Fish, Joseph

honorificReverend; Mr.
Birth: January 28, 1705 in Duxbury, MA
Death: May 22, 1781 in North Stonington, CT
Affiliation:

Harvard College; Connecticut Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge; New England Company

Education:

Harvard (1728)

Faith:

Moderate Congregationalist

Nationality:

Anglo-American

Occupation:

Minister

Residence:

North Stonington, CT (from 1731 to 1781-05-22)

Marital status:

Fish was married and had three children: two daughters survived to adulthood, one son died in infancy.

Biography:

Joseph Fish was a moderate Congregationalist minister who held the pulpit at North Stonington, CT, from 1731 until his death in 1781. He is notable as 1) an ally of Wheelock and a member of the Connecticut Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, 2) a moderate in the throes of the Great Awakening, and 3) a missionary to the Pequots and Narragansetts. The first point requires no explanation; the second two are closely related. Fish graduated from Harvard in 1728 and took a temporary post at Stonington in 1731. He was so popular with the congregation that they offered him a permanent position. For the first 10 years of his ministry all was well, but the Great Awakening segmented his congregation. The problem was that Fish was not strongly opposed to or strongly in favour of the Awakening, which led his church to split into not two, but three factions. As Fish's congregation dwindled so did his salary; however, when other congregations offered him their pulpits, what was left of the North Stonington congregation interfered, jealously guarding Fish's services. In addition to his career as a minister, Fish acted as a missionary to Native Americans throughout his life. From the 1730s on, he delivered sermons to the nearby Pequots and employed a schoolmaster for them (his employees included Moor's alumni John Shattock Jr. and Jacob Fowler). In 1765, Fish also began preaching to the Charlestown Narragansetts. He secured financial support from the Boston Board of the New England Company to open a school there as well, and hired Edward Deake to fill the post. However, Fish did not get along well with the Narragansetts, who had an established indigenous ministry, led by Samuel Niles and based around separatist principles. For Bible-centric Fish, illiterate and popular Samuel Niles was a ministerial nightmare. Fish and Deake served the Narragansetts until the mid-1770s, when the tribe politely requested that they stop.

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Sources:

Andrews, Edward E. Native Apostles: Black and Indian Missionaries in the British Atlantic World. Cambridge: Harvard University Press 2013. Chase, Frederick. A history of Dartmouth College and the Town of Hanover, New Hampshire. 1891. Fisher, Linford. The Indian Great Awakening: Religion and the Shaping of Native Cultures in Early America. New York: Oxford University Press 2012. Love, Deloss. Samson Occom and the Christian Indians of New England. Pilgrim Press 1899. Sprague, William Buell. "Joseph Fish." Annals of the American Pulpit, Vol 1. R. Carter and Brothers, 1859. pp. 359-366. Accessed via GoogleBooks. Youngs, J. William T. The Congregationalists. Greenwood Publishing Group 1998. Accessed via GoogleBooks.