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Haverhill, Mass. West Congregational Church records, 1734-1900.

Identifier: RG5067

Scope and Contents

This collection contains the earliest records of the West Congregational Church, and continuing administrative documentation up until 1900. including the articles of agreement for the construction of the first meeting house, administrative records, membership information, and financial accounting. There is also a "new building book" containing records relating to the construction of the second meetinghouse in 1828.


  • 1734-1900


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

When the western part of Haverhill became too populous for one church in 1734, the West Parish of Haverhill was established by a petition to the General Court of Massachusetts. 77 members were dismissed from the First Parish Church and constructed a new meeting house, located "on the southeasterly corner of Samuel Eatton's pasture”. The building, which was intended for both secular and religious use, was dedicated on Oct. 22, 1735. After two trial preachers, the church successfully settled and ordained the Rev. Samuel Bachellor, a Harvard graduate, in July of 1735. During his ministry 118 new members were admitted to the church.

In 1738, soon after the Parish was incorporated, the committee acquired land to be used for a burying-ground and roads. In 1739, the parish voted to gift Rev. Bachellor all the parsonage lands belonging to the West Parish, in addition to 70 acres which he had already been gifted by town proprietors. The parish committee also granted Rev. Bachellor several additions to his salary over the years, in order to offset currency depreciation which was endemic in mid-18th-century New England. Rev. Bachellor also owned at least one slave, identified in a death record of March 24, 1785 only as “Nero, servant to ye Revd Mr Bachellor.” Theological differences between Rev. Bachellor and his congregation led to increasing strife within the church. In 1755, a number of congregants led by Mr. Joseph Haynes accused him of heresy, specifically for alleging in a sermon that Christ had declared that the work of redemption was “finished” during the crucifixion. He was ultimately removed in October of 1761 after ongoing disputes. After his dismissal the parish was without a settled pastor for 9 years.

In 1762 the church and parish voted to adopt the Cambridge Platform of church discipline. In the same year Rev. Nathaniel Noyes was called to the ministry after a trial period, but ultimately declined, as did subsequent trial ministers until March, 1769, when "a great majority" of the parish voted to invite Rev. Phineas Adams to the ministry. Rev. Adams was eventually ordained in January of 1771. He continued in the role until his death in 1801. In 1751 the parish voted to build a schoolhouse, though construction did not occur until 1791. In 1770, the parish voted “to continue to sing Dr. Watts' Psalms & Hymns in the congregation." This is the first allusion to singing in the parish records, and there is also mention of a "Singers Pew" which was enlarged in 1788 and again in 1794. In 1810 the parish approved 13 dollars toward the support of a singing school.

After the death of Rev. Adams in 1801, the parish was without a settled minister for 25 years. This was exacerbated by a substantial change in the organization of the parish in the early 1800s, in which Baptist, Methodist, and Universalist residents increasingly shared governance. In 1806 it was voted to divide the parish funds between the different denominations based on their respective tax contributions, and in 1809 a committee composed of one representative each from the Congregationalist, Methodist, and Universalist denominations was appointed to oversee the division of parish funds. Discord followed in the wake of these structural changes. In 1818, the Congregationalists attempted to regain control of the entire parish but were unsuccessful. From 1821-1824 the parish attempted to settle three different ministers, none of which were ultimately approved by the Congregationalists.

Finally, in September, 1826, the church unanimously invited the Congregationalist Rev. Moses Grosvenor to the ministry. The parish approved the decision, and Mr. Grosvenor accepted the invitation and was ordained in December of 1826. The other denominations within the parish remained unsatisfied, and petitioned in 1828 for money to hire additional ministers. The parish committee ruled 50-53 against their request, but subsequently voted to dismiss Rev. Grosvenor, with "three months' notice to withdraw his pastoral connection”. The Congregationalists then decided to withdraw and organize a new society. This division created a distinct Parish (Universalist) Society and a Church (Congregationalist) Society, a state of affairs which lasted from 1828-1852. The Church Society built a new brick meeting house one mile west of the old parish meeting house’, and in 1829 petitioned the parish to settle the Rev. Abijah Cross of Salisbury, New Hampshire. The request was granted and Rev. Cross accepted and was installed in 1831. In 1832, it was voted to move the old meeting house 1.25 miles west to the center of the parish, which was accomplished by 1834.

In 1852, after protracted arguments between the Parish and Church societies over the allocation of endowments, the parish was transferred back to the Congregationalists and the Universalist society was re-organized as The First Universalist Society in the West Parish of Haverhill. In 1853, Rev. Cross was dismissed from the Congregational church and society at his own request, and Rev. Asa Farwell was subsequently settled as pastor. During his pastorate, 86 new members were admitted, many of them during an 1863 religious revival brought on by the turmoil of the Civil War. After Rev. Farwell was dismissed in 1866, Rev. Ephraim Allen was settled as pastor and remained in the position until 1876. In 1874-5 the meeting house was extensively remodeled at a cost of about 9,000 dollars.

The church was officially incorporated in 1921. It is now known as West Congregational Church, and continues to serve the Haverhill community as a member of the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference (CCCC).


.44 Cubic Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials



When the western part of Haverhill became too populous for one church in 1734, the West Parish of Haverhill was established by a petition to the General Court of Massachusetts, and the church, initially known as the Third Church, was itself established in 1735. In the first half of the 19th century, the governance of the parish was controversially distributed between multiple denominations, but in 1852 it was relinquished again to the Congregationalists. This collection contains the earliest records of the West Congregational Church and continuing administrative documentation up until 1900.


This collection has been arranged in chronological order by start date.

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

Loaned to the Congregational Library & Archives, for digitization, by the West Church in Haverhill, Massachusetts, March 2011; There is no accession number for this collection.


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

Location of Originals

The physical records are held and maintained by the West Church in Haverhill, Massachusetts.


Excercises Commemorative of the One Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the West Congregational Church, Haverhill, Mass. Haverhill: C. C. Morse & Son, 1886. 17.11.1 H29.45 WESCC

Chase, George Wingate. The history of Haverhill, Massachusetts, from its first settlement, in 1640, to the year 1860. Haverhill: George W. Chase, 1861.

Processing Information

Processed and described by Jules Thomson, October 2019, using DACS Second Edition.
Haverhill, Mass. West Congregational Church records, 1734-1900.
Jules Thomson
Description rules
Dacs2 2013
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Congregational Library & Archives Repository

14 Beacon Street
Suite 200
Boston MA 02108