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Halifax, Mass. Congregational Church records, 1734-1932.

Identifier: RG5192

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of early administrative records for the Congregational Church and the associated parish in Halifax, as well as membership records, records of Ladies' societies associated with the church, and manuscript historical narratives. Member records include a large number of marriage intentions from the early to mid 1800s.


  • 1734-1932


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 land which would become Halifax, Mass. was originally part of West Precinct of Plymouth, which included Plympton, Carver, and Wareham. In 1731, residents in northern Plympton lobbied successfully for permission to hold their own religious meeting in the home of Deacon Robert Waterman. The following year, local landowner John Bryant deeded a plot to the religious society’s proprietors for the erection of a meeting house. In October of 1734 a church was officially formed by order of an ecclesiastical council, and its covenant signed by 22 male and 31 female members. Rev. John Cotton was the church’s first minister, ordained in 1735 and remaining in the position for 20 years. Subsequent early pastors included Rev. William Patten (1757-1765), Rev. Ephraim Briggs (1767-1799), and Rev. Abel Richmond (1800-1832), who was ousted after a 33-year pastorate due to disagreements with parishioners.

A Sunday school was founded in 1736, possibly the first such establishment in North America. In the 1750s the meeting house was deemed too small to accommodate the growing population. The building was split in half and expanded by 16 feet in the middle. In addition to being a locus for both town and church business, the meeting house was also used for the storage of munitions and gunpowder during the latter part of the 18th century. In 1821 a steeple and bell were built and installed via funds raised from the sale of pews. The expanded first meeting house continued to serve the needs of the church until the early 1850s, when it was sold to the town to be used as a town hall. Though remarkably long-lived, the building was destroyed in a fire in 1907.

After the dismission of Rev. Abel Richmond in 1832, Rev. Eldridge Howe was invited to the ministry and accepted. A large portion of the congregation still professed loyalty to Rev. Richmond. In 1834, 15 members seceded from the church. This was followed by numerous other secessions over the following year, resulting in a significant decline in overall membership, to about half of its former size. The remaining congregants were unable to pay Rev. Howe's salary to his satisfaction, and he tendered his resignation in late 1835. The following decades were typified by short supply ministries, a notable exception being the 11-year pastorate of Rev. Timothy Brainerd from 1855-1866.

In 1842 a Ladies' "Missionary Sewing Circle" was officially organized, with the intent to provide clothing for a missionary station in Canada. The group changed names several times in subsequent years and was also known as the Ladies Sewing Circle, the Ladies Benevolent Society, and the Halifax Benevolent Society. Their mission also expanded to include general fundraising for the church and other charitable causes. Despite changes in name and emphasis, this women’s group essentially persisted throughout the 19th and 20th centuries and remained an important part of church life.

In 1852 a second meeting house was built for the Church's use, slightly to the west of the original building. It was erected at a cost of $5,200 and was dedicated on December 7, 1852 with its dedicatory sermon delivered by the Rev. Charles Porter from Plymouth. In 1921, during Sunday service, a violent wind gust caused the steeple to collapse and the spire to fall into an unoccupied pew. The mortgage for the church was paid in full in 1978, and subsequently burned ceremonially in a special service, a popular tradition at the time. The Halifax Congregational Church is now a member of the United Church of Christ, and continues to serve the community today.


1.09 Cubic Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials



A Congregational church was officially formed in Halifax in 1734, with 53 founding members. A second meeting house was built in 1852. In 1842 a Ladies Sewing Circle was organized and continued to be central to church life. The Halifax Congregational Church is now a member of the United Church of Christ, and continues to serve the community today. This collection consists of early administrative records for the Congregational Church and the associated parish in Halifax.


This collection has been arranged into four series, listed below. Except within the membership series, records have been arranged in chronological order, by start date. Within the membership series, records have been grouped by topics, and further divided by either alphabetical or chronological order.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Materials were loaned to the Congregational Library & Archives by Halifax Congregational Church, in March 2019; 2014-41.


250th Anniversary Celebration: United Church of Christ of Halifax. Halifax, 1982. 17.11.1 H 13.5P H

Davis, Emerson. Biographical Sketches of the Congregational Pastors of New England: Volume II, n.d. 9.3.90

Perkins, Ruth V. 250th Anniversary of the Beginning of the Church. Halifax, 1982. 17.11.1 H 13.5P

Wadsworth, Joseph III. The History of the Halifax Congregational Church of Halifax, Massachusetts, Vol. 1 Halifax, 2008. 17.11.1 H 13.5 HalCC HW 2008

Processing Information

Processed and described by Jules Thomson, November 2019, using DACS Second edition.
Halifax, Mass. Congregational Church records, 1734-1932.
Jules Thomson
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Repository Details

Part of the Congregational Library & Archives Repository

14 Beacon Street
Suite 200
Boston MA 02108