The Reverend John Elliot House
542 Boston Post Road
Built around 1790, the Reverend John Elliot House is a Georgian colonial structure with a central chimney and central doorway. It features a three-sided oriel window, added later to the second story of the front facade. Modified many decades ago as a two-family house, it has recently been restored as a single-family dwelling. The property also includes a separate cottage in the rear. This property is named for the third pastor of the First Congregational Church.
Elliot (1768-1824) was born in Killingworth, in a place now in Clinton. He was the son of Deacon George Elliot, the grandson of the Rev. Jared Elliot, M.D., of Killingworth, and the great-grandson of Rev. Joseph Elliot of Guilford. Most notably, he was the great-great-grandson of the famed Puritan missionary John Eliot (1604-1690), who was known as the “Apostle to the Indians” and was the originator of New England’s so-called “praying towns” of self-governing Native Americans.
Our John Elliot graduated from Yale in 1786. He preached his first sermon in 1790 in the pulpit of the Reverend John Todd at the East Guilford FCC, which stands across the green. In 1791, the congregation of the FCC gave him the land as a building site for a parsonage. Apparently, some townspeople considered the house rather extravagant for a parsonage, but perhaps the Reverend Todd found him worth the expense. He described Elliot as “a fine scholar, a genuine lover of study, a capital preacher,” and “a wise and most shrewd man….”
Initially, he was offered an “encouragement” of “Two Hundred Pounds of Lawful Money, to be paid in one-third Cash, one-third Neat Cattle, and one-third Produce at the Current Market Price,” plus an annual salary of 85 £ and 20 cords of oak wood. Later he was the first minister to be paid in American currency rather than in English pounds.He served the FCC until his death in 1824.
He was but twenty-three years of age at the time of his ordination. He is described as remarkably sedate, dignified and solemn in manner, judicious and exemplary in conduct, precise in speech, and methodical in all his movements. He was tall, slender, and erect in form, and wore always the cocked hat, short breeches, long waistcoat and stockings, and buckled shoes of the gentlemen of the ancient time. As he is remembered by some who hear me this morning, in the latter part of his life his head was bald and his hair white. His measured step and grave bearing, both out of the pulpit and in it, made him seem to his people the very embodiment of reverence.
During the early years of his ministry, Elliot kept a small school in his house. In 1792, the same year he married Sarah Norton of Salisbury, Reverend Elliott also began to serve as the first librarian of a subscription library for interested town residents. Known first as the “New Union Library” and then as the “Farmers’ Library,” the collection was first kept in this house. Books were lent at a fee of 5 cents per book, and the duration of the loan depended on the number of pages in the book.
The house has also been called the Thomas Stone Scranton place, because members of the Scranton family lived here for at least 100 years. Another notable Madison citizen lived here during the twentieth century. Unofficially the town historian by personal passion, if not by actual appointment, Mary Scranton Evarts, who was Thomas Stone Scranton’s daughter, was the first librarian of the E. C. Scranton Memorial Library. Mary’s daughter Charlotte L. Evarts, who lived here both as a child and after her mother’s death, was Madison’s first official town historian. The Charlotte L. Evarts Memorial Archives is named in her honor. It contains an invaluable collection of Madison documents, photographs, and local ephemera.