Byfield, Mass. Byfield Parish Church

Collection History

Byfield Parish Church (now located in Georgetown) was founded circa 1702 by citizens from the western portions of both Rowley and Newbury who wished to establish their own church. They were granted tax abatement with which to fund their church, and by 1702 land had been purchased, a cemetery laid out, a meeting house built, and a pastor, Rev. Moses Hale, had been called. In 1704 a parsonage was built, and the parish, known as Rowlberry or Newbury Falls up until this point, was renamed in honor of Judge Nathanial Byfield.

After Rev. Hale's death in 1744, the church called Rev. Moses Parsons to the ministry. Rev. Parsons pastored the church until 1787 when Rev. Elijah Parish was called. Rev. Parish served until 1825, and during his tenure a Sunday School was established and a stove was installed in the meeting house. The next two years saw a rapid turnover of pastoral supply, as well as several declined calls. It wasn't until the installation of Isaac R. Barbour in 1827 that Byfield once again had a settled pastor. Barbour resigned in 1833 after controversy broke out surrounding a disciplinary case. That same year, still-hot ashes from the stove lit a fire which destroyed the meetinghouse. A new meeting house was financed by the 'Proprietors of the Meetinghouse', which raised such an excess of funds by selling pews that the corporation's stockholders received a dividend. The new church building was finished within the year, and in December of 1833 Henry Durant was installed as pastor.

In 1930 the meeting house was struck by lightening and destroyed by the resulting fire. The small congregation was forced to borrow funds to build the present “old” meetinghouse. Byfield Parish Church is still active today and is a member of the United Church of Christ.

(Source: A brief history of the Byfield Congregational Church and Parish : from 1702 to 1888, Compiled by Jos. N. Dummer [1888]).

The digital collections below include the first three volumes of church records for Byfield Parish, spanning 1709-1844. The first volume serves primarily as a register of baptisms and deaths. The latter two are more comprehensive and include meeting minutes, membership rolls, correspondence, and marriage records.

For additional information please see the finding aid.

 

Digital Materials

Before accessing transcriptions, please read this Note on Transcription >

Church records, 1709-1827

This volume contains records of births and deaths in the Byfield Parish Church from 1709-1827. Digitized pages are displayed in the order in which they are meant to be read. Birth records  begin on page 5 and death records begin on page 119.

Church records, 1744-1826

This volume contains records of persons admitted into membership in the parish church, membership rolls, church meeting minutes and votes, and records of confessions and marriages. Missing are two pages which have been removed from the volume with a knife or razor, and one record of a marriage, which has been similarly redacted with a blade. Of particular note are the minutes of December 21, 1780 in which abolitionist deacon Benjamin Coleman brings charges against then-pastor Rev. Moses Parsons for holding slaves.

A full transcription of this volume is available.

Church records, 1825-1844

This volume contains meeting minutes and records of votes; records of membership, including admissions and dismissions; and records of deaths and infant baptisms. Missing from this volume is a section of page, redacted from meeting minutes by tearing.

Church records, 1832-1845

This volume contains meeting minute and records of votes; cases of church discipline, including censures, admonitions, and confessions; records of ordination and installation; and dismissions. Entries are clearly marked by date.

 

Related Materials

Parsons, Moses. Sermon, 1746

 

Special Thanks

Transcriptions of these digital resources have been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this resource do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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