Stained Glass Windows

Faith of Our Fathers and Mothers -The Names on the Window 

Perhaps you have passed by and admired our beautiful stained glass windows in the Sanctuary. Wondered about those names ”IN MEMORY  OF” so-and-so. Who was this person? Why are they memorialized there? Who put these windows up and when? How can we find out more? Sounds like a job for – ta dah! – your Church Historian! How does one go about finding out the answers to these questions, who, why, when? Research, my dear questioner, good ol’ fashioned nose-in-a-book research. Let’s start with the names themselves. Here they are by arrangement in the sanctuary:

Alvis Thayer (Altar/Stage) W. Austin Torrey

Elmer Thayer Deacon H.B. Whitman

Rev. Tyler E. Gale Clifton B. Thayer

Orville Rogers Ella A. Thayer

George F. Young 

Emma Oulton Bridgham

Carolyn A. Dyer and John Crosby

William Wallace Dyer

Mary J. Dyer Deacons 1928

Benjamin F. Dyer Deacon Joseph Dyer (Inner doors)

Deacon Edwin Fisher Archie T. Morrison

Given by Ella Fisher Given by his wife,

Mary I. Morrison (Up stairs)

Gift of Henry E. Dolbeare

Young Women’s Club (Loft)

Alida N. Stevens Josephine Torrey

It’s interesting that the names on the windows along the stairs and loft are hardly ever seen, however, from the outside these windows are seen and admired every day by passersby and present the beautiful face of the building. And did you know that there is one window that is lit from long fluorescent tubes in a closet of the Pastor’s Study? But I digress from our research. On to the next question, why? Quite obviously they are memorials, to spouses, honored family and church members. To find out when, one only need to find a 150th or 175th anniversary book, each containing a summary of church history, to learn that they were installed in 1929. Hmm, that year rings a bell…oh! The South Parish began in 1829, so 1929, was, uh, calculator please…the 100th anniversary! Oh, but something else happened in 1929, Oct 24th to be exact. Yes, you know, Black Monday, the great stock market crash. And only a few weeks before our anniversary.

We’ve now answered all but one question, about the persons named. What’s the next step? Take a look at a book, several of them, actually. And read, read, read. Starting with the church’s own records. The meeting notes and clerk’s journal entries go all the way back to opening day November 13th, 1829. Some clerks were more detailed than others. (Note to self – bring this up at next committee meeting. More detailed minutes for the sake of future historians! Just kidding!). I began back in 1920 and up to 1930, looking for any mention of a window committee or the names themselves. Some names did come up in the committee listings:

Archie T. Morrison – Dept. of Music, Auditor, 1929

Alida Stevens, Dept. of Fellowship, 1928,

Chair of Parsonage Committee, 1926

Josephine Torrey, Dept. of Social Services, 1929

George F. Young, Deacon 1925

Ella Fisher, Woman’s Guild Trustee, 1925

William Wallace Dyer, World War (I) Honor Roll (died of wounds) 

But unfortunately I did not find any reference to the windows. There is a page where the 100th anniversary ought to be noted, and it looks like something was pasted there at one time, but long gone. Well, now what? Not much of a story here. Hmm…story…hey, I wonder if anything was written up in the town paper back then? Let’s go to the library!

I approached the reference desk where two ladies were in conversation. I asked “Do you have any copies of the local paper from…1929?” with a hopeful grin. One smiled, “right this way!”. She opened a drawer, oh yah, they have fiche from way back. So I fished thru the micro-fiche from 1929 for the Braintree Observer. Quite interesting how papers have changed. No splashy headlines, just news and ads. Scroll page by page and read, read, read. This is a weekly paper and very likely the predecessor to today’s Braintree Forum. Church listings tailored for each week. Women’s Guild, South Parish Men’s Club meetings and events. Seems most people entertained each other back then. Our names popped up in the ads. Torrey’s Pharmacy, Bridgham Grocers. Aha, here we go, November 15th edition, Fellowship Reception to be held Nov. 22nd at the newly renovated chapel. Again, in the South Congregational Church Notes – “plans have been completed for the Centennial celebration Nov. 22- 24.” Next week’s paper should have something…yes! A bold headline scrolls in to view “SOUTH CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH OBSERVES 100TH ANNIVERSARY”. A full half of the front page and more than half of the sixth are devoted to the report on the celebration, complete with portraits and photos of pastors and buildings old and new. Space does not permit the full copy of the report to be copied here. However, here are excerpts I found about the windows, success at last!

