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Restrictions on Access

Portions of the First Church (Boston, Mass.) records are stored offsite and must be requested at least two business days in advance via Portal1791. Researchers needing more than six items from offsite storage should provide additional advance notice. If you have questions about requesting materials from offsite storage, please contact the reference desk at 617-646-0532 or

Use of some originals is restricted. Portions of this collection are available as color digital facsimiles (see links below).

Collection Summary


This collection consists of the records of First Church, a Congregational and later Unitarian-Universalist church in Boston, Mass., dating from 1630 to 2001. They include administrative records, financial records, vital records, charitable records, pew records, and other miscellaneous church records, as well as unrelated records of Massachusetts clergymen, the Evangelical Missionary Society, the Unitarian Service Pension Society, the Franklin Foundation, and the Unitarian Historical Society.

Historical Sketch

First Church was founded in 1630 when John Winthrop and his party established their settlement in Charlestown, and soon thereafter, Boston. Originally a Congregationalist society, it became a Unitarian church in the nineteenth century. Since its founding, six congregations have joined First Church, either directly or through its merger with Second Church, which rejoined First Church in 1970. In its various locations in Boston, First Church was known as the "Old Brick Church" and the "Church at Chauncy Place," before it settled at its current location on Berkeley St. in 1868. After a fire destroyed the building in 1968, the church's sixth meeting house was dedicated in 1972, incorporating portions of the facade of the 1868 building.

Historical Timeline

July 1630
First Church gathered at Charlestown, where John Winthrop landed in the Arbella and created the First Church covenant. The church shortly thereafter moved to Boston for better water.
Aug. 1630
Church appoints John Wilson as teacher, Increase Nowell as ruling elder, and William Gager and William Aspinwall as deacons.
Aug. 1632
First Church builds its first house of worship in Boston on a site that is now located on State St.
March 1638
Anne Hutchinson is cast out of the church after her Nov. 1637 trial, conviction, and banishment from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for heretical views.
First Church builds a second house of worship on Cornhill Square, near the Old State House. This building stood until the Fire of 1711.
First Church adopts the Cambridge Platform.
A group of First Church parishioners withdraw to form Second Church.
Deacons Edward Raynsford and Jacob Eliot are dismissed and 28 others secede from First Church in reaction to the settlement of Rev. John Davenport and his opposition to the Half-Way Covenant. They form Boston's Third Church (later known as Old South Church) in May 1669.
Oct. 1711
First Church's building burns to the ground in Boston's Fire of 1711. The building committee decides to build a new church of brick on the same site.
May 1713
First Church's new church building, later known as "Old Brick," is first occupied. Located in the center of Boston, it is used for many public occasions.
Old Brick Meetinghouse comes through the Revolutionary War unharmed, although services are disrupted.
The "Declaration of Faith" replaces the original 1630 Covenant at First Church.
First Church builds their fourth house of worship at Chauncy Place, near the corner of present-day Summer and Washington Sts. This property was originally conveyed to the church in 1680 by Robert and Ann Hollingshead but had at the time been considered too remote.
July 1808
Old Brick Meetinghouse was razed, to some opposition.
First Church opens a "singing school" to train choristers.
First Church does not join in the formation of the American Unitarian Association, and although Rev. Nathaniel Frothingham advocated a liberal Christianity, he does not use the term Unitarian from the pulpit.
Mar. 1829
The Proprietors of the First Church in Boston are incorporated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Nov. 1852
First Church proprietors vote to merge First Church with Hollis Street Church under the ministry of Thomas Starr King, but Hollis Street Church declines.
Apr. 1867
The cornerstone of First Church's fifth house of worship is laid on the corner of Marlborough and Berkeley Sts. in Boston. Designed by the architectural firm of Ware and Van Brunt, it was inspired by London's Westminster Hall.
May 1868
The last services are held at the Chauncy Place church.
Dec. 1868
First Church's new church building on Marlborough St. is dedicated.
Apr. 1922
A majority of pew owners convey their rights to five proprietors acting concurrently as trustees. All pews are transferred to the church by 1936.
South Congregational Church sells its Newbury Street property and merges with First Church.
Mar. 1968
Fire destroys the First Church building.
Mar. 1969
First Church signs a contract with architect Paul M. Rudolf to rebuild the church on its existing site.
First Church merges with Second Church to form the First and Second Church in Boston.
The sixth meetinghouse of First Church is dedicated. The new building incorporates part of the facade of the 1867 building.
May 2005
The church votes unanimously to restore the original name of First Church in Boston, from the former First and Second Church in Boston.

First Church Ministers

John Wilson
John Cotton
John Norton
James Allen
John Oxenbridge
Joshua Moody
John Bailey
Benjamin Wadsworth
Thomas Bridge
Thomas Foxcroft
Charles Chauncy
John Clarke
William Emerson
John Lovejoy Abbott
Nathaniel Langdon Frothingham
Rufus Ellis
Stopford Wentworth Brooke
James Eells
Charles Edwards Park
Duncan Howlett
Rhys Williams
Stephen Kendrick
Rosemary Lloyd


Collins, Leo W. This is Our Church: The Seven Societies of the First Church in Boston, 1630-2005. Boston: Society of the First Church of Boston, 2005.

Ellis, Arthur Blake. History of the First Church in Boston, 1630-1880. Boston: Hall and Whiting, 1881.

Pierce, Richard D. "The Records of the First Church in Boston, 1630-1868." Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, Vols. 39, 40, 41. Boston: Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 1961.

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 Church (Boston, Mass.) consist of 16 document boxes, 28 cased volumes, 2 oversize boxes, and 3 record cartons, spanning the years from the church's founding in 1630 to 2001. The collection has been organized into seven series: Administrative records; Accounts, bills, and receipts; Charitable records; Pew records; Miscellaneous church records; Unrelated records; and Printed material. Many of the series have been subdivided into bound volumes and loose papers.

Administrative records form the largest series of the collection. They consist of the records of both the "church and society" or religious congregation, and the "proprietors of the pews" who owned the church property and controlled its secular operations. Records include lists of members; baptism, marriage, and funeral records; ministerial reports; bylaws and acts of incorporation; minutes of annual meetings, proprietors' meetings, and Standing Committee meetings; records of the building committee; pew valuations and assignments; treasurers' reports; correspondence, including that of William Emerson, Nathaniel Frothingham, Rufus Ellis, James Eells, and Arthur B. Ellis; and other records related to the administration of the church and its property.

Accounts, bills, and receipts are records that were kept by the treasurer of the proprietors and document the financial activities of the church, including the construction, maintenance, and repair of the church buildings; salary payments; rental accounts; and expenses of its day-to-day operations. Charitable records document the church's support of indigent members of its congregation, its collections for expenses of church sacraments and ceremonies, and its donations to other charitable causes. Of note are records of visitations to indigent families in the greater Boston area that contain detailed descriptions of families and their financial condition.

