Historian uncovers the lives of forgotten Brunswick residents

Maryland

Dr. Wayne Allgaier examines the stained-glass windows at Beans in the Belfry Cafe, located in a former church. Names of former residents are written at the bottom of the glass windows and Allgaier set out to uncover their stories.

BRUNSWICK, Md. (WDVM) — Inside Beans in the Belfry, you’ll often find Don Peterson seated right where the light shines through the stained-glass windows. He’s become a regular at the cafe.

“People sometimes stop me and ask me ‘Who are these people that have the names on the stained-glass windows?” I’ve asked but nobody seems to know,” Peterson said. 

It’s a question co-owner Hanna Politis says many customers have asked. At the end of last year, she decided to try and find some answers.

“Let’s find out. Luckily, we have a historic commission in Brunswick,” Politis said. 

In December, she called on Brunswick History Commission member Dr. Wayne Allgaier to help build a picture of the people whose names have remained on the eight glass windows since the former church was established in 1910.

“My wife said ‘Well wait until the holidays and then you can start.’ Well, by the end of the holidays, I’d done most of my research. It’s just that kind of addictive thing for me,” said Allgaier. 

Allgaier spent hours researching through census records, gynecology sources, and online to build a new record of these forgotten lives. He ended up filling a 40-page booklet detailing the lives of people like Reverend Charles Smith, the first minister of the church. 

And Edward Shafer, who Allgaier says was a mayor for the City of Brunswick and a co-founder of the first city newspaper, the Brunswick Herald.

To share the information he’s uncovered, the cafe has installed QR codes beside the stained-glass windows. Anyone looking to uncover the story behind the name simply scans the code with a smartphone. 

“It’ll give you just a one-paragraph synopsis on that person or that couple,” said Allgaier, “Let’s learn about these people. They are names, they can’t just sit there and just be names. They are people and families.”

Allgaier said he hopes to publish his booklet to make the information he’s uncovered even more widely available.

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