By Cindy Ryherd
Emerson Chapel is named in memory of Reverend Daniel Emerson, the first ordained minister of the Congregational Church of Hollis (West Dunstable at the time of his ordination). The beautiful chapel was built on the west side of the church that was opened and dedicated in 1925. This was the 4th church built on the site and replaced the church that burned down in 1923. Connected to the Meetinghouse, it originally was its own space when viewing the church from the outside, with a large arched window facing south and two windows facing west. In 1965 the west wing was added to the church which resulted in enclosing part of the west side of Emerson Chapel and one of the west windows was replaced by a door to the new wing. Then in 1999, another renovation adding the elevator and front lobby resulted in enclosing the south side of Emerson Chapel. At that time, the glass of the large arched window was replaced with mirrors inside Emerson Chapel, and two windows were added to the north side of Emerson (one on either side of the fireplace) to provide the natural light lost by losing the south window.
Emerson Chapel as it looked inside and out in 1925:
- A TV/monitor is now mounted above the fireplace so the chapel can be used as a Sanctuary overflow room and/or if a parent with a crying child might want to soothe the child while still getting to watch and listen to the worship service.
- One corner of the chapel (where the piano used to be) is now a library/reading space, with a new bookcase and a comfortable wing-back chair to read in.
- Two new-to-Emerson antiques have been donated: An 1849 Tobin Seraphin reed organ and a Whitney coffee table (more below on these pieces).
About Some of the Contents of Emerson Chapel
Started in 1743, our church is rich in history, and throughout the church are pieces of historical significance on display. However, Emerson Chapel (see photo below), by far, has the MOST historical items, so while the room is very much functional as a chapel, a meeting place, a Sanctuary overflow room, and a reading room, it is also a museum! Like a museum, some of the items (annotated) have placards hanging near them with more information.
- 1773 Desk Secretary (see placard) was donated in December 2000 by Galen and David Deming in loving memory of their mother, Glenna Foster Deming who was the daughter of Louisa Hardy Foster. Originally made for Christopher Farley when he married Ruth Jewett in 1773, it passed through the Farley family who eventually gifted it to Louisa W. Hardy and on down through Hardy generations. See photo below
- 1849 Tobin Seraphin Reed Organ (see placard) donated in 2021 by the Hildreth/Birch families and used in the church from 1849 until 1864 when a Mason and Hamlin cabinet pipe organ was installed. The older Tobin organ was sold to James C. Hildreth, who later sold it to Mrs. Nellie (Lund) Peacock. It remained in the Lund family until Henry Hildreth, (James C. Hildreth’s grandson) purchased the organ from Walter Lund in 1965. The organ remained with the Hildreth and Birch family in Hollis until they donated it this year to see it back home at the Congregational Church of Hollis once again after over 150 years in private residences. See photo below
- Brass Cross has been in the current church since its 1925 opening. Now located on the organ in Emerson Chapel, it used to be on the Chancel communion table in the Sanctuary until the hanging cross was installed. See photo below
1895 Grandfather Clock (see placard) was donated in 2013 by Mary Duncan Williams, granddaughter of Daniel Emerson (the great-great-grandson of Rev. Daniel Emerson). See photo below
Needlework of the Madonna of the Chair (see placard) made by Sarah Elizabeth Tenney and donated in 1972 by Rodney Clinton Hardy, her grandson. See photo below
- High Back Cane Chair believed to be saved from the previous church. It has definitely been in the current church since its 1925 dedication. See photo below
- Four Bow Back Windsor Chairs made in Gardner, MA by S. Bent & Bros. See photo below
- Ladies Cane Rocker donated by Hannah Spaulding in 1978 See photo below
- Old State House Chair replica donated in loving memory of Mabel Harriet Hills, 1923-2009 (chair #448/1000) See photo below
- 1920s Victorian Couch (see placard) was donated by Emma Ober Canavan for the 1925 dedication of Emerson Chapel. It was refurbished and reupholstered in 2016 using funds donated by the estate of Lydia Schellenberg. See photo below
- Antique Whitney Coffee Table owned by Hilda Blood Tolles, donated in 2021 by her niece and fellow church member, Karen Marino, in loving memory of her aunt. See photo below
- Pewter Plate and Tea Set donated by the Ladies Reading & Charitable Society (1965?) in memory of Viola Brocklebank, it includes a tray, teapot, sugar bowl, large creamer, and creamer small. See photo below
- Antique Photos on the wall above the couch. Eight ministers that served between 1743 and 1906 are pictured, including Daniel Emerson, Eli Smith, David Perry, Pliny B. Day, D.D., James Laird, Hiram L. Kelsey, Darius B. Scott, D.D., and Samuel L. Gerould, D.D. Missing (no photos available) are James Aiken who served 1842-1848 and Matthew D. Gordon who served 1849-1852. Photos of ministers from 1907 – 2013 are in the “Our Church History” album. See photo below
- Ethan Allen Wing Back Chair donated in 2021 by Thelma and Ed Wigfield, reupholstered using Memorial Committee funds. See photo
- Brass Bell located on the top shelf of the bookshelves, donated by bell choir members in memory of June Whitebread. Names engraved on the bell were bell choir members that demonstrated the spirit of Ms. Whitebread. See photo
- Time Capsule Box located on the top shelf of the bookshelves, designed and hand-crafted by Charlie Seddon, made of the wood of the maple tree brought down for the 2020-2021 construction of the Squires Community Patio and the Fellowship Staircase. Sealed in 2021, to be opened in 2043 for the 300th anniversary of the church. See photo
- Antique Bibles, one large bible located on the top shelf of the bookshelves, published in 1879, and two smaller bibles located on the top shelf inside the 1773 desk secretary. One of the two smaller bibles belonged to Ms. Arvilla Hardy (1848-1938), given to her by her father, Solon Hardy, in 1890 and donated by the Hardy family. The other of the two smaller bibles was donated by the Hills family (Mabel, James, Grace, Ruth, Albert, and Harriet Hills) at Christmas 1924 to be included in Emerson Chapel for the dedication in 1925. See photos below
“Our Church History” Album located on the wooden chest, created in 2016 by the Memorial Committee. Contains photos and information of all of the past ministers going back to Rev. Daniel Emerson, plus other church history. See photo below
Reverend Emerson and Emerson Chapel Binder located on the wooden chest. Created and donated by Cindy Ryherd in 2021, it includes “all things Emerson”, including photos and copies of articles and relevant pages of books used to research the 3-part series And the Rest is History… articles about Rev. Emerson. See photo below
- Chandelier purchased in 2000 with memorial monies in memory of Elizabeth “Libby” Stowell Hills, 1924-1999. See photo below