Pew records include deeds conveyed to pew owners by the church as well as records of pew valuations, taxes, and rental payments. Miscellaneous church records consist of several papers of First Church ministers Rufus Ellis and Rhys Williams, a few records of the First Church Club and Laymen's League, and material related to the church's history and the publication of its historic records.

The collection also contains a large amount of material that is unrelated to First Church except by peripheral association. These include the correspondence and papers of ministers William Bentley of Salem, Charles Brooks of Hingham, James Freeman Clarke of Boston, and other Massachusetts clergymen. Evangelical Missionary Society records document the organization's efforts to support new settlements in the territory of Maine and later, the greater United States, with missionaries and religious publications. Records of the Franklin Foundation describe the organization's administration of Boston's Franklin Union, an industrial night school for men, including records about its curriculum, instructors, and students. Also included are records of the Unitarian Service Pension Society and the Unitarian Historical Society.

Arrangement Note

Vols. 44 and 46 in this collection were formerly cataloged as Ms. N-194 - Poor Relief Records of the First Church of Boston, 1696-1813.

Acquisition Information

The records of First Church were placed on deposit at the Massachusetts Historical Society in seven installments: February 1991, April 2000, March 2004, June 2006, April 2010, October 2013, and December 2020.

Restrictions on Access

Portions of the First Church (Boston, Mass.) records are stored offsite and must be requested at least two business days in advance via Portal1791. Researchers needing more than six items from offsite storage should provide additional advance notice. If you have questions about requesting materials from offsite storage, please contact the reference desk at 617-646-0532 or

Use of some originals is restricted. Portions of this collection are available as color digital facsimiles (see links below).

Other Formats

Volumes 1, 4, 5, 7, and 12 of the First Church records have been transcribed and edited through 1868 by Richard D. Pierce in Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, Boston: Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 1961.

Portions of this collection are available as color digital facsimiles.

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Administrative records, 1630-2001

Administrative records consist of both the records of the "church and society" and the "proprietors of the pews," dating from the church's founding in 1630 to 2001. They include both bound volumes and loose records. Records of the church and society were typically recorded by the minister and kept in his custody. They include copies of the church's covenant or declaration of faith, with members' signatures; lists of new members and their attendance at services; records of baptisms, marriages, and funerals; records related to the sacraments and other church ceremonies; records related to charitable contributions; and copies of correspondence and meeting minutes pertaining to these topics. Vol. 10, Society of First Church in Boston meeting minutes, reflects the church's organization under its new bylaws in 1922.

Proprietors' records were those kept by the clerk of the proprietors, or pew owners, who managed the secular affairs of the church. Through 1785, proprietors' records were kept in the same volumes as the records of the church and society. There are few proprietors' records from 1785 through 1808, when the clerk of the proprietors began to keep separate record books. The group was legally incorporated as the Proprietors of the Pews of First Church in Boston in 1829. Their records include meeting minutes; pew assignments, valuations, and payments; records of the Standing Committee, a smaller administrative body who managed the day-to-day operations of the church; building committee records; treasurer's reports; bylaws and acts of incorporation; and a small amount of correspondence.

Records of the church and society and those of the proprietors contain a large amount of overlap in subject matter, and their respective volumes record many of the same meetings, church votes, and other significant events. Because loose administrative records cannot always be identified as those of the society or the proprietors, they have been arranged in one chronological series.

Church membership and admission records can be found in Vols. 1 and 2 (1630-1688, 1702-1788); Vol. 5 (1786-1955); Vol. 9 (1919-1967); and Vol. 10 (ca. 1921-1944).

Vital records may be found in the following locations: baptism records - Vols. 1 and 2 (1630-1847),Vol. 5 (1794), and Vol. 7 (1848-1955); marriage records - Vol. 6 (1801-1899, 1898, 1906-1955), and Vol. 8 (1898-1905); funeral records - Vol. 7 (1919-1955). For several other baptism, marriage, and burial records (1629-1809), see OS Box 1, Folder 1.

A. Volumes, 1630-1968

i. Church and Society record books, 1630-1968

Arranged chronologically.

Vol. 1 Spec. Colls.
Records of the First Church, 1630-1847

Use of the original is restricted. Please use Vol. 2, an exact manuscript copy of Vol. 1.

This volume was begun in 1636, with records dating from 1630 copied into it from an earlier record book. It originally existed as a series of small folios that were then bound together in 1728 by Rev. Francis Foxcroft. In 1828, Rev. Nathaniel Frothingham rebound the volume with additional folios.

Sections of the volume and their contents include:

1) 1630-1688: A copy of the covenant signed at Charlestown on 27 Aug. 1630; registers of church members interspersed with meeting minutes of the church and congregation; and correspondence.

2) 1689-1702: A general narrative of church business interspersed with members admitted. 1702-1788: Lists of members admitted.

3) 1702-1769: Church votes; meeting minutes; correspondence; and committee reports. 1711 correspondence is related to the fire that destroyed the church and the construction of the new brick church building. Also included are dismissals and excommunications, and weekly pew income estimates (1744).

4) 1705-1762: An addendum of meeting minutes; letters sent and received.

5) 1770-1786: Annual and special meeting minutes.

6) 1630-1847: Baptisms, including those of children in the Boston Female Asylum, beginning in 1824. Records also include persons baptized but not receiving full communion, largely enslaved individuals listed by first name along with the name of their enslaver. Baptisms after 1847 were entered into Vol. 7.

7) 1671-1853: Records of wills and legacies, most dating from the 1700s.

Vol. 2 (XT)
Records of the First Church (transcription), 1630-1883

This volume is a complete copy of Vol. 1, transcribed by professional copyist David Pulsifer in 1847 and formatted exactly as the original. Also included are records of wills and annuities administered by the church from 1712 to 1883, written by other hands after 1847.

OS Box 1Folder 1
Papers removed from Vol. 2

Two pages list twelve baptisms, marriages, and burials dating from 1630 to 1809.

Vol. 3 (XT)Reel P-76
Records of the First Church (transcription), 1630-1720

This is an incomplete copy of Vol. 1 transcribed by David Pulsifer in 1847. It includes First Church records of admissions, dismissals, expulsions, and baptisms from 1630 to 1679; and baptismal records of the Third Church (Old South Church) from 1669 to 1720.

Vol. 4 (XT)
Records of the First Church, 1786-1815

Included in this volume are meeting records of the church and society, as well as a few proprietors' and Standing Committee meeting records related to the transfer and sale of pews, from 1786 to 1811. Also included are copies of correspondence, the bulk from 1799 when the church recruited William Emerson to be their minister; and records of an Ecclesiastical Council. A second part of the volume contains minutes of deacons' meetings from 1789 to 1815.

Vol. 5 (XT)
Records of the First Church, 1786-1955

This volume was created as a covenant book containing the church's Declaration of Faith and copies of members' signatures divided by gender, as well as revisions of the covenant and signatures (both copied and originals) from 1786 to 1955. It contains the signatures of John Quincy Adams and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Because Vol. 4 was lost at the time that Nathaniel Frothingham became minister, he also used this volume to sporadically record church records from 1828 to 1840, including meeting minutes, a description of church silver (1834), and correspondence with the Ecclesiastical Council. Also included is a list of baptisms for 1794.

