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Merrimack Bible Society Records

Merrimack Bible Society Records

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Collection Summary

Repository:The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Creator:Merrimack Bible Society
Title:Merrimack Bible Society Records
Quantity:0.5 linear feet (1 box)
Abstract:The Merrimack Bible Society's records contain records of meetings, membership lists, names of Bible recipients, and treasurer's accounts.
Collection Number:MSS 55

Series List

Scope and Content Note

The Merrimack Bible Society's records contain records of meetings, membership lists, names of Bible recipients, and treasurer's accounts. This collection contains nine volumes that cover the years 1810 to 1923.

Historical Sketch

The Merrimack Bible Society was founded in 1810, during the larger international movement of the creation of Bible Societies. This movement had begun a few years before in 1804, with the creation of the British and Foreign Bible Society, whose purpose was to distribute the Bible to persons in need of one (Hovey, 4). Similar organizations popped up throughout Europe and the United States. On December 29, 1809, there was a meeting of a number of ministers and citizens of Newburyport and the vicinity held at the court house for the purpose of considering forming a Bible Society. It was at this meeting that it was voted to form a Bible Society. A few weeks later, on January 17, 1810, another meeting was held, a constitution was adopted, and officers were chosen; the first president was William Coombs. There was also a vice-president, recording secretary, corresponding secretary, treasurer, and ten managers (6-9). Annual meetings were held on the first Wednesday of January at two o'clock in the afternoon, during which officers would be elected.

The first article of the Society's constitution stated "the distribution of the Holy Scriptures among the needy and destitute, within the reach of our aid, shall be the only object of the Society" (Merrimack Bible Society, The Constitution, 1). The Society aimed to "impart the Holy Scriptures, in their native purity, to those numbers, wherever they may be found, who, from poverty, or other circumstances, are destitute of the invaluable treasure" (7).

On January 1, 1817, the Society unanimously voted to become an auxiliary of the American Bible Society. Nothing was lost by becoming an auxiliary; the constitution was not modified, nor were the rules laid down by the founders of the Society changed (Hovey 16). In 1829, it was voted that a part of the "permanent fund" of the Merrimack Bible Society would be given to the American Bible Society. It was estimated that the American Bible Society had more than 5,000 branch societies across the country (17).

Through the Society's work, Bibles have been donated to asylums, jails, almshouses, mission chapels, hospitals, and on board ships leaving Salem for distant ports in addition to being distributed to needy individuals. Canvases of Newburyport and the vicinity were made by C. B. Bean, who visited families in 1869 and 1877, supplying Bibles through gift or sale. The next canvas took place in 1890, when it was voted that the city would be canvassed every five years (18-19).

Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in Philcat. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.

Merrimack Bible Society
Church records and registers
Newburyport (Mass.)


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Administrative Information


Requests for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in writing to the Manuscript Librarian in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum.

Preferred Citation

Merrimack Bible Society Records, MSS 55, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


This material was deposited by the First Parish Church of Newburyport, Massachusetts, in May 1982. The Merrimack Bible Society materials were separated from the First Parish Church materials, because the two organizations had no relation to one another.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Caroline D. Preston, May 1982. Updated by Hilary Streifer, November 2014.

Related Material

Hovey, Horace C. The First Century of the Merrimack Bible Society: Its Founders, Workers and Early Friends, 1810-1910 With a Glance at the Wider Field. Newburyport, MA: Press of the Herald Publishing Company, 1910.

Merrimack Bible Society. The Constitution and Address of the Merrimack Bible Society: Organized January 17, 1810. Newburyport, MA: Ephraim Williams Allen, 1810.

Merrimack Bible Society. Summary Report of the Managers of the Merrimack Bible Society, July 13, 1815. Newburyport, MA: William B. Allen and Company, 1815.

Morss, James. A Discourse Before the Merrimack Bible Society, on their Fifth Anniversary: Preached in St. Paul's Church, Newburyport, July 31, 1816. Newburyport, MA: William B. Allen and Company, 1816.

An Act to Incorporate the Merrimack Bible Society, 1809. The State Library of Massachusetts.

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