Sunday, June 28, 2009

Unruly Assawompsett

"Assawompset Pond becomes unruly, and washes over the New Bedford-Middleboro Road in Lakeville" read the caption for this photograph published in the rotogravure supplement of the New Bedford Standard-Times during the 1940s. The surface of the lake, Massachusetts' largest natural body of water, is ever changeable varying from storm-swept turbulence like that above to an almost mirror-like calm. The home in the background later housed the Tamarack restaurant and is now the site of Tamarack Park on Bedford Street.

Source:
New Bedford Standard-Times

Saturday, June 27, 2009

South Middleborough

This week, I'll be posting more information on South Middleborough and its history. "Think of the fun we'll have"!

Illustration:
Postcard, publisher unknown, c. 1915
Postcards such as this were standard issue throughout the early 1900s. Printed in massive quantities with no particular identifying photograph, they were sold in bulk to businesses which could have their community name printed on the front. Its likely that this card was ordered for sale through the South Middleborough store at a time when it was operated by either Robert McLeod or Thomas Brothers.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

South Middleborough National Register Historic District

video

Last week, on June 19, South Middleborough was placed upon the National Register of Historic Places as an historic district. The listing is the culmination of three years of work by the local Historical Commission. South Middleborough becomes Middleborough's fourth National Register District, joining the Middleborough Water Works NR Historic District (1990), Middleborough Center NR Historic District (2000) and Muttock NR Historic and Archaeological District (2000).

"The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation's historic places worthy of preservation. The National Register is administered by the National Park Service, which is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Listing in the National Register of Historic Places provides formal recognition of a property’s historical, architectural, or archeological significance based on national standards used by every state. National Register listing places no obligations on private property owners. There are no restrictions on the use, treatment, transfer, or disposition of private property."

This short film (above) - intended as an introduction to the historical and architectural resources of the South Middleborough district - was prepared by me for the Middleborough Historical Commission as part of the work which I did in writing the district nomination. Unfortunately, the film never had an opportunity to be shown during the process, so I am now posting it here so that residents might learn more about South Middleborough and understand and appreciate the unique cultural resources which comprise the community there.

My thanks go to Betsy Friedberg, National Register Director, Massachusetts Historical Commission, and Phil Bergen, Preservation Planner, Massachusetts Historical Commission, for their invaluable assistance and support with this important project, and the many South Middleborough residents who early on expressed an interest in this work.

To learn more about the National Register of Historic Places, click here.

Mitchell's Hall

Though hardly recognizable as such today, the large two-family home on the south side of Wareham Street just west of Cherry Street was a noted social center in the last quarter of the 19th century. Located in the Fall Brook section of Middleborough and known as Mitchell's Hall, the building was successful in "attracting the younger set from far and near" to the numerous social events held on its upper floor.

Mitchell's Hall was one of a number of business ventures of Herbert L. Mitchell. Though Mitchell's tenure at Fall Brook would be short, his influence would be great. On June 18, 1879, Mitchell purchased the land for his hall building from Rhoda C. Leonard who with her husband, Richard, owned a substantial plot of land on the southwest corner of Wareham and Cherry Streets. The hall lot was purchased as a vacant lot and the hall was erected by Mitchell sometime between the summer of 1879, and January 13, 1882, when the property (including the newly constructed hall building) was mortgaged to the Middleborough Savings Bank. Also during this period, Mitchell established the first general store at Fall Brook on Wareham Street, constructing a building (the present Village Market) in 1879 to house it. Next to the store, Mitchell also built a home for himself that same year.

As originally built, the two and one-half story hall was intended for a dual purpose with a business located on the ground floor and a function hall on the floor above. The original tenant of the ground floor was Edward H. Cromwell who established a blacksmithing business there. Later photographs of the hall depict the large opening for wagons which occupied the eastern third of the ground floor facade and the signs "E. H. CROMWELL" and "BLACKSMITHING" which hung on the building and which announced the location and nature of Cromwell's business. On the second floor, Mitchell operated a dance hall and function room which became "a popular venue for socials and dances". For a period, events were held weekly, and Fall Brook briefly became a noted destination for social outings. The popularity of the Hall and Mitchell's prominence in the section of Fall Brook where Mitchell's Hall and the Fall Brook store were located was reflected in the fact that the nearby intersection of Wareham, Cherry and Thomas Streets became known as Mitchell's Corner.

Mitchell left Middleborough sometime prior to the summer of 1887, and the Hall was seized as part of a judgement by the Plymouth County Superior Court, July 15, 1887. The building was sold subsequently to Nelson Thomas of Middleborough who continued to operate the facility for a time. As late as 1904, the building was listed in the valuation listing for the town as "shop and hall."

Cromwell, himself, would later remove from the building at which time the ground floor was put to use as a social hall while a paint shop was established on the second floor. In March, 1908, Nelson Thomas sold the hall to Mrs. Hannah C. Clark who that summer had the building raised for the construction of a cellar underneath it. Following this, the hall was remodelled for use as a residence, with work being done by Bryant & Harlow of Middleborough. Since that time, the building has continued to serve as a multi-family residence, and it continues to stand, the second house from the corner of Cherry Street.

Illustrations:

Mitchell's Hall, Middleboro Gazette, "Old Middleborough", newspaper halftone, date unknown.

Mitchell's Hall, Middleboro Gazette, "Old Middleborough", newspaper halftone, date unknown.
Edward H. Cromwell stands in the center of the photograph holding the reins of the horse. This is the same photograph which appears in Mertie E. Romaine's History of the Town of Middleboro, Massachusetts.

Mitchell's Hall tickets, cardstock, 1870s-80s

Mitchell's Hall tickets, cardstock, 1870s-80s

Sources:
Middleboro Gazette
Plymouth County Deeds 477:112, 480:159, 550:527, 995:20

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Center Street, 1930s

Despite the towering piles of snow which line the sidewalks, it was business as usual for the stores along Center Street in the aftermath of this late 1930s snowstorm. Pictured is at the center of the photograph is the Ryder Block which had three tenants at the time including the First National grocery store and the W. T. Grant Co. In 1940, the First National had a new building constructed for itself on the corner of Center and School Streets (the building now occupied by Benny's) and relocated there. Grant's absorbed the former First National space and occupied the two stores until moving to North Main Street in 1957. The main space in this building was later long occupied by the Boston Store operated by Alton and Eunice Kramer. It has since been occupied by antique stores. The smaller space historically has been tenanted by various businesses including the Work Basket, a sewing store, and by florists. It is now the home of Honey Dew Donuts.

