Beacon Street Diary

September 18, 2018

These latest additions to our New England's Hidden Histories program come from our project partners at the New England Historic Genealogical Society. They include record books and associated material for three coastal churches founded in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries: Sandwich First, the Congregational Church of Hull, and Newbury Third. The church records comprise registers of baptisms, marriages, and deaths, admissions and dismissions, meeting minutes, and tax lists. The Sandwich First collection includes town meeting minutes in addition to the ecclesiastical records.

 

Sandwich, Mass. First Church

Sandwich's First Church was founded in 1638 as part of the original Plymouth Colony. The collection consists of two record books, cumulatively spanning 1691-1853. The first contains admissions, baptisms, proceedings, deaths, and dismissals ranging from 1691-1818. The second contains meeting minutes for the first precinct in the town of Sandwich, as well as those for parish meetings from 1786-1853.

Hull, Mass. Congregational Church

The First Church in Hull (formerly Nantasket) was founded in 1644. The volume comprises handwritten transcriptions from the First Church's records dating from 1725-1767. These include listings of baptisms, marriages, and deaths. The records were copied in 1847 by Charles J. F. Binney from the records of Rev. Ezra Carpenter for 1725 to 1746, and the records of Rev. Samuel Veazie for 1753 to 1767. The earlier records for this church (1644-1725) were destroyed in a fire sometime before 1847.

Newbury, Mass. Third Church

The Third Church of Newbury, Mass. was founded in 1726, after the establishment of the First Church in 1635 and Second Church in 1695. The volumes were transcribed from various books and papers in 1737 by the church's first minister, Rev. John Lowell, and later continued by Edith R. Wills. The Third Church experienced a denominational split in 1746, when a number of parishioners left to form the Newbury Presbyterian Church. The Third Church became part of the parish of Newburyport in 1764.

 

Special Thanks

These digital resources have been made possible in part by the Council on Library and Information Resources, through a Digitizing Hidden Collections grant.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this resource do not necessarily represent those of the Council on Library and Information Resources.

August 21, 2018

We are pleased to make four more collections of valuable church documents available as part of our New England's Hidden Histories program. These records from the northern and central parts of Massachusetts further enhance our holdings by shedding light on the complexities of these communities. Church and parish records are as much town records as they are records of the church community. Vital records and sermons offer clues into the daily lives of everyday people, and financial records provide insight into the economics of a time long past. These records also mark an important milestone in the NEHH program as they are the last manuscripts to be published as part of our three-year NEH grant. But don't worry. There are many more manuscripts to be published over the next three years thanks to other grants.

 

Marlborough, Mass. First Church

The town of Marlborough was incorporated in 1660. The First Parish Church was originally organized in 1666. The first meetinghouse stood on the old Common, but was burnt down by Native Americans in 1676. In 1833, 50 members of the First Parish withdrew in order to form the First Evangelical Congregational Society, though by 1836 the two churches reformed as the single Union Church in Marlborough. These extensive records include the earliest extant church records which include meeting minutes, vital records, membership lists, and pew records. The collection also includes sermons, financial records, records related to two early pastors, and the records of the First Evangelical Congregational Society.

West Brookfield, Mass. First Congregational Church

Though established during the 1660s, the earliest history of the First Congregational Church is Brookfield has been lost to fire. Our records begin with the construction of the third meetinghouse in 1755. West Brookfield split from Brookfield in 1848. The church and parish records include meeting minutes, records of petitions and their signers, committee reports, baptismal and marriage records, historical sketches, and copies of the church's covenant.

Merrimac, Mass. Pilgrim Congregational Church

The parish was first organized in 1725 and a year later the church itself was founded as the Second Church of Christ in Amesbury. The town of Merrimac separated from Amesbury in 1876, and in 1879 the church was renamed to the First Congregational Church, though it was popularly referred to as the Pilgrim Congregational Church. The collection includes meeting minutes and records of votes, financial records, membership lists, baptismal and marriage records, church communications, and the results of ecclesiastical councils. Rev. Paine Wingate, the first minister, is also heavily featured within the records, and the collection includes his final will and testament.

