by Ken Raymond
Amos Burnham was born in Dunbarton, NH, August 1, 1791, the son of Deacon Samuel and Mrs. Mary (Perkins) Burnham. Amos entered Dartmouth College in 1811 and was graduated in 1815. He studied theology at Andover and was licensed in 1818. Rev. Burnham was preceptor at the Blanchard Academy in Pembroke, NH; this institution was founded by his brother Rev. Dr. Abraham Burnham.
Rev. Burnham married soon after his ordination in 1821, Tirzah Kimball, the daughter of Ebenezer and Polly (Aiken) Kimball of New Chester, now Hill, NH. Tirzah was his devoted wife and loving mother of their five children. The Burnham’s raised their children who were born between 1823 and 1835 at their residence, the Congregational Parsonage. Rev. Burnham was the pastor of the Rindge Congregational Church for 46 years.
The pastorate of the Rindge Congregational Church was vacated by the death of Rev. Dr. Seth Payson on February 26, 1820, who had been the respected preacher, citizen, author and friend in Rindge for nearly 40 years. The void created by the absence of Rev. Payson was filled temporarily by various individuals. The ministers of neighboring churches first provided the pulpit. The call to the pulpit was extended and declined in January of 1821 by Rev. Elijah Demond who had served five Sabbaths late in 1820. When no preacher was secured, Deacon Benjamin Kingsbury provided the service. He had studied theology with Dr. Payson but had not formally entered the ministry; he provided his services at half price. It is recorded that his sermons, all on the subject of frugality, were respectable yet fearfully long. Rev. William Goodell preached nine Sabbaths in 1821 to whom the call to the pulpit was also extended but was declined on account of the proposed salary.
Rev. Burnham visited Rindge in August of 1821 and was invited to preach the following Sabbath. Having preached continuously since his arrival in Rindge the invitation for him to remain was extended September 6, 1821 by the church society after a unanimous vote. His letter of acceptance was dated October 13, 1821 and his ordination occurred November 14, 1821.
Rev. Burnham’s ordination, as was the custom in that time, a major event. The society chose a committee of esteemed members to communicate the call to Rev. Burnham. The society chose a second committee to make all the arrangements and for the entertainment of the council of clergy that would take part. The clergy who composed the council were Rev. Laban Ainsworth of Jaffrey, NH, who was moderator and gave the Ordaining Prayer, Rev. Eber L. Clark of Winchendon, MA as Scribe, Rev. Richard Hall of New Ipswich, NH gave the Introductory Prayer, Rev. Abraham Burnham of Pembroke, NH gave the Sermon from the Text, Rev. John Cushing D. D. of Ashburnham, MA Charge, Rev. John M. Putnam of Ashby, MA Right Hand of Fellowship, Rev. John Sabin of Fitzwilliam, NH Concluding Prayer. The council was feasted by Deacon Ebenezer Brown following the service.
The lengthy tenure of Rev. Burnham was conducted in a manner the brought respect to himself and the town of Rindge. His pastorate was described as a continued era of concord. Rev. Burnham was a frequent contributor to the religious press, “The Infidel Reclaimed” has been translated into several languages and circulated widely; numerous of his sermons were published including the life and character of Samuel L. Wilder Esq. 1863 and of Rev. Ebenezer Hill of Mason, NH, 1858. Rev. Burnham represented the town in the state Legislature in 1854 and 1855. In 1858 the trustees of Dartmouth College honored him with the degree of Doctor of Divinity. For more than 30 years he was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Academy of New Ipswich. After forty five uninterrupted years in the ministry Dr. Rev. A. W. Burnham delivered his request to be released from his pastoral duties. His tenure was concluded in November of 1867 at the time of the 46th anniversary of his settlement.
Rev. Amos Burnham died at the home of his daughter in Keene, NH, April 9, 1871. His funeral sermon was given by his life-long friend Rev. Z. F. Barstow D. D. of Keene, the eulogy was offered by Rev. Dennis Powers, the acting pastor of the church at Rindge. Amos Wood Burnham was 79 years of age. He and his wife are interred in the Meeting House Cemetery in Rindge.