Vol. 6Box 1Folder 1
Marriage records, 1801-1955

This volume contains records of marriages performed at First Church for the years 1801-1889, 1898, and 1906-1955. It includes the dates of weddings and names of the bride and groom.

Vol. 7 (XT)
Records of the First Church, 1841-1955

Although Rev. Frothingham kept sporadic records of church business in Vol. 5 from 1828 to 1840, he began this book on 1 Jan. 1841 as a more complete record of church business. Frothingham's entries include annual meeting minutes; records of distributions to the poor; summaries of benefactors' funds and legacies; and poor fund reports. Topics include the 1844 revision of the covenant to allow for broader membership, and efforts to complete a copy of church records with the Massachusetts Historical Society and copyist David Pulsifer (1846-1848).

Entries of Rev. Rufus Ellis, beginning in May 1853, include records related to his installation; annual meetings; receipts and disbursements for the poor; reports of donations to charitable organizations; communications with other churches; and other ceremonial issues. Of note are records of the May 1868 farewell service at the Chauncy Place church and the new gathering at the Marlborough St. church. Beginning in April 1890, entries are those of Rev. Stopford W. Brooke, and in 1898, clerk and treasurer Arthur B. Ellis. They discuss the ordination of Rev. James Eells; renovations of the chapel, organ, and memorial tablets; and the purchase of a parsonage. Records also include descriptions of the 1900 repair and renovations of the church. Beginning in 1906, Rev. Charles Park begins his annual "Minister's reports," listing services conducted, numbers of baptisms, confirmations, weddings, and funerals; gifts received; and other miscellaneous information. Records also include meeting minutes and correspondence between committees.

Also in this volume are a record of funerals, including name and date of birth and death from 1919 to 1955, and a record of baptisms, including name of child and parents and date of baptism from 1848 to 1955.

Vol. 8 (XT)
Marriage records, 1898-1905

This volume contains printed certificates of marriage completed by Rev. James Eells. They include name, age, race, residence, occupation, place of birth, and name of parents. Most forms in the volume are blank.

Vol. 9Box 1Folder 2
Attendance and new member records, 1919-1967

Attendance records consist of numbers of worshippers attending each Sunday service. New members are listed by name on the date they signed the church's covenant or bylaws. The book is mostly blank.

Vol. 10Box 1Folders 3-11
Society of the First Church in Boston meeting minutes, 1922-1968

These typed records include bylaws; signatures of members subscribing to the bylaws, ca. 1921-1944; and meeting minutes, 1921-1968. Minutes include revision to the bylaws as the church organizes into a legal corporation; reports of the Executive Committee, committees on church charities, budget committee, membership committee, nominating committee, music committee, and others; votes of the society; and treasurer's reports. Topics include the merger with South Congregational Church in 1925; the 1946 invitation to Rev. Duncan Howlett to become minister; discussions about uniting with the Unitarian and Universalist societies in 1950 and 1959; and the invitation to Rev. Rhys Williams to become minister in 1959.

ii. Proprietors' record books, 1808-1964

Arranged chronologically.

Vol. 11Box 1Folder 12
Proprietors of the First Church records, 1808-1823

This soft-bound volume contains the records of Samuel Bradford, the first clerk of the proprietors. It includes minutes of annual meetings and proprietors' meetings; Standing Committee reports; pew assignments for the "new church on Summer St.;" and lists of weekly pew taxes. Some meeting minutes of the church and society are also recorded here, particularly records concerning pews. Included are records related to the death of Rev. William Emerson in May 1811; the ordination of John Lovejoy Abbot in July 1813 and his death in October 1814; and the January 1815 ordination of Nathaniel Frothingham.

Vol. 12 (XT)
Proprietors of the First Church records, 1808-1868

The first part of this volume consists of records copied from Vol. 11 (1808-1823) and Vol. 14 (1823-1828), the latter kept by clerk David Francis before he began to use this volume in 1828. The volume contains detailed information about the administration of the church, largely consisting of Standing Committee meeting minutes and proprietors' annual meeting minutes. In addition, it includes some society meeting minutes; treasurer's reports; the 1829 Act of Incorporation; extracts from Nathaniel Frothingham's 1835 20th anniversary sermon; building committee meeting minutes; finance committee reports; correspondence from pastors and leaders of other churches; and pew tax schedules. Topics include the sale of Summer St. houses and property (1840s); the resignation of Rev. Frothingham (1849); support of the Boston Female Asylum; the election and declination of Edward Everett Hale as minister (1852); the election and installation of Rufus Ellis as minister (1853); claims against the city of Boston for property damage while laying out Chauncy St. (1850s); and deliberations about selling the church building, buying land, and building a new church (1866-1867). Records continue in Vol. 17.

Vol. 13Box 1Folder 13
Standing Committee records, 1815-1822

This small volume is largely blank. It contains several committee meeting records, including a few not mentioned in Vols. 11 or 12.

Vol. 14Box 1Folder 14
Proprietors meeting minutes, 1823-1828

This volume has been photocopied because of mildew damage to the original. Records in this volume were also included in Vol. 12, although they are not copied exactly and often contain more detail here. Included are proprietors' meeting minutes; Standing Committee meeting minutes; finance committee reports; and annual meeting minutes. Topics include the founding of a singing school (1824), and meetinghouse repairs.

Vol. 15Box 1Folder 15
Standing Committee records, 1852-1858

Included are lists of proprietors and pew numbers and minutes of Standing Committee meetings.

Vol. 16Box 1Folder 16
Proprietors Building Committee records, 1865-1896

Records in this volume document the planning and construction of the church building on the corner of Berkeley and Marlborough Sts., including the purchase of land from the city of Boston, building proposals, the selection of the architectural firm Ware and Von Brunt, design of the organ and memorial windows, building design and construction, and the valuation and sale of pews.

Vol. 17 (XT)
Proprietors records, 1869-1910

This volume is a continuation of Vol. 12. It contains minutes of annual and special proprietors' meetings, Standing Committee records, pew valuations, reports of the auditing and building committees, some treasurer's reports, architects' reports and other records of the construction of the new church, and ministerial correspondence. Notable documents and topics include the property deed from the city of Boston for land on Berkeley and Marlborough Sts. (1876); new bylaws and Act of Incorporation (1880); the observance of the church's 250th anniversary (1880); the resignation of Rev. Rufus Ellis and invitation to Rev. Stopford Brooke (1885); the debate over adopting the Unitarian liturgy (1895); the resignation of Rev. James Eells with attached correspondence (1905); and the installation of Rev. Charles E. Park with his letter of acceptance (1906). Records continue in Vol. 19.

Vol. 18 (XT)
Standing Committee records, 1881-1910

Included in this volume are monthly meeting minutes of the committee which document the day-to-day operations of the church.

