The East Church in Salem was officially formed in 1718, after parishioners living on the east side of the town broke away from the First Church of Salem and built a more conveniently-located meetinghouse in August of 1717. This division was enacted without the permission of the remainder of the First Church’s congregation, who nonetheless decided to grant the East Church members an official dismission on Dec. 25, 1718, for "peace sake". This division effectively split the town into two parishes.
The first sermon at Salem's East Church was preached in May of 1718, by Rev. Samuel Wigglesworth of Ipswich. By November 1718, the parish had invited Robert Stanton to be minister. His ordination on April 8, 1719 featured a sermon preached by Rev. Cotton Mather. The congregation was firmly Puritan in it perspective until 1783, with the ordination of Rev. Dr. William Bentley to the position of colleague to the elderly pastor, Rev. James Diman. Rev. Dr. Bentley held strong Universalist views, and was also a notable scholar, linguist, and diarist. He remained at East Church until his death in 1819.
During the subsequent pastorate of Rev. Dr. James Flint, a new church building was erected on Brown Street/ Washington Square North in 1844-45. The church was Gothic Revival in style, designed by nationally renowned New York architect Minard Lafever. In 1897, the East Church united with the Barton Square Church and changed its name to The Second Unitarian Church. The East Church reunited with the First Church in 1956, and the former East Church building of 1844-1846 is now the Salem Witch Museum.
Materials in this collection have been digitized in partnership with the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum and have been made available through our New England's Hidden Histories project.