Guide to the Collection
|Creator:||First Church (Weymouth,
|Title:||First Church (Weymouth, Mass.) records
|Physical Description:||3 document
boxes and 1 oversize container.
|Call Number:||Ms. N-186
|Microfilm Call Number:||P-375, 2 reels
|Repository:||Massachusetts Historical Society
1154 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02215
This collection consists of records kept by
Reverends William Smith, Jacob Norton, and to a lesser degree Josiah Bent and
John C. Phillips, pastors of the First Church of Weymouth, Mass.
The First Church in Weymouth, Mass. (United Church of Christ) was first
gathered in 1623. In that year, a band of settlers arrived accompanied by Rev.
William Morrell, a rector of the Church of England, who remained for just over
a year. Rev. Mr. Barnard took over from 1624 until 1635. The church existed in
only a provisional way from 1635-39 during which time a great deal of religious
dissention took place. The people of Weymouth joined in covenant on Jan. 30,
1639: Peace and unity was finally achieved in 1644 with the arrival of Rev.
Thomas Thacher. From then until the establishment of the south precinct or
parish in 1723, the town was all one precinct. Town and church business was
transacted in town meetings. The establishment of the South Precinct in 1723
meant the withdrawal of several church members.
In 1734, the pastoral call was extended to Rev. William Smith of
Charlestown. The son of a wealthy mariner and merchant, Smith was born in 1707
and graduated from Harvard College in 1725. He accepted the position as pastor
in 1734 at a salary of 160 and 300 settlement and was ordained at Weymouth
later that year. During his tenure, the meetinghouse was repaired (1735) and
more repairs and the addition of a steeple were planned in 1751 when the
meetinghouse was completely destroyed by fire. Pews were sold to finance the
construction of a new one at the same location and extra pews were built and
sold for the addition of a belfry. Smith also found himself embroiled in
controversy with the South Precinct over parish lands.
Smith married Elizabeth Quincy in 1740 and had four children, including
Abigail, later Mrs. John Adams, and Mary, later Mrs. Richard Cranch. Rev. Smith
died in 1783 after 49 years as minister of the First Church.
During the next four years, no permanent pastor could be found. Several men
served temporarily, but none would accept the permanent position until 1787
when Rev. Jacob Norton accepted the ob. Norton was born in Abington, Mass. in
1767, graduated from Harvard College in 1786, and was ordained at Weymouth in
October of 1787. In 1789, he married Elizabeth Cranch, the daughter of Richard
and Mary Smith Cranch and granddaughter of Rev. William Smith. She died in 1811
and in 1813, he was married again, this time to Hannah Bowers. He would serve
until 1824 during which time his theological beliefs are said to have changed
and caused great controversy in the church, the church's first Sunday School
was begun, and the meetinghouse was enlarged. A significant portion of the
congregation withdrew from the church, which kept its ties to the more
traditional Congregationalism, to join the Union Church (Union Religious
Society) of Weymouth and Braintree (est. 1804) and the Methodist Society in
East Weymouth (est. 1822). His tenure was punctuated by religious tension,
finally resulting in his dismissal in 1824.
Following his dismissal, Norton moved to Billerica where he became first a
Unitarian and later a Universalist. Weymouth was his only pastorate. He died on
Jan. 17, 1858 at the age of 93.
Norton was replaced by Rev. Josiah Bent, Jr. (d. 1839) of Milton who
remained until 1833 when he resigned over Free Masonry. He graduated from
Harvard in 1822 and was ordained at Weymouth. During his tenure, a new
meetinghouse was erected.
Rev. John C. Phillips (1807-1878) an 1826 graduate of Harvard and in 1832 of
the Andover Theological seminary, succeeded Bent, serving from 1833-1837.
The church is presently located at 17 Church St., Weymouth Heights,
The First Church (Weymouth, Mass.) records consist of records kept by
Reverends William Smith, Jacob Norton, and to a lesser degree Josiah Bent and
John C. Phillips, pastors of the First Church of Weymouth, Mass. The records
include two record books containing minutes of First (North) precinct meetings
and committee reports (1724-1839) and two volumes containing lists of births,
marriages, members, and deaths (1734-1837) under all four ministers.
The loose papers of Smith and Norton contain warrants for precinct meetings
to discuss town and church affairs including the dispute between the North and
South precincts, papers related to the meetinghouse and the ministers'
salaries, letters from other local churches noting appointments and other news,
and papers related to Norton's dismissal as pastor in 1824 amidst religious
The collection also includes notes from and lists of members who withdrew
from the church to join other area churches, in particular the Union Religious
Association of Weymouth and Braintree (later the Old South Union Church of
In addition to the records of the First Church, the Mass. Historical Society
holds the papers of Jacob Norton (1774-1840) including his diaries and sermons,
and the diaries of William Smith (1728-1778).
The records were deposited by the First Church of Weymouth in August
On microfilm, P-375, 2 reels. The microfilm does not include the printed
The collection is organized into the following series:
|I. William Smith papers, 1734-1783
|II. Jacob Norton papers, 1784-1824
|III. Bound church records, 1724-1839
|A. Record book, 1724-1797
|B. Record book, 1798-1839
|C. "Church book," 1734-1837
|D. Rev. Jacob Norton's record book, 1788-1833
|IV. Printed materials, 1813-1973
|Reel 1||Box 1||I. William Smith papers,
Approximately 75 items.
