Fisk, Samuel. Correspondence

Collection History

Samuel Fisk, the son of Rev. Moses Fisk of Braintree, graduated from Harvard in 1708. He was invited to settle in Boston but there was so much opposition to him that he declined the invitation and was subsequently ordained at Salem in 1718. A dispute began shortly after Fisk's appointment, over his refusal to deliver a traditional annual lecture, as well as his tampering with the church meeting records. This led to a split in the congregation with a number of members leaving. Fisk finally received ecclesiastical censure from the Council of Churches and was dismissed in 1735. The House of Representatives voted to try him in court later that year. After Fisk's dismissal, he led a group of parishioners in building a new meetinghouse (also named First Church) which was then compelled to change its name to the Third Church of Christ in Salem in 1762. Eventually it would become known as the Salem Tabernacle. Rev. Fisk resigned his pastorate July 30, 1745, but continued to reside in Salem until he died in 1770.

This collection contains numerous items of correspondence to and from Rev. Fisk. These relate almost entirely to the dispute between the minister and his congregation, specifically the breakaway group referred to as the "aggrieved brethren". Initially these parishioners attempted to call Rev. Fisk to meeting to answer for his perceived misdeeds. Rev. Fisk's responses entail requests for clarification and delay of the meeting, resulting ultimately in the intervention of an ecclesiastical council. The council's letter condemning and dismissing Rev. Fisk is included in the collection, as well as subsequent censure by the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

The original manuscripts in this collection are part of a larger collection, the Joseph Bowditch Papers, which are owned by our project partners, the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum. Further information about the collection can be found in the Phillips Library's finding aid for the Bowditch papers.

 

Digital Materials

Correspondence, 1731-1755

This collection contains letters regarding Rev. Samuel Fisk's dispute with the First Church of Salem. These include complaints from aggrieved members of the congregation, replies by Rev. Fisk, and further correspondence with Boston ministers and the Second Church of Boston regarding the dispute. The correspondence covers initial complaints by disgruntled members of Rev. Fisk's congregation, their separation from the First Church, and the proceedings of the ecclesiastical council members who were prevailed upon to intervene.

