Beacon Street Blog

July 4, 2010

On June 26, 2010 Rev. Richard H. Taylor gave the above titled lecture at the United Church of Christ in Cornwall, Congregational. The lecture covers the early history of the mission schools and the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Rev. Taylor is a Board member of the American Congregational Association and author of books on New England Congregational history.

Rev. Taylor has provided the Library with a copy of his paper. If you are interested in reading it, please contact us. We may make it available on our website.


July 3, 2010

[]This book by T. Adams Upchurch once again asks the question that continually haunts this country and it's political past, present, and future. Upchurch uses a review of the historical literature including the U.S. Constitution and the Treaty of Tripoli to reach his conclusion. But the question will continue to be asked.

Check this book out to find Upchurch's definitive answer.



July 2, 2010

This particular portrait, below, in the Congregational Library's image collection was initially a mystery. The engraving had a reproduction signature at the bottom: "Yours, Dunn Browne." Portrait research usually begins by searching the Necrology database and the Congregational Library catalogue. After these searches held no results, I entered the name into Google, which linked the name Dunn Browne with Samuel Wheelock Fiske (1828-1864), a Congregationalist minister, writer, and, later, soldier. Dunn Browne was Fiske's pen name, used when he wrote to the Springfield Republican during his tours of Europe and during his service with the 14th Connecticut Regiment during the U.S. Civil War. What is remarkable is that Fiske enlisted as a Private when the 14th Connecticut was formed in 1862, eventually rising to the rank of Captain. When asked to act as Chaplain for the regiment, Fiske declined, because, as the Congregational Quarterly argues in January 1866, of the soldiers who enlisted because Fiske would be in their company (Congregational Quarterly Jan. 1866, p6). Although Fiske was not a Chaplain, he does not forget his religious convictions. He wrote, as Browne, on the religious life in camp, remarking that "soldiers' prayers are short, and often interrupted ; but the Lord has a place for them, an ear to listen to them, a strong right hand to work in answering them" (Ibid., 7). As the war progressed, Fiske continued writing to The Springfield Republican, providing a vivid description of life as a Union soldier. Fiske died in Fredericksburg after the Battle of the Wilderness in 1864.


For more information on Samuel Wheelock Fiske, please view the article about him in the Congregational Quarterly or read Janice Ferraro Pruchnicki's Divine Soldier: A Biography of Samuel Wheelock Fiske : From Pastor to Civil War Soldier (1999; call number F54.29P) from the Congregational Library's collections.


July 1, 2010

On Tuesday, July 6, the Facade Repair Project will begin at 14 Beacon Street. The project consists of maintenance, repair and restoration work of the facade and portions of the east and north building elevations. Over the course of the next couple of months, general masonry work including the repair of damaged/spalled brick and repointing joints, cracks and maintenance of other areas along the facade and side elevations will be completed. The project may include the repair and painting of select windows.


June 30, 2010

Many of our local scholars have participated in Peggy Bendroth's three-week seminar on Congregational history, Growing Deeper Roots. But even more of you live far away and can't attend in person. So now we've created an online version for our members, along with timelines and recommended reading. There is a preview video on our YouTube channel, and the first part is available now, with two more coming over the Summer.

If you have a member account already, sign in and start learning. If you are a member of the library, but don't have an account yet, email the webmistress to set one up. And if you're not a member yet, please consider becoming one.


June 29, 2010


Are you interested in Maine History? Of course you are. The project is described as:

Maine History Online tells the stories of Maine and its people through essays, exhibits, historical images, documents, and objects drawn from Maine Memory Network and its more than 200 contributing organizations across the state.

Visit the site.

This site inspired us to add all the New England historical societies to our Useful Links page.


June 28, 2010

On Saturday I presented a session on the resources at the Congregational Library to members of the MGC at Bentley University. The session was attended by over 25 attendees. I focused on our many digital and online resources as well as what is available in the library and archives. I used both our new "Welcome to the Library" video and the short "how to" necrology video. I was also able to provide live demos after my slide presentation. The members asked many questions about our holdings and how to search for family members. Several also asked about Congregationalism and the governance of Congregational churches. A few people told me that they had walked by 14 Beacon St. frequently but had not been aware of us and our resources.

Other presenters for the sessions were from the National Archives and the New England Historic Genealogical Society.

I told the organizers that we would welcome an invitation to do this again next year.


June 23, 2010

A Christian seminary in Massachusetts and a Universalist seminary in Chicago have agreed to work together to form a new "interreligious theological university" -- and to invite other seminaries to join them. The announcement was made jointly by Andover Newton Theological School, a seminary near Boston that is affiliated with the United Church of Christ and the American Baptist Churches USA, and Meadville Lombard Theological School (affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations). The seminaries said they would create a new institution a year from now on the Andover Newton campus. They said they would seek to involve other partners in a "design that allows participating schools to keep their historic names and sustain distinct faith traditions while gaining significant financial and administrative advantage through a single corporate infrastructure." The seminaries' announcement follows news this month that Claremont School of Theology would add training for Muslims and Jews to its Christian teaching, and a round of mergers, often driven by financial problems, for many seminaries.


