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Boston, Mass. Old South Church records, 1659-2012.

 Collection
Identifier: RG0028

Scope and Contents

This collection includes Church records such as baptismal records, pew proprietor records, membership records, minutes of meetings for church and society, financial and legal, records of various Church committees, ministers, the Prince Library, and published material. The bulk date range begins with the establishment of the church in 1669 and up through the 1940s. After that date the holdings are primarily directories and bulletins. The very earliest records, 1659, are in the legal series and refer to purchasing property. An item of note is that within the earliest baptismal records includes Benjamin Franklin's. Material missing from this collection: significant records of the music program, a comprehensive record from or about ministers, or a complete baptismal or marriage registry.

Dates

  • 1659-2012

Creator

Restrictions on Access

The earliest records have restricted physical access due to their fragility. Those records are available for viewing on microfilm, which is noted by "reels" in the container list.

Restrictions on Use

Items in this collection are subject to U.S. Copyright Law. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine the copyright status of collection items and to secure any permissions necessary for their reproduction and publication. Requests for permission to publish material must be discussed with the archivist or librarian.

Historical Note

Twenty-eight lay members from the First Church in Boston founded the Old South Congregation (originally called the Third Church of Boston) in 1669. These lay members seceded from the First Church, opposing the ministers' ideas that adults must have a born again experience and be baptized again before their own children could be baptized. They instead believed that childhood baptisms assured young adults they were full members and could baptize their children. In 1670, the congregation met in the Cedar Meetinghouse for the first time and soon became known as South Church since it was located in the south end of town. Old was added in 1717 to distinguish it from another church being built, which called itself New South. In 1875, construction on a new church for the Old South congregation finished on the corners of Dartmouth and Boylston Streets. This new site has been Old South's home since.

A trademark feature of the Old South Church is its campanile, or tower, which can be seen from several Boston neighborhoods. The first tower of the church leaned since the construction finished in 1875. In 1931, the congregation of the church finally decided to rebuild the tower and it was demolished. With donations from the congregation and Boston residents alike, they were able to build a new tower that was the same height as the original. The campanile rises 226 feet and houses the church's 2,020-pound bell.

Since its establishment in 1669, the Old South congregation has welcomed many famous personages such as Benjamin Franklin, who was baptized by the congregation in 1706; Phillis Wheatley, America's first black poetess; and Elizabeth Vergoose, who is better known as Mother Goose for her nursery rhymes.

Ministers

Thomas Thatcher
1670-1678
Samuel Willard
1678-1707
Ebenezer Pemberton
1700-1717
Joseph Sewall
1713-1769
Thomas Prince
1718-1758
Alexander Cumming
1761-1763
Samuel Blair
1766-1769
John Hunt / John Bacon
1771-1775
Joseph Eckley
1779-1811
Joshua Huntington
1808-1819
Benjamin B. Wisner
1821-1832
Samuel H. Stearns
1834-1836
George W. Blagden
1836-1872
Jacob M. Manning
1857-1882
George Angier Gordon
1884-1927
Russell Henry Stafford
1927-1945
Frederick M. Meek
1946-1973
James W. Crawford
1974-2002
Nancy S. Taylor
2005-present

Extent

30.45 Cubic Feet (57 boxes, 141 volumes, 1 envelope, 30 reels of microfilm)

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

Twenty-eight lay members from the First Church in Boston founded the Old South Congregation (originally called the Third Church of Boston) in 1669. This collection includes Church records such as baptismal records, pew proprietor records, membership records, minutes of meetings for church and society, financial and legal, records of various Church committees, ministers, the Prince Library, and published material.

Arrangement

This series in arranged into nine series and those are divided into 23 different sub series. Each series and subseries has been arranged chronologically by start date and when possible, by topic.
Series 1: Legal and Building Records, 1659-1928
Series 2: Organizations, 1667-1944
Subseries 1: Records on Various Old South Organizations, 1667-1920
Subseries 2: Ancillary Organizations, 1734-1944
Subseries 3: Society Records and Pew Proprietors, 1816-1930
Subseries 4: Educational Organizations, 1851-1930
Series 3: Church Records, 1669-2012
Subseries 1: Baptism Vital Statistics, 1669-1920
Subseries 2: Admission Vital Statistics, 1669-1980
Subseries 3: Records and Reports, 1669-2012
Subseries 4: Marriage Vital Statistics, 1780-1980
Series 4: Ministers and Deacons, 1670-1973
Subseries 1: Thomas Thatcher, 1670, 1731
Subseries 2: Joseph Eckley, 1790-1811
Subseries 3: Joshua Huntington, circa 1819
Subseries 4: George A. Gordon, 1854-1950
Subseries 5: Jacob M. Manning, 1856-1882
Subseries 6: G. W. Blagdon, 1861
Subseries 7: Allen E. Cross, 1901-1911
Subseries 8: Willis H. Butler, 1912, 1919
Subseries 9: Russell Henry Stafford, 1927-1945
Subseries 10: Frederick M. Meek, 1946-1973
Series 5: Church and Society Committees, 1674-1948
Subseries 1: Church Committee Records, 1674-1948
Subseries 2: Society Records and Pew Proprietors, 1735-1948
Series 6: Prince Library, 1701, 1808-1943
Series 7: Financial Records, 1747-1945
Series 8: Photographs and Clippings, 1810-1939
Series 9: Publications, 1826-1997
Subseries 1: Published Church Material, 1826-1997
Subseries 2: Published Histories, 1877-1929
Subseries 3: Audio-Visual Material, 1959-1960

Technical Requirements

A microfilm reader is required in order to access microfilmed materials. One microfilm reader is available to the public upon request.

Acquisition Information

The Congregational Library and Archives first began receiving material from Old South Church in 1976. From that point on, material would be sent over at various times. Larger accessions were done in 1982, 1989, 1997 and 2013.

Accruals

Since the original deposit in 1976, Old South Church has brought more material in 1982 and 2013. More accruals are expected.

Related Materials

The following material is related to the Old South Church Records:

Mount Vernon Congregational Church Records (1842-1970) RG0026

Hill, Hamilton Andrews. History of the Old South Church (Third Church) Boston, 1669-1884. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1890.

Prince Library located at Old South Church, catalog available through Internet Archive.

Many other materials held by the Congregational Library are related in some way to the Old South Church. Review the online catalog and contact a librarian.

Bibliography

  • http://www.oldsouth.org/about/history
  • Winslow, O. E. And plead for the rights of all; Old South Church Boston, 1669-1969. Boston: Nimrod Press, 34

Processing Information

Collection was originally processed in 1987 by Thomas Kellerman and first reprocessed by Sandra Sudak in 1992. In 2013, Jessica Steytler reprocessed the collection with the help of Abigail Cramer and Veronica Denison. In 2018, the collection was re-described by William McCarthy for ArchivesSpace.
Title
Boston, Mass. Old South Church Records, 1659-2012.
Status
Completed
Author
Thomas Kellerman, Sandra Sudak, Jessica Steytler, Abigail Cramer, Veronica Denison, William McCarthy
Date
2018-03-26
Description rules
Dacs2 2013
Language of description
Undetermined
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
English
Edition statement
This version of the finding aid was created in 2018 after re-processing of entire collection.

Repository Details

Part of the Congregational Library & Archives Repository

Contact:
14 Beacon Street
Suite 200
Boston MA 02108
617-523-0470