New England Methodist Historical Society

The New England Methodist Historical Society had its first tentative beginnings in 1859, but suspended work during the Civil War. There was a re-birth of interest in the early 1870’s, and full incorporation in 1881. It established a library for the study of Methodism, as well as collecting artifacts from the history of Methodism in New England. Scholars in the Boston area contributed to the library, and historians solicited memoirs from senior Conference members. In addition, a collection of Wesley works and autograph letters was created from various donations.

Members were active in the Association of Methodist Historical Societies from the 1920s onward. When the Book of Discipline required the local conference to preserve their historical materials, the historical society, having already performed that function, became the de facto historical repository for the New England Conference and later the Southern New England Conference..

Membership decreased over the years, and the collection was moved from the Wesleyan Building in Copley Square to the Boston University School of Theology’s new building at 745 Commonwealth Avenue in the early 1950’s. Even before the merger in 1993 of the Maine, New Hampshire, and Southern New England Conferences to form the New England Conference, the role of the historical society and the responsibility of the conference Commission on Archives and History were often in conflict. After much deliberation, the now re-named and re-incorporated New England United Methodist Historical Society voted in 1996 to disperse its collections.

All materials dealing with the Methodist church in New England, including conference journals and records, church records, records of organizations and social groups, books and papers, were tranferred to the New England Conference Commission on Archives and History. Included are manuscript letters and memoirs collected by the Historical Society and books by or about New England Methodism. General histories of the Methodist Episcopal Church recording the evangelization of New England, and national-level publications, such as General Conference materials, the Book of Discipline, and the General Minutes were also transferred to the Commission. All other published materials dealing with Methodism or other topics were transferred to Boston University School of Theology Library, including the Society’s collection of 18th and 19th century publications by or about John and Charles Wesley.

The Historical Society’s artifacts collection is on display at the New England Conference Offices in Lawrence, Massachusetts.