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Branch Church (1803-1867) Records

Branch Church (1803-1867) Records

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Branch Church (1803-1867) Records, 1803-1850

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:Branch Church (Salem, Mass.)
Title:Branch Church (1803-1867) Records
Quantity:0.5 Linear feet (1 box)
Abstract:The Branch Church Records document the history of this Salem, Massachusetts, Presbyterian church.
Collection Number:MSS 301

Series List

Scope and Content Note

The Branch Church Records document the history of this Salem, Massachusetts, Presbyterian church. The collection consists of a record book, which includes acts of incorporation from March 15, 1805, lists of purchasers of pews and seats, notices and records of meetings of proprietors; Records of Admissions, Baptisms, Deaths, and Marriages in the Branch Church (2 volumes) as recorded by Reverend William Williams, who was ordained July 5, 1821; a Directory of Howard Street Church, listing members as of March 1850; the Register of the Church (includes a brief history, 1803-1828) and lists of communicants; and a poem read at the installation of the Reverend Henry Blatchford on January 6, 1819.

Historical Sketch

The Branch Church was formed as a Congregational Church on December 29, 1803. The first pastor was Reverend Joshua Spalding. Pews and seats were sold to the public and an annual assessment on these was made to support pastors. On April 26, 1815, the church joined the Londonderry Presbytery, and on June 5, 1824 petitioned the General Court to change the name from "Branch Church" to "First Presbyterian Church in Salem." A request was made to the selectmen on June 4, 1828 to change the name of the street where the church was located from "Branch Street" to "Howard Street" and on June 11, 1828, a petition was made to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to change the name of the church from "First Presbyterian Church in Salem" to "Howard Street Church."

The Church experienced financial difficulties throughout its history and a succession of pastors came and went who had trouble collecting their salaries. In 1848, some of the proprietors petitioned to sell the property and to divide the proceeds among the proprietors, but apparently this did not come to pass since the church still existed in 1867. The last minister, Reverend Charles C. Beaman, resigned on October 2, 1864. The church struggled along for a few more years, but with the effects of the Civil War, no serious attempt was made to continue operations of the society. The property was sold at auction on June 28, 1867 and a school was constructed on the site. The Howard Street Church bell was given in trust to the Mayor of Salem as an alarm and was moved to the belfry of the Central Baptist meeting house on St. Peter's Street. Sale of the property amounted to $3,825.34, and after payment to creditors, nothing was left for the proprietors. A closing history of the church, written by Rev. Charles C. Beaman appears in the Essex Institute Historical Collections, volume 11, January 1872, pages 241-248.

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.

Williams, William, Reverend
First Presbyterian Church (Salem, Mass.)
Howard Street Church (Salem, Mass.)
Church buildings--Massachusetts--Salem
Church records and registers
Congregational churches--Massachusetts--Salem
Presbyterian church buildings--Massachusetts--Salem
Salem (Mass.)


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Administrative Information


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 Museum.

Preferred Citation

Branch Church (1803-1867) Records, MSS 301, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


The provenance of this collection is unknown.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Marion Clark, October 1997. Updated by Nicholas Long, April 2015.

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