The building at the far right, presently occupied by Hollyberries gift shop, has the likely distinction of being the oldest building remaining on Center Street having been built about 1833. Originally occupied as a dwelling house by William S. Pierce of New Bedford and later Dr. Chapin, in 1875 the pharmacy of Shaw & Childs leased the house for use by their business. Shaw & Childs, a partnership of Jacob Shaw and Abbott Childs, built an addition to the front of the house, sacrificing what had once been a spacious front lawn surrounded by a white fence. Following Shaw's death, Abbott continued to operate the firm until 1906 when it was acquired by Jesse F. Morse, a pharmacist formerly with the Smith & Hathaway drug store at the Four Corners. Morse operated the store as a Rexall pharmacy until his death in 1948 after which he was succeeded by Leo P. LaForest (who operated the store from 1948 to 1963) and Ronald Craig. During this period, from 1920 through 1965, jewelers M. L. Hinckley & Son also occupied space in the ell of the building. In 1985, the Colonial Office Supply established operations in the building which it disguised under a facade designed to resemble a barn. Antique dealer Sam Pierce later renovated the building to resemble its earlier appearance. For several years now, the building has been occupied by Hollyberries Country Gifts and Collectibles.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Dahlias

Following the Civil War, Middleborough developed an active horticultural industry with C. D. Kingman, Levi P. Thatcher, Timothy Creedon, Keyes Brothers, and other florists and nurserymen establishing themselves to sell plants and flowers to local residents. Among the plants that these growers raised were dahlias, a flower for which Middleborough would become particularly known in the era between the 1920s and the 1950s.
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H. C. Monroe is noted in 1897 by the Middleboro Gazette as perhaps the first local dahlia grower of note. " H. C. Monroe is a successful grower of that superb autumn flower, the dahlia and at his garden on Main street he has over 200 plants in cultivation and 100 varieties, some of which are very rare, are embraced in the collection." [Middleboro Gazette, "What the Gazette Was Saying Twenty-Five Years Ago", September 22, 1922, page 7] Monroe's efforts as an amateur grower, however, were eclipsed by those of Francis R. Eaton of Rock Street.
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Eaton, a leather cutter working for the Alden, Walker & Wilde shoe manufactory, appears to have been the first Middleborough resident to grow dahlias on an extensive scale. By 1909 he was cultivating over 125 varieties, a number of which had been awarded prizes. Eaton propogated the plants on the small plot on which his house stood at 14 Rock Street (the land totaled three eighths of an acre). It became a local landmark, particularly in early autumn when the flowers came into bloom.

Francis R. Eaton's dahlias at his garden on Rock street have attracted the attention of many during the past month. He has 125 varieties, including many rare specimens of the cactus, and the flowers when in the height of bloom made a decidedly handsome appearance. Mr. Eaton has had numerous exhibits of the fall flowers in various stores about town and has been very generous in presenting boquets to friends. At the councillor convention, Tuesday, many of the Fall River delegates visited the garden and were given handsome flowers." [Middleboro Gazette, October 15, 1909, "Middleboro", p. 2]
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As late as 1922, Eaton's Rock Street gardens remained a showplace:

Lovers of the beautiful should take a stroll down Rock street before the frost ruins the magnificent display of dahlias in Francis R. Eaton's garden. The collection includes over 600 splendid plants, all in full bloom and so artistically placed as to bring out the richness and beauty of each flower and to make an harmonious whole of a varied mass of color. Most of the plants are of rare varieties, for as Mr. Eaton says, 'It takes no more ground or time to grow a fine flower than a poor one.'" [Middleboro Gazette, "Middleboro", October 20, 1922, p. 1]

Not to be outdone, however, was Elmer O. Drew whose Forest Street home featured "a beautiful display of dahlias... [which] is a source of much pleasure to all whose paths lie in that vicinity. Over 300 varieties are represented in the collection, many being seedlings raised by Mr. Drew." [Middleboro Gazette, "Middleboro", October 6, 1922, page 1]

While these gardeners were likely responsible for popularizing the flower locally, it was not until the 1920s that professional Middleborough horticulturalists took up dahlias on a commercial scale. In the 1920s, dahlias became a specialty in Middleborough with a number of growers concentrating on the flower including F. L. Millis & Co. at 96 East Main Street which was advertising cut flowers, dahlias, gladiolus and asters in July, 1922.
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J. Herbert Alexander was the first Middleborough grower of dahlias of note. Alexander was the son of J. K. Alexander of East Bridgewater who operated an extensive nursery business in that town and billed himself as "The Dahlia King." Alexander was a noted specialist in dahlia propagation, and he developed the first American collarette dahlia in 1912.

The younger Alexander began operations in 1924 on Summer Street (he was exhibiting at the annual dahlia show at the Horticultural Hall in Boston that fall). The farm later known as Dahliatown occupied nearly 25 and a half acres of land on either side of Summer Street just south of Murdock Street which was later owned by the Dutra family. "Those who visited 'Dahliatown' this summer will be interested to learn that the work of harvesting the six acres of gladioli bulbs is well under way and that in a short time the dahlia crop will be dug", noted the Gazette in October, 1927, hinting at the large scope of the Alexander enterprise. In addition to the namesake dahlias, Alexander specialized in other bulbs including tulips (offering 66 varieties in 1928), crocus (white, yellow, blue, purple and variegated), and hyacinth (pink, blue, white, yellow and red). Also sold were vegetable seeds including those advertised in early 1929: pepper, tomato and early cabbage. "A complete line of strictly fresh VEGETABLE SEEDS" touted the advertising. To help promote his business, Alexander exhibited at agricultural and horticultural fairs and shows throughout Massachusetts and in 1927 his flowers won prizes at the Topsfield, Hingham, Brockton, Barnstable, Springfield and Worcester fairs.
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Word of Alexander's prize-winning flowers spread rapidly, and in early January, 1930, he reported "an order for 250,00 gladiolus bulbs involving more than $2,000.... Mr. Alexander said the deal, which was made by a New Jersey wholesale seed house, was the largest of its kind on record. Last year, the farm sent 150,000 bulbs in a single order which eclipsed previous sales. The recent order which will eventually decorate gardens of 6,000 homes will not be delivered until March." [Middleboro Gazette, "Middleboro", January 10, 1930, p. 1] The following year, Alexander reported an even larger order - 300,000 gladioli bulbs - which were sold to a bulb retailer who sold throughout the United States and Canada. "Mr. Alexander figures that this order of bulbs will total from ten to fifteen tons in weight and will require three hundred packing cases for shipping." [Middleboro Gazette, "Record Sale of Gladioli Bulbs", January 23, 1931, p. 2]

Alexander's operation was so successful, that on August 25, 1930, he had leased a portion of the former Eliphalet W. Thomas Farm on Wareham Street near Tispaquin Pond from Thomas's daughter Lurana ("Lulu") Tinkham. "Mr. Alexander is establishing a new branch of his farm on the Cape road in South Middleboro near Carver's Grove," reported the Gazette at the time, slightly misnaming the location as South Middleborough. [Middleboro Gazette, "Record Sale of Gladioli Bulbs", January 23, 1931, p. 2]. In January, 1931, Alexander purchased a portion of the Thomas Farm and in time his entire nursery operation would be consolidated to the Wareham Street location which continued to do business under the Dahliatown name. The location presented a startling sight to those who drove past on their way to the Cape. "Motorists on route 28 are familiar with the great fields of dahlias and gladioli on both sides of the highway during the summer season and the jars of blossoms on sale on the porch" of the sales office building. Assisting Alexander in his work were several employees including Edwin F. Shaw of Plymouth Street who acted as a sales manager for the firm, as well as Mary Allison, stenographer.

