John Myles handwriting from 1650- names from the Ilston congregation!
Historic Church to Publish Records From 17th Century
The First Baptist Church of Swansea, Massachusetts is undertaking a major historical record editorial and publication project. The congregation continues the ministry of John Myles who founded a Baptist congregation in 1649 in Ilston, Wales and immigrated to Massachusetts in 1663 with one member, Nicholas Tanner. The record of the congregation is unbroken from its beginnings and reveals the colorful life of a significant community of colonial American religious dissenters. The Ilston book has been previously published in a limited edition in Wales, but the American sections of the book have never been published. Both will be joined in a single, annotated, scholarly edition in the current project. The original American book is kept at the Brown University John Hay Library in Providence, Rhode Island, where it is on loan. Supervising the project is a committee appointed by the Swansea Church, including Dr. Stanley Lemons, Rev. Dr. Charles Hartman, Rev. Dr. John Douhan, Dr. Harold Germer, Ms. Robyn Worthington, Ms. Rachel Saunders and Ms. Carolyn Levine.
Dr. William H. Brackney, editor of the project, is Distinguished Professor at Acadia University in Nova Scotia. He has previously edited the journal and letters of Luther Rice and a collection of documents illustrative of the Baptist Experience in England and North America. Brackney has taught at Baylor University, McMaster University, and Colgate Rochester Divinity School, as well as serving as Executive Director of the American Baptist Historical Society and Curator of the Samuel Colgate Baptist Historical Collection. Dr. Brackney states of the Swansea records, “they are a goldmine of details about the transatlantic pilgrimage of a colonial community and its placement on the American religious landscape. Scholars and libraries will highly value this previously unavailable work.”
Mercer University press has agreed to publish the Myles Record book in 2013 (the 350th anniversary of the First Baptist Church in Massachusetts), the first volume in a series that will provide original Baptist documents previously difficult to find.
Drs. Brackney and Hartman made a recent trip to the John Hay Library to compare the transcribed text with the original pages of the 1649 volume. Genealogists will be happy with the number of names inscribed in both the colonial and Welsh portions of the book. These records will provide to scholars a clearer and better documented understanding of the early years of Baptist development.
Developments in the preparations for our celebration in 2013...
UPDATE: March 2013
The transcription has been completed , illustrations have been chosen and indexing has been finished and text sent to publishers. Geneologists will soon be excited about the "persons' " and able to trace some of our old families. Baptist historians will be amazed at the new insight. Update: August 2013
The 350th Anniversary Committee has planned special events and occasions for the big celebration in 2013. The following events have been scheduled:
June. - Welsh Hymn Sing
September 22 - Apple Pie Social
Nov.2 - Tour of congregation's historic sights, 1:00-3:00PM, with collation to follow at the 1848 meeting house
Nov.3 - Commemorative Worship Service at 10:00
Nov. 9 - 350th Anniversary Banquetat 6:00PM at Venus deMilo, Rt.6, Swansea. Speaker: Deborah VonBroekhoven, Executive Director of American Baptist Historical Society. Tickets available by calling First Baptist, Swansea
Nov. 10 - Worship with Rev. Dr. William Brackney, Cheery Professor of Church History, Arcadia University, Nova Scotia.
Previously announced tour of Wales has been cancelled.
Stay tuned as the committee continues to create a grand celebration for our congregation’s 350th birthday!
Update on Myles records publications: The transcription of the old record book has now been completed and sent back to Dr. Brackney at Acadia University. The publication is still set for April or May in 2013 as the first in a series of 13 publications of previously unpublished material. The series will be called “Baptists in Early North American” and will include records from such significant congregations as FBC in Providence and Philadelphia.
The transcription and publication of the John Myles record book. Mercer University Press is announcing the forthcoming series, Baptists in Early North America: The Historical Records (BENA). This series, comprising twelve volumes, will provide published scholarly editions of key Baptis Congregational records that detail the grassroots community heritage of Baptists in the 17th, 18th and early 19th century North America. Each hardcover volume will inclue an introductory essay by a specialist, the actual text of the records of congregations (not before published), critical annotations covering biographical, geographical and church historical data, and a bibliography, plus a comprehensive biographical, geographical and church historical index of names and subjects.
This series represents the first major research project in Baptist studies in half a century and is designed for libraries, genealogists, religious scholars, social and cultural specialists in colonial and early national North America (US and Canada), and local/regional historians. Several of the congregations in the series have unbroken histories from the 17th century. The inclusion of new, annotated editions of Isaac Backus and Morgan Edwards will provide contemporaneous interpretations of the Baptist experience in early North America.
The general editor will be Dr. William H. Brackney, of Acadia University. The consulting editors will be Dr. Edwin Gaustad, Professor emeritus at the Univ. of California, Riverside and Dr. Deborah Van Broekhoven of the American Baptist Historical Society.
Titles in the series: First Baptist Swansea, MA.: Wm Brackney with Charles Hartman First Baptist, Charleston South Carolina, K. Scott Culpepper, First Freewill Baptist Meeting, New Durham, NH,: Scott Bryant First Baptist, Philadelphia, Pa/Pennypack: Wm. Brackney First Baptist Boston, MA Thomas McKibbens Middletown Baptist Church, Middletown, NY: David Laubach Newport RI, 7th Day Baptist Church: Janet Thorngate Sandy Creek, NC, Baptist Church: Keith Harper Meherrin Baptis church, VA, Fred Anderson First Baptist, Wolfville, NS: Patricia Townsend History of New England, with particular Refrence to the Baptists (1777-1796) by Isaac Backus: James P. Byrd Materials Toward a History of the Baptists by Morgan Edwards: Curtis Freeman
We are happy that our 350th project was the inspiration and first part of this historic study.
The Swansea Story
When called as the 46th settled pastor of the First Baptist Church in Swansea, Rev. Charlie Hartman was given encouragement to tell the Swansea Story. In delving into its history he learned that the story was one of great courage, faith and vision. The founding events were shaped by the search for religious tolerance and freedom of expression, as well as politics and romance. The congregation founded as the 5th church which would later be called Baptist in colonial America. Now the third oldest surviving Baptist congregation it boasts a heritage 345 years deep. It has birthed into the world at least four other congregations including one congregational church and the Baptist Church in Warren within, which were organized what is now Brown University and the Warren Association. Our history spans the Atlantic stretching back to the well springs of the Baptist experience in 17th century England. Today it remains a health, vital congregation, having survived every war (including the King Philip War in which its meeting house and pastor’s garrison house were burned), every government and every economic climate, not to mention the rigors of the New England climate and culture. Yet it like so many other “real time” churches is faced with the challenges of post-modern, post-Christian society. Its future is…
The Swansea story, which Rev. Hartman will attempt to share, will be titled “Grace in the Wilderness.” To tell the story, which will attempt to describe both the context and practice of the congregation across the years.
When the story is written we hope to publish it. There has been no single academic account of the church or John Myles written since the Rev. Dr. Henry Melville King, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Providence wrote about Myles in 1915.
We will be inviting interested persons to research and write about elements in Baptist development. Pertaining to our own history, subjects might include women in Baptist ministry, early relationships to other Baptist churches, relationship to early Baptist persons: Roger Williams, Obadiah Holmes, John Myles, Thomas Willet, relationship between church and state as practiced in Swansea.
We have continuous records of our church from 1649 until the present. These coupled with the resources being identified in local collections, libraries, and schools provide many opportunities for original research.
The Myles Record book now held at the John Hay Library, Brown University.
Drs. Hartman and Brackney with the Myles book.
These are some of the first pictures of the John Myles record book taken in about a century.
First Baptist Church In Swansea
21 Baptist Street
Swansea, MA 02777