning and maintaining the chapels and church as needed.
(4) Vestrymen (Parish officials) were paid for attending meetings in which they performed administrative affairs of the parish..
(5) Clerk of the Vestry was paid for record keeping and disbursing money.
The majority of bills paid at each vestry meeting pertained to helping the poor, whether elderly, widowed, infirmed, orphan or bastard children. The expenses were paid to the persons giving care or rendering service, be it room & board, funeral expenses, medicine, medical care, coffin-making, grave-digging, etc. Less frequently money was given directly to persons in need for their support.
In our opinion, this was not the Church of England helping members of the Church of England, but a Parish Church organization, which had full authority to raise funds through taxes, helping anyone in the Frederick Parish who had an aforementioned need.
Examples are from actual Vestry records of the Parish of Frederick:
(1) 18 Nov 1768--to Matthias Gossett for the Burial of Benjamin Bright. 3-5-0 (pound-schilling-pence).
(2) 18 Nov 1768--to Robert Raybone one of the Poor for his support. 6-0-0.
(3) 18 Nov 1768--to William Smith for the support of his helpless child. 3-0-0.
(4) 18 Nov 1768--to John Noble for the support of Christian Goss. 5-0-0.
(5) 30 Nov 1769--to William Green for maintenance (room & board) four months and burial of Samuel Bishop. 6-17-0.
(6) 30 Nov 1769--to Nicholas Schorr, supporting Catherine Ott five months and the expense of her funeral. 7-4-71/2.
(7) 16 Nov 1770--to James Dowdull for Burial of Michael Bent. 2-14-9.
(8) 16 Nov 1770--to Charles Grim for making a coffin for Michael Bent. 0-10-0.
(9) 26 Nov 1770--to Frances Avis for the Burial of Mary Arnold. 2-11-6.
(10) 26 Nov 1770--to Frances Silburn for the Burial of William Ireton. 2-10-0.
(11) 26 Nov 1770--To Thomas Foreman for the Burial of one of the poor. 2-4-2.
The vestry records of Frederick Parish continued in 1780, divested from the Church of England, and continuing their function as the “Keepers of the Poor,“ as an agency which continued in the same area as old Frederick County, to meet the needs of the poor, the elderly, the infirmed, the orphans and bastard children. It continued with the authority to collect taxes, build a “poor house” in Winchester, Virginia, and met the needs of less fortunate individuals and families.
Conclusions from the review of data and history of Vestry Records and Keepers of the Poor
Did Matthias Gossett Sr. (1736-1812?) hold a religious service representing the Church of England for the deceased Benjamin Bright? This was the interpretation of Evangeline Gossett Newcomer and/or the prior researcher.
Matthias Gossett Sr. was presumably 32 years old when payment was authorized by the Vestry of Frederick Co, VA for the burial. Benjamin Bright was a person presumably without family who came under the jurisdiction of the Frederick Parish. If Benjamin Bright had family surviving, they had to be infirmed or not available for the immediate burial required in 1768, to be eligible for public assistance. This fact is supported by the entry prior to the Benjamin Bright Vestry Record of 18 Nov 1768, which reads, "To John Howell for the support of Mary Bright. 5-0-0." This is possibly the infirmed wife of Benjamin Bright.
Given the current research, the Vestry record should be taken at face value -- Matthias Gossett was paid, similar to many persons in Frederick County, to bury Benjamin Bright. There is no proof that Matthias Gossett was even affiliated with the Church of England, much less was he a Reader, Vestryman, or a Sexton. In fact, the Gossett surname is mentioned only the one time referred to, in the Vestry records, or the records of the Keepers of the Poor, through 1814, the latest record read in this research.
Other Thoughts About Matthias Gossett, Sr.
Newcomer also suggested that Matthias & William Gossett “…may have belonged to a religious group that forbade its members to serve in a military capacity” thus, his record of Non-Military Service in the Revolutionary War. (Newcomer, p. 67.)
The presumed wife of Matthias Gossett, Sr. was Mary Littler. There is sufficient record in Pennsylvania and Virginia that her parents, John and Mary Ross Littler, were Quakers who married at the Quaker Meeting House, Nottingham, Chester Co, PA, 5 June 1728 with a list of 30 witnesses present. (Source 3, p. 193).
Mary Ross Littler was the daughter of Alexander Ross, a Quaker leader who was responsible for the movement of numerous Quaker families to Frederick County, VA. Ross settled on the drains of the Opequon drainage, east of the Back Creek drainage. These families came primarily from Pennsylvania, but from other American Colonies, as well.
Currently no record of the marriage of Matthias Gossett Sr. and Mary Littler can be found.
Since the family of Mary Littler was Quaker, active at Hopewell Meeting (Quaker Church in Frederick County, VA), it is more than likely that the record was destroyed by fire at Hopewell Meeting which included the first 30 years -- approximately 1734-1764. This time frame could easily have included the marriage record of Matthias Gossett and Mary Littler. Because they were established in Loudoun Cnty, Virginia, there wouldn’t have been a need to return to Nottingham, Chester County, PA to marry where her parents were married. However, with the new data, it's plausible they were married in Pennsylvania (Chester County???) before their arrival in 1758 to Loudoun Cnty, VA.
Quakers were persecuted in both England & the Colonies. William Penn, a Quaker, settled in Pennsylvania, which helped Quakers flourish with less persecution. Penn was raised in the Church of England and became a Quaker as an adult. The American Revolutionary War brought much Quaker persecution because of their stance on neutrality. Many Quakers who were American patriots formed their own branch of Quaker belief. (Source 3.)
Because of the data regarding Revolutionary War service, it could be assumed that Matthias Gossett Sr. was a Quaker -- possibly before marriage.
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