Marlborough, Mass. First Church

Collection History

The town of Marlborough was incorporated in 1660. The First Parish Church was originally organized in 1666. In 1662, a rate of 2 pence per acre was levied upon all properties in order to raise funds to build a Meeting House; and in 1664, a rate of 3 and ¼ pence was levied to complete the building. This first Meeting House stood on the old Common, but was burnt down by Native Americans in 1676. A new Meeting House was soon erected, but did not remain in active use for long. In 1688, a larger meeting house was built near the site of the former buildings and served as a place of worship until 1809. Rev. William Brimsmead was the first minister of the town.

In December of 1804, a committee of seven members was chosen by the town to report on a petition put forth by the westerly population. The petition meant to separate the town into Eastern and Western sections. Although the committee members were in favor of the split, the town would not adopt their report. Opposing propositions from the eastern and western populations of Marlborough on where to build the new meeting house eventually resulted in the split of the town into the East and West Parishes, and a corresponding division in the church. A new meeting house was set up at Spring Hill and was opened for public service in 1806. Simultaneously, the inhabitants of the western section of Marlborough had taken steps to form a new Parish and a new meeting house. In 1808, the western part of town was incorporated as the Second Parish in Marlborough, and on the fifth of March, the West Church was organized.

In 1833, 50 members of the First Parish withdrew in order to form the First Evangelical Congregational Society. Not long after, the remaining members of the First Parish voted to form a union with the First Evangelical Society. On April 1, 1835 the First Parish and the First Evangelical Congregational Society were incorporated as the Union Society. In 1836, the East Church in Marlborough (formerly called the First Parish Church) was officially renamed the Union Church in Marlborough. In 1852, the Meeting House on Spring Hill was destroyed in a fire. A new meeting house was completed in 1853 which is still in use today. The Union Church in Marlborough was incorporated in 1891. At a meeting held on March 28, 1913, church members voted to rename the church, the First Church in Marlborough, Congregational. The parish voted to join the United Church of Christ in 1961. The First Church in Marlborough, Congregational, UCC continues to serve the local community today.

The digital collections below contain various record book volumes, including those for the church, parish, and Evangelical Society. There are also several handwritten sermon pamphlets, and material resulting from two separate ecclesiastical councils.

For additional information please see the finding aid.

 

Digital Materials

Church records, 1704-1802

This volume includes a list of recipients of the 1704 church covenant, membership lists, admissions, baptisms, marriages, church meeting minutes, and records of votes.

Church records, 1802-1833

This volume includes an index of its contents, a history of the church, baptisms, admissions, dismissions, church meeting minutes, changes in the Deacon's office, and donations to the poor of the church.

Church records, 1739-1741, undated

These unbound records contain multiple copies of church covenants and a record of votes regarding pay.

1741 December 23 This document is a small unbound pamphlet, produced in 1741, which includes a transcribed copy of the "renewed" Church Covenant from 1679 October 15 which was originally created by the first minister in Marlborough, Rev. Brimsmead.
undated This undated document is a copy of the Baptismal Covenant.
undated This undated document is a copy of the Church Covenant.
1739 April 16 – 1739 April 23 This document is a record of a committee meeting held at the church regarding the pay of Abraham Williams.


Clerk records, 1778-1785

This volume contains the church records kept by Peter Wood, who was elected to the position in 1778. The records include church meeting minutes and records of votes. Also included lists of admissions and baptisms.

Parish records, 1808-1835

This volume includes church meeting minutes, notes of hand in the treasury, warrants issued to Parish collectors, responses of Parish collectors, prudential committee meeting minutes and reports, and reports to the auditors of the treasury.

Financial records, 1808

This is a tax book created by Herman Stow, the parish collector, which includes a list of parishioner names and their tax payments broken down by tax categories.

Evangelical Society records, 1833-1834

This volume includes an 1833 record of a First Parish meeting, an 1834 society vote to increase the 400 dollar salary of Mr. Forbush by 100 hundred dollars, an 1833 record of new members to the Evangelical Congregational Society, a list of original members to the society, and meeting minutes. Beginning on page 13 is Reverend Charles Forbush's response to the invitation to become pastor of East Church and the First Evangelical Congregational Society in 1833. Beginning on page 19 is Charles Forbush's letter dissolving his connection to the church and society in 1834.

Evangelical Society records, 1833-1839

These records contain documents related to the separation of the First Evangelical Congregational Society from the First Parish. Included within the documents are the records of multiple ecclesiastical councils called to discuss unification of the two church societies, numerous ministerial replies to calls to preach, records of early demands made to unify the church that ultimately fell through, and letters from former pastors encouraging the two church societies to reunite.

Sermons, 1730-1783, undated

This folder contains five handwritten sermon pamphlets. The first sermon was preached by the Rev. Prentice on the occasion of the "indisposition" of the Rev. Robert Breck, who was the minister at Marlsborough in 1730, and draws upon a portion of Matthew 4:24. The second sermon was preached about 1 John 3:9 and also includes a list of dates and locations for where the sermon was preached. The third sermon does not appear to cite a bible verse. The fourth sermon was based on Joshua 24:15 and includes a list of locations and dates it was preached. The fifth sermon was based on Philippians 4:6.

  • Matthew 4:24 – "And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them."
      first preached by the Rev. Prentice on the occasion of the "indisposition" of the Rev. Breck 1730 October 15
  • 1 John 3:9 – "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God."
      preached by unknown author between 1776 and 1777
  • uncited Bible verse
      preached by an unknown author on an unknown date
  • Joshua 24:15 – "And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
      preached by an unknown author between 1782 and 1783
  • Philippians 4:6 – "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God."
      preached by an unknown author on an unknown date

Ecclesiastical council minutes, 1778

This document is the minutes of an Ecclesiastical Council convened following the death of Rev. Aaron Smith. Included in the minutes is a prayer spoken for Rev. Smith and a list of members who attended the meeting.

Asa Packard records, 1805-1806

These documents contain the records of several council meetings which were called by Rev. Packard between 1805 and 1806 in response to a split in the First Church which resulted in the creation of the East and West Parish Churches.

1805 November 19 meeting minutes regarding the splitting of the parishes. Included is a copy of a long letter written by Rev. Asa Packard written to the Marlborough Association calling for calm minds and thoughtful prayers during the separation "crisis"
1806 October 22 proceedings and results of an ecclesiastical council, which included delegates from the Congregational churches in Shrewsbury, Northborough, Stow, Acton, Concord, Berlin, and Weston, called in order to help arbitrate the split in the first Parish Church
1806 March 23 – 1806 April 10 letter written by Rev. Asa Packard to the First Parish Society requesting "dissolution of my Pastoral relation to this Church and Society." Also included are the records of a church meeting where this request was declined
1806 March 6 proceedings of a Marlborough Association meeting held at the Rev. Packard’s home, with a resolution defending Rev. Packard’s actions during the separation

 

Related Materials

Marlborough Association of Congregational Ministers, 1725-1842

 

Special Thanks

This digital resource has 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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