Unfortunately for Alexander, Dahliatown was a business plagued by fire. On April 20, 1940, a fire destroyed the large farm barn on Wareham Street which Alexander used for the storage of "wooden bulb trays, cardboard shipping containers, bushel boxes and baskets and miscellaneous equipment." Though the fire took place "during the gale-driven rain storm", the winds spread the flames quickly through the wooden structure, and efforts were devoted to saving Alexander's nearby home, a smaller barn, the Dahliatown sales office and a 24-sheet billboard. "A considerable crowd rushed from town to the scene in spite of the cold, driving rain, and automobiles were parked along Wareham street, both sides of the fire."
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More serious was a fire on the night of February 22, 1943, which destroyed the sales office, stock rooms and work rooms of Dahliatown. The fire started from an overheated stove pipe, which due to the wartime shortage of oil, Alexander had been compelled to install just months prior to the fire. "'Our work of some 20 years of propagation and crossing was wiped out in 20 minutes, more or less,' said Mr. Alexander. 'Everything we had is gone. There was just one order packed and ready for shipment that was not in the burned building.'" The fire seems to have ended Alexander's association with dahlia-growing, and his interest turned to other areas of horticultural pursuit, particularly blueberry cultivation at which he became quite successful.

In addition to Alexander, Wilfred D. Deane cultivated dahlias at his farm, located on Plymouth Street at Warrentown. In February, 1928, Deane acquired the former William Quindley property on Plymouth Street near Nemasket Springs through the E. A. Strout Agency, and he immediately began the propogation of dahlias and other flowering bulbs, naming the business Eastvale Farms for its location along the east side of the Nemasket River just north of Muttock. Like Alexander, Deane participated in numerous shows throughout the region in an effort to draw attention to his products, and again like Alexander, Deane was generally successful in winning prizes for his specimens. In 1939, Deane won first place for the best commercial display at the prestigious Dahlia Society of New England exhibition. Two years later, in 1941, Deane won ten prizes at the society's show, including six first places.

In 1951, Deane sold the Plymouth Street farm to the Reynolds family and relocated to Wood Street where he continued to operate a dahlia farm under the Eastvale name. In the fall of 1950, Deane featured his first annual visitors' day, inviting residents to enjoy the displays and dahlias in bloom. Shortly afterwards, Deane's operation ended, probably partially due to a decline in the demand for dahlias which were increasingly seen as "old fashioned".
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Unlike some other flowers, the popularity of dahlias has fluctuated over the years, and they have come in and out of fashion among gardeners. Clint Clark, in his popular Gazette column "By the Way ...", in 1978, wrote a paean to the then long-forgotten dahlia.

My mother loved flowers. Her pride an joy was a backyard plot in which dahlias flourished in many forms and marvelous colors. All we can remember of their culture is that we dug holes and pit them in in the spring, dug them up and stored them in the cellar for the winter; and that, without education as to their special needs, they multiplied for us and made a glorious beauty spot.

Dahlias were in nearly every garden then, popular, we think, because their vareity of form ranged from compact globes to huge, exotic blossoms. They were perfect for cutting and arranging in boquets.

But their popularity, we've noticed, has faded in recent years. Someone said it is because their care is too much of a chore .... So we consulted a gardener who we know grows dahlias, and were told exactly what we hoped to hear - simply dig a hole and cover the bulbs with about 3-4 inches of soil, sprinkle a little fertilizer. We'll get acquainted with bugs and blights later.

Today, though no dahlia farms continue to operate in Middleborough, "The Dahlia Farm" name itself remains. Today it is run as a community supported agriculture venture by Jim Reynolds on the former dahlia farm purchased by his parents in 1951 from Wilfred Deane. Appropriately, cut flowers have continued to be grown on the property since that time. Visit The Dahlia Farm website and blog to learn more.
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Illustrations:
"Decorative Dahlia, Emily D. Renwick, Raised by Mrs. Stout", Mrs. Charles H. Stout, The Amateur's Book of the Dahlia (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1922), plate 1.


Richard Dean, The Dahlia:Its History and Cultivation (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1903).

The book was an early standard reference on the dahlia, and was undoubtedly known to Middleborough's earliest growers.

"Dahlia close", Steve Plass, photographer, 2008. Republished under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

"World's Largest Dahlia Grower", advertisement.

Mrs. Charles H. Stout, The Amateur's Book of the Dahlia (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1922), title page.Another book which was successful in popularizing dahlias was this volume, published at the start of the 1920s, a time when professional dahlia propagation in Middleborough was expanding rapidly through the efforts of J. H. Alexander and Wilfred D. Deane.

USGS map, "Bridgewater", 1940 ed., with the locations of Dahliatown and Eastvale Farms superimposed. Michael J. Maddigan, 2009.
Interestingly, Middleborough's two largest dahlia farms - J. Herbert Alexander's Dahliatown and Wilfred D. Deane's Eastvale Farms were located only a few miles appart on either side of Warrentown.

"Dahlia", audrey, photographer. Republished under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Eastvale Farms advertising card, c. 1940, paper.


"Two Dahlias", Steve Plass, photographer, 2007. Republished under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Sources:
Clark, Clint. Middleboro Gazette. "By the Way ..." "Dahlias - an oldtime delight", June 8, 1978, page 2.
Dean, Richard. The Dahlia: Its History and Cultivation. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1903.
Middleboro Gazette, Eastvale Dahlia farms advertisement, September 4, 1952, page 4.
Middleboro Gazette, "Middleboro", September 19, 1924, page 1;
Middleboro Gazette, "Record Sale of Gladioli Bulbs", January 23, 1931, page 2.
Peacock, Lawrence K. The Dahlia: A Practical Treatise on Its Habits, Characteristics, Cultivation and History. Atco, NJ: W. P. Peacock, 1896.
Plymouth County Registry of Deeds, (Alexander) 1463:364, 1604:442, 1610:575
Plymouth County Registry of Deeds, (Deane) 1549:242, 1549:243, 2143;43, 2583:383, and 3068:112.
Stout, Mrs. Charles H. The Amateur's Book of the Dahlia. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1922.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Middleborough's "Red Scare", 1919-20

Before the days when McCarthyism sent Americans scurrying to check underneath their beds for Communists, America experienced its first "red scare" in 1919, in the wake of an aborted attempt by presumed alien radicals to mail 36 bombs to various American men of prominence and power, sychronized to detonate, appropriately enough, on May Day, 1919. Fueled by the apparent success of the Russian Revolution and the dramatic increase in immigration from Eastern Europe to this country, the fears of many Americans were that a similar revolution could occur here, and they were whipped into an anti-Communist frenzy led by U. S. Attorney General (and intended bombing target) A. Mitchell Palmer. A general strike in Seattle, the police strike in Boston, a major steel strike which saw martial law implemented in Gary, Indiana, and numerous race riots throughout the nation exacerbated growing fears of industrial and political unrest during early and mid-1919.

Despite May Day bombings at Boston and Newtonville which did bring the scare closer to Middleborough, the town remained free of any direct Communist agitation until October 1919.

While the Middleborough Nest, No. 1824, Order of Owls (or O. O. O.), a local fraternal organization certainly did not have a history of inviting Communist agitators to the community, that is precisely what it did when it lent its hall to two unnamed Middleborough men for what was to have been a "socialist rally" on October 28. The rally, in fact, was a Communist Party rally headed by John J. Ballam, the acknowledged leader of the Massachusetts Communists, and editor of the Worker, a Communist paper published twice a month at Boston.

