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Crombie Street Congregational Church (Salem, Mass.) Records

Crombie Street Congregational 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:Crombie Street Congregational Church (Salem, Mass.)
Title:Crombie Street Congregational Church (Salem, Mass.) Records
Quantity:8 linear feet (16 boxes, 7 volumes)
Abstract:The records of the Crombie Street Congregational Church in Salem, Massachusetts, cover the entirety of its existence from the founding in 1832.
Collection Number:EC 66

Series List

SERIES I. AdministrativeSERIES II. Financial
SERIES III. PastoralSERIES IV. Sabbath School
SERIES V. Social and Charitable ActivitiesSERIES VI. Other Material

Scope and Content Note

The records of the Crombie Street Congregational Church in Salem, Massachusetts, cover the entirety of its existence from the founding in 1832. The collection includes record books, correspondence, financial information, papers of ministers, records of charitable groups, and more. It has been organized into six series. All material has been arranged chronologically within series or subseries.

Series I. Administrative consists of church record books, correspondence, reports, the constitution and by-laws, lists of members, deeds, and annual meeting reports. Subseries A. Early Records contains the earliest church records, including shares in the Salem Theatre (1827) which occupied the building before the church. It also contains record books, lists of members, baptisms, deaths, the constitution and by-laws, and deeds. Subseries B. Correspondence and Reports contains letters to the clerk, invitations from other churches to attend the installation of a new minister, communication from the Essex South Conference of Churches, and reports of various committees. Subseries C. Other Records consists of record books, correspondence about a possible merger with South Church (1906), lists of members, a manual with its supplement, annual meeting reports, and a brochure.

Series II. Financial contains account books, check books, correspondence, receipts, bills, treasurers’ reports, pew deeds and information, subscriptions for debt, wills, a mortgage, and records of the Ireland Fund.

Series III. Pastoral contains the records of pastoral activities. Subseries A. Pastors’ Papers consists of correspondence, sermons, photographs, and other records of 15 ministers who served in the church. It also contains two folders of calendars of services from 1890 through 1957, and two printed items. Of interest are the letters Joseph Henry Thayer wrote to the Sabbath School students while serving as a chaplain in the 40th Massachusetts Infantry for nine months in 1862-1863. Subseries B. Dismissals and Admissions consists of letters from church members asking to be dismissed from the Crombie Street Church so that they could join a different church as well as the letter granting them that permission. It also contains admissions of individual members to the church.

Series IV. Sabbath School consists of records of the Sabbath School such as the constitution and by-laws, reports, record books, correspondence, attendance records, lessons, the Teachers’ Association records, and the Sabbath School Benevolent Association account and record books. It includes a diagram of the arrangement of classes in the church for 1863.

Series V. Social and Charitable Activities consists of the records of several different societies or clubs that were part of the church. Subseries A. Ladies Benevolent Society contains account books, record books, bank books, an address, receipts, and a list of members. Subseries B. Auxiliary and Missionary Society includes records book, a meeting program, and material about people sponsored by the church. Subseries C. Woman’s Association contains records books and a program booklet for 1933-1934. Subseries D. Koinonia Society includes the constitution, record books, an account book, correspondence, and receipts. Subseries E. Young Peoples Society of Christian Endeavor contains the constitution, record books, attendance records, reports, material about the 21st anniversary celebration, and prayer meeting topics. Subseries F. Men’s Club consists of secretaries reports from 1925 to 1940. Subseries G. Graham Society contains an account book, treasurer’s book, and constitution, and record book. Subseries H. Other Organizations contains material about the Crombie Street Association, the Essex South Association of Congregational Churches, the Men’s Association, The Thayer Club, theatricals, and the Beacon Club.

Series VI. Other Material consists of play scripts, newspaper clippings, memorials and tributes, photographs, sheet music from the 1930s, material from the 100th anniversary of the church’s founding in 1932, choir and organ material, history of the church, church attendance, red damask cloth from original pew cushions, poetry and some photographic negatives.

Historical Sketch

In 1802, a division in the Tabernacle Church in Salem, Massachusetts, led to the organization of the Howard Street Church or "Branch" Church. It was organized on December 29, 1803, and erected its meeting house in 1805. It is not clear why, but in 1832, Rev. William Williams and 139 members left the Howard Street Church and, on May 3, founded a new church. On May 8, it formally adopted the name of "New Congregational Church" and in September 1832, the name was changed to "Crombie Street Church." In addition to the 139 members, there were 77 or more regular attendants who were not members.

