Salem, Mass. East Church

Collection History

Please note that as of January 2022, the Salem, Massachusetts. East Church records, 1717-1806, and all future digital collections are now hosted on the library's new digital archive.

The East Church in Salem was officially formed in 1718, after parishioners living on the east side of the town broke away from the First Church of Salem and built a more conveniently-located meetinghouse in August of 1717. This division was enacted without the permission of the remainder of the First Church’s congregation, who nonetheless decided to grant the East Church members an official dismission on Dec. 25, 1718, for "peace sake". This division effectively split the town into two parishes.

The first sermon at Salem's East Church was preached in May of 1718, by Rev. Samuel Wigglesworth of Ipswich. By November 1718, the parish had invited Robert Stanton to be minister. His ordination on April 8, 1719 featured a sermon preached by Rev. Cotton Mather. The congregation was firmly Puritan in it perspective until 1783, with the ordination of Rev. Dr. William Bentley to the position of colleague to the elderly pastor, Rev. James Diman. Rev. Dr. Bentley held strong Universalist views, and was also a notable scholar, linguist, and diarist. He remained at East Church until his death in 1819.

During the subsequent pastorate of Rev. Dr. James Flint, a new church building was erected on Brown Street/ Washington Square North in 1844-45. The church was Gothic Revival in style, designed by nationally renowned New York architect Minard Lafever. In 1897, the East Church united with the Barton Square Church and changed its name to The Second Unitarian Church. The East Church reunited with the First Church in 1956, and the former East Church building of 1844-1846 is now the Salem Witch Museum.

The original manuscripts in this collection are owned by our project partners, the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum. They consist of two bound volumes of church records containing meeting minutes, ministers' rates, and expenses. There are also a selection of loose records from 1748-1806, which include a record of a monetary collection on behalf of beleaguered minister Rev. James Diman, officer lists, a list of poor individuals and families in the parish, and a valuation of the meetinghouse and its furnishings.

For additional information please see the Phillips Library finding aid.


Digital Materials

Church records, 1717-1757

This volume includes items related to the building of the Eastern Meeting House in 1719, meeting minutes, ministers' rates, pew listings, and itemized expenses.

Church records, 1757-1792

This volume includes meeting minutes, ministers' rates, and records of other taxes levied by church collectors.

Church records (loose), 1748-1806

These records include charitable material, such as a listing of donations gathered to support the ailing minister Rev. Dinan and a list of poor in the East Parish, as well as listings of parish officers for various years, and a monetary valuation of the East meetinghouse and its accoutrements in 1806.

1748 list of donations for the Rev. James Diman, who "has bin viseted with sickness and death in his family and hath bin at extraordinary charge"
1758 list of poor in the East Parish in 1758
1764 March 20 lists of officers in the East Parish as of 1764
1767 March 3 lists of officers in the East Parish as of 1767
1806 a valuation of the East Meeting House and its accouterments at 3,300 dollars


Related Materials

Salem, Mass. First Church, 1629-1843


Special Thanks

CLIR logoThese 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.