While Marblehead, Massachusetts, was incorporated as a separate town in 1649, legally, the area was still under the direct governmental control of Salem long after incorporation. The result of arrangement was that congregants in Marblehead were required to travel to Salem in order to receive communion and other sacraments. Due in part to the difficulty of travel and in part due to the political turmoil following the 1684 revocation of the Massachusetts Bay colonial charter, the town of Marblehead took steps to become independent of Salem in 1864. Parallel to this effort was the establishment of the First Church of Christ of Marblehead on August 13, 1684 with Rev. Samuel Cheever, who had been preaching in Marblehead since 1668, as the first minister.
The first meeting house was constructed in 1638 atop what is now known as Old Burial Hill. By 1695, the congregation had outgrown the dated structure. Construction on a new centrally located meeting house began in the early summer of 1695 and was completed before the year ended. Due to the success of the building fund drive, there were additional funds left after construction which were used to reuse materials from the old structure to construct a new schoolhouse.
Rev. Cheever served as pastor of the church until, due to age and health concerns, it was decided by the town, in 1714, to bring a new minister to help Cheever and relieve him of his pastoral duties. By 1715, three candidates had been identified: John Barnard, Ames Cheever, Rev. Cheever’s son, and Edward Holyoke. In 1715, the town voted to invite Barnard to be the new pastor and he was ordained in 1716. Rev. Cheever continued to preach and participate in the church until 1719. The ordination of Rev. Barnard also caused a rift in the congregation with a significant minority of the congregation strongly preferring Edward Holyoke. Following Barnard’s ordination, 28 members requested dismission from the First Church in order to form the Second Congregational Church with Edward Holyoke as their minister. The Second Congregational Church now exists as the Unitarian Universalist Church of Marblehead.
The First Congregational Church saw some expansion during the early nineteenth-century under the pastorate of Rev. Samuel Dana. In 1817 he helped to establish the church’s Sunday school and in 1824, he oversaw the construction of a new stone church building. This building continues to serve as the church building today. Following a protracted dispute related to the installation of Rev. Benjamin R. Allen in 1854, 49 members requested dismission from the First Church in order to form the Third Church, known as the South Church, in 1858. Due to this separation, the First Church was renamed to Old North Church the same year. Following a catastrophic fire that destroyed the South Church building, many members of the South Church rejoined the Old North Church in 1877. In 1879 the Parish House was built beside the church and in 1886 the church underwent major renovations which included the rebuilding of the church front.
The church continued to serve the community during the twentieth-century. During the 1950s and 1960s the church membership increased dramatically. In 1950 the Parish House was rebuilt. In 1964 the Old North Church joined the United Church of Christ. The church continues to serve the local community today.