North Yarmouth, Maine. First Church

Collection History

The area now known as Yarmouth, Maine was originally called Westcustogo, and was inhabited by the Aucocisco and Arosaguntacook, Abenaki peoples who would later become part of the Wabenaki Confederacy. Europeans began to settle in the area from at least 1629, but these efforts were disrupted by King Phillip's War and resulting conflicts, which continued until around 1756. A permanent settlement was not established until 1715, and the official incorporation of Yarmouth as a town did not occur until 1849.

A congregation was established in November of 1730, representing the ninth church founded in what is now Maine. It was known as the First Church in North Yarmouth, but became the First Church in Yarmouth in 1849 when Yarmouth was set off from North Yarmouth. The first pastor, installed upon the church's foundation, was Rev. Ammi R. Cutter of West Cambridge, Mass. He was dismissed in 1735 for alleged Armenianism, a more liberal theology considered heretical by Calvinist-leaning Congregationalists. Rev. Cutter was followed in 1736 by Rev. Nicholas Loring, who remained pastor of the church until his death in 1763. Rev. Edward Brooks was installed in 1764 but dismissed in 1769 "on account of his laxity in doctrine". Rev. Tristram Gilman was ordained December 8, 1769, and died in 1809 at age 74.

The next minister was Rev. Tristram Gilman, who was was ordained in 1769, and died in office in 1809. Rev. Francis Brown of Chester, New Hampshire was ordained in 1810 and dismissed in 1815 to become President of Dartmouth College. Rev. Joseph W. Curtis of Windsor, Vermont was ordained in 1816, but was dismissed the following year due to "nervous depression", after which he became respectively a missionary, a pastor in Ohio, and a farmer in Massachusetts. Rev. Samuel Woodbury, a Dartmouth graduate, was ordained in 1817. He died two years later in 1819 at Groton, Mass., while "journeying for his health" at age 29. Rev. Asa Cummings was ordained in 1821 and dismissed in 1829, later becoming the editor of the Christian Mirror in Portland. He died at sea in June of 1855, on his way from Aspinwall to New York, aged 60 years.

The current Italianate-style meeting house was constructed in 1867–68, and is an important surviving work of Portland architect George M. Harding, one of Maine's leading architects of the mid-19th century. It is one of only three of Harding's church designs to survive in the state. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1995. The church is still active today as the First Parish Congregational Church in Yarmouth, and is affiliated with the United Church of Christ.

The digitized collections below consist of three bound volume of church records, containing administrative information for the church from 1730-1809, 1810-1821, and 1821-1849. The original manuscripts in this collection are owned by our project partners, the Maine Historical Society. Further information about the collection can be found in the MHS catalog.

 

Digital Materials

Church records, 1730-1809

This bound volume of adminstrative records for the First Church in North Yarmouth spans the pastorates of Revs. Cutter, Loring, Brooks, and Gilman. It contains manuscript minutes of church committee meetings, the church covenant, ecclesiastical council records, member rolls, baptisms, disciplinary case records, and lists of officers.

Church records, 1810-1821

This adminstrative record book for the First Church in North Yarmouth commences with the ordination of Rev. Francis Brown, and continues through the pastorates of Revs. Curtis and Woodbury, It contains copies of correspondence, ecclesiastical council records, and church meeting minutes including a discussion of the difficulties between the First and Second Churches in North Yarmouth.

Church records, 1821-1849 

This church book commences with the pastorate of Rev. Asa Cummings, and includes member rolls, church meeting minutes, copies of correspondence, ecclesiastical council records, and lists of baptisms, dismissions, and deaths. There are also inserted print materials, including " A Citical Exposition of the Lord's Supper," by Rev. H. M. Paynter, records of annual meetings of the Cumberland Conference of Congregational Churches, and a brochure from Hotel Astor in New York City.

 

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.