Salem, Mass. North Church

Collection History

Please note that as of January 2022, the Salem, Massachusetts. North Church records, 1772-1831, and all future digital collections are now hosted on the library's new digital archive.

In the spring of 1770, the minister of the First Church in Salem, Rev. Thomas Barnard (1748-1814) became paralyzed and unable to work. His son Thomas Barnard, Jr. stepped in and fulfilled his duties until the annual meeting of the parish. Several votes were taken; the members of the church became split on who to call as their next minister. One group wanted to retain the current minister's son; the other wished to call the Rev. Asa Dunbar. Since no agreement could be reached, the church divided into two. The First Church called Rev. Dunbar as its minister and the newly formed North Church in Salem selected the Rev. Thomas Barnard, Jr. as its first minister.

In February 1772, forty-two associates bought land on the corner of North and Lynde Streets in Salem. These 'Proprietors of the North Meeting House' met on March 3, 1772, and voted to build a meeting house. On May 16, 1772, the First Church voted to grant the request of the 52 people who asked for a dismission to become members of the North Church. The first meeting house opened in August of 1772 and remained in use until 1836, when a new meeting house was built. The First Church and North Church reunited in 1923, and moved to the second meetinghouse of the North Church on Essex Street, its current home. The unified church continues to serve the community today as the First Church in Salem, Unitarian Universalist.

The original manuscripts in this collection are owned by our project partners, the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum. They consist of a copy of the 1629 covenant from Salem First (intended to serve as a model for the North Church), an 1802 Act of Incorporation, and a report on pew payments by treasurer Thomas West.

For additional information please see the Phillips Library finding aid.


Digital Materials

Church covenant, circa 1772

This document is a copy of the original covenant of the First Church, intended for use by the newly founded North Church. The original covenant document was produced in June of 1629.

Incorporation of North Meetinghouse, 1802

This legal document, drawn up by the Massachusetts House and Senate, serves to incorporate the North Meeting House as an official 'body politic' and religious organization on behalf of its proprieters.

Treasurer's report, 1831

This report consists of a legal notice by the North Church's treasurer Thomas West, stating that lapsed payments for pews will result in their public auctioning.


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.