Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"An Unsportsmanlike Basketball Game" (1915)

The gymnasium in the
Y. M. C. A. Building on North Main Street was the scene of one of the most tumultuous basketball games in Middleborough history when on November 20, 1915, over-zealous fans of the visiting Wamsutta team of New Bedford disrupted the game and threatened to harm the local players. The following week, the Middleboro Gazette chastised the visiting fans in the following article.

Altogether disgraceful scenes were enacted at the Y. M. C. A. gymnasium, Saturday night, when the Wamsuttas of New Bedford appeared as per schedule to play the Middlebor Varsity five. Spectators agree that it was the roughest, most unsportsmanlike game of basketball ever played here, and the whole trouble seems to be due to the antagonistic, looking-for-a-scrap attitude that the visiting five brought with them in the form of a truck-load of some 50 rooters. The visiting rooters no sooner arrived than they began to "show off", as a bystander fittingly expressed it. The climax came in the second half of the game when, with but five minutes to play, and the score 28 to 23 in favor of the local team, a wild fight was started by the New Bedford rooters. In the first part of the game the Wamsutta rooters began to hiss and jeer the referee, Gay, and made insulting remarks to the Middleboro players. One of the largest crowds that ever witnessed a game at the gym was present and took these proceedings at first as a joke. Then the real trouble appeared in the second half, as soon as it was seen that the Wamsuttas could not hope to over take the varsity team in the matter of scoring. Gammons, the local right guard, got into an argument with Fowler, the visiting left guard. When the referee called out a double foul, it was the signal for the New Bedford aggregation to start something, which they did in earnest. Waite, right forward for the Varsity team, was cornered by the crowd and struck. He finally fought his way out of the crowd. none of the players were badly hurt. Spectators who ran to the aid of the locals had their clothes torn. Joseph Hyman, who endeavored to quiet the scrappers, was badly cut about the face. Special officer I. B. Thomas, who was taking tickets at the door, was called in, but could do nothing with the mob and night patrolman Hastay was called in. The fighters were rushed from the building. The game with the Wamsuttas was the first of the season here and it was so unsportsmanlike. No blame for the disturbance is attached to the Middleboro team or its rooters, the whole trouble lying with the rooters accompanying the Wamsuttas.

"Y. M. C. A. Middleboro, Mass.", picture postcard, Taunton, MA: H. A. Dickerman & Son, publisher, c. 1915

Middleboro Gazette
, "An Unsportsmanlike Basket Ball Game", November 26, 1915, page 1.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Otis L. Barden

Otis L. Barden (1849-1934) was a well-known barber in Middleborough for over 60 years. Barden initially learned the barbering trade in the shop of Solomon H. Sylvester on Center Street beginning at the age of 16. Eventually Barden established his own shop which existed in a number of locations about Middleborough Four Corners during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. One of Barden's earliest shops "stood where the Bank Building is now located [and] was the forum in the days of old, where the momentous questions of the day were discussed."

Barden catered to both sexes as indicated by an advertisement from 1905: "O. L. Barden, Ladies', Gents' and Children's Hair Cutting and Shampooing. Also Facial, Scalp and Body Massage Treatment at your own home. Drop a postal or call at my shop. Centre street, Middleboro." To assist him in his business, Barden hired other barbers including M. E. Hoey of Sandwich in 1904 and Frederick Bowe (who was described as a "tonsorial artist") in 1905.

Barden was also affiliated with the local barbers' union which established regulations for its members, including opening and closing times.

At a recent meeting of the barbers' association Otis L. Barden was chosen president and Frank Hastay secretary and treasurer. They voted to close every evening at 8, except Thursday, when they close at 6, and Saturday at 11:30.

Barden continued cutting hair until the last year of his life. At the time of his 77th birthday in 1926, he was believed to be the oldest barber operating in Plymouth County "and is surely the oldest man doing business in Middleboro, in point of years.... He still conducts a shop on Centre street, catering to a class of trade he has had for years, and age has certainly not deprived him of his dexterity in his chosen calling."

