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Third Church and Tabernacle Church (Salem, Mass.) Records

Third Church and Tabernacle 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:Tabernacle Church (Salem, Mass.)
Title:Third Church and Tabernacle Church (Salem, Mass.) Records
Quantity:.5 linear feet (1 box, 2 flat files, 2 volumes)
Abstract:The Tabernacle Church of Salem records document the church's founding and its activities from 1750 to 1886.
Collection Number:MSS 114

Series List

SERIES I. Third Church Records
SERIES II. Tabernacle Church Records

Scope and Content Note

The Tabernacle Church of Salem records document the church's founding and its activities from 1750 to 1886. The collection has been arranged into two series.

Series I. Third Church Records contains a subscription list, a letter, a treasurer’s book, a report regarding hiring an associate minister, a copy of the 1775 covenant, commentary on the church controversy, and a handwritten copy of a book published by John Cleaveland in 1774.

Series II. Tabernacle Church Records includes the articles of incorporation, the covenant, membership lists, pew deeds and tax accounts, treasurer account books, floor plans of the pews, and building plans. Of interest is a document signed by Paul Revere, Jr. in August 1806 (B1 F10).

Historical Sketch

Tabernacle Church in Salem, Massachusetts, traces its historical roots back to 1629, with the founding of First Church of Salem. In 1735, First Church pastor Samuel Fisk was dismissed from his position by ecclesiastical council. A group of parishioners followed Fisk from First Church, built a new meeting house, and met under the name First Church until 1762, when they were compelled by the colonial legislature to change their name to "Third Church of Christ in Salem." In 1774, the great fire of Salem burned the Third Church meetinghouse to the ground. A replacement meetinghouse was built in 1777; it was copied from the Tabernacle in Moorfields (London) made famous by its association with George Whitefield, leading to the nickname "Tabernacle Church."

It was during the building of this meetinghouse that strife drove a portion of the Third Church congregation to split and form South Church of Salem in 1775. Originally also referring to themselves as "Third Church," the split church later rejoined Tabernacle Church in 1924.

In 1781 the proprietors of Third Church were reincorporated as "The proprietors of the meetinghouse and Land where the Reverend Doctor Nathaniel Whitaker now preaches." Reverend Whitaker was removed from office in 1784 by ecclesiastical council. Another split occurred in 1802 when a portion of Tabernacle Church left to form a Presbyterian church.

In 1812, the first six Congregational missionaries from the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions were commissioned from the Tabernacle Church. In 1834 the proprietors of the church were once again reincorporated, this time as "The Proprietors of the Tabernacle Church." Today, the Tabernacle Congregational Church can be found at 50 Washington Street, Salem, Massachusetts.

Third Church Succession of Ministers

Samuel Fisk 1736-1745

Dudley Leavitt 1745-1762

John Huntington 1763-1766

Nathaniel Whittaker 1769-1774

Daniel Hopkins 1778-1814

Brown Emerson 1805-1872

Tabernacle Church Succession of Ministers (partial list)

Nathaniel Whittaker 1774-1784

Joshua Spaulding 1785-1802

Samuel Worcester 1803-1821

Elias Cornelius 1819-1826

Samuel M. Worcester 1834-1860

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.

Appleton, Nathaniel, 1778-1818
Leavitt, Dudley, 1720-1762
Pickering, Timothy, 1745-1829
Revere, Paul, 1735-1818
Richardson, C. M.
Ward, Miles, Jr.
Tabernacle Church (Salem, Mass.)
Third Church (Salem, Mass.)
Church buildings--Massachusetts--Salem
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

Third Church and Tabernacle Church (Salem, Mass.) Records, MSS 114, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


The treasurer’s account book (1846-1858) was donated by Lawrence W. Jenkins on February 10, 1914. The volume of members was donated by Hilda G. Clark in 1920. The treasurer’s account book (1812-1878) was donated by Mrs. Albert W. Hitchcock on April 27, 1927. The letter from Timothy Pickering (1767) was purchased December 5, 1952. One copy of the articles and covenant (1786) was donated by the Beverly Historical Society on September 14, 1978. The Samuel McIntire receipt for carving capitals (1802) and two receipts for purchase and carting of a church bell made by Paul Revere & Sons (1806) were a gift of Mr. and Mrs. Antonio Sanpere, Jr. on December 2, 1982 (accession #82017). The volume of pew deeds was deposited in 1964 by A.J. Toomey, [Salem] City Clerk. The copy of an answer to a petition made to the Tabernacle Proprietors Committee (Feb. 7, 1804) and copy of the covenant were donated by Ruth Clarke West on June 24, 1997 (accession #1997.026). A poster for the Tabernacle Church fundraiser of April 21, 1886 was a gift from the Harvard University Archives in 2005 (accession #2005.009b).

Processing Information

Collection processed by Tamara Gaydos, September 2018.

Related Material

"About Tabernacle." Tabernacle Congregational Church. N.p., undated. Web. 6 Sept. 2018.

"Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Worcester, Noah (Clergyman)." Wikisource, Wikimedia, 8 May 2018,'_Cyclopædia_of_American_Biography/Worcester,_Noah_(clergyman)

The Claims of the Tabernacle Church: to Be Considered the Third Church in Salem, or the Church of 1735. Printed for the Tabernacle Church Salem Observer Press, 1847.

Mauro, Sari. "Historical Note for the Tabernacle Church Records of Salem, Massachusetts." Salem, Massachusetts. Tabernacle Church Records, 1743-1850. Congregational Church Library & Archives, Boston, MA, Dec. 2013. Web. 17 Apr. 2015.

Related Collections

First Church (Salem, Massachusetts) Records, 1717-1954, EC 58

South Church (Salem, Massachusetts) Records, 1774-1915, EC 61

Samuel McIntire Papers, 1749-1822, MSS 264

The documents listed below have been digitized by the Congregational Library and Archives in Boston, Massachusetts and can be found in the following web pages.

Articles and covenant of 1786 [larger one with covers], copied in 1802, Box 1 Folder 9:

Four letters from John Punchard to Paul Revere, 1806, Box 1 Folder 12:

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