December 4, 2001
This is the Tenth Anniversary of the Thayer Families Association of Braintree. Seeing it first-hand all this time, I feel it has progressed into one of the largest and most active family organizations in the country. Recently attrition has diminished our membership by about 10% from 600 to near 540 members worldwide. This was expected and it seems to be a good time to recap its evolution from its beginnings, prior to its conception to the present day. I have always believed we have not given enough attention to one very important and necessary ingredients, image. I will attempt to describe this in a way that will not: be boring to the readers. The other disturbing aspect that lingers in my mind is the misconception of a proposed merger with the Braintree Historical Society. These ingredients will be based mainly on my recollections as a TFA member since May 1991 and as the Secretary/Treasurer from February 1993 to July 1997 and to the present time.
In 1985, TFA was conceived by three knowledgeable and astute gentlemen, the late Philip Standish Thayer, Sr., the late H. Hobart Holly, and the sole surviving founder, Gen. James Burdett Thayer, Sr. In 1993 I was privileged to meet our Historian/Genealogist, Patricia Thayer Muno, then from Beaverton, OR. She was named to that post after negotiations with NEHGS in Boston to publish the Waldo Chamberlain Sprague 1960 handwritten and unpublished work failed. The reason for that was, the owners of that work, the New England Historic & Genealogical Society of Boston (NEHGS), was approached by TFA about publishing that work according to the purposes of our association. NEHGS demanded the 1,600-page Sprague work be published verbatim. This was unacceptable to our Founding fathers, ending further negotiations. Soon thereafter, Patricia Thayer Muno, in late 1993, was offered the position as our Historian/Genealogist. She had been researching our Thayer family for twenty years and had amassed a database on our family with nearly 50,000 Thayer names. At our June 1994 Annual Meeting, she formally accepted our offer and has remained our H&G to this day. To satisfy the four purposes of TFA laid down by the founding fathers, the one major purpose was, “to develop, publish and distribute a rigorously researched new Thayer Genealogy”. Mrs. Muno’s massive researched work on the Thayer Surname was perfect for our purpose. It wasn’t until the latter part of 2000 that the first of the ten volumes was published, Volume One, "The Thayer - Tayer- Theyer Families of Gloucestershire England 1500 to 1600”. Since then, Volume Two, “The Descendants of Nathaniel Thayer, the immigrant, 1660” was published. Both volumes are available for sale by the author and at the Braintree Historical Society. Presently, Mrs. Muno is formatting Volumes Three, Four, and Five on the “Descendants of the 1641 Immigrant Richard Thayer”. Following those three volumes the remaining volumes. Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, and Ten on the “Descendants of the 1637 Immigrant Thomas Thayer” will be published and released completing the ten Volume set.
The first two meetings of the Thayer Families Association, both held at the Quincy Historical Society in late 1991. Mr. Holly, the Historian there for several years, arranged the space for us since we had no formal home at that time. Mr. Holly knew and worked with Waldo Chamberlain Sprague, former H&G with QHS until the latter’s death in 1960. At the first of those two meetings, a slate of officers was selected. William Russell Thayer, President. then of NYC, now Springfield, MA; James Burdett Thayer. Sr., Vice President, Beaverton, OR, Philip Standish Thayer, Sr. Secretary/Treasurer, Arlington and Hull, MA; Edwin R. Johnson, Director, Walpole, MA; Rev. Paul W. Hutchins, Director, Michigan, now Walnut. IA; Katherine S. Naughton, Director, NYC; Robert Thayer Eldridge, Director. Plympton, MA; Robert Alden Knighton, Director, Randolph. MA; and Howard Saville Thayer, Director, N. Scituate. MA. The latter Director was appointed at the second QHS meeting. I was offered a position on the Board, but I refused, preferring to help in other ways. After that, most Annual Meetings were held in Braintree; 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, at West Point. NY in 2000. and back to Braintree in 2001. Plans for the 2002 Annual Meeting are already in the advanced planning stages at the present time. Most of the Braintree meetings were held at Thayer Academy. Also in January of 1991, we had a nucleus of 75 volunteer members. each donating start-up expenses to keep us afloat. Our monetary worth at that time was less than $500. Philip Thayer’s address in Hull, MA was our official address at that time.
