Graves, Matthew

Birth: c. 1712 in Isle of Man
Death: April 5, 1780 in New York City
Affiliation:

The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts

Faith:

Anglican

Nationality:

English

Occupation:

minister and missionary

Residence:

New London, CT (from 1745 to 1778)

New York City (from 1778 to 1780)

Events:

Fundraising Tour of Great Britain

Marital status:

Unmarried. Graves lived in New London with his maiden sister, Joanna.

Biography:

Matthew Graves was an Anglican minister and missionary in New London, CT, whose friendship with Occom led to a minor controversy. Graves was born on the Isle of Man, of Irish descent. Sometime in his mid-30s, when he was master of a Latin grammar school and rector of a church in Chester, England, he was inspired by the religious revivals led by the Wesleys in western England to volunteer for foreign mission service through the The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG). In 1745, the organization sent him to St. James Church in New London, CT, where the pulpit had been empty for some time. His brother John also volunteered and was sent to a church in Providence, RI. The parishoners in New London, however, proved unwelcoming, and Graves began attending dissenting church services and missionizing to slaves and Indian tribes in the area. Through these activities, he became acquainted with Wheelock's missionary work and with Occom, with whom he was on friendly terms. Graves wrote a glowing testimony of him for the fundraising tour of Great Britain. According to Love, Occom joked in Graves' presence that on the trip he would "turn Episcopalian," a hope Graves communicated to his Bishop, who did offer to ordain Occom, which he refused, causing some offense and a flutter in the newspapers. Sharply disappointed, in 1771, Graves turned against both Occom and Wheelock. He served in New London for 33 years but came to a bad end. In 1778, when he refused to change the traditional prayer for King George to a prayer for the new American Congress, he was summararily ejected from his church, and in 1779 he asked to be allowed to move to New York, behind enemy lines, with his sister Joanna. There he acted as a pastor to Loyalist refugess and died suddenly the following year.

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Sources:

Blodgett, Harold. Samson Occom. Hanover: Dartmouth College Publications, 1935; Love, W. DeLoss. Samson Occom and the Christian Indians of New England. Boston: The Pilgrim Press, 1899; O'Neil, Maud. "Matthew Graves: Anglican Missionary to the Puritans." in British Humanitarianism: Essays Honoring Frank J. Klingberg, ed. Samuel Clyde McCulloch. Philadelphia: The Church Historical Society, 1950, 124-44.

Further reading:

O'Neil, Maud. "Matthew Graves: Anglican Missionary to the Puritans." in British Humanitarianism: Essays Honoring Frank J. Klingberg, ed. Samuel Clyde McCulloch. Philadelphia: The Church Historical Society, 1950, 124-44. This essay contains the most detailed account of Graves' life and work, but names Occom "Samuel Occum" and identifies him as a Narragansett. O'Neil details Graves' request, in a letter to his English sponsors dated October 9, 1764, that Occom be sent to England for ordination and appointed preacher over all the Indians in the area to counter what he felt was the heretical influence (Unitarian doctrines) of Jonathan Mayhew, the most famous son of Experience Mayhew, missionary to the Wampanoag Indians on Martha's Vineyard.