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Harwich, Mass. First Congregational Church records, 1726-1982.

 Collection
Identifier: RG0089

Scope and Contents

The Harwich, Mass. First Congregational Church records document the history, administration, and life of the church, including membership lists, church and parish records, meeting minutes, financial documents, society records, legal documents, church publications, committee reports, subscription lists, a manuscript by George Y. Washburn, and microfilmed copies of original records.

Dates

  • 1726-1982

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 Congregational Church of Harwich, Massachusetts, was founded in 1747 when the town of Harwich was split into the North and South Parishes. Efforts to split the town in half had begun in 1744 when families from the south side of Harwich petitioned the town meeting to separate the southern portion into its own distinct precinct. This and several other attempts were denied until a petition to the Massachusetts General Court resulted in the eventual separation of Harwich into two “distinct and separate precinct[s]” effective January 16, 1747. On April 8, 1747, the precinct voted to begin construction of a meeting house with construction being completed the following year. Also in April of 1747, Edward Pell, a Harvard graduate and Boston native, preached to the South Parish. Not long after, he was called by the South Parish to become the first pastor of the South Parish, a call he accepted graciously. Pell was ordained to the office on November 12, 1747. As part of his salary, Pell was given a “convenient hovel.” This structure was finally completed in 1751. Pell perished in 1752 and his widow left to Maine in 1753. At this time, their home became the parsonage and “Ministerial House” for future pastors. It did not remain as such for long as in 1782 the house and barn were sold to cover precinct expenses. The period between 1773 and 1792 was particularly rocky for the church, marked by numerous religious dissensions, shared pulpits with the West Harwich Baptist Church, and general unrest which resulted in the quick succession of multiple pastors during this period.

In 1792, the second meetinghouse was completed after the first had been condemned a year earlier. With the new meetinghouse came a new minister, Nathan Underwood, whose name became synonymous with the second meetinghouse. Underwood served the parish for thirty-six years, the longest ministry at the church. During his time at the First Congregational Church, Underwood expanded the membership of the church, advocated for further independence for the South Precinct, and taught numerous others “scientific” farming. He retired from active service in 1819, though he continued to offer support until 1828 when his relation with the church was formally dissolved. Shortly before his death, Underwood sold his home to the town for use as an almshouse. By 1832 the second meetinghouse needed to be replaced, and by the fall of that year Moses B. Lakeman completed construction. Financial difficulties and short pastorates marked the church’s history until 1851 when the Rev. Moses Hale Wilder began a complete reorganization of the church’s administration. He also oversaw the first expansion of the third meetinghouse in 1854.

The church officially became known as the First Congregational Church of Harwich when the church became incorporated under Massachusetts state law on December 19, 1898 at the behest of the Rev. George Y. Washburn. Washburn, further, celebrated the 150th anniversary of the church by writing a history of the congregation in 1897.

The first third of the 20th century was again marked by financial and parishioner distress with few pastors remaining long and the congregation growing smaller. That changed in 1933 with George Hunt who helped to revitalize the church community. His wife, Ruth Hunt, became the first woman to preach at the First Church after her husband fell ill one weekend. After World War II, Harwich, along with the rest of the Massachusetts cape, had become something of a tourist resort town. The result has been a revitalized church which has become welcoming to locals and visitors alike. The 200th anniversary of the church saw a complete renovation of the third meetinghouse. In 1954, a chapel first built by the Ladies of the Sewing Circle in 1881 was repurposed into the Parish House. In 1961, the church voted to become a member of the United Church of Christ. The First Church of Harwich continues to serve the community today.

