Guide to the Collection

Collection Summary


This collection consists of the records of the Watertown (Mass.) First Parish Church (Unitarian). It contains loose and bound vital records (births, marriages, deaths), warrants and votes, minutes, financial and property records, as well as records of church clubs and warrants and minutes of the Watertown Middle School District.

Chronological Timeline

A company of early immigrants from England, whose principal leaders were Sir Richard Saltonstall, Rev. George Phillips, and elder Richard Browne arrived in Watertown.
George Phillips ordained as pastor.
New meeting house built.
John Knowles ordained as colleague.
John Sherman ordained as pastor.
Town residents voted for the building of a new meeting house, scheduled for completion in September 1656.
John Bailey ordained as pastor.
Henry Gibbs ordained as pastor.
Committee appointed by town residents to settle placement of a new meeting house.
Watertown residents agreed to support two meeting houses, one in the eastern part of town, and the second, to be built, in the western part of town. Rev. Henry Gibbs continued as minister of the eastern part of town; Rev. Samuel Angier hired as minister of the new meeting house.
Meeting house in the western part of town completed.
Henry Gibbs ordained as pastor.
Farmers in the western end of town petitioned to form a new township. The town of Weston was set off when granted.
Dividing line or boundary between the eastern and western parts of town discussed by residents.
Watertown divided into two precincts by the Mass. General Court.
New meeting houses approved in both parts of town by the Mass. General Court.
Monies allocated by Watertown residents for the building of two new meeting houses. The eastern precinct's (fourth) meeting house built on Schoolhouse Hill. Completion scheduled for 1723.
Seth Storer ordained as minister.
Western precinct incorporated as the town of Waltham. Its church became the First Parish of Waltham. The eastern precinct retained the name and records of the First Parish Church of Watertown.
Town voted to remove the fourth meeting house on Schoolhouse Hill and rebuild on land (known as Common Street) given to the town by Nathaniel Harris.
Fourth structure destroyed before rebuilding completed.
Fifth meeting house completed and dedicated on the same site as the previous meeting house.
Daniel Adams ordained as pastor.
Richard Eliot ordained as pastor.
Trustees of the Ministerial Fund incorporated.
Convers Francis ordained as pastor.
Massachusetts General Court petitioned by leading members of the church for incorporation as a parish. Charter granted. Land, known as the "Knoll," and funding secured for the building of a new meeting house.
Sixth meeting house completed and dedicated on 7 September.
Sixth meeting house destroyed by fire on 21 July.
Seventh meeting house completed and dedicated on 3 August.
John Weiss ordained as pastor.
Hasbrouck Davis ordained as pastor.
George Bradford ordained as pastor.
Arthur Buckminster Fuller ordained as pastor.
John Weiss ordained as pastor.
James T. Bixby ordained as pastor.
Joseph F. Lovering ordained as pastor.
Arthur Knapp ordained as pastor.
William H. Savage ordained as pastor.
Walter F. Greenman ordained as pastor.
George G. Mills ordained as pastor.
Ernest S. Meredith ordained as pastor.
L. Wendell Hughes ordained as pastor.
E. Palmer Clarke ordained as pastor.
David O. Rankin ordained as pastor.
Rexford Styzens ordained as pastor.
Max L. Moss ordained as pastor.
Meeting house torn down. Congregation moved to a smaller, easier to maintain structure on Church Street in Watertown.
Marc A. Salkin ordained as pastor.
John Papandrew ordained as pastor.
Andrea Greenwood ordained as pastor.


The published Watertown Records were used to extract information for the timeline. Please note that there are conflicting dates within previously recorded histories.

Vaughn, Mosetta I. The Meeting House of the First Congregational Society of Watertown, Massachusetts: Written for the Centennial of the Seventh House, September 20th 1942. Published by the Historical Society of Watertown, 1942.

Watertown, Mass. First Parish Church Records, 1668-1981. Deposited at the Massachusetts Historical Society

Watertown. Mass. Records, 1634-1829. Prepared for publication by the Watertown Historical Society, Watertown, Vols. 1-8, [1894-1939].

Worthley, Harold Field. An Inventory of the Records of the Particular (Congregational) Churches of Massachusetts Gathered 1620-1805. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1970.

Collection Description

The records of the First Parish Church of Watertown, Massachusetts are housed in one cased volume, 36 boxes, and 2 oversize boxes and document the history of the church from 1668-1981. The collection has been divided into two series: loose papers and bound volumes. Since the records consist primarily of church-related records, three sub-series have been introduced: church records; church financial and property records; and records of church club and organizations. Bound volumes, Series II, includes a fourth sub-series: Watertown Middle School District Records.

