On his passing in 1918, the Reverend Charles C. Carpenter was remembered as a dedicated missionary, local historian and tireless researcher. “C. C. C.”, as he was widely known, was fascinated by the world around him. When he was 10-years-old he began a diary charting his daily events, discoveries and observations. This continued through his final days.
Rev. Carpenter began life in 1836 in Bernardson, Massachusetts. His education began at the age of three. The earliest lessons grounded him with a sense of duty and honor, and by 10 he was learning Latin. Seeking an environment sympathetic to the physical frailties that plagued his youth, in his early 20s he traveled to Labrador in far northeastern Canada. He empathized with the plights of the indigenous local fisherman, their work and their spiritual needs.
The experience led him to seek training and ordination to the ministry. In 1858, he explored the Straits of Belle Isle region, establishing a mission station on Caribou Island where he built his home.
The following winter was spent stateside at Harvard. He was ordained to the ministry the following year. Two years later he married Nancy Fiona Rice, residing in Auburn and Peabody during his ministry. Together they returned to Labrador where the first of their five children, George, was born. The weather, however, proved too harsh to live there continuously.
In the fall of 1864, the Carpenters left Labrador behind and spent the following winter in City Point, Virginia where he was a cashier for the U. S. Christian Commission serving the Union armies. The following six years were spent as Superintendent of the Lookout Mountain Educational Institutions in Tennessee witnessing the final days of the Civil War.
Returning to Andover, Carpenter enrolled in Andover Theological Seminary, graduating in 1875. Over the next 10 years he served congregations in Peabody, Massachusetts and Mt. Vernon, New Hampshire.
Retiring from the ministry, the Reverend began to make his mark as a man of letters. Already a much sought-after authority on genealogy, he began a period of intense study, research and writing at the Andover Theological Seminary. Among his works were two extensive pamphlets, an Historical Sketch of the Essex South Congregational Ministers and an Historical Sketch of the Andover Ministerial Association.
For 20 years the Reverend also wrote a weekly column in The Congregationalist under the nom de plume of Mr. Martin. The column brought him in touch with thousands of readers.
One remarked that Rev. Carpenter’s column, Conversation Corner, “was the best feature in that weekly paper.”
Rev. Carpenter collected these columns and bound them with a comprehensive index so that its resources could be easily consulted. Many youngsters from Andover wrote to “Mr. Martin” and many of those letters appear in these five volumes giving those correspondents, and future researchers, a chance to revisit these time-frozen childhood memories.
Rev. Carpenter donated the volumes to the Memorial Hall Library.
His research work also produced a biographical catalogue of Phillips Academy and the centennial catalogue for the Andover Theological Seminary. Phillips Headmaster Claude Fuess commented, “Those who have been interested in town and Academy annals owe him a debt which they cannot repay.”
Reverend Carpenter was at the forefront of many of Andover’s important moments. He was a part of the fledgling Andover Townsman from its very inception serving as its first editor, a position he was born to fill. He was also a founding member of the Andover Historical Society.
Next Week: Beyond his highly noted works, the legacy he left behind were his five children, acorns who fell closely to this great oak.