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Church History and Archives


Our History

Gathered by the English Puritan settlers of Massachusetts Bay Colony in August of 1629, The First Church in Salem is one of the oldest churches organized in North America and the first to be governed by congregational polity.* During its long history the theological position of the Church has changed, most significantly in the early 1800's when Unitarianism was embraced.

Starting in 1718, the Church itself broke into five different churches, with all but one rejoining the original First Church in later years. Today, the congregation worships at the meetinghouse of the North Church, built in 1836. The one congregation that remains independent is the Tabernacle Church in Salem, which separated from the First Church in 1734 over a row about a minister at the time.

The present church edifice (dedicated in 1836) is the second Meeting House of the North Church which separated from the First Church in 1772 and reunited with it in 1923. It is early English Gothic style in design and is constructed of Quincy granite. The First Church in Salem has been responsible for several of the well known landmarks within the town of Salem including the Daniel Lowe Building on Washington Street (the meetinghouse for the First Church up until 1923 when they merged with the North Church) and the Witch Museum on Salem Common (the meetinghouse for the Second Church in Salem which split from the First Church in 1719 and reunited with it in 1956).

For a longer version of our history, click here.

(* Note: The other two churches that date back to this period or before are the Marble Collegiate Church in New York City and the First Church in Plymouth, Massachusetts).

Our Meetinghouse

The present church edifice (dedicated in 1836) is the second Meeting House of the North Church which separated from the First Church in 1772 and reunited with it in 1923. It is early English Gothic style in design and is constructed of Quincy granite. The First Church in Salem has been responsible for several of the well known landmarks within the town of Salem including the Daniel Lowe Building on Washington Street (the meetinghouse for the First Church up until 1923 when they merged with the North Church) and the Witch Museum on Salem Common (the meetinghouse for the Second Church in Salem which split from the First Church in 1719 and reunited with it in 1956).

Separations and Mergers


The First Church 1629-Present
The North Church 1772-1923
The East Church 1719-1899
The Barton Square Church 1824-1899
The Second Church 1899-1956
   
In 1772, the North Church separated from the First Church.
In 1719, the East Church separated from the First Church.
In 1824, the Barton Square Church separated from the First Church.
In 1899, the East Church and the Barton Square Church merged to form the Second Church.
In 1923, the North Church and Second Church reunited with the First Church.