William Batchelder was born on this day (March 25) in 1768. His parents were wealthy, devout Congregationalists from Boston. Through them he met another young Congregationalist named, Adoniram Judson. When he was thirteen both his parents died, and the young man was tossed between several relatives, eventually ending up with his grandfather. William had a heart for helping people – especially those who were disadvantaged. For example, on one occasion, a ship with Portuguese sailors was wrecked outside Boston harbor and William was there to help. His granddad owned a ironware factory and most of his employees were foreigners. When one of the workers was critically injured, William tried to speak to the man about the need of his soul. At that he was attacked by several of the other workers, and their animosity never subsided. William decided to preserve peace and to move on.
In 1783 he took a position as a cabin boy on a ship bound for Puerto Rico. On its way down, the ship was attacked by a Bermuda privateer, and William won the appreciation of the sailors by his courage. Escaping the privateer, a few days later a hurricane drove them into the Gulf of Mexico and several sailors were lost. When they finally reached their destination, William and several men were sent up the coast in a small skiff to purchase salt, but their boat went down and the men became separated. Suffering from exhaustion and dehydration Batchelder approached a solitary hut in the wilderness – fearing the worst – but the occupant was a huge Portuguese man whom he had assisted during the wreck back in Boston. Eventually returning to his ship and helping to fill it with cargo, he once again became the cabin boy on the homeward journey. But then the captain got sick. Before dying, he talked William into becoming the acting captain. Thankfully, the crew promised to follow his leadership. When they reached Boston, William became quite wealthy.
The young man then decided to return to his studies. God’s providence led him into theology. Through independent study, he became convinced of Baptist doctrine. He was baptized, ordained and later became the pastor of a small church in Berwick, Maine. During that time he married, taught school, farmed and pastored. Then at the suggestion of Thomas Baldwin, in 1805 William became pastor of the church Haverhill, Massachusetts. When it was learned that Adoniram and Anne Judson had also become Baptists, Bro. Batchelder became a leader in their support.
In the winter of 1817 while assisting in the establishment of the Waterville Theological Seminary in Maine, he developed a serious cold which resulted in what they called “lung fever.” Though only fifty-one years of age, the man of God died on April 8, 1818. As he passed away, his last words were, “I see glory – Glory!”