Members of the Brookline Historical Society
BROOKLINE HISTORICAL SOCIETY
ANNUAL MEETING, JANUARY 28, 1902
PUBLISHED BY THE SOCIETY
Ladies and Gentlemen
, - Some ten years or more ago a few earnest citizens of Brookline made an effort to form an historical society. By-laws were framed and adopted, preliminary meetings were held, officers were elected, articles of incorporation were drawn and signed, and record of same duly kept, but the certificate from the State House was not obtained, because it was not asked by the person having the matter in charge, and the Society's incorporation was held in abeyance until April 21, 1901 when our present charter was obtained and this Society was organized with a list of fifteen charter members. There have been added by election since that date 97 members, the roll showing 1 benefactor, 9 life, and 102 annual members - a total of 112 in all.
While we are gratified at this favorable result, we are pained to record that two members, who gave promise of usefulness to the Society - George W. Armstrong and Dr. Edward Steese, - have passed on to fields of labor in a higher sphere, and have become first on the roll of our honored, but lamented, dead.
There has been received for membership fees $480.00 to date, and there has been paid out for expenses $130.80, leaving a balance in the treasury of $349.20, with a number of membership fees yet unpaid.
The Society may well feel proud of its achievements in the first nine months of its life and history, which give promise of still greater in the future.
Three valuable historical papers have been read before the Society at its meetings since its incorporation, - one upon the Devotion family, another upon Elhanan Winchester and family, and the third upon the Walnut-street Burying Ground. It is hoped by your Board of Directors to have a paper read at each stated meeting in the future upon some topic relating to Brookline history.
THE SEAL OF THE SOCIETY.
One of the first duties of the Society was the selection and adoption of a device for its seal. A view of the Devotion House on Harvard street, the oldest structure in the town, erected about 1680, was adopted, and voted to be drawn and engraved. It was drawn by a citizen of the town from a photograph, engraved by another citizen, and is an appropriate device for the seal of the Society. As such may it have a long and useful career, and may the old house long continue to be an historical landmark of our town !
THE MEMBERSHIP CERTIFICATE.
Another matter, though perhaps of less importance in the estimation of some persons, yet important, was a design for our membership certificate.
A rough sketch of what was thought to be appropriate was submitted at a meeting of the Society, was adopted, and a committee was appointed to have it drawn, engraved, and certificates printed from the plate. A report of that committee, which consisted of your President and Vice-President, is before you in the form of the original draft, and in printed certificates.
The engraved plate was made by Mr. William J. Dana, a citizen of our town, and reflects credit upon him and upon the Society.
As some of our members are recent residents of the town, and others may not be familiar with the historical significance of the objects delineated on the border of the certificate, a brief description thereof would seem proper at this time.
THE TOWN HALL.
On the upper center of the border is an outline of Brookline's present Town Hall, erected in 1873, dedicated February 22d of that year, and fittingly represents the government of our town, settled in 1630 as a part of Boston, called Muddy River, and incorporated as a town in 1705.
At the time of its incorporation, Brookline was a hamlet of some fifty families, without a schoolhouse, church edifice, or a public building. The citizens were poor farmers who could ill afford even the necessities of municipal life, to say nothing of its luxuries. Today we have 18 well-appointed school buildings, 15 church buildings and chapels, and 15 other public buildings owned by the town.
The old Town Hall, which the present one displaced, stood upon the same site, but was moved to the west side of Prospect street, where it did service for a quarter of a century as a police station and court room. It was built in 1845, and by vote of the town has been recently demolished.
The first Town Hall built and owned by the town was built of stone, dedicated January 1, 1825, and is still standing on its original site, near the First Parish Church on Walnut street. It has been added to and is now owned by the First Parish, and named Pierce Hall, in honor of Rev. John Pierce, D.D., for fifty years pastor of the First Parish Church.
After the erection of the new Town Hall in 1845, the old stone hall was used for a high school until 1857. One floor of it (it was two stories) had been used for school purposes from the time it was built. Before it was built town meetings were held in school buildings and in the First Parish Church, for the town was the First Parish, and the First Parish the town in early days, and the history of one was largely the history of the other.
THE ASPINWALL HOUSE.