Vol. 19 (XT)
Proprietors records, 1909-1935

This volume is a continuation of Vol. 17, and includes copies of the last few meeting minutes from that book, along with a copy of the 7 Nov. 1909 church covenant. Included are minutes of annual and special proprietors' meetings, committee reports, treasurer's reports, a 1922 revision of the bylaws and Act of Incorporation, reports of the First Church Endowment Fund; records related to the merger with South Congregational Church (1925); and records related to the sale of South Congregational Church property and the creation of the Edward Everett Hale Fund (1928). After 1922, all records have been typed and pasted into the volume.

Vol. 20 (XT)
Standing Committee records, 1910-1922

This volume is a continuation of Vol. 18. It includes meeting minutes, reports of the First Church Endowment Fund, reports on church repairs, and reports of the pew committee.

Vol. 21Box 2Folders 1-4
Executive Committee records, 1921-1927

Included in this disbound volume are meeting minutes of the committee, which held its first meeting in Dec. 1921, along with reports of subcommittees for charities and welfare, music, audits and accounts, hospitality, ways and means, young people's organizations, and repairs. Topics include the merger with South Congregational Church in 1925. Records continue in Vol. 22.

Vol. 22Box 2Folders 5-8
Executive Committee records, 1927-1935

This disbound volume is a continuation of Vol. 21. Committee records document the day-to-day management of the church from May 1927 to Nov. 1935.

Vol. 23Box 2Folders 9-12
Trustees and proprietors meeting minutes, 1935-1945

This disbound volume is a continuation of Vol. 19. It includes minutes of annual and special meetings and treasurers' annual reports. Records are continued in Vol. 25.

Vol. 24Box 2Folders 13-16
Executive/Standing Committee meeting minutes, 1935-1949

This disbound volume is a continuation of Vol. 22. In January 1936, the Executive Committee changed its name to the Standing Committee. Its records include meeting minutes, budgets, and a large amount of correspondence related to a controversy between the music committee and the organist. Also included is a Feb. 1938 letter from Rev. Charles Park related to the use of communion silver and the April 1946 acceptance letter of Rev. Duncan Howlett.

Vol. 25Box 3Folders 1-8
Trustees and proprietors meeting minutes, 1945-1964

This disbound volume is a continuation of Vol. 23. Included are records related to the resignation of Rev. Charles Park. The bulk of records are related to financial matters.

Vol. 26Box 3Folders 9-13
Standing Committee meeting minutes, 1949-1960

This disbound volume contains the meeting minutes of the Standing Committee from May 1949 to Feb. 1960. Topics include the establishment of the church school in 1950, annual appeals, the resignation of Rev. Howlett and the search for an interim minister, the selection of Rev. Rhys Williams, and the merger with the Unitarian Church. Also included is a Dec. 1952 report by Rev. Howlett on the future of First Church, which remarks on the changing character of Boston's Back Bay and offers a detailed plan to reach more people.

B. Loose administrative records, 1671-2001

Arranged chronologically and by size.

Many records in this series have been photocopied because of mildew damage to the originals. They consist of both church and society records as well as proprietors' records. Materials appear to have been randomly retained and do not form a complete record of church administration. A large number have also been copied into the church record books in Series I.A.

Seventeenth and eighteenth century records include property deeds, church meeting minutes, committee records, wills and legacies, deacons' and proprietors' correspondence, rental agreements, subscriptions for meetinghouse maintenance and repair, a 1743 list of church silver, 1740s committee meeting minutes pertaining to seating the new brick meetinghouse, and a large amount of correspondence related to the church's invitation to William Emerson to serve as minister in 1799.

Records dated from 1807 to 1808 are related to the church's land and rental houses on Summer Street. Other early nineteenth century records include ministers' correspondence, largely that of Nathaniel Frothingham; meeting minutes of the Standing Committee and proprietors; sheriff's notices pertaining to delinquent pew payments; the church's March 1829 Act of Incorporation; correspondence related to pew payments and leases; 1831 applications for the position of sexton; copies of church votes; committee reports; correspondence related to leasing the Summer St. houses; and 1842 pew tax evaluations. Oversize records include 1814 and 1821 fire insurance policies and copies of Summer St. property deeds dating from 1842 and 1846.

Records dated from 1876 to 1895 include copies of votes of the proprietors and Standing Committees; an 1876 quitclaim deed from the city of Boston to the church for land on Berkeley and Marlborough Sts.; and insurance policies. Subjects include the search for ministerial assistance for Rev. Ellis (1883); a memorial for Rev. Ellis (1885); the ordination of Rev. Stopford W. Brooke (1886); payment of church debt (1890); changing the church's service to the King's Chapel liturgy (1892), and the resignation of sexton C. H. Lord (1894). Correspondence is largely that of ministers Rufus Ellis and Stopford W. Brooke, treasurers George L. DeBlois and Arthur B. Ellis, and members of the Standing Committee. Included are letters from church members about the payment of pew taxes and relinquishing pews; letters from the minister and sexton requesting their monthly salary; elections to the Standing Committee and other committees; the care of church records and communion silver; memorials for church members; and requests for use of the church.

Later records include a small amount of vital records; the 1924 report of First Church funds; 1955 and 1969 bylaws; and records related to the hiring of Rhys Williams as minister (1959-1960). Also included are treasurer's reports as presented to annual meetings in 1951, 1952, 1954, 1955, 1960, and 1961. After 1970, administrative records are those of the First and Second Church, primarily treasurer's and trustees' records (1976-2001) including annual reports, treasurer's agendas for trustees meetings, and financial statements. Also included are records of the ministerial search committee (2000-2001).

Box 3Folders 14-31
Box 4
OS Box 1Folder 2
Box 5
Box 6
Box 7

II. Accounts, bills, and receipts, 1690-1934digital content

Records in this series are largely those kept by the treasurer of the proprietors. They include accounts and receipts related to the construction, maintenance, and repair of the church building; pew payments; salary payments to the minister, sexton, organist, and others; rental accounts; investments; and other expenses of the day-to-day operations of the church. Records consist of account books; loose bills, accounts, and receipts; and scrapbooks of receipts.

A. Account books, 1690-1934digital content

Arranged chronologically.

Vol. 27 (XT)digitized
Meetinghouse contribution book, 1690-1728

Entries in this volume appear to have been kept at the same time as those in Vol. 44 - Sacramental and Poor Fund records - both of which bear inscriptions dated 11 May 1696. It is one of the earliest extant record books of First Church. Like Vol. 44, it contains records of the contributions and disbursements of funds collected for the sacrament and the use of the poor, but it also includes accounts for the building of the meetinghouse and the church's general expenses.

