Windham, Maine. First Church

Collection History

The area now known as Windham, Maine was part of the traditional territory of the Abenaki and Penacook tribes, both of which became members of the Wabanaki Confederacy in the 1680s. In 1734 the Massachusetts General Court granted the land to 60 settlers from Marblehead, Massachusetts, with the initial settlement known as New Marblehead Plantation.

The First Congregational Church of Windham was established at the founding of New Marblehead in 1737, by order of the General Court, but was unable to call a minister until 1743 when Rev. John Wight came to serve the seven church members. Between 1745 and 1751 the settlement was immersed in conflict as a result of King George's War, with residents removing to the town stockade, including Rev. Wight, who continued to minister to the besieged population until he died in 1754. Hostilities had fully ceased by 1756, and New Marblehead Plantation was incorporated on June 12, 1762 as Windham, named for Wymondham in Norfolk, England.

The second pastor was Rev. Peter Thacher Smith, ordained September 22, 1762. Rev. Smith served for 28 years and was dismissed in 1790. During his pastorate the township struggled to finalize the construction of a meeting house, with failed building projects attempted in 1768 and 1783. Though lacking a settled pastor after Rev. Smith's dismissal, the town was finally able to erect a substantial meeting house in 1795.

Rev. Nathaniel Stone was called and ordained in 1798 and dismissed in February, 1805. Rev. Asa Lyman served as minister briefly from 1809-10, followed by Rev. Gardner Kellogg, who served from 1811-1826. Rev. William Gragg served from 1828 until his dismissal in 1832. Rev. Jonathan L. Hale served briefly from 1832-35, followed by Rev. John Shepard from 1836 until dismissal in 1839.

The church is still active today as the Windham Hill United Church of Christ, Congregational and is a member of the UCC.

The collections below consist of the first two church record books, produced respectively during the ministries of Rev. John Wight and Rev. Peter Thacher Smith. Both volumes contain administrative information such as births, marriages, deaths, member lists, and church meeting minutes.

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, 1743-1762

This bound volume of church records includes lists of births, baptisms, marriages, deaths, admissions to full communion, and members owning the covenant. The title page of the records refers to the church and town as "New Marblehead", the pre-incorporation name of the settlement. The record book was kept by Rev. John Wight during his ministry.

Church records, 1762-1799

This bound volume of church records spans the ministry of Rev. Pater Thacher Smith, and includes a table of contents and biographical information about Rev. Smith's own children, as well as church meeting minutes and votes, lists of baptisms, a renewal of the covenant, admissions to full communion, and a list of church members and families in town at the time of Rev. Smith's ordination (1762-1799).

 

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.