On the Beverly Church Silver

Report to the First Parish Church Diaconate, 1 August, 2008
By Charles E Wainwright, Chair First Parish Church of Beverly Historical Committee

 Silver 1942

To appreciate why the silver is so important to the Church, we must first understand its significance in the Church’s early spiritual life.  Even though First Parish Church counts itself today as a non-Christian Unitarian-Universalist congregation, it once was the official Protestant Church of the Beverly Parish.   Its strict religious sentiment evolved, first to Congregationalism during the Great awakening of eighteenth century, and then to Unitarianism in 1830.  It was during the period prior to 1830 that the silver was acquired. Nothing illustrates the history of First Parish Church better than its extensive collection of silver objects, representing the ancient rituals and traditions of the Church.  The silver collection has always been deeply venerated by the Congregation, although why is often unclear.  While its monetary value is undeniable, there are much deeper emotions engendered by the collection.   What exactly is the Beverly Church silver, and what is its story?

The Silver Tradition in Puritan Worship

The religion of the early Massachusetts Bay Colony was a fundamentalist Protestant creed known as Puritanism, an extreme variation of the Church of England that condemned the Catholic practice of placing Priests in the position of sole communicator with God.  Puritans believed that communion with God could be accomplished by the individual, and rejected all traditional Catholic sacraments except Baptism and Communion.   In contrast to the Communion ceremony practiced in the Catholic Church, where the Priest alone drank wine from a Chalice and ate a piece of bread, the Puritans required their communicants to share the wine and bread amongst themselves without the intervention of a Priest.  They rejected the notion of a single religious hierarchy such as was found in the Catholic Church or the Church of England, and expected, instead, that each Church should maintain control over its own practices.  This became known as the Congregational Way.

During its early years, the Catholic Church service utilized a traditional set of ritual serving pieces during their Communion Service that included a chalice to hold the wine and a plate to hold the bread. The Church of England retained the Communion service, but with additional cups, mugs, and plates to facilitate use by the congregants.   Unlike the Catholics and Anglicans, who only used precious metals for their Communion objects because it symbolized the perfect vessel of Christ, (and because silver and gold would not react poisonously with the wine) the Puritans often included Pewter and pottery objects due to the financial hardship in the Colonies.

The acquisition of silver for the Communion Service became a financial investment for the new world Puritans.  In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, there was little hard currency available in the colonies.  The earliest Puritan Churches accepted Indian Wampum or farm goods as payment from members to defray the costs of Communion.  Whatever hard currency that could be collected by the Church was invested in silver plate (the term used by Churches to refer to their ritual silver objects).

The Puritans expanded and changed the kinds of objects they used in their Communion services to suit their egalitarian views on Communion.  Where the typical Catholic Communion service included a gold jewel encrusted chalice with ornate designs, the Puritans saw the need for more objects, of simpler design that could be easily distributed amongst the members of the Church.  Instead of a single chalice, Puritan Churches acquired multiple cups, beakers and mugs for their service.  Mugs had handles so they could be easily passed from one communicant to another.  In anticipation of a large number of communicants, Puritan Churches acquired large vessels to hold wine (Tankards) that the Deacons would use to refill the mugs during the service.  Bread for the service was distributed on silver plates.

The earliest pieces of silver were usually donated from the families of members, who brought their silver with them from England or Holland.  Eventually, though, it became more economical to purchase silver from local merchants. Unlike the Catholic and Anglican traditions, the Puritans who gave silver to the church often requested that their name be inscribed upon the donated object (Jones).

The Puritan Communion Service

Unlike the Anglican Churches in England where Communion was open to all, the Puritan Communion service was open only to those who had taken an oath, repented their sins and been accepted by affirmation of the Church body as members.    The order of the Puritan Communion Service was described by Thomas Lechford in 1642 (Lechford)[1]:

“Once a moneth is a Sacrament of the Lords Supper, whereof notice is given usually a fortnight before, and then all others departing save the Church, which is a great deale lesse in number then those that goe away, they receive the Sacrament, the Ministers and ruling Elders sitting at the Table, the rest in their seats, or upon forms: All cannot see the Minister consecrating, unlesse they stand up, and make a narrow shift. The one of the teaching Elders prayes before, and blesseth, and consecrates the Bread and Wine, according to the Words of Institution; the other prays after the receiving of all the members: and next Communion, they change turnes; he that began at that, ends at this: and the ministers deliver the Bread in a Charger to some of the chiefe, and peradventure gives to a few the Bread in their hands, and they deliver the Charger from one to another, till all have eaten; in like manner the cup, till all have dranke, goes from one to another. Then a Psalme is sung, and with a short blessing the congregation is dismissed. Any one, though not of the Church, may in Boston, come in, and see the sacrament administered, if he will.”

The silver objects used in Communion service held three distinct symbolic values for the Puritans:

  • They symbolized perfection for which the communicants strived.
  • They symbolized the vessel of Christ that contained His body and His blood.
  • They symbolized the image the communicant had of the gentile state of Heaven.