June 23, 2010

Two primary reasons for attending the ATLA conference this year were my presentation of a poster session, "Accessing Church Records - A Digital Project", which highlighted our first set of records that are accessible through the Jonathan Edwards Center and my discussion of Facebook on the panel, Free Online Technology Showcase. The other panelist topics for the Free Online Technology were Twitter, Blogger, Jing, and Zotero. Both sessions were very popular and well received by conference attendees. I had the opportunity to speak with many attendees about our digital program and the church records project.

The Plenary session on Thursday morning was a speech by Dr. Barbara Tillett on "Describing and Accessing Resources — Where are we headed?" Dr. Tillett explained the new RDA – Resource Description & Access which is the replacement for AACR2 created for the web environment. Many abbreviations and Latin phrases are eliminated.

Cataloging will become easier. Related works will be grouped together. Registry and authority records will be linked and "cloud" computing will be used.

Another session by Matt Ostercamp was a demonstration: "Create a Website Using Drupal". This was useful for me since I have not been directly involved and was a good overview of how a librarian with little programming background can create a website. He explained the concepts of nodes and views as opposed to pages. He highly recommended the online tutorials. He has both Twitter and YouTube buttons on the website and takes Twitter feeds and rotates them on the website.

These are just a few sessions that I wanted to share.


June 22, 2010

There are many ways that churches, libraries, archives, and other institutions work to preserve their records. Many of these records will begin to deteriorate naturally over time. At the Congregational Library, we seek to slow down the deterioration of these records as best we can. Although, as a collective, the staff has years of training, experience, and a wealth of knowledge to aid in the preservation of material at the library, we cannot do everything. This is why we need your help in preserving records important to local and church histories. Please look at the following photographs, taken during archival processing:



The first photograph is of a wad of bills dating from the early twentieth century. Please note two things. Firstly, the bills are bound together using a safety pin. Secondly, and harder to notice in this photograph, paper has been discolored by acidic material.

The second photograph is of minutes recorded on the back of children's menus from a restaurant. While the damage is not as overt, it is clear that the paper is acidic, due to the quality and age of the paper.

This damage is avoidable. You can help prevent the acid damage by housing important records in acid-free or buffered (alkaline) folders and boxes in order to prevent the acid from migrating to other records. The acid, if unchecked, will lead to paper material falling apart. The acid is not the only threat to the physical stability of the material. The safety pin caused the paper to tear, meaning it is more likely to tear with future access and use. This can be prevented by storing the material in sturdy enclosures that provide stability for the items.

It is within Everyman's hands to aid in the preservation of the records important to you, and to the local and church histories. The key is to minimize the risks to the important records through proactive measures. You can help us preserve these materials by thinking about how your records are stored.

Please consult the following resources for more information:

Caring For Your Collections (Preservation, Library of Congress)

NEDCC resources (Northeast Document Conservation Center)

Records Management for Local Churches booklet [PDF format] (Congregational Library)


[editor's note: this is our 400th blog entry!]

June 21, 2010

As mentioned a few posts ago, the social network group for solo archivists is changing homes. What I did not do in that previous post was give the details for the new site.

We have set up shop with a service called Big Tent. Members will have to set up a general account and wait to get clearance from the administrator to join (me). This latter is very important as inevitably there will be spammers. For what it's worth, most spammers are relatively easy to pick out: they have an unidentifiable email address, rarely add any information to a profile, nor do they give a complete name.

Once in, the Big Tent version of the Lone Arrangers has a lot in common with Ning: private email to other members, sub-groups, forums, news. What I particularly like that's new:

  • Classifieds section: I see it as a perfect place to put up job ads. It's also rather common to have too many folders or boxes in a size you don't need, but maybe someone else does. You can sell, give away, or trade.
  • Files: PDFs and similar documents can be uploaded: this will be a great place to put templates for policies and procedures
  • Events: If you are involved in an activity and want to publicize it, there's a calendar.

Join today!


June 18, 2010

This week I've spent a lot of time cataloging three volumes of articles from The Congregationalist newspapers. These collections -- Household Reading, Good Things, and Worth Keeping -- contain the best articles from more than 30 years of publication as selected by the papers' editors at the time.

Because so many of the articles were written by prominent Congregationalists like Henry Martyn Dexter, Increase Tarbox, Enoch Pond, Washington Gladden, Edwards Park, Alonzo Quint, and Edward Beecher, I've created individual catalog records for them. They can now be found by searching our catalog for individual authors, or by clicking on the "View analytics" link in the records for the books.

At the end of Household Reading, there is a brief history of the various newspapers that became The Congregationalist and Boston Recorder up to 1868. It's so dense and complex that the only way to do it justice was to transcribe it in its entirety and put it on our website.

Long before I discovered this synopsis, it was that convoluted history which first led me to start creating "title maps" for the periodicals in our collection -- in this case, one that includes several incarnations of the Congregationalist, the Advance, and the Herald of Gospel Liberty among many others -- in order to keep them straight while adding them to our online catalog.  The maps became so useful to us at the library that we decided to add them to the records of all the periodicals whose titles changed more than once so our patrons can use them too. If you're doing research and come across one, it might help clarify which periodical you're looking at.  (Particularly if you're actually looking for one of the many things called "The Congregationalist". There are about a dozen of them.)



