Skip to main content

Branch Church Records, 1803-1865

Identifier: MSS 301

Scope and Content Note

The Branch Church Records document the history of this Salem, Massachusetts, Presbyterian church. The collection consists of a record book, which includes acts of incorporation from March 15, 1805, lists of purchasers of pews and seats, notices and records of meetings of proprietors; Records of Admissions, Baptisms, Deaths, and Marriages in the Branch Church (2 volumes) as recorded by Reverend William Williams, who was ordained July 5, 1821; a Directory of Howard Street Church, listing members as of March 1850; the Register of the Church (includes a brief history, 1803-1828) and lists of communicants; and a poem read at the installation of the Reverend Henry Blatchford on January 6, 1819.


  • Creation: 1803-1865


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Historical Sketch

The Branch Church was formed as a Congregational Church on December 29, 1803. The first pastor was Reverend Joshua Spalding. Pews and seats were sold to the public and an annual assessment on these was made to support pastors. On April 26, 1815, the church joined the Londonderry Presbytery, and on June 5, 1824 petitioned the General Court to change the name from "Branch Church" to "First Presbyterian Church in Salem." A request was made to the selectmen on June 4, 1828 to change the name of the street where the church was located from "Branch Street" to "Howard Street" and on June 11, 1828, a petition was made to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to change the name of the church from "Frist Presbyterian Church in Salem" to "Howard Street Church."

The Church experienced financial difficulties throughout its history and a succession of pastors came and went who had trouble collecting their salaries. In 1848, some of the proprietors petitioned to sell the property and to divide the proceeds among the proprietors, but apparently this did not come to pass since the church still existed in 1867. The last minister, Reverend Charles C. Beaman, resigned on October 2, 1864. The church struggled along for a few more years, but with the effects of the Civil War, no serious attempt was made to continue operations of the society. The property was sold at auction on June 28, 1867 and a school was constructed on the site. The Howard Street Church bell was given in trust to the Mayor of Salem as an alarm and was moved to the belfry of the Central Baptist meeting house on St. Peter's Street. Sale of the property amounted to $3,825.34, and after payment to creditors, nothing was left for the proprietors. A closing history of the church, written by Rev. Charles C. Beaman appears in the Essex Institute Historical Collections, volume 11, January 1872, pages 241-248.


1.92 Linear feet (2 boxes)

Language of Materials



The Branch Church Records document the history of this Salem, Massachusetts, Presbyterian church.

Physical Location

Phillips Library Stacks


The provenance of this collection is unknown.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Marion Clark, October 1997. Updated by Nicholas Long, April 2015.

Branch Church Records, 1803-1865
Processed by: Marion Clark; Updated by: Nicholas Long; machine-readable finding aid created by: Rajkumar Natarajan.
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Phillips Library Repository

Peabody Essex Museum
306 Newburyport Turnpike
Rowley MA 01969 USA