Ballam, at the time of the Middleborough meeting, had only recently been released from a one-year stint in the Plymouth County House of Correction for violation of the Espionage Act. Just weeks prior to the Middleborough rally, Ballam had attended the first convention of the Communist Party of America in Chicago where Ballam acted as chairman on the sixth day.

At Middleborough, Ballam "gave expression to the most radical statements ever heard in this vicinity," stressing the importance of "Force and Revolution." Following "slurring talk of 'You Americans,' 'Your Religion,' etc.," Ballam "scored the American government in regular Bolshevik terms" and "told the audience that if they wanted any of the lands about them they were theirs; they should seize them and he advocated using force to hold the property if necessary." Ballam, himself, considered his Middleborough speech as going far beyond his previous forays in Communist incendiarianism. He "said that he had served a year in jail for his utterances and on occasion he had never said one-half as much as he had this evening."

What possessed Ballam to believe that Middleborough was ripe for socialist revolution is unfathomable as it was a staunchly conservative community. Though active locally, labor unions were not particularly strong, or excessively adversarial, and they were even sometimes suspect for their generally warm relations with management.

Ballam's appeal at the October, 1919, rally seems to have been directed towards newly-arrived immigrants in the community, yet it met with little response. Like residents elsewhere, Middleborough residents were too caught up in national differences to notice any grievious social or economic inequities which may have existed. In 1897, ten Armenians had walked out of Leonard & Barrows' shoe manufactory not because of economic or social inequities, but because the firm had hired a Turk whom the Armenians suspected of being an Ottoman agent. Nearly a quarter of a century later, these divisive attitudes lingered among the various nationalities locally, and could still prove the foil of international social revolution.

Ballam achieved little result for his efforts at Middleborough other than, undoubtedly, embarrasssing the Owls. He was arrested a month and a half later at New Orleans on board the steamship Mexico bound for Mexico, on an indictment by the Suffolk County Grand Jury charging him with making incendiary speeches and "advocating Bolshevism and Communism."
Middleborough was little troubled by the event, and the Gazette's coverage of the whole incident was simply and mildly headlined: "Some Radical Talk."

The following May, 1920, a second attempt to incite the populace was attempted by two unknown men who began anonymously distributing Communist circulars throughout town, but again with minimal success. The circulars, headed "Hail to the Soviets - May Day Proclamation by the Central Executive Committee of the Communist Party in America" apparently contained a rant similar to the one provided by Ballam several months earlier, calling for a cessation of work on May Day "as a demand for the release of industrial and political prisoners and as a demonstration of the power of the workers." Again, the community took little notice of the propaganda, other than curiosity, and notice of the item was not even deemed newsworthy enough for the front pages locally.

With these two salvos, Communist attempts to incite the local population to revolution in 1919-20 failed dismally. Confident and comfortable in its conservatism, and secure in the knowledge that ideas such as Ballam's held no appeal to the mass of local residents, Middleborough was able to avoid the worst excesses of America's initial "Red Scare."

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Green School Update

Lincoln Andrews who is heading up the community effort to preserve the Green School has sent this update on the work thus far, and proposals for the next steps:

We are getting in our real quote for the Green School. Bruce Atwood, Neil Rosenthal and I met with the Building Inspector and potential contractor this morning.

Surprisingly both the the Building Inspector and contractor feel the school is in remarkably sound condition. We expect the town will be able to proceed with their soil clean up without having to move the building.

Their are still a few hurdles to overcome, but for now all lights are green (so to speak.) I will elaborate more on them in the near future.

The request for pledges will resume in earnest once the contractor (who is a known quantity to the Building Inspector) provides his quote.

Rich Young has joined our group. He will provide a much needed skill set to the group.

Local attorney Bob Mather has joined the group to help things follow an orderly legal process.

Brian Giovanoni provided the welcome surprise of starting a website. Once we have cleared the few near term obstacles I look forward to spending sometime with him and hopefully local historian Mike Maddigan to set up a website.

It is exciting to see this starting to take shape based on selfless efforts and contributions of many people.Please make a pledge if you are able.

savegeenschool@hotmail.com or lincolnandrews@hotmail.com

Lincoln Andrews
508-947-7071


Illustration:

Green School, reprint of a photographic halftone, 1923.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Lobster is Trouble Cause

From the summer of 1948 comes this tale of a particularly obtuse customer at a local lobster market. Though the establishment in question is not named, it is likely that it was Ripley's which was located just north of the Middleborough Rotary on the site now occupied by Persy's Place restaurant. The market was operated in the late 1940s and early 1950s as a purveyor of fresh seafood including lobsters, clams and scallops.

Summer time and "elbow bending" can bring on strange situations. This was revealed recently when Middleboro police were summoned to a lobster sales place on route 28. Outside was an irate customer, who was noisy about being taken advantage of. The boss of the place didn't agree with him, and he was not so quiet either. According to the boss, the outside man was advising folks who stopped for the lobsters to keep on going or they might be imposed on. That did not help business so the boss called the police.

Then an effort was made to get at the bottom of the trouble. It seems the "elbow-bender" had bought a live lobster. It weighed one and a quarter pounds, and its selling price was determined. No money was passed. Then the "elbow-bender" asked to have it cooked for him. This was done, and as the purchase was wrapped, he asked that it be weighed again. It was.

This time the scales showed an even pound. The seller wanted to collect for the pound and a quarter. The buyer insisted he was paying for only a pound. The seller explained the shrinkage came from cooking. The buyer would not accept such a story, and there the trouble started.

Learning the details, the policeman quickly adjusted the matter, by telling the prospective buyer he didn't have to take it, if it didn't please him, so following advice, the buyer hastened away, evidently satisfied he had made his point, while the seller was well pleased to have the room rather than his company.

Illustrations:
Ripley's Lobster Market, Bedford Street, photograph, late 1940s.
"Lobster Claw", Simon Goldenberg, photographer. 2008. Republished under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Source:
Brockton Enterprise, "Lobster is Trouble Cause", July 30, 1948.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

"Mrs. Satan" in Middleborough

One of the most controversial American figures of the post Civil War era was Victoria Woodhull (1838-1927), perhaps best remembered today as the first woman to run for the American presidency. Woodhull was an early suffragist, an advocate of sexual freedom, divorce, social welfare programs, an eight-hour workday, corporate profit-sharing and other progressive measures.

Woodhull and her sister, Tennessee ("Tennie") Claflin, were the first female stock brokers on Wall Street, and the two later edited and published a newspaper, Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly in which appeared the first English translation of Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto. In November, 1872, during Woodhull's run for the presidency, the newspaper exposed nationally renown preacher, Henry Ward Beecher, an opponent of Woodhull and her support for "free love", as an adulterer, touching off a national scandal which remained in the news for a number of years.

Not surprisingly, Woodhull was an anathema to social and political conservatives who literally demonized her in the press. Most notably, cartoonist Thomas Nast depicted her as "Mrs. Satan" in the February 17, 1872, edition of Harper's Weekly.

Just months following these events, during the summer of 1873, Woodhull passed through Middleborough, stopping long enough at the depot to change trains where she left her photograph with one fortunate admirer.

The Middleboro Gazette says Victoria Woodhull, accompanied by [her second husband] Major Blood, has been to the Camp-meeting on the Cape, and on her way thence she stopped at the Middleboro depot, and as a trophy of the influence of his good graces a gentleman, who may be seen at the depot most every day, has a picture of herself which she donated. Unfortunate man!

