The Dismission of Tamma Kilham

Charles E Wainwright

 

Tamma Kilham was an excellent example of a Beverly woman who stood up for her rights in spite of overwhelming circumstances.  We salute her courage.  Today, Tamma’s story is all but forgotten except in the records of the First Parish Church.

 

The early nineteenth century was, arguably, the most tumultuous period in the First Parish Church’s long history.  The 1802 installation of Rev. Abiel Abbot triggered an immediate resignation of a quarter of our members to establish the Third Parish and Church on Dane Street.  For the next quarter century, contentious confusion reigned within the common boundary of the two parishes that came to a head when Tamma Kilham, a single woman, and member of the First Parish Church in good standing, asked her fellow Church members to allow her to be dismissed from First Parish Church and recommended to the Third Parish Church, barely one hundred and fifty yards away.

Born Tamay Kilham in Wenham on 2 July, 1770, Tamma was the daughter of Jonathan Kilham, an affluent farmer and Elizabeth Davis.  By the time Tamma was 12, both parents had died and she had been sent to live with relatives in Beverly.  Tamma was a person of means; but as a woman, she could not vote, and besides, being an unmarried orphan, she carried absolutely no influence in the affairs of the Parish.

From its gathering in 1667, the covenant of the First Parish Church had been based on the principles laid down in the Cambridge Platform, a document written in 1648 that set out the rules of Puritan Church government and discipline. It established the primacy of the Parish as the spiritual and political unit of local governance in Massachusetts.  The parish was comparable to today’s ward, except that the locus of the Parish was its Church, supported by a tax levied upon Parish residents in the tradition of the English Shire system.

The Cambridge Platform stipulated that there should be no external interference with the practices within a Parish as long as all other requirements were met.  This autonomy was so important that, despite many efforts to form a permanent governing council of Puritan Ministers, such a body could never be agreed.  The only way a conflict between two parishes could be legally addressed was through a temporary Ex Parte Council, made up of neighboring ministers, and convened by request.

The Platform laid out the rules for the most important religious rituals of the Parish Church.  It defined who was eligible for baptism, who could take Communion, and how a Parishioner could obtain permission to leave one Parish Church (known as dismission) and obtain leave to join another (known as recommendation).  By the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Puritan doctrines described in the Cambridge Platform were an anachronism to all but the Parish Churches themselves.  At the same time, new religious groups, such as the Baptists and Methodists, were drawing Parishioners into their newly established Churches.

The stage, therefore, was well set when the Massachusetts Legislature granted the charter of the Third Parish, completely within the boundaries of the First Parish.  The Charter required it to observe the terms of the Cambridge Platform; but its Parishioners expected to pay taxes to support only their own parish church.  The leaders of the Third Parish proposed to the leaders of the First Parish a policy of “open doors”, whereby parishioners could attend services and take Communion at either Church, and decide in their own time which Parish Church they might join.  Leaders of First Parish Church felt this would lead to unstable membership lists and make it difficult to forecast annual budgets.  Rather, they proposed, there should be a two-year period of open doors, by which time Parishioners would be required to commit themselves to their chosen parish.  The doors would then be shut.   The disagreement became contentious, leading ultimately to hearings before the Massachusetts Judiciary Committee.

The granting of a dismission and recommendation was not a small matter for First Parish Church:  Each request was read aloud to the members after the service, debated, and voted.  An affirmative vote led to the friendly termination of the relationship between the requester and First Parish Church (dismission), and a letter of recommendation written by the minister to the minister of whatever Parish the requester was joining (recommendation).   A negative vote placed the requester under the watch and care of the other members of the Church.   The vote needed to be unanimous, so if the petitioner’s character was questioned by any Church member, or by the minister, the request would be denied and a subcommittee of members would be selected to investigate the transgression.  If there was any question, another meeting would be held to consider their findings, or allow the petitioner to repent his transgression.