Wendell, Mass. Congregational Church

The Congregational Church of Wendell was formed in Wendell, Mass. in 1774. The first meetinghouse was built in 1783, and a second in 1846. Even though the church was relatively small throughout its history, the Congregational Church of Wendell contributed to domestic and foreign missions, including mission work in China. This collection includes meeting minutes, vital statistics, public confessions of guilt, church correspondence, and deacons' records. The collection also includes extensive financial records.

 

Special Thanks

These digital resources have been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this resource do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

July 13, 2018

The latest additions to our New England's Hidden Histories program are three collections of association records representing a diverse set of Massachusetts churches. These early records offer insight into the administration of geographically linked churches and the communities these conferences fostered. They afford a look into the installations and ordinations of ministers, and the controversies surrounding some of these appointments. The records also include ecclesiastical councils for disciplinary cases, highlighting how these early associations provided fellowship between individual churches and pastors. These collections represent some of the earliest direct foundations for the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ.

 

Berkshire Association of Congregational Ministers

The Berkshire Association was formed in 1763. Due to its significant size, the association separated into two distinct organizations in 1852 — the Berkshire North and Berkshire South Associations. Included within this collection are four volumes of association and ecclesiastical records which cover a broad range of topics including meeting minutes, voting records, committee reports, copies of founding documents, and council results. This collection also includes extensive records related to disciplinary cases and controversies within the conference.

Hampden Association of Congregational Ministers

The first mention of the Hampden Association — divided into East and West — is in the Massachusetts General Association meeting in 1814, though the association dates to a much earlier year. The bulk of this collection is association minutes and reports, which broadly contain meeting minutes and records of votes, ordination proceedings, the results of ecclesiastical councils, discussions of religious matters, and disciplinary cases. Also included in this collection are a volume of association records, which includes the association constitution, and correspondence related to religious and ministerial matters.

Marlborough Association of Congregational Ministers

The Marlborough Association was formed and first met in 1725 in the house of Rev. Robert Breck, the second minister of the Marlborough First Parish Church. The association dealt with "cases of conscience, questions of difficulty in church discipline, or matters of disagreement, between the parties in a church, or between pastor and people." Due to declining membership, the ministers decided to dissolve the association in 1814. This collection includes two volumes of records which contain meeting minutes and the results of votes, committee reports, membership lists, and copies of the association's founding documents.

 

Special Thanks

These digital resources have been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this resource do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

July 3, 2018

The Congregational Library & Archives will be closed on Wednesday, July 4th in observance of Independence Day.

All of our online resources will be available as usual. If you have questions for the staff, please send an email or leave a voicemail, and we'll get back to you when we return to the office on Thursday.

We hope you have a safe and happy celebration.

 


image of fireworks over the Charles River in Boston courtesy of Pablo Valerio via Wikimedia Commons

June 29, 2018

Today, the records of two historic churches join the New England's Hidden Histories program and continue to expand the program’s offerings of valuable church records from areas south of Boston. These records from Berkley Congregational Church and the First Congregational Church of Harwich offer illuminating insights into eighteenth- and nineteenth-century religious and political life within New England. The diverse types of materials covered by these two collections include sermons, vital records, pew deeds, disciplinary cases, and copies of the petition submitted to the Massachusetts General Court which led to the formation of the South Parish in Harwich.

 

Berkley, Mass. Congregational Church

The First Church of Christ in Berkley was gathered in 1737 in the newly incorporated town of Berkley, Massachusetts. In 1737, the town agreed to settle Samuel Tobey, a young graduate of Cambridge. After Rev. Tobey passed in 1781, Thomas Andros, a self-taught veteran of the American Revolutionary War, was settled in Berkley in 1788 following a seven year search. The records in this collection include manuscript sermons preached by both Rev. Tobey and Rev. Andros, two disciplinary cases related to members of the church, and the oldest record book of the church, all of it in Rev. Tobey’s hand, which includes both administrative and vital records.