Barden died in June, 1934, at the age of 84.

Otis L. Barden trade card, Middleborough, MA, late 19th-early 20th century

Boston Daily Globe, July, 1901
Middleboro Gazette, "O. L. Barden" advertisement, September 15, 1905, p. 1; "Middleboro", November 2, 1906, p. 4; ibid., November 15, 1907, p. 4; "Passes 77th Birthday", August 27, 1926, p. 1; "Recent Deaths", June 15, 1934, p. 1

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Though once regarded as a delicacy affordable only to the well-to-do, by the turn of the last century the humble banana was commonplace in Middleborough's fruit stands. So inexpensive and easily available had the fruit become, in fact, that it became the object of eating contests during the period.

Harry Raymond, a post office clerk, is regarded as the champion banana eater of Middleboro. On a wager Monday he disposed of a dozen in as many minutes. [July, 1903]

Apparently not to be outdone, Robert Lincoln, a shoe worker with the D. W. Field Company at Montello in Brockton a number of days later consumed 12 bananas in just 8 minutes prompting one local newspaper to write that "the new sport, banana eating, is growing in popularity."

Fortunately, the "sport" was a passing fad.

"Eat More Fruit", advertisement, 1920s

Brockton Enterprise, "Middleboro's Banana Eater", July 22, 1903, and "Champion Banana Eater", July 25, 1903.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

"Remember the White Wagons"

A century ago, spring marked the annual appearance of ice wagons on the streets of Middleborough, making their rounds delivering ice to both residences and commercial establishments.

One of Middleborough’s two principal ice dealers in the early 20th century, Ernest S. Pratt typically began advertising ice for sale in April of each year at the approach of the warmer weather. Following its establishment, the Ernest S. Pratt Company initially delivered ice around the town in a wagon drawn by one horse. During the 1910 season, a two horse team was added to the equipment, and between the world wars Pratt operated two double teams, a single team and a truck to make deliveries, so great was the demand for ice.

Pratt’s ice wagons were painted a brilliant white and featured the word “ICE” prominently upon the sides. Additionally, red diamond-shaped signs were secured to the panels of the wagon, a feature noted in his advertisements in April, 1915, which urged patrons to “watch for the white wagon with the red diamond sign”. Later advertising similarly implored readers of the local news to “remember the white wagons.” These wagons were built expressly for the purpose of hauling ice, and at least one of Pratt’s was built by J. B. McLane of North Reading, a large manufacturer of market, store, express, milk and meat wagons. Pratt paid McLane $310 for the wagon in May, 1911.

The sparkling white of Pratt’s wagons no doubt was intended to reflect the cleanliness and purity of the product it carried. The Pratt Company’s advertising consistently touted the fact that it was spring water ice, “harvested and delivered by modern and sanitary methods.”

Delivering ice was a grueling task, one which frequently occupied the day between 6 a. m. and 9 p. m. While drivers were engaged in feeding the horses before harnessing them, a lone man would be in the ice house on the Pratt Farm hauling out the cakes of ice with which the icemen would fill their wagons. Once the ice wagon was full, the ice man would begin his route.

The delivery men carried a piece of ice, sometimes to a third floor apartment, with a pair of ice tongs, draped over his back and resting upon a rubber pad which protected him from the cold, wet ice. Sometimes, in the case of smaller pieces, a canvas bag was used for transport. The men would guess fairly closely as to the size piece the customer would use between deliveries. To be on the safe side and prevent a second trip, a slightly larger cake of ice was carried and trimmed to fill the ice compartment at the top of the chest. The remainder was returned to the ice wagon in the canvas bag. Additionally, each of Pratt's wagon had a separate compartment for crushed ice so patrons desiring this article could be easily accommodated. The sale of crushed ice also minimized waste as smaller and oddly-shaped pieces of ice could be salvaged.