The bulk of the records are bound and contain records of baptisms, marriages, and deaths; financial and property records; warrants, votes and minutes. Dates occasionally overlap. There are no records before 1686 and the earliest records, 1686 to approximately 1815, are sparse. Records become more continuous and focused in the early nineteenth century.

Also of interest to the researcher are the clubs associated with the parish. Both First Parish Church organizations and branches of national organizations are represented in the records.

Watertown's Lend a Hand Club, 1904-1979, is a branch of the national Lend a Hand Society, begun by a Unitarian minister, Edward Everett Hale in 1891. The most sizeable segment of work of the national organization was sending books to schools and libraries in the rural South. Other work done by the Lend a Hand Society was done through other relief agencies providing aid to meet a need that might otherwise be unmet, such as the loaning of hospital equipment to those in need; layettes for new mothers; and convalescent care. According to the by-laws of the Lend a Hand Club of First Parish Church, its purpose was the promotion of the religious, charitable, and social welfare within the church. The records of the Lend a Hand Society are held by the Massachusetts Historical Society.

As the name suggests, the Watertown Female Society for the Relief of the Sick, 1816-1955, was founded in 1816 to give relief to poor and the sick. The society supplied clothing, blankets, food, and sickroom supplies to those in need.

The remaining parish clubs: Emerson Club, 1949-1952; Laymen's League, 1922-1949; the Social Club, 1944-1953; and the Unitarian Club, 1887-1955, were concerned with the support of the church and its membership principally through social means.

Acquisition Information

The records of the First Parish Church of Watertown were placed on deposit at the Massachusetts Historical Society by the church, February 1995.

Detailed Description of the Collection

The records of the First Parish Church of Watertown, Massachusetts are arranged in two series: loose papers and bound volumes. Within series, the materials have been divided into three sub-series: church records, church financial and property records, and records of church clubs and organizations. Bound volumes also include a fourth sub-series, Watertown Middle School District records. Users should consult both loose records and bound volumes for each subject.

I. Loose papers, 1690-1973

A. Church records, 1690-1954

Loose church records contain miscellaneous sporadic records including notes and writings of early pastors, i.e., Henry Gibbs, John Weiss, Solon Whitney, W. H. Savage, and G. G. Mills; some annual reports; and undated notes on church history and doctrine. See Series II. A. Bound church records for the bulk of the general records.

General records

Box 1Folder 1
Undated miscellaneous notes on church doctrine and the history of the church
Box 1Folder 2
Sermon notes of Rev. Henry Gibbs, 1690-1695
Box 1Folder 3
Printed record of the First Parish, 1861; letter from John Weiss accepting pastoral renewal, 18[63]
Box 1Folder 4
Letters from Solon F. Whitney, 1893, 1911, and W. H. Savage, 1895
Box 1Folder 5
Reports of Rev. G. G. Mills, 1910-1913
Box 1Folder 6-7
Annual reports, 1911, 1913-1917, 1922-1928
Box 1Folder 8
Certificate of appreciation for aid in restoration of the Old North Church, 1954; transcribed notes from parish records, 1819-1833
OS Box 1Folder 1
Seating plan of the church, reproduction, 1842

B. Church financial and property records, 1725-1973

This sub-series is arranged chronologically within five broad categories: general financial records, Anne Mills fund records, ministerial fund records, perpetuity fund records, and property records. Of interest are the original 1725 will of Anne Mills, and a copy of the will of Frank M. Bailey, 1945. These records are extremely sparse. See Series II. B. for the bulk of the financial and property records.

General financial records

Box 1Folder 9
Correspondence, 1904-1905; expenditures, 1891-1914
Box 1Folder 10
Cancelled checks, 1908-1909
Box 1Folder 11
Receipts, cancelled checks, 1870-1874; 1908-1909
Box 1Folder 12
Cancelled bank books, 1947-1973

Anne Mills Fund records

Box 1Folder 13
Will of Anne Mills, 1725
Box 1Folder 14
Anne Mills Fund, correspondence, 1909; cancelled bank book, 1925-1942

Ministerial Fund records

Box 1Folder 15
Ministerial fund legal documents, 1812, 1922-1939
Box 1Folder 16-20
Ministerial fund treasurer reports, 1895-1958
Box 1Folder 21
Ministerial fund receipts, 1924, 1936-1938, 1947-1948
Box 2Folder 1
Ministerial fund cancelled bank books, 1932-1943 and 1949-1951
Box 2Folder 2
Ministerial fund miscellaneous papers, 1924, 1930, 1932, 1942