Vol. 28Box 8Folder 1
Proprietors account book, 1711-1782

This volume is inscribed "No. 1: Journal or Wastebook of the First Church of Christ in Boston, being the First Book opened on rebuilding the Meeting House, Dec. 1711." In addition to accounts for the construction of the new brick meetinghouse, it contains the church's rules related to pews; a ca. 1715 layout of pews on the lower floor, with names of original owners and later transfers; accounts of donations for the building; pew payments beginning in 1719; subscriptions to repair the meetinghouse; and various church votes. Entries end in July 1776, with one entry in 1782.

Vol. 29Box 8Folder 2
Receipt book of Deacon James Morrill, 1787-1791

This volume was kept by treasurer and deacon James Morrill to record a variety of church expenses, including the salaries of the minister, organist, and sexton; and supplies of wood. Because it has been badly damaged by mildew, only a portion of this volume could be photocopied.

Vol. 30 (XT)
Proprietors account book, 1805-1822

This volume records cash collected including pew payments, donations, and money received in the "sacramental box." Payments were disbursed to the minister, for sundries, and for maintenance and repair.

Vol. 31Box 8Folder 3
Proprietors account book, 1823-1828

This book is a continuation of Vol. 30. The cash book includes pew tax or subscription payments; payments for the salaries of the minister, organist, and singers; and payments for services and repairs. It also includes audits by the Committee of Finance.

Vol. 32 (XT)
Proprietors account book, 1827-1828

This volume is empty except for four pages. Pages list rent payments and taxes on the church's rental properties; minister's salary; and pew taxes.

Vol. 33 (XT)
Proprietors account book, 1831-1838

This volume contains pew accounts listed by pew number; investment accounts; accounts related to the meetinghouse property as well as the house and land on Summer Street; rental accounts; salaries; Sunday School expenses; notes payable; and cash accounts.

Vol. 34Box 8Folders 4-5
Proprietors account book, 1844-1855

This account book is a journal of cash and expenses, including repairs, salaries, and sundries. It has been photocopied due to mildew damage to the original volume.

Vol. 35Box 8Folder 6
Proprietors account book, 1850-1854

This volume contains accounts kept by treasurer David Francis from 1850 to 1853, and treasurer Edward F. Weld from 1853 to 1854. It lists bonds and rental property held by the proprietors; expenses for ministerial services; building repairs and improvements; printing costs; and salaries of the sexton and organist. It lists pew tax payments by name and amount.

Vol. 36Box 8Folder 7
Proprietors account book, 1870-1881

This account book lists payments for allotted pews; pew taxes and rents; and notes payable and receivable. It includes accounts related to the Parish Fund, established by the proprietors in April 1876. Also included are "sundry expenses," such as advertising, services, and building maintenance and repair. "First Church expenses" include salaries of the pastor, sexton, organist, and choir.

Vol. 37 (XT)
Proprietors account book, 1881-1901

This volume is a continuation of Vol. 36. In addition to the previous volume's categories, it includes accounts for insurance, minister's ordination, storage of furniture, weddings, Sunday School rents, and funeral services.

Vol. 38Box 8Folder 8
Account book, Arthur Ellis in account with Trustees of First Church, 1885-1887

This small volume kept by treasurer Arthur B. Ellis lists credits for offerings, donations, and payments from charitable funds. Debits include charities and Christmas expenses.

Vol. 39Box 8Folder 9
First Church Endowment Fund records, 1909-1921

This volume holds the cash accounts and trial balance for the First Church Endowment Fund. The fund consists of the Robert Charles Billings Fund in addition to several bonds and other income-producing instruments. The income was only to be used for the expenses of the church.

Vol. 40 (XT)
Cash book of First Church in Boston, 1924-1934

This volume includes payments for salaries, printing, music, insurance, and utilities; and income from pledges, envelopes, the church plate, loans, pew bills, and various funds and endowments. It includes treasurer's reports for each year.

B. Loose accounts and receipts, 1720-1898

Arranged chronologically.

The bulk of receipts and accounts are photocopied because the originals were damaged by mildew.

Loose records include the accounts and receipts of proprietors, deacons, and various committees, largely those of the building committee and standing committee. They include records of building materials and the construction, maintenance, and repair of the meetinghouse; wood for the use of the minister; sacramental wine; maintenance and repair of the minister's house and rental houses owned by the church; minister's, sexton's, organist's, and singers' salaries; pew taxes and rentals; pew tax collectors' commissions; legal fees; paper, binding, and printing for the church's records and notices; insurance premiums; city and state tax bills; newspaper advertising; city water and gas bills; Sunday School expenses; hymn books; carpeting and seat cushions; and other materials and sundries for the church's use. A large number of receipts date from 1808 to 1810, and document the construction of the church building on Chauncy Place. In 1830, receipts document major construction and repair of the church's rental property at 39 Summer St. There are no receipts between 1846 and 1851.

Bills and receipts from 1867 to 1885 are largely those collected by Rev. Rufus Ellis in his ministerial duties, including Christmas festival expenses; care of the communion silver; printing expenses for church services and Sunday School; payments for subscriptions to religious and educational periodicals; and other expenses for Easter, Christmas, and various church celebrations. Later records, the bulk dated from 1889 to 1895, are primarily the records of treasurer Arthur B. Ellis.

Carton 1 SH 1AL8
Carton 2 SH 1AL9
Carton 3 SH 1ALA

C. Financial receipts scrapbooks, 1916-1927

Arranged chronologically.

Scrapbooks include receipts for salaries, furniture, utilities, cancelled checks, choir payroll, printing, and advertising. Receipts are arranged chronologically. All three volumes were compiled by Treasurer J. G. Francis.

Vol. 41 (XT)
Financial receipt scrapbook, 1916-1921
Vol. 42 (XT)
Financial receipt scrapbook, 1921-1922
Vol. 43 (XT)
Financial receipt scrapbook, 1922-1927

III. Charitable records, 1696-1926digital content

This series contains records of contributions to the support of indigent members of its congregation, the expenses of the church's sacraments, and other charitable organizations supported by the church. Included are records of the church's "visitors" to destitute Sunday School families, some with detailed descriptions of the family's condition. Also included are accounts of the distributions from charitable funds held by the church.

Volumes 44 and 46 were formerly cataloged as Ms. N-194 – Poor relief records of the First Church of Boston, 1696-1813.

See also Vol. 7 - Records of the First Church, 1841-1955.

A. Volumes, 1696-1894digital content

Arranged chronologically.

Vols. 44 through 47 are account books that record the incoming contributions collected at church services, payments from special legacies, and donations; and outgoing expenses for the sacraments and distributions to the poor. Sacramental expenses include those of bread, wine, funeral expenses, and cleaning of the sacramental pewter or silver. Accounts of distributions to the poor are occasionally referenced by name. Vol. 47 has been photocopied due to extensive mildew damage.

Vol. 48, "Records of charitable assistance for families in Roxbury," lists families by name and address, the number of family members, employment history, financial situation, and other social details. An account for each family lists the date and type of contribution – often wood, coal, groceries, or shoes for specific family members. Although unidentified, these records were most likely part of First Church's Sunday School families program, in which an employee of the church would visit indigent families of the congregation and distribute funds for their use. Additional records from this program can be found in Subseries B. - Loose records, which document visits from 1881 to 1886 and from 1923 to 1926.