UPDATE: Thanks to eagle-eyed reader Debra, there are now links to full text digital copies of both Household Reading and Worth Keeping in their respective catalog records.

June 16, 2010

I will be at the ATLA conference in Louisville this week. At this conference, I'm a panelist on a session called "Free Online Technology Showcase". The librarians on the panel will be speaking about using various online tools in their internal and external library work with faculty and students, in teaching and with various outreach projects. I'll be presenting on starting a Facebook page and our use of Facebook including sharing through our blog and Twitter.

I'm also preparing a poster for the Poster Session on Thursday. My project will highlight our digital project for accessing 17th & 18th century church records in partnership with the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale. I hope to have online access to the Natick records. My title is "Access Church Records: a Digital Project". Jess and Robin have been assisting me with screenshots and photos for the poster.

I'm looking forward to returning to the Library with new ideas.


June 15, 2010

We have a new video on our YouTube channel:


June 14, 2010

While I was working on a multi-media project for the library, I was reminded that a lot of people do not know that the Internet Archive has music available, particularly tracks released under a Creative Commons attribution. There are two sections on the front page of the site -- Live Music and Audio. I spent part of my morning using the advanced search to help me narrow down to instrumental, classical, and creative commons. I left it there, though, so on some occasions I ended up finding classical heavy metal, which was not going to work out.

The next time you are working on a project you want to share with music not under standard copyright controls, visit the Internet Archive.


June 11, 2010

Archivist who work alone -- lone arrangers -- are a common occurrence. They can be found in universities, hospitals, historical societies, public libraries, you name it. Until very recently, I considered myself to be among this rank and I spent a lot of time trying to find ways to break through the isolation and loneliness that are inevitable with solo work.

One of the results from my networking missions was a community hosted by Ning, the group aptly named Lone Arrangers. It's a very quiet group more interested in reading than writing (one of the stereotypes that come from a kernel of truth), but it has provided a reliable site to participate in forums, blog posts, photo sharing, and special interest groups. Members can review who is in their area and email anyone who is also a member.

Starting in July, Ning is discontinuing free accounts. Staying means requiring the members to help pay, requesting affiliation and support from an existing group, or inevitably paying for it myself. There are options other than Ning and Facebook. When I started out in 2007, there were fewer options and no obvious assembled community, so I made do with Ning. Now with the help of a few people, I have been exploring sites that offer similar features and no monthly fees.

It's sad to have to start over, but there are definite benefits, such as having the choice of where to go, site arrangement, and group involvement. We have three more weeks to smooth things out and make sure new members aren't walking into a 100% blank slate. When it's ready, I will officially announce the new home. In the meantime, I'm checking to see how breakable it is.


June 10, 2010

Attention scholars! If you're doing research on the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, you might want to consider submitting a paper to the bicentennial conference that we will be hosting this September in association with Bentley University and the Boston Theological Institute.

For details and contact information, please see our Program & Workshop schedule.


Beginning in September, we will also be hosting a year-long exhibit about the history of the American Board in the library's conference room to commemorate its history, missionaries, schools, and converts. More details will be revealed as opening day approaches. If you're in the area anytime during its run, please come have a look.

June 8, 2010

Adolf Augustus Berle (1866-1960) was a Congregational Minister from the late nineteenth century into the twentieth century. He was ordained in New Richmond, Wisconsin, after receiving theological training at the Oberlin Graduate School of Theology. He then served as pastor at five different churches across the United States. The portraits, below, would have been taken in the early years of his career.


No date is recorded on the portraits. The printers' notes offer clues to dating the photographs. The printers' notes provide the locations of the companies that created the prints. The first, Fanning, was located on Cambridge Street in Allston. The second, Hastings, was located on Tremont Street in Boston. The only time when Berle lived in Boston during his twenties was when he was pastor at the Brighton Church in Boston, between 1890 and 1903. Furthermore, Berle's later service in the Boston area was at the Crombie Street Church (Salem, Mass.) from 1904 to 1908, and at the Shawmut Church (Boston, Mass.), 1908 to 1911, when he was middle-aged. Based on this evidence, it is reasonable to believe that the portraits were printed in the 1890s.


June 7, 2010

[]Missionaries in Hawai'i: The Lives of Peter and Fanny Gulick, 1797-1883 by Clifford Putney, assistant professor of history at Bentley University in Waltham, MA. This is a biography of the Gulicks, a Congregationalist missionary couple, who went to Hawaii in 1828 and lived and proselytized there for the next 46 years.

From the book jacket: "In this biography of pioneer missionaries Peter and Fanny Gulick, Clifford Putney offers a balanced view of their contributions. He says the nationalists are right to credit the missionaries with drawing Hawai'i into America's political orbit, but argues that the missionary enterprise help in some ways to preserve key elements of Hawaiian culture."

Now available in the library.


June 4, 2010

Hello, I'm Margaret Myers, and I'm a Simmons library & information science grad student, volunteering at the CL to look over the Bradford church records and create metadata about them.

