Cambridge, Mass. First Church

Collection History

The First Church in Cambridge, Mass. was effectively formed in 1633 under the auspices of the Puritan minister Rev. Thomas Hooker. Two years later in 1635 Rev. Hooker and most of the members departed Cambridge to found Hartford and the Colony of Connecticut. The First Church was formally organized in 1636 at the same meeting house. It remained united until 1829, when the congregation split over the widespread contemporary issue of Unitarianism. Ultimately this resulted in the creation of the Unitarian "First Parish of Cambridge", while the Congregationalists retained the designation of "First Church of Cambridge". The First Church in Cambridge is still active today and is a member of the United Church of Christ.

The records below consist of material relating to the First Church from 1638-1783. These include a book of accounts and a number of manuscripts related to sermons preached there.

These materials are provided in partnership with the Houghton Library at Harvard University. See the university's HOLLIS catalog for more information on the account book and sermon papers.


Digital Materials

Before accessing transcriptions, please read this Note on Transcription >

Deacons' account book, 1638-1704

This single book contains two distinct volumes of financial church records, spanning 1638-1716 and 1668-1704 respectively. They include records of offerings received, minister's disbursements, expenses of sacraments and special services, contributions to the poor, and accounts of individual members. A note in the beginning of the latter volume by Rev. Abiel Holmes also notes the receipt of the record book into the care of the First Church in 1795.

A partial transcription of this volume is available.

For additional information on the Deacons' Book, and to read the annotated transcription, read the Introduction and Transcription by Lori Stokes.


Sermon papers, 1667-1767

These papers include sermons and notes on sermons delivered at the First Church. They comprise anonymous manuscript sermons on John 17:24-6, and extensive notes on sermons preached by local ministers such as Rev. Increase Mather and others.

1667 unknown author   manuscript sermons on John 17:24-6
1667-68 unknown author   extensive notes on sermons preached primarily by Rev. Increase Mather, Rev. Abiel Holmes, "Mr. Stoughton" (probably Judge William Stoughton), and several others


Rev. Ezra Stiles's notebook, 1767

This loosely bound notebook contains correspondence and essays by Rev. Ezra Stiles.

1767 November 26 from Rev. Ezra Stiles to Lieutenant Governor Thomas Hutchinson letter thanking Hutchinson for sending his historical publication to Rev. Stiles
undated by Rev. Ezra Stiles   short historical essays on Cambridge ministers, the town and the university; including sections on "population, education, and settlement"


Related Materials

Unknown author, sermon notes, 1679-1681

Cambridge, Mass. Second Congregational Church, 1739


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.

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