Perpetuity Fund records

Box 2Folder 3
Perpetuity fund, Indenture of Trust, 1919 (copy), 1948

(Also see bound volumes)

Box 2Folder 4
Perpetuity fund, Supplemental Indenture, 1938, 1949, 1951

(Also see bound volumes)

Box 2Folder 5
Will (copy) of Frank M. Bailey, 1945
Box 2Folder 6
Perpetuity fund, miscellaneous financial records, 1928-1949
Box 2Folder 7-12
Perpetuity fund, minutes and reports, 1933, 1935-1958

Property records

Box 2Folder 13
Committee on ownership of pews, 1913
Box 2Folder 14-15
Lists, deeds, releases, transfers, valuation and taxes of pews, 1836-1905
Box 2Folder 16
Inventory of movable property, ca. 1970
Box 2Folder 17
Land agreement to Fitchburg Railroad Co., 1872 (copy); land assessments, 1951, 1961
Box 2Folder 18
Property mortgage documents for addition to Unitarian building, 1949
Box 2Folder 19
Property agreement with Mary E. Masters for permission to attach wires to poles located on parish land, 1923
OS Box 1Folder 2
Insurance policies, 1895-1905

C. Records of church clubs and organizations, 1817-1957

Records of church clubs and organization are arranged alphabetically by organization. Within each organization, materials are arranged chronologically. Organizations included in Series I. C. are the Evening Alliance, 1940-1957; Lend a Hand Club, 1913-1943; and the Watertown Female Society for the Relief of the Sick, 1817-1940. The records for the Watertown Female Society of the Relief of the Sick make up the bulk of these records, and include receipts, bills, orders, and an occasional piece of correspondence.

i. Evening Alliance, 1940-1957

Box 3Folder 1
Undated material; printed programs, 1940-1947
Box 3Folder 2-5
Minutes, 1940-1947, 1955-1957

ii. Lend a Hand Club, 1913-1943

Box 3Folder 6
Lend a Hand undated organizational reports, by-laws
Box 3Folder 7
Lend a Hand undated correspondence
Box 3Folder 8-24
Lend a Hand general records, 1913-1943

iii. Watertown Female Society for the Relief of the Sick, 1817-1940

Box 4
Box 5
Box 6
Box 7
Box 8
OS Box 1Folder 4
Insurance policies, 1886-1897
OS Box 1Folder 5
Financial reports, 1938, but includes information from 1916-1917

D. Photographs, 1922

OS Box 2
(2) Interior photographs of the renovation of First Parish Church, 1922 Taken by A. A. Greenlaw, Boston, Mass.

II. Bound volumes, 1668-1981

A. Church records, 1668-1971

Official church records are chronologically arranged, although some overlapping of dates occurs. Early church volumes contain records of marriages, baptisms, and deaths, as well as warrants, votes, reports, and financial records. Other parish-related volumes include by-laws, gift and memorials, attendance records, cradle rolls, and Parish Committee minutes.

Cased Vol. 1
First Parish Record Book, 1668-1818

Also known as John Bailey's Book, it includes Rev. Bailey's records of his church in Limerick, Ireland and Biblical notes and writings until he left Watertown. The book was then passed on to his successors. Marriages, baptisms, and members covenanted with the Church are recorded, along with contributions and votes.

NOTE: Use of the original First Parish Record Book is restricted. Color digital facsimiles are available in the MHS Reading Room, DF-004.

Box 9Folder 1
First Parish Record Book, 1819-1907

Includes summaries of parish meetings, 1819-1875; deaths and marriages, 1886-1899; clippings and programs; and, annual reviews of the state of the Church, 1900-1907.

Box 9Folder 2
First Parish Record Book, 1819-1947

Record of church members, deaths, and marriages.

Box 10Folder 1
First Parish Record Book, 1835-1853

Includes warrants of meetings, reports, and resolutions adopted.

Box 10Folder 2
First Parish Record Book, 1853-1897

Includes warrants, records of actions. An index to important votes in volumes 1 and 2 is located in the front of the book.

Box 10Folder 3
First Parish Record Book, 1898-1916

Includes warrants, votes, and reports.

Box 11Folder 1
First Parish Record Book, 1916-1945

Includes warrants, votes, and reports.

Box 11Folder 2
First Parish Record Book, 1947-1969

Includes warrants and votes at annual meetings.