Vol. 44Box 9Folder 1digitized
Sacramental and Poor Fund records, 1696-1733

Use of the original volume is restricted. Please use microfilm P-379.

This volume is inscribed "May 11 1696 This book is for to keep an account of the contributions of the sacrament, and how it is lade out." It appears to have been kept in tandem with Volume 27, "Meetinghouse Contribution book," which contains some of the same information.

Box 9Folder 2digitized
Loose papers removed from Vol. 44
Vol. 45OS Box 1digitized
Sacramental and Poor Fund records, 1776-1779
Vol. 46Box 9Folder 3digitized
Sacramental and Poor Fund records, 1779-1812This volume contains a sequence of 78 blank pages. Images 48-49 depict the beginning and end of these 78 blank pages, most of which were excluded during imaging.

Use of the original volume is restricted. Please use microfilm P-379.

Box 9Folder 4digitized
Loose pages removed from Vol. 46
Vol. 47Box 9Folders 5-8
Sacramental and Poor Fund records, 1814-1833
Vol. 48Box 9Folder 9
Records of charitable assistance for families in Roxbury, 1889-1894

B. Loose records, 1726-1926

i. Charitable accounts, 1726-1889

Arranged chronologically.

Eighteenth century charitable accounts include monetary contributions for poor children, largely for books and schooling; wood for poor families, listed by name; and funds collected for the minister to use for sacraments and for "church and society poor." Later records include an 1835 list of church members giving to the "ministry to the poor;" and receipts for contributions to destitute children of the Sunday School. Also included are accounts of income distribution from funds held by the deacons for the benefit of the poor; annual printed reports of contributions and distributions (1873-1884); 1880s accounts and receipts for distribution of coal and wood to poor families; receipts for charitable contributions to other organizations; and a small amount of correspondence related to these contributions.1880s records are the accounts of treasurer Arthur B. Ellis.

Box 10Folders 1-12

ii. Record of charitable funds and gifts, 1842

This record is a typescript of a March 1842 report by Charles C. Paine listing accounts of donations and charitable funds with extracts from the wills of donors from 1671 to 1815.

Box 10Folder 13

iii. Sunday School families/visitors' accounts, 1881-1886

Arranged chronologically.

First Church employed "visitors" to visit destitute Sunday School families and report on their condition. These accounts record the date of each visit, names of heads of household, and donations given – usually shoes or rent, occasionally flour, groceries, or sewing material. Some reports are identified as those of Helen E. Wilkins. While a large portion of the reports are undated, most appear to be in Wilkins's hand.

Box 10Folders 14-22

iv. Family visit records, 1923-1926

Arranged chronologically.

These records are arranged alphabetically by family name. They include name of the head of household, sometimes birth name of the wife or widow; names of children; addresses; occupations of household members; dates of visits; types of assistance given by the church; and other social details about the family. Although these are not specifically financial accounts, they do mention helping families pay for coal, rent, food, and medical care. The majority of the families live in Roxbury and Jamaica Plain, and a few live in Dorchester, Brookline, and Roslindale.

Box 10Folders 23-26

IV. Pew records, ca. 1713-1921

This series contains pew deeds, legal records conveyed by the church to pew owners or proprietors; and records of pew taxes and rentals, paid to the treasurer by the proprietors or by church members who rented the pews from them. It also includes lists of pew numbers and their owners.

See also Series I. A. - Administrative records Vols. 1, 4, 11, 12, 15, 16, 17, and 20 and Series II. A- Account books for additional information about pew layouts, valuations, and payments.

A. Pew tax and rental records, ca. 1713-1919

Arranged chronologically and by record type.

Pews were taxed by the church on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis and the funds were used for the daily expenses, maintenance, and repairs of the church. Volumes typically contain lists of pews by number, the name of the pew holder, the amount of weekly pew tax or rent, and debits or credits to the pew holder's account. Some are cash books, listing pew payments by date, pew number, and owner or tenant. The bulk of the loose records are photocopies of originals that have been damaged by mildew. They include pew assessments, lists of pew numbers and owners, some receipts for pew taxes, and special assessments of pew holders for money to fund the minister's salary and meetinghouse repairs.

i. Loose records, ca. 1713-1871

Box 10Folders 27-38
ca. 1713-1841
Box 11Folders 1-5

ii. Volumes, 1779-1919

Vol. 49OS Box 2
Pew tax records, 1779-1818
Vol. 50OS Box 2
Pew tax records, 1803-1808
Vol. 51OS Box 2
Pew tax records, 1808-1818
Box 11Folder 6
Loose papers removed from Vols. 50 and 51
Vol. 52 (XT)
Pew tax records, 1824-1827
Vol. 53Box 11Folder 7
Pew list and tax record, ca. 1869-1870
Vol. 54Box 11Folder 8
Pew tax account book, 1876-1878
Box 11Folder 9
Loose papers removed from Vol. 54
Vol. 55Box 11Folder 10
Pew tax account book, 1878-1882
Vol. 56Box 11Folder 11
Pew tax account book, 1882-1887
Vol. 57Box 11Folder 12
Pew tax account book, 1887-1892
Vol. 58Box 11Folder 13
Pew rent book, 1893-1907
Vol. 59Box 11Folder 14
Pew list and quarterly records, 1907-1919

B. Pew deeds, 1744-1921

Pew deeds recorded the legal title to individual pews purchased from First Church by its members. Pew owners, known as "proprietors of the pews," were able to cast one vote in proprietors' meetings for each pew they owned. Although a few early deeds were written by hand, deeds were generally printed forms in which the name of the owner, pew number, and price paid for the pew are entered. Some contain notes on the verso recording the date the pew was relinquished or exchanged. A large number of pew deeds date from 1808, when the congregation moved from the Old Brick Church to the church on Chauncy Place. Many loose deeds have been photocopied because of mildew damage to the originals.

i. Loose records, 1744-1885

Arranged chronologically.

Box 11Folders 15-21
Box 12Folders 1-15

ii. Volumes, 1800-1921

Vol. 60Box 12Folder 16
Pew deeds, 1800-1808

This volume is organized chronologically with an index at the front. Page 22 contains the 30 July 1802 pew deed of John Quincy Adams.

Vol. 61 (XT)
Pew deeds, 1808-1843

These deeds are for Chauncy Place Church pews. 1808 deeds, with several exceptions, are arranged by pew number. After 1813, deeds are roughly chronological in order.

Vol. 62 (XT)
Pew deeds, 1844

All deeds in this volume are dated April 1844, and are organized by pew number. The forms in this book are largely blank.

Vol. 63Box 12Folders 17-24
Pew deeds, 1869-1921

This photocopied volume is arranged chronologically and includes an index at the front. Deeds are for pews at the Marlborough St. church.