It's not readily apparent whether the Gazette's final sentiment is sarcastic or sympathetic, which is perhaps apropos given Woodhull's ability to provoke such widely disparate reactions.

Illustrations:
"Victoria C. Woodhull", Bradley & Rulofson, photographers, San Francisco, carte de visite, undated
It was probably a photograph similar to this which Woodhull left with an unidentified employee of the local railroad station in Middleborough.
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Harper's Weekly, "Get Thee Behind Me, (Mrs.) Satan!", Thomas Nast, cartoonist, February 17, 1872, page 140.
Nast's cartoon was particularly vitriolic, depicting a demonic-looking Woodhull (notice the cloven hoof peaking out from under the hem of her dress). What makes the cartoon especially viscious is that the second woman with the drunken man on her back and the apparently helpless child is likely intended to represent Woodhull whose first husband, Dr. Canning Woodhull was an alcoholic, and whose son Byron (one of Woodhull's two children) suffered from mental retardation.

Source:
Old Colony Memorial, "County and Elsewhere", August 7, 1873, page 1.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"Sabbaths of My Childhood"

In April, 1914, Jerusha B. Deane (1845-1925) of Muttock left a recollection of services in the Central Congregational Church in the decade following its construction in 1848. Fortunately, Miss Deane failed to listen to those who said that no one would be interested in her childhood reminiscences, and she left a wonderful depiction of simple Sundays centered about church and family which provides a glimpse at the early life of the Central Congregational Society. Her recollections are republished here in their entirety.

One may say: "Only those who have known you through life would be interested in reading of your childhood days." It is sometimes pleasant to remember that we were once children.

My life has been passed at my home on Nemasket street. I have not journeyed afar, as friends whom I could visit dwelt within a radius of fifty miles. Before my remembrance, my parents attended church at "Middleboro Green," two miles distant. When the daughter church, or Central Congregational was built at "The Corners," people hereabouts attended there, it being nearer. Before there was an organ in the church the choir was assisted by stringed instruments: two violins and a bass viol were played by Horatio Wood, Jr., J[ames] M. Pickens and my father [Edmund W. Deane]. After an organ had been procured [in 1871] (to which, I have heard, the older members were at first, loth to listen), A. J. Pickens became chorister, holding the position for years, even until I became an organist there. Nearly every family in this vicinity attended church, the forenoon services being from 10:30 to 12; and the afternoon from 1:30 to 4 o'clock; with lunches at noon; we sat near the "register," while eating them (it now seems "small rations" on which to have been prepared for the afternoon services).

I always enjoyed the music, and could keep awake to hear that, afterward, with my head resting upon mother's lap, the "firstly" and "secondly" of Rev. Isaiah C. Thatcher's sermons sounded far away, yet I always heard "fourthly," as that meant nearing the close. When Mr. Thatcher returned for a second pastorate [1856-60], his sermons seemed of greater interest, and I learned to know him as an able preacher and a faithful pastor.

The younger members of families usually occupied pews with their parents; but if any young man, thinking to "disturb the peace," chose a back seat, Mr. Thatcher's keen eyes were upon such an one, and if whisperings were heard from that direction, his discourse was brought to an abrupt pause, and, with right arm extended, pointing directly at the offender, most emphatically would say: "You, young man!" He then continued his sermon, no further reprimand being needed and quietness reigned in the sanctuary during the remainder of the services. Sunday and Thursday evening services were in the chapel near the church, also the Sunday school. I still have the catechism which I carried the first Sunday. Settees were arranged in hollow squares, a girl of my own age, who was seated beside me in the class, thinking, no doubt, to make me feel at home, whispered, "We have dresses alike, haven't we!" (they were of buff woolen material). I have always felt kindly toward her for those few initiatory words, even when she became the wife of a deacon in the church. I next beheld the pleasant face of my teacher, Elizabeth Harlow, and shall not soon forget her smile of welcome. She afterward became the mother of our townsman, Judge Nathan Washburn.

Nor heat, nor cold, seemed to hinder Sabbath observances, I recall, especially the cold days. My first appearance at church was in a blue plaid cloak, with cape reaching to the waist, and a blue bonnet. My hands were kept warm within a muff of gray and black fur, which by myself was thought to be "quite fine" for father had journeyed to Fall River (seeming, then, far distant), to purchase it as a Christmas gift. None since have seemed as choice, although brought from the far-off region of Siberia. When returning home from church, we, as neighbors walked a part of the way in company; then my father would say, "I will hasten on and kindle a fire," others followed, and with long strides, their tall hats were soon lost to view. After walking a mile across the snow, facing genuine New England wintery winds, genial firelight, with a good hot supper, soon brought warmth and comfort. Father, mother and myself enjoyed at twilight hour singing the much-loved hymns which children nowadays are not accustomed to sing, or hear:

"When all Thy mercies, O! my God!
My rising soul surveys;
Transported with the view, I'm lost,
In wonder, love and praise."

This, and many others of a similar nature, we sang, which then seemed to me (as they now do) beautiful and most sacred.
J. B. DEANE
April, 1914.

Illustrations:
"Central Congregational Church, Middleboro, Mass.", A. S. Burbank, publisher, postcard, c. 1910.
This postcard depicts the Central Congregational Church as it looked following remodelling in 1891. The church attended by Jerusha Deane in her childhood would have looked muched different.

"Image 1086", tambrieann, photographer. Republished under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.
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Source:
Middleboro Gazette, "Reminiscences: Sabbaths of My Childhood", April 10, 1914, page 2.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Betsey & William


The former Civil War-era training camp in Lakeville, Camp Joe Hooker, was long noted for the presence of two towering elm trees which graced an otherwise empty and enormous training field. The two trees were landmark features near Staples Shore Road which divided the camp ground, and they were probably the only two trees locally that bore personal names, being known as "Betsey" and "William".
In 1919, James Raymond Simmons authored The Historic Trees of Massachusetts. Included among the trees documented by Simmons were Betsey and William:

In a broad field near Middleboro, on the road to New Bedford, there are standing at the present time two beautiful and towering "wine glass" elms. As you approach them from the north they give the impression of being so close together that the tips of the branches interlock; but upon entering the field by way of the cart road leading in from the main highway they break upon the view as two separate columns, seventy-five feet apart, lifting their heads upward into the sky. Each is slender and graceful, not possessed of great age, but singularly beautiful in its isolation from everything save field and sky and distant woods.

They are considered historic in that they stand in the middle of what was once a training-field, where the soldiers of this community were mustered for service in the Civil War. The men who enlisted from Middleboro and its environs served their country with honor and distinction, notably among the first battles of the war. The towering elms, ever a fitting memorial to the brave, stand here as if rapt in silent reflection, garlanded almost to the ground with green leaves, overlooking the place where some of the boys in blue prepared themselves for the great crisis. The larger tree of the two has a height of 60 feet, a spread of 65 feet and a circumference, at breast height, of 8 feet. The smaller tree is 60 feet in height, 50 feet in spread and 7 feet in circumference.

