The Founding of the Church at Bass River Syde

This account of the formation of our Church, transcribed from pages 1-9 of the first book of Parish records is the one upon which all other descriptionsare based.  It was almost certainly recorded by, and represents the perspective of, Robert Morgan, the first Clerk of the Parish, between September 20 and 22, 1667.  Morgan was a somewhat enigmatic figure, a ship captain who plied the waters off the coast of Maine.  His name appears often in early Salem records, and he owned land adjacent to the Hale Homestead.  His name abruptly disappears from Church records in 1668 when his teenaged son Benjamin was excommunicated for stealing a horse in Cambridge and refusing to repent (See Whatever Happened to Brother Morgan).  Contemporary sentence structure and inventive spelling have been modernized for the benefit of the 21st century reader.  

 

001The Lord in mercy alluring and bringing over into this wilderness of New England many of his faithful servants from England whose aims were to worship God in purity according to his word. They in pursuance of that work began to set up particular churches, and the first church gathered in the Massachusetts Colony was in this town of Salem, a gracious beginning of that intended Church reformation which hath been farther prosecuted & prospered through the Lord’s mercy in diverse parts of this land. This church of Salem entered church covenant with public fasting and prayer upon the sixth day of the sixth month [August], 1629.  Their number, at the beginning very small, was soon greatly increased and enriched with diverse worthy laborers in God’s vineyard as Pastors and Teachers successively, viz. Mr. Samuel Skelton,  Mr. Francis Higginson,  Mr. Hugh Peters, Mr. Edward Norris, and Mr. John Higginson, their present Pastor.  As their church increased diverse of the members came over the ferry to live on Bass River side, who on the 10th of the 12th month [February], 1649 (Mr. Norris being teacher) presented their request to the rest of the church for some course to be taken for the means of grace amongst themselves, because of the tediousness & difficulties over the water and other inconveniencies, which motion was renewed again the 22nd  7 month [September], 1650, and the 2nd  day of the 8th month [October] they returned their answer, viz. that we should look out some able and approved teacher to be employed amongst us, we still holding Communion with them as before. But upon farther experience we, upon the 23rd of first month [March] 1656, presented our desires to be a church of our selves and after some agitation about it wherein our teacher stood for us it was put to vote & yielded unto, none appearing opposite; we, protesting there was no disunion in Judgment or affection intended but brotherly Communion.

Our desires being consented unto, we proceeded to build a meeting house on Bass River Side: and we called unto us successively to dispense the word of life unto us Mr. Joshua Hubbard, Mr. Jeremiah Hubbard, and Mr. John HiIes [Hale]: and after almost three years’ experience of Mr John Hailes [Hale] our motion was again renewed the 23rd of 4 month [June], 1667 which was as follows:

“We whose names are under written, the brethren & sisters belonging to Bass River, do present our desires to the rest of the Church of Salem that with their consent we and our children may be a church of our selves, which we also present unto Mr. Hale desiring him to join with us and to be our Pastor with the approbation of the rest of the Church:

“Rodger Connant, Thomas Latbrop, William Dixsy, Richard Dodge, Samuell Corning, Henry Herrick, William Woodberry Sr, William Dodge Sr ,Humphrey Woodherry Sr, Robert Morgan, Peter Woolfe, Richard Brakenbury, Hugh Woodberry, John Black Sr, Josias Rootes Sr, John Stone Sr, Nicholas Patch, Lott Conant, Exercise Conant, John Dodge Sr, Jobn Hill, Ralph Ellingwood, Edward Bishop, Sarah Conant, Bethiah Lathropp, Anna Dixsy, Mary Dodge Sr , Elizabeth Dodge, Elizabeth Coming, Anna Woodberry Sr , Anna Woodberry Jr, Mary Lovitt, Elizabeth Woodberry, Elizabeth Woodberry, Ede Herrick, Elizabeth Haskall, Ellen Brakenbury, Martha Woolfe, Mary Dodge Jr, Mary Woodberry, Hannah Woodberry, Hannah Baker, Abigai1le Hill, Sarah Leach, Elizabeth Patch, Mary Herrick, Lidea. Herrick, Freegrace Black, Hannah Sallowes, Bridgett Louse.

