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East Church (Salem, Mass.) Records

East 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:East Church (Salem, Mass.)
Title:East Church (Salem, Mass.) Records
Quantity:5.5 linear feet (8 boxes, 21 volumes)
Abstract:The East Church of Salem records consist of administrative, financial, pastoral, and social records of this Salem, Massachusetts, church.
Collection Number:EC 57

Series List

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

Scope and Content Note

The East Church of Salem records consist of administrative, financial, pastoral, and social records of this Salem, Massachusetts, church. The collection has been arranged chronologically within five series.

Series I. Church Administrative Records consists of announcements, correspondence, deeds, legal papers, meeting notices, programs, record books, and reports. Volumes 1 and 2 and five other documents have been digitized by the Congregational Library and Archives. See Bibliography for link.

Series II. Financial contains account books, bank books, bills, cancelled checks, contracts, insurance policies, lists of poor, receipts, records of pew sales and valuations, estimates for building a new church in 1844, treasurer’s reports, and other financial records of the church. Of interest are receipts for the purchase of a bell from Paul Revere and Sons for the meeting house in 1801 (B2 F8).

Series III. Pastoral contains papers of various ministers, mainly correspondence, as well as a membership book, hymns, programs, and a history of the East Church by Samuel C. Beane.

Series IV. Church Social Activities contains the records of the church Association.

Series V. Other contains notes on East Church history, sketches of some of the ministers, and some items unrelated to the East Church, such as art drawn by Penn T. Waters (b. 1833), son of Joseph G. Waters who was a member of the East Church.

Historical Sketch

The East Church was formed in August, 1718, after a number of parishioners of the First Church living in the eastern section of Salem were so upset that they could not form another church, that they finally went ahead and built a church without permission. The First Church, amid continued dissension, finally voted for dismissal of those who wanted to join the East Church on Dec. 25, 1718, for "peace sake." By being dismissed from their covenant obligations to the First Church, the eastern members had effectively split the town into two parishes. In June 1717 materials for a new meeting house were procured, in August parishioners purchased a lot of land from Christopher Babbage, Jr. During August 27th to 29th, 1717, the meeting house was built.

The first sermon was preached in May, 1718, by Rev. Samuel Wigglesworth of Ipswich. By November 1718, the parish had asked Robert Stanton to be their pastor and he accepted. He was ordained on April 8, 1719 and the sermon was preached by Cotton Mather.

This congregation was firmly Puritan in it perspective through its first three pastors. In 1783, things began to change with the ordination of William Bentley to the position of colleague to the elderly pastor, James Diman. Dr. Bentley remained at East Church until his death in 1819. He was an exceptional scholar, linguist, and chronicler of his time in Salem. He led his congregation away from their puritan heritage into the first Universalist congregation in the United States.

After Dr. Bentley's sudden death in 1819, Dr. James Flint became pastor. It was during his tenure that the new church was built on Brown Street/ Washington Square North in 1844 to 1845. The church was designed by Minard Lafever, the nationally renowned architect from New York, who was famous for his Gothic Revival churches as well as other revival styles.

In 1897, the East Church united with the Barton Square Church and changed its name to The Second Unitarian Church. The East Church reunited with the First Church in 1956, and the former East Church building of 1844-1846 is now the Salem Witch Museum.

East Church Succession of Ministers

Robert Stanton 1719-1727

William Jennison 1728-1737

James Diman 1737-1788

William Bentley 1783-1819

James Flint 1821-1855

Dexter Clapp 1851-1864

Samuel C. Beane 1865-1878

George Herbert Hosmer 1879-1886

William Henry Ramsay 1886-1888

Edward D. Towle 1892-1897

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.

Babbage, Christopher
Beane, Samuel Collins, 1835-1916
Bentley, William, 1759-1819
Brazier, John, 1789-1846
Browne, William
Clapp, Dexter, 1816-1868
Deblois, George
Derby, Richard, 1736-1781
Diman, James, 1707-1788
Downing, Thomas, d. 1859
Edwards, Joseph H. M.
English, Philip, 1651-1736
Flint, James, 1779-1855
Fuller, Elisha, 1794-1855
Hodges, George, 1765-1827
Hodges, Joseph, 1759-1778
Ives, Benjamin, Capt.
Lovejoy, J. Frank
Manning, Richard, 1731-1811
Palfrey, Warwick
Parker, William B. (William Bradstreet), 1772-1844
Phippen, David, Jr.
Pickering, John
Silsbee, Nathaniel, 1773-1850
Stanton, Robert, 1689-1727
Townsend, Moses, 1760-1842
Varney, Daniel A.
Ward, Benjamin, III
Waters, Joseph G. (Joseph Gilbert), 1796-1878
Waters, Penn T. (Penn Townsend), 1833-
Church buildings--Massachusetts--Salem
Church history
Church records and registers
Pews and pew rights
Essex County (Mass.)
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

East Church (Salem, Mass.) Records, EC 57, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


The bulk of the material was deposited by Arthur P. Pousland, Clerk of the Second Church in Salem. The Treasurer’s Book dated 1762-1812 was a gift from Mr. N. O. C. Hodges of Cincinnati, OH, on July 12, 1906. The Sunday School Report of Absentees was a gift from Herbert C. Farwell on December 18, 1916. The Committee on Charities record book was a gift from Rev. Alfred C. Manchester on August 6, 1919. Some documents dated 1762 to 1820 were donated by Mrs. Alfred Manchester on July 10, 1926. A letter from Francis H. Lee dated 1884 and papers relating to the Centennial Celebration (July 4, 1876) were donated by Mrs. John Pickering in July 1925. The book of baptisms and marriages (1783-1853) was a gift from the estate of Dr. J. A. Emerton.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Tamara Gaydos, August 2018.

Related Material

Barz-Snell, Jeffrey. "The Long History." The First Church in Salem, The First Church in Salem, Unitarian Universalist,

"Series I: Church Records." New England Hidden Histories | Congregational Library & Archives, Congregational Library and Archives, 2018,

Related Collections

William Bentley Papers, 1700, 1784-1819, MH 36

Volumes 1 and 2 and the following five documents have been digitized by the Congregational Library and Archives in Boston, Massachusetts and can be found here:

List of officers, 1764 (box 1, folder 2)

List of officers, 1767 (box 1, folder 3)

List of poor in the East parish, 1758 (box 2, folder 1)

Assessment of the East meeting house, 1806 (box 2, folder 10)

List of donations for the Rev. James Diman, 1748 (box 6, folder 12)

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