The two Parishes shared members for two years, the period stipulated by First Parish leaders as the open doors period.  In 1804, First Parish Church began to receive petitions from members who wanted to be dismissed from First Parish Church and recommended for membership in the Third.  In keeping with the terms of the Cambridge Platform, most used as their reason that they wanted to better edification in their worship experience- a reason specifically allowed by the Platform. On October 28th, 1814, in order to discourage the flurry of requests, the membership of the First Parish Church adopted a resolution put forward by Deacon Robert Rantoul that dismissions and recommendations should not be granted so easily:[1]  The Church would allow requesters to attend Church services at Third Parish, but it would not dismiss them from the watch and discipline of the First Parish without a good reason.  In principle, it was a simple policy but as a practical matter, it was difficult to enforce and did little to stem the tide of requests.  Rev. Abiel Abbot agreed with Rantoul that, in order to make the point, they needed to set an example of someone submitting a dismission request, ideally someone who was not in a position to defend themselves, or instigate political upheaval within the Parish.

On June 2nd, 1820 Tamma Kilham petitioned the First Parish Church to be dismissed and recommended to the Third.  The membership, led by Deacon Rantoul, voted unanimously that her request for recommendation should be granted, but her request for dismission should not.  Instead, she would be allowed to attend services and take communion with the Third Parish Church, but kept under the watch and care of the members of First Parish Church.  The example, it would seem, had been made.

On August 1st, the Church received a letter of appeal from Tamma that laid out her feeling that she had been treated unfairly.  The decision, she wrote, should be reviewed based upon the following:

  1. Whether a Church of Christ should deny any member a dismission and recommendation to a sister church provided that there should be nothing alleged against their moral & Christian character
  2. Whether the reason Tamma had offered to the Church be sufficient ground for dismission and recommendation.

A committee led by Deacon Rantoul reviewed the previous decision and, on December 2nd, they reported they saw no reason to change the decision regarding Tamma’s request.   Armed with these findings, the members unanimously voted to uphold their previous decision[2].  Rev. Abbot visited with Tamma to try to alleviate her misgivings, but Tamma requested he call a “Mutual Council”, a meeting with an uninvolved neighboring Minister who could arbitrate the issue as provided in the Platform.  This request was rejected by Rev. Abbot.  Case closed, Abbot and Rantoul thought:  They were very wrong.

On October 2nd, 1821, Tamma Kilham informed Rev. Abbot that a 15-member ex parte Council was scheduled to assemble at her home to review his Church’s decision to deny her a dismission from the First Parish Church.   On the same day, a shocked Rev. Abbot received a letter from the Council Clerk informing him of their purpose and intentions.  He wrote back to the Council his surprise and anger at their sudden appearance, and refused to attend the proceedings.  The Council was not legal, he wrote: It had been convened, not by a Minister, but by a lowly female congregant, one who could not even vote in Parish affairs: It violated the sanctity guaranteed by the Cambridge Platform for the actions of his Church.  Besides, Tamma was free to worship at the Third Parish Church and be under their watch and care, as well as the watch and care of the First Parish.

The action of the Ex Parte Council was swift and decisive.   In a one day session, it dismissed Rev. Abbot’s allegation that an individual congregant could not convoke a council, explaining that Rev. Dr. Worcester (first Minister of the Andover Church, whose current Minister was part of the Council), had been part of many such councils in the years before his death.  It affirmed that a Church could not deny any congregant in good standing a dismission and recommendation to another Church whether that Church be in the same or a different place.  It found Tamma’s reasons for leaving the Church were valid whether she was moving her residence or not, and that First Parish had dismissed and recommended many others to the Third Parish with no apparent breach of covenant.  The Council advised Tamma to renew her request for dismission and recommendation to First Parish Church and, if it were not given in a timely manner, she should consider herself free to offer herself to the Third Parish Church, and that Church should feel empowered to accept her as a full member in good standing.