The records I have been reading most recently involve the Church Meeting Minutes from around 1824 to 1901. Usually, the term of a pastor ends at his death or ill health. Prior to the 1830s, Bradford's pastors had terms from 15 to 46 years (with an average of 28.4 years) and only one of those was dismissed – the rest passed away. Starting in 1824, there is a series of three ministers in 10 years, all of them dismissed. Reverend Ira Ingraham from December 1824 to April 1830, dismissed due to some opposition with the parish; Reverend Loammi Ives Hoady from October 1830 to January 1833, dismissed due to poor health; and Reverend Moses C. Searle from January 1833 to March 1835, also dismissed due to poor health. Another pastor is not installed until February of 1836, nearly a year later, though the church finds three pastors that either have teaching duties or are not willing to be candidates at that time. However, the church clerk, Jesse Kimball, continues recording the proceedings of the church in the interim and a couple of ongoing disciplinary cases are discussed. The congregation also commissions a new meetinghouse. In the end, Reverend Mr. Nathan Munroe, who apparently had "supplied the desk for several Sabbaths to the general acceptance of the Parish, and edification of the church, ... it was voted unanimously that an invitation be extended to Mr. Munroe to become our pastor." The parish clearly gives a great deal of consideration to the pastors that it chooses, and is willing to make a change if the pastor does not fit with the congregation, such as in the case of Reverend Ingraham.

The most interesting change of pastor is with the dismission of Rev. Ingraham, which appears to be at his request due to some ongoing issue with the parish. An Ecclesiastical Council is convened, and voted to dismiss Rev Ingraham, stating "The Council deeply lament that the state of things in this Parish is such as to render it expedient for them to come to this result." Jesse Kimball, clerk, notes that the church resolved "That we have ever regarded him as a faithful ambassador for Christ and notwithstanding the opposition that his ministry has received, which renders the dissolution of the connexion expedient, our confidence in him as such remains unimpaired." Additionally, they hope that Rev. Ingraham has "continued and more extended usefulness and happiness" elsewhere. No explanation is given for the opposition or issues surrounding this decision.

Reverend Hoadly is found relatively quickly, but he leaves the parish due to his poor health. Rev. Mr Searle is installed the same day that Rev. Hoadly is dismissed, despite some objections from members of the church, which are not recorded. These are resolved since the expediency of having a new pastor is important. However, Reverand Searle's health requires him to move to a warmer climate and he also leaves the church.

A List of Pastors


Click picture to see larger format.

June 3, 2010

Thanks to the newly united Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, we can now offer our patrons in Massachusetts access to over 30 databases of citations and full-text articles from Gale and ProQuest. They cover thousands of journals, magazines, newspapers, and reference books across a wide range of disciplines, so we have listed the ones most likely to be useful to our researchers on our Useful Links page. You can view the full list of available databases by clicking on the link above the bulleted list.

Please note: These subscriptions use geolocation verification, so you can only use them if you are in Massachusetts.


June 2, 2010

Advanced notice of an upcoming conference for historians and genealogists: I will be presenting a program from 10:00AM-11:00AM about the unique church records held by the Library. I will provide information on accessing information both onsite and digitally. Other repositories presenting are the National Archives and Records Administration at Waltham, the Massachusetts Historical Society, and the New England Historic Genealogical Society.

More information may be found on the website of Massachusetts General Council or by contacting


June 1, 2010

[]Lillian Daniel, senior minister of First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, in Glen Ellyn, IL and Martin B. Coperhaver, senior pastor of Wellesley Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, in Wellesley, MA have written this book of essays on the everyday actions and thoughts of active ministers.

This book has a 5 star rating on Comments from reviewers include that this book is both serious and funny and truly speaks to "what it's like to be a minister."

Now available in the library.


May 31, 2010

Tuesday, June 15: Records Management and Preservation for Churches Workshop

What papers and files should a church keep for posterity? How can you help them last? What should you get rid of? And how can you make sure that those rules are maintained even when the staff changes?

Archivist Jessica Steytler covers basic archival arrangement, writing and maintaining records management policies, preservation, and digital issues. Participants will have the opportunity to participate in a dialog with other record keepers and the presenter. Resource materials are included and light refreshments will be served.

Join us at the First Church in Cambridge, 11 Garden Street, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Program fee: $20. Advance registration is required by June 14. Contact Susan Thomas.

Learn more about the Congregational Library & Archive's programs, events, and workshops on our website.

May 28, 2010

We shot a few minutes of video from the brown bag lunch this past Wednesday. Check it out:


May 27, 2010

Yesterday Linda Palmer portrayed Ann Vassall, wife of William Vassall of the Massachusetts Bay colony. A large group attended the performance in the Pratt Room. The PowerPoint lecture that followed is based on the research Linda has done on the era and the Pilgrims and Puritans. A lively question and answer period followed.

If you wish to contact Linda, she may be emailed at or learn more about upcoming events at


May 26, 2010

We've added quite a lot of content to our website over the past year. In fact, there's so much now that it was getting hard to find things. For the last month, I've been hard at work behind the scenes redesigning our Digital Resources section. We hope that you'll find it easier to navigate and more pleasant to look at than the old list of links.

Please go take a look around. (And if you find any broken links, please let me know.)


May 25, 2010

On Monday, May 17, 2010, I began work as the Archives Assistant here at the Congregational Library. I am entering my final year as a MS/MA candidate in the Archives/History dual-degree program at Simmons College. While I moved to Boston for this program, I gained a taste for archival work at the Baltimore Museum of Industry, where I worked for several years. Once in Boston, I gained experience through internships at the Massachusetts Historical Society and at the Congregational Library.

