MOULTON, EBENEZER, Baptist minister; b. 25 Dec. 1709 in Windham, Connecticut, son of Robert Moulton and Hannah Grove; m. the widow of John Bound; d. in March 1783 at South Brimfield (Wales, Mass.).
A leader in the establishment of the first Baptist church at South Brimfield in 1736, Ebenezer Moulton was ordained its pastor on 4 Nov. 1741. Since he received little financial support from the congregation, he also engaged in “merchandizing.” In 1761, apparently to escape his creditors, he sailed to Nova Scotia, where he became an itinerant preacher to the scattered fishing settlements along the southern shore of the colony. Most of his activity was concentrated in the Yarmouth area; he was the first minister to preach to the pre-loyalist settlers there. He received a land grant and established a residence at Cape Fourchu. A member in 1761 of the committee to divide lands in and admit settlers to Yarmouth Township, in the same year he was authorized to administer the oath of office to justices of the peace. Economic conditions were so difficult that Moulton could not expect regular remuneration for his clerical services; for ten years he remained an itinerant preacher, occasionally travelling as far as Horton (Wolfville region) and Cornwallis. In the early and middle 1760s he was the most important preacher in the Yarmouth area, and many who were not of the Baptist faith attended his sermons and sought his help for baptism and marriage.
In the late 1760s Moulton became embroiled, to his own disadvantage, in local religious controversies. His position was ambiguous. Nearly all those who were active in church affairs in Yarmouth were non-separating New Light Congregationalists, and Moulton attracted support through his evangelical style of preaching. Because he was a Baptist, however, his position was weak, for the New Lights had no wish to seem disloyal to their church. His ambivalent status brought him into conflict with the two other preachers in the community, John Frost and Jonathan Scott*, both of whom became Congregationalist ministers. In 1769, when the church at Chebogue ordained Frost as its minister, Moulton was not asked for advice or assistance, even though he was the only other prominent preacher in the region. In the following year, Scott, who had succeeded Frost as Congregationalist preacher, refused to use the same meeting house as Moulton. On one Sunday before public worship began, Scott openly criticized Moulton, led a large part of the congregation out of the meeting house, and left Moulton with only the rump to be edified by his preaching. That Scott had willingly listened to Moulton’s preaching in the mid 1760s and had actually requested Moulton to perform his marriage ceremony in 1768 gives some indication of the bitter, personal nature of local religious disputes.
By the spring of 1771 Moulton had lost most of his support and he ceased preaching. After a decade of religious service to the Yarmouth area he was left without a following and without a role. He returned to South Brimfield, having apparently obtained letters of licence from his creditors, and died there 12 years later.
PANS, MG 4, no.12 (“The records of the church of Jebogue in Yarmouth . . .”). Isaac Backus, A history of New England with particular reference to the denomination of Christians called Baptists, ed. David Weston (2nd ed., 2v., Newton, Mass., 1871; repr. 2v. in 1, New York, 1969). [Jonathan Scott], The life of Jonathan Scott, ed. C. B. Fergusson (Halifax, 1960). M. W. Armstrong, The Great Awakening in Nova Scotia, 1776–1809 (Hartford, Conn., 1948). I. F. Mackinnon, Settlements and churches in Nova Scotia, 1749–1776 ([Montreal, 1930]). Gordon Stewart and G. [A.] Rawlyk, A people highly favoured of God: the Nova Scotia Yankees and the American revolution (Toronto, 1972). M. W. Armstrong, “‘Elder Moulton’ and the Nova Scotia Baptists,” Dal. Rev., XXIV (1944–45), 320–23.