South Church Records – MS004

South Church Records – MS004

Provenance: Gift of Joseph W. P. Frost who purchased the collection from the descendants of Joseph Foster.

Citation: South Church Records, MS004, Portsmouth Athenaeum

Size: 1 Hollinger box (6 linear inches), 827 items

Access: No restrictions

Processed by: Revised by Susan Stowe Kindstedt in 2005. Original by Kevin Shupe and Carolyn Eastman in 1990.

Scope and Content

The records consist of meeting minutes and financial records including the records of the South Church Charity Fund and the Proprietors’ Burying Ground.

The records are divided into two subgroups which are chronologically separate; the first is general records of the South Church and the second primarily contains the records of the South Church Charity Fund and other later church records. The first subgroup contains the earliest papers, from 1772-1795, which consists of calls to meetings and the minutes of those meetings, pew tax accounts, and a 1788 letter from Rev. Samuel Haven to the parish meeting discussing parishioners delinquent in paying their taxes. There is also a pew chart from 1828 showing pew ownership and tax accounts.

The second subgroup begins in 1840-41 with the bills and receipts, contract, loan papers, correspondence and accounts for the enlargement and improvement of Proprietor’s Burying Ground; and are from the period when Joseph W. Foster was the secretary and treasurer of the South Church Charity Fund. These are designated as the first series. The remaining records are separated into three series, the correspondence, the financial and the general records. The correspondence and records are primarily those of the secretary/treasurer of the South Church Charity Fund.

The material in the second subgroup is mostly on the subject of the Proprietor’s Burying Ground, Charity Fund investments and donations; there are yearly accounts covering the period 1877-92 and corresponding bills and receipts. The bulk of correspondence is also from this period with most of it being with the David C. Bell Investment Company on the Charity Fund’s Investments. The remaining years are less extensive with few records before and after that period. This subgroup contains letters written on the creation and placement of Commemorative Tablets in 1884-85 which Joseph H. Foster was parish clerk and also records and correspondence of Charles F. Shillaber who was the parish clerk from the 1890’s through ca. 1925.

Historical Note

The South Church in Portsmouth was organized in 1713 when the Congregational Church divided, a majority of parishioners abandoning the meetinghouse in the South End to form the North Church in Portsmouth. Those that remained at the South Church adopted a new charter and over the century evolved a liberal theology, embracing Unitarianism in the nineteenth century. The separation of the North and the South parishes caused a controversy over the appointment of town taxes. This was resolved in 1716 by having each church raise its own funds.

The South Church Charity Fund was founded in 1819 and incorporated in 1829 to aid the poor members of the church, to contribute to religious causes, to support the Sunday School and to form a church library. The fund was created by donations of individual members and a customary collection at the communion table. In 1829 the fund purchased the minister’s field from the South Church and used this land to provide an investment for their permanent funds by laying out Proprietors’ Burying Ground. The minister acted as the president of the fund with a secretary/treasurer and three other trustees. John W. Foster (d. 1852) is listed in the 1839 directory as the secretary/treasurer and is succeeded in 1852 by his son John H. Foster (1825-85) who continued until 1884 when his daughter Mary A. Foster (d. 1913) filled the position for the next four years. William H. Sise (d. 1896) is the secretary/treasurer from 1888 until his death and he is succeeded by Gustave Peysor (1853-1926).

For more information, see Craig, Lawrence. Three Centuries of Religious Living Portsmouth: Randall Press, 1966.

Historical Timeline

1713-1714 Church organized, Rev. John Emerson, minister

1731 South Meeting House built on Meeting House Hill and Rev. William Shurtleff ordained as minister.

1749 Ordained Rev. Job Strong (d. 1751)

1752 Ordained Rev. Samuel Haven (d. 1806)

1799 Ordained Rev. Timothy Alden to assist Rev. Haven

1806 Rev. Alden resigned

1808 Ordained Rev. Nathan Parker (1782-1833)

1819 Trustees of the South Church Charity Fund organize

1824-1826 Stone Church built on State Street

1829 South Church Charity Fund incorporated

1831 Trustees create the Proprietors’ Burying Ground, South and Sagamore Streets

1833 Ordained Rev. Andrew P. Peabody (1811-1893)

1858 Stone church remodeled and expanded

1862 Ordained Rev. James DeNormandie (1836-1924)

1884 Ordained Rev. Alfred Gooding (1856-1934)


Separated Materials

Gooding, Rev. Alfred, The Theological History of an Old Parish, Boston: George and Ellis, 1901.


Series List

I. South Church Records, 1772-95

II. South Church Charity Fund and Church Records, 1840-1913, 1922, 1936

1. Proprietors’s Burying Ground Improvements, 1840-1841

2. Correspondence, 1852-1912

3. Financial, 1836-1913

4. General records, 1839-1936


I. South Church Records, 1772-95, 1828

Records include calls to meetings, meeting minutes, pew tax accounts and a letter from Rev. Samuel Haven. Also included are meetings of general church business, election of officers, and the raising of funds. There is also a pew chart with accounts from 1828 (oversized).