My primary role at the Congregational Library will be to continue the image collection cataloging project on which my predecessor, Sam Smallidge, worked so hard. In addition to working with the image collection, I will continue work on the object cataloging project, which I began during Fall term, 2009. Further work will include finishing the development of a database for an Index to the Library Bulletin. The Index will be interactive, much like the Necrology Index. Further work will include processing archival collections, like the Cranston, R.I., church records, and other work as needed.

Since beginning at the library last week, I have begun to get my hands dirty. The majority of the time, thus far, has been spent processing the Cranston church records. Within this collection, I have come across a few gems. The records, from what I’ve seen so far, date back to the early twentieth century, spanning the World Wars. Among the letters from this period is a letter from PFC Studley to the Knightsville Church in Cranston, his home church. What is curious about the letter is not the content, but the format of the letter. The letter sent to Cranston was a copy. V-Mail letters from the soldiers were microfilmed for transport and then reprinted near the destination so as not to clog up the shipping chains with bulky manuscript letters.



This is but a small glimpse into the work I will be doing at the Congregational Library. I look forward to learning more from the staff while using the skills I am learning at Simmons College to benefit the library. Please look forward to more blog posts from me over the next year as I seek to make the knowledge at the Congregational Library more accessible.


May 24, 2010

Our assistant archivist, Sam Smallidge, is now off on his own and hoping for full time work with his brand new library and history degrees. Before he left, Sam wrote up this brief guide on how to optimize searching for images in our online catalog

  • To search for images in the catalog there are several keyword phrases to know Each keyword search creates a different number of results.
  • The entire collection of images can be accessed by searching: Image Collection.
  • From there the collection is divided into two categories: People and Places.
  • Use the term "Image Collection - People" to view all the images of people in the collection. Use the term "Image Collection - Places" to view all the images of places including churches and meeting houses.
  • For more specific images of people you can search for "Congregationalists - Pictorial works" or "Clergy - Congregational - Pictorial works". Other religions can be searched for using a similar set of keywords. For example, "Unitarians - Pictorial works" will display images of people identified as Unitarian.
  • Searching for images of specific people is more difficult. The best technique is to search for the person's last name plus the word "Image". This will display results featuring the person's last name and in theory only catalog records of images. For example, a search for the term "Griffin Image" returns results for Edward Dorr Griffin and Edward Griffin Porter. However a search for "Beecher Image" returns results for the various Beecher pastors and some printed materials.
  • Searching for places or churches works similarly to searching for people. The best technique is to search for the name of the church plus the word "Image". For example "Brattle Street Church Image" will result in images of the Brattle Street Church but will also result in images of the pastors that served there.
  • In the end the best way to filter out printed materials from image materials is to use the word "Image" in the search.


Tomorrow, our new assistant, Abraham Miller will share some thoughts on his first week of work.

May 21, 2010

From our volunteer, Deanna Beattie:

As a metadata volunteer at the Congregational Library I have had the opportunity and great pleasure to review church records from the 1690s in New England. The purpose of this review is to apply specific descriptive terminology (taxonomy) to make the records more searchable. While conducting this work I have come upon some interesting historical details. If you know your New England history you will understand that this is an exciting time period in the church. I have not been disappointed.



"While working with records from Danvers, Massachusetts in 1692 I have found mention of a woman being excommunicated from the church for witchcraft. At this time Danvers was actually Salem Village, the center of the witch hunt. The woman excommunicated was Martha Corey (spelled Kory in the record, but is known as Corey) who was committed to prison for witchcraft in March 1691/2. The record goes on to say that she "was condemned to the Gallows for the same." The excommunication happens the day after she is sentenced to the gallows, September 14, 1692, and is considered a "dreadful sentence." Nathanael Putnam (spelled Putman in the record, but assumed to be Putnam), the Deacon, and the pastor (Samuel Parris) meet with Corey at the Salem Prison where she is being held. A prayer is said and then the sentence is pronounced against her.


Excerpt from the Danvers records

This all takes place at the height of the witch trials in Salem Village. Some of the major players are mentioned in this record. Samuel Parris was the pastor in Salem Village and heavily involved with the trials. Nathanael Putnam comes from the Putnam family, one of the largest families in Salem Village. The Putnam's were known to be feuding with the Porter family. This feud is thought to have fed the flame of accusations. Martha Corey was the wife of Giles Corey, one of the few men accused of being a witch. It was quite a treat to stumble upon such interesting and well-known history in these records. I look forward to what else I may find.


May 20, 2010

"Dissent Ameong the Puritans"

[]Linda Palmer portrays Ann Vassall, an early settler from Essex, England, and wife of William Vassall, one of the original assistants of the Massachusetts Bay Company. She will describe what it’s like to live in the Massachusetts Bay in 1637 and tell a tale of goings-on in town during that turbulent era.

Mrs. Vassall's narrative will be followed by a PowerPoint presentation shattering misperceptions of how Puritans looked and acted and revealing clashes among themselves once they reached the New World.

Congregational Library, 12:00-1:00 p.m. No charge. Bring your lunch and enjoy the show!

