Edward and Orra Hitchcock attended the First Church of Deerfield, Massachusetts, where the Reverend Samuel Willard (1775-1859) presided. He was born in Petersham, Massachusetts, and died in Deerfield. He was a minister, educator, abolitionist, and musician. A Unitarian, Willard rejected the doctrines of the total depravity of humanity and the divinity of Jesus Christ. A dismayed minority left the Deerfield Church and area ministers at first refused to ordain Willard. However, despite his personal orthodox convictions, Edward's father Justin Hitchcock remained in Willard's congregation, along with the rest of his family.