Second Church (North Square)

Old North Church
The Old North Meeting House, which was the location of Boston’s Second Congregation. (Image courtesy of Boston Public Library)

In 1778, Phillis Wheatley married John Peter’s at the Boston’s Second Congregation, where Phillis was a member. Boston’s Second Congregation was located in the Old North Meeting House in Boston’s North Square. The church was founded in 1649 under the name of Society of the Second Church in Boston, which changed in 1786 when it became Second Church in Boston. Originally, the building was referred to as the Old North Meeting House. John Lathrop, who was married to John and Susanna Wheatley’s daughter, Mary, became minister of the Church in 1768 and continued until his death in 1816.

After the British occupation of Boston 1776, most of which Phillis had spent in Providence, Rhode Island with John and Mary Lathrop, she decided to return to Boston. Upon their return, Phillis Wheatley continued as a member of Rev. Lathrop’s congregation at Boston’s Second Congregation. They returned only to find that the Old North Meeting House had been burned down by British soldiers occupying the town. The destruction is described by Chandler Robins, who wrote The History of the Second Church, or Old North, in Boston, “those son’s of violence, with wicked hands, razed it to the foundation.” After the destruction of Old North Meeting House, Boston’s Second Church Congregation accepted an invitation from Rev. Ebanezer Pemberton to merge with the New Brick Church on Hanover Street. On the 26th of November 1778, Phillis Wheatley and John Peters were wed by Rev. Lathrop, at Boston’s Second Church. After the Revolutionary War, Boston was a challenging place to live in, especially for free blacks like Phillis and John Peters. Phillis Wheatley was never able to get more of her poetry published again in her lifetime. In 1784, her life came to an end when she passed away on December 5, at the age of 30. She was buried in an unmarked grave along with her infant son.


“COLLECTION GUIDES,” Second Church (Boston, Mass.) Records, 1650-1970, Accessed April 05, 2016.

Robbins, Chandler. A History of the Second Church, or Old North to Which Is Added a History of the New Brick Church. Boston: Published by a Committee of the Society, 1852.


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