May 18, 2010

[]By S. Scott Rohrer. Description from University of North Carolina Press:

"In Wandering Souls, Rohrer examines the migration patterns of eight religious groups and finds that Protestant migrations consisted of two basic types. The most common type involved migrations motivated by religion, economics, and family, in which Puritans, Methodists, Moravians, and others headed to the frontier as individuals in search of religious and social fulfillment. The other type involved groups wanting to escape persecution (such as the Mormons) or to establish communities where they could practice their faith in peace (such as the Inspirationists). Rohrer concludes that the two migration types shared certain traits, despite the great variety of religious beliefs and experiences, and that "secular" values infused the behavior of nearly all Protestant migrants."

Read more about this book at Scott Rohrer on Ancestral Migrations.

Available now in the library.


May 17, 2010

May 26 -- Celebrating Lone Arrangers, "Case Studies from the Field"

Organizations of all sizes rely on their record keepers. Sometimes that job falls to just one person, but being the only member of your department doesn't mean that you have to go it alone. In collaboration with New England Archivists, the Congregational Library is hosting a gathering for lone arrangers to share their stories of triumph and disappointment, present case studies from their institutions, and exchange tips for being effective archivists in lone arranger settings.

Maria Bernier, University Archivist and Special Collections Librarian, Salve Regina University (Newport, RI)

Renee DesRoberts, Reference and Archives Librarian, McArthur Public Library (Biddeford, ME)
Dan McCormack, Town of Burlington Archives (Burlington, MA)

Jessica Steytler, Congregational Library

This event will be held at the Congregational Library, 2:00-4:00 p.m. Advance registration is required. Download or print the registration form.

NEA members: $10, non-members: $15.

If you have any questions, please contact registrar Elizabeth Slomba.

May 13, 2010

The staff all get their fair share of reference questions. There will always be a few puzzlers, but there are some old favorites. For example, the one I had waiting for me this morning that basically goes like this:

"I am looking for Rev. so-and-so, who was at [church] in [state], wrote this book and/or was a part of [foo] group. I was hoping to get more information about him."

While the library does have a significant collection of information, we often do not have that secret treasure trove of personal letters from an individual that will expose his (or her) deepest thoughts and feelings. On a rare occasion, yes, but for most queries, I will hope that the person in question fits the following criteria:

  1. Congregational minister
  2. Died after 1860, but better after 1880.
  3. Ended his (it's usually men, at least until the mid-20th century) career within the denomination

Why these parameters?

  1. It's rare to get records for non-clergy. It's just the nature of records and the parameters of the collecting policy here. Much of the latter has to do with how much (or little) space we have for permanent storage.
  2. We have mentioned the Yearbooks in the past, but it bears repeating. Our primary resource for this kind of question is the Congregational Yearbook. This yearly publication began in 1859 and continues on to this day. They list the obituary -- or necrology as they call it -- for recently deceased ministers. Some decades only a few lines are dedicated for each person, but it is often the only indication of his (or her) career.

    We do have a few resources for people from earlier generations, but overall, there is a huge gap for most of the 19th century -- from about 1810-1870 when the Yearbooks really get started.

    It's also worth mentioning, our favorite resource for foreign missionaries is the Vinton books. One of the great features of Vinton is the descriptions given of the individual sub-stations. If you are interested in seeing if we have an entry for a minister or missionary, our necrology index will say.

  3. It's a fairly common occurrence for a minister to switch denominations before s/he retires. There is a strong connection between Congregationalists and Presbyterians, for example. In order to make it into the Yearbooks, the minister has to die or retire a member of the denomination.

Back to today's question. The person was a minister, did die after the Yearbooks started publication, and as a Congregationalist.

Now that we have so many sermons cataloged, we are sometimes able to provide those as a window into the past, as well.


May 12, 2010

If you're going to be in the Boston area over Memorial Day weekend, you may want to check out this walking tour. People interested in church history and architecture should find it particularly enjoyable.

Boston By Foot presents a Tour of the Month:

Churches of the Back Bay
Sunday, May 30 from 2:00-3:30 pm

While dwarfed by modern high rises, Boston's Back Bay churches hold their own as spiritual sentinels of the city's skyline. Many continue to house Boston's oldest congregations; others, in re-use, serve the city in new and delightful ways. Sites visited include the Arlington Street Church, the oldest in the Back Bay; the Church of the Covenant, whose steeple was proclaimed "absolutely perfect" by Oliver Wendell Holmes; First Lutheran; First Church of Boston; Brattle Square (First Baptist); First Spiritualist; New Old South; and Trinity Church.

Meet at Arlington Street Church, corner of Arlington and Boylston Streets

Nearest T-stop: Green Line, Arlington Station

Admission: $15.00 (BBF Docents and Members: $5.00 with card). Reservations not required.

May 11, 2010

[]We have recently added this book by Steven K. Green to our collection.

From the dust jacket: "Green show that the second disestablishment is the missing link between the Establishment Clause and the modern Supreme Court's church-state decisions."

For more details see the description and reviews from Oxford University Press.


May 10, 2010

I've always thought the last 5% of a processing/archive project takes the longest to get through. My 5% usually involves creating the catalog record, labeling and shelving the boxes, and publishing the guide.