“Such as are members but not in full Communion desire to be dismissed with their parents:

“Peter Woodberry, John Dodge Jr , John Black, Samuel Corning Jr, Nathaniell Haward, Thomas Woodberry, John Woodberry Jr, Isasck Woodberry, Humphry Woodberry Jr, William Dodge Jr, Ephraim Herrick, Henry Herrick Jr , John Herrick, Edward Bishopp Jr, Josiah Rootes Jr , Joseph Lovet, Remember Stone, Elizabeth Haward, Bethiah Lovett, Abigaille Stone, Hannah Raiment, Sarah Conant, Susanna Woodberry, Elizabeth Herrick.”

This motion was answered the 21st of the 5th month [July], 1667, as follows, .viz:

“This writing being read together with the names subscribed, there was a unanimous consent of the brethren present unto their desire, only it was left to the Sacrament day after when in the fullest church assembly the consent of the whole church was signified by their votes & so they have their liberty to be a church of themselves, only they continue members here until then.  Being a Church the Lord grant his gracious presence with them.”

Upon this the brethren had a meeting upon the 28th of August and renewed their call to Mr. John Hailes [Hale] that he would be pleased to accept of the office of a pastor, whose answer was as follows:

 “When I look at the weight of the work you call me unto of which.  Paul cried out ‘who is sufficient for these things?’  I then looking upon my own manifold infirmities & indisposition of spirit thereunto I see many discouragements: butt when I duly consider the Lords sovereignty over me & all sufficiency for my succor I desire where I see his work and call to say with Esssiah here I am send me; and in particular when I observe the remarkable providences of God in bringing me hither and paving out our way hitherto and the room the Lord bath made for me in their hearts, which I acknowledge with thankfulness to God & yourselves.  I do look at the Call of God in the present call to me being the more confirmed herein by the concurrence of our apprehensions, which hath appeared in those things we have had occasion to confer about, concerning our entering into & proceeding our Church affairs, which I hope the Lord will enable me to practice accordingly.

“Wherefore while you walk according to God’s order of the gospel, & ill the steadfastness of the faith in Christ, and I see that with a good conscience and freedom of spirit I can carry on my work and discharge my duty to God and man & those that are under my care according to the respective relations I may bear unto them: so long as the Lord is calling me to labor in this part of His vineyard; I desire to give up myself to the Lord & his service in the work of the Ministry in this place.  Requesting you to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me that it may redound to his glory, your Edifying & of every soul that shall dwell amongst us and for our Joyful account in the day of Christ’s appearance.

“By me, John Hale”

The twentieth of September following those members above named of Salem united together in a distinct society: and the said Mr. Hale being dismissed from the church of Christ at Charlestown whereof he was a member, and recommended to the work of Christ here, concurred with them.  When they solemnly made confession of their faith and renewed their covenant with the Lord which was publicly & unanimously owned by them as followeth :

“We believe in one God the Eternal Jehovah, Infinite in wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth, the maker, preserver, & governor of all things, distinguished into the Father begetting the Son & the Son begotten of the Father, & the holy ghost proceeding from the father and the son, three persons yet one god.  And that the Lord made man at the first in his own Image, in holiness, knowledge, & righteousness, whereby he had ability perfectly to obey God for life according to the tenor of the Covenant of works, which he lost by transgressing Gods command bringing himself & all his posterity into a. state of sin and misery, whereby we are by nature Children of wrath as well as others, liable to all miseries in life & death & to Eternal Destruction. 

“That God out of his mere mercy sent his only begotten son Jesus Christ, for man’s redeemer- who is truly God & truly man in one person- who as man was conceived by the Holy Ghost, borne of the Virgin Mary, made like us in all things (yet without Sin) he suffered death to ransom the elect, was buried, Rose again from the dead & ascended into heaven with his body wherewith he now sits at the right hand of God to make intercession for the faithful; And shall thence return to Judge the whole world together at the Last Day.

“That the Lord hath given us the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament for the only perfect and perpetual rule of our faith and life.

“That all that truly believe in Jesus Christ & repent of all their sins have by faith a right to all the benefits of Christ’s purchase as the only Righteousness of Christ imputed to them for their justification the principles of adoption, & sanctification by the spirit, man being utterly unable by any work or righteousness of his own or light from within himself to please God.

“Also that those who in this life walk before the Lord in the faith of the Gospel & sincere obedience to the Law the rule of holiness wherein every true believer ought & certainly shall persevere unto death, when their souls, being then & not before made perfect in holiness, shall be received into glory, till the resurrection when their bodies being united to their souls & raised up again immediately before the general judgment they shall there be openly acquitted & so be eternally glorified in heaven.

“That then also all that believed not in Christ shall he publicly condemned & cast into hell forever.