In spite of the egalitarian nature of the Puritan faith, the Communion service was marked with a tradition of social hierarchy.  Members were seated in pews which were arranged in order of their age and contribution to the community.  The most influential were served first and with the most elaborate silver vessels.  Smaller, simpler cups were used in the rear pews.  This explains why there were so many types of cups in the Beverly Church Silver collection.

The inscription on a silver object was significant to the Communicant as well.  Drinking from the cup with both hands on the handles allowed the inscription to be seen, and those who could read would be mindful of a benefactor or founder of the Church.

The Beverly Church Communion and Baptism Silver Collection

The Beverly Church was founded later than many other Puritan Churches, being set off from the Salem Church in 1667, more than forty years after that Church’s first gathering.  The mother church did not offer any of its plate to its offspring as a parting gift, and so First Church of Christ in Beverly started with no communion service at all.  All of the Silver was acquired by the Church over a period from 1679 to 1831 through gifts, legacies, and subscriptions.

The order in which the Silver was acquired by the Church was significant.  Cups, mugs and beakers were acquired first.   Later, Tankards were acquired to deal with a rapidly growing congregation.  Plates were not considered as important to the Service and so were acquired last.

About 1831 (the exact date is not indicated), Deacon Robert Rantoul documented the first inventory of the silver as follows:

“One Flagon, eight Tankards [one given to the Church at the Farms, one given to Second Church], three cups, four dishes, all of silver”

Another, more detailed inventory was published in the Beverly newspaper around 1840 as part of a lecture and exhibition hosted by Rantoul.  A copy of this inventory is pasted into the inside cover of each of the four bound volumes of Church records.

A detailed inventory of the silver was compiled in 1913 by E. Alfred Jones as part of a massive work written for the “National Society of Colonial Dames of America”.  “The Old Silver of American Churches” is considered the authoritative source on the subject of Early American Church Silver[2].

A 1958 inventory of the silver, made by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston indicates sixteen pieces in the collection, although the collection originally totaled nineteen pieces.  Subsequent inventories and appraisals made in 1974, 1987 and 2008 confirm this number.    The first piece acquired by the Church, a Flagon, is missing and not further accounted for in Church records.  Two tankards purchased in 1794 were given as gifts to neighboring Churches.   Two of the Revere silver plates were sold in 1978.

As of 2008, the Beverly Church Communion and Baptism collection consisted of fourteen silver objects as follows[3]:

Flagon, a gift of John West, 1679

John West was admitted to the Church with his wife Mary in 1668[4] and dismissed from Ipswich.  His wife died on 2 April 1675 aged 60, and he married Mary Lee of Manchester on 1 June 1675[5].  He died on 6 October 1683, aged 68[6].  John West held extensive land in what was called “West Farms” and is now known as Beverly Farms.

 

The Church Records include this entry[7]:

“29 March 1679.  Deacon Woodbury received a flagon which was left at my house by brother John West which John West gave to ye Church as a token of his love.”

There is no record of this object anywhere in later Church Records and so it must be presumed lost, missing, or stolen sometime between its acquisition in 1679 and the first official inventory of the Silver in 1831.

Jones writes of this piece in his 1913 article:

“A flagon, whether of silver or pewter cannot be determined, which was given in 1679, has disappeared from this Church.  The gift is recorded in the Church records in the writing of Rev. John Hale, the first Pastor (1667-1700)….John West would seem to have died intestate.  An inventory of his estate was made November 17, 1683 by Samuel Leach and Paul Thorndike and was valued at over L.529.”

The story of the Flagon gift continues to be passed down amongst descendants of the West family.  As late as 1987, the Church received a query about it from a West descendant living in Vermont[8].

Silver mug, marked “The gift of Robt. Briscoe, 1718”.

This mug is described by Jones as follows:

“The cup has a bell shaped body with a moulded lip and base, and a hollow handle.  The handle has been added later.  Height 5 7/8 in., diam. Mouth 4 ½ in. and of the base 3 in.”

The maker’s mark of this piece (IC) indicates John Coney (1656-1722), a Boston craftsman who is considered one of the outstanding representatives of second generation of Boston silversmiths.   It appears that the handle mentioned above was removed from the cup given by legacy of Rev. Thomas Blowers.

Lt. Robert Briscoe was a merchant and seaman who immigrated to Beverly from the West of England.  He married, by 1691 Abigail Stone, sister of Samuel Stone who died on 1 June 1724 at the age of 59[9].  Robert married, second, Mrs. Elizabeth Dudley and moved to Exeter New Hampshire before 1727, when “Robert Briscoe, formerly of Beverly, but now of Exeter NH, shopkeeper” sold his house, barn and land in Beverly.