 

Harwich, Mass. First Congregational Church

The First Congregational Church of Harwich, Massachusetts, was founded in 1747 when the town of Harwich was split into the North and South Parishes. On April 8, 1747, the precinct voted to complete construction on a meeting house which was finally completed in 1748. In 1747, Edward Pell, a Harvard graduate and Boston native, preached to the South Parish, and soon after he accepted a call to become the first minister of the new church. Present within this collection are five volumes of extensive church records, including valuable financial records, pew deeds, vital records, members lists, meeting minutes, and treasurer reports. Also within the collection are church communications and records related to the formation of the South Parish in Harwich, including copies of the petition submitted to Massachusetts General Court.

 

Special Thanks

These digital resources have been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this resource do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

June 22, 2018

This newest batch of digitized material from our New England's Hidden Histories program is once again provided in partnership with the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum. It primarily includes the sermons of four ministers from northeastern Massachusetts — Revs. Edward Barnard, Dudley Leavitt, Samuel Phillips, and John Richardson — spanning more than a century. These documents provide a look into the topics they found important and how they addressed them. Take a look and see what stands out to you.

 

Edward Barnard's sermons

Rev. Edward Barnard was a Harvard graduate like many of his ilk, and went on to become minister at the First Church in Haverhill, Mass. from 1743 until his death. This collection contains more than 200 of his sermons, covering much of his career from 1739-1774. The first three volumes are dated and contain the majority of the sermons, with a further six smaller volumes of undated material. Rev. Barnard recorded the locations and dates of preaching in the sermon headers — like many ministers of the time he recycled sermons through the years, performing some of his "greatest hits" at appropriate liturgical occasions. The earliest ones were delivered at various locales such as Bradford, Wilmington, Salisbury, and Andover, and later re-used in his home parish of Haverhill.

Dudley Leavitt's sermons

Rev. Dudley Leavitt, a Harvard graduate like most early New England ministers, was served at the Salem Tabernacle Church from 1745-1762. He succeeded the controversial Rev. Samuel Fisk, whose dispute in 1735 with the First Church in Salem had led to the Tabernacle Church's creation. This collection consists of two short volumes of Rev. Leavitt's sermons, preached from 1740-1751 in Salem. The second volume includes a foray into politics, with a 1746 sermon condemning the Jacobite Uprisings in Scotland.

Samuel Phillips's papers

This collection includes two sets of sermons by Rev. Samuel Phillips, minister of the Congregational Church of Rowley from 1651-1696. The first volume (1670-1695) contains three iterations of sermons preached on Exodus 20:12. The second volume (1690-1723) is more varied in content, and also includes a posthumous document detailing the Proceedings of a Council at Reading in 1723. Also included is the transfer of Boxford Second Church parishioner Elizabeth Holt by Rev. John Cushing in 1746.

John Richardson's sermon notes

Like many New England ministers of the day, Rev. John Richardson was a Harvard graduate, receiving his degree in 1666 and staying on as a tutor at the college. In 1675 he was ordained as minister of the First Church of Newbury, Mass., where he remained for twenty-one years. The digitized collection comprises detailed notes for some sermons preached towards the end of his life in 1692-1693.

 

Special Thanks

These digital resources have been made possible in part by the Council on Library and Information Resources, through a Digitizing Hidden Collections grant.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this resource do not necessarily represent those of the Council on Library and Information Resources.

June 12, 2018

Our New England's Hidden Histories program continues to grow, with the latest collections provided in partnership with the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum. They encompass records from four historical area Congregational churches: Newbury Second, Salem First, Boxford First, and Topsfield. Together these collections represent a wealth of data and historical documents ranging from the colonial era to the nineteenth century, encompassing witchcraft trials, heated theological disputes, and letters to Paul Revere.

 

Salem, Mass. First Church

Salem's First Church was the first truly Congregational Church in America, founded in 1629 with governance by church members. Its history also has a dark side, with numerous clergy and parishioners involved in the Salem Witchcraft trials of 1692. Four volumes of church records ranging from 1629-1843 are included in the collection, three bound and one loose. These include meeting minutes, member and pew listings, baptisms, financial records, and historical chronicles. Loose records include correspondence relating to the church and community as well as administrative documents and officer lists. Of particular note are four letters from John Punchard on behalf of the church committee in 1806, requesting a church bell from Paul Revere's foundry in Boston.

