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TODO: 1) Fold in current First Parish of Sudbury History Resource Page
See Also: jch.com/places/meetinghouse
See Also: History Page at FPS website

The Swastika Incident at First Parish of Sudbury, Unitarian Universalist (2001)

FPS Archives Scanning Project

1) Records of the First Parish in Sudbury, 1836-1956 done
Next: 1704 Record book started by Israel Loring.

These seven books are in the First Parish of Sudbury collection: RECORD BOOKS: 1704, 1767, 1836-1956 (this book), JACOB BIGELOW BOOK (1772), MINISTERIAL FUND BOOK (1817-1836), FIRST PARISH TREASURERS ACCOUNTS: 1892-1931, 1931-1952.


There are three predecessor organizations to the current First Parish of Sudbury, which was split from the Town in 1836.
The Church in Sudbury was the Territorial Parish and Church of the "Puritan Village". 1640-1721
The Westerly Precinct 1721-1780
The Territorial Parish of Sudbury from 1780 to 1836

In the Begining

The Town of Sudbury was named and incorporated in 1639 by the Massachusetts Bay Colony, a year after the original petitioners were allowed to settle in “their plantation”. The following year the church was gathered.

In 1640 a church was organized, which was Congregational in government and Calvinistic in creed or faith. A copy of its covenant is still preserved. The church called to its pastorate Rev. Edmund Brown, and elected Mr. William Brown deacon. It is supposed that the installation of Rev. Edmund Brown was at the time of the formation of the church. [Hudson Page Number?]

The first Minister, Edmund Brown, was one of the original petitioners of the town and received the most land of the 47 original grantees of land when the Town of Sudbury was first laid out. There is also a Minister’s meadow identified in their list of grants. He preached until his death in 1677. The first three meetinghouses were built in the original Town of Sudbury town center. That location is now the North Cemetery in Wayland. The meetinghouses were built in 1643, 1653 and 1686. This first village was the subject of Puritan Village: The Formation of a New England Town by Sumner Chilton Powell. Page Number? The original town center was above the meadow adjacent to the east bank of the Sudbury River. In the spring and winter the river would often flood into the meadow. For the residents on the west side of the river, it was a treacherous passage, which made compulsory attendance at both worship services and Town Meetings difficult and sometimes impossible. In 1707, the inhabitants on the west side of the river petitioned for a new meetinghouse on the their side of the river. The petition can be found in Hudson’s history of Sudbury on page 284. Here are some excerpts:

“Petition of the West Side people of Sudbury to Governor Dudley and the General Assembly. The petition of us who are the subscribers living on ye west side of Sudbury [it being] ... our lot to fall on that side of the River by Reason of the flood of waters, which for a very great part of the year doth very much incommode us and often by extremity of water and terrible and violent winds, and a great part of the winter by ice, as it is at the present ... to appoint us a Committee to see and consider our circumstances …. “[Hudson]

After several proposals, the General Court ordered on June 9, 1721 that a west side meetinghouse be built at the place called the Poplar Swamp Gutter, which was located north of the Lancaster Highway. The location was later changed to the Rocky Plain. The General Court also ordered that the old meetinghouse be put in good repair. In addition, the court ordered that a Town Tax maintain the meetinghouses and support the Ministers on both sides of the river. With two meetinghouses, there would be two ecclesiastical bodies known as the Easterly Precinct and the Westerly Precinct. The West Side Meetinghouse was completed in 1723. The East Side Meetinghouse was moved and reassembled at the current location of First Parish of Wayland, about a mile south of the original village. Town meetings would alternate between the two meetinghouses for the next 65 years until East Sudbury became a separate town in 1780 Six months after it was clear that the west side meetinghouse would be built, the Inhabitants of the Westerly Precinct in Sudbury held its first meeting on December 18th, 1721. They elected John Balcom as both Moderator and Clerk. They also elected a committee of five to order and manage their affairs. The Reverend Israel Loring accepted the call to be the minister of the Inhabitants of the Westerly Precinct in 1722 after being Sudbury’s sole preacher in the original village for 18 years. He continued his ministry in the West Side Meetinghouse for another 49 years until his death in 1772, making his total tenure 68 years from 1704 to 1772. The history of Sudbury and First Parish is interwoven with the colonial and Revolutionary War history of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The men and boys of the Sudbury Companies of Militia and Minute were at Concord on the 19th of April in 1775. As the alarm was drummed, they were joined by Companies from the East Side and Framingham on the Common outside the West Side Meetinghouse. This gathering of men is reenacted every Patriots' Day with the bell of First Parish of Sudbury ringing the alarm. After the war, the Town of East Sudbury was renamed Wayland in 1835. After the split, the Westerly Precinct again became a territorial parish with the same boundaries as the Town of Sudbury. In 1797, the current meetinghouse was built by the Town of Sudbury at a cost of $6,025.93. In those days, the town meeting house and the church building were one and the same. The separation of Church and State in Sudbury evolved over a couple of decades. In 1817, the Massachusetts General Court passed An Act To Establish A Ministerial Fund In The Town Of Sudbury. (Acts and Resolves passed by the General Court. 1817 Chap. 17). In 1836, The Revised Statutes of 1836 was published. Chapter 20, Section 1 sates "Every parish or religious society heretofore established is declared to be a body corporate.” On February 5th, 1836, the “subscriber members” met to start the process of electing officers.

