New NEHH Collections - Marlborough First, West Brookfiled First, Merrimac Pilgrim, & Wendell Congregational Churches
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ThanksNational Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.
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