Many times, especially during the hot summer months, children along the ice routes would follow the wagons and treat themselves to some of the smaller pieces or the chips from the tail gates or canvas delivery bags.

Pratt delivered ice to residences four times weekly during the hottest weather – Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. “Mondays and Saturdays were long, busy, days for the drivers. The wholesale trade to market was made on Tuesdays and Thursdays …. Everyday the weather was really hot, the telephone rang repeatedly,” recalled Pratt’s wife, Rose Standish Pratt.

Drivers for Pratt included Leslie “Pop” Gates, Bill Gardiner, Ed Ouelette, Lawrence Thomas, Harris Tripp, and Bob Hopkins. Bill Gardiner, later Chief of the Middleborough Police Department, was employed by Pratt for nineteen years between 1921 and 1940, and worked as a driver. Gardiner’s first task each day was to replenish the ice in the water coolers in both the Leonard, Shaw and Dean and George E. Keith shoe factories which had two water coolers on each floor. The remainder of Gardiner’s long day was occupied by deliveries on the West Side and North Street neighborhoods. Later, Gardiner graduated to a double team, working with Leslie Gates, and he lastly drove the company truck, peddling ice, bagged wood, coke and charcoal. While the work was generally not hazardous, it could prove toilsome.

Ernest S. Pratt’s selection of horses for the ice business was careful. “They must be patient, although ready to move at the sound of the driver’s voice to save time,” explained Pratt’s wife Rose. “They learned the route, and stops, and knew when it was lunch time; and their feed bags would hang around their neck so they could eat. The horse had to stand still while the driver was in the house and not wander away. Horses have varied dispositions, as people do. It was fine when the driver and horse understood each other.” One instance when they perhaps did not occurred on August 5, 1911, when the wheel of a loaded ice wagon was drawn over the foot of deliveryman John Malcolm. “Luckily no worse injury resulted than a strained ligament.”

In the evening, large quantities of hay were placed into the horse stalls as the animals could not be fed during the daytime when they were making their rounds.

Pratt was known to have treated his horses well. Only one is known to have suffered incidental to the delivery of ice and that under decidedly unusual circumstances. Following war games in the vicinity of downtown Middleborough on August 2, 1913, activity which was accompanied by much noise, one of Pratt’s horses became deaf: “Ernest S. Pratt has reported to chief Swift that his horse became deaf as a result of the heavy shooting incidental to Saturday’s battle.” Without hearing, the horse was of no use on the delivery route, and Pratt was compelled to sell it.

Eventually, the local ice wagons began to disappear between the two World Wars. Pratt’s Adams model truck was the first ice truck in Middleborough, and was added to the farm about 1919. Subsequently others were added, and the familiar white wagons which Pratt once urged customers to remember became a thing of the past, each replaced by a new truck.

Ernest S. Pratt Company Ice Wagon, Middleborough, MA, photograph, July 4, 1919.
One of Pratt's ice wagons is decorated here for the Independence Day parade of July 4, 1919. Noticeable is the red diamond sign marked "ice" which was a feature of Pratt's local advertising.

Lelsie Gates in Ernest S, Pratt Company Ice Wagon, Pratt Farm, East Main Street, Middleborough, MA, photograph, c. 1920.
Gates was a long-time employee of Ernest S. Pratt. Here he is seen aboard one of the company's ice wagons in front of the large barn at the Pratt Farm.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Harvesting Alewives

Over the course of the first half of the 1900s, a radical change in the manner in which the alewives were harvested from the Nemasket River, occurred. Originally, the work of capturing the fish was done by men with hand nets who would scoop the fish out and load them into waiting wagons or, more typically, wooden barrels of 200 pounds capacity. As late as the early 1930s this was still the process followed as recollected by Ralph Maddigan, Jr., who in 1947 recalled “the old time fishing place in a stream [behind the Star Mill], which had a box where the fish gathered and … were hand netted out.” Maddigan’s cousin, James F. Maddigan, Jr., who resided on the farm above the Star Mill privilege, also recalled the process.