Box 12
First Parish Church annual meeting minutes, 1929-1952(disbound)
Box 13Folder 1
First Parish Church, by-laws and membership, 1887; catalogue of he library, n.d.
Box 13Folder 2
First Parish Church, by-laws, 1949
Box 13Folder 3
First Parish Church, gifts and memorials, 1917-1970
Box 13Folder 4
First Parish Church, attendance records, 1949-1966

Also see Box 28, Laymen's League book which includes church attendance records, 1925-1949.

Box 13Folder 5
First Parish Church, Cradle Roll, 1930-1952

See also Cradle Roll Certificates removed from volume to OS Box 1.

OS Box 1Folder 3
Cradle roll certificates, 1946, 1947, 1948
Box 13Folder 6
Parish Committee minutes, 1917-1933
Box 13Folder 7
Loose printed reports and correspondence found in Parish Committee minutes, 1917-1933
Box 14
Parish Committee, minutes, warrants, correspondence 1927-1933, 1944-1971(disbound)
OS Box 2
Scrapbook, 1923-ca. 1942

Started in May 1923. Includes: Record of expenses of communion table, 1833-1881; correspondence, clippings, notes, historian's reports, programs, and photographs, 1923-1942.

B. Church financial and property records, 1812-1977

Church financial and property records are arranged in four broad categories: general financial records, ministerial fund records, perpetuity fund records, and property records. Within each category materials are arranged first by subject and then chronologically. General financial records include treasurer's account books, cash books, and pledge and disbursement books. Property records generally consist of valuation, taxes, and pew ownership records.

Box 15Folder 1
Financial account book, 1820-1873

Includes accounts of Anne Mills Charity Fund.

Box 15Folder 2
Treasurer's account book, 1835-1877
Box 15Folder 3
Treasurer's account book, 1877-1895
Box 16Folder 1
Financial account book, 1896-1901

Includes pew rents and taxes.

Box 16Folder 2
Loose papers found in Account Book, 1896-1901
Box 16Folder 3
Cash book, 1903-1911
Box 16Folder 4
Financial records, 1911-1922
Box 17Folder 1
Cash book, 1911-1923
Box 17Folder 2
Cash book, 1923-1940
Box 18Folder 1
Cash book, 1940-1946
Box 18Folder 2
Treasurer's account book, 1960-1971
Box 18Folder 3
Pledges and disbursements, 1901-1911
OS Box 1Vol. 1
Pledges and disbursements, 1914-1923
Box 19Folder 1
Pledges and disbursements, 1922-1932
Box 19Folder 2-4
Pledges and disbursements, 1939-1946(disbound)
OS Box 1Vol. 2
Pledges and disbursements, 1971-1977
Box 20Folder 1
Ministerial Fund, minutes and reports, 1812-1883
Box 20Folder 2
Ministerial Fund, minutes and reports, 1883-1935

In the front is a brief historical account of the origin of the fund and photographs of the church building and parsonage, ca. 1885-1888.

Box 21
Ministerial Fund, minutes and reports, 1936-1976(disbound)

Included in Folder 1 is a list of trustees from 1812- 1942.

Box 22Folder 1
Ministerial Fund, account book, 1812-1921
Box 22Folder 2
Ministerial Fund, account book, 1921-1930
Box 23Folder 1
Ministerial Fund, Income Account Book, 1930-1951
Box 23Folder 2
Ministerial Fund, Principal Fund Account, 1930-1951
Box 24Folder 1
Ministerial and Perpetuity Fund, Trustees and Mortgage Records, 1918-1953
Box 24Folder 2
Perpetuity Fund, minutes and reports, 1929-1935
Box 25Folder 1
Perpetuity Fund, account book, 1929-1951

Inventories included.

Box 25Folder 2
Perpetuity Fund, account book, 1929-1951

Includes income and expenditures.

Box 25Folder 3-12
Perpetuity Fund, minutes and reports, 1950-1969(disbound)
Box 26Folder 1-6
Perpetuity Fund, minutes and reports, 1970-1976(disbound)
Box 26Folder 7
First Parish Church, Record of Deeds of Pews, 1836-1888
Box 26Folder 8
List of taxes assessed on pews, 1871-1881
Box 26Folder 9
Pew taxes and rents, 1872-1877
Box 26Folder 10
Pew taxes and rents, 1877-1885
Box 26Folder 11
Pew taxes and rents, 1885-1893
Box 27
Pew valuation and assessed taxes, 1835-1868