Apparently unknown to Simmons were the two names by which the trees were known. According to Gladys Vigers in her History of the Town of Lakeville, Massachusetts (1953), the trees were planted by Peter Smith and later named for William and Betsey (Vaughan) Harlow who came to occupy the Smith Farm. Betsey's brother, Peter Vaughan, resided on Vaughan Street and was deeply attached to his sister. "...After she moved away from the homestead, he grew very lonesome. He would console himself by looking toward his sister's new home. He could see the elms above all the trees in the woods. These trees seemed the nearest he could get to his sister, so when he was looking that way, he would remark, 'There are Betsey and William.'" [Vigers, pp. 102, 103]

Illustrations:
"Betsey and William", from James Raymond Simmons, The Historic Trees of Massachusetts (Boston: Marshall Jones Company, 1919), following page 32, halftone print.
James Raymond Simmons, The Historic Trees of Massachusetts (Boston: Marshall Jones Company, 1919), cover title plate.
Camp Joe Hooker showing "Betsey and William", photograph, late 19th century.

Sources:
Simmons, James Raymond. The Historic Trees of Massachusetts. Boston: Marshall Jones Company, 1919.
Vigers, Gladys. History of the Town of Lakeville, Massachusetts. Lakeville, MA: Town of Lakeville, 1953.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Lakeville's Trolley-Riding Cows

In 1901, cows and people were finding their way into Great and Little Quitticus Ponds in Lakeville, much to the dismay of the City of New Bedford which since 1899 had used the two bodies of water as a municipal water supply. The chief engineer at the city's pumping station on Negus Way in Rochester kept a vigilant eye out for violators of the prohibition which barred from the pond and surrounding lands trespassers (many of whom came by the trolley which ran along Lakeside Avenue to picnic by the side of the pond). The apparently poorly-worded reporting of one New Bedford correspondent, however, seems to have implied that the local cows were due for watching, as well.

Lakeville's cows are advancing in the scale of evolution if the New Bedford Mercury is right in this clipping taken from a report concerning the pumping station at Quittacus Pond:

"It seems only fair to warn the said cows and people that go out on the trolley cars that their actions along the shores of Quittacus can no longer be kept hidden from the eye of the engineer, now that he has got a telescope to look through."

Probably the cows don't pay fares, but hook their rides.

The telescope mentioned in the report had been purchased at a cost of $60 and installed in the pumping station in March, 1901, "so that wandering cows and picnickers [sic] on the shore of the pond can be observed."

Illustration:
View of Lake Pocksha, Middleboro, Mass., John H. Frank, Middleborough, publisher, postcard, c. 1910.
Apparently the cows seen grazing the shores of Pocksha Pond in Middleborough in this postcard were better behaved than their counterparts in Lakeville. The City of Taunton seemed less concerned than New Bedford that local cattle might find their way into the neighboring pond.

Source:
Old Colony Memorial, "News Notes", March 16, 1901, page 3, and April 6, 1901, page 3.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Flag Day

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson officially proclaimed June 14 as Flag Day to commemorate the adoption of the American flag on that day by the Second Continental Congress in 1777. Wilson, in fact, had been urged to do so by the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks which had observed Flag Day for a number of years prior to 1916. In 1907, the Elks had designated June 14 for observances of Flag Day and in 1911 all lodges were required to mark the holiday. Locally, the Middleborough Lodge of Elks had long observed the holiday (their ceremonies in 1914 being described as "impressive"), and the revival of the holiday in Middleborough must be ascribed to that group and other patriotic organizations.

Though Flag Day ceremonies were held in Middleborough and Lakeville on occasions prior to 1900, by 1909 interest seems to have waned and in that year the Gazette remarked that Flag Day largely went unnoticed locally. However, a flurry of activity and observances in the years immediately following 1909 helped resurrect the holiday. In 1911, the local Nemasket Chapter of the D. A. R. observed Flag Day as did the G. A. R. (the Civil War veterans' organization) and the G. A. R.'s auxiliary, the Women's Relief Corps. These and other groups ensured that Middleborough's schools, public buildings and civic organizations such as the Y. M. C. A. were furnished with flags, and that the day was properly marked.

It was the Elks, however, which held the most impressive ceremonies in Middleborough aimed at generating both an appreciation of and a proper respect for the American flag as the symbol of the nation. Lodge members were expected to attend ceremonies which were held in various locales over the years including Middleborough Town Hall, the Park Theatre on Nickerson Avenue and the local Elks Lodge on High Street. Patriotic speeches, lectures, readings and music frequently accompanied the observances. In time, however, even these ceremonies became smaller in scale until, today, Flag Day (as in 1909) largely passes unnoticed.
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Illustrations:
G. A. R. Members, photograph, c. 1910 (colorized 2009)
Members of Middleborough's E. W. Peirce Post, G. A. R., parade down Center Street in a 1905 Cadillac bedecked with flags driven by Charles F. David, editor of the Middleboro News. Though later eclipsed by the Elks in the size and scope of their Flag Day observances, the G. A. R. along with its women's auxiliary, the Women's Relief Corps, was largely responsible for revitalizing local Flag Day observances in the early 1900s.
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Annual Flag Day Service, advertisement, Middleboro Gazette, June 10, 1921

Updated December 8, 2009, 9:59 PM.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Chemical Fire Engine

The town of Middleboro' has had considerable difficulty in getting a chemical fire engine. After considerable delay it was shipped, but went astray in transportation and had to be looked up. Finally it arrived but was unaccompanied by necessary equipment, so at present it is entirely useless. [Old Colony Memorial, November 30, 1882, p. 4].

Apparently by the time the above photograph was taken of Middleborough Chemical Engine No. 1 outside the Middleborough railroad depot, the necessary equipment had been located and put to use.

The new chemical engine, just put in commission in the Middleboro fire department, is one of the best and handsomest of its class. The two cylinders hold thirty-five gallons each, and when in readiness for service the apparatus weighs about 2800 pounds. It is in charge of a company of fifteen men, and bids fair to be a very efficient piece of machinery. [Old Colony Memorial, December 14, 1882, p. 4]

Illustration:
Chemical Fire Engine Company, photograph, late 19th century.

The company depicted includes (standing left to right): E. F. Doherty, John J. Walsh, Thomas Curley, James E. Murphy, Seth Holmes, James Curley, Michael Leahy, Timothy Creedon, William J. Taylor and John M. Luippold. Ira Tinkham is seated at the front of the engine and Henry D. Smith at the rear.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Church's Narrow Escape from Destruction

The Memorial Day fire which nearly destroyed the Central Congregational Church in Middleborough was neither the first fire in the church, nor the first to seriously threaten the structure. At noon on Wednesday, April 23, 1930, a fire broke out upon the roof near the chimney in the rear of the church above the organ loft. "Arthur H. Denham, the janitor, had a fire in the furnace and discovered the chimney was on fire, a spark from which ignited the [roof] shingles. The firemen made quick work of extinguishing the fire and although there was water used from a small hose line, there was no damage to the big organ that was installed only a short time ago. A portion of the roof was ripped out and sections about the chimney wet down. The damage was slight." [Middleboro Gazette, "Fires", April 25, 1930, page 1]

More serious was a fire which had occurred six and a half years earlier when on the early morning of December 2, 1923, the church was nearly lost in the most serious fire until last month in the building. The story, at the time, was documented by the Middleboro Gazette under the headline which heads this post.

