Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Brattle Street Church Diary, 1772-1775

Finding aid created by
Kate Silbert and Meg Hixon, July 2012

Summary Information
Title: Brattle Street Church diary
Creator: Anonymous
Inclusive dates: 1772-1775
Extent: 1 volume
This diary records the sermon notes and spiritual reflections of an unnamed member of Boston's Brattle Street church between March 1772 and April 1775.

Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1995. M-3168.1.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.

Preferred Citation:

Brattle Street Church diary, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The Brattle Street church had been founded in the 1690s by a group of merchants seeking an alternative to the authority exercised by Increase and Cotton Mather in Boston's existing congregations. Despite these beginnings, the church remained Congregational through the 18th century. At the time of the Revolution, Brattle Street counted such figures as John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Joseph Warren, and John and Abigail Adams among its parishioners.

Dr. Samuel Cooper, a graduate of Harvard, headed the church between 1747 and 1783. During the time period addressed in the diary, the congregation left their old wooden meeting house and built a new one of brick. Until services in this new meeting house began in July 1773, the Brattle Street congregation worshipped in conjunction with Boston's First Church.

The writer of this spiritual diary has not been identified, but a half-sheet of paper sewn into the body of the diary indicates that the diarist made a public declaration of faith and joined the church in April 1756.

Collection Scope and Content Note

This diary records the sermon notes and spiritual reflections of an unnamed member of Boston's Brattle Street church between March 1772 and April 1775.

The diarist wrote each "Sabbath evening" as well as on occasions when s/he attended special Fast-day services or religious lectures. Entries also appear in the middle of a week when someone the diarist knew died suddenly. Other entries of note include those in which the writer was unable to attend worship because of "bruises I received by a fall from a Sley" [16 Jan. 1774] and because of a smallpox outbreak [26 March 1775].

A typical Sabbath entry opens with thanks to God for the favor to attend "his House," gives an account of who preached and from what text for both the morning and afternoon services, and offers a short reflection on or explanation of the sermon. The writer also examined his/her spiritual state and beseeched God for mercy and for his/her heart to be bent to God's will. Additionally, many entries feature anywhere from a few lines to the complete set of stanzas for hymns from English writers like Isaac Watts and the Wesley brothers.

The diarist mentioned hearing sermons from approximately twenty ministers over this three-year span, including Dr. Samuel Cooper, Dr. Charles Chauncy, Dr. Andrew Eliot, Mr. Joseph Howe, Mr. John Hunt, and Dr. Mather Byles, all of whom were ministers at some of the city's largest churches.

Subject Terms

    • Church in Brattle Square (Boston, Mass.)
    • Byles, Mather, 1707-1788.
    • Chauncy, Charles, 1705-1787.
    • Cooper, Samuel, 1725-1783.
    • Eliot, Andrew, 1718-1778.
    • First Church (Boston, Mass.)
    • Howe, Joseph.
    • Hunt, John, 1744-1775.
    • Sermons, American--18th century.
    • Spiritual life.
    Genre Terms:
    • Diaries.
    Contents List
       Container / Location    Title
    Volume   1  
    Brattle Street Church diary,  March 1772-April 1775 [series]:
    Additional Descriptive Data

    The Manifesto Church: Records of the Church in Brattle Square, Boston, with Lists of Communicants, Baptisms, Marriages and Funerals, 1699-1872. Boston, The Benevolent fraternity of churches, 1902.