Beacon Street Diary

Archives: June 2018

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