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Medfield, Mass. First Parish Unitarian Church records, 1697-1970.

 Collection
Identifier: RG5309

Scope and Contents

The records of the First Parish Church in Medfield include a broad array of both church administrative documentation and some personal records such as legal and financial materials. There is a single bound volume of church records dating from 1738-1880. Other administrative documentation includes a folder of loose records found inside the volume, official church correspondence, membership records, meeting minutes, relations, and a collection of 17th-18th century prayer requests. Also included are records relating to the ministry, including correspondence from ministers, and a volume of sermons spanning several decades from the 1740s-1780s. Personal records include legal and financial records, and a single item of personal correspondence regarding provisions for a ship. Additionally, a small volume of printed materials consisting of a 19th-century order of service and a newspaper cutting from 1970 detailing preservation of the colonial-era relation of faith documents within the collection.

Dates

  • 1697-1970

Creator

Restrictions on Access

Access to this collection is unrestricted and open to the public.

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.
Digital Reproductions are protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use the Digital Reproductions in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. In addition, no permission is required from the Congregational Library & Archives for educational uses. For other uses, you need to obtain permission from the Congregational Library & Archives. For additional information regarding copyright, please consult the Congregational Library & Archives' Digital Collections Copyright & Use policy.

Historical Note

The First Parish Church dates back to the beginning of the town of Medfield in 1649, in which settlers from Dedham and Braintree, Mass. requested the incorporation of a new town by the General Court which was subsequently granted in May of 1651. They founded the Medfield Church of Christ in the same year, calling Rev. John Wilson as their first pastor.

The second minister was Rev. Joseph Baxter, a Harvard graduate and native of Braintree, Massachusetts, who served from 1697-1745. During his ministry the church membership grew from 65 to 375, and a second meeting house was constructed in 1706.

During the pastorate of the fourth minister Rev. Thomas Prentiss, which lasted from 1770-1814, a third meetinghouse was built, dating to 1789. As of 2019, a heavily remodeled version of this building is still standing, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The specifications for the wooden frame of the building are given in detail in the town records and include details of the heavy timbers used in construction, which were hand hewn oak measuring 14 inches square. The building's tower was 52 feet high and surmounted by a belfry and cupola. In 1809 the inside of the church was refurbished, with seats in the body of the meeting house being taken up and replaced with pews, as well as the creation of a segregated gallery seating area for non-white parishioners.

In 1813 the town and the parish began to be legally separated. The members of the church incorporated as The First Parish. In 1816 the trustees of the Medfield Ministerial Fund, Inc. were granted a charter and by-laws by the General Court. The first Sunday school was organized in 1818, officiated entirely by women, with the wife of Rev. Thomas Prentiss playing an active role in its administration.

In 1827 a group of members of the First Parish petitioned for permission to withdraw from the First Parish, which was becoming increasingly Unitarian, in order to form an Orthodox church. An ecclesiastical council was called and granted their request. The Orthodox Church of Medfield was organized officially on February 6, 1828 with 17 total members, and is still active today as the United Church of Christ in Medfield.

The original First Parish church was subsequently known as the First Parish Unitarian church from 1828 onwards. The meeting house was extensively remodeled again in 1839, including a complete reorientation of the front of the building from east to south, and the construction of a larger spire. During the hurricane of 1938, the taller spire which had been added when the building was remodeled in 1839 was destroyed, and remains un-replaced.

By the 1970s the congregation had diminished to 10 members and was in danger of dissolution. Growth increased in the following decades, however, to the extent that the Unitarian Universalist Association granted the church an award in recognition of their revitalization. The church continues to serve the Medfield community today.

Ministers

John Wilson Jr.
1651-1691
Joseph Baxter
1697-1745
Jonathan Townsend
1745-1769
Thomas Prentice
1770-1814
Daniel Clarke Sanders
1815-1829
James Augustus Kendall
1830-1837
Charles Robinson
1839-1850
Rushton Dashwood Burr
1852-1857
Solon Wanton Bush
1857-1865
James Henry Wiggin
1867-1873
Charles Chauncy Sewell
1873-1877
Granville Pierce
1877-1881
Joseph Nelson Pardee
1882-1884
James Johnson Twiss
1884-1887
William Willis Hayward
1888-1892
John Arthur Savage
1892-1907
Albert Hague Spence Jr.
1908-1913
Horatio Edward Latham
1913-1916
Leonard Cushman
1917-1919
Franklin Zeiger
1919-1921
Manly Bacon Townsend
1922-1926
Anita Trueman Pickett
1926-1928
Harold Lionell Pickett
1926-1928
Paul Leicester Muder
1929-1931
Cicero Adolphus Henderson
1931-1933
Francis Galarneaux Ricker
1936-1939
Eric Alton Ayer
1939-1948
Kendrick Raymond Lee
1948-1951
Albert Nicholas Kaucher
1951-1955
William R Moors
1956-1965
Donald Vaughn
1965-1967
Robert Thayer
1968-1977
Glenn Snowden
1979-1984
Virgil Murdoch
1984-1986
Alice B Lane
1987-1989
Judith Deutsch
1991-2000
Robert William McKetchnie
2001-2011
Meg Soens
2013-2016

Extent

0.66 Cubic Feet (2 boxes)

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

The First Parish Church was founded in 1751 shortly after the incorporation of the town of Medfield. Rev. John Wilson was the first pastor. A second meeting house was constructed in 1706. The third and current meetinghouse was built in 1789. In 1813 the town and the parish were legally separated with members of the church incorporated as The First Parish. In 1827 a group of members of the First Parish petitioned for permission to withdraw from the First Parish, which was becoming increasingly Unitarian, in order to form an Orthodox church. The original First Parish church was subsequently known as the First Parish Unitarian church. The records of the First Parish Church include both church administrative documentation and some personal records such as legal and financial materials.

Arrangement

Files have been arranged in chronological order by start date, and their contents are ordered chronologically, except in the case of the relation of faith documents, which are ordered alphabetically by surname.

Technical Requirements

To access digital user’s copies via online-interface, a java-enabled web browser is required. Internet Explorer 8.x and later, Firefox 5.x and later, Opera 12 and later, Safari 5.x and later, or any version of Google Chrome are recommended.

Acquisition Information

Materials were permanently loaned to the Congregational Library & Archives by the First Parish Unitarian Church (Medfield, Mass.) in April 2018; 2018-09

Accruals

Additional accruals are expected for this collection in the form of full-text transcription. There is no anticipated date for this accrual.

Bibliography

Henderson, J. Hardy. Historical sketch of the First Congregational Parish (Unitarian), 1651-1951. Medfield, 1951. 17.11.1 M46.65 FIRPUC

"Our History." First Parish UU of Medfield, MA. Accessed August 13, 2019. https://www.firstparishmedfield.org/our-history/

Processing Information

Processed and described by Jules Thomson, August 2019, using DACS Second edition.
Title
Medfield, Mass. First Parish Unitarian Church records, 1697-1970.
Status
Completed
Author
Jules Thomson
Date
2019-08-14
Description rules
Dacs2 2013
Language of description
Undetermined
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
English

Repository Details

Part of the Congregational Library & Archives Repository

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