Rev. Jabez Chickering was born in that part of Dedham now Dover, on November 4, 1753. His father died when he was 18 days old but his mother taught him the Holy Scriptures and to know and honor his father’s “God.” One day when 6 years old he was found in his room on his knees praying. He graduated from Harvard University in 1774 and, out of two calls, accepted that to the Church of Christ in Dedham, Second Parish, as it was then known. He was ordained at South Dedham on July 3, 1776. He served the parish for 36 years, from 1776 to 1812.
On April 22, 1777, Jabez Chickering married Hannah Balch (1755-1839), daughter of Rev. Thomas Balch, his predecessor at the church of South Dedham.
During his ministry of 36 years, 78 parishioners were added to the church, 203 couples were married, and 351 were baptized. The church building itself was the second meetinghouse, located on Lenox Street, where it, along with the Noon House, had been built in 1769.
According to contemporary accounts, “He was a sprightly man, clear of voice, prudent and pacific in advice, remarkable in extemporary prayer.” He was a good scholar in college, liberal in opinion, but “without fear or interest he declared the whole counsel of God.” He was uncommonly sensitive to the unkindness or imitation of others, but he was not only forgiving, he would do kind offices for his enemy. He was hospitable both to strangers of distinction and to the unfortunate. He had many warm friendships which lasted his entire life. He was very fond of children and always carried peppermints in his pockets to give to them.
For some years before his death he spent his whole salary on charities in his own parish and beyond. Among his donations was a fund of $200 for the support of singing in public worship provided the parish would have a singing school once every 3 years, and, in 1800, $200 towards a circulating parish library. That money went to the purchase of books which were housed in a book cabinet that had belonged to his father-in-law, Rev. Thomas Balch.
These books, forming the “Social Circulating Library” of South Dedham, were circulated among his parishioners for ten years, after which the group disbanded and the books were sold. Still it was the beginning of a “public” library. The cabinet was obtained by local historian Fred Holland Day and remains in the Norwood Historical Society’s collection today.
Rev. Chickering was an invalid for nine months before his death on March 12, 1812.
The Chickering crypt, which includes a plaque affixed by the First Congregational Church, is made of Dedham granite, a local granite with a distinctive pink hue. It was likely quarried nearby.