Perley, Samuel. Papers

Collection History

Samuel Perley (1742-1831) was a Presbyterian and Congregational minister, representative of the General Court, Justice of the Peace, doctor, and school teacher who resided respectively in modern-day Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. Originally born in Rowley, Mass. in 1742, he graduated from Harvard in 1763 and was ordained and settled in January of 1765 in the Presbyterian church at Seabrook, N.H. where he served as minister for ten years. Beginning in October of 1776 he undertook a short-lived series of ministries. Rev. Perley preached for two months at Rowley, Mass., was next installed in 1778 at Moultonborough, N.H. and dismissed in May the following year, and served at the Congregational Church in Cockermouth (now Groton), N.H. from June 1779 to February of 1784.

Following his dismissal from Cockermouth, Rev. Perley removed to Gray, Cumberland County, Maine, where he was settled on September 8, 1784; at this time Maine was still part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. During his tenure the church changed from Congregational to Presbyterian, and he was dismissed by the town in May of 1791. Rev. Perley continued to reside in Gray, practicing medicine and serving as a Justice of the Peace for 21 years. He became a representative to the General Court of Massachusetts in 1787 and a member of the Constitutional Convention in 1788. He died on November 28, 1831, at age 89.

The digitized collections below comprise 4 volumes of Rev. Perley's papers. These consist of personal, ministerial, and legal records, including writings about the Committees of Correspondence; marriage, birth, and death records; depositions charging Rev. Perley with adultery; documents relating to difficulties over salary and parsonage lands; wills of Rev. Perley and Priscella Merrill; legal papers of various citizens of Gray; and an account book reflecting fees charged for preaching, teaching and for legal and medical services.

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


Ministerial records, 1744-1791

This volume contains documents relating to Rev. Perley's professional life, including a letter with his acceptance of the call to ministry, the Gray church covenant, meeting minutes, death and marriage records, and records relating to his dismissal from the church in Gray. Also included are legal records and a partial essay on the American Revolution.

1774 November 28   to "Mr. Tinges" [printer] complaint against the Inferior Court at Plymouth for perceived slander against the Committee of Correspondence
undated     essay on the American Revolution [partial]
1784 August 27 from Rev. Perley to the Gray. Maine town meeting letter with acceptance of ministerial call and terms of salary
1784 November 26     covenant of the Gray church
1786     meeting minutes [partial] of the Gray Church committee, with dismissal of Nathaniel Young
1786-1791     death records from the Gray Church
1786     marriage records from the Gray Church
1791     session report for the town of Gray with dismissal of Rev. Perley
1791 May 19 by the committee of the Gray Presbyterian church   statement explaining the decision to dismiss Rev. Perley due to the church’s inability to support a minister after the incorporation of a Baptist Society in Gray
1791 January 27 from Rev. Perley to Captain William Webster letter with proposal for payment


Ecclesiastical council records, 1776-1783

Records in this volume consist of official documents produced during investigations into Rev. Perley's ministry, including conflicts with his congregations at Seabrook and Cockermouth, New Hampshire.

1776 February 22 from ministers at the Londonderry, New Hampshire Synod to the Presbyterian Church in Seabrook, New Hampshire statement and recommendations regarding the difficulties between Rev. Perley and his congregation at Seabrook
1778 June 22     proceedings of the ecclesiastical council at Moultonborough, New Hampshire
1779 by the Church in Moultonborough, New Hampshire   official notice of dismission for Rev. Perley
1783     proceedings of an ecclesiastical council at Cockermouth, New Hampshire, concerning allegations against Rev. Perley


Case records, 1785-1789

This volume contains case records produced during an investigation into alleged adultery by Rev. Perley, which was ultimately ruled to be slander. The documents mainly consist of witness testimonials both for and against the minister.

1785-1786 by Mary Ford, Nathaniel Ford, and Hannah Sprague   three testimonials against Rev. Perley for alleged adultery with Sarah Mathews
1789 August 5 from Rev. Perley to Col. Jabez Mathews cover letter and copies of three adultery testimonials by Mary Ford, Nathaniel Ford, and Sarah Sprague
1786 June 5 by Jane White   testimony in the case of Col. Mathews, alleging that Rev. Perley improperly bled Col. Mathews.
1786 March 7 by John Mathews   testimony in favor of Rev. Perley, denying the allegations of adultery
1786 September 21 by Sarah Mathews   testimony in favor of Rev. Perley, denying the allegations of adultery
1787 March 9 by Levi Phillips   testimony against Rev. Perley for alleged adultery with Sarah Mathews
1789 March 3 by Rev. Perley to Gideon Ramsdell letter protesting lack of adequate salary and provisions
1789 March 9 by Betty Rian   testimony against Rev. Perley for alleged adultery with Sarah Mathews
undated by Hepzibuh, Nathaniel and Samuel Perley   testimony in favor of Rev. Perley, denying the allegations of adultery
1789 March by Richard Swetfer   sworn statement admitting to slander against Rev. Perley


Ministerial records, 1785-1800, undated

Items in this volume consist of records generated as part of Rev. Perley's ministry, including informal listings of baptisms and marriages performed, financial records, and famiy records. There is also a notebook containing information related to Rev. Perley's legal practice.

undated by Rev. Perley   list of payments, receipts, and other memoranda
1800 December 10 by Samuel Nash [town clerk of Gray, Maine]   marriage intention between Thomas Hancock and Susanna Perley
undated by Rev. Perley   list of baptisms [partial]
1785-1787 by Rev. Perley   list of marriages
undated by Rev. Perley   notes on the history of the Perley family
1789-1799     list of baptisms
undated     booklet with listing of dates important to the Perley family, and a chart of legal cases


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.