As far back as I can remember, the fish were scooped up in large hand nets and deposited in barrels set in a large box, perhaps 8 feet by 10 feet in area; any that missed the barrels in their loading could then be recovered and re-barreled. From here they were either hauled away, or moved to the herring house for processing.

Before the fish were packed into barrels, the men seining the river sorted the fish and anything other than alewives and shad – perch, pickerel, eels, lamprey, bass, trout and turtles – were tossed back into the river.

The development of power-operated seines during this period would however drastically alter the process. These seines were simply lowered into the river and then emptied. At the time, trucks replaced barrels as a means of transporting the fish with the herring dumped loose into the back of the trucks. “When the seine is pulled the fish are brought out in a huge net, elevated by engine power, and dumped into trucks, which are then weighed, and in that manner the number of barrels per truck is established. They are hurried away in these huge trucks, principally to canneries to be processed as food.” The number of barrels was calculated by considering each 200 pounds as a barrel, the former standard of measurement. To accommodate the seines and the equipment necessary to power them, a small pier or platform was constructed at the Star Mill site.

Typical was the procedure outlined below which described the process during the 1940s and 1950s.

For years after the fish have entered the pool, a net has been set, with a rope rigging so that it can be gathered in and all the fish brought together at the base of the loading platform [at the edge of the river]. A hoist, powered by a stationary engine, has lifted the fish into waiting trucks to get them on their way to processing.

The fishermen would set their net across the river, below the dam, and leave it overnight. The next day they would wade into the stream and begin drawing in the net towards the small dock, on which was a winch, powered by an automobile engine. A small purse net, suspended from a boom, was dipped into the river net, to be hoisted full of fish. It was swung, either over barrels or a truck, and the catch released by pulling a rope at the bottom of the purse net.

During the 1954 harvest, a novel means of taking the fish was employed by the Cundy Harbor Fisheries of Maine. While the fish were still netted and the ends of the net gathered together, a suction hose was inserted into the net and the fish removed through means of the hose. A water pump and 25 horse power engine were installed at a cost of $3,500. The engine was “mounted in a truck, and the electrical gadgets and controls which operate it are in the truck. The truck has a temporary foundation of cement blocks.” In order to power the machinery, Cundy paid the an additional $250 to the Town of Middleborough for the Electric Light Department to run an electrical line to the loading platform.

The fishing pool has a net spread, and workers in a boat service it. The lines of the net are then pulled taut and the net brought toward shore with the top floating on huge cork floats. Then the suction hose is lowered into it ….

When the motor starts … it picks up the water and the fish from the river and they pass through an eight-inch rubber hose, which elevate[s] them about 15 feet, and the water and fish drop into a large box. There a worker can grasp the trout, perch and pickerel and an occasional bass, which make their way along the stream with the herring.

Efforts are made to hand pick all but the herring from the box. They are released down a sluice-way to a waiting truck. The other kinds of fish are restored to the water, apparently none the worse for their trip through the siphoned water which brings them up.

While the process seemed to save a step in the process, it failed to work as expected. The suction machine mangled many of the fish, in the process destroying any value they may have had except for fertilizer.

Despite the facility with which the herring could now be captured, the new methods had a number of drawbacks, foremost of which was that time was no longer taken to sort the fish drawn up in the net. In the past, the fishermen had returned all fish other than herring to the river, but with the new means of operating, time was no longer taken to sort the fish and all species went into the truck, a habit which tended to deplete the stock of all fish in the river. Secondly, the means of transporting the fish, particularly in the early days of motor transport, could also prove problematic. In 1939, the tailboard of a truck transporting the fish broke open, strewing the roadway with dead herring. “Passing autos skidded on them, and highway employees had to report at night to push them off the road and to sand it to make it safe for traffic.” A similar mishap occurred the following year when herring fell out of a hole in a truck, and were deposited along North Main and Center Streets before the situation was noticed.