Silver mug, marked “The Legacy of Rev. and Mrs. Thos. Blowers to the First Church in Beverly dec’d June the 17th 1729”

Jones describes this mug as follows:

“[This] mug is of the ‘bellied’ variety, with a moulded lip and base; the handle is similar to the other [the mug listed below, the gift of Hannah Stone].  Originally, it had two handles but one has been removed.  Height:  5 3/8 in.; dia of the mouth, 3 ½ in.; of the base, 3 5/8 in.”

There is no maker’s mark to positively attribute the piece.  It is presumed to have been made by the donor’s son, John Blowers of Boston (1710-1748).

The handle was removed from this mug and placed on the 1718 cup in 1809.  There is, in the possession of the Beverly Historical Society, a letter written by Rev. Abiel Abbot, Pastor of the First Church in Beverly at the time which documents the work[10]:

“Dear Sir,

“As it has been thought advisable to alter some of the communion plate, shifting a handle from a cup, which had two to a vessel which had none, I should think it very proper if you will take the trouble to call upon the goldsmith for his bill & charge it among the expenses of the table”

The change was made by Israel Trask of Beverly, who charged the Church $1.75 on 29 November 1809 for making the change.

Rev. Thomas Blowers was the second pastor of the First Church of Christ in Beverly, being called to serve on 19 October 1701[11] until his death in 1729[12].  He is buried at the Old South Burial Ground.  In his will, dated 22 March 1724/5 and proved 29 July 1729, he bequeaths to the Church as follows[13]:

“I give to the First church of Christ in Beverly L.15 to be laid out in a piece of plate for ye Communion Table to be paid by my executrix one year after my decease.”

There is no mention in Church records of this object.

Silver mug, marked “The Gift of Hannah Stone to the First Church in Beverly 1735”

Jones describes this piece thus:

“…the mug has a plain straight-sided body, with a slightly moulded lip and a moulded base, a hollow handle with a flat back, and a turned-up tongue-end.  Height, 4 ½ in.; diam. of the mouth, 3 in., of the base, 4 5/8 in.”

The maker’s mark for this piece (A TYLOR) indicates Andrew Tyler of Boston (1692-1741).

Hannah (Herrick) Stone was born abt 1667, and married Jonathan Stone on 21 June 1706[14].   Hannah died a widow on 9 February 1746/7 in her 79th year and is buried at the Old South Burial Ground[15].

There is no mentioned in the Church Records of this object.

Silver tankard, covered, marked “The Legacy of Deacon William Dodge to the First Church of Christ in Beverly who died Jan’ry 8th, 1746”.

Jones describes this piece as follows:

“The tankard has a ring moulding on the body; a moulded lip and base, a domed and moulded cover with a turned finial, a scrolled thumbpiece; and an oval disc on the handle end.  Height 7 ½ in.; diam. Of the mouth 3 ¾ in., and of the base, 4 7/8 in.”

There is no maker’s mark, but it is of American origin made about 1745.

Deacon William Dodge was born in Salem on 20 March 1663/4[16], the son of William “ye younger” and Mary (Conant) Dodge.  He died on January 7th 1746/7 at the age of 82[17].  His will, dated 19 December 1739 and proved 6 April 1746 includes the following provision for the Church[18]:

“I give unto the First Church in Beverly one Silver Tankard that shall hold one quart of liquor to be procured or bought by my executors hereinafter named, and delivered to the church officers for the use of sd church within the term of one year after my decease (and sett my name on it).” 

The Church Records include the following entry[19]:

“Nov’r 15, 1747.  This day being Sacrament Day, a Tankard made of silver, the gift of Deacon William Dodge Dec’d, was delivered by his Executor Mr. John Rea to one of the Deacons and set upon the Communion Table”.

Silver tankard, covered, marked “The half of this vessel was Given to the First Church of Christ in Beverly by Capt. J. Herreck and his two sons and the other half by Deacon I. Wood and his two sons H. HL.H 1747 I.W.I.W”

Jones describes this piece very briefly as follows:

“Height 7 ½ in.; diameter of the mouth, 3 ¾ in. , and of the base 4 7/8”

The maker’s mark indicates it was made by John Burt of Boston (1693-1745).

Capt. Joseph Herrick died on 29 May 1726 aged 61 years[20].  He commanded a troop of Rangers in the French and Indian War[21].  He married first, Mary — who died on 1 August 1719 aged 54[22].  He married second, on 24 December 1721 (int.) Madam Mary Cushing of Hingham[23] who died on 30 October 1737[24].  He had two sons by his first wife who were also donors:  Henry, born 9 September 1688[25] and Joshua, born 25 February 1698/9[26].  In his will, dated 8 March 1724/5 and proved 13 June 1726, he makes the following mention of the church[27]:

“I give to the first Church in Beverly L.3 in (paper) money or bills of credit to be paid by my said executors each of them an equal part thereof.”