Box 1

Folder 1 Calls to meetings, 1777-93

Folder 2-3 Meetings minutes, 1772-95

Folder 4 Pew tax accounts, 1787-93

Folder 5 Samuel Haven letter, 1788

II. South Church Charity Fund and Church Records, 1840-1913, 1922, 1936

1. Proprietors’ Burying Ground Improvements, 1840-1841 (97 items)

Papers include estimates, accounts of the enlargement and improvement of the cemetery, mostly bills and receipts. There are also two letters on the recording of the plan at the deed office.

Folder 6 Burial Ground Improvements, Records and Correspondents, 1840-1841

Folder 7 Bills and Receipts, 1840

Folder 8 Bills and Receipts, 1841

2. Correspondence, 1852-1912 (163 items)

Papers include general business correspondence, primarily on investments. There are a few letters on donations and cemetery business. The largest group of correspondence is between the David C. Bell Investment Company and the various Charity Fund secretary/treasurers from 1887-1896. Except for the Bell Investment Company the correspondence has been filed by secretary/treasurers or parish clerk in chronological order.

Box 1

Folder 9 Correspondence, Joseph H. Foster, 1852-1886

Folder 10 Minister’s Commemorative Tablets, 1844-1885

Folder 11 Correspondence, Mary A. Foster, 1886-1888

Folder 12 Correspondence, William H. Sise, 1888-1895

Folder 13 Correspondence, Gustave Peyser, 1897-1903

Folder 14 Correspondence, Charles F. Shillaber, 1894-1912, n.d.

Folder 15 Correspondence, David C. Bell Investment Co., 1887-1889

Folder 16 Correspondence, David C. Bell Investment Co., 1890-1892

Folder 17 Correspondence, David C. Bell Investment Co., 1893-1896, n.d.

3. Financial, 1836-1913 (490 items)

Papers are primarily the yearly accounts and bills and receipts for items like books, cemetery charges and maintenance, donations, librarian salaries and tea and communion bread purchased. The accounts reflect that money was usually divided into four accounts: appropriations, the Proprietor’s Burying Ground, the Communion Table, and the parish library. There is also a list of appropriations from the Charity Fund from 1836-1860. The yearly financial account sheets have been filed in oversize.

Box 1

Folder 18-27 Bills and receipts, 1877-1911

Folder 28 Appropriations from Charity Fund, 1836-1860

OV Box 2 Folder 77 Accounts, 1877-1892

4. General Records, 1839-1936 (46 items)

These records include deeds for the Proprietors’ Burying Ground, notes on the title and sale of the burial ground, subscription sheets for the American Unitarian Association and the Meadville Theological School, notes on Charity Funds by William Sise, two pew certificates, and other records including investment and mortgage papers, the settlement of the will of Samuel Harding, treasurer bonds and insurance policies taken on investment property (filed in oversized). A miscellaneous file contains a list of ministers, two printed one-page church histories and a 1936 church program.

Box 1

Folder 29 Burial Plot Deeds, 1839-1849, 1876, 1889

Folder 30 Notes on title and sale of Burial Ground, 1848, 1856

Folder 31 Charity subscriptions, 1866

Folder 32 William Sise Notebook pages, 1888-1894

Folder 33 Pew Certificates, 1857, 1891

Folder 34 General records, 1890-1913

Folder 35 Church history and printed misc., 1922, 1936

OV Box 2 Folder 76 Sale of Pews, 1828

OV Box 2 Folder 78 Insurance Policies, 1898-1899

Boxes 2 and 3 are the financial and administrative records of the South Church Charity Fund, 1845-1996. They were found in collection, organized in September, 2013, by Schuyler Selden and entered by Courtney MacLachlan.

Box 2

Folder 1: Journal of South Church Charity Funds, 1846-1879

Folder 2: Expense Accounts Ledger, 1849-1879

Folder 3: Expense Accounts Ledger, 1879-1909

Folder 4: Expense Accounts Ledger, 1881-1906

Folder 5: Expense Accounts Ledger, 1904-1962

Folder 6: Check Record, New Hampshire National Bank, 1943-1952

Folder 7: Summary of Funds, Trust Funds, 1948-1970

Folder 8: Plan for General Investment Fund, 1956

Folder 9: Trust Fund Receipts and Investments, 1955-1971

Folder 10: Correspondence, Investments, 1923-1996

Box 3

Folder 1: South Church Charity Fund Records, 1960-1963

Folder 2: Records, 1964-1965

Folder 3: Records, 1966-1967

Folder 4: Records, 1968-1969

Folder 5: Records, 1970-1972

Folder 6: Correspondence, 1948-1971

Folder 7: Annual Reports, 1846-1940

Folder 8: Annual Meeting Minutes, 1941-1948

Folder 9: Correspondence, Legacies, 1829-1948

Folder 10: Martha Trundy Legacy, 1873-1877

Folder 11: Ann Treadwell Legacies, 1845-1877

Folder 12: Joseph Haven Legacies, 1846-1876

Folder 13: Robert Rice Legacy, 1854-1877

Folder 14: Arabella Rice Legacies, 1874-1877

Folder 15: Parish Charities, 1875

Folder 16: Proprietor’s Cemetery Listings, 1971

Oversized Box 2

Folder OV-76 Pew charts with accounts, 1828

Folder OV-77 Account statements, 1877-1892

Folder OV-78 Insurance policies, 1898-1899


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