Autos proceeded to squash them. Some store keepers, figuring they might become fragrant, went out with boxes and picked the ones up in front of their store, while some more folks seeing a chance to get fresh herring without much effort picked them up and took them home.

No doubt those last folks were old-time Yankees.

Alewife Harvest, Star Mill Privilege, Middleborough, MA, photograph by George Morse, 1910.
Local amateur photographer George Morse captured this scene during the herring run in spring 1910. While a young boy watches, two men take the fish by hand by means of a large scoop net. The herring are then packed in barrels and large boxes. The house in the background faces East Main Street.

Alewife Harvest, Star Mill Privilege, Middleborough, MA, photograph, mid-20th century.
This photograph indicates the changes which occured in the practice of alewife harvesting during the first half of the 20th century. No longer conducted by hand, the harvest relied upon teams of men and nets drawn across the course of the river. Large mechanically-operated scoop nets would then draw the fish from the river, depositing them in barrels or open-top trucks for transportation to canneries or processing plants most often in Maine. The Star Mill dam (the wooden portion of which was removed in 1956) is visible in the background.

Brockton Enterprise, March 10, 1947, “Middleboro. Herring Bid is Rejected”; April 5, 1948, "Herring Start Running and First Catches Start Today"; March 19, 1954, "New Plan for Loading Fish"; March 27, 1954, "New Device to 'Reap' Herring"; March 29, 1954, "Herring Run Starts Sunday"; April 26, 1954, "Herring Run Over"; March 7, 1955, "Herring Rights Sold"

James F. Maddigan, Jr., unpublished notes, 1986:7

Middleboro Gazette, March 9, 1972:11, “Herring Fishing in the Past”

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Sign of Spring

Over a century ago, the painting of delivery wagons was recognized as a tangible sign of spring. Typically, local deliverers of groceries, milk, meat, fish, baked goods, ice, and other commodities would coat their wagons with fresh paint and often finely-detailed ornament each March and April. The painting was done by one of a number of firms engaged in the work in Middleborough, though the failure of these painters to advertise their business with the Middleboro News in 1887 led its editor to publish the following rejoinder:

This is the way Br. Wood, of the Middleboro News rubs it on those sleepy individuals who don't advertise their business:

"Sign of Spring; that our business men are having their wagons varnished so they reflect your face. Our painters don't advertise, so for fear of stirring up jealousy we refrain from saying whose shop they came from."

Clark & Lovell Delivery Wagons, photograph, late 1890s.
The delivery wagons of grocers Clark & Lovell were representative of the wooden enclosed wagons used throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries by Middleborough retailers to deliver groceries and other goods to homes throughout the community. Typically these wagons were refreshed each spring with a new coat of paint and detailing such as the advertisements seen here on the bodies of the wagons. Clark & Lovell was founded in 1896 probably as the successor firm to Clark & Vaughan and it operated from the Richards Block on what is now Center Avenue. The building is now occupied by the Royal Cafe.

Old Colony Memorial, April 14, 1887

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Nemasket Water Levels

Since the City of Taunton constructed its gatehouse at the head of the Nemasket River, controlling the outflow from Lake Assawompsett, one of the principal preoccupations relative to the Nemasket River has been the level of water flowing in the river, with concerns often voiced when those levels became exceptionally low. “With the amount of water running in the River now, [it could not] be expected to float much more than a canoe” [1949].

Prior to the construction of the gatehouse in 1895, the height of the river was also often an issue, not because of too little water, but ironically because of too much water. In the nineteenth century, the water level of the river and particularly the ponds was often considered excessive, and flooding naturally occurred, especially during the spring when heavy rains and melting snow frequently created freshets which saw the river overflow its banks. This state of things became so troubling that in 1834 a strip of land four rods wide running along the old river bed from Lake Assawompsett was purchased from Job Townsend of Middleborough by Hopestill Bisbee. The land was placed “in trust for the owners of land around and adjoining the several ponds in Middleborough and Rochester” in order that these owners might collectively or individually “dig open a canal for keeping down or lowering the water in said Ponds”. Throughout the century, both the river and ponds often reached excessive levels. In 1875, the ponds were described as being “unusually full of water”, the highest since 1852.