V. Miscellaneous church records, 1848-2000

This series contains papers of the First Church ministers Rufus Ellis (1819-1885) and Rhys Williams (1929-2003); records of the First Church Club and Laymen's League, two clubs affiliated with First Church; and materials related to the history of the church, including plans and schematics of the Chauncy Place and Marlborough St. churches and records related to the publication of church records by the Colonial Society of Massachusetts in 1961.

A. Rufus Ellis, Record of sermons, 1848-1858

Rufus Ellis served as minister of First Church from 1853 to 1885. This record consists of a small notebook in Ellis's hand listing his sermons by date and title, numbered from #331 to #661.

Box 13Folder 1

B. Plans and schematics, 1858-ca. 1868

Arranged chronologically and by size.

Oversize records include three plans of the Chauncy Place church building surveyed by J.F. Fuller in 1858, and two copies of pew plans for the Marlborough St. church, one with names of pewholders written in, ca. 1868. Undated records include drawings of stained glass windows, a fence design, land surveys, and a schematic of the Marlborough St. church including the Hale Chapel and numbered pews.

OS Box 1Folder 3
1858-ca. 1868
Box 13Folders 2-3

B. Historical material, 1893-ca. 1970

Arranged chronologically.

This subseries contains a variety of records related to the history of First Church, including inventories of the records of First and Second Church dating from 1893 to 1870; a 1930 essay entitled "The First Four Churches;" various First and Second Church histories; lists of ministers affiliated with First Church; a list of sermons given in First Church; and other miscellaneous material. Most of the material is undated.

Box 13Folders 4-10

C. First Church Club records, 1947-1968

Arranged chronologically and by record type.

The First Church Club was a women's club that coordinated the flowers for church services, holiday decorations, care of the communion silver, and receptions for various church events. They held lectures and other programs to raise funds for these purposes. The club merged with the Women's Federation Unit of First Church in 1968. Records, largely handwritten, consist of meeting minutes and treasurer's reports.

Vol. 64 (XT)
Record book, 1947-1968
Box 13Folders 11-12
Loose records, 1953-1968

D. Layman's League membership records, 1953-1954

This record consists of members' names and addresses.

Box 13Folder 13

E. Records related to the publication of First Church records, 1953-1961

Arranged chronologically.

The Records of the First Church in Boston, 1630-1868 was edited by Richard D. Pierce and published by the Colonial Society of Massachusetts in 1961. This subseries contains Pierce's correspondence with William Stanley Parker, clerk of the Trustees of First Church, and with Fred Anthoensen of Anthoensen Press; an inventory of First Church records at Boston Safe Deposit and Trust Company; and Pierce's notes and memo of "editorial problems."

Box 13Folder 14

F. Rhys Williams papers, 1954-2000

Arranged chronologically.

Rhys Williams served as minister of First Church from 1960 to 2000. His papers include sermons given in 1954 and 2000, and undated sermon notes.

Box 13Folder 15

VI. Unrelated records, 1789-1977digital content

This series contains records of clergy and organizations that, while often holding a peripheral relationship to First Church, are not directly connected to the church or its clergy, governing bodies, or committees. Included are papers of Massachusetts clergymen; records of the Evangelical Missionary Society, the Unitarian Service Pension Society, the Franklin Foundation, and the Unitarian Historical Society; and subject files related to various Boston churches.

A. Clergy papers, 1789-1946digital content

Records in this subseries include correspondence, sermons, and other papers of clergy who were unaffiliated with First Church.

Box 13Folder 16digitized
i. William Bentley correspondence, 1789-1807

Arranged chronologically.

Correspondence of Rev. William Bentley (1759-1819) of Salem, Mass. consists of eight letters from Boston correspondents including W. Priestly, Jeremy Belknap, William Winthrop, James Freeman, and Samuel Harris, Jr.

Vol. 65Box 13Folder 17digitized
ii. Charles Brooks, Sermon, 1825

Charles Brooks (1795-1872) was the minister of the Third Congregational Church in Hingham, Mass. from 1821 to 1838. This bound manuscript contains a sermon delivered by Brooks on 2 January 1825.

Box 13Folder 18
iii. James Freeman Clarke, Indenture with Church of Disciples, 1849

James Freeman Clarke (1810-1888) was an abolitionist and Unitarian minister who established the Church of the Disciples in Boston in 1841. This indenture documents Clarke's transfer of the Beacon St. meetinghouse and land on which it stood to the Church of the Disciples in 1849.

Vol. 66Box 13Folder 19
iv. Samuel Dana, Commonplace book, ca. 1850

Samuel Dana (1778-1864) became minister of Marblehead's First Church or "Old North Church" in 1801. This undated volume is inscribed "Miscellaneous literary extracts collected and transcribed by the Rev. Samuel Dana, Marblehead, Mass."

Box 13Folder 20
v. John F. W. Ware, Sermon, 1874

John F. W. Ware (1818-1881) was the Unitarian minister of Arlington Street Church from 1872 to 1881. This is a manuscript copy of a sermon he delivered on 1 Nov. 1874.

Box 14Folders 1-3
vi. Phillips E. Osgood correspondence, 1944-1946

Arranged chronologically.

Records consist of the letters of Dr. Phillips Endecott Osgood, Episcopal minister of Emmanuel Church in Boston related to Osgood's decision to resign his ministry and join the Unitarian Church.

Box 14Folder 4
viii. Anonymous scripture notations, n.d.

This anonymous, undated volume contains scripture references listed by chapter and verse.

B. Evangelical Missionary Society records, 1807-1958

Arranged chronologically.

Originally comprised of ministers from Worcester and Middlesex Counties in Massachusetts, the Evangelical Missionary Society was founded in 1807 to extend Christianity among the poor in new settlements in the District of Maine. In 1823, the society broadened its mission to include the "aid and encouragement of parishes and other religious societies within the United States." The 1917 bylaws further defined their goals as extending Christian knowledge and moral improvement by distributing religious books and tracts and supporting schoolmasters and ministers in areas where means for these purposes are lacking. Record books contain meeting minutes, financial records, missionary reports, and other corporate records.

Vol. 67 (XT)
Record book, 1807-1869

This volume contains the society's founding constitution, names of the original subscribers, an 1815 Act of Incorporation, annual meeting minutes, detailed trustee reports, committee meeting minutes, financial records, and sermons. After 1829, meetings were held only in May and notes were much briefer.

Vol. 68 (XT)
Trustees' record book, 1807-1869

This volume contains semi-annual meeting minutes, including detailed instructions for missionaries, the acknowledgement of missionary reports, votes, and committee appointments. By the 1830s, records contain only one short entry per year, and after 1852, records exist only for 1860 and 1869. Executive committee minutes, recorded in the second half of the volume from 1820 to 1869, contain short entries with details about specific missionaries, funding, and communities requesting aid. Many meetings date from 1822 to 1830, but after 1844 the committee only met to vote appropriations.