The matter should have rested there, but it did not.  It seemed the impertinent actions of this single woman had challenged the authority of the Parish, but her actions were especially repugnant to Deacon Rantoul.  Upon minute scrutiny of Kilham’s letter to the Council, Rantoul noted that She had inaccurately written that she had been denied a dismission and recommendation from First Parish, when in actuality she had been generously offered a recommendation- only the dismission had been denied.  Rantoul demanded that she confess her error, and this she did in the spirit of bringing the matter to an end; but Deacon Rantoul knew that nothing would change the findings of the Council.  In frustration, he penned a lengthy letter to the “Boston Recorder”, A Trinitarian newspaper.  In characteristic style, Rantoul vindictively wielded his weapons of legal logic and biting sarcasm to rip into the council and its findings, challenging its authority and the reasoning of its members.  Rantoul dryly observed that if individuals could simply leave their church whenever it suited them, then the whole basis for the Congregational Way was gone[3].  It was, in many ways, a prophetic statement, for the whole system of Parish governance in Beverly was about to be turned on its head.

In the winter of 1820-1821 a Constitutional Convention convened in Boston called into question the propriety of public support for religious institutions.  In 1823, a law was enacted that allowed groups of ten or more people to declare themselves a religious organization and, thereby, avoid paying taxes for the support of their established Parish Church.   In 1833, the Legislature removed Article III from the Massachusetts Constitution, making religious institution responsible for raising their own money[4].   It is ironic that the words of Rantoul in his letter to the “Boston Recorder” are some of the last written in defense of the Trinitarian style of worship expressed by any First Parish Church leader.  By 1828, the Church had shifted its loyalties squarely toward Unitarianism.  Rev. Abiel Abbot left Beverly for a health Sabbatical to Cuba in 1827.  He died on his way home to Beverly, aboard a ship quarantined in New York Harbor, on June 7, 1828, and is buried in Staten Island.   Robert Rantoul continued to serve as Church Deacon and Parish Clerk until 1858, when he suddenly resigned his posts just weeks before his death.  His strict, almost obsessive, attitude towards religion morphed over the years from Trinitarian to Unitarian but it never mellowed.  Tamma Kilham died on April 30, 1827 and was buried out of the Third Parish Church on Dane Street, the religious institution that had admitted her as a result of the Council.  She is remembered today only by an entry in the official History of Essex County[5], and by her tombstone in the cemetery on Dane Street.

Tamma Kilham stood firm in her resolve against Parish authorities to exercise her right to better religious edification.  Like the women of 1692 Salem and surrounding towns who were unjustly persecuted as witches, she was singled out by those in authority as a supposedly powerless individual upon whom an example could be made to enforce the status quo.  Much like the Women of Salem, Tamma’s courage and perseverance illustrate a strength of character that was rarely seen in her time, and is no less important in our time.   Tamma had the power necessary to control her own life regardless of who would tell her otherwise; a lesson that all should bear in mind.  It is a lesson lost, until now, to the pages of First Parish history, but one that I hope will now inspire us all.

[1] (First Parish Church in Beverly, MA, 1830) p259

[2] FPCR3 p48

[3] FPCR3, pp199-209

[4] (Meyer, 1930)

[5][5] (Wheatland, 1878

 

References

First Parish Church in Beverly, MA. (1830). First Parish Church Records, Volume 3 1803-1830. Beverly, Massachusetts: Unpublished.

Meyer, J. C. (1930). Church and State in Massachusetts from 1740 to 1833. Cleveland, Ohio: Western Reserve University.

Wheatland, H. (1878). Standard History of Essex County, Massachusetts: Embracing a History of the County from Its First Settlement to the Present Time, with a History and Description of Its Towns and Cities. The Most Historic County of America. C. F. Jewett & Company.

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The True Tale of the White Whale

by Charles E Wainwright

“Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee. Sink all coffins and hearses to one common pool! and since neither can be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still chasing thee, though tied to thee, thou damned whale! Thus, I give up the spear!”

            Herman Melville, “Moby Dick”

Anyone who’s attended a meeting at the “White Whale” can identify with the rage of Captain Ahab as he is dragged to his death by his nemesis, the elusive white whale. The building on Hale Street behind the Baptist Church was named for the book’s fishy protagonist, a symbol of the unattainable purity of the natural state. This unpretentious structure is all but ignored today by the average passerby, but the tale of the Whale is anything but ordinary and deserves to be better known.