Nonetheless, what is generally overlooked is that even prior to the gatehouse’s construction, the Nemasket River could often prove a fickle and inconstant stream in regards to both flow and level of its waters. During many seasons, the height of the river would fall drastically with implications for the industrial enterprises located further downstream in Middleborough. In July, 1873, both the Star Mill at the Lower Factory and the shovel works at the Upper Factory were forced to suspend operations temporarily due to lack of water to power their machinery. Three years later, in August, 1876, the two businesses once more were compelled to place their operatives on half-time because of a similar shortage of water. Low water levels combined with ice could also prove inimical to factory production along the Nemasket. In February, 1875, the lack of water was “severely felt by the mills in Middleboro”.

During the remarkable and prolonged drought of 1883, the Plymouth Old Colony Memorial reported on August 2 that “low water in the Nemasket River prevents excursion parties to the lake from Middleboro. Assawampsett Lake, it is said, has not been so low at this time for many years” though it was still some 4½ inches higher than it had been during the 1865 drought. Rains in late October had little effect on raising the water levels, “all being at their lowest point”. In October, 1891, the water level was exceptionally low. “At the mouth of the Nemasket the water is but twenty-six inches deep, while last year it was forty inches in depth.” Like 1883, 1949 was also an exceptionally dry year and as a result “in some places there was no water running in the upper reaches of the river”.

Contrarily, the river could (and still can) run exceptionally high, as in the present year. During a winter storm in late February, 1903, “the wind swept huge sheets of water from the surface of the Nemasket river and carried it down stream, and the river is badly swollen”. Six years later, heavy rains in late February and early March, 1909, raised the level of the river which overflowed its banks and “across the fields and meadows a lot of water has backed up.” In 1930, following a severe drought, “the rains came so abundantly that by the next December, Ralph Sampson, chief engineer at the municipal pumping station, found the Nemasket river had risen so high that the water stopped running downstream and headed back towards its source in Assawompsett".

And high water levels could result in flooding low-lying land along the river's banks, high river levels frequently were a boon to the industrial operations along the river. In 1909, so much water flowed in the river that the municipal light plant found it could operate the day service on hydro power alone.

Nemasket River Looking Upstream from Vaughan Street, photograph by Michael J. Maddigan, March 21, 2010
This view shows the heights the Nemasket River is capable of reaching during particularly wet springs. Here, the typically low-lying wetlands abutting the river have been inundated, a result of a nor'easter the previous week.


Brockton Enterprise, January 1, 1950; January 10, 1950; January 11, 1950.
Brockton Times, undated clipping, late February, 1903.
Middleboro Gazette, “Middleboro”, March 3, 1909, p. 6; Ibid., March 12, 1909, p. 6
Old Colony Memorial, July 31, 1873; February 11, 1875; April 22, 1875; and May 20, 1875, August 24, 1876; February 2, 1883; September 6, 1883; November 1, 1883 and October 7, 1891
Plymouth Deeds 180:255

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Lakeville Town Pump

Like many communities, Lakeville had a town pump where residents could draw water and it was situated on Precinct Street in front of the Lakeville Town Hall. Typically, however, the pump and trough in front of it were more used by travellers who sought to refresh either themselves or their horses. In the autumn of 1904, however, this was not a possibility, given that the pump had gone dry.

The pump at the Lakeville town house, which is a favorite watering place for many passers by, has been out of order for some time, and some disappointed ones have labelled it. One sign reads, "Nothing doing," and the other "Dry - Like Yourself."