Vol. 69 (XT)
Record book, 1915-1958

The volume includes a typescript of the 1815 Act of Incorporation, annual meeting minutes, the 1917 amended bylaws, and records of small grants made to persons or religious organizations in the society's capacity as a charitable foundation. After 1931, minutes are typed and pasted into the volume. Records document ongoing support of Proctor Academy in Andover, N.H. and various churches, usually supplementing their minister's salary.

Box 14Folder 4A
Loose records removed from Vol. 69, 1942-1958

C. Subject files, 1886-1977

Arranged chronologically.

Subject files consist of material related to various Boston churches, including the histories of King's Chapel, First Church of Roxbury, and Old South Church. Second Church of Boston records are primarily correspondence discussing the conviction that it was the site of Paul Revere's lanterns in 1775. Papers related to First Parish in Brighton document the dissolution of the parish and the transfer of its property to the Unitarian Universalist Society in 1966. They include correspondence, meeting minutes, and legal documents.

Box 14Folders 5-9

D. Unitarian Service Pension Society records, 1907-1961

Arranged chronologically and by record type.

The Unitarian Service Pension Society was incorporated in 1910 to provide annuities for Unitarian ministers aged 65 and over who had served the church at least twenty years. Records include the agreement of association; early (pre-incorporation) records including the Society's fiduciary arrangement with the American Unitarian Society; annual meeting minutes; bylaws; Executive Committee and Nominating Committee meeting minutes; president's, secretary's, and treasurer's reports; financial statements that include "details of gifts;" and correspondence.

Vol. 70 (XT)
Records, 1910-1935
Vol. 71 (XT)
Records, 1935-1948
Vol. 72 (XT)
Records, 1948-1961
Box 14Folders 10-15
Loose records, 1907-1961

E. Franklin Foundation meeting records, 1908-1915

Arranged chronologically.

The Franklin Foundation was incorporated in 1909 to manage a gift of 1000 pounds sterling and its accumulation (about $490,000 in 1905) to the town of Boston under the will of Benjamin Franklin. Under the stipulations of Franklin's will, the original bequest could not be used until 100 years after his death (1891) and the accumulation could not be used until 200 years after his death (1991). Trustees included the mayor of Boston, ministers of the oldest Episcopalian, Congregational, and Presbyterian churches of Boston, and eight other citizens. First Church minister Charles E. Park served as a trustee or "manager" in this capacity. The board served as administrators for Franklin Union, an industrial night school for men that was established from Franklin's bequest, along with an additional gift of $405,000 from Andrew Carnegie in 1905. The school building was dedicated on 25 September 1908 on the corner of Appleton and Berkeley Streets with an enrollment of about 400 men, and a curriculum including mechanics, industrial electricity, architectural drawing, and other trades. The school would later become the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology.

Records include 1908 meeting minutes about the formation of the corporation; the 1909 Act of Incorporation; financial reports, and meeting minutes. They describe policy and scope of instruction for Franklin Union; instructors listed by name, subject, and pay; equipment; use of Franklin Union Hall by the public; and enrollment and attendance. Director's annual reports give details about the school, its curriculum, and its students.

Box 14Folders 16-23

F. Unitarian Historical Society records, 1960-1963

Arranged chronologically.

The Unitarian Historical Society was founded in 1901 and incorporated in 1958. From 1960 to 1963, First Church minister Rhys Williams served as secretary of the organization, and these are most likely his records. They include lists of members, bylaws, dues statements, the 1960 treasurer's report, annual meeting minutes, executive committee meeting minutes, correspondence with the American Unitarian Association, correspondence related to the mailing and distribution of the Proceedings of the Unitarian Historical Society, and 1962 bylaws.

Box 14Folders 24-33

VII. Printed material, 1654-2000

Miscellaneous printed material includes an obituary of Rev. John Clarke (1798), First Church bylaws (1829, 1880), newspaper clippings describing ministerial ordinations and retirements, a 1989 community book with member photos, undated prayers and covenants, historical materials, and sketches of early church buildings.

For additional printed material stored offsite and cataloged as the First and Second Church of Boston Library, see the collection guide for Second Church (Boston, Mass.) records, Material Removed from the Collection.

A. Printed material related to First Church, 1744-2000

Arranged chronologically.

Box 15Folder 1
Charles Chauncy, Sermon, 1744
Box 15Folder 2
William Emerson, A Historical Sketch of the First Church in Boston, 1812
Box 15Folder 3
Programs and orders of service, 1880-1984
Box 15Folder 4
James Eells, Our Unconscious Influence, 1904
Box 15Folder 5
Sermons and Addresses Commemorating the 275th Anniversary of the Founding of the First Church in Boston, 1906
Box 15Folder 6
John Gardner Bartlett, Ancestry and Descendants of Rev. John Wilson, 1907
Box 15Folder 7
First Church in Boston, 1908
Box 15Folder 8
Church Book, 1917
Box 15Folder 9
Fundraising brochure, 1969
Box 15Folders 10-13
Ministerial candidate binder, [1996]
Box 15Folders 14-15
Memorials in the First Church in Boston, n.d
Box 15Folder 16
Miscellaneous, 1798-2000

B. Other printed material, 1654-1899

Arranged chronologically.

Box 16Folder 1
John Cotton, A brief exposition . . . of Ecclesiastes, 1654
Box 16Folder 2
Benjamin Colman, Sermon, 1739
Box 16Folder 3
John Winthrop, A Journal of . . . Transactions and Occurrences . . .from 1630 to 1644, 1790
Box 16Folder 4
David Barnes, Sermon, 1800
Box 16Folder 5
John Cotton, The Keyes of the Kingdom of Heaven, 1843 (reprint)
Box 16Folder 6
The True Position of Rev. Theodore Parker being a review of Rev. R. C. Waterston's letter, 1845
Box 16Folder 7
Conference of Child-Helping Societies, Addresses in memory of Hon. George S. Hale, 1898
Box 16Folder 8
Arthur B. Ellis, George S. Hale, A.M.: A Memoir, 1899

Preferred Citation

First Church (Boston, 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.


Bentley, William, 1759-1819.
Ellis, Arthur B. (Arthur Bliss), 1854-.
Ellis, Rufus, 1819-1885.
Emerson, William, 1769-1811.
Williams, Rhys.


Evangelical Missionary Society.
First Church (Boston, Mass.). First Church Club.
Franklin Foundation.
Franklin Union (Boston, Mass.).
Unitarian Historical Society (Boston, Mass.).
Unitarian Service Pension Society.


Account books--1690-1934.
Boston (Mass.) - Church history.
Boston (Mass.) - Statistics, Vital.
Church buildings--Massachusetts--Boston.
Church charities--Massachusetts--Boston.
Congregational churches--Clergy.
Congregational churches--Massachusetts--Boston.
Pews and pew rights.
Real property--Massachusetts--Boston.
Sunday School--Massachusetts--Boston.
Unitarian churches--Clergy.
Unitarian churches--Massachusetts--Boston.

Materials Removed from the Collection

Photographs from this collection have been removed to the MHS Photo Archives, Photo. Coll. 325.