Waltham Churches

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Where's the Church Bell

Another church fire occurred on August 22, 1932, when the First Parish Church at the corner of Church and School Streets had a three-alarm fire. At 1:48 AM the bell tower toppled and just missed hitting a ladder truck. Pictures were taken the next day of the fire and the bell.

The Waltham Museum is interested in what happened to the church bell after the fire. E-mail the museum if you have any information.

Sister Mary Teresa Cartier of the Marist Missionary Home, Waltham

In our January 2001 newsletter we wrote about how Sister Mary Teresa Cartier of the Waltham Marist Missionary Home helped James Fahey get sand from Olasana Island. We have since learned that Sister Cartier had a great adventure herself.  Between January to October 1942 she was on Guadalcanal with nine other missionaries. Sister Cartier wrote an 11-page story about this time. Actually Sister Cartier had been doing missionary work on Guadalcanal for ten years before she and the other missionaries were ordered off the island on January 26, 1942, because the Japanese were coming. When the evacuation boat came to take them to Australia they refused to go. Sister Cartier later said, "We knew little about the war to realize what we were doing." In the month of May a convoy of 40 Japanese ships occupied the island and started to build an airfield. For months, Japanese patrols searched the island for any foreigners, including missionaries. And for months the 10 missionaries continued to elude capture and death. Sometimes their capture was so close that they resign themselves to the fact.

In August 1942 the Marines landed and the battle for Guadalcanal started. Even then Sister Cartier and her group still had to hide. Finally in late October the island was safe enough to evacuate them. Today Sister Cartier still serves at the Marist Missionary Home on Newton Street in Waltham. She is in her nineties.

Beth Eden Church

Beth Eden Baptist Church was founded on October 8, 1887, by fifty-three people who felt the need for a Baptist witness on Waltham’s South Side. Land for the church was purchased in 1888 and the first Sunday worship service was held on December 6, 1891. Later the church elevated its steeple to a height of ninety feet to accommodate the tower clock which has ever since remained a familiar landmark in Waltham. The church’s rare and lovely bells were given by Deacon George Hudson; they pealed for the first time at midnight December 31, 1916. The bells tolled every noon for the 444 days of the Iranian Hostage Crisis of 1978–1979, for which the church gained national recognition.

More on the Beth Eden Baptist Church Tower Clock

In our newsletter we wrote about the donation of the original clock mechanism for the tower clock of the Baptist Church on Maple Street. There are four faces on this clock. One faces north, another south, east and west. Each face is over 6 feet 6 inches in diameter. When they modernize this clock some ten years ago they also renewed the faces of the clocks with new glass. When the Waltham Museum returned to the clock tower several weeks ago, we were given remnants of the old clock faces. We are now trying to put together one good clock face, so that it can be mounted behind the clock mechanism in the museum.

Father Leo P. Dumas of St. Joseph’s Church

In our November 2000 newsletter we wrote about pictures donated by Louise Hamilton, one of our members. The caption on one picture read: “Jubile d’Argent Sacerdotal de M. l’Abbe Leo P. Dumas–Nuttings, Waltham, Mass. May 30, 1950.” We have since learned that this was a celebration for Leo P. Dumas, the pastor of St. Joseph’s Church at 519 Main Street. Father Dumas was celebrating his 25th year as a priest. It is a wonderful view of the inside of Nutting’s ballroom.     Thanks to the help of Ernie and Eleanor Aucoin of Waltham, 60 of the estimated 300 people in attendance were identified for the museum’s records. Tom McKeon, another of our members, assisted in making this possible.

Methodist Church - A Brief History Note

In March 1837 the Second Society Church which was standing on Waltham Common was purchased by the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1859 the church was physically moved to the corner of Main and Moody Streets. On Sunday night, May 27, 1860, it was destroyed by fire. A new church was built on the same spot and dedicated March 13, 1861. In 1888 they moved to their present location on Moody Street and the Methodist Building was erected in 1892. The Methodist Building was raised in 1981 and the building's namestones were given to the Waltham Museum; the stones were made into a monument on the museum grounds.

History of St. Mary's High School

On May 14, 1994, a grand reunion of all St. Mary's High School graduates was held at St. Mary's Church and Hillcrest Restaurant. The following is a brief history of St. Mary's High:

In 1888, St. Joseph's School on Pond Street opened for the first time to 850 boys and girls of mostly grammar school level. After several years it became apparent that high school training was needed. In 1891, the gym at St. Joseph and the basement at St. Mary's Church were the first locations for St. Joseph High for girls, and LaSalle High for boys. In 1892, the boys high school had to be discontinued for a few months pending the arrangements of better accommodations. At Christmas time, it was moved into the end of a large hall on the top floor of the school, and eventually into a tenement house on Lexington Street.

It was Reverend James Baxter, Sixth Pastor of St. Mary's Church who built the new high school on Lexington Street and changed its name from St. Joseph's/LaSalle to St. Mary's. A fund drive was launched on May 16, 1920, and the building was completed in 1923. For the next 50 years St. Mary's turned out outstanding students. Approximately 2400 boys and 2600 girls have graduated from St. Mary's and its predecessors St. Joseph's/LaSalle during its total of 82 years.

Unfortunately, due to economic conditions, the doors were closed on Sunday, June 3, 1973.

More on St. Mary's High

From its first years, the school had always held a high rank in its standards of scholarship and in public competition. In 1893, they participated in The Columbian Exposition in Chicago and won a gold medal for class work.

Shorthand and typewriting were among the specialties of the school for more than half a century. In the early part of this century, one St. Mary's boy won the world championship for typewriting. One class alone - the Class of 1909 - had produced three college presidents.

Joseph Nipper Maher, the founder of Little League Baseball in Waltham, graduated from the school in 1922. The Waltham Museum has his class picture in its archives. The Museum also has the St. Mary's 1945 and 1946 yearbooks, and St. Mary's 1949 yearbook for girls. We also have their 1913 Jubilee Fete book which celebrates their first 25 years of operation.

 Lafayette Hall

On May 22, 1994, we received a letter from Jeannette (Geoffrion) LeBlanc concerning our plans for Lafayette Hall this year. She also writes that Lafayette Hall was the meeting place of many fraternal organizations and social clubs. To name a few Artisans, La Societe' Assumption had its birth at Lafayette Hall, L'Union St. Jean Baptiste, the Foresters, and La Guarde d'Acadie. This last group also had its beginning at Lafayette Hall where they drilled. At first, only men were allowed at drills. Later girls were also allowed on the drill team. This unit would march at all Waltham parades and they also performed in other cities. There were many showers and wedding receptions held at Lafayette. Saturday night dances, both ballroom and quadrille, were very popular before the 1930's. Familiar names that attended these functions were: Aucoin, Bastarache, Belliveau, Bourgeois, Bourque, Buckles, Comeau, Cormier, Deneault, Delaney, Deveau, Despres, Dion, Dube, Doucet, Frechette, Gaudet, Hebert, Houde, Joubert, Labbee, Landry, Larosee, LeBlanc, Leger, Levassear, Melanson, Ouelette, Patenaude, Pelletier, Richard, Robichaud, St. Germain, Savoie, Sicotte, Surette, Theriault, Witham, and Geoffrion.  

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