Lakeville Town Hall, photograph, early 20th century.
The town pump with its long wooden handle and cast concrete trough is visible in the left foreground. The sign on the Town Hall reads: "Lakeville Public Library Open Wed. and Sat. P. M."

Old Colony Memorial, "News Notes", October 8, 1904, page 3.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Dedicated to all those Irish-born immigrants to Middleborough and Lakeville, whose journey made ours so much easier, and whose tales have yet to be fully told.

Is maith an scéalaí an aimsir.
Time is a great storyteller.
- Irish Proverb

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Wearin' o' the Green

In March, 1908, a local schoolteacher created a brief furor within the local Irish community when she forbade the wearing of green ribbons by Irish-American children in her classroom on St. Patrick's Day.

Green Ribbons Ordered Off
Incident in Schools at Middleboro
Parents of Pupils Will Have the Matter Investigated
Miss Wentworth Says It was Only for Discipline

The request of Miss Ethel A. Wentworth, a teacher in the sixth grade School-st school, that the pupils there remove their green ribbons yesterday has incensed the parents of the children who are of Irish descent, and they declare that they will have the matter investigated, as they believe that their children have a right to wear green ribbons on St. Patrick's day. The incident has created much discussion among the residents.

School started at 9 as usual, and as soon as the pupils were seated, it was observed that several wore green ribbons. Some wore modest bows, while some of the boys wore larger ones, which showed up conspicuously.

Miss Wentworth requested that the children remove the green ribbons and some did so. Others demurred, among them being Walter O'Hara, Ralph McQuade and Miss Mary Baker. O'Hara, however, put his ribbon under his coat lapel. McQuade refused at first to remove his long ribbon, but finally took the bow from his coat. Miss Baker declined to remove her ribbon, on first call, stating that her mother had attached it to her dress and that she intended to wear it. After discussion it was removed, but in the afternoon Miss Baker returned to school wearing the ribbon, and told Miss Wentworth that it was put on by her mother and that she was going to keep it on. She wore it during the rest of the school session.

Miss Wentworth was seen at her boarding place at 23 North st today, and admitted that she had requested all the pupils who were wearing green ribbons to take them off.

When asked why this request was made, she said it was because the green ribbons attracted the attention of the other pupils, and diverted their minds from their lessons. To preserve school discipline she thought that the ribbons should not be worn, and accordingly ordered them removed. She further stated that where she had gone to school, the wearing of the green ribbons on St. Patrick's day was not allowed, presumably because they would detract attention from studies, so she was going to run her school along those lines.

When asked if there was any other reason, or if nationality figured in her request that the green ribbons be removed, she declared that it did not enter into it at all, the reason being given above.

The parents of the children who had to remove their green ribbon, purpose that the matter be taken further. Already the attention of Supt. of Schools C. H. Bates has been called to it. He admits that there would be no objection for the children of Irish descent to show their patriotism in that manner, if they saw fit, and, in the past, he stated that such an objection had not before arisen in his school experience.

Parents say that there was no chance to see whether the school work was disturbed by the green decorations, as Miss Wentworth asked for their removal just as soon as the pupils were seated according to the stories related by the school children. They are inclined to doubt, though, if the wearing of the ribbon in honor of the memory of St. Patrick would disturb the school any more than some girl wearing a hair ribbon or a boy with a pair of new boots. They generally criticise the action taken by Miss Wentworth as entirely unwarranted and very indiscreet, especially in a place where there are so many children of Irish descent.

Among the pupils who wore the green ribbons were Everett Boucher, Ralph McQuade, Walter O'Hara, Helen Pasztor, Viola Babb, Stella Plunkett and May Baker.

A few years ago a teacher here wore a flaring yellow tie on St. Patrick's day, while children of Irish descent wore their green ribbons, but up to now no teacher in recent years has been known to request the removal of green ribbons. In many of the other schools here yesterday the pupils wore green, and no comment was offered by the instructor.

