Haverhill, Mass. West Congregational Church

Collection History

When the western part of Haverhill became too populous for one church in 1734, the West Parish of Haverhill was established by a petition to the General Court of Massachusetts. 77 members were dismissed from the First Parish Church and constructed a new meeting house. The building, which was intended for both secular and religious use, was dedicated on Oct. 22, 1735. Until the late 1820s, the church was known as the Third Church. After two trial preachers, the church successfully settled and ordained the Rev. Samuel Bachellor, a Harvard graduate, in July of 1735. Theological differences between Rev. Bachellor and his congregation led to increasing strife within the church. In 1755, a number of congregants led by Mr. Joseph Haynes accused him of heresy, and he was ultimately removed in 1761. After his dismissal the parish was without a settled pastor for 9 years.

Rev. Phineas Adams was eventually ordained in January of 1771. He continued in the role until his death in 1801. In 1751 the parish voted to build a schoolhouse, though construction did not occur until 1791. After the death of Rev. Adams in 1801, the parish was again without a settled minister for 25 years. This was exacerbated by a substantial change in the organization of the parish in the early 1800s, in which Baptist, Methodist, and Universalist residents increasingly shared governance and could not agree on a given candidate.

Finally, in September, 1826, the church unanimously invited the Congregationalist Rev. Moses Grosvenor to the ministry. The parish approved the decision, and Mr. Grosvenor accepted the invitation and was ordained in December of 1826. The other denominations remained unsatisfied, ultimately persuading the parish to dismiss Rev. Grosvenor. The Congregationalists then decided to withdraw and organize a new society. This division created a distinct Parish (Universalist) Society and a Church (Congregationalist) Society, a state of affairs which lasted from 1828-1852. The Church Society built a new brick meeting house one mile west of the old parish meeting house, and settled the Rev. Abijah Crossin 1831.

In 1852, after protracted arguments between the Parish and Church societies over the allocation of endowments, the parish was transferred back to the Congregationalists and the Universalist society was re-organized as The First Universalist Society in the West Parish of Haverhill. Subsequent pastors of the West Congregational Church included the Rev. Asa Farwell (1853-1866) and Rev. Ephraim Allen (1866-1876). In 1874-5 the meeting house was extensively remodeled at a cost of about 9,000 dollars. The church was officially incorporated in 1921. West Church is still active today and is a member of the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference (CCCC).

The digital collections below include the West Church's original articles of agreement for the construction of the first meeting house, five consecutive volumes of church record books spanning 1734-1880, a book of financial records from 1815-1900, and a bound volume with records relating to the construction of the second meeting house.

For additional information please see the finding aid.

 

Digital Materials

Articles of agreement, 1734

This document details the plans and budget for the construction of the first meetinghouse in the West Parish.

Church records, 1734-1802

This volume contains the earliest administrative and financial records of the church, including the ordination of Samuel Bacheller, pew sales, the election of officers, and parish expenses.

Church records, 1735-1761

This volume primarily contains membership records, including baptisms, marriages, admissions, dismissions, and narrative accounts of several prominent families. It also contains the covenant signed by the founding members.

Church records, 1762-1826

The membership records continue in this volume. It also contains transcribed correspondence, records of several disciplinary cases, and information about the ministers who served during these years.

Church records, 1826-1838

This volume contains interspersed administrative, financial, and membership records continuing from the previous books.

Church records, 1870-1880

This volume contains interspersed administrative, financial, and membership records continuing from the previous books. It also includes several printed materials that have been sewn or glued into the book adjacent to the related records.

Treasurer's book, 1815-1900

The treasurer's ledger contains itemized records of the church's income and expenses, including taxes, pew fees, materials and labor for maintenance of the meetinghouse, and the minister's salary. There are regular audits of the church's accounts by the treasurers and committee members.

New building book, 1828-1852

This book contains the planning and financial records relating to the construction of the church's second meetinghouse, as well as the annual renewal of Rev. Cross's contract. The end of the volume contains the will of David Webster, which includes provisions for a trust to pay the church's ministerial salary.

 

Related Materials

Haverhill, Mass. First Congregational Church, 1719-1756

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