Happenings of our church 1911
The Dibley Family by Mary Breyman
"There was to be a new minister in our little Lee Center Congregational Church in about 1911. The whole community was agog,, as the new family was from London ,England! It hardly seemed possible that anyone would leave a big city, cross the sea, and travel to such a small community in the middle West to make their home. However, the Rev. Frederick Kempster had so chosen to do so, and with him would be his wife , Madge, her sister Polly, and brother Charles Dibley.
Great were the preparations for their arrival. The church was a lovely one of a New England style of white clapboard, a center isle , a tall steeple, and a lovely pipe organ with gold pipes shining. The ladies of the church scrubbed and dusted, swept the red Turkish rugs in the center and outer isles, cleaned the parsonage and with the help of the men painted and wallpapered where needed.
All of this is a hazy recollection to me as I was 8 years old, but I did sense the pressure that was mounting until the day of the arrival of our new church family. When that day did come, they were met at the train station in Amboy, and their dog Victoria ( called Vicky, and named for their adored Queen Victoria of England 1837-1901)
The whole village turned out to welcome them as they arrived with their luggage in one of our members carriages. Their household goods to follow in a dray ( wagon) I can't recall. but knowing my home town, I am sure they were welcomed with open arms.
Rev Kempster was a handsome , bombastic, opinionated man, showing from the beginning how superior he felt himself to be over the town folk. . The Dibleys ( Charles the brother) were a different story. Madge, the wife was a sweet , gentle, beautiful lady in rather delicate health. Polly was also dainty, but prim and proper. with decided opinions, yet willing to become part of our community, and was a willing worker at the church. . Charles ( Charley) was too a gentle , rather shy man, but as time went by, it was realized he was a bit more than fond of " a nip from the bottle" all were approaching middle age.
These three fine people made a great effort to make themselves a part of the community, and I might add, succeeded beautifully! It was obvious from the start they had lived a far different life in London and as time went on, we learned that their family had owned a large department store in the heart of London until their parents' death. Also it was learned that the family had suffered great losses which they had been too proud to admit. At that time the rev Kempster came into the picture and swept Madge off her feet and into marriage, with the promise that her sister and brother would be included in their trip across the Atlantic to our country, along with their wealth.
I was aware that there was mystery connected with the minister, as there would be discussions among the church adults which would immediately cease when youngster entered the room. Then one day word was passed about that the minister had k=left town, leaving no note or forwarding address. Madge was devastated and all three in a state of despair over their plight.
The people rallied around and gave them sympathetic support and encouragement. Little by little they settled down in another house, as of course, the future minister would need the parsonage.
All three Dibleys had beautiful singing voices and were so proud to relate to us the times that the two sisters had given command performances before the Queen. Charley played the trumpet and was a member of the Queens band. their second home was near Aunt Lissie's ( the old Jeanblanc house on Main street) and we would often hear them singing ,,Oh what sweet music they made!
There was an Odd Fellows Lodge and Rebecah Lodge and the Dibleys were members. I remember when the two sisters would dress for meetings--always in their finest clothes. They would carry reticules over their wrists and hold their long skirts up so that only the dust ruffles would touch the wooden sidewalks.
Their clothing was all of the finest materials from their store in London. but when anything new was made for them, it continued to end the Victorian style.
I spent lots of time in their home, and Polly would get out many of their treasures that had come with them from England for me to see. I especially recall a pair of turquoise lusters with beautiful cut prims, reaching almost to the table , their lovely sterling silver and a set of deep red with underlay vases, which many years later were presented to me as a gift.
One day , Madge brought out her wedding dress, cream color heavy satin and lace with a bustle and long train .
When I was asked to stay for tea, it was served with lovely silver service and the delicious scones and other British goodies, filled with currents or raisins.
The years rolled on , and the Dibleys grew old gracefully. Charlie was the first to die, then a few years later, a few years later, Madge and dear Polly was left alone. These proud people never complained nor did they ever ask for anything. It was learned too late that they were often hungry and was discovered they had quietly sold off most of their beautiful English possessions. It was further learned that a very kind man and generous Catholic meat market man, Frank Brady, sent meat to them from Amboy via the rural mail man. It was the latter, that told of this man's generosity.
The Dibleys are buried at our beautiful Woodside Cemetery , far from their home country, but I feel sure that they were contented to be put to rest under the whispering pines in a community where they had spent a great part of their lives among friends of our community and church,
*My dad's sister, Aunt Mary Breyman wrote her memories of friendship and fondness of the Dibleys in Lee Center. I just recently ran across a
this letter that I shared with you . Parts brought tears to my eyes when I read of the Dibley family's unknown struggles at the end of their lives. When dad was caretaker at the cemetery, I remember mowing their gravesites many years, not knowing anything about them. Aunt Mary's story touched me, and I appreciate the courage they had, and respect the sacrifices made as they journeyed to our country, and the gift of friendship brought to our church in 1911 until their deaths. . It is interesting of how much our lives have changed over the years, but one thing remains steadfast, is our love and devotion to our Lord. This was long, but feel our church ancestors have a story to tell...finding this letter, compelled me to share it. Cindy