Elizabeth Sprague Pitcher spent the first thirty three years of her life in Marion village growing up, teaching children to read and write, and to be responsible citizens. In 1824 she married Stephen Taber, a clock maker in Acushnet, and they moved to New Bedford where they wisely invested their money in whaling ships, mill stocks, and railroad bonds. Their three children all died in infancy, and Stephen passed away in 1862, leaving the widow Elizabeth yearning to return to Marion to enrich the lives of its citizens.
Elizabeth Tabor’s generosity to Marion included six buildings as well as parks, trees, cemeteries, and endowment monies for the maintenance of her new creations. Hence, she was often called “Marion’s Fairy Godmother.” What were these gifts?
Her first generosity was the Elizabeth Taber Library in I872. Included with the gift was a $15,000 endowment, a $4,000 life insurance policy, and a gift of her own furniture. In addition, she also gave a $6,000 legacy for the proposed Natural History Museum above the library.
The second building that Elizabeth Taber gave in 1876 was the Tabor Academy Academic Building. In the thirties, the town of Marion made a trade of buildings with Tabor Academy and this building became the Marion Town Hall.
In 1876, Union Hall was the third building that Elizabeth Taber built. It was for the ladies of the Congregational Church for their sewing groups and social occasions. Union Hall was located on South Street where the Fellowship Hall of St. Gabriel’s now stands.
Taber Hall was the fourth building given by Mrs. Taber in 1880 to house the principal of Tabor Academy, Mr. Clark Howland. She resided in an apartment on the second floor until her death in 1888 at the age of 97. It was originally located where Sippican School is today, and was later moved to its present location on Cottage Street.
Elizabeth Taber built the stone Congregational Chapel in 1885 because she did not think it proper for children to have Sunday school in the basement of the church. She hired William Gibbons Preston, a noted Boston architect, who summered in Marion, to design the chapel. Among other activities, it houses the church’s Penny Pincher’s Exchange today.
Her sixth and final gift to Marion was the Music Hall, built in 1890-91, two years after Elizabeth Taber died. It was also designed by William Gibbons Preston. It fulfilled her desire to “put some snap into Marion,” to provide a hall for musical and theatrical performances to enhance the cultural life in her beloved town.
A life-sized bronze statue of Elizabeth Taber has been commissioned to be placed on the corner of Bicentennial Park across from the Town Hall. The Board of Selectmen has heartily endorsed this project, which will be completed some time prior to summer, 2020.
To learn more about Elizabeth Taber, please visit www.sippicanhistoricalsociety.org