Beverly in the early 19th century was a bustling, and growing community. The First Parish Church and Meetinghouse had recently increased its seating capacity, but, within a few years, it had already become overcrowded. The Beverly Union Sunday school, established in 1810 as a joint venture of all the Churches in the town, had been educating children in good christian ways from a variety of venues. most recently at the Third Parish Church on Dane Street. In 1818, Third Parish decided to sponsor its own Sunday school, and withdrew its support for the Union Sunday School. Without a place to meet, the school struggled to stay open. Abiel Abbot, the Minister of First Parish who had taken on the role of Superintendent, looked to his congregation for help. It was not long in coming.

On 12 May, 1820 a petition was submitted by several of the most prominent men in Beverly to the Parish Committee to address the space problem:

“Gentlemen. We the subscribers being freeholders or inhabitants of said Parish qualified to vote in Parish affairs request you to call a legal meeting of the inhabitants of said Parish as soon as conveniently may be to see if the Parish will accept of a lot of land granted by the Honorable Nathan Dane and of a building to be erected thereon for a vestry by the Honorable Joshua Fisher and others upon the following conditions vis.

“- first on condition the minister of said First Parish for the time being may at his pleasure, use the building for religious exercises and instruction, either personally or by such as he may invite, but no persons shall be admitted to expound the Scriptures or exhort or address an audience in the said Vestry except a regularly approbated preacher and with the consent of said minister or, in the case of a vacancy in the ministerial office, of the two senior Deacons of the said Parish –

“- Secondly, on condition the said Vestry may be used for the religious instruction of the children of the said Parish on Lord’s days – Said two conditions being contained in said Dane’s deed conveying said lot of land –

“- Thirdly, that it may be used for a Charity school for instructing the children of the poor in the first principles of knowledge and christian morals to be kept under the superintendence of the Beverly Charitable Society so long as a major part of the members of said society shall be members of First Parish or religious Society

“- Fourthly, that meetings may be held in it by the brethren of the First Church for the transaction of business and also for prayer, singing, and reading –

“- Fifthly, that the Singers belonging to the first Parish or Congregational Society may meet therein for improvement in sacred music

“- Lastly, that the said first Parish may permit other uses of the Vestry provided they be not inconsistent or do not interfere with those above specified said four last conditions being appointed in writing by said Joshua Fisher and other subscribers for erecting said building or Vestry.

“Beverly, May 12, 1820

Joshua Fisher
Thomas Davis
Cotton Bennett
Benjn Lamson
Pyam Lovett
Nathl Lamson
W. Endicott
Geo. Abbot
Joshua Lovett
Saml P, Lovett”

The petition was accepted at a special parish meeting held on 23 May, 1820 :

“Voted that the Parish accept the lot of land granted by the Hon. Nathan Dane by his deed dated the eighth day of May in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and twenty and of a building to be erected thereon for a vestry by the Hon. Joshua Fisher and others upon the conditions and restrictions and for the uses mentioned in said deed and appointed in writing by the subscribers to said building and set forth in said petition”

“Voted that said building or vestry, when completed, shall be under the care and superintendence of the Parish Committee for the time being and they are directed to permit the same to be used for the purposes and under the conditions the same is granted to the Parish and for such other purposes as they may think proper not inconsistent and which do not interfere therewith.”

The construction project moved quickly, and by the end of December, the building was ready for use. From then until the 1860s, the Vestry was the site for all official Church meetings . It served as the classroom of the Beverly Union Sunday school, the Beverly Singing School, and the Beverly Charitable School. In January 1830, the Beverly Lyceum began to meet there .

