J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

“Danger is apprehended from the Stoves”

On 29 Jan 1771, the Old South Meeting House had a formal meeting which discussed, among other things, people’s habits of bringing small stoves to services to keep their feet warm. Because those people were seated in wooden pews in a wooden and brick building, untended stoves presented a fire hazard. The meeting therefore decided:

Whereas danger is apprehended from the Stoves that are frequently left in the meeting house after the publick worship is over,

Voted That the saxton make diligent serch on the Lords day evening and on the evenings after a Lecture, to see if any stoves are left in the house, and that if he find any there he take them to his own house, and itt is expected that the owners of such stoves make reasonable satisfaction to the sexton for his trouble before they take them away.

And the Deacons are desired to cause the foregoing vote to be read on the next Lords day, that the whole congregation may be apprised of it.
So nobody could say they weren’t warned when the sexton asked for a little tip before handing back their stove!

Old South was nearly burned in Boston’s Great Fire of 1872. Here’s a stereograph from the Boston Public Library’s Flickr set showing how the fire consumed neighboring buildings. The Bostonian Society has matched before and after images of Washington Street from other stereocards (scroll down this page). Damrell’s Fire offers a panoramic view of the devastation; Old South’s steeple is on the left.

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