Rev. Thomas Balch (1711-1774)
Updated: Aug 22, 2021
Devoted Pastor and Colonial War Veteran
Born on October 17, 1711, and baptized in Charlestown where his father, Benjamin, was a blacksmith, Thomas Balch graduated from Harvard in 1735. In 1736 he was ordained pastor of the Church of Christ in Dedham, Second Parish, and moved into the parsonage his congregants built for him. He married the former Mary Sumner of Roxbury the following year. Together they raised a large family including Thomas (1738), who died while in the militia in 1756; Mary (1740), Benjamin (1743), Elizabeth (1746), Lucy (1749), Irene (1753), Hannah (1755), and a second Thomas, born in 1761.
Although only 25 when he was called to the South Parish as a Pastor, Balch was a great success, with one source noting that “he was deservedly highly esteemed for he was a man of talents and intellectual attainments. He was orthodox and highly regarded as a preacher.” Balch became the religious and social leader of the approximately 78 members of the Parish.
South Dedham (or Tiot) village was rather isolated but residents did feel part of the larger community as demonstrated by the participation of some 64 men from the village in the prolonged Colonial Wars which pit English colonists against the French and their Native American allies. Among those who joined in this effort was Rev. Thomas Balch. He was part of the force that laid siege to the fortress at Louisburg in May, 1745, and on June 28, the French surrendered. It was the most significant campaign of the war. Of the ten South Parish men who traveled to the fortress, six lost their lives. All Louisburg veterans, including Rev. Thomas Balch, were memorialized by a stone monument erected and dedicated in 1903 by the Norwood Old Home Week Association. It stands in the park near the Post Office today.
Returning to parish life, Rev. Balch remained a leader for decades. In 1769, he oversaw the building of a second meetinghouse (on Chapel Street) as his congregation grew. By the time he delivered his final sermon in 1770, he had baptized some 637 and performed 148 marriages.
Rev. Thomas Balch died on January 8, 1774 in his parsonage home. His son-in-law, Rev. Manasseh Cutler, who was called from his parish in Ipswich as Balch’s condition worsened, wrote in his journal that “The parish buried him in a very honorable manner.”
The grave of Rev. Thomas Balch stands at the pinnacle of the hill in Old Parish Cemetery, overlooking the community he helped to build. The Balch Elementary School was named after Rev. Balch.