A 60 by 90 square-foot lot of land, located at the corner of Federal and Chapman Streets, was offered to the Parish by Hon. Nathan Dane, one of Beverly’s most famous citizens. Born in Ipswich, Dane obtained his degree at Harvard in 1782, and set up a law practice in Beverly in 1785. He was a Representative to the Continental Congress, and was responsible for writing the Northwest Ordinances of 1787. He is known as “The Father of American Jurisprudence” because of his publication in 1823 of a nine volume set of American law books, “A General Abridgment and Digest of American Law” which was hailed as the first systematic treatise covering the entire field of American law. Dane owned the land opposite the Church on the south side of Federal Street. The lot was located adjacent to land Dane had previously sold to Rev. Abbot for his homestead.

The money to construct the Vestry was provided by 59 subscribers, but the instigator was Dr. Joshua Fisher, another giant of American history. Fisher, born in Dedham in 1749, graduated from Harvard College in 1766. He taught school for a few years, then studied medicine, and eventually established a successful medical practice in Beverly. During the Revolutionary War, he served as a Surgeon aboard an American Privateer, and was very nearly captured when his ship was run aground on the coast of England. He returned to Beverly and co-founded the Beverly Cotton Manufactury in North Beverly, the first cotton mill built in America. Dr. Fisher owned the land on the north side of Federal Street. Dr. Fisher would later leave a substantial legacy to the First Parish Church, including cash and property, which became the basis of the First Parish Ministerial Fund.

For reasons known only to him, Nathan Dane developed second thoughts about his gift, and petitioned the Parish to return his land and move the Vestry elsewhere. At a special Parish meeting, convened 16 January, 1834 it was:

“Voted that the Vestry should be moved to the Old Parish Burial Ground in conformity with the petition of Thomas Stephens and others as recited in the first article of the warrant for convening this meeting.

“Voted that

Samuel Endicott
James Dowling
Wyatt C. Boyden
Charles Stephens and
Josiah Lovett, 2nd

“Be a committee authorized to remove the Vestry to the Old Parish Burial Ground, and they are instructed to do the same as soon as possible and with the least possible expense to the Parish.”

The Parish had few options as to where to put the building. The Old Parish Burial Ground had been heavily used by the Parish for 178 years. The site of the first meetinghouse, taken down in 1683, contained few, if any graves and would, therefore not require any (or many) exhumations. We don’t know how exactly the building was moved to its new location; but, based on the receipts for expenses incurred, It was probably rolled on wooden logs after the windows had been removed . An unfortunate consequence of the new building location was that Thomas Barrett, the First Parish Church Sexton, was no longer allowed to graze his animals in the burial ground. He was, however, compensated for this new restriction .

On 11 March, 1834, the Parish Committee was authorized to “release upon such terms they think best unto the Hon. Nathan Dane all rights and title which the Parish have on the land whereon the Vestry of the Parish lately stood, and make and execute a lawful conveyance thereof to him. Curiously, there is no record of this conveyance in Essex County Deeds.

Utilization of the Vestry was controlled by the terms of the subscribers, and these conditions were strictly adhered to. On 22 August 1834, Thomas Carrico, a Parish resident, applied to use the Vestry for services of a new Christian sect known as Mormonites. The Parish Committee determined that the use would not be in keeping with the conditions specified with the grant of the Vestry and, therefore,  rejected Carrico’s request.

On 24 October, 1859, the Parish voted to install gas lines and fixtures into the Vestry for improved lighting. Apparently, the issue of asphyxiation by gas was raised at the meeting, for the Parish further voted to “ventilate the house forthwith by opening the windows from the top”. During the Civil War, the building was used by the U.S. Sanitary Commission, a forerunner of the American Red Cross, for the collection of clothes and blankets for the troops.

On 5 April, 1864, the Parish voted to raise money by subscription to renovate the Vestry, including installing a stove in the basement . On 14 March, 1865 the members of the committee to remodel the Vestry reported that the cost had exceeded estimates:

“The expense has been nearly double that originally estimated which can be easily accounted for by the facts that the alterations have been much more thorough than at first contemplated, and the work was done at the time when gold was at the highest premium during the war being quoted from 230 to 285 cents to the paper dollar and all material and labor being proportionally high.”

The deficit was made up by contributions from the Ladies Circle, and Parish funds reserved for the installation of the furnace. The remainder was paid out of the Parish treasury.