Deacon Israel Wood died 18 October 1743 at the age of 65[28].  He married twice:  First, to Anna Woodbury, daughter of Humphrey Woodbury of Gloucester on 15 October 1697[29] who died on 10 October 1707, aged 27[30].  Second, to Edith Dodge on 9 March 1708/9[31] who died on 3 November 1743 aged 62[32].  He had two sons by his second wife including Israel, born 8 April 1714[33]  and Joseph, born 15 February 1719/20[34].

Church Records include the following entries[35]:

“Att a meeting of the church on October 28th 1747 it was voted that Messieurs John Thorndike & Henry Herrick & Robert Haskol to be a committee to take care of some legacies left in money to the Church by Cap’n Henry Herrick and Deacon Israel Wood and to put it in interest for the present.”

“Att a meeting of the Church on December 16th [1747] it was agreed to reconsider some votes passed att a meeting of October 28 and voted that the Church will thankfully accept of a Sylver Tankard in liew of the Legacies of Messieurs Henry Herrick & Israel Wood Deceased with what Messieurs Henry Herrick and Joshua Herrick are disposed to add to said legacies.  N.B. Said Henry and Joshua Herrick, inclusive of their father’s legacy, gave about one half of the said Tankard.”

Silver tankard, covered, marked “By a subscription of a number of the Brethren and Sisters of the First Church in Beverly, procured & collected by John Thorndike Jun’r one of the church A.D. 1754”
 Silver tankard, covered, marked “Purchased with six pounds of ye stock of the first Church in Beverly & a subscription of ye Brethren and Sisters procured by John Thorndike Jun’r one of ye Church A.D. 1754”

Jones writes of these items:

“These tankards are a pair and are similar to [the one described above].  A large mask, like an Indian’s face, is on the handle-end.  Height 7 3/8 in;  diam. of the mouth, 3 5/8 in. and of the base, 4 3/8 in.”

The maker’s mark indicates William Cowell, Jr. of Boston (1713-1761).

Church Records include the following entries[36]:

“March 11, 1752.  This day after lecture the Church mett in the meeting House and were informed by the Deacons, the Treasurers and the Church, that they had in their hands Forty one Pounds, Old Tenor, which sum had been gradually raised, when the church made collections to defray the expenses of the Communion Table; after some discourse about it, the Church voted the Deacons should provide a small cloth for the Communion Table, and purchase some Flower and get one of the Flagons mended at ye Charge of the Church and what should remain in their hands of the sum above mentioned should be kept for the present and remain in their hands, til such times as there should appear a sufficient subscription to purchase a Tankard made of Silver, added to that, for the use of the Church att the Communion Table.”

“Feb’y 27, 1754.  This day the Church met in the meeting house and voted that Deacon Israel Wood be desired to assist Brother John Thorndike Jun’r in compleating a subscription towards the purchasing a silver Tankard for the use of the Chh. At the Lords Table, and also the Chh voted that the Deacons should receive of said Thorndike such sum or sums which he may have already gathered of the above mentioned subscription, and give him a receipt and out the same into the Chh-Treasury, til there should be a Silver Tankard made as above mentioned. “

“1756, March 10th.  The Church met after lecture in the meeting house and the Pastor observed that two silver Tankards had been purchased, partly by money drawn out the the Church’s treasury; viz six Pounds and partly by a subscription, obtained by Mr. John Thorndike Jun’r of a considerable number of the Brethren and Sisters of the Church, and now the Property of the Church. Att this meeting the Church voted their Thanks to Mr. John Thorndike jun’r for his procuring the above mentioned Subscription.   Att this meeting the Church voted their desire that Col. Hale, together with the Deacons would prepare, in writing, a suitable inscription to be put upon the above mentioned Tankards.”

“May 30 being Sacrament Day, the above mentioned Tankards were set upon the Communion Table, inscribed as on the Forepart of said Tankards, will further appear.”

Silver Baptismal bowl, marked “The Property of the First Church in Beverly, June 1772”

Jones writes of this piece:

“The baptismal basin has a deep depression, with a domed centre, and a wide flat rim on which is inscribed [as above].  Diameter, 13 3/8 in.; depth, 3 in. No maker’s mark.”

The Church records include this entry[37]:

“June 29, 1772.  A silver Christening bason was procured for the use of the parish, partly by subscription, and about half at the expense of the parish- it was bought by Capt. James Lovett and cost forty six dollars. “

Later, an undated entry was made in the hand of Robert Rantoul37:

“The Church Christening Bason belongs to the Congregation or Parish”

Silver tankard, covered, marked “The Gift of Mrs. Mary Barnard, Relict of the Rev. John Barnard of Marblehead to the First Church in Beverly 1778”

Jones writes of this piece:

“The tankard is small in size, with a moulded lip and base, a flat cover separated in front, and a twisted corkscrew-like thumb piece.  The top of the handle runs down the body in a long V-shaped support; on each side of the joint is a zigzag moulding below one being cut foliage; the back of this handle is ribbed as far as a plain loop; a roughly cast cherub’s face is on the handle-end.  In front of the body is a shield surrounded by roughly engraved foliage, in which are the initials BWM (engraved over other initials, now partially obliterated but perhaps IMD).  Height 5 7/8 in; diameter of the mouth, 4 in. and of the base 4 5/8 in.”

