Founders of the Massachusetts Bible Society - 1809

The Massachusetts Bible Society began on July 6, 1809 and is an ecumenical, Christian organization dedicated to promoting Biblical literacy, understanding, and dialogue. This blog lists brief biographies of our founders who gathered in the Massachusetts State House Senate Chamber on that historic day to sign the Charter founding MBS. Please visit our website:

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Mr. John Bartlett

Born in Concord, Mass. on May 22, 1784, John Bartlett was the fourth in a family of twelve children. The Annals of the American Unitarian Pulpit relate the following incident from his childhood: It is related of him that he was sent to school wearing a pair of new shoes, but that he went home without them, and, on being questioned in regard to the matter, he said that he had given them to a poor boy whom he met in the street.

His family sent him to Maine to learn mercantile pursuits, but John Bartlett was more inclined to scholarship and so he returned to Massachusetts to prepare for college. He graduated from Harvard in 1805, remaining there for two additional years to study theology.

He was offered the Chaplaincy of the Boston Almshouse, so increasing its ministry that it became virtually the first ministry at large in Boston. He studied medicine so that he could better determine how to alleviate the suffering of those he encountered, which led him to realize the needs of those suffering from mental illness. This led to the establishment of the McLean Insane Hospital at Somerville.

It was during his time at the Boston Almshouse that he became a founder of the Massachusetts Bible Society, which is why he is listed in the records only as Mr. John Bartlett instead of Rev. But after study with MBS member William Ellery Channing, he accepted a call to become the Pastor of the Second Congregational Church in Marblehead and became the Rev. John Bartlett on May 22, 1811. He served in that capacity for 38 years and died on Feb. 23, 1849.

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