In 1906 the First Parish Church erected a new structure, the Parish House, on the north side of Federal Street at the site of what is now the People’s Bank parking lot, and this reduced the Church’s need for the Vestry. The Parish, at a special meeting held on 29 June, 1921, voted to sell the Vestry to the Salvation Army for $500 “without covenant or warranty of any kind”. The condition stems from the uncertain status of the land underneath the Vestry whose ownership was not clear On the first Saturday in August, custody of the building transferred with great ceremony. Arthur Forness, Parish Committee Chair read an historical address prepared by First Parish Historian James A. Marsters. On hand were Frank Tuttle, Mayor of Beverly, Salvation Army Col. William McIntyre, the Salvation Army Band, and a large crowd of onlookers.

The Salvation Army continued to use the building until December 1966, then sold it to the First Baptist Church. They dubbed it the “White Whale”, and used it as a drop-in coffee house for students of North Shore Community College, which at the time conducted classes at the old Briscoe School on Federal Street. When the college moved in 1979, the Whale became a senior citizen drop-in center, and a Youth Fellowship Center. Its association with Alcoholics Anonymous began in the mid 1990’s and today it is one of the most heavily used AA meeting facilities in the Commonwealth.

So the next time you walk or drive by the White Whale, pause for a moment, and consider that you are eyeing an unheralded historical icon of Beverly’s history.

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The Chimes of First Parish

A Sermon delivered by Charles E Wainwright, Historical Committee Chair

01 December, 2013

 

The sun shone brightly through the windows of the First Parish Church, illuminating the pulpit and the choir loft on a warm late October Sabbath in 1931.  The singers completed their rendition of a Bach Cantata, and Reverend Fred Lewis, prepared to deliver his Sermon of Thanksgiving for the Church’s newly built Butler chimes that were to be dedicated two weeks hence.  Without warning, a moan and a thud from a pew broke the meditative silence.  Several Parishioners lifted the lifeless body of a man from his seat at the front of the Sanctuary and laid it on the floor.  Albert Boyden checked the wrist of his unconscious brother Roland for a pulse, and then ran to the Minister’s office to call for an ambulance.  Rev. Lewis terminated the service and asked all to leave the Church quickly.

Thus ended the life of Roland W. Boyden; lawyer, statesman, and lifelong member of First Parish.  Although he and his family are well remembered here, few are fully aware of the key role he and his brother Albert played in securing our Church’s chimes.

The Boyden brothers lived on Washington Street near the Church.  Their father William was the Parish clerk at the time that its ninth minister, Ellery Channing Butler was called to serve in 1872.  Roland William Boyden, born in Beverly on October 18, 1863, was a product of our Sunday school and studied law at Harvard University.  In 1917 he joined the legal staff of the United States Food Administrator working for Woodrow Wilson.  From 1920 to 1923, Roland represented the United States on the original War Reparations Commission, a body charged with determining the amount of damages Germany and Austria would have to pay to the allies for causing the War.  In 1929 he served President Hoover as the American delegate to the Institute of Pacific Relations at Kyoto Japan, and in 1930 he was appointed to be Umpire of the German-American Mixed Claims Commission.  Soon after, he was named a member of the permanent court of Arbitration at The Hague.  Between appointments, Roland practiced law in Boston, commuting by train from his home in Beverly.

By contrast, Albert Boyden chose to live his life quietly and close to his family.  Born 19 September, 1871, he was an attorney, practicing at the same Boston Law firm as his brother.  He headed the First Parish Music committee and for many years served on the Parish’s Ministerial Fund Committee.

The Boydens were close friends of Rev. Ellery Channing Butler and his wife, and remained so even after the Minister left our church to serve at the President’s Church in Quincy.  When Rev. Butler died in 1912, Roland became the attorney of Rev. Butler’s widow, Mary Adelaide Butler.

