Salem, Massachusetts. Tabernacle Church records, 1743-1850.

Collection Information

Salem, Mass. Tabernacle Church records, 1743-1850.


Tabernacle Church (Salem, Mass.)




3 volumes and 1 document case (0.8 cubic feet)

1,028 unique page images: archival TIF, derivative JPEG & PDF

Collection ID #:


Conditions Governing Access:

Original volumes and loose material are restricted and closed to researcher access. Digital duplicates are available for researcher use.

Technical Access:

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Copyright: Preferred Citation:

[Identification of item], in the Salem, Mass. Tabernacle Church records, 1743-1850. RG5122. The Congregational Library & Archives, Boston, MA.

Additional Resources:

Item-level metadata is available for digital duplicates. Please contact the library for more information.



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Tabernacle Church of Salem, originally known as Third Church of Salem, was formed after a split from First Church in 1735. This collection contains the early records of the church, including meeting minutes, pew taxes and apportionments, and financial records. Of particular note are records pertaining to ecclesiastical council proceedings.

Acquisition Information:

Collection placed on permanent loan by the Tabernacle Church, United Church of Christ, of Salem, Massachusetts, in November 2013.


Accruals are expected for this collection in the form of full-text transcriptions of digital duplicates. There is no projected date for this accrual.


Historical Note

Tabernacle Church in Salem, Massachusetts, traces its historical roots back to 1629 with the founding of First Church of Salem. In 1735 First Church Pastor Samuel Fisk was dismissed from his position by ecclesiastical council. A group of parishioners followed Fisk from First Church, built a new meeting house, and met also under the name First Church until 1762 when they were compelled by the colonial legislature to change their name to "Third Church of Christ in Salem". In 1774 the great fire of Salem burned the Third Church meetinghouse to the ground. A replacement meetinghouse was built in 1777 and was copied from the Tabernacle in Moorfields (London) made famous by its association with George Whitefield, leading to the nickname "Tabernacle Church".

It was during the building of this meetinghouse that strife drove a portion of the Third Church congregation to split and form South Church of Salem in 1775. Originally also referring to themselves as "Third Church", the split church later rejoined Tabernacle Church in 1924.

In 1781 the proprietors of Third Church were reincorporated as "The proprietors of the meetinghouse and Land where the Reverend Doctor Nathaniel Whitaker now preaches". Reverend Whitaker was removed from office in 1784 by ecclesiastical council. Another split occurred in 1802 when a portion of Tabernacle Church left to form a Presbyterian church.

In 1812 Tabernacle came to the fore-front of Congregational consciousness when it became the church from which the first six Congregational missionaries of the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions were commissioned.

In 1834 the proprietors of the church were once again reincorporated, this time as "The Proprietors of the Tabernacle Church".


Scope of Collection

This collection contains the early records of Tabernacle Church of Salem, Massachusetts. Records include financial accountings, church meeting minutes and votes, and pew apportionments. Of particular note are records of ecclesiastical proceedings, particularly those relating to the turbulent tenure of Reverend Nathaniel Whitaker.


Further Searches

Subject Headings

Church controversies - Congregational churches.

Church controversies.

Church controversies - Massachusetts - Salem.

Church records and registers - Massachusetts - Salem.

Congregational churches - Massachusetts - Salem.

Covenant (Church polity) - Congregational churches.

First Church (Salem, Mass.)

Salem (Mass.) - Church history.

Salem (Mass.) - History.

Sexual misconduct by clergy.

South Church (Salem, Mass.)

Tabernacle Church (Salem, Mass.)

Tabernacle Church (Salem, Mass.) - History.

Whitaker, Nathaniel, 1732-1795


Related Materials

Salem, Mass. South Church records, 1774-1805. RG5128

Sermons by Rev. Samuel Worcester

Correspondence between the First Church and the Tabernacle Church in Salem : in which the duties of churches are discussed and the rights of conscience vindicated 17.11.1 S24.6 FIRC C 1832

The design, rights, and duties of local churches : a sermon delivered at the installation of the Rev. Elias Cornelius as associate pastor of the Tabernacle Church in Salem, July 21, 1819 15.0.8 5661 1819

The diffusion of correct knowledge of the true God, a leading object of the Christian ministry. A sermon, delivered at the Tabernacle in Salem, April 20, 1803, on the occasion of the installation of the Reverend Samuel Worcester into the pastoral office over the church and religious society, usually assembling and worshipping in that place. 15.0.8 5661 1803

A discourse delivered on the first centennial anniversary of the Tabernacle Church, Salem, Mass., April 26, 1835 … 15.4 5846 WOP-WOZ

Female love to Christ a discourse delivered in the Tabernacle in Salem before the Salem Female Charitable Society, at their annual meeting, Sept. 27, 1809 15.4 5846 WOP-WOZ

God's ways, not as our ways : a sermon occasioned by the death of the Rev. Samuel Worcester, D.D., senior pastor of the Tabernacle Church, in Salem, Mass. 15.0.7 5623 WIS-WOR