There is no Maker’s mark on the piece.  It is assumed to have been made in the last quarter of the seventeenth century.

On 3 February 1958, in correspondence related to the silver having been borrowed by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston for an exhibition on Boston Silver, Kathryn C. Buhler, a recognized authority on American silver and member of the Museum Staff wrote in a letter to Rev. Gysan of the Beverly church[38]:

“One item wherein I disagree with Mr. Jones’ comments is the “cherub’s face” on your earliest tankard – when you come in, we can perhaps look at it in relation to the cherub’s heads on many tankards here.  I still think it might be a lion’s face…”

Mary Barnard was the widow of Rev. John Barnard, who was born in Boston on 6 November 1681, and graduated Harvard University in 1700.  He preached his first sermon at the Marblehead Church on 10 August 1701 and died as their minister on 24 January 1770[39].  He married Anna Woodberry of Beverly at Ipswich on 9 August 1718[40]  She was the daughter of Benjamin and Mary Woodbury, born 23 August 1697[41], and survived her husband to 24 August 1774, aged 79[42].  The initials referred to in the cup appear to be those of her parents.  It would seem that her first name as inscribed on this mug is not correct.

There are no entries in Church Records corresponding to this object.

Silver tankard, covered, marked “The Gift of Mrs. Elizabeth Boyles to the First Church in Beverly 1785”

Jones describes this item as follows:

“This tankard is of the same form [as the two acquired in 1754] but larger and has an oval disc on the handle-end.  Height, 8 ¾ in.; diameter of the mouth, 4 ¼ in., and of the base 5 in.”

There is no Maker’s mark, but it is presumed to have been made by Stephen Emery of Boston (c.1752-1801) see below.

Elizabeth Boyles (Biles)  died a widow on 7 August 1782 at the age of 87[43].  She may have been the wife of Nicholas Biles who was “Lost in coming from VA” in March 1755[44].  In her will, dated 30 September 1777 and proved 2 September 1782, there is the following item with regards to the Church[45]:

“My will is and I do hereby give to the Church of Christ in the first Parish in said Beverly one silver tankard to be purchased at the discretion of my executor as soon as may be after my decease.”

In the accounting of her estate completed by her Executor Thomas Stephens, there is an entry to Stephen Emery for L.11 10s for a tankard given by the deceased to the church.

There are no entries in the Church records corresponding to this object.

Silver ewer, covered, marked “The property of the First Church in Beverly” bought with the church’s stock by a committee consisting of the Pastor and Deacon Benjamin Cleaves and Deacon Robt. Roundy 1798”
Silver flagon, ribbed marked “The Property of the First Church of Beverly Purchased by a Committee of the Pastor Deacon Benjamin Cleaves and Deacon Robert Rounds 1797.  Presented to the Second Church in Beverly on the Rededication of their Meeting House February 11, 1838.”
Silver tankard, inscription presently unknown, presented to the Christian Church in Beverly Farms on their formation 1831.

Of these three objects, only the ewer resides with the Church.   All three contain a Maker’s mark indicating they were fashioned by Paul Revere (1735-1818).

The ewer, or pitcher, is part of the Church Baptism service.   Along with the Basin, they are the only pieces still regularly used by the Church today.  The lid has been repaired several times.

Jones writes of this piece:

“The flagon is in the form of a very tall vase-shaped ewer of quasi-classical shape.  It has a reeded band on the shoulder, and a vase-shaped finial on the domed cover.  Height, 15 ½ in.”

The Church Records include the following entry[46]:

“Sept 4, 1796.  The Church voted to purchase two Tankards for the Communion Table and a flagon if there be money enough in their treasury.  Also, voted that Deacon Benjamin Cleaves, Deacon Robert Roundy together with the Pastor be a committee for the purpose.”

On —– 1831 Robert Rantoul documented the vote of the Church to give a tankard to the Church in Beverly Farms[47]:

“The following preamble and vote were passed unanimously by the brethren of the Church.

“Whereas several of the brethren & sisters with the Christian Church lately organized at Beverly Farms, & we being desirous of manifesting our continued affection towards them & our desire to continue in fellowship with them & with the church with which they are connected.

“Therefore voted, that the Pastor & Deacons of this church select & present to the said church at Beverly Farms one of the silver tankards which were purchased by & now belong to this church, causing a suitable inscription to be placed thereon- And the said church is requested to accept this gif as a testimony of  the affection & regard we entertain for them, & especially for those who have separated from us & have connected themselves with them that they may more conveniently enjoy the ordinances of the Christian religion.

“Signed, Robert Rantoul, Clerk.”

No response is recorded from this Church, nor is there any record of the inscription placed on the tankard.  The Beverly Farms Church is now known as the North Shore Community Baptist Church.