“The redecoration and installation of memorial windows. When first I suggested this project to a special committee I called for this purpose, practically all felt it would be impossible, for it was a time of unemployment and financial stress, but I was able to convince the committee to attempt the impossible and it was done. Even those who felt it could not be done, later developed into great and enthusiastic leaders for this cause and served on the various committees. The chairman of the special repair committee was Mr. Russell Hathaway and Mrs. Alida Stevens, acting as co-chairman, with Mrs. Josephine Torrey as chairman of the memorial window committee. The beauty of our church pays its own tribute to the efficiency of this committee…We are greatly indebted to our splendid women’s organizations the Women’s Guild and the Young Women’s club for bearing the greatest part of the expense for the (windows), the balance being taken care of by our special repair fund. This fund was started two years ago, when we decided to run a special church day with a popular play in the town hall. We have had two annual occasions of this nature that have shown splendid financial returns and have enabled us to pay outright for the work we have accomplished…At this Thanksgiving season of the year, as a church, we are constrained to render Thanksgiving to the great Head of the Church for His Divine guidance in carrying thru all of these projects with perfect harmony and church unity. A text of Paul is applicable that `We should thank God and take courage,’ for there are yet greater tasks and new fields to endeavor and other adventures ahead of us.” - Rev. Carlton L. Feener

This is all very fascinating to your Church historian and I hope to you also, dear reader. However, we still have not answered the question, who was this person whose name is on the window? For that, we must do a little more reading! 

When we last heard from our plucky historian, she was headed to the Watson Library in Weymouth Landing. And so she did go. After setting up an appointment with its amiable curator, Jim Fahey, he kindly pointed out the file cabinets wherein she might find Braintree family histories. Several…large…file cabinets. Nevertheless, God smiled upon her as they were organized in alphabetical order by family name.

If you have any family history in Braintree, I suggest you take some time to go there yourself, as there are tons (literally!) of fascinating notes from the past to be found there, as well as a small museum dedicated to the inventor most noted as A. G. Bell’s assistant, Thomas Watson. I was able to find information on two window names there.

Benjamin F. Dyer 1833 - 1918

The Dyer cabinet is sub-filed by first name, that’s how large it is. Not only did I have a copy of his obituary from the Braintree Observer, but the folder also contained photos as well (see below). He died of “a brief illness” 10 years before the windows were built. He was born the son of Benjamin and Bianca (Penniman) Dyer. Penniman is also a name in our membership records. He was a “prominent and well-known citizen” the headline declared. He graduated from the Hollis Institute and worked as a bookkeeper in Boston for “a hatter” before he started his own firm, Gould, Dyer & Peabody. He retired after many changes to the firm by then called Dyer, Rice & Co. He had a son F. Eugene who was also very active in the church management, and two daughters, Miss Annie, and Mrs. Wm. Chapman, and three grandchildren.

Mary J. Dyer Benjamin F. Dyer

Town treasurer of 17 years, Treasure of South Parish (our church) for 48 years, President of Braintree Savings Bank for 36 years, president of the Pond Cemetery Assoc., and vice president of Mt. Vernon National Bank of Boston. Here is an excerpt from the obituary concerning his relationship with our church:

“Mr. Dyer was exceptionally interested in the South Congregational Church and during his many years as member and treasurer was ever solicitous of its welfare. A massive silver cup presented to him on the completion of 35 years of service as treasurer occupies a place of honor in the family home. (He) was one of the town’s fine old citizens, esteemed by everybody not only for this business integrity but also for the kindly courtesy and lovable nature which endeared him to all.” Sound like anyone you know?

Archie T. Morrison, Sr. 1891 - 1967

Also there was a large file on the Morrison family, and therein contained a typed copy of his obituary from the Braintree Historical Society files. Born in Glasgow, Scotland, he came to the U.S. with his family in 1909, moving to Braintree for life in 1919. He married Mary Strathdee, also a church member. They had two girls and two boys, and fourteen grandchildren. He first worked at Walter H. Hodder in Boston as a bookkeeper and then at S. H. Couch Co. in Quincy, going on there to become president and General Manager after 30 years. He then founded Electro Switch Corp., for which he is most famous. He was always interested in music, sang in the town choral and our church choir, and also directed. He was a town meeting member, a trustee of Thayer Academy, and a member of the Caledonian Club, Rotary Club and the Masonic lodge. He was very active in the establishment of the Braintree Golf Course. I wondered why it was so close to the church!

Having exhausted the library’s files for our other names, I decided to continue my quest at the Quincy Public Library, where they have reels of fiche with early Quincy Patriot (now Patriot Ledger) papers. More fishing thru fiche again. Equipped with the death dates from the church records, the librarian was able to point me to the right reel for searching. 