On the left upper corner, as one faces the certificate, is an outline of the house erected by Peter Aspinwall in 1660, and which was held by him and by his descendants of the same name until it was taken down in 1891, after having stood the warring of the elements and the tooth of time for 231 years. Its site was on what is now known as Aspinwall avenue, the southwest side, opposite St. Paul's Church. It was a pretentious dwelling for the age in which it was built, and a conspicuous object of interest to several generations of citizens and to visitors of the town. Our Society fortunately possesses a gavel made from a piece of its oak frame, presented by a fellow-member, Mr. Thomas Aspinwall, one of the last owners of the old house and a direct descendant of Peter, its builder.
A picture of this old house, of the architecture of the early Colonial period, so long a Brookline landmark, is worthy of gracing the chief corner of our certificate where, let us hope, it will remain as long as our Society shall have a record, and that that may be much longer than the old house stood in the town.
THE GARDNER HOUSE.
On the right upper corner of the certificate is an engraved likeness of the Gardner House, which some of us remember standing on Boylston street opposite the lower end of the old Boston Reservoir, on land now owned by Joseph H. White, Esq., said to have been built by Deacon Thomas Gardner in 1705. It was owned by Thomas Gardner, Solomon Gardner, Caleb Gardner, Benjamin Gardner, Elisha Gardner, John Goddard, Benjamin Goddard and his heirs, and was taken down in 1885, and afterwards the land on which it stood was sold to Mr. White.
For many years, as the older members of our Society will remember, this house was occupied by Mr. George W. Stearns, who carried on the Goddard farm, Mr. Stearns' mother having been a Goddard. Some of you may remember, as I do, the blue Dutch tiles around the parlor fireplace, representing Bible scenes. It is to be hoped that some day this Society may be in possession of one or more of them.
THE PUBLIC LIBRARY BUILDING.
On the left center of the border is a representation of the Brookline Public Library building, facing Washington street, erected and first occupied in 1869.
From a small beginning the library has grown to be one of the largest and best of town libraries, it now having between 50,000 and 60,000 volumes of well selected books upon its shelves.
The Public Library was one of the first established in the state under the general statute of 185 1. It was established by vote of the town in March 1857, and was opened in the old Town Hall the following December with 900 volumes on its shelves. The sum of $300 was appropriated to fit up the library, and $934, being $1 for each poll, was voted for its maintenance. Mr. John Emory Hoar, our vice-president, was chosen librarian in November, 1857, and held that office until September, 1871. The growth of the library has been great since those days of small beginnings; two additions have been made to the building, and it is now crowded for room, so that within a few years a new and larger building will be required to meet the increasing demands of more than 20,000 people, soon to be 30,000.
The $934 appropriated by the town in 1857 has steadily, year by year, increased in amount until in 1901 it reached the sum of $17,500.
THE HIGH SCHOOL.
Authority to build the first known schoolhouse in Brookline was given in 1713. It stood on the triangle at the junction of Walnut and Warren streets A part of the present Pierce Hall near by, now belonging to the First Parish Church, was dedicated as a school room January 1st, 1825, and in 1843, at the March meeting, the town voted to establish a high school in that building. That was the first high school of the town, and it continued to be held there until 1857, when it was moved to the corner of School and Prospect streets, to a new building erected and fitted for high school purposes.
The building of 1857 served the town until the present High School building, a view of which graces the right middle border of our certificate, was erected and occupied in 1895. The cost of the building of 1857 was less than $15,000, and that of 1895, with furnishings, exclusive of land, was $225,000.
Mr. John Emory Hoar, vice-president of this Society, was master of the High School from April, 1854, to July, 1888, a period of thirty-four years, reflecting credit upon himself and upon the town. Mr. Daniel S. Sanford, another of our members, has been master from September, 1891, to the present time.
THE FIRST PARISH CHURCH.
On the lower left hand corner is an outline of the First Parish Church, erected in 1806, near the site of the first church edifice reared in 1714, which gave place to this one. In 1848 this church gave way for another on the same site, and that again to the present structure dedicated April 19, 1893, making in all four "meeting houses" that have stood on or near that locality, but that of 1806 is the earliest of which we have a picture.
The first settlers of Muddy River, and of Brookline, worshiped with their neighbors in Roxbury. There were only fifty families in town at the time of its incorporation, and they were poor farmers, therefore the delay in building a church within its borders.
