IN 1971 the Council of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts authorized me to prepare the records of Trinity Church, Boston, during the colonial period, for printing in the publications of the Society. In 1961 the late Professor Richard D. Pierce had edited the records of the First Church in Boston, and this work had been preceded by two volumes, published in 1920 and 1923, containing the Plymouth Church Records. It was time to remember the records of Boston’s Anglican churches.
The Anglican community was represented in eighteenth-century Boston by King’s Chapel, built in 1688, Christ Church in the North End, built in 1723, and Trinity, the cornerstone of which was laid in 1734 in what was then the South End and is now in the area of Filene’s Basement. Eminent historians like the late Clifford K. Shipton, once president of the Colonial Society, recognized the importance of the vital statistics contained in the church records of this period, and they pointed also to the renewed interest of economic historians in the prices of basic commodities, worked products like nails and textiles, and salaries of laborers and professional men, all so minutely and accurately reported in the accounts of the Wardens to their Vestries in the churches of the period.
The immensely valuable three volumes entitled The Annals of King’s Chapel, by H. W. Foote and others, contain many extensive extracts from the records of Boston’s first Anglican church, while most of the records of Christ Church, Salem Street, have found their way under the hospitable roof of the Boston Athenæum, where they are accessible to scholars. It seems most appropriate, therefore, to publish the colonial records of the youngest of Boston’s Anglican churches, Trinity.
The records themselves are contained in six nondescript folio size volumes of unequal shape and appearance. Although some of their pages have been worn away around the edges no significant portions have been lost. The quality of the paper of these old record books is superb, gradually deteriorating as the records become more recent, a fact any bibliophile can easily verify throughout a run of books from the sixteenth to the twentieth century, where the same observation can be made, with obvious exceptions, for the bindings as well as the paper.
The earliest record is the copy of a deed dated 1728, and the last records carry the reader down through the affairs of the Church in the year 1829, when the second Church edifice, built on the same spot as the first, was consecrated. The year 1830 was chosen as a reasonable limit to the lives of most people who played active roles during the last turbulent years of the colonial period. It will be remembered that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died at advanced ages on 4 July 1826.
The following folio volumes of Trinity Records, identified in the text as designated here, contain the records of the Proprietors, Wardens, and Vestry of Trinity Church from 1728 to 1830:
- Vol. 1 TR, called Notes and Transactions of Vestry and Proprietors, contains minutes and transactions of the Proprietors and Vestry including the original accounts for building the Church from 1728 to 1769.
- Vol. 2 TR, called Vestry Book, contains minutes and transactions of the Proprietors and Vestry from 1739 to 1768.
- Vol. 3 TR, called Vestry and Proprietors Minutes, contains minutes and transactions of the Proprietors and Vestry from 1769 to 1774.
- Vol. 4 TR, called Minutes of Vestry and Proprietors Meetings and the Greene Foundation, contains minutes and transactions of the Proprietors and Vestry from 1776 to 1830.
- Vol. 5 TR, called Vital Statistics, contains the records of births, marriages and deaths in the Church from 1737 to 1820.
- Vol. 6 TR, called Vital Statistics, contains the records of births, marriages and deaths from 1820 to 1830.
The above records have been printed in their entirety, with the exception of redundant accounts of Proprietors and Vestry meetings in Volumes 1 and 2 TR. In every case the fullest account of the particular meeting has been given and the volume from which it was drawn has been indicated. Some of the financial accounts have been placed in appendices for the convenience of the reader. In addition to the contents of the six specified volumes certain extraneous tomb records, subscription lists, and miscellaneous notes and receipts have also been included (identified as extraneous to the records) when they have supplemented information given in the records. The text of William Price’s will of 1771 and a sermon preached by the Reverend John Sylvester John Gardiner on the occasion of the funeral of Bishop Samuel Parker on 9 December 1804 are included in appendices.
James Bishop Peabody