Miss Wentworth formerly lived in Cambridge. She is a graduate of Bridgewater normal school. She taught at Rochester, N. H. where her parents now live, prior to being elected a teacher in the public schools here, commencing her duites last September.

In her defense and as she herself insisted, it is unlikely that Miss Wentworth was motivated by thoughts of the children's ethnicity. Previously, children in the Middleborough schools had been permitted to wear small tokens such as colored ribbons, and little thought was given to them as national expressions. The overt anti-Irish sentiment which had been present in the community in the previous half century had largely dissipated (though more recently arrived immigrant groups, particularly the Italians, were subjected at the time to the worst ethnic stereotyping and prejudice). Miss Wentworth's principal failing, however, appears to have been her utter lack of understanding, both for the feelings of the Irish-American children or how deeply rooted was the connection between the local Irish and the green ribbons they wore.

The ban resonated deeply within the local Irish community for whom the "wearin' o' the green" was a symbolic connection with their home country. The practice of wearing green clothing, green ribbons and green shamrocks was one which had once been banned under the English administration in Ireland following the Rising of 1798, and for local Irish-Americans to hear once more that they (or at least their children) were forbidden to wear green, struck a chord within their collective historical consciousness.

O Paddy dear, and did ye hear the news that's going 'round?
The shamrock is by law forbid to grow on Irish ground!
No more Saint Patrick's Day we'll keep, his color can't be seen
For there's a cruel law against the Wearin' o' the Green.

I met with Napper Tandy, and he took me by the hand,
And he said, "How's poor old Ireland, and how does she stand?"
"She's the most distressful country that ever yet was seen,
For they're hanging men and women there for Wearin' o' the Green.

So if the color we must wear be England's cruel red
Let it remind us of the blood that Irishmen have shed;
And pull the shamrock from your hat, and throw it on the sod
But never fear, it will take root there, though underfoot 'tis trod.

When laws can stop the blades of grass from growing as they grow
And when the leaves of summer time their color dare not show,
Then I will change the color too I wear in my caubeen;
But till that day, please God, I'll stick to the Wearin' o' the Green.

While there is no subsequent record regarding the outcome of the dispute, it is noteworthy that following it Miss Wentworth was employed only a short while longer by the Middleborough school system.

"The Wearing of the Green", postcard, early 20th century
"Wearing of the Green", postcard, early 20th century

Brockton Times, "Green Ribbons Ordered Off", March 18, 1908.

Click on the above to hear the incomparable John McCormack's rendition of the "Wearin' o' the Green". McCormack (1884-1945) who recorded the song in 1904 and again in 1912 has long been regarded as Ireland's finest tenor.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Hibernians in Middleborough

A number of local institutions and organizations helped the Irish-Americans of Middleborough with their assimilation into American society, and in the process solidified the connection between Irish ethnicity and Catholicism. Among these groups, the most prominent social organization was the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

The local Ancient Order of Hibernians division was organized July 1, 1894, as Division No. 7, and appears to have been active through at least 1917. Many communities in the region supported an A. O. H. division including East Bridgewater, Brockton, Whitman, Abington, Rockland, Plymouth and Hingham, and the local Hibernian Hall became the center of Irish-American activities within these communities.

The purpose of the organization was to promote unity, friendship, and charity among its members, and in Middleborough, the A. O. H. acted as a social group, bringing Irish-Americans together. As such, it was likely the first ethnic society in the town. More substantively, the organization provided for its members. In January, 1908, when Daniel Hallisey, an emigrant from Cork and the division’s sergeant-at-arms, died, “the funeral was in charge of members of the A. O. H., in the absence of near relatives of Mr. Hallisey.”

Meetings were held twice monthly (on the first and third Thursdays) through at least 1901, but by 1904-05, the group was meeting only once monthly (on the second Wednesday of each month). In 1906, the A. O. H. was again meeting twice monthly (on the second and fourth Wednesdays), but within ten years, was once more meeting only once a month

The location of