Newbury, Mass. First Church

Collection History

Please note that as of January 2022, the Newbury, Massachusetts. First Church records, 1634-1828, and all future digital collections are now hosted on the library's new digital archive.

The First Parish Church of Newbury, in Newbury, Massachusetts, was established by Revs. Thomas Parker and James Noyes in approximately 1635. The building of the meetinghouse caused the town of Newbury to fall into a debt of sixty pounds, which led the church to apply to the General Court of Massachusetts for support from taxation in 1637. The original "Old Meeting House" was replaced a few years later by a newer building in approximately 1651. Sources suggest that the meetinghouse became crowded and a new meetinghouse was built by 1661, leading to subsequent disagreements over seating arrangements, which had been assigned for life on the basis of social position. In 1670 the church's co-founder, Rev. Parker, was suspended from his ministry due to his perceived Presbyterian bias. After a lengthy dispute involving the General Court it was ruled that Rev. John Richardson should assist Parker with the ministry. The parish was divided in 1695 when the Second Church of Newbury was established, followed by the Third Church in 1726. The First Parish Church of Newbury is still active today and is a member of the United Church of Christ.

The digital collections below include materials from the Congregational Library and Archives as well as materials loaned by our project partners, the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum. The CLA material consists of a single booklet containing meeting minutes from various ecclesiastical councils, convened from 1669-1670. The material from Phillips Library includes three record books cumulatively spanning 1634-1828, and an assortment of loose documents.


Digital Materials

At the Congregational Library & Archives:

Ecclesiastical council minutes, 1669-1670

This booklet contains a handwritten copy of the council minutes made in 1853. The council was called to advise the church on changing their church governance from a Council of Elders to a more democratic system of governing through popular vote by hand of all members of the church. The response of the ecclesiastical council was overwhelmingly negative, claiming that such a process was against the Congregational way and promoted popery. Despite this, by 1683 Newbury First had no ruling elders.

For additional information please see the finding aid.


At the Phillips Library:

The following original manuscripts are owned by our project partners, the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum. Further information about their collection can be found in the Phillips Library's finding aid.

Church records, 1634-1745

This volume contains documents related to the formation of the First Church, as well as a copy of the church records from 1674-1745. These include biographies of Rev. Parker, accounts of the church's founding, meeting minutes, church policies, covenants, baptisms, marriages, member list from 1745, admissions and dismissions. There are also copies of legal correspondence and testimonies related to the dispute with Rev. Parker.

Church records, 1661-1812

This volume contains meeting minutes, member lists, and lists of expenses, and a description of the boundary between the First Church of Newbury and the Parish of Byfield.

Ministers' records, 1745-1828

This volume contains meeting minutes, copies of correspondence, member lists, and marriages and baptisms.

Loose documents, 1749-1751

These documents largely include correspondence relating to church governance, including some produced as a result of ecclesiastical councils, as well as members of the congregation.

1751 February 20 from congregation of the First Church in Newbury to the Council of Churches objections to the ministry of Rev. Moses Hale
undated from the Ecclesiastical Court to Gov. Francis Barnard letter in reply to petitioners' concerns about location of Second Church's meeting house
1749 February 16 by the Council of Churches   letter with recommendations relating to complaints against Rev. Barnard
undated from Captain Pearson and Deacon Ayer to the First Church of Christ in Haverhill letter regarding the "distressed state and condition" of the Second Church of Christ in Newbury
1750 September 18 unsigned to the Second Church of Christ in Newbury letter regarding complaint against Rev. Barnard


Related Materials

Newbury, Mass. Second Church, 1696-1857

Newburyport, Mass. First Religious Society, 1725-1816

Richardson, John. Sermon notes, 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.