In February 1838, the Church decided to give a second piece of its silver away, this time to the Second Church in Beverly.  The Church records state47:

“On motion of Robert Rantoul, seconded by Josiah Lovett 2d, it was voted unanimously by the Brethren of the Church, at a meeting held after the communion lecture, that a silver tankard, procured with church money in 1797, should be presented with a suitable inscription to the Second Church in Beverly.  The officers of the Church accordingly procured for it this inscription [see above] and it was transmitted with the following letter:

“Beverly, Feb. 10, 1838.

“Rev. E.M. Stone,

“Dear Sir,

“I take great pleasure in delivering to you the accompanying silver vessel for the communion service, with the request that it may be presented to the Church under your pastoral care, agreeably to a unanimous vote of the Brethren of the First Church in this town, & as a token of the christian harmony & fellowship which has long existed, & which it is devoutly to be desired may ever continue, between these ancient sister churches.

“Wishing you, & the Church & Society with which you are connected, the greatest of prosperity.

“I am yrs truly,

     “C.T. Thayer.

“To which the following reply was received:

Beverly, Feb. 19, 1838.

“Rev. C. T. Thayer,

“Dear Sir,

“I herewith transmit to you a copy of the following preamble & resolutions passed by the Second Church, at a special meeting Feb. 18, which I beg you to communicate to the Church under your pastoral care – with the fraternal regards of yrs in the bonds of Christ.

“Edwin M. Stone.

“At a meeting of the Brethren of the Second Church in Beverly, Feb. 18, 1838, the following was unanimously adopted.

“Whereas the First church in this town has presented to the Second Ch. A handsome silver vessel for the communion service, ‘as a token of the christian harmony which has long existed & which it is devoutly to be wished ever continue between ancient sister churches’.

“Resolved that this Ch. Accept the token of sympathy & fellowship so appropriately offered & that we hereby express our grateful acknowledgement of a gift calculated to remind us of our common sisterhood, covenants & worship;

“Resolved, that the cup – which to every follower of our common Lord & Master is an emblem of undivided love, union & fellowship – be applied to the services connected with the most sacred of all recollections- the blood that was shed & the body that was broken, – & that as often as we drink of this cup the spirit of this memorial will bind us together in the unity of the Spirit & the bonds of peace.”

In October 20, 1988, the Church received a letter from Rev. Robert J. Wright, Jr., Senior Minister of the Second Congregational Church attached to an appraisal of this piece from L.A. Landry Antiques of Essex Massachusetts. In this letter there are details of an alteration made to the piece some time after its transfer:[48]

“October 6, 1988

“This flagon was originally conceived as a tankard.  In converting this piece to a flagon, the above inscription of the word “First” was obliterated by the spout which was probably converted for communion purposes.  The piece has a molded and repaired base, a scrolled handle with a scrolled thumb lift and a domed top with pineapple finial.  The piece is 4 5/8” in diam, is 9” high and weighs 20 ozs.  It is also maker stamped in rectangle near rim:  ‘Revere’”

Rev. Wright thought it would be a good idea to bring the two silver tankards together in a common service, an event of which no record is known.

Four silver plates marked “The property of the First church in Beverly Purchased by the Pastor, Deac’n Benj’n Cleaves, and Deac’n Robt. Roundy 1801”

Jones, who appears to have erroneously listed only two of the four plates, writes of these pieces:

“Two plain dishes are in a pair with a flat rim.  Height, 15 ½ in.”

There is some confusion about the number of plates in the collection.  Although four were reported purchased, and there were four described as early as Rantoul’s inventory of 1831, Jones work is quite clear that there were only two plates, both with a makers mark indicating they were made by Paul Revere (1735-1818).  His accompanying photograph of the Beverly Church silver shows a collection with only two plates displayed[49].

Of the collection as inventoried since 1958 includes four plates, only three  bear the Revere mark.

The Church Records include the following entry[50]:

“July 6, 1800.  The Church voted to purchase four dishes for the Communion Table and chose Deacon Benjamin Cleaves and Deacon Robert Roundy & the Pastor as a committee for the purpose.”

A letter written on 3 February 1958 from Kathryn C. Buhler includes a transcription copy of the provenance of these pieces, in the form of a bill from Mr. Revere for making these plates[51]:

“Dear Mr. Gysan:

“You will, I think, be pleased with your kindness in bringing us your Beverly silver when I tell you that we are showing it with a photograph of a bill as follows:

“Mr. J. Keen to Paul Revere     Dr.

“To:  4 Silver Dishes, wt. 112 oz. at 7/                       130.50

“To the making – at four Shillings ounce                    74.60

                                                                                           __________

                                                                                           205.10

“Cr. By Cash                                                                     140.

                                                                                           ___________

Balance due                                                                        65.10

“Received payment in full

“Boston April 22 1801 for Mr. Revere

“Paid Mr. Low for bringing the Dishes from Boston     25 cents”

“Unquestionably – the four are by Revere! I feel sure that Mr. Bortman, who owns the bill will be willing to let you have a photograph of it but I cannot send one without permission.”

