Manchester, Mass. First Congregational Church

Collection History

Please note that as of January 2022, the Manchester, Massachusetts. First Congregational Church records, 1717-1881, and all future digital collections are now hosted on the library's new digital archive.

The First Congregational Church in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts, was formed on November 7, 1716 with 21 members, 71 years after the incorporation of the town of Manchester. The first minister of the newly formed church was Rev. Ames Cheever. Prior to the formation of the church, the inhabitants of Manchester worshipped first at Salem and then at Beverly. However, the town of Manchester still had a meeting house, with the first constructed in 1656 and the second constructed in 1695. A third meeting house was constructed shortly after the formation of the First Church in 1719. The fourth and final meeting house was built in 1809 and was co-owned by both the town of Manchester and the church proprietors.

The church’s Sunday school was founded in June of 1810. In 1843 the name of the church was changed to the Orthodox Congregational Church. In 1844 the church proprietors bought out the town and therefore fully controlled the meeting house thereafter. In 1857, an ecclesiastical dispute resulted in about two-thirds of the parish separating from the church and forming a new church with Rev. F. V. Fenny as the minister. The two churches were reunited in 1869. In 1902 the church was officially incorporated under Massachusetts law and a new covenant and revised by-laws were adopted, and in 1979 the church adopted the name First Parish Church Congregational. A member of the United Church of Christ, the First Parish Church Congregational continues to serve the community of Manchester-by-the-Sea today.

This collection contains the earliest extant record books of the First Congregational Church in Manchester, including the financial records of the church and meeting house, and vital member records including baptismal records, marriage records, necrologies, lists of active members, and disciplinary records.

For additional information, please see the finding aid.


Digital Materials

Church records, 1717-1743

This volume, representing the earliest extant records of the church, primarily contains records related to the church's early members. The volume contains membership lists, records of admitted members, baptismal records, marriage records, statistics, by year, of both births and deaths in the parish, and communion records. Also included are some administrative records, including collection records and lists of church expenses by year.

Church records, 1743-1827

This volume of church records contains both administrative information and the records of the church's members. Included in the volume are meeting minutes and records of votes, installation records, records of deaths, baptismal records, marriage records, and church membership lists. The volume also contains some information related to the construction of the 1809 meeting house and the first Sunday worship within the new building.

Membership records, 1771-1881

This volume of membership records includes lists of members at the church, lists of deacons who served the church, short genealogies of the families of pastors, and a list of church members who lived past the age of 80.


Special Thanks

This 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.