To Christopher G Cutler Esq. of Sudbury in the County of Middlesex and State of Massachusetts.

We the subscriber members of the First Parish in said Sudbury, respectfully show that it is expedient as soon as circumstance as will admit to call a meeting of the inhabitants of said Parish and transact all business in future as the law has provided in such cases,

We therefore request you to grant a warrant requesting the members of said Parish to assemble at the public Meetinghouse in said Sudbury on Monday, the 21st day of March next at one o'clock P. M. then and there to act on the following articles.

To choose all necessary Parish Officers and to transact other business that Parishes by law are authorized to transact.

Sudbury Feb. 5 1836.
Samuel Puffer, Levi Dakin, Willard Maynard, John Hunt, John Haynes, Levi Smith, Thomas B. Dakin, Nahum Thompson, Wm. Rice, Joseph Cutler, Tilly Smith, Luther Hunt, Gardner Hunt.

The warrant was issued on March 14th.

Middlesex Co. To Luther Hunt one of the members of the First Parish in the town of Sudbury and an applicant for this warrant: In the name of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts you are required to notify and warn the members of the First Parish in the town of Sudbury qualified to vote in Parish affairs to meet at the Meetinghouse of said parish on Thursday the thirty first day of March inst. at one of the clock in the after noon then and there to act on the following articles (vih.)
To Choose all necessary Parish officers.
To vote such sums of money as may be thought necessary for the support of preaching and other purposes.
To prescribe the mode of warning future meetings of said Parish and transact all other business which may legally come before them.
And you are directed to serve this warrant by posting up an attested copy thereof at the aforesaid Meeting-house in said Sudbury fourteen days at least beſore the time for holding said meeting.
Hereof said not and make due return of this warrant with your dornys thereon to the subscriber at the time und place of meeting as aforesaid.
Given under my hand and seal this fourteenth day of March in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty six.
Christopher G. Cutter. Justice of the Peace

The first meeting of First Parish as a separate entity from the Town was held on March 31, 1836.

At a legal meeting of the inhabitants of the First Parish in Sudbury held on Thursday the 31st day of March D. 1836 the articles in the preceding warrant were taken up and acted upon in the following manner.
Voted to accept of the warning of tis meeting. then chose Nahum Thompson clerk. who was qualified by C. G. Cutler Esq. Then chose Christopher G. Cutler Esg. Moderator. Then voted to choose two assessors and chose Christopher G. Cutler Esq. & Asher Goodnow Esq. Then chose Asher Goodnow Esg. Treasurer. Then voted that the Treasurer be collector for the year ensuing. Then voted that each member of the parish shall pay in his tax for the present year to the Treasurer on or before the first day of February next. Then voted that the assessors act as a prudential committee for the year ensuing.
Voted four hundred Dollars in addition to the interest arising from the Ministerial Fund to pay M. Hurlbut for Salary for the present year. Then voted twenty Dollars for Contingent expenses.
Voted that all future meetings shall be warned by the assessors granting a warrant to the Clerk who shall place an attested copy thereof at the Meetinghouse two Sabbaths at least before the time of holding any future meeting
Then voted that the Clerk purchase a Book for Records and bring in his Bill to the Parish. Then voted that this meeting be dissolved
Christopher G. Cutler, Moderator. Attest. Nahum Thompson Clerk.

Citations or copies of these three documents? The year after the split from the Town, there was a split based on theology.

The Unitarian movement spread to our neighboring communities during the 1830s, but Rev. Rufus Hurlbut, the minister since 1816 clung to the Orthodox Protestant theology. The core church membership supported the more conservative stance, but a majority of the parish was more liberal. At the congregational meeting in early 1837, the clerk improperly recognized many new members in order to elect liberal leaders. The conservatives withdrew from the meeting. Had they stayed and contested the vote, they would have probably recovered the papers, property and name of First Parish. A few months after this meeting, the Reverend Hurlbut took a young cleric with him to the Sunday service. He had not been well and hoped to have a substitute while he recovered. When they arrived at the meetinghouse, the doors were locked and another minister was preaching inside. He knocked and was allowed to enter. He made some remarks, but realized that the parish, the legal entity of the church, had chosen a minister to their own liking. An eye witness relates "Understanding the situation, he turned and went down the aisle, but saying 'I leave amicably.' A large share of the congregation left also and with their minister went over and worshipped with the Methodists". While Rufus Hurlbut was able to take the Bible to found what is now the Congregational church, the court ruled in favor of the Unitarians for everything else. Citation for the quote? See: The Inhabitants of the FIRST PARISH IN SUDBURY v. THOMAS STEARNS, 21 Pick 148, 38 Mass 148 (1838)

First Parish called Reverend Linus Shaw in 1844 as their first Unitarian minister. In 1850, he built a house on Plympton Hill, where he lived until his death, Jan. 5, 1866.

Other exceptional ministers include Reverend lda Hultin, who served from 1904 to 1915, and Reverend Dr. Alexander St. lvanyi, who kept First Parish’s hopes alive from 1951-1955. lda Hultin was one of the pioneer women ministers known as the "Iowa Sisterhood”. She was also active and well known in the suffrage movement. Dr. St. lvanyi, a former Bishop of the Transylvanian Unitarian Church, was renowned as a leader of the anti-Nazi underground in his native Hungary.

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