At first Rev. Williams and the members who left met in the Lyceum on Church Street. Meetings were held in other Salem halls, before the theater building on Crombie Street was purchased in November 1832. In 1851, the owner of a nearby hotel and stable decided to close those businesses and sold the land on which the stable stood to the church; they immediately built a vestry which was dedicated in 1852.

There was no organ until 1839. In 1860, money was raised by subscription to install a new organ, which supposedly came from the Brattle Street Church in Boston.

On February 6, 1934, a fire broke out in the church basement and the building burned to the ground, leaving only the brick walls standing. The historic organ was also destroyed. Services were held in the First Universalist Church until the church building was rebuilt and rededicated in April, 1835.

The women of the church formed groups from the beginning. Their first organization was known as the Graham Society, which later changed to the Ladies’ Benevolent Society, and later still to the Woman’s Association. In 1907, the Koinonia Society was formed and there was also a Missionary Society. Dr. Buckham started a Men’s Club in the 1890s and later the name was changed to Thayer Club to honor an earlier pastor.

In 1903, a movement began to unite the South and Crombie Street Churches. There was difficulty in agreeing on details, but after a seemingly acceptable plan was found, a large and influential group in the South Church suddenly left and went to the Tabernacle Church, and the movement died. This church continued until 21st century when the church society broke up and the building was purchased by the First Methodist Society in Beverly.

The Salem Mission began in approximately 1979, as an outreach program of the Crombie Street Church. It began as a program of the Open Door United Church of Christ in the Crombie Street Church building offering shelter and food for the homeless. The Mission moved in August 2005, and put the building up for sale. Since then, it has been converted into residential condos.

Crombie Street Congregational Church Succession of Ministers (partial list)

William Williams 1832-1838

Alexander J. Sessions 1838-1849

James M. Hoppin 1850-1859

Joseph Henry Thayer 1859-1864

Clarendon Waite 1866-1868

Hugh Elder 1868-1884

Louis Voorhees 1885-1889

John Wright Buckham 1890-1903

Adolf A. Berle 1904-1908

George Lawrence Parker 1908-1912

Harry J. Newton 1913-1923

John H. Leamon 1923-1928

Carl Heath Kopf 1928-1933

S. Lawrence Johnson 1933-1941

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.

Annable, Irving K., Clerk
Berle, A. A. (Adolf Augustus), 1866-1960
Buckham, John Wright, 1864-1945
Capron, William B. (William Banfield), 1824-1876
Elder, Hugh
Fabens, Caroline A.
Feast, Harold Colson
Hood, Charlotte
Hoover, Herbert, 1874-1964
Hoppin, J. M. (James Mason), 1820-1906
Kopf, Carl Heath, 1902-1958
Leamon, John H.
Mazzola, Joseph
Newton, Harry J.
Parker, George L.
Pratt, Henry J., Clerk
Putnam, Rufus
Sessions, Alexander J. (Alexander Joseph), 1809-1892
Smith, Stephen A., Treasurer
Thayer, Joseph Henry, 1828-1901
Voorhees, Louis B.
Waite, Clarendon
Williams, William
Branch Church (Salem, Mass.)
Essex South Conference of Churches
Howard Street Church (Salem, Mass.)
Tabernacle Church (Salem, Mass.)
Third Church (Salem, Mass.)
Young People's Society of Christian Endeavor
Church buildings--Massachusetts--Salem
Church history
Church records and registers
Pews and pew rights
Sabbath school superintendents
Sabbath schools
Salem (Mass.)
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Personal narratives


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

Crombie Street Congregational Church (Salem, Mass.) Records, EC 66, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


The list of calls by James M. Hoppin (1859) was a gift of Mrs. T. D. Goodell on March 28, 1923. The scrapbook, manuscript sermons, and negatives were donated by Edith E. "Betty" Nichols on June 15, 1993 (acc #93019). The Secretaries’ reports of the Crombie Street Congregational Church Men’s Club were donated by Mildred Nutting on March 15, 1995 (acc #95007). Thirteen boxes of Crombie Street Church records, volumes, and Bibles were donated on July 20, 2005, by the Salem Mission which was occupying the former Crombie Street Church building before it was sold in 2005 (acc #2005.008).

Processing Information

Collection processed by Tamara Gaydos, December 2018.

Related Material

Annable, Irving Kinsman. Historical Notes of the Crombie Street Congregational Church in Salem, Massachusetts. Salem: Newcomb & Gauss Co. 1941.

"Crombie Street Church." Salem Public Library Reference Department. February 4, 2015. Accessed December 05, 2018.

Branch Church Records, 1803-1850, MSS 301

Third Church and Tabernacle Church (Salem, Mass.) Records, 1750-1886, MSS 114

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