1731 March 16 from "the aggrieved brethren" to Rev. Fisk letter discussing grievances
1732 January 3 from the ministers of Boston to "the aggrieved brethren" letter urging resolution of dispute
1732 January 6 from "the aggrieved brethren" to the congregation of the First Church of Salem preface to copies of letters sent to Rev. Fisk
1732 February 26 from Rev. Fisk to "the aggrieved brethren" reply to complaints and request for unity
1732 March 5 from "the aggrieved brethren" to Rev. Fisk call for meeting
1732 March 23 from Rev. Fisk to "the aggrieved brethren" statement of terms for meeting
1732 March 27 from "the aggrieved brethren" to Rev. Fisk rejection of meeting terms
1732 March 30 from Rev. Fisk to "the aggrieved brethren" (via Judge Lynd of Salem) reiteration of desired meeting terms
1732 April 7 from "the aggrieved brethren" to Rev. Fisk refusal of terms and offer of new terms
1732 April 18 from Rev. Fisk to "the aggrieved brethren" reassertion of original terms of meeting
1732 May  from "the aggrieved brethren" to Rev. Fisk reassertion of call for meeting
1732 May 15 from Rev. Fisk to "the aggrieved brethren" rejection of meeting terms
1732 May 24 from "the aggrieved brethren" to Rev. Fisk call for meeting or ecclesiastical council
1732 June 13 from Rev. Fisk to "the aggrieved brethren" request for list of grievances in writing
1732 August 7  from "the aggrieved brethren" to the congregation of the First Church of Salem complaint regarding Rev Fisk's refusal to hold a meeting; summary of prior correspondence
1732 October 13 from "the aggrieved brethren" to the congregation of the First Church of Salem letter announcing separation from the congregation
1732 November 20 from the ministers of Boston to Rev. Fisk plea for resolution of dispute
1732 November 20 from the ministers of Boston to "the aggrieved brethren" plea for resolution of dispute
1732 December 19 from members of the Boston clergy to Rev. Fisk and the congregation of the First Church of Salem plea for resolution of dispute
1733 February 6 from the Second Church of Boston to the First Church of Salem offer of assistance and request for meeting
1733 February 7 from the pastors of the Second Church in Boston to Judge Lynd of Salem letter regarding the First Church of Salem
1733 February 6 from the Second Church of Boston to the First Church of Salem offer of assistance and request for meeting (copy)
1733 February 7 from the pastors of the Second Church in Boston to Judge Lynd of Salem letter regarding the First Church of Salem (copy)
1733 April 23 from the ministers of Boston to "the aggrieved brethren" call for an ecclesiastical council
1733 April 23 from the ministers of Boston to Rev. Fisk call for an ecclesiastical council
1733 April 30 from "the aggrieved brethren" to Rev. Fisk request to call ecclesiastical council
1733 May 3 from Rev. Fisk to "the aggrieved brethren" statement of terms for ecclesiastical council
1733 May 3 from Rev. Fisk to the ministers of Boston castigation of the ministers for meddling in Fisk's affairs
1733 May 5 from the congregation of the First Church of Salem to the ministers of Boston argument against separatist brethren and defense of Rev. Fisk
1733 May 7 from "the aggrieved brethren" to Rev. Fisk reiteration of terms for ecclesiastical council
1733 May 7 from the ministers of Boston to "the aggrieved brethren" request to delay ecclesiastical council
1733 May 11 from Benjamin Coleman (on behalf of Boston Ministers) to "the aggrieved brethren" request to delay ecclesiastical council
[1733] from "the aggrieved brethren" to the ministers of Boston selection of ecclesiastical council members
1733 July 17 from Benjamin Coleman to "the aggrieved brethren" selection of ecclesiastical council date for 17 July, 1733
1733 July 17 from ecclesiastical council members for the attention of Fisk and the First Church of Salem, etc. notes on the ecclesiastical council at Salem, 17 July 1733, including judgements by the council and a call for unity (and a copy of the above)
1733 August 20 from "the aggrieved brethren" to Rev. Fisk reiteration of ecclesiastical council's findings; call for Fisk's answer to alleged charges
1733 August 31 from Rev. Fisk to "the aggrieved brethren" rejection of ecclesiastical council's findings
1733 September 4 from "the aggrieved brethren" to Rev. Fisk call for Fisk to attend a second ecclesiastical council
1733 October 4 from "the aggrieved brethren" to the congregation of the First Church of Salem reiteration of ecclesiastical council's findings
1733 October 26 from the congregation of the First Church in Salem to "the aggrieved brethren" call for unity
1733 December 20 from the congregation of the First Church in Salem to unknown pastor call for intervention in the First Church
1733 November 12 from "the aggrieved brethren" to the congregation of the First Church of Salem call for meeting
1734 August 12 from the congregation of the First Church of Salem to "the aggrieved brethren" call for reinstatement of lecture
1734 August from "the aggrieved brethren" to the congregation of the First Church in Salem reply raising concerns about heretical nature of Fisk's sermons
1734 August 20 from "the aggrieved brethren" to Rev. Fisk call for meeting, and for Fisk's answer to alleged charges
1734 August 29 from the congregation of the First Church in Salem to "the aggrieved brethren" request for list of specific grievances against Rev. Fisk
1734 September 12 from William Williams to "the aggrieved brethren" call for unity
1734 September 19 from "the aggrieved brethren" to the congregation of the First Church of Salem refusal to list grievances against Rev. Fisk
1734 October 17 from ecclesiastical council members for the attention of Fisk and the First Church of Salem, etc. rulings of second ecclesiastical council
1735 April 27 from ecclesiastical council members to Rev. Fisk letter of dismissal
1735 June 25 from the Mass. House of Representatives   summary of vote on Fisk's dismissal
1735 November 20 from the committee of the First Church of Salem   copy of meeting minutes
1736 December 7 from Rev. Fisk to Mr. John Sparhawk discussion of new ministerial appointment
1736 December 7 from Rev. Fisk to Judge Lynd of Salem letter regarding Fisk's dismissal
1742 January 24 from Timothy Pickering (on behalf of the congregation of the First Church in Salem) to unknown call for restitution
1745 July 30 from Timothy Pickering (on behalf of the congregation of the First Church in Salem) to the aggrieved brethren call for reconciliation
1755 September 16 from Dudley Leavett (on behalf of the congregation of the First Church in Salem) to the ecclesiastical council letter regarding the installment of Thomas Barnard as pastor
undated from the congregation of the First Church in Salem to unknown recipient assurance of unity within the church
undated from the committee of the First Church of Salem   copy of meeting minutes
undated from James Lindace, et al. to unknown recipient confirmation of call to meeting
undated unsigned   "an extract from a dialogue between the Rev. Mr. Fisk and Mr. Benjamin Pickman"
undated from "the aggrieved brethren" to unknown pastor complaint regarding Fisk's parish
undated from unknown to unknown summary of arguments between Fisk and aggrieved brethren
undated from delegation of churches to Rev. Fisk report on situation in the First Church

 

Related Materials

Braintree, Mass. First Congregational Church records, 1697-1825. — finding guide, digital materials

Salem, Mass. Tabernacle Church records, 1743-1850. — finding guide, digital materials

 

Special Thanks

This digital resource has been made possible in part by the Council on Library and Information Resources, through a Digitizing Hidden Collections grant.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this resource do not necessarily represent those of the Council on Library and Information Resources.

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