Mary Adelaide (Carey) Butler was born in Medway, Massachusetts in 1849, daughter of Gilman Carey and Catherine Lovell.  After her marriage to Rev. Butler, she became a classic Minister’s wife- attending to the social and nurturing aspects of Parish life.  As a result, she made many friends amongst the parishioners of Beverly and was much loved and respected.  The death of her only child Max Lovell Butler at the age of 21 was something from which she never recovered.  After her husband died, she remained in Quincy, where she died on March 4th, 1928.

In death, Mrs. Butler was a generous benefactor.  She willed eighty five thousand dollars for the Meadville Theological Seminary in Meadville PA, where her husband had graduated.  She bequeathed large sums to the Beverly and Quincy churches they had served.  She made bequests to the churches in her childhood homes of Medway, Norfolk, Medfield, and Quincy, and to the American Unitarian Association.  She gave money to Town libraries, social societies, and hospitals all over the country.  She even provided small legacies to about thirty of her friends and acquaintances including her maids and nurses.

Upon Mrs. Butler’s death, Roland informed the Committee of First Parish that her will included the following bequest, among others:

“I give to the First Parish Church in Beverly, Massachusetts as a memorial to my son, Max Lovell Butler, the sum of five thousand dollars for the purchase and installation, including expense of appropriate changes in the Meeting House, of a chime or peal of bells and the necessary apparatus for the operation of the same in the present or any other Meeting House of said Parish”.

This gift was met by some cynicism by the Parish Committee.  After all, the Church already had its Revere Bell, and besides, weren’t there other ways in which such a princely amount of money could be better used in the Church?  But Roland and Albert had a very different vision.  Being of a musical bent, they were both painfully aware that the Church’s famous bell was of poor quality and its tone was badly off-key.  Truth be told, if it were not for the name of the patriot stamped on the bell, it would have been replaced long ago.  The Committee named the brothers a subcommittee to determine the feasibility of accepting Mrs. Butler’s gift and constructing a new set of bells for the Church.

The brothers immediately set to work, launching a three year investigation into the state of the bell maker’s trade.  They learned all about the difference between bells, chimes, and carillons, where a bell is a single cast metal body with an internal clapper that plays when it is rolled, a chime is a collection of from 4 to 11 stationary bells tuned to a musical scale that when hit by hammers plays a tune, and a carillon is a collection of 35 or more bells arranged so that they can be played as a musical instrument, using a keyboard.  They learned that in the US, the trend had moved away from traditional bells and towards an innovation called tubular bells, which were both cheaper and lighter.  The brothers traveled all over the northeast visiting Churches and buildings where bells, chimes, and carillons were installed to hear their tone, and to judge the reputation of their makers.  They quickly dismissed the tubular bell option as being of substandard tonal quality.  They also realized that, with 35 bells and a keyboard, a Carillon would be much too large for the space allowed in the First Parish steeple.  They decided that a chime would be the best solution.

This brought the pair to their first major challenge- cost.  Five thousand dollars may have been a generous gift, but it would not pay for even a small tubular chime after considering all the required modifications to the Church steeple.  They determined that ten thousand dollars would be minimum amount required for the purchase and installation of domestically made chimes.

But there were only three active Chimes makers in the world and two were located in the US.  Albert, particularly skeptical of the quality of American made bells after his experience with the Revere bell, insisted on chimes from John Taylor & Co., bell founders and Carillon builders located in Loughborough England.  With 40-50% import tariffs, the estimate skyrocketed to over twenty thousand dollars.  Where would they secure the additional funds?’

Roland had the answer.  A secondary part of the bequest to the First Parish Church stated:

“…If, in the judgment of my executor or administrator, said sum shall not be sufficient for the purpose, I authorize him to increase it by such further sums as he deems necessary or desirable, leaving the amount to his discretion.”‘

All Roland, as the executor of the Butler estate, had to do was to petition the court for a reapportionment of the bequests to cover the cost of the chimes.  But whose bequest should be reapportioned?  The answer seemed obvious.  Roland filed the necessary papers with the Norfolk County Probate Court and Judge McCoole (really) approved the reduction of the bequest to Meadville by a sum to be determined by the First Parish Church in Beverly.

