Children do not always adopt the faith of their parents, even when the parent is a minister.
After he was converted to Universalism by Noah Murray in 1793, the Rev. Moses Park began preaching universal salvation to his Baptist congregation. Sheshequin Universalist Society member W. H. H. Gore recalled:
“[Park’s] congregation approved of the new preaching and wondered at the improvements in spirituality and wisdom of the preacher. Finally, after speaking as if by inspiration, he informed his hearers that he believed with his whole soul the doctrine of the universal salvation of the whole human race; that he could no longer minister to them as pastor of a Baptist society, and tendered his resignation. A few denounced, but a large majority stood by him and remained steadfast in the doctrine till their death.”
At least five of Moses Park’s children adopted their father’s new faith:
- Silas Warren Park was a member of the Sheshequin Society and one of the founding members of the Athens Universalist Society.
- Clarissa Park married Nathaniel Flower, a member of the Sheshequin Society and a founder of the Athens Society.
- Amanda Park and her husband Jabez Fish were members of the Sheshequin Society.
- Mary Park married Gustavus Ames, minister of the Sheshequin Society from 1836 to 1843.
- Cynthia Park married Constant Mathewson, who was active in the Athens Society; she was described in her obituary as a Universalist.
But one apple fell far from the tree: Moses Park’s son Chester Park became a Methodist minister.
In August, 1830, the Chenango Association of Universalists, of which the Sheshequin congregation was a member, held its annual meeting at Sheshequin. It appears that one of the attending ministers attempted to bring Chester Park back into the fold. The Rev. Allen Fuller, a Universalist minister from upstate New York who preached at least once at Sheshequin, wrote to the Universalist weekly Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate in September, 1831:
“In a late number of the Methodist Christian Advocate and Journal, I saw an anecdote of which the following is the substance.
“‘At the last meeting of the Universalist Association at Sheshequin, Pa., one of the Universalist ministers visited a Mr. P., who had been educated a Universalist, but had renounced that doctrine, for the purpose of reclaiming him. His attempt, however, was unsuccessful; and during the conversation Mr. P. maintained, and the minister admitted it to be a fact, that Universalism represents a man as arriving at heaven sooner in consequence of his sins. And that the minister replied, – “Well, who cares if it does, I do not.”’
“How near I have succeeded in giving the language of the anecdote I cannot tell, as I write wholly from memory, not having any opportunity to copy the article. I am confident, however, that I have given the sense of the piece…”
Chester Park lived in Sheshequin from 1825 to about 1835. According to the 1830 census, there were only a few men in Sheshequin whose last name started with “P.” Given that his father was a Universalist, it is very likely that Chester Park was the “Mr. P.” who was visited by the Universalist minister in 1831.
Chester Park moved to Athens about 1835. He was licensed to preach in the Methodist Episcopal church in 1838. He organized the Methodist Sunday school in Athens in 1844. He died in Athens in 1881.
Chester Park’s own son, Dana Fish Park, also left his father’s faith. D. F. Park’s first wife, Kate Ball, was the daughter of a Baptist preacher. Shortly after their marriage, D. F. Park converted to the Baptist faith, the original faith of his grandfather Moses Park. D. F. Park was “for years… actively engaged in revival work in outlying neighborhoods.”