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First Baptist Church (Salem, Mass.) Records

First Baptist Church (Salem, Mass.) Records

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Collection Summary

Repository:The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 161 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-948-6012
Creator:First Baptist Church (Salem, Mass.)
Title:First Baptist Church (Salem, Mass.) Records
Quantity:.5 linear feet (1 box, 7 volumes, 1 flat file)
Abstract:The First Baptist Church of Salem records consist of administrative, financial, and social records of this Salem, Massachusetts, church.
Collection Number:EC 62

Series List

SERIES I. Church Administrative Records
SERIES II. Financial Records
SERIES III. Social Activities

Scope and Content Note

The First Baptist Church of Salem records consist of administrative, financial, and social records of this Salem, Massachusetts, church. The collection has been arranged chronologically within four series.

Series I. Church Administrative Records consists of membership lists, a record book, and four copies of the church’s articles of faith bound together.

Series II. Financial contains account books, loose accounts, contributions, receipts, pew deeds, subscriptions, and other financial records of the church. The Treasurer’s book from 1805-1863 lists the expenses for building the new meeting house.

Series III. Social Activities contains records of the Singing Society, Temperance Society, and the Ladies Foreign Missionary Society.

Series IV. Other contains a letter from Rev. Thomas D. Anderson, a library record book, and an undated schedule for Sabbath school.

Historical Sketch

The First Baptist Church in Salem, Massachusetts, was formed when early in 1804, a small group of Baptists, mostly members of the Danvers church, began to meet together occasionally for prayer and conference. There were only ten or twelve, mostly women; they had no public room to gather. The husbands of two of the women, Michael Webb, and Edward Russell, offered to create a place for them to worship. A lot of land was purchased and a moderate sized framed building erected for their use. In April 1804, Lucius Bolles began preaching in the small unfinished wood building. By December of that year, the number of baptized members had increased to twenty-four, including himself, and early the following month they were publicly recognized as a church and he was ordained their pastor.

In August, 1826, an associate pastor, the Rev. Rufus Babcock, Jr., of Poughkeepsie, New York, was publicly recognized. In August, 1834, the Rev. John Wayland was settled as the sole pastor of the church, Dr. Bolles having moved his family to Boston, and resigned the office of senior pastor. Mr. Wayland retained his place for seven years and was succeeded in 1842, by the Rev. Thomas D. Anderson.

The First Baptist Church stood at 56 Federal Street for years. The oldest portion was built in 1805, after a small building on the same site proved too small for the growing congregation. In 1827, the building was enlarged and fitted out with a three-stage Federal tower topped by an octagonal dome. Around 1850, a chapel was added. The tower was removed in 1926, due to cost of repairs.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts paid the church two million dollars in 2008 for the church building after prolonged negotiations. The original part of the church was moved a short distance to the corner of North and Federal Streets and converted to a law library, part of the J. Michael Ruane Judicial Center. With this money, the church members were able to secure a new church location at 292-296 Lafayette Street. They took the pews, a few pianos, an organ, and a stained-glass window in memory of an early Baptist missionary, Adoniram Judson, from the old church.

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.

Anderson, Thomas D., 1819-1883
Webb, Jonathan
Ladies Foreign Missionary Society (First Baptist Church : Salem, Mass.)
Church buildings--Massachusetts--Salem
Church history
Church records and registers
Pews and pew rights
Salem (Mass.)


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Administrative Information


Request 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

First Baptist Church (Salem, Mass.) Records, EC 62, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


The volume of records of the Singing Society and Jonathan Webb apothecary was presented by George D. Phippen in 1875. The membership list (1827-1878) was purchased by the Essex Institute on June 1, 1926. Faith and Practice of the Baptist Church of Christ (1805) was donated by Mrs. Ralph A. Sherwood on August 12, 1954. The provenance of the rest of the material is unknown.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Tamara Gaydos, September 2018.

Related Material

"Early History of First Baptist Church, Salem, Mass." Baptist History, John Leland Baptist College, Oct. 2002,

"First Baptist Church." Links & Lore, Salem (Mass.) Public Library Reference Department, 6 Dec. 2016,

Related Collections

Lucius Bolles Diary, 1824-1827, DIA 36

Michael Shepard Papers, 1809-1893, MH 23, Box 25, Folders 7 through 10

L. Grace Johnson Scrapbook, 1917-1962, Fam. Mss. 506

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