“Thank you again so much for your fine (and rewarded!) Cooperation.”

A photographic copy of this bill is in possession of the Church.

In 1978 two of the dishes were sold at auction by the Church.  Both were stamped with Paul Revere’s mark, leaving the Church with one marked and one unmarked plate.

One open silver cup, marked “Presented by Mrs. Mary Dane to the First church in Beverly March 2d 1831”

Jones writes of this piece:

“The tall cup has a deep bell-shaped body on a tall stem, the lower part of the body having acanthus leaves in relief.  The same leaves are on the edge of the moulded base.  Height 6 ¼ in.  No makers mark.”

Mary Dane was the wife of Nathan Dane, dubbed “the Father of American Law”.  He was instrumental in constructing the US Constitution in 1787, and was the sponsor of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 which forever forbade the institution of slavery from the Northwest part of the country.  He was born in Ipswich on 27 April 1752, graduated from Harvard University in 1778 with high honors and was admitted to the Bar in 1782, setting up a practice in Beverly[52].  He married Madam Mary (Polly) Brown in Beverly on 14 November 1779[53] and the couple lived there for the rest of their lives as active members of the Church.  Nathan died on 15 February 1835 and Mary on 24 April 1840, aged 90[54].  Dane was a fervent abolitionist and a major liberal influence on the Beverly Church.

The Church records include this entry[55]:

“March 22, 1831.  Mrs. Mary Dane, wife of Nathan Dane gave a silver cup to the Churchy of the value of fifty dollars”

“March 31, 1831.  Whereas Mrs. Mary Dane wife of the Hon. Nathan Dane has presented to this ancient Church of which for more than fifty two years she has been a worthy member, an elegant silver cup bearing the following inscription:  “Presented by Mrs. Mary Dane to the First Church in Beverly, March 22, 1831”.  Therefore voted, that this Church accept of the said Silver cup as a token of her respect and esteem, & that the thanks of the Church be presented to her for this evidence of her regard- Voted that the Pastor of this Church be requested to address a respectful letter to Mrs. Dane informing her of the doing of the Church in relation to her gift.”

The Church Silver in Recent times

The Beverly Church was in a mood to complete its silver acquisitions by 1801, when the following entry appears in Church Records[56]:

“May 3, 1801.  A set of plate for the communion Service being now completed, it was voted that whatever money, collected at the administration of the Lord’s Supper, shall remain after the charges are defrayed, be distributed by the Pastor and the Deacons at their discretion among the needy persons in full Communion whether they are members of this Church or members of other Churches who reside & commune here.”

The Church continued to use its silver in Communion Services regularly up until it became Unitarian in 1830.  Communion not being a part of the Unitarian tradition, the collection was relegated to an old footlocker and stored until 1900, when the Parish Clerk placed it into safe storage off site, where it remains today.

Even as Unitarians, the Congregation’s regard for the silver was such that it was used for monthly Communion services until at least 1920, and were afterwards taken out for special occasions and exhibitions.   Up until the 1990s, Elements of the silver were used for an annual communion service held by the church, and the Baptismal Bowl and Tankard were sometimes used for dedications.   In 1910, and again in 1958, the Silver was lent to the Museum of Fine arts in Boston for an exhibition.  In 1913, the silver was described in the aforementioned book on American Church Silver written by E. Alfred Jones.  In 1979, three pieces of the silver (the 1718 mug, the 1729 mug and the 1747 tankard) were consigned to the Currier Gallery of Art in Manchester New Hampshire for use in an exhibition.  In 1984, several pieces of the silver were again borrowed by the Museum of fine Arts for the Ellis Memorial Antiques Show, a benefit for the Ellis Memorial and Elderidge House.   In 2008 most pieces of the silver were sold at auction to pay for major renovations to the Church building.  Today the Church retains only three pieces:  The Barnard and Dodge tankards, and the Dane cup.

 

[1] (Lechford) pp45-46

[2] (Jones)

[3] Jones’ book is used as the primary source of details for each silver object.

[4] (First Parish Beverly Church Records), Vol 1 p.11

[5] (Beverly Vital Records) Vol. 2, p,331

[6] (Beverly Vital Records) Vol. 2, p.598

[7] (First Parish Beverly Church Records) Vol. 1, p.22

[8] (First Parish Archives) Item #303

[9] (Beverly Vital Records) Vol.2 p.385

[10] (Fales) p. 274

[11] (First Parish Beverly Church Records) Vol.1 p.30

[12] (Beverly Vital Records) Vol.2, p.380

[13] (Essex County Probate Court) #2650

[14] (Beverly Vital Records) Vol.2 p.292

[15] (Beverly Vital Records) Vol.2 p.566

[16] (Salem Vital Records) Vol.1 p.252 “Dodg”