Newbury, Mass. Second Church

The Newbury Second collection includes a bound volume of church records from 1696-1857, which contains accounts, meeting minutes, member lists, seating lists, and a register of baptisms. There is also a collection of correspondence relating to a dispute in the 1740s between religious revivalists in Newbury First Church and their staunchly traditionalist pastor Rev. Christopher Toppan (Rev. Toppan was rumored to have brought a whip into church with which to "scourge the heretics"). Also included are the Second Church's 1729 Articles of Agreement, updated after the acquisition of a new meeting house.

Boxford, Mass. First Church

The Boxford First Church records consist of loose documents ranging in date from 1703-1823, which include meeting minutes and member listings. The bulk of them, however, are correspondences related to a lengthy dispute between two Boxford First parishioners during the ministry of Rev. Isaac Briggs – sparked when one man accused the other of stealing his sheep. These records are part of a much larger archival collection, the Perley Family Papers.

Topsfield, Mass. Congregational Church

Another venerably historic church, Topsfield Congregational was founded in 1663, although there are no surviving records from the earliest period. The extant collection consists of two bound volumes of church records dating from 1684-1869. These include meeting minutes, admissions and member lists, and listings of baptisms, marriages, and deaths.

 

Special Thanks

These digital resources have been made possible in part by the Council on Library and Information Resources, through a Digitizing Hidden Collections grant.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this re

May 25, 2018

The Congregational Library & Archives will be closed on Monday, May 28th in observance of Memorial Day.

All of our online resources will be available as usual. If you have questions for the staff, please send an email or leave a voicemail, and we'll get back to you when we return to the office on Tuesday.

historical American flags

 


image of historical American flags courtesy of PBS.org

May 21, 2018

These latest additions to the New England's Hidden Histories program again come from our project partners, the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum. The two collections constitute a treasure trove of documents relating to a single individual, Rev. John Cleaveland, who lived from 1722-1799 and ministered to the Chebacco Church in Ipswich for 52 years until his death.

Rev. Cleaveland lived through both the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. He was an army chaplain during both conflicts, first as a British colonial serving against the French, and later as an American resisting British overreach. Rev. Cleaveland's story is both an intimate and universal example of shifting loyalties and identities during the formation of the United States.

 

John Cleaveland papers

Seldom are we treated to so comprehensive a collection as Rev. Cleaveland's personal papers, which reveal diverse aspects of 18th-century life in thrilling detail. These include an extensive array of correspondence, religious papers, biographical material, church administration, handwritten sermons, and relations of faith from local parishioners. Also included is a short diary by Rev. Cleaveland's wife, Mary Cleaveland, in which she details the births of her children. Among the most notable records are documents related to Rev. Cleaveland's expulsion from Yale, a long and somewhat fraught correspondence with his eventual fiancée, a letter urging the conversion of Native American peoples, and a sermon against British tyranny.

John Cleaveland sermons

These two volumes contain Rev. Cleaveland's handwritten notes for sermons preached from 1752-1799. Most were delivered multiple times, with dates and locations specified in the headers. Rev. Cleaveland's home parish of Chebacco served as the main location, however some were delivered to neighboring parishes, and also while encamped during his service in the French and Indian War.

 

Special Thanks

These digital resources have been made possible in part by the Council on Library and Information Resources, through a Digitizing Hidden Collections grant.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this resource do not necessarily represent those of the Council on Library and Information Resources.

May 16, 2018

This new collection in our New England's Hidden Histories program comes from the Church of Christ in Westborough, Mass. These earliest records begin with the founding of the church in 1724 under Rev. Ebenezer Parkman, and chronicle the congregation's growth through 1787. During the First Great Awakening, both George Whitefield and Johnathan Edwards preached there.

This digital resource has been provided by the Westborough Public Library, where the original manuscript is held.

 

Westborough, Mass. Church of Christ

The single volume in this collection includes church meeting minutes, records of votes, marriages, baptisms, admissions and dismissions, membership lists, and church covenants.

 

Special Thanks

NEH logoThis digital resource has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this resource do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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