Excellent work by the members of the Middleboro fire department Sunday morning doubtless saved the Central Congregational church from being totally destroyed by fire. As it was the loss on the building and contents is placed at from $12,000 to $15,000. About 2.15 a telephone call was received at the Central [Fire] station from Mrs. Allan R. Thatcher that the church was on fire and an alarm from box 43 was immediately sounded. At practically the same time, Walter Weeman, who was returning home after playing at a dance, discovered the blaze. When the department arrived the flames had burst through the windows in the rear and were even higher than the roof. After a stubborn fight of 50 minutes the all out was rung in. Later investigations show that the main damage was in the parlor which was completely gutted and all its contents practically consumed, including the piano, many chairs, desk, etc. The entire edifice was damaged by smoke which was so dense during the fire that when the electrics were turned on in the auditorium not a light was visible until windows were opned and the atmosphere changed. The blaze worked its way through the ceiling to the organ loft and was just breaking out. There were numerous stories in circulation as to the origin of the fire, many claiming it to be of incendiary origin. Chief engineer Maxim had Edward H. Murtagh, fire inspector of the detective department of the district police here Monday to investigate. His verdict was the same as that of the chief after the fire, that it was caused by a steam pipe running clsoe to the wood work of a cushioned seat. The same conditions existed in another place, in the organ loft, and a small fire had just started there when discovered. This latter blaze may perhaps have been due in part to the additional heat of the main fire. It is a well known fact among fire chiefs and inspectors that after a number of years when steam pipes are in close proximity to the woodwork there is a serious danger of fire. Another fact which disproves the incendiary theory is that Mrs. P. M. Ramsey, who lives near the church, detected the smell of smoke in the early evening, going down stairs to investigate. Insurance adjustors were here Wednesday. The loss is well covered by insurance.

As a result of the fire no services were possible Sunday. The congregation worshipped in the Central M. E. church and the Sunday school met in the Unitarian church.

Following the fire and with the onset of spring, repairs were immediately undertaken upon the church building. By March, 1924, it was reported that "repairs are progressing satisfactorily at Central Congregational church, where carpenters have been busy making repairs and improvements the past month. Masons have been engaged in plastering the past week, electricians have completed the wiring and pipe fitters are attending to the necessary plumbing and changes. The kitchen has been enlarged and very much improved and when completed will be one of the best of its kind." [Middleboro Gazette, "Middleboro", March 28, 1924, page 1]

Work was completed on the structure by June when it was ready for interior refurnishing and decoration work which was done by a Boston firm. "At the time repairs were made to the church, new linoleum [decribed by the Gazette as "battlehip linoleum"] was laid on the floor of the auditorium and the rostrum was enlarged, a row of pews removed to make room. Rolling partitions were installed in the vestry and the kitchen remodelled." [Witbeck:30] With interior work upon the church complete, the building was once more ready for use and on September 28, 1924, the first Sunday worship service held in the church since the previous December was conducted.

The newly-rebuilt church was rededicated on November 19, 1924, appropriately the day before Thanksgiving.

Rededicatory exercises were held at Central Congregational church, Wednesday evening at which a large number were present, many representatives of the other churches in town attending, as well as guests from out of town. Fine music was rendered by the vested choir of the church, under the direction of Wirt B. Phillips, with Miss Annie Keith as organist. The opening prayer was offered by Rev. A. G. Cummings of the First [Congregational] church and the scripture was read by Rev. John E. LeBosquet, pastor of the First Congregational church of Fall River. Mr. Cummings brought greetings and blessing from the mother church at the Green, which is 230 years old this year. It was from this church March 25, 1847 that 33 members, ten men and 23 women, asked for letters of dismissal in order to found the Central Congregational church. At that time the right hand of fellowship was given by that staunch old preacher, Rev. Israel Putnam. Dr. Cummings stated that during all the years from that day to this the mother church has watched her daughter, happy in her successes and now rejoices that she has passed through the trials of fire and has come out reclothed and in such a prosperous condition.

Rev. C. R. Chappell, pastor of the Central Baptist church, brought the greetings of the sister churched in the community, saying that it was a personal delight to him to assist in this dedication service, because of the delightful fellowship that exists among the churches of this town.

The sermon of the evening on "The Lost Radiance of the Church" was preached by Mr. LeBosquet. He spoke of the large church buildings erected in years past which used to be thronged with people, whereas the great problem now is how to fill them. The speaker said that now the Central Congregational church had been so splendidly refitted the time was ripe to increase the church attendance. People respect the church as much as in olden times but so many attractions exist today that it is neglected. So many fraternal organizations have risen that the work of the church does not seem necessary in this line. But clubs, however popular, have no such history as the church and the church is not for men and women alone, but for the entire family. The speaker emphasized the great mistake in bringing up children with no religious training. By attending church people can set an example to the children which will bear fruit in the next generation. The speaker closed by emphasizing church attendance as a duty people owe to others as well as to themselves.

The act of dedication was performed by the pastor of the church, Rev. John P. Garfield, and the congregation, after which the service was closed by a prayer and benediction by Mr. Garfield, Rev. Lincoln B. Goodrich being unable to be present. The present church edifice was dedicated Aug. 15, 1849; the church was incorporated Sept. 9, 1889. It was rededicated after extensive changes, Feb. 23, 1892 and was damaged by fire, Sunday, Dec. 2, 1923, restored and rededicated, Nov. 19, 1924. A new Hook & Hastings organ is to be installed before next Easter.

At the close of the service all were invited below to inspect the lower rooms, which, fresh from the hands of the decorators, present a most attractive appearance. Some changes have been made in the arrangements of these rooms which add greatly to the beauty and convenience of the church. About 200 were present and an enjoyable social hour was held during which musical selections were rendered by Walter Weeman, violin; Chester Shaw, flute and Parker Kennedy, piano. Refreshments of sandwiches and coffee were served by the social committee of the church, Mrs. Louis Ritter, Mrs. Charles Martin and Mrs. Wilson G. Harlow, assisted by numerous ladies of the church. [Middleboro Gazette, "Rededicatory Services", November 21, 1924, page 1]

Illustrations:

Fire-gutted rear of the Central Congregational Church, Michael J. Maddigan, photographer, June 5, 2009
The view shows the rear addition of the Central Congregational Church. The addition was constructed during the 1891-92 renovation of the church and was the source of the three fires in the church since that time: 1924, 1930 and 2009.

Detail, fire gutted rear of the Central Congregational Church, Michael J. Maddigan, photographer, June 5, 2009

Fire-gutted eave and windows, Central Congregational Church, Michael J. Maddigan, photographer, June 5, 2009

Damaged Window, Central Congregational Church, Michael J. Maddigan, photographer, June 8, 2009
"Flames had burst through the windows in the rear and were even higher than the roof" during the 1924 fire.
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Reverend John P. Garfield
Garfield served as pastor of the Central Congregational Church from 1921 through 1936, and oversaw the church's reconstruction following fires in 1924 and 1930.
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Central Congregational Church, photograph, late 1930s
The photograph shows the pristine church just over a decade following its repair following the 1924 fire.