The Boyden brothers brought their proposal to the Annual Meeting of the Church in March 1931.  Members voted their approval of the project, and voted to close the Church for the summer to permit unfettered construction.  In an unusual move, they also voted to leave all details of the construction to the committee for the Chimes headed by the Boyden brothers, with regular progress reports to be made to the Parish Committee.

Money was not the only issue in front of the brothers.  You see, the Bells of First Parish occupied a special place in the life of the city.  Since the building had been first erected in 1772, its bell had served as the community clock, signaling the key parts of the day, and calling residents to worship on Sundays.  The bell rung at 9:00 to mark evening curfew was held particularly precious by the City, as it signaled the time when, by City ordinance, all youth had to be in their homes or risk being taken off the street by the police.  It was even generally believed that the bell and the clock were owned by the City.  This was such a sensitive issue that Albert decided it would be a good idea to attend a Selectmen’s meeting to inquire whether the City had any pretensions on the ownership of the current bell.  He did this by formally requesting that the City contribute to the cost of the new chimes.  The Selectmen, not interested in incurring additional expenses, quickly disavowed any ownership in the bells, but voted that, if the Church were to pursue the project, the City would be very grateful.  Thus, there was no oversight or approval required by the City for the installation or operation of the Chimes.

The bells were ordered from Charles Taylor & Co. in July, 1931 and work began on reinforcing the steeple.  The immediate concern was how the steeple would support an additional seven thousand pounds, the difference between the weight of the Revere bell and the new Chimes.  An architecture firm analyzed the structure and determined that it could handle the new chimes but leaving the Revere bell in place would put an unreasonable amount of stress on the structure.  The old bell would have to go.  The Taylor foundry modified the design of the Chimes so that the largest bell could be rung manually. The old Revere bell was given to the Immanuel Church on Bridge Street and it hung in their steeple until the early 1970s when a fire destroyed the Church.  It is said that the bell fell from the steeple during the fire and hit the concrete basement floor with a final peal that could be heard through the city.  The damaged bell was eventually mounted in a monument that can be seen today next to the new Immanuel Church on Bridge Street.

Even with the Revere bell removed, the Steeple had to be reinforced to hold the additional weight.  A new cross beam was installed at the base of the steeple to stabilize the structure.  You can see the beam above the balcony seats.

Since 1835, a clock had prominently displayed the time on the steeple of the Church.  A novel construction for its time, the old clock was of wooden construction, powered by the weight of cannon balls that had been found years before under the Church.  Since the new chimes could be synchronized with an electric clock, the Taylor Foundry included one from the Seth Thomas Clock Company.

The Bells arrived at the Beverly Depot early in October, 1931.  There were eight bells ranging in weight from the “low E” bell at 2500 pounds down to the “high E” bell at 364 pounds.   It seemed that at last all the hard work of the brothers would be finished.  Roland took a personal interest in the construction work, carefully watching the work progress and giving direction as required.  The chimes were almost complete by the end of October, and were set to play for the first time in public on the sixteenth of November during a dedication service at which the whole town was invited to attend.

That was before the death of Roland W. Boyden at the First Parish Church Sunday service.

Although many obituaries were written and many and eulogies spoken from coast to coast to celebrate the life of this great statesman and public servant, there was never any acknowledgement of his part in the installation of the First Parish Chimes.  His role was never written into the records of the First Parish, and never appeared in the local papers.  But Albert knew.

During the funeral service held at First Parish Church on the 28th of October 1931, Albert asked a musician friend go up into the newly rebuilt steeple.  The Chimes could not yet be rung automatically, but, on cue, the musician manually struck the bells to play a hymn.  Thus, the first time the Chime was ever rung it was to toll for its own maker.

The chimes have served the Parish well, but over eighty years they, like everything and everyone else, have aged.  In the 1980s the chime mechanism deteriorated to the point where it could no longer be played and fell silent.  A few years ago, an anonymous donor allowed us to reconstruct the works and put the chimes back in operation.  They play every quarter hour to the delight of the City.

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