For a period of one hundred and fourteen years, 1714 to 1828, there was but one parish and one church building in the town. The early history of the town is so closely allied to that of the First Parish, that a study of both is necessary to a full understanding of early events.
To some of the older members of this Society, the picture of that church of 1806 brings to mind the long pastorate of Rev. John Pierce, D.D., 1797 to 1847, - who left a valuable mass of historical data as a legacy to those who came after him; of Rev. F. H. Hedge, 1856 to 1872; Rev. Howard N. Brown, 1873 to 1896, and of Rev. W. H. Lyon, D.D., 1896 to the present, and a member of our Society.
THE FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH.
On the right hand lower corner is an outline of the First Baptist Church erected in 1828, and dedicated November 20th of that year. It stood on the corner of Harvard street, facing what is now Harvard Square, and continued to be occupied for church purposes until December, 1858, when the present Baptist Church building was dedicated.
The old church and the land it stood upon was deeded to the late John Panter, Esq., in part payment for the new church building, which he built for the society. Mr. Panter altered the old church for business purposes and named it "Panter's Building." Later he sold it to Mr. George F. Joyce, and he to Mr. George N. Talbot, the present owner.
The old church, in its altered condition, still stands facing Harvard Square, and is occupied by Mr. F. F. Seamans, T. H. Dyer & Co., The Chronicle printing office, and others.
The speaker well remembers the old church, for it was within its walls he listened to his first sermon in Brookline, delivered by Rev. Wm. H. Shailer, D.D., the pastor at that time.
The old church was a plain structure, painted white on the outside and unpainted within. It had steps leading up to the main audience room as seen in the sketch, with a side door on Harvard street, giving entrance to a brick basement used as a vestry. In front, where Harvard Square now is, was a fenced in yard, covered with grass, planted with trees, and an attractive spot.
THE DEVOTION HOUSE.
In the center of the base of the border stands a view of the Devotion House, represented in outline upon the Seal of our Society as already described.
This ornamental border of our certificate represents three distinctive types of dwellings of early Colonial architecture; two types of early church architecture, and the earlier religious life of the community; two types of modern educational institutions, with the Town Hall, that center from which authority emanates for the government of the town - that center where citizens meet to elect their rulers and discuss administrative methods, and appropriate the money needed for the town's yearly outlay.
These, with the suggestions they afford for the study of the history of our favored town, seem a highly appropriate border for the membership certificate of the Brookline Historical Society.
All owe something to the city or town in which they reside. Their whole duty is not discharged by being peaceful, courteous, kindly and helpful to neighbors, friends, and those with whom they come in daily contact, but they should strive to leave behind a record which may be useful to those who come after them.
Such is the purpose of the Brookline Historical Society, and if all its members enter into the spirit of the work for which it is founded, it will leave behind a helpful record for those who shall sooner or later stand in our places.
In our town have lived men of national reputation, divines, lawyers, physicians, surgeons, educators, philanthropists, orators, lecturers, and authors of literary ability. Those who stood high in the councils of the state and nation, business men, ship owners and shipmasters, and hosts of others who deserve well to be remembered, and a larger number of those who were builders of our town, state, and nation, who have received but slight commendation.
And there have been those who went forth from their homes, many never to return, to light the Indians and preserve their homes in Colonial times; those who fought on land and sea for our nation's independence, who fought in the War of 1812, in the Civil War, and also in the Mexican and Spanish Wars.
Let us not forget any of them; whenever we find things to their credit, let us honor them and ourselves by making a record thereof.
There are few towns in our state richer in historical data than is our own. Few towns have had a more honorable career, and none a greater increase in wealth and prosperity, it being not only the largest in population, but the largest in our country in wealth per capita.
Where much is given, much is required, and it should be the aim of our members to do all in their power to make this Society what it ought to be, a model of its kind.
I may well congratulate the Society upon its present standing in numbers and financial strength, at the end of nine months of organized effort, but in life, whatever we undertake, the order of march is onward, for delays cause depression and loss.
There is no good reason why our numbers should not be doubled or tripled in the year to come if each member does the duty the Society expects. And none of us should relax our efforts to gain a permanent habitation, and an abiding home for our Society.