My participation with TFA began in May 1991, helping wherever and however I could. I became a helper, gofer, and chauffeur for Philip Thayer. He did have a bicycle, but no car making it difficult for him to do the business of the Association. We worked together until his untimely death on February 2. 1992. He passed away while in recovery following a heart operation to correct an aneurysm. To the surprise of no one, except for myself, I became heir to all his membership information, correspondence, bank records, monies, and both his titles. With little or no experience, I accepted the challenge. The address of TFA became my home in Quincy, MA. Within a month I had arranged for a post office box in Braintree. MA. That was the base of our operations until early 2001. The membership gave me a great deal of support. To help pick up the pieces, Robert Thayer Eldridge took up the duties of the organization. Unfortunately, Mr. Eldridge had a different idea for the goal of TFA. He was vigorously trying to divert that goal from a surname based to a lineage-based organization that would have required blood proof descendancy to one or more of the three Thayer male immigrants from England circa 1640. Bitterness became so intense, I appealed to the Board of Directors to solve this dilemma. In November of 1993, Mr. Eldridge was expelled from the organization. Unfortunately and since no one else stepped forward to accept some of the responsibilities, I reassumed the duties as Secretary. I was so unskilled in both areas, I feared the worst, however, I was again given a great deal of help and confidence from the membership. My attempts to provide a newsletter for TFA in the fall of 1993, quickly proved how really unskilled I was as a journalist. My first and only newsletter was the November 1993 Edition, simply titled The Thayer Newsletter. To improve that, several names were submitted and a choice was made. Fortunately, Mrs. Muno came up with the title “the Thayer Quarterly” and recommended that David Sterling Thayer in Mt. Juliet, TN, take over that title in December 1993. David was also involved in a similar organization, The Thayer Family Association of Lower Canada East and Vermont. He accepted the position of Editor/Publisher of our newsletter in the late Fall of 1993. In less than two months, he angrily bolted as a member and Editor for no apparent reason, at least in my mind. In March 1994, Tricia came up with another choice to fill the post of Ed/Publ., Richard Allen Thayer of Bremerton, WA. He published his first Thayer Quarterly in April of that year, 1994, and remained in that post until 1999 when he resigned for personal reasons. He was also appointed one of the Directors in 1994. The new and present Ed/Publ. is Rodney Lee Thayer from Michigan, now in the US Navy, stationed in Japan. He retains his status to this day as well as being one of the Directors and the Webmaster of our Web Site.
The one person I have neglected to mention until now is Paul Goodwin Thayer in Virginia. He was elected to be a Director following the resignation of Howard Saville Thayer of N. Scituate, MA in 1995. After my resignation as the Secretary/Treasurer in July of 1997, three other members emerged to fill my two vacant offices. Judith L Young Thayer became the new Treasurer with her husband, Henry Jerome Thayer who gave her much support. The post of Secretary was assigned to the Rev. C. Russell Thayer, a Baptist Minister from Hanover, MA.
Albert Thayer Morton of Penfield, NY, in late1994, filled the one vacant post of Director. Al and I worked very closely with each other because he had a better sense of business than I and, finally, the organization seemed to gel into a first-class family association. Every year we had a slate of new and/or renewing officers. After the 1996 meeting, things began to go downhill for me. By the Annual Meeting of 1997, I could see the handwriting on the wall and I started to think in terms of resigning as the Secretary and Treasurer. My resignation took place in July of that year. The one reason that prompted my resignation was my three-year effort to secure tax exemption from the IRS failed. In April of 1997, IRS issued a Proposal of Denial meaning we were not eligible for tax-exempt status because we were a single-serving entity. I have continued my interest in TFA since then by recruiting new members, getting most of the names from Patricia Thayer Muno. She still sends names to me from time to time. It might be appropriate at this time to say we have slightly less than 600 members worldwide compared to the original 75 members in early 1991.
In March of 1998, I approached the first paid employee of the Braintree Historical Society, Brian Kolner, and asked him a question. “Would it be possible for the Society to bring TFA under its wing so they would come under their tax-exempt umbrella?” Brian’s answer was, “I don’t see why not. BHS has more money than they know what to do with.” Well, things began to look up for TFA and me. Less than a year later, Brian was given the title of Executive Director of BHS. I reminded him of my request of him a few months earlier, I was told to prepare a request to BHS to create a restricted publishing fund, the Thayer Family Fund that would be used to collect tax-deductible donations for the publication of the new Thayer Genealogy authored by Mrs. Muno and other scholarly Thayer works. In TFA’s by-laws, the four purposes describing its reasons for existence, the one most essential is, “to sponsor the development, publication, and distribution of a rigorously researched Thayer Genealogy.” The first proposal was presented to the TFA Board of Directors and was turned down. A second revised fund suffered the same fate. I happened to drop in to see Brian in October of 1998. TFA’s Secretary, Russ Thayer was meeting with Brian about having a fund by TFA created, basically identical t my original proposal. I was invited to join them and to eliminate any hard feelings I offered to withdraw my proposal entirely in favor of theirs. One of the requirements of BHS suggested TFA members become members of BHS, a requirement that would never be accepted by TFA. I suggested that this requirement be eliminated and, hopefully, revive the merger for the benefits it would afford both organizations. One of the major benefits for TFA would be the non-profit status they have with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts could be dropped, eliminating the ‘need to pay substantial state income taxes each year. This would also relieve my conscience of guilt for my futile efforts as the Treasurer to gain that status for TFA a few years earlier.
Another possible tool that might be an advantage for TFA is Regional representation. This proposal was submitted several times beginning in 1994, however, it was deferred each time. The thinking was, it was too premature. It is up for consideration again by the present Board of Directors. My personal opinion is still one of immaturity.
Finally, it would be my advice as an architect familiar with art, design, and image, that a graphic design committee (GDC) be created from the ranks of TFA members to oversee the final appearance of each edition of, the finished projects including our newsletter. In that regard, control of all content will still be with the Editor/Publisher of TFA and the membership. It is my hope the latter will agree to the need for this facet of journalism simply because it will help to sell TFA to many others inside and outside of the organization. I am willing to play an active part on that committee. As an active member of TFA and BHS, I could oversee this work with relative ease and expertise. Being retired does have its perks.
Raymond Alexander ‘Rick’ Thayer