Reverend Mortimer Blake Speaks at Commencement

The Reverend Mortimer Blake, minister of the Winslow Trinitarian Congregational Church in Taunton, MA, speaks at commencement.

Born in Pittston, ME, in 1813, Blake and his family moved to Franklin, MA, when he was four years old. His grandfather employed the Reverend E. Smalley to teach Virgil, Cicero and Greek to Mortimer. When he was fifteen, Blake studied Hebrew with a group of local ministers under a German Jewish immigrant named Seixas. He attended the academy of Reverend Abijah R. Baker in Medway, MA, and entered Amherst College in 1831. After graduating in 1835, he taught at Hopkins Academy in Hadley, MA, and then for three years at his own school in Franklin. He was ordained pastor of the newly established Orthodox Congregational Church in Mansfield, MA, in 1839. He remained there until 1855, when he moved to the Winslow Trinitarian Congregational Church and remained there until his death on 22 December 1884.

Blake was a member of Wheaton Female Seminary’s board of trustees from 1854 to 1859, was reelected in 1868 and served as the board’s president from 1872 until his death in 1884. Of his four children, his youngest, Harriet Daniels Blake, graduated from Wheaton in 1878, and taught private classes in natural science and literature. While Harriet was a student, her father sometimes interfered in social and academic policy to the vexation of the principal, the other trustees and Mrs. Wheaton. Blake particularly opposed any easing of religious intensity at the Seminary, and this was partly the reason for the departures of Ellen Haskell and Martha Sprague. Despite his opposition to the appointment of A. Ellen Stanton, she was named principal in 1880. Well-known by the Seminary teachers, Blake gave the funeral sermon for popular teacher and friend of Mrs. Wheaton, Ann E. Carter, in 1882.

In 1886, his daughter, Evelyn Morse, collected fifteen of his sermons under the title, Soundings. His fellow Wheaton trustee, the Reverend Jacob Ide, wrote the preface, in which he described Blake:

a ripe scholar and profound thinker, [he] seemed like one who had sailed over the ocean of truth, not merely glancing at its surface, but exploring its depths and bringing up rich treasures. He skilfully avoided the seaweed and barnacles of profitless speculation, and dropped his lead where it was sure to fasten itself upon a priceless pearl.

Blake was an active member of the Agassiz Club, founded for the study of mineralogy and natural sciences. He served on the executive committees of the Massachusetts Home Missionary Society, the Congregational Publishing Society and the Massachusetts Temperance Alliance. He was a member of the New England Historical and Genealogical Society, vice president of the Old Colony Historical Society in Taunton.

Blake published a number of historical lectures and sermons including Gethsemane and Calvary (1844), A Centurial History of the Mendon Association of Congregational Ministers, with the Centennial Address (1853) and A History of the Town of Franklin for the town’s centennial in 1878.