Sources:
Middleboro Gazette, "Church's Narrow Escape from Destruction", December 7, 1923, page 1.
Middleboro Gazette, "Fires", April 25, 1930, page 1.
Middleboro Gazette, "Middleboro", March 28, 1924, page 1; June 6, 1924, page 2; July 4, 1924, page 8; and October 3, 1924, page 1.
Middleboro Gazette, "Rededicatory Services", November 21, 1924, p. 1.
Witbeck, Mertie E. History of the Central Congregational Church, Middleborough, Massachusetts, 1847-1947. Middleborough, MA: Central Congregational Church, 1947.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

WWII Rationing and Ketchup Thievery

During World War II, a host of consumer goods and foods were rationed. Among the latter category were sugar, coffee, meat, butter, cooking oils, vegetables and baby food. Consumables were assigned a point value by the Office of Price Administration (O. P. A.) and individuals and businesses were issued with ration books containing various values of point coupons which could be redeemed for rationed items. Because of rationing and the high point value placed on particular items, local restaurant owners at the time of the war were hard-pressed to maintain their pre-war level of quality and service, having to either limit portions on certain items or remove them from the menu altogether when they became unavailable. The rationing of ketchup appears to have caused some serious problems for at least one Middleborough restauranteur as documented in this brief news item carried in the Brockton Daily Enterprise on May 4, 1943:

There is another reason why the restaurant man wears a cold towel on his fevered brow ... in addition to getting the [ration] points with which to buy food for the customers.

Just to be nice to the customers a particular restaurant, which does a lot of business, is still supplying - or was - ketchup for the customers to douse over meats, etc., in spite of the high point value and the shortage of supply.

And this little stunt of being nice to the customers has proven to be an abused virtue, because the restaurant reports that as of Saturday night's customers, there were four to whose hands the ketchup stuck so securely that the bottles went out with the customers.

The big thought now is whether to put a chain on the bottle to secure it or to stop supplying ketchup free.

Illustration:
Heinz Ketchup advertisement, Woman's Day, October 1, 1946.

Source:
Brockton Daily Enterprise, "Ketchup Bottles May Be Chained", May 4, 1943.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Middleborough Town Seal

One of the most ubiquitous symbols of official Middleborough, emblazoning official documents, bills, financial statements, correspondence and town vehicles among other items, the Middleborough town seal was initially created in the late nineteenth century in response to a need for a seal with which to legally stamp official documents. Though no record has been left as to who first recognized this need, most probably it was the Town Clerk who also served as Treasurer and Accountant, and would have required such a device in their daily work. Consequently, a committee of townspeople was appointed in 1891 to investigate the matter and take action. Their report was heard the following year at the annual town meeting of March 7, 1892, following which the present seal, designed by Herbert S. Sylvester of Middleborough, was adopted.

Notice of the town’s adoption of the seal was carried in the Plymouth Old Colony Memorial of May 7, 1892, as well as a description of the seal, itself. “It is of circular form, bearing the word ‘Middleborough’ near the rim, with the town hall in relief in the centre, the words ‘Plymouth County, Mass.,’ are on either side of the relief and the words ‘Incorporated A. D. 1669.’” Undoubtedly similar notices appeared in both the Middleboro Gazette and Middleboro News at the time, though copies of these newspapers are no longer extant.

The choice of Middleborough Town Hall for the central object of the seal was indicative of the esteem in which the building continued to be held nearly twenty years following its construction. Built in 1872-73 and designed by Middleborough native Solomon K. Eaton, Middleborough Town Hall became a symbol of the community’s optimism during the post-bellum era when Middleborough was growing rapidly, adopting many modern advances, and passing from an agricultural to an industrial economy. For residents at the time, Middleborough Town Hall represented the community’s abilities and aspirations.

The use of Middleborough Town Hall on the Town Seal which has been in continual use for over a century has only further wedded the physical building with the town’s communal identity, and recent restoration of the structure demonstrates the special place which Middleborough Town Hall continues to hold within Middleborough.

Interestingly, the relief of Middleborough Town Hall employed on the seal differs slightly from the building as constructed, the seal depicting a cupola which is shorter and squatter than the actual cupola. This discrepancy may be ascribed to either an inaccurate artist’s rendering or the possibility that the seal represents the original architectural conception of the building which may have been altered at the time of construction. What is known is that the cupola of the structure, so distinctive and individual, has been a continual source of structural problems ever since its construction.

Following its adoption, the new town seal was used for official purposes, but did not make its most public debut until 1908 when it finally appeared on the cover of the annual town report of that year, where it would continue to be featured for the next fifty plus years. A modernized version of the seal was featured on the annual town report for 1944, though this use appears to have been a wartime aberration as it seems not to have been employed subsequently. Because of its relatively intricate design, Sylvester's original seal has not lent itself well to modern printing techniques and several reproductions of the seal during the late 1980s on the annual street listings and other documents appeared as little more than an obscure blob of black ink which failed to reproduce the seal's detail. As a result, a modified version which stripped away much of the fine work (and elegance) of the 1892 seal was created, and this has been employed on various documents since.
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Illustrations:
Middleborough Town Seal, Annual Report of the Town of Middleborough, Massachusetts, for the Year Ending December 31, 1941 (Middleborough, MA: Town of Middleborough, 1942), cover.
Following 1908, the Town Seal was used to emblazon the cover of Middleborough's annual town reports and remained in use in this fashion until the mid-1960s when it was replaced by a line drawing of Middleborough Town Hall and later by photographs.
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Middleborough Town Seal, Annual Report of the Town of Middleboro, Massachusetts, for the Year Ending December 31, 1944 (Middleborough, MA: Town of Middleborough, 1945), cover.
The version of the Town Seal appearing on the cover of the 1944 annual report appears to have been one of the few uses of this modified version of Sylvester's original design.
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Middleborough Town Seal, contemporary version, c. 2009.
Though this "cleaned-up" version of Sylvester's design lacks character, it enjoys the advantage of being clearly reproducable.
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Union Street street sign, Michael J. Maddigan, photographer, June 8, 2009.
Street signs in the downtown district, already unique for their red coloring, exhibit the French blue-colored Town Seal on their left hand side.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A View of Assawompsett, 1902

Taken by amateur photographer George Dorr of Middleborough in 1902, the above view depicts Lake Assawompsett and a portion of Bedford Street as seen from near King Philip's Lookout close to Highland Road. Clearly visible is the City of Taunton's pumping station with its towering smokestack, now the home of the Lakeville town offices. Opposite is the city's intake house connected to the shore of the lake by a stone rip-rap causeway. Just to the right of the pumping station, the house with darkly-painted trim is Walter B. Parkhurst's Lakeside House, a "country hostelry". For years Parkhurst conducted the Lakeside House "entertaining Boston, New Bedford and Taunton sportsmen, who came down for the fine fishing" on the lake. Shortly after the photograph was taken, Parkhurst's heirs sold the property which was later operated as Linden Lodge before being demolished in the 1970s. The agricultural nature of the neighborhood is reflected in the fact that it is largely devoid of tree cover, and farms on the west side of Main street on the far shore of the lake are clearly discernible. Faintly visible upon the horizon at the far right are the steeples and towers of the Central Congregational Church, Town Hall and Central Baptist Church in Middleborough, as well as the Forest Street standpipe just to the right of center on the skyline.

Illustration:
"Taunton Pumping Station and Assawomset Lake", George D. Dorr, photographer, photographic print, 1902