Ministers

Edward Pell
1746-1752
Benjamin Crocker
1754-1756
John Dennis
1756-1761
Benjamin Crocker
1761-1765
Jonathan Mills
1766-1773
No regular minister
1774-1776
Joseph Litchfield
1777-1778
Samuel Nickerson
1778-1787
Jonathan Jeffers
1787-1789
Asa Hunt
1790-1791
Nathan Underwood
1792-1828
Isaac W. Wheelwright
1826-1827
William M. Cornell
1828-1829
Lucius Field
1830
Powers
1831
Caleb Kimball
1832-1834
William Withington
1835
Charles S. Adams
1835-1838
John H. Avery
1838-1839
William Marchant
1840-1841
James D. Farnsworth
1841
William H. Adams
1841-1844
Cyrus Stone
1844-1848
Theophilus F. Sawin
1848-1851
Moses Hale Wilder
1851-1858
Joseph Rice Munsell
1858-1868
William H. Beard
1869-1870
Charles S. Whitney
1871-1872
Bradish G. Ward
1872-1876
Joseph Hammond
1876-1877
Smith Norton
1878-1879
S.W. Powell
1880
Rufus B. Tobey
1880-1883
Cassius M. Westlake
1884-1885
Henry P. Cutting
1885-1888
F.J. Ward
1890
John C. Staples
1891-1892
J. Walter Sylvester
1893
J.H. Whittaker, Jr.
1893-1894
Artemas J. Haynes
1894-1896
George Y. Washburn
1896-1899
Charles H. Rowley
1899-1904
Henry A. Ryder
1905-1910
Frederick T. Knight
1910-1912
George W. Clark
1913-1918
Jack Hyde
1919-1920
F.B. Noyes
1920-1922
F.W. Hoisington
1923-1924
B.D.F. Lindsay
1924-1928
Howard R. May
1928-1929
Walter M. Stone
1930-1931
Leon S. Kelley
1931-1932
George A. Hunt
1933-1936
Henry D. Newell
1936-1943
George Loring Thurlow
1943-1953
Harry L. Meyer
1953-1959
J. Edward Elliot
1960-1971
Albert C. Ronander
1971-1978
H.L. Meyer
1976-1982
J.R. Williams
1981-1984
M.B. Carver-Schad
1981-2007
C.T. Newberry
1985-2006
L.C. Toppan
1986-1995
E. Deasy
1988-1989
J.N. Erickson
1990-1997
J.C. Pearsall
1997-1998
A. Weirch
1998-2001
T.C. Leinbach
2006-present

Extent

2.53 Cubic Feet (3 boxes, 2 reels)

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

The First Congregational Church of Harwich, Massachusetts, was founded in 1747 when the town of Harwich was split into the North and South Parishes. On April 8, 1747, the precinct voted to complete construction on a meeting house which was finally completed in 1748. In 1792, the second meetinghouse was completed after the first had been condemned a year earlier. The church officially became known as the First Congregational Church of Harwich when the church became incorporated in 1898 at the behest of the Rev. George Y. Washburn. The First Church of Harwich continues to serve the community today. The collection documents the history, administration, and life of the church and includs membership lists, church and parish records, and administrative/legal documents.

Arrangement

The collection is divided into the five series listed below. The records are arranged primarily by chronological order and then topic.
Series 1: Church and Society Records, 1745-1974
Series 2: Administrative Records, 1726-1982
Series 3: Church Subscriptions, 1832-1857
Series 4: Rev. George Y. Washburn Manuscript, circa 1897, 1972
Series 5: Microfilm, 1981

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

Acquisition Information

Materials deposited to the Congregational Library & Archives in 1981 by the First Congregational Church, Harwich, Massachusetts.

Accruals

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

Bibliography

History: First Congregational Church Harwich, Massachussetts 1747-1972. Harwich: Jack Viall, 1972. 17.11.1 H26.67 FirCC

Processing Information

Originally processed in 1982. Re-processed by Zachary Bodnar, September 2017, using DACS Second Edition.
Title
Harwich, Mass. First Congregational Church records, 1726-1982.
Status
Completed
Author
Zachary Bodnar
Date
2017-09-26
Description rules
3
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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