So without further ado, I would like to announce that there are two guides now available on our site.

Children re-enacting nativity scene 1957, Angola

The Max and Elizabeth Welch collection documents the missionary family's work in Angola in the mid-20th century. I have yet to determine exactly what to do with all the lovely digitized images the family migrated from the hundreds of slides, nor do I have a set plan for the audio files, but they do exist. Potential researchers should contact us if you would like to explore that aspect of the collection. Thanks again to former intern, Emily Glinert for making this collection accessible.

The Blake and Goodsell collection traces two missionary families. Fred Field Goodsell and his wife Lou spent many years (starting in 1907) in Turkey. Their daughter, Lynda married Everett Blake and they continued mission work in Turkey in the 1930s. Fred Field Goodsell (FFG) was Vice President of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in his later career. Researchers will find evidence of FFG's years at 14 Beacon Street in the library's collections. Thanks to former Meg Rampton for helping get this collection in shape.

Fred Field Goodsell, missionary to Turkey
Fred Field Goodsell



May 7, 2010

[]For the past two years I have worked as the Assistant Archivist at the Congregational Library. Primarily my job has been to catalog and scan the photographs and other images that make up a small part of the archival collection at the library. Other duties have included doing assisting remote and on-site researchers and working at the circulation desk. Smaller projects I have undertaken have included improving the catalog records of the journals or diaries that are included in the collection.

Through my primary project of cataloging the image collection I have learned more about photography and engraving than I ever expected. I have found databases of Daguerreian photographers ( and explored countless volumes of the digital Google books on engraving searching for possible leads on an engravers identity. I have also learned professional archival standards for cataloging images and adapted them to fit at the Congregational Library with the help of my supervisors.

I have also learned about the rich history of Congregationalism. As a Simmons student doing graduate level work in history, I wrote my thesis on the Park Street Church and the abolitionist movement in Boston. The Congregational Library served as my primary resource for sermons and church records. While most of the books used for my thesis exist elsewhere, the archival materials at the library made it an invaluable resource.

My other job the past two years has been at the Ernest Hemingway Collection at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Both my jobs have provided me with a sense of the possible job opportunities available to me in the field of archival work. My job at the Hemingway Collection was run by the National Archives and gave me a sense of working for a large institution, in a very unique and special collection. The Congregational Library provided the perfect counter balance to the Hemingway Collection. The Congregational Library was a small institution with an immensely interesting collection. Each supervisor and staff member at both my jobs treated me with respected and helped me to become a better archivist.

My replacement at the Congregational Library is Abraham Miller. He will be a great replacement and I am sure will learn as much about the Congregational Library and the Congregational Church as I have. I wish him luck and wherever I work in the future I will always remember my time at the Congregational Library fondly.

- Sam

May 5, 2010

With the help of the Internet Archive, we continue to make progress in our digitization of funeral and memorial sermons of women. These sermons are linked through our catalog, and can be found by performing a subject search of "Funeral sermons women".

Take a look at one of our newest additions: In memoriam. Rebecca Marquand Caverly and her daughter Amy Caverly, lost at sea, May 7, 1875.


May 4, 2010

The title of this book by Tony Williams attracted me the day I walked into Borders and saw it on display. What is the story that Williams claims changed America's destiny, and why is there a chapter in this book titled, "Cotton Mather, You Dog, Damn You!"?

Williams relates the history of the 1721 smallpox epidemic in Boston and the first attempts to have inoculation accepted in Boston. With Mather and Bolyston on one side of the controversy and Franklin and Douglass on the other, no one's reputation will be the same in the end.

There are reviews at

For me it was a fast and instructive read.


May 3, 2010

Linda K. Palmer presents "Dissent Among the Puritans" at the Congregational Library on Wednesday, May 26 at noon:

Meet Ann Vassall, an early settler from Essex, England, and wife of William Vassall, one of the original assistants of the Massachusetts Bay Company. She will welcome you to the Bay after your long voyage across the Atlantic.

Learn what it's like to live in the Massachusetts Bay in 1637. Her tale of goings-on in town might make you wish you had stayed in England or moved to Connecticut or New Hampshire instead.

To be followed by a PowerPoint lecture shattering our misperceptions of how Puritans looked and acted and revealing clashes among themselves once they reached the New World.

Free and open to the public.

April 30, 2010

[]Well, it's official! Peggy's on sabbatical until September 1st. We have promised to keep the place running and not to have any wild parties in her absence. We will miss her, but we are sure she will have a very constructive summer.

Bon voyage!

-CongLib Staff

April 29, 2010

[]Edited by Douglas A. Sweeney and Charles Hambrick-Stowe (who is now a member of our Board of Directors).

Essays originated "in a conference on confessional traditions in American religious history sponsored by the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals (ISAE) at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois, in September, 2005"--P. [vii].

This book is now in our collection and available.

Contents: Introduction: Confessional traditions in America / Charles Hambrick-Stowe -- "Passing through many a hard school and test": confessions, piety, liberty and the Lutheran experience in the United States / Susan Wilds McArver -- Contesting the faith: the internal struggle of American Lutheranism / Mary Todd -- Presbyterian confessional identity and its dilemmas / James H. Moorhead -- Eternally true, variably useful: how confessions worked in some American Reformed churches / James D. Bratt -- After establishment, what? The paradox of the history of the Episcopal Church in America / Robert Bruce Mullin -- Who's got the Spirit in the Episcopal Church? A case study of the "Connecticut Six" / Kathryn Greene-McCreight -- Mennonites and democracy: shaped by war and rumors of war / James C. Juhnke -- Rome in America: transnational allegiances and adjustments / Peter R. D'Agostino -- Tammany Catholicism: the semi-established church in the immigrant city / Christopher Shannon -- Eastern Orthodox Christian Church in North America: continuity and change in the twenty-first century / Frances Kostarelos -- Conclusion: Holding on to the faith? The complexity of American confessionalism / Douglas A. Sweeney.

April 28, 2010

We've been added in a writeup on MySecretBoston. It also will link today as the "secret of the day" from

Check us out on the website: Pilgrims' Progress - A Common-side museum to the New England Puritans.

We're not so secret anymore. If you want a guided tour, please contact me.


April 27, 2010

I'm always glad to see groups form that allow like-minded people to share their passion. I just found out about the Massachusetts Study Network. They describe themselves thusly:

This pilot network connects people who work in the fields of Massachusetts history, culture and environment, past and present. Discussions, special interest groups, live chats, photo sharing and more. Please join in!

Click on the badge below or go directly to their Ning network.

Visit The Massachusetts Studies Network


April 27, 2010

The library held a reception on Sunday to honor now former board president, Bill Ghormley, and welcome Fred Balfour as the new president. They also took the time to acknowledge my 10 year anniversary as archivist. I have flowers!

Thanks to everyone who came. Thanks to the staff who made it happen.

Suze Campbell and Claudette

staff member Rachel with new president, Fred

Bill Ghormley showing off his "White on White" print.
Thanks to author/artist Steve Rosenthal for providing the print.

Peggy is now less than a week away from her sabbatical. If anyone wants to have one last word with her in a work/library capacity, better find her now or you will have to wait until September!


April 22, 2010

The Stowe Prize is a $10,000 award to recognize a United States author whose written work makes a tangible impact on a social justice issue critical to contemporary society. The inaugural Prize will be awarded in 2011, and honors the 200th anniversary of Stowe's birth.

Harriet Beecher Stowe's 1852 novel Uncle Tom's Cabin changed how Americans thought about slavery, galvanizing the antislavery movement and widening the divisions that led to the Civil War. Translated into sixty languages, Uncle Tom's Cabin remains an international classic, read for its powerful portrayal of the struggle for freedom. It is in this tradition that the winner of the Stowe Prize will be chosen. The Prize will be awarded biennially.

To propose a nominee, complete and return the nomination form, available on the Stowe Center website. Self-nominations are accepted.

Submission must be postmarked by June 1, 2010. The Stowe Prize winner will be announced in March 2011 and awarded in June 2011.

For inquiries contact

April 21, 2010

The Pulitzer Prize winning author of this book, C. S. Manegold, has written a history of slavery in Massachusetts. Manegold reveals the story of five generations of slave owners and slave traders who owned, Ten Hills Farm, a 600-acre farm in the northeastern part of the city of Somerville, MA. This farm was first settled by the famous Puritan John Winthrop in 1631. Winthrop gave us the first law in North America officially condoning Native American and African slavery.

Many in Massachusetts were dependent on slavery until it was abolished in 1780s. Slavery persisted longer in Massachusetts than in Georgia.

For more information visit C.S. Manegold's site.

If you are interested in reading about this little known history and the role John Winthrop played in bringing slavery to America, please contact us.

April 19, 2010


The American Library Association is getting the word out about preservation week coming up the second week of May.

We are still pulling together ideas on how we will be commemorating the week besides dedicating our blog posts. The site linked above will be reviewed for sure, though.

Preservation has always been an interest of mine and I do as much as I can to help our members and patrons do their best to keep their own treasures safe.


April 15, 2010

In 2005, a couple of archivists wrote and article called "More Product, Less Process" in which they argued that archivists were spending too much time organizing collections. 20th century collections are too big and too diverse and the result is gigantic backlogs for archives and unhappy donors who have to wait several years to see their collections on the shelves. They argued that archivist should only process to the series level unless absolutely necessary and that they should spend far less time removing duplicates and doing preservation work like removing staples.

At first glance, the Old South Church seems like an ideal candidate for MPLP techniques. It is a large modern collection with documents that are physically sound so preservation is less of a concern. There are a number of issues, however, that would make me hesitate before making a final decision. First, there are a substantial number of duplicates in the collection and in left alone they represent a significant space investment, that could otherwise be used more profitably on other collections. Secondly, this collection is likely to be expanded in the future. The larger a collection is the more difficult it is for a researcher to use it without more significant processing work. Finally, the collection contains a great deal of acidic folders and metallic paper clips. Without some intervention, these materials could render the records unusable in less than fifty years.

Ultimately, the best solution is to develop an organization scheme for the records that are present now and to help the people of the Old South Church develop a records management plan that will ensure that the archives are never left disorganized again. This plan will render concerns about processing time moot, as the collection will already be up to archival standards.

-Jake Sadow