Sturbridge, Mass. Congregational Church

Collection History

The Congregational Church of Sturbridge (then New Medfield) was founded in 1736. It took a group of parishioners from Medfield three attempts to convince the General Court of Massachusetts to grant permission to settle on the land because it was deemed too inhospitable. After the Court's conditions were met, the town was officially incorporated in 1738, and its name was changed to Sturbridge.

In 1749, a group of fifteen "Separates" left the church and established the Baptist Church of Sturbridge. Both churches continue to serve the community today as part of the Federated Church of Sturbridge and Fiskdale.

The digital materials below include four bound volumes of early church records spanning 1736-1831, a volume of marriage and death records (1819-1831), a number of letters written to the church's Female Society, and a number of personal relations of faith and disciplinary case documents, both of which are ennumerated on separate sub-pages.

 

Digital Materials

Before accessing transcriptions, please read this Note on Transcription >

Church records, 1736-1758

This volume is a copy of the original records, transcribed by the clerk in 1896. It contains minutes and votes of meetings, baptisms, marriages, admissions, dismissions, disciplinary cases, confessions, and the original church covenant.

Church records, 1786-1818

This volume contains minutes of meetings, baptisms (including some "whose record was lost during the ministry of the Rev. Mr. Paine" recreated by the scribe at the time), admissions, dismissions, and marriages.

Church records, 1800-1819

This volume was kept by Rev. Otis Lane and begins with the ecclesiastical council to arrange his ordination as the new pastor. It contains minutes of meetings, procedures for disciplinary cases, admissions, dismissions, baptisms, deaths, transcribed correspondence, the eventual dismission of Rev. Lane at his request, and his replacement by Rev. Alvan Bond.

Church records, 1819-1831

This volume was kept by Rev. Alvan Bond and begins with the ecclesiastical council to arrange his ordination as the new pastor. Its contents include minutes of meetings, the articles of faith adopted in 1826, admissions, dismissions, deaths, baptisms, the rules of church discipline, and several individual disciplinary cases.

Marriages and deaths, 1819-1831

Although such information is also included in the general church records, Rev. Bond also kept a separate book of the marriages and deaths of church members during his time in Sturbridge. In some cases, it may provide more detail.

Female Society records, 1813-1829

This material contains correspondence to the Female Society in Sturbridge. Topics include faith, friendship, missionary work, and charitable donations. Many of the letters appear to have been intended to be read aloud at meetings.

1813 January 19 by Patty Johnson epistle on "the awful realities of eternity"
1815 April 9 by Apama Chapin letter of encouragement
1816 January 7 by Apama Chapin thoughts on time, privilege, and mortality
1817 May 12 by P[olly] Goodell report of church activities in another parish
1818 February by Apama Chapin thoughts on the society
1818 February 23 by unsigned request to join the society
1818 April 4 by T. S. [probably Tryphena Stedman] expression of devotion and service to God
1818 October 24 by Tryphena Stedman exhortation to increase the society's efforts in the community
1818 December 7 by Tryphena Stedman thanks for support during her struggles & recounting of a Miss Holbrook's newfound faith
1819 April 18 by P[atty] Johnson recounting of renewed faith following her daughter's recovery from a severe illness
1819 November 2 by Tryphena Stedman comments on supporting foreign missions
1819 November 9 by Nancy Coburn thanks for the society's friendship during her residence in Sturbridge
1819 November 11 by Patty Johnson encouragement to remain strong during difficult times
1820 March by unsigned message of continued friendship, probably from Patty Johnson
1821 February 12 by Otis Lane thanks for a donation to the Domestic Missionary Society of Massachusetts
1821 September 2 by Tryphena Stedman thoughts on domestic missionaries
1821 October 21 by Tryphena Stedman update on missionary Polly Goodell
1824 January by Otis Lane thanks for the society's support for his son
1825 January 4 by Otis Lane thanks for the society's support for his son
1826 May 1 by Otis Lane thanks for the society's support for his son
1827 January 15 by P[olly] Goodell update from the mission at Homer & request for dismission from Sturbridge
1827 April 14 by Martha Parsons update on personal matters
1829 January by Potter, Tryphena S[tedman] proposal to arrange a relationship between the society and its counterpart group in Southbridge

 

Disciplinary cases

During the colonial period, the local church often functioned as the legal authority in matters of morality. Punishment in such cases usually consisted of admonition (a written reprimand) or censure (a temporary restriction from attending services and participating in church business) until the guilty party made a formal confession or request for forgiveness.

Personal records

These documents include individual congregants' relations, confessions, and requests for dismissions. Relations are written accounts of individuals' religious experiences, often mandatory for full membership in the church. The materials are listed alphabetically by last name.

Full transcriptions of the relations documents are available.

 

Special Thanks

NEH logoThese digital resources have 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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