Recently, while researching a Goddard Library collection obtained in the 1970’s from the “Open Church Foundation Bible Museum.” I stumbled upon piece of local history (Gloucester), institutional history (GCTS), and ecclesiastical history…
The Open Church Foundation Bible Museum was once housed at 62 Middle Street in Gloucester. In forwarding information to a scholar who recently visited the collection, I came across this little nugget in a New York Times article:
On a monument to the west of the building is a marble Bible and a dedication to another of Roger Babson’s forebears, the Rev. John Rogers, who was burned at the stake in England in 1555. He was the first Protestant martyr of Mary Tudor’s Reign (Lawn, 1963).
This piqued my interest as a Gloucester resident and theological librarian. But as far as I can tell (and I plan to verify soon), no such monument now exists at 62 Middle Street.
Roger Babson was quite the character. In Gloucester, the Babson name is well known, as family ties go back to the 17th century. Babson has a national legacy as well, having run for President on the “Prohibition Party ticket” in 1940. He was also responsible for the founding of Babson College. Locally, though, Babson is most well known for the “Babson Boulders” of Dogtown (which are noteworthy enough to make it into the Atlas Obscura). The Babson Boulders are Depression-era ‘motivational posters’ with carved slogans like: “HELP MOTHER,” “KEEP OUT OF DEBT,” or “IF WORK STOPS VALUES DECAY.” Babson commissioned local workers to ‘decorate’ the Dogtown landscape with these glacial monuments, and it’s worth a hike in the woods to find them.
Now, in search of Babson’s “Marble Bible,” I employed my library-ninja skills and ‘googled’ <<Babson marble Bible>> and found this image:
The above photo might just show another example of Babson-commissioned ‘masonry.’ And it may just be the “marble Bible” that once sat west of the Open Church Bible Museum. The monument is located at Babson College in front of Coleman Hall). A short article highlighting Babson College’s collection of landmarks notes that as of 2013, “No one interviewed for this story knew anything about the monument.” The marble Bible is inscribed “Holy Bible 1537” and sits upon a granite foundation bearing the inscription: “Erected By Roger W. Babson In Honor of His Ancestor Reverend John Rogers ¶ Burned at the stake February 1, 1555 in London for translating the Bible into English and preaching the eighth chapter of Deuteronomy.” (See Dt. 8.) As the museum closed, perhaps Rogers decided to move the monument to the college he had founded (if they want, they can move it to Goddard!).
Babson was a deeply religious person. He was raised in the church in Gloucester. He came to Christ at age fifteen and described this experience at a Methodist revival meeting as “the greatest event of my life.” He remained “an emotional praying Christian” (see pgs. 6-7 in ch. 1 of John Mulkern’s history of Babson College). In the 30’s, he served as “National Church Moderator for the General Council on the Congregational-Christian Churches (later known as the United Church),” where he put his statistical prowess in service of examining trends in the health of the church (see under “The Babson Legacy” here). He went on to found the Open Church Foundation in response to a personal experience of walking into an open church and receiving peace and encouragement during a time of crisis. Regarding Babson’s connection to the faith of his forebears, his NYT obituary (1967), states:
Mr. Babson, who was born in Gloucester, Mass., was directly descended from Israel Putnam, the Rev. John Wise and John Rogers. ¶ “I can see myself,” he said, “as a combination of these fighting, religious and educational strains. Another strain, the commercial, comes from my sea ancestry.”
So, there you have it… Goddard now houses a large portion of the Open Church Foundation Bible Museum that Roger Babson founded, and we may have connected an obscure monument at Babson College with the Babson Boulders in Gloucester! Well… kind of!
- Victor H. Lawn, “Bible Museum on Cape Ann: Landmark in Gloucester Attracts Sightseers,” New York Times (October 20, 1963): pg. 392.
- Obituary, “Roger Babson, 92, Economist, Dead: Founded Advisory Service on Stock Market Trends,” New York Times (Mar 6, 1967): pg. 33.