Haverhill, Mass. First Congregational Church - Disciplinary Case Records

return to collection page

return to finding aid

During the colonial period, the local church often functioned as the legal authority in matters of morality. Parishioners were disciplined by the congregation in instances of intemperance (excessive drinking), adultery or fornication outside marriage, and other breaches of their duties as members of the Christian community. Punishment in such cases usually consisted of censure — a temporary restriction from attending services and participating in church business — until the guilty party made a formal confession or request for forgiveness.


Stephen Dowe

Mr. Dowe was both accused of and defended from habitual drunkenness by his neighbors. He subsequently made a confession and request for forgiveness, though these records do not indicate whether the church accepted it.

initial complaint Ayer, William ca. 1738 testified that Stephen Dowe was "very much disguised with drink"
testimony Gile, James ca. 1738 testified that Stephen Dowe was "very much disguised with drink"
testimony Clough, Hannah ;
Roberts, Anne
1738/39 testified May 3d 1738/1739 [sic] that she lived with Stephen Dow February and March and never saw him drunk. Anne Roberts testifieth to all above written.
testimony Little, Thomas ;
Ayer, [Deacon]
ca. 1739 testimony about Stephen Dowe's drunkenness
testimony Robards, Sarah ca. 1739 living with Stephen Dow
request for forgiveness Dowe, Stephen ca. 1739  


Lydia Foster

As a result of suffering an illness with symptoms similar to a miscarriage, Miss Foster was accused by several women in the congregation of fornication outside marriage.

testimony Clement, Ruth ;
Davis, Grace ;
Greele, Martha
1731/32 testimony given against Lydia Foster in suspicion of having miscarried an illegitimate child, notarized by the pastor


Daniel Gile

The single document in this case describes an altercation of some sort between Mr. Gile and a Mr. Haynes.

examination Harriman, John ;
Hassaltine, H.
1726 evidence not sworn, examined by Rev. John Brown, 5 Jan. 1726


Susanna Patee

Mrs. Patee repeatedly gossiped about Mrs. Peaslee's being drunk, but the accusations were found to be unsupported by others' accounts. Mrs. Patee was then found guilty of "public scandal" and suspended from Communion. She made a confession, but her restoration was delayed because many members of the congregation doubted her sincerity.

testimony Corlis, Ruth ca. 1729 re: Susanna Patee / Lydia Peaslee conflict
testimony George, William ;
Peaslee, Nathaniel Jr.
1729 testimony relating to Susannah Patee, defaming Mrs. Lydia Peaslee
deposition Peaslee, Judith ;
White, Abigail
deposition Bradley, Ruth 1729 "Declared this Evidence Sept. 5, 1729"
testimony Davis, Katherine ;
Edwards, Lydia ;
Patee, Elisabeth
testimony Patee, Samuel 1729  
vote Patee, Susanna 1729 "At a Church Meeting after the Lecture, Voted that Mrs, Susanna Patee the wife of R. P. is guilty of public Scandal…"
testimony Little, Daniel 1729/30 testimony about Samuel Patee, Judith [Kezzer], Nathaniel Peasley, and Lydia Peasley
evidence Thompson, [Doctor] 1729/30 re: Susanna Patee / Lydia Peaslee
vote Patee, Susanna 1729/30 Church Vote after Mrs. Patee's Petition to the Church
church meeting appointment Patee, Susanna 1730/31 "Appointed a church Meeting to be the next Friday after the Lecture, to lay before the Church the case of Mrs. Su. Pa…"
vote Patee, Susanna 1730/31 regarding case of Mrs. Susanna Patee