The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Merrimack Bible Society
Merrimack Bible Society
0.5 linear feet (1 box)
The Merrimack Bible Society's
records contain records of meetings, membership lists, names of Bible recipients,
and treasurer's accounts.
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.
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
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).
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
Restrictions on Access
This collection is open for research use.
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
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
Collection processed by Caroline D. Preston, May 1982. Updated by Hilary Streifer,
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,
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
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.