John P. Cleveland papers, 1834, 1841. MS0053

The moral and religious improvement of the poor : a sermon delivered on the evening of October 20, 1824, in the Tabernacle Church, Salem 15.4 5846 COO-CRE

Ordination of Messrs. Judson, Hall, Nott, Newell and Rice in Tabernacle Church, Salem. (image)

Salem, MA : Tabernacle Church. 17.11.1 S24.6 TABC

Salem's church with the lighted steeple : a history of Tabernacle Congregational Church 1735-2007 United Church of Christ Salem, Massachusetts 17.11.1 S24.6 TABC P 2007

Samuel Worcester letter, 1805. MS 4765

A sermon delivered at the Tabernacle in Salem, Feb. 6, 1812, on occasion of the ordination of the Rev. Messrs. Samuel Newell, A.M., Adoniram Judson, A.M., Samuel Nott, A.M., Gordon Hall, A.M., and Luther Rice, A.B., missionaries to the heathen in Asia, under the direction of the Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions 15.0.8 5661 1812

A sermon, delivered in the Tabernacle Church, Salem, Mass. Sept. 25, 1823, at the ordination of the Rev. Edmund Frost, as a missionary to the heathen : and the Rev. Messrs. Aaron W. Warner, Ansel D. Eddy, Nathan W. Fiske, Isaac Oakes, and George Sheldon, as evangelists 15.0.8 5662 FR-G 1820-1829

A sermon occasioned by the death of the Rev. Samuel Worcester, D.D., delivered in the Tabernacle church, Salem, Mass., July 12, 1821 15.0.7 5632 WIS-WOR

A sermon preached in the Tabernacle Church, Salem, Nov. 5, 1818, at the ordination of the Rev. Messrs. Pliny Fisk, Levi Spaulding, Miron Winslow, and Henry Woodward as missionaries to the unevangelized nations 15.0.8 5661 1819

A memorial of the old and new Tabernacle, Salem, Mass., 1854-5 17.11.1 S24.6 TABC MW 1855

The correspondence in relation to 'the Third Church of 1735,' with remarks upon the pamphlet published by the Tabernacle Church. 17.11.4 6515 N-W



This collection is arranged in two series: Series I: Volumes and Series II: Loose Materials. Volumes are arranged chronologically according to earliest date; loose materials are grouped by topic, and then arranged chronologically. Digital arrangement reflects physical arrangement. Where there are more than two (2) blank pages in a row, only the first and last have been digitized.



Series I: Volumes

Date: 1743-1849

Extent: 6 volumes contained in 3 books

Arrangement: Volumes are arranged chronologically according to first date. At some point in time after the volumes' keeping, smaller volumes were bound together into a single larger book. Each original volume is described here separately and in chronological order. They are also presented digitally as distinct volumes. Locational information in the right-hand column indicates volume location within the larger book.

    Date Location
Church records 1743-1775 Book 1.1
      Online interface
  This record book contains records of membership, church meeting minutes, church discipline and baptisms. Of particular note are a series of charts documenting pastoral visits to parishioners. These charts contain census-like data on the household, including number and age of people living there.
Church records 1778-1796 Book 2
      Online interface
  These records contain meeting minutes, pew valuations, membership lists, calls to church meetings, and records pertaining to Dr. Nathaniel Whitaker, then-pastor of Tabernacle Church, mostly records discussing ministerial salary.
Church records 1783-1805 Book 1.2
      Online interface
  This volume was created in 1833 when loose-leaf records from 1783-1805 were transcribed into it. These records contain meeting minutes, correspondence, membership records, and records of church discipline.
Church records 1783-1833 Book 1.3
      Online interface
  This volume contains records of church membership, church covenant, and meeting minutes. Of particular note in this volume are historical accounts pertaining to the church’s difficulty with Dr. Nathaniel Whitaker.
Church records 1795-1832 Book 3.1
      Online interface
  This record book contains records of meeting minutes and votes, copies of warrants, pew valuations, and records pertaining to the sexton’s and minister's salary.
Church records 1832-1849 Book 3.2
      Online interface
  Records in this volume include lists of donations, financial accountings, pew taxes, expenses, records of a standing committee and meeting minutes.


Series II: Loose Materials

Date: 1772-1796

Scope: 1 document case

Arrangement: Loose materials are grouped by type and then arranged chronologically. In the online interface, each document is presented separately in accordance with this arrangement. In the locational information below, B/F indicates box and folder numbers.

  Date Location
Covenants 1795, undated B1/F1
    Online interface
"A plan or scheme for erecting a Tabernacle or house of divine worship…" 1774, November 4 B1/F2
    Online interface
Financial and land records 1773-1796 (gaps) B1/F3
    Online interface
Oversize financial record 1774 Pamphlet Binder
    Online interface
Church records 1775, 1784-1785, 1788-1789, undated B1/F4
    Online interface
Oversize list of subscribers (vellum) 1768 Pamphlet Binder
    Online interface
Real Estate dispute 1772, 1773 B1/F6
    Online interface
Whitaker controversy records 1772, 1773, 1781-1785 B1/F5
    Online interface


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