Beacon Street Diary

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.

September 28, 2016

Traffic stops as eager students clamber onto school buses, traveling toward new adventures. Their rides vary in length from 15 minutes to the 2-hour trek that Nate McAlister's students make through the Kansas Prairie (see this Friday's article) but none travel as far as the sons and daughters of missionaries did when they sailed from Hawaii to Boston seeking an formal education. The journey rounding Cape Horn lasted from 5 to 6 months and students, once in North America, were unable to return home for many years.

The voyages, let alone long separations, took their toll on the missionary families and in 1841 a school was founded on the lands of Ka Punahou, named for natural spring discovered centuries before. From the first class of 15 students Punahou has grown to 3,768 students.

No longer just for children of missionaries, the K-12 institution strives to provide unparalleled opportunities to cultivate students' unique interests and talents through rigorous academics, programs in athletics and the arts, and an array of co-curricular opportunities. Punahou boasts of many accomplished graduates including Congregational Library & Archives members and its best known, Barack Obama, 44th American president.

Last month visitors from Punahou made their way to Boston as part of a pilgrimage to trace their early beginnings and found many clues right here at 14 Beacon Street. After a visit at Park Street Church, ACA board member Rich Elliott brought the group to the library. Group member Dita Ramler wrote about their visit in the school's blog.

September 9, 2016

Our reading room will be closed to the public on Monday, September 12th for our board's quarterly meeting.

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

September 7, 2016

The latest additions to our New England's Hidden Histories program come from two churches that have survived many changes.


Granville, Mass. First Congregational Church records, 1757-1848

This diverse collection contains the expected administrative, membership, and disciplinary records, as well as a handful of ecclesiastical councils, sermons, and essays. There is also a selection of letters from Rev. Lemuel Haynes, the first ordained African American minister, to Rev. Timothy Cooley who was serving as pastor to Granville at the time.


Sturbridge, Mass. Congregational Church records, 1736-1831

Many of the volumes in this collection were transcribed from deteriorating or disorganized original versions by the church's clerks and pastors in order to preserve its history. As such, they are very well organized and indexed, making it easy to find the meeting minutes, membership records, disciplinary cases, correspondence, and other information you might be seeking.


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 this resource do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

September 2, 2016

The Congregational Library & Archives will be closed on Monday, September 5th in observance of Labor Day.

All of our online resources will be available as usual. If you have questions for the staff, please send an email or leave a voicemail, and we'll get back to you when we return to the office on Tuesday.