“Also we believe that all true believers make up that one body the Church of which Christ is the head who for the gathering in and perfecting of his saints hath appointed his word, prayers, singing of psalms, sacraments of baptism & the Lords Supper; Church officers & discipline in particular churches, and that it is the Duty of every Christian orderly to attend thereunto.”

The Covenant:

We do in the presence of the Eternal God & for our own comfort renew our covenant with God, Joining ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten wherein we do heartily accept & avow the Lord this day to be our God, & to walk in his ways, desiring to tum to him by unfeigned repentance for all our sins, & by faith receiving Jesus Christ for our only Lord and Savior, and his spirit for our comforter, do take him for our portion according to the tenor of the covenant of grace wherein he hath promised to be a god to the faithful & their seed after them in their generations, promising through the grace of God a constant & sincere endeavor of obedience to all Gods commands delivered us in his written Word, and to resist the temptations of Satan, the world, and our own deceitful hearts and this unto the death:

We do also, in the fear of the Lord and presence of his people, engage to give up our selves, & our seed to the Lord, and to one another by the Will of God in our Fellowship together as a particular church of Christ: or congregation of the faithful, promising each of us to continue faithful & steadfast in our communion together in the public worship of God, & to submit to the order, discipline & government of Christ in this his church and to the ministerial, teaching, guidance & oversight of the elder, or elders thereof, and to the brotherly watch of fellow members: promising to walk towards them in love & faithfulness, and in all offences to follow the rule of Christ, to bear and forbear, give and forgive as he hath taught us, so long as by the rules of God’s Word we shall continue in this our relation together, desiring also to walk with all regular & due communion with other churches of Christ, for the Glory of God, our furtherance & growth in Christ: and mutual Edification.

And all this not by any Strength of our own but by our Lord Christ assisting us, whose blood we desire may sprinkle this our covenant made in his name, Amen.

In Testimony of our Consent to this Confession of faith and covenant we subscribe our names”

(signed)

John Hale Thomas Lathropp
Richard Dodge Senior Samuell Coming
William Woodberry Senior Robert Morgan
Richard Brackenbury John Blacke, Senior
John Stone Senior Lott Connant
John Dodge Senior Ralph Ellenwood
Rodger Connant William Dixsy
William Dodge Senior Henry Herricke, Senior
Humphry Woodberry, Senior Peeter Woolfe
Hugh Woodberry Josias Rootes Senior
Nickolas Patch Exercize Connant
John Hill Edward Bishopp
Rebekah Hale Berthia Lathropp
Elizabeth Dodge Anna Dixsy
Mary Lovett Anna Woodberry, Senior
Elizabeth Haskalll Elizabeth Woodberry
Mary Woodberry Martha Woolfe
Sarah Leach Hannah Baker
Freegrace Black Mary Herricke
Elizabeth Corning Bridgett Luff
Elizabeth Woodberry Mary Dodge, Senior
Ellen Brackenbury Anna Woodberry, Junior
Hannah Woodberry Edee Herricke
Elizabeth Patch Mary Dodge, Junior
Hannah Sallows Abigaile Hill
Lidia Herricke

These having proceeded this far upon this solemn day of fasting and prayer, then immediately they proceeded to the ordination of Mr. Hale as Pastor who was ordained by the Laying on of hands, of the reverend Mr. John Higginson Pastor of the Church of Salem & of Mr. Thomas Cobbett Pastor at Ipswich & of Mr. Antipas Newman, Pastor at Wenham: Then were they owned to be a distinct orderly congregational church by the elders & messengers of the neighbor churches above said, who gave their approbation and right hand of Fellowship.

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5 thoughts on “The Founding of the Church at Bass River Syde

  1. Wow, that is quite an interesting read! Thank you for the transcription. I wonder if a couple of image files of the original documents could be added?

  2. I don’t want to overrun the allocated space for the web site. Each image is about 1 mb. I put up the first page, though, for you to look at.

  3. As a direct descendant of Robert Morgan, thank you. My mom is the last of the Morgan name in her line, her father John E. Morgan had no sons, . Ella nee Morgan Young, I will share this with her, Stephanie

  4. I’ve discovered that our family is descendants of Nicholas Patch. I’ve visited Beverly twice and love the history!

  5. Thank your for making this founding of 1st Parish a permanent part of the internet web site. I am a direct descendent of Humphrey Woodbury ( Woodberry) Sr and William Woodbury(Woodberry) Sr also. I was christened at 1st Parish Unitarian in 1941.I continue to celebrate this congregations perseverance into 350 years of service to people of Beverly, Mass. and mankind. I am grateful for your work.

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