Marblehead was settled about 1629 by fishermen and mariners. Eventually they were joined by settlers from Salem and other areas. In 1635 Reverend John Avery agreed to be Marblehead’s first minister. Tragically, he and his family perished off the coast of Cape Ann as they made their way down from Newbury. Reverend Avery was ultimately succeeded by William Walton, who served the town as minister for thirty years without ordination of the Congregational Church.
Legally Marblehead was a part of Salem. The settlers had to travel to that town in order to receive church sacraments and participate in civil affairs. In 1638 a barn-like meeting house was constructed upon a rocky hill overlooking the ocean. Services were held every Sabbath and the citizens gathered to meet to talk about their concerns. Following the custom of their forefathers, the fishermen buried their dead by the meeting house. Today this part of Marblehead is known as Old Burial Hill. Old North celebrates its Easter Sunrise Service here.
Marblehead’s first church was Puritan in style of worship but also took into consideration the life styles of its less than genteel congregation. In 1684, under the guidance of Reverend Samuel Cheever the settlers received permission from the First Church in Salem to become a separate institution. Then in 1695 the First Church in Marblehead moved into a new structure on Franklin Street. This structure also served as a meeting place for townspeople. A schoolhouse was built with materials from the old structure.
Parson John Barnard served the First Church from 1715-1770, a period that encompasses a period of colonial growth and the Revolutionary War. The mansion he built diagonally across from the church on Franklin Street still stands today as a fine example of Georgian architecture. Parson Barnard was a mighty preacher whose pulpit Bible, a gift from his brother, is in use today. Parson Barnard donated a silver tankard to the First Church to be used during the communion service. Other church members also gave communion silver, including a silver baptismal bowl by Paul Revere, all of which we use.
With a gift from the Honorable William Reed in 1821 the congregation was able to purchase a lot of land on Washington Street where we now worship. When the building was dedicated in 1825 its walls were the rough brown ashlar which is present on the sides and back today. The granite stone front was added later. The Parish Hall was built in 1951 and remodeled in 2000.
From its very beginning, Old North has been at the ready to help the community of Marblehead by serving at life’s rites of passage, baptisms, weddings, and funerals. Old North has also always been there for neighboring churches such as offering our facilities when fire struck the Third Church in Marblehead in 1864 and the Temple Emanu-el in the 1950’s.
To learn more about the history of Old North and its role in the community we suggest you read UNDER THE GOLDEN COD: A SHARED HISTORY OF OLD NORTH CHURCH AND THE TOWN OF MARBLEHEAD, MASSACHUSETTS, 1635-1985. This interesting book was researched and written for The 350th Anniversary Book Committee and published by Phoenix Publishing, Canaan, New Hampshire.
To learn more about the United Church of Christ, its history and traditions, and view its Statement of Faith please visit its web site at http://www.ucc.org.