Mary J. Dyer 1868 (?) – 1901

In 1901, not many obituaries were printed at all. You had to be someone famous to have more than then few lines of a death notice. But the sudden death of Mrs. Benjamin F. Dyer of Braintree warranted an article. It was reported that her death “on Saturday came as a shock to many, as her sickness was of but a week’s duration. She underwent a surgical operation the Sunday before, and pneumonia developed.” Besides being a member of South Cong., she was also a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

 Reverend Tyler E. Gale 1877 – 1921

Our 15th pastor had a long column in the paper for his obituary, obviously he was highly thought of in the community. He died of a “tumor of the brain” and is buried in Hope Cemetery of Worcester, the city of his birth. He comes from a family of ministers, his grandfather in Lee, Mass., and his great grandfather who was the first president of Hartford Theological Seminary. He was married to a Worcester lady name Josephine Reed in 1903 and they had one son. Rev. Gale was pastor for only 9 years from 1911 to 1920, but has a long list of church and town associations to his credit, 8 in all. Most interesting being that of director of Norfolk East School of Religious Education where he taught Biblical Geography and Storytelling. 

Deacon H. B. Whitman 1838 – 1923

Henry Barker Whitman passed away after nearly two years illness, reported a long article for the Braintree news section of the June 1, 1923 Quincy Patriot. He was “an 8th generation direct descendant of James Whitman of Weymouth and Peregrine White, a passenger on the Mayflower, and 9th from John and Priscilla Alden” of the same famed vessel, and a veteran of the Civil War. Your historian would like to clarify here that Peregrine White was the first child born in Plymouth, technically onboard the Mayflower, and that Peregrine was a boy so H. B. is descended from both men. He ran a shop for harness making and stable equipment. One could be sure he was not happy when the automobile came along. In fact, there is an ad on the page for Used Fords – . Ton Truck with Starter - $225. Twice married, once a widower, he had four sons and six grandchildren. “He was a member of the South Congregational church, serving as a deacon for over 30 years; as superintendent of the Sunday school for 10 years and was also a member of the men’s club. He was one of the most faithful attendants of the church and a most active worker in all its departments. …He was a man of deep religious convictions and a citizen of inflexible honor and integrity. A defender of his country in a time of need, he returned home and like thousands of other veterans of the Civil War he upheld the highest ideals of patriotism by his good example in devoting to the advancement of his town.” He is buried in Pond Cemetery.

So now you know, dear reader, about the “who” behind a few of the names on the windows. I’m sure there is a story of honor and dedication behind each one. But how much more honorable, than any inscribed on this earth, are the names written in the Book of Life. Thanks be to God, that all of us are inscribed on the palms of His hands, and will never be forgotten.


The information above was printed in the Church News Letters in 2007 by Liz Thorn - Church Historian

Upon Examination of our Wonderful Windows…

After a service this past summer, one of our visitors asked about the Alfred M. Bell Company. Although one would initially think it was company who made bells, they were actually a well know Boston stained glass window company and they fabricated and signed the windows that grace our sanctuary. Their name is at the bottom of two of the side windows at the front of the sanctuary. Look very carefully for they are difficult to read as not to distract from the windows.

Limited information exists on the firm who made the windows that were installed in 1929 to coincide with the Church’s 100th anniversary. So obviously the company existed at that time. All I could find on the firm was that George W.  Spence was born in Chattanooga, TN came to Boston in 1895 and established a glass studio at 90 Canal Street in Boston. In 1897, he partnered as Spence, Moakler and Bell.  In 1905 John Moakler left, and in 1916 Alfred Bell set up a separate business as the Alfred M. Bell Company.

The best I can research, Alfred M. Bell Company of Boston was not related to Alfred Bell from England who founded the very well known stained glass firm of Clayton & Bell in the1850’s. That firm had a staff of over 300 workers who worked with a number of young designers and Gothic Revival architects in the provision of stained glass for new churches and for the restoration of old ones. Unfortunately, the records of Clayton & Bell were largely lost in the WWII bombings, so connecting the two is difficult. However, even though they had the same name, evidence exists that the firms may have been competitors as Brittan’s Alfred Bell was in business until 1993, well after the closing of the Alfred M. Bell Company.

There are other Alfred M. Bell windows reported to exist. They are in the Unitarian Universalist Church in Weymouth, Massachusetts, First Congregational Church in North Adams, Massachusetts and the Barrington United Methodist Church in Barrington, RI. I am sure there are others.

According to public records, the Alfred M. Bell Company was incorporated on December 31, 1919 and the corporation was legally dissolved by an act of the legislature on May 4, 1934. As such, South’s windows were made near the end of the existence of the Alfred M. Bell Company. It is also interesting to note that the well-known Tiffany Glass Studio was also operating as competition for Bell at that time and that they went out of business within a year of each other. We may not have Tiffany windows, but they are beautiful, filled with tremendous symbols and in great condition after 85 years! Thank you Alfred M. Bell.