Wells, Maine. First Church

Collection History

The land which would become the township of Wells lies within the traditional territory of the Abenaki, who called the area Webhannet. By 1622, the Plymouth Company had allocated the land to Sir Ferdinando Gorges, Lord Proprietor of Maine, who in turn opened it to colonial settlement in 1641. 

Rev. John Wheelwright, a supporter of Anne Hutchison during the Antinomian Controversy who had been banished from Massachusetts, led this first group of settlers to Wells and established a preliminary church, over which he presided as minister. Rev. Wheelwright removed from Wells in 1647 after his banishment had been lifted.

The formal organization of the First Church in Wells occurred in 1701, with Rev. Samuel Emery ordained as minister on October 29 of that year, though he may have already been preaching informally before that time. Rev. Emery died in office in December 1724, and was followed by Rev. Samuel Jefferds of Salem, Mass., ordained December 15, 1725. He also died in office in 1752, aged 48 years. Rev. Gideon Richardson of Sudbury, Mass. served from February 27, 1754 to his death on March 17, 1758, aged only 28. Rev. Moses Hemmingway of Framingham, Mass followed as minister from August 8, 1759 until his death on April 20, 1811, aged 75 years. Rev. Benjamin White of Thetford, Vt. served from June, 1811 until his death on March 23, 1814 at age 33. Rev. Jonathan Greenleaf of Newburyport, Mass. was ordained pastor May 8, 1815, and was dismissed in September of 1828. 

A Second Church in Wells was organized, owing to doctrinal differences, on August 23, 1831 with the Rev. Charles S. Adams as its first pastor. The First and Second churches officially re-merged in 1963, and the church is still active today as the Congregational Church of Wells, a member of the United Church of Christ.

The digitized collection below consists of a single-volume church record book, containing administrative information and vital statistical information for the First Church. 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, 1701-1848

This collection comprises a bound volume of the church's administrative records, beginning with an abstract history of the town of Wells with reference to church affairs, written by Rev. Jonathan Greenleaf in 1817. The church book also contains member rolls, baptisms, lists of officers, marriages, death records, a copy of the church covenant, financial records, and church bylaws.

 

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.