Fish, Phineas, 1785 - 1854

Phineas Fish was the son of Jonathan Fish and Temperance Nye of Sandwich, Massachusetts. A graduate of Harvard College (1807), he studied theology with John Simpkins of Brewster and accepted a pastoral office at the Mashpee Indian Church in 1811, succeeding Gideon Hawley.  Fish was supported in part by the Williams Fund that was administered by Harvard College.  He also ministered to the Herring Pond Indian community.

Fish was ordained on September 18, 1811.  He married Phebe Gardner in 1820, at Sandwich.  The couple had three children: William Henry, George Gardner, and Sarah M.  The family's Cotuit home was used as the town's post office.

Characterized as a "liberal Congregationalist with heavily rationalist, anti-Calvinist with Unitarian tendencies," Fish preached to the larger Mashpee community of Whites, Blacks, and Indians.  However, his ministry to the Mashpee suffered greatly beginning in 1833, after being accused of using the Williams Fund for ministering to an increasingly White audience from outside Mashpee.  Soon Mashpee authorities sought to replace him.

From that point on, Fish was mired in controversy.  His services were boycotted, while Mashpee community members found preachers more suitable to their needs -- the Baptist Joseph Amos and the Methodist William Apes.  

In 1835 the Mashpee sued Fish to regain control of their meeting house and the parsonage.  Fish sued both William Mingo and Moses Pocknet for trespass and theft in 1836.  Three years later, Mingo filed an injunction against him.  In 1842, Fish was sued in equity by Solomon Attaquin and the Selectmen of Mashpee.

When Fish eventually left Mashpee in 1840, he and those congregants who still followed him erected another Congregational house of worship, the First Church of Cotuit, in Cotuit Village on the border of South Mashpee in 1846.

Rev. Fish died in Cotuit on June 16, 1854, at age 69.  

PalmerNecrology of Alumni of Harvard College, 1851-52 to 1862-63, 29.  Obituary, The Puritan Recorder, June 29, 1854.  MandellTribe, Race, History, 98.  Breault, "Tenacious of their Lands." Rev. Phineas Fish, Boston Recorder, June 29, 1854, p. 103.  Sixty-First Annual Report of the Massachusetts Home Missionary Society (Boston, MA: Press of T.R. Martin & Son (1860), 8.

Born: 
January 30, 1785
Died: 
June 16, 1854
Ethnicity