C. Records of church clubs and organizations, 1816-1981

Records of clubs and organizations are arranged alphabetically and include records of First Parish Church organizations and branches of national organizations, among them the Emerson Club, 1949-1952; Laymen's League, 1922-1949; Social Club, 1944-1953; Unitarian Club, 1887-1955; and Watertown Female Society for the Relief of the Sick, 1816-1955; Lend a Hand Club, 1904-1979; and the Watertown Branch of the National Alliance of Unitarian and other Christian Women, 1896-1981. The sub-series also contains records of the Parish Sunday School, 1929-1936 and the Tercentenary Committee, 1929-1930. When possible, within each club or organization, like-materials were grouped and then chronologically arranged. Also see oversize box list and Series I.

i. Emerson Club, 1949-1952

Box 28Folder 1
Minutes, 1949-1952

ii. Laymen's League, 1922-1949

Box 28Folder 2
Reports, 1922-1945

Includes church attendance records, 1925-1949, and an undated, printed pamphlet, "The Chapter Officers Book".

iii. Lend a Hand Club, 1904-1979

Box 28Folder 3
Junior Lend a Hand, minutes, 1904-1912
Box 28Folder 4
Secretary's reports, 1909-1914
Box 28Folder 5
Secretary's reports, 1914-1918
Box 28Folder 6
Secretary's reports, 1918-1926
Box 29Folder 1
Executive committee reports, 1910-1918
Box 29Folder 2
Financial ledger, 1934-1979; cancelled bank book, 1973-1979

iv. Social Club, 1944-1953

Box 29Folder 3
Minutes, 1944-1953
Box 29Folder 4
Loose papers found in Minutes, 1944-1953
Box 29Folder 5
Financial ledger, 1945-1948

v. Sunday School, 1929-1936

Box 29Folder 6
Reports, attendance records, 1929-1936

vi. Tercentenary Committee, 1929-1930

Box 29Folder 7
Reports, 1929-1930

vii. Unitarian Club, 1887-1955

Box 30Folder 1
Minutes, 1887-1905
Box 30Folder 2
Minutes, 1905-1912
Box 31Folder 1
Minutes, 1912-1934
Box 31Folder 2
Minutes, 1934-1953
Box 31Folder 3
Loose materials found within minutes, 1934-1953
Box 31Folder 4
Contributions, 1916-1929
Box 32Folder 1
Financial accounts, 1892-1909
Box 32Folder 2
Financial accounts, 1909-1929
Box 32Folder 3
Financial accounts, 1929-1940
Box 32Folder 4
Financial accounts, 1929-1955

viii. Watertown Branch of the National Alliance of Unitarian and other Christian Women, 1896-1981

Box 33Folder 1
Reports, 1942-1952
Box 33Folder 2
Financial ledger, 1896-1903
Box 33Folder 3
Financial ledger, 1944-1977
Box 33Folder 4
Loose materials found in financial ledger: correspondence, 1981; cancelled bank book, 1966-1981.

ix. Watertown Female Society for the Relief of the Sick, 1816-1955

Box 34Folder 1
Rules & Regulations (printed pamphlets) 1817, 3 copies; 1848, 2 copies
Box 34Folder 2
Receipt book, membership lists, 1932-1940
Box 34Folder 3
Sewing society records, 1846-19094 pamphlets
Box 34Folder 4
Minutes, 1816-1866

Includes rules and regulations.

Box 34Folder 5
Minutes, 1866-1901
Box 35Folder 1
Minutes, 1901-1942
Box 35Folder 2
Loose papers found in minutes, 1901-1942
Box 35Folder 3
Minutes, 1942-1955
Box 35Folder 4
Loose papers found in minutes, 1942-1955
Box 35Folder 5
Financial accounts, 1816-1936
Box 35Folder 6
Record of Benefits, 1817-1875

D. Watertown Middle School District records, 1816-1851

Contains warrants and minutes of meetings, one volume.

Box 36

Preferred Citation

First Parish of Watertown (Watertown, Mass.) records, Massachusetts Historical Society.

Access Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in ABIGAIL, the online catalog of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Researchers desiring materials about related persons, organizations, or subjects should search the catalog using these headings.


Bailey, John, 1644-1697.


Lend a Hand Club (Watertown, Mass.)
Watertown Female Society for the Relief of the Sick (Watertown, Mass.)


Account books.
Church charities--Massachusetts--Watertown.
Congregational churches--Massachusetts--Watertown.
Unitarian churches--Massachusetts--Watertown.
Unitarians--Massachusetts--Watertown--Societies, etc.
Women in charitable work.
Watertown (Mass.)--Church history.
Watertown (Mass.)--History.
Watertown (Mass.)--Statistics, Vital.