[17] (Beverly Vital Records) Vol.2, p.423

[18] (Essex County Probate Court) #7998

[19] (First Parish Beverly Church Records) Vol.1 p.259

[20] (Beverly Vital Records) Vol.2 p.470

[21] (Jones)

[22] (Beverly Vital Records) Vol.2 p.470

[23] (Beverly Vital Records) Vol.2 p.158

[24] (Beverly Vital Records) Vol.2 p.472 Unnamed

[25] (Beverly Vital Records) Vol.1, p.176

[26] (Beverly Vital Records) Vol.1 p.178

[27] (Essex County Probate Court) #13158

[28] (Beverly Vital Records) Vol.2 p.604

[29] (Beverly Vital Records) Vol.2 p.341

[30] (Beverly Vital Records) Vol.2 p.603

[31] (Beverly Vital Records) Vol.2 p.341

[32] (Beverly Vital Records) Vol.2 p.603

[33] (Beverly Vital Records) Vol.1 p.370

[34] (Beverly Vital Records) Vol.1 p.370

[35] (First Parish Beverly Church Records) Vol.1 p.259

[36] (First Parish Beverly Church Records) Vol.1 pp 259-261

[37] (First Parish Beverly Church Records) Vol.4 (These entries are found in Robert Rantoul’s notebook on Church Affairs, contained within Volume 4, pasted into the page after 1859 deaths.)

[38] (First Parish Archives) Item 296

[39] (Marblehead Vital Records) Vol.2 p.481

[40] (Ipswich Vital Records) Vol.2 p.39

[41] (Beverly Vital Records) Vol.1 p.386

[42] (Marblehead Vital Records) Vol.2 p.481

[43] (Beverly Vital Records) Vol.2 p.378

[44] (Beverly Vital Records) Vol.2 p.378

[45] (Essex County Probate Court) #4419

[46] (First Parish Beverly Church Records) Vol.2 p.461

[47] (First Parish Beverly Church Records) Vol.4 p.238

[48] (First Parish Archives) Item 126

[49] (Jones) Plate VI no.1, opp. P.10

[50] (First Parish Beverly Church Records) Vol.2 p.462

[51] (First Parish Archives) Item 296

[52] (Beverly Vital Records) Vol.2 p.414

[53] (Beverly Vital Records) Vol.2 p.81

[54] (Beverly Vital Records) Vol.2 p.414

[55] (First Parish Beverly Church Records) Vol.4 p.232

[56] (First Parish Beverly Church Records) Vol.2 p.463

 

Works Cited

Beverly Vital Records. Vital Records of Beverly, Massachusetts to the End of the year 1849 (2 Volumes). Topsfield, MA: Topsfield Historical Society; Reprinted by Search & Research Publishing, Denver CO, 1906.

Clarke, Herman Frederick. “The Craft of Silversmith in Early New England.” New England Quarterly, Vol . 12, No.  1 (March, 1939): 68-79.

Essex County Probate Court. “Records of the Essex County Probate Court.” Salem MA: Collection in possession of the Massachusetts Archives, Boston MA, n.d.

Fales, Martha Gandy. Early American Silver for the Cautious Collector. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1970.

Fennimore, Donald L. “Religion in America: Metal Objects in Service of the Ritual.” American Art Journal, Vol. 10, No. 2 (1978): 20-42.

First Parish Archives. “Archives of the First Parish Church.” Beverly MA: Unpublished- Cellection in possession of First Parish Church in Beverly.

First Parish Beverly Church Records. Records of the First Church in Beverly 1667-1880 (4 Volumes). Beverly, MA: Volume 1, Essex Institute 1905; Volume 2 First Parish Church, 2008; Volumes 3&4 unpublished, 1880.

Ipswich Vital Records. Vital Records of Ipswich Massachusetts to the End of the Year 1849. Salem, MA: The Essex Institute, 1910.

Jones, E. Alfred. The Old Silver of American Churches. Letchworth, England: Privately printed for the National Society of Colonial Dames of America at the Ardent Press, 1913.  Available as a reference text at the Ipswich Public Library.  Beverly Silver photo: Plate VI no. 1, opp. p.10 and described on pp.13-18.

Lechford, Thomas. Plain Dealing; or, News from New England. London: reprint, Boston: J. K. Wiggin and William Parsons Lunt, 1867, 1642.

Marblehead Vital Records. Vital Records of Marblehead Massachusetts to the End of the Year 1849. Salem, MA: The Essex Institute, 1903.

Peterson, Mark A. “Puritanism and Refinement in Early New England: Reflections on Communion Silver.” The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, Vol. 58, No. 2 (2001): 307-346.

Salem Vital Records. Vital Records of Salem Massachusetts to the end of the Year 1849 (6 Volumes). Salem, Mass: Essex Institute, 1925.

Ward, Barbara McLean. “”In a Feasting Posture”: Communion Vessels and Community Values in Seventeenth- and.” Winterthur Portfolio, Vol. 23, No. 1 (1988): 1-24.

 

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