Papers related to Smith's service as pastor of the First Church of Weymouth
from 1734-1783. Included are warrants calling for Weymouth precinct meetings
regarding town and church affairs, various committee reports including those to
assess the treasurer's records, items related to the repair of the meeting
house and the addition of a steeple and belfry, a copy of the original
agreement appointing Smith as pastor, and papers related to his salary. Other
related items include letters to Smith from other local area churches
announcing appointments and other news, and records of local church councils,
among them the Council of Six Churches which met at Duxbury.
|Reel 1||Box 1||II. Jacob Norton papers,
Approximately 230 items.
Papers related to Norton's service as Smith's successor (after a gap of 4
years) as pastor of the First Church from 1787 until his dismissal in 1824.
This series also includes a small amount of material dating from 1784-1787
prior to Norton's appointment and including warrants for precinct meetings
where, among the other topics discussed was the need to secure a permanent
pastor for the church. Norton's papers begin with his acceptance of the
position in 1787. His letters to the church continue throughout his tenure and
relate to his salary, his need for increases, and the controversy in the church
just prior to his dismissal for his controversial religious views. Warrants for
precinct meetings continue throughout his tenure and topics to be brought to a
vote include the dispute between the first and second precincts in Weymouth,
the possibility of incorporating the precinct as a township, Norton's salary
and housing, and singing in the church. Also included are various committee
reports including those to assess the records of treasurer; an anonymously
written record of Norton's sermons preached from 1814-1815 with brief notes of
their contents; letters to Norton from other area churches regarding
appointments, church controversies, and other church business; and notes from
former church members stating their plans for withdrawal from the First Church
to other local churches and especially to the Union Religious Association of
Weymouth and Braintree.
Papers surrounding Norton's eventual dismissal include committee reports and
several letters from Norton to the church explaining his religious views.
|III. Bound church records,
|Reel 2||Box 2||A. Record book,
Approximately 275 pages.
Includes minutes of the meetings of the North (First) Precinct of Weymouth
and reports of committees. Includes records under Rev. William Smith
(1734-1783) and Rev. Jacob Norton (1787-1797).
|Reel 2||Box 2||B. Record book,
Approximately 340 pages.
Continues 1724-1797 record book with minutes of meetings and committee
reports from 1798-1824 under Rev. Jacob Norton. Also includes lists of persons
who have withdrawn from the church to join other churches or religious
societies, including the Union Religious Society of Weymouth and Braintree,
|Reel 2||Box 2||C. "Church book,"
Approximately 145 pages.
Includes lists of baptisms, persons admitted to the church, marriages, and
deaths under Rev. William Smith (1734-1783), Rev. Josiah Bent (1824-1833), and
Rev. John C. Phillips (1834-1837). See Jacob Norton's separate record book for
lists of the same for the years 1784-1824. Also included are a few minutes of
church meetings in 1740, 1770, 1784-1787, and 1826-1835.
|Reel 2||Box 2||D. Rev. Jacob Norton's record book,
Approximately 125 pages.
Contains lists of baptisms, lists of persons admitted, marriages, and
deaths; and minutes of precinct meetings and committee reports (1795-1820)
dating from the tenure of Rev. Jacob Norton as pastor (1784-1824). Also
included are the record of the ordination of Josiah Bent and the minutes of a
meeting in November of 1833 to invite John C. Phillips to take pastoral
|IV. Printed materials,
THE FOLLOWING PRINTED MATERIALS DO NOT APPEAR ON
These materials have been individually cataloged in the MHS printed
|Box 3||First Church in Weymouth (United Church of Christ),
Three Hundred and Fifty Years. Weymouth Heights,
Mass: First Church,
|Box 3||Lathrop, John, A Sermon Preached at the First
Church in Weymouth, October 29, 1814, at the Interment of Miss Mary P.
Bicknell.... Boston: J. Belcher,
|Box 3||Norton, Jacob, A Sermon Delivered Before the
Massachusetts Missionary Society, at their Eleventh Annual Meeting, in Boston,
May 29, 1810. Boston: Lincoln and Edmands,
|Box 3||Norton, Jacob, "The Awakener:" A Sermon,
Delivered Before the First Religious Society in Weymouth. Boston:
Parmenter and Balch, n.d.
|Box 3||Panoplist and Missionary Magazine,
Vol. XII, No. 1,
|Box 3||Phillopaideos, A New Catechism: In Which the
Duties of Piety Towards God, Justice, Righteousness and Charity Towards Man Are
Displayed in a Familiar Manner. For the Use of Young Children. Boston:
Lincoln and Edmands,
|Box 3||Ware, Henry, A Sermon Delivered January 1,
1817, at the Ordination of the Reverend Henry Ware, to the Pastoral Care of the
Second Church in Boston. Boston: J.W. Burditt,
First Church (Weymouth, Mass.) records, Massachusetts Historical
This collection is indexed under the following headings in
the online catalog of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Researchers
desiring materials about related persons, organizations, or subjects should
search the catalog using these headings.
|Bent, Josiah, d. 1839.
|Norton, Jacob, 1764-1858.
|Phillips, John Charles,
|Smith, William, 1706-1783.
|Old South Union Church (Weymouth,
|Weymouth (Mass.). First