Beacon Street Diary

October 27, 2016

This past Friday, October 21, 2016, the Congregational Library & Archives lost one of its greatest friends. Harold Worthley — known to many as simply "Hal" — died after a brief illness. He was 88 years old.

Hal was director of the Congregational Library for nearly three decades, from 1977 to 2003. Many will remember him as the authoritative source on all things Congregational, a wry and gentle man with a deep knowledge of the tradition and an endless store of anecdotes and stories. Researchers came to know Hal as a friend, always generous with his time and ready to answer any and all questions, no matter how obscure or remote the subject area. We are all deeply grateful for his years of careful stewardship of the library's collection, ensuring its survival in spite of limited staffing and financial resources.

A native of Brewer, Maine, Hal was ordained a Congregational minister in 1954, and served parishes in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. Between 1963 and 1977, he taught at Wheaton College in Norton, where he was College Chaplain and Associate Professor of Religion.

Hal's deepest passion was for history. A graduate of Boston University and Harvard Divinity School, where he received his Ph.D. in 1970, he also did postgraduate work at Northwestern University and Simmons College.

Hal was, bar none, the world authority on New England church records. His Harvard doctoral thesis focused on deacons and ruling elders of the early Congregational churches of Massachusetts — but it was the appendix to the thesis (which he sometimes called a 700-page footnote) that became his legacy. Hal took upon himself the massive task of creating an inventory of all the Congregational church records in colonial Massachusetts, tracking them down in churches, historical societies, banks, attics, and basements in every corner of the state. Published in 1970, An Inventory of the Records of the Particular (Congregational) Churches of Massachusetts Gathered 1620-1805 lists by name every original record book, as well as the ministers and lay officers of each congregation. The Inventory became iconic among researchers of early New England history and religion, and remains so nearly a half century after its publication.

Hal's work is foundational to the one of the CLA's most important projects, New England's Hidden Histories. In many ways we are continuing the project he began so long ago, retracing his steps to the last known sites of old church records, and then making them available to researchers anywhere by digitizing, transcribing, and placing them online.

Dr. Worthley's love for Congregational history did not end when he retired in 2003. He and his wife Barbara set to work transcribing documents, beginning with the diaries of missionary Gideon Hawley. They became indispensable to the Hidden Histories project as well. Hal was still transcribing the records of the church in Barnstable, Massachusetts, in his hospital bed.

Hal leaves his wife of 61 years, Barbara L. (Bent) Worthley, and his children: Susan L. Field of Cape Porpoise, ME; Laura M. Worthley and her husband, Andrew Lavash, of New Braunfels, TX; and David B. Worthley and his wife, Stephanie A. Worthley, of Norton, MA. He leaves five grandchildren: Jesse D. Field, Marshall D. Lavash, Morgan C. Lavash, Leah D. Worthley, and Nina B. Worthley. He was the brother of the late Bruce E. Worthley.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, November 5 at 2:00 PM, at the Trinitarian Congregational Church in Norton, MA. In lieu of flowers, Hal has requested that memorial gifts be sent to the Congregational Library & Archives, with a note that the gift supports New England's Hidden Histories.

October 26, 2016

For many years "14 Beacon Street" was the home address of American Congregationalists. An eight-story office building at the top of Beacon Hill, it was built in 1898 by the American Congregational Association, an independent organization intent on providing a single space for all the scattered efforts of a denomination dedicated to the principle of decentralization. The key piece, and the core passion of the ACA, was the Congregational Library, established decades earlier, in 1853, to hold hundreds of years worth of priceless historical records. For the last century and a half the Library has carried out that mission, not just safekeeping documents but holding the memory and identity of a long and rich spiritual tradition.

At their September meeting, and after much discussion and deliberation, the board of the ACA made the difficult decision to explore the sale of the building. The ACA has engaged a real estate broker, Jones Lang LaSalle, and marketing will begin in November. Whatever the outcome of this process, the Library & Archives will remain in its present location, under a long-term lease.

14 Beacon is a wonderful building — and it is also over a century old. The ACA has done its best to exercise good stewardship over the years, and made a policy of renting building space to nonprofit organizations. But for a long time now, the board has been aware of pressing and expensive repairs, far beyond the ability of a nonprofit organization to address. They have reached the unavoidable conclusion that the ACA's mission is not managing real estate in downtown Boston.

The board has absolute clarity about the library's mission and lots of energy and enthusiasm for carrying it forward. As always the ACA is committed to preserving, interpreting, and making accessible the story of the Congregational tradition. The past years have seen enormous success in growing public programs, building our collection and making it accessible in digital form, and nurturing cutting edge scholarship. Ambitious plans for the future are in store, especially with the approach of "2020," the 400th anniversary of Congregationalism in North America.

More specific information will unfold over the next several months. In the meantime, Lisa Campoli ( the real estate advisor to the ACA, is available to answer questions.

October 24, 2016

As we continue to feature the CLA's food-related collections for Archives Month, it feels like a perfect opportunity to share some of our favorite recipes, advertisements, and food related stories highlighted from our collections between the 17th and 20th centuries.

We have a recipe for samp, which is a version of a Native American recipe adapted by English colonists. I made the recipe, which is a porridge, adding a little maple syrup and berries for good measure. It made for a hearty breakfast, and tastes like a precursor to Johnny Cakes and pancakes. Also from the Colonial Era, there are multiple mentions of food and foodstuffs in the CLA's New England's Hidden Histories collections including cider from Northbridge, MA; cranberries from Wrentham, MA; and lists of gifts to ministers as payment including chocolate, pigs, and wine from Stoneham, MA and Haverhill, MA.

In the 19th century, we noted a lot of recipes for steamed puddings and baked goods including ingredients such as saleratus, a precursor to baking soda. Making some of these recipes proved harder than expected, as there was no standardization to ovens or thermometer gauges in the 19th century so we had to do a little guess work on recipes. Note that there's no salt, fat, or baking instructions to the Maple Molasses Cookies recipe at all!

Maple Molasses Cookies recipe –
Winnowed Gems Cookbook (1899)
by The Woman's Missionary Society of
the Congregational Church, Summer Hill, NY.
  Laconia Cake –
Mary Whitcher's Shaker House-keeper (1882)

Additionally, in the 19th century, it is easy to see the development of a mass consumer culture through the rise of advertisements for food and cooking related equipment. Here are some examples:

Shakers’ Sarsaparilla ­­advertisement –
Mary Whitcher's Shaker House-keeper (1882)
  Marvel Flour advertisement –
Winnowed Gems Cookbook (1899)
by The Woman's Missionary Society of
the Congregational Church, Summer Hill, NY.
Beardsley’s Shredded Codfish advetisement –
Tried and True Cook Book (1898)
by The Ladies League of
Emmanuel Church, Springfield, MA
  Rising Sun Stove Polish advertisement –
The Boston Almanac and Directory (1891)
Glenwood Range advertisement –
Tried and True Cook Book (1898)
by The Ladies League of
Emmanuel Church, Springfield, MA

Some of the staff's favorite recipes have, without doubt, come from 20th century church cookbooks. These recipes are nostalgic for some, amusing for others, and generally beloved for their usage and creative pairing of ingredients. Here are a few favorites, all from the 1978 Kettle n' Kirke Cookbook, a 175th anniversary historical cookbook from the First Congregational Church, UCC in Littleton, New Hampshire.

Mom's Perfection Salad recipe   Six Can Casserole recipe
Gum Drop Cookies recipe

It's been great fun celebrating Archives Month through food, but it also highlights a more serious message. Archival collections may be used for a myriad of purposes, far beyond their obvious subject matters. All of these materials shed insight into times gone by from, socio-economic, cultural, gendered and geographical perspectives. We hope you've enjoyed learning about the CLA's food related collections as much as we have enjoyed sharing them. Cheers!

P.S. Have a Potato Chip cookie

October 17, 2016

Don't forget to register for this week's free lunchtime lecture. There are still a few seats left.

John Kaag is a professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. His writing has been featured in the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Harper's, Aeon Magazine, among many other publications. His latest book, American Philosophy: A Love Story, part intellectual history, part memoir is ultimately about love, freedom, and the role that wisdom can play in turning one's life around.

John Kaag is at sea in his marriage and his career when he stumbles upon West Wind, a ruin of an estate in rural New Hampshire that belonged to the eminent Harvard philosopher William Ernest Hocking, one of the last true giants of American philosophy and a direct intellectual descendant of William James, the father of American philosophy and psychology. It is James's question, "Is life worth living?" that guides this remarkable book.

The books Kaag discovers in the Hocking library are crawling with insects and full of mold. But Kaag resolves to restore them, as he immediately recognizes their importance. Not only does the library at West Wind contain handwritten notes from Whitman, and inscriptions from Frost, but there are startlingly rare first editions of Hobbes, Descartes and Kant. As Kaag begins to catalog and read through these priceless volumes, he embarks on a journey that leads him to the life-affirming tenets of American philosophy — self-reliance, pragmatism, and transcendence.

Wednesday, October 19th
noon - 1:00 pm

Register through Eventbrite.

October 14, 2016

This year's joint ACA-Athenaeum Fellow, Jessica Parr, will be presenting on her research. Her forthcoming book will explore the evolution of African American religious thought. This talk will focus on the first chapter, discussing the legal, religious, and cultural matrix that emerged in defense of slavery in the British Atlantic.

Jessica Parr is a historian, specializing in the history of race and religion in the Early Modern Atlantic World. She received her PhD from the University of New Hampshire at Durham in 2012 and also holds an MA in History and and MS in Archives Management from Simmons College. Parr is a regular contributor to The Junto: a Group Blog on Early American History, and a co-editor at H-Net. Her first book, Inventing George Whitefield: Race, Revivalism, and the Making of a Religious Icon, was published by the University Press of Mississippi in 2015. Parr teaches at the University of New Hampshire at Manchester and Emmanuel College.

Monday, October 17th
12:00 - 1:00 pm

Boston Athenaeum
Bayard Henry Long Room
10 Beacon Street, Boston

No registration required.


image of "Jan Tzatzoe, Andries Stoffles, the Rev. Dr. Philip & Rev. Messrs. Read Senr & Junr, giving evidence before the Committe of the House of Commons" painted by H. Room and engraved by R. Woodman courtesy of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, via Wikimedia Commons

October 13, 2016

October is American Archives Month, an opportunity for us to share the Congregational Library & Archives' incredible resources, demonstrate the value of archival collections, and make connections with patrons and potential researchers far and wide. Celebrated since 2006, the Society of American Archivists hosts Archives Month as an outreach opportunity for archivists to share our work and demystify what we do all day. A popular feature of Archives Month is "Ask an Archivist Day", a Twitter hosted event that allows patrons, archivists, librarians, and the general public to interact. This year, the CLA's archivists participated via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. As a result, we saw engagement increase and had an amazingly fun day.

We decided to continue featuring our collections throughout the month in the most fun way we know how — through food. To help celebrate Archives Month we will be featuring recipes and food-related materials from the library and archives collections. The goal is to share information about our collections, not only with regular patrons and researchers, but also with a general audience in mind.

Food is sustenance but it's also an engaging way to talk about cultural shifts, globalization, diversity, community, economics, anthropology, and more. Our NEHH collections highlight lists of presents presented to ministers in lieu of payment in Colonial America, as well as discourse on cider and cranberries. Other archival collections include cookbooks, such as Winnowed Gems from Summer Hill, NY in 1899 as well as food related advertisements buried between church records such as a ca.1955 roaster oven advertisement from East Chicago, IN. Our Local Church Histories collections feature numerous cookbooks like the Kettle and Kirke from Littleton, NH in 1978 and the Monroeville, OH community Congregational Church Commemorative Cookbook from 1932-1982. Our library has both primary and secondary sources featuring food, menus, and food culture from the 17th through 20th centuries.


Follow us on these platforms to see the food related collections and recipes we will be highlighting all month!

Twitter: @Congrelib

October 7, 2016

The Congregational Library & Archives will be closed this coming Monday, October 10th, 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 6, 2016

We're pleased to announce the availability of three new collections in our New England's Hidden Histories program. All of them contain some interesting history and insights into the lives of the people who created them.


Northampton, Mass. First Church of Christ (1661-1846)

The church was gathered June 18, 1661. The congregation was established with representatives from the Churches of Christ from Dorchester, Roxbury, Springfield, and Hadley. Their first minister was Elezear Mather, followed by Solomon Stoddard. Stoddard's grandson, Jonathan Edwards, became their third minister, and served from 1727-1750.

This volume contains articles of faith, a covenant, meeting minutes, admissions, dismissions, membership lists, baptisms, deaths, and marriages, and an index for members by name. The original book is owned by and housed at the Forbes Library in Northampton. We are grateful for their participation in this program.


Braintree, Mass. First Church (1697-1825)

The Mount Wollaston Parish Meeting House was established in 1639 in the present-day Quincy Area, and by 1640 the town was renamed Braintree. Braintree originally included present-day Braintree, Quincy, Randolph, and Holbrook. The Parish Meeting House was the site of the original church, which first gathered on September 10, 1707. In 1708, old Braintree was divided into the North Precinct (Quincy) and the South Precinct (Braintree). When Quincy became an official town in 1792, the 1707 church was designated as the First Church in Braintree.

The records in this collection include the journal of Samuel Niles dating 1697 to 1777, a volume of the Braintree Precinct's Financial Records dating 1708 to 1796, and a volume of church records dating 1790 to 1825.


Avery, David. The Case of the Pastor in Wrentham (1794)

Rev. David Avery (1746-1817) was born in Franklin, Connecticut. He graduated from Yale in 1769, studied theology at Dartmouth College, and was ordained as a missionary to the Native Americans in 1771. After serving as an army chaplain during the Revolutionary War, he was installed as the pastor in Bennington, Vermont in 1780. He moved to Wrentham, Massachusetts in 1783 to replace a minister who had died. The difficulties described in this volume grew, and he was dismissed from his service in Wrentham in 1794.

This manuscript was prepared by Rev. David Avery and sent to David Howell, Esq. "for his judgment & advice" about the strife that had grown between Avery and his congregation.


Special Thanks

These digital resources have been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in these resources do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

October 3, 2016

Don't forget to let us know if you'll be joining us for tomorrow's free lunchtime lecture. There are still a few seats available.

Epidemics and Awakenings in the First Congregational Church of Haverhill, Massachusetts, 1735-1740

In May of 1736, John Boynton of Haverhill, Massachusetts, proclaimed to fellow parishioners, "I have been awakened and put upon my duty by the many and sudden deaths in this place." While intense religious revivals had sprung up across the Atlantic world, this relation of faith found its inspiration in a biological event particular to the frontier communities of Northern New England. Beginning a year earlier, John had watched a new disease take thousands of lives across Essex County, Massachusetts and Rockingham County, New Hampshire. By the end of the following decade, the total lost would exceed ten thousand individuals; ninety-eight percent would be children. Despite these high death rates and the impact such an unusual event had on a community in the midst of religious upheaval, scholars have largely ignored both the disease and its social ramifications.

Using sources held in the Congregational Library & Archives, this talk explores the reactions of one town to this horrifying disease, Haverhill, Massachusetts. Combining traditional research methodologies with digital humanities technology, it reconstructs this catastrophic event from church records to reveal the magnitude of mortality in this town and the manner by which the unprecedented loss of so many children left parents isolated from supportive community networks, and thus, from the historical record. Far from stoically internalizing this grief in a manner consistent with a reductionist interpretation of Calvinist thought, parents living in these frontier settlements detached from their communities, many times stumbling through a grieving "darkness" toward early death. These otherwise silent sufferings, like dark matter in a universe of human experience, account for a missing mass of emotional outpour contemporary to the First Great Awakening. It provides a useful medical-historical analogue to post-colonial techniques for recovering subaltern "lost voices" while furnishing a new model for understanding these silences.

Nicholas E. Bonneau is a doctoral candidate and instructor in the Department of History at the University of Notre Dame and will be the Carpenter Fellow in Early American Religious Studies and a Friends of the MCEAS Dissertation Fellow at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies for the 2016–2017 academic year. He specializes in the global environmental history of emerging infectious disease, concentrating on seventeenth to early nineteenth century North America. He is interested in the memory of epidemics and what factors influence how they succeed or fail to find a place in the historical record. Nicholas is the creator of the Death Records of Early America Database, linking hundreds of thousands of individuals' vital records from the seventeenth through the mid-nineteenth centuries across the Atlantic World. This database allows scholars to track individuals and groups through births, marriages and deaths as well as social networks including family links, parish affiliation, and common employers. He has received fellowships though the National Science Foundation IGERT, the New England Regional Fellowship Consortium, American Antiquarian Society, Philadelphia Consortium for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine (formerly PACHS), as well as research residencies at the Philadelphia College of Physicians and the Philips Library of the Peabody-Essex Museum. Nicholas teaches US History (to 1877) at the University of Notre Dame and the History of Medicine at the Westville Correctional Facility through a partnership with Holy Cross and Bard Colleges. His dissertation, "Unspeakable Loss, Distempered Awakenings: North America's Invisible Throat Distemper Epidemics, 1735 – 1765", is scheduled for defense in the spring of 2017.

Tuesday, October 4th
noon - 1:00 pm

Register through Eventbrite.

September 30, 2016

Congregational missions reached around the world. In addition to Hawaii, contingencies brought educational and social services to the Asia and the Near East. Many schools founded by missionaries still exist in Turkey, but our story comes from a school in rural Kansas where three students at the Royal Valley Middle School in Mayetta tell the story about an unsung hero, Emma Darling Cushman.

Cushman, an American nurse, saved the lives of thousands of Armenian children during the Armenian genocide. In addition to caring for countless orphans, Cushman served as Acting Consul of the Allies and Neutral Nations, overseeing millions of dollars in relief funds and prisoner exchanges. Their video that documents Cushman's heroism earned the $7,500 Top Prize in International Discovery Award Competition from the Lowell Miliken Center for Unsung Heroes. In addition, the students have been given the honor of providing the inscription on her unmarked headstone at the American Cemetery in Cairo. The students can be commended for their extensive research and interviews.

One stop on their quest was The Congregational Library & Archives. Archivist Jessica Steytler worked with the young researchers and their teacher Nate McAlister to locate significant images from our collection. Jessica tells the story, "The students discovered through our online resources that we had photographs of Emma Darling Cushman, and we were able to provide details on how to request copies of the images that landed in the students' documentary.  While it's our number one priority to make the collections accessible to anyone who wishes to use our resources, being able to assist young researchers is particularly special."

We hope that you get a chance to watch the video; you will be glad that you did.