Beacon Street Diary

October 20, 2014

Our reading room will be closed to researchers this Wednesday, October 22nd, from 9-11am for a video shoot.

Staff will be in the office to answer questions by phone and email, and all of our online resources will still be available as usual. If you do wish to visit in person during those hours, please contact us in advance so that we may make accommodations for you elsewhere in the library.

October 16, 2014

If you enjoyed last year's Mather Redux symposium (or wished you could have attended), we have good news for you. One of the featured presenters from that event will be speaking at Eastern Nazarene College in Quincy next Friday evening as part of their Boston Semester program.

Cotton Mather: The First American Evangelical

Dr. Rick Kennedy, Professor of History at Point Loma Nazarene University, will give a lecture entitled "Cotton Mather: The First American Evangelical" on Friday, October 24 at 7:00pm in Munro Parlor.

(click on the poster image to enlarge)


This lecture shares a title with Kennedy's forthcoming biography of Mather (Eerdmans, 2015):

Cotton Mather (1663-1728) was America's most famous pastor and scholar at the beginning of the eighteenth century. People today generally associate him with the infamous Salem witch trials, but that picture has mostly come down to us from one unreliable, antagonistic source.

This biography by Rick Kennedy, based largely on new research by an international team of scholars, corrects misconceptions of Cotton Mather and focuses on the way he tried to promote, socially and intellectually, a biblical lifestyle. As older Puritan hopes in New England were giving way to a broader and shallower Protestantism, Mather led a populist, Bible-oriented movement that embraced the new century — the beginning of a dynamic evangelical tradition that eventually became a major force in American culture.

Prof. Kennedy is a passionate speaker, and his talk is sure to be a good time.

October 14, 2014

There is still time to register for tomorrow's free lunctime discussion.

Why the Stories of the Past are More Important Than Ever: A Conversation with Peggy Bendroth

At the Congregational Library and Archives we believe that "history matters" — but what does that really mean in practice? What does it mean to have a sense of history?

Join Peggy Bendroth, the library's Executive Director and author of The Spiritual Practice of Remembering, in a conversation about the past and its importance for people today. Making meaningful connections with people, ideas, and events of long ago can be rewarding but also deeply confusing. Our ancestors are sometimes so familiar and at other times utterly and completely different from us. We want to celebrate their achievements, but we also know where they have come up short. In this noontime presentation and discussion we will think together about ways we can relate to the past, focusing especially on the Congregational tradition and its spiritual heritage.


Wednesday, October 15th
noon - 1pm

Register through SurveyMonkey.

October 10, 2014

The Congregational Library & Archives will be closed this coming Monday, October 13th, in observance of Columbus Day.

All of our online resources will be available as usual. If you have a question you'd like to ask the staff, send an us email or leave a voicemail, and we'll get back to you when we return on Tuesday.

We hope you have a safe and happy holiday weekend.


October 8, 2014

The new school season has started and you can tell in our reading room visits. On one day last week we had:
  • a new intern from the Simmons library school diving in and assisting Sari Mauro with the behind the scenes work with Hidden Histories
  • a visitor from the Doshisha school in Japan delving into the history of the school
  • a scholar from California researching American Puritanism
  • a new member who lives in Greater Boston who joined so he could check out books about the Civil Rights movement. (When I asked how he heard about us and what prompted him to join, he said that while he was at a protest about the recent violence in Missouri, he was encouraged to learn more about the history of civil rights and directed to our library, which was just around the corner.)
  • a regular patron who has been studying here for decades stopped in again today to do research on his sermon

Having a busy reading room is always invigorating for me. It's exciting to see a broad range of topics researched by an equally diverse group of people; our relevance is not static.

As always, if you have a topic you've been meaning to start researching, we can help you... whether you live in Kyoto, Japan; Claremont, California; or Allston, Massachusetts.



photograph of students at Hamline University via Wikimedia Commons

October 6, 2014

Our recently published New England's Hidden Histories collection from the First Congregational Church in Haverhill includes the relations (personal conversion narratives) from Hannah Duston and several members of her family.

The story of Hannah Emerson Duston (or Dustin) is a fascinating one. She, her infant daughter, and her nurse were taken captive during the 1697 Raid on Haverhill by a group of Abenaki Native Americans from what is now Quebec. Hannah made a violent escape along with the nurse and a teenaged boy, and returned home to much acclaim. Her tale became quite famous over the next few centuries as it was retold by the likes of Cotton Mather, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau.

Now her tale has inspired a new generation. The Boston Playwrights' Theatre at Boston University is currently running a play entitled Reconsidering Hanna(h), based in part on Mrs. Duston's life.

Reconsidering Hanna(h)
By Deirdre Girard. Directed by Bridget Kathleen O'Leary.

September 25-October 19

Hanna, a brutally blunt international journalist, is struggling to come to terms with her husband's violent death. After accepting a seemingly tame assignment, she becomes increasingly obsessed with uncovering the history of another Hannah: the infamous Hannah Dustin who was kidnapped by a Native American raiding party in 1697. Soon the stories of the two Hanna(h)s begin to merge into a single portrait of a smart woman, torn from the only world she knows, who crosses the line between civilization and her own wilderness.

If you or someone you know has the chance to attend a performance in the next two weeks, we encourage you to do so. Let us know what you think.

October 2, 2014

We have a mystery — and you can help us solve it! Yesterday we published three new collections in our New England's Hidden Histories (NEHH) program. One of those collections is a sermon, by an unknown author, which appears to have been composed shortly after the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770.

top portion of the first page of the Boston Massacre sermon

Now, I love a good mystery, but unfortunately we don't have the time, as staff, to track this one down. If you would like to help us by turning amateur history sleuth, I have compiled the following list of clues:

Here's what we know:

  • The sermon is unsigned.
  • Contextual information as to the date of composition exists in a note at the end of the sermon, but the note is undated, and the handwriting is different.
  • However, a reference to "the horrors of that fatal night" and other context clues indicate that it is, indeed, about the Massacre.
  • The manuscript is clearly a composed and carefully edited sermon, as opposed to notes created for preaching, or notes taken down by a second party while the sermon we being delivered.
  • The author is very fond of thorns (using y for the "th" sound).
  • The sermon was not composed by John Lathrop of Second Church in Boston.

Here's what we suspect, but don't know for sure:

  • The sermon was probably preached by someone in Boston.
  • While the sermon references Psalms 85:6, it is not an exegetical sermon — that is, at no point after the initial copying out of the verse does the sermon reference scripture. This means it was most likely not preached on a Sunday, but was more likely preached at a special event. It may have been an election sermon.

You can send any discoveries to us via Facebook, Twitter, email (, or phone (617-523-0470 x225), and keep an eye on this blog for updates!


October 1, 2014

I am very pleased to announce the availability of three new New England's Hidden Histories collections. These three collections total 703 pages, bringing our total online page count to over 16,880. Read on to learn more about each collection, and then head over and check them out for yourself!


Salem, Mass. South Church

South Church was founded by persons separating from Tabernacle Church, also in Salem. Originally called Third Church, it was renamed in 1805 when the Proprietors of the New South Meeting House were incorporated. In 1924 the church re-merged with Tabernacle. The records found in this collection contains meeting minutes from the time of founding to shortly before the incorporation of the Proprietors. You will also find records on pew taxes and pew assignments. Keep an eye out for the publication of Tabernacle Church in Salem in December.

relation of Abigail Clement, 1730,
from the Haverhill, Mass. First Congregational Church collection


Haverhill, Mass. First Congregational Church

The portion of digitized records the First Congregational Church in Haverhill collection cover the years 1719-1756. These records include three booklets with accounting or salary information, including one booklet detailing the presents Rev. Edward Bernard received while pastor, loose records of disciplinary cases, and loose personal records. The personal records contain mostly relations, but confessions, admissions, and transfers can also be found. These records are part of a much larger collection of First Congregational Church records. You can learn more about the other items in this collection by viewing the finding aid.


Unknown Author. Boston Massacre Sermon

This collection, published in Series II of the NEHH program is an unsigned sermon that appears to have been preached shortly after the events of March 5, 1770, now known as the Boston Massacre. The 24 page sermon discusses the lead-up to the Massacre, the author's opinion on the root causes, and his prescription for change. You can read the sermon online today, and keep an eye on our blog for a post specifically on this sermon tomorrow.



September 16, 2014

According to the good people at, today is Anne Bradstreet Appreciation Day. No idea who Anne Bradstreet is or why she should be appreciated? You've come to the right place!

Anne Bradstreet was a poet – in fact, she was the first female New World poet to be widely recognized, both in New England and in Britain. Her first poetry, partially titled The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America was published in London in 1650 and was deemed, eight years later, to be one of the most "vendible" books in England.

Anne was born Anne Dudley in England in 1612. Her father, Thomas Dudley, allowed Anne to be tutored in all manners of subjects, including history, literature, Greek, Latin, and French. She married her husband, Simon Bradstreet, at the age of 16, and some two years later the entire family, including Anne and her father, set sail with John Winthrop on the Arbella, bound for the New World.

Anne was not happy with the difficult life she found in Massachusetts Bay Colony – it differed greatly from her comfortable life in England – but resigned herself to the situation. Between 1633 and 1652 she and Simon had eight children. Charged with caring for the various domestic responsibilities of the house, Anne still found time to write poetry, and it is for this that she is most remembered.

Anne's poetry, though sometimes imitative, expresses important themes including her struggles with her faith and her depictions of what life was like for a woman of her position and location. It offers important insight into the time and place, as well as insight into Anne herself.

We have several resources by and about Anne Bradstreet in our collection.

You can read more about Anne and her poetry over at the Poetry Foundation.



engraving of Anne Bradstreet via Wikimedia Commons

September 12, 2014

Our Reading Room will be closed to the public on Thursday, September 18th for a private event.

All of our online resources will still be available as usual, and staff will be in the office to answer questions by phone and email.