The Newbury Falls
From these falls on the Parker River the Parish first took the name Newbury Falls. The Native Americans had called the falls Quascacunquen. In 1697 the river was named for the Reverend Thomas Parker, the first Newbury pastor. The history of the parish is well worth commemorating. At the Byfield bicentennial in 1902 Edward Everett Hale put Byfield Parish history into perspective when he said, “It has long since been observed that Newbury, and Newburyport, and West Newbury and Byfield form a sort of confederacy. It has also been observed that from the confederacy almost every person in the United States known to history has originally sprung.”
Judge Nathaniel Byfield:
Judge Nathaniel Byfield was the son of the Rev. Richard Byfield of Long Ditton, Surrey, England, who was a member of the famous Westminster Assembly of Divines. The Judge’s mother was a sister of Dr. Juxon, Archbishop of Canterbury, so he was of high birth. He was born in 1653 the youngest of twenty-one children. He came to America in 1674. Dr. Chauncy pronounced him one of the “three first sons of New England,” and Bancroft said that his writings contained “the seed of American independence.” He received judgeship’s from three sovereigns of Great Britain, and not one of his decisions was ever reversed. Our parish took his name at the first recorded meeting in the original parsonage on February 24, 1704.
The First Two Meetinghouses:
America’s first independent Congregational Church was permitted in Byfield 72 years after the planting of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The year was 1702. Twenty-nine pioneer families living far from their town centers of Newbury and Rowley were granted a tax abatement and permitted to gather to worship independently. The Reverend Moses Hale, a Newbury native, was the first pastor of the Byfield Parish Church. Hale was the only pastor to serve his entire lifetime in the first meetinghouse.
The Reverend Moses Parson followed Hale. He was pastor of the church only two years when an influx of new believers burst the seams of the first meetinghouse. A great spiritual awakening was sweeping America. History knows this time as the First Great Awakening. In 1746 an enlarged meetinghouse replaced the 1702 structure. The second meetinghouse burned in 1833. The first two buildings combined to provide a place of worship for Byfield for its first 131 years.
The Third and Fourth Meetinghouses:
1833 was a year of titanic change for the Byfield Parish Church. That year the pastor was dismissed, Massachusetts abolished tax support for Congregational Churches, meetinghouses began being called churches, the second meetinghouse burned and third was built.
In 1930, after nearly a century, the 1833 meetinghouse burned following a lightning strike. The fourth meetinghouse of the Byfield Parish Church opened its doors in December of 1931. The new structure was brick. This edifice served the congregation until 1988 when, as in 1746, growing numbers made a larger worship center a necessity.
The Current Meetinghouse:
At the 1970 annual meeting of the church a decision was made to buy a tract of land adjacent to the church. The Byfield congregation was struggling financially yet the church bought the property. On this land in 1988 the fifth meetinghouse of the Byfield Parish Church was erected and dedicated in September. In this tercentenary year the congregation again faces growth issues as our four hundred seats fill with worshipers every Sunday.
The Parish House
The Vestry or Parish House was a building in addition to the meetinghouse to provide for classrooms and social functions. For the first 149 years the Byfield Parish Church had no Vestry. The women of the church recognized the need for such an edifice and formed a Ladies Vestry Association. On April 22, 1851 the Association paid $150 for a two-story ell on the Benjamin Colman house. The wing was moved to a location opposite the meetinghouse. In 1874 a new Parish House was built at a cost of $1,667.23. Nineteen years later horse barns were added to the back of the building. In 1902 a great tent was placed beside the Parish House for the dinner to celebrate the bicentennial.
The Renovated Parish House:
In 1977 an upstairs was constructed atop the Sunday school classrooms built after the old horse barns burned. At that time studies were built for the pastors on the second floor of the the 1874 structure. In 2001 the original part of the Parish House was moved beside the fifth meetinghouse and the back half was remodeled as a private home.
The Second Parsonage:
After June 21, 1847 the Byfield Parish Church owned no home for its minister. The Reverend Henry Durant had leased the church parsonage for nine hundred and nine years. Mrs. Judith P. R. Daniels of Georgetown, the sister of financier George Peabody, bought the Benjamin Colman house and gave it to the church. This second parsonage was built in 1916. Before his death Colman had operated the Byfield post office and ran a store in this part of his house
The Third and Fourth Parsonages:
In 1958 the Byfield Parish Church desired to end its yoke with Rowley. For a number of years after World War II Rowley and Byfield were served jointly by a single minister. Land was purchased on Central Street, South Byfield and the Judith Daniels Memorial Parsonage was constructed in 1959. That March the Reverend Clayton Reed and his wife Marjorie moved into the church home. When the congregation decided to develop its land to the west of the meetinghouse a fourth parsonage was the first building built. Dr. and Mrs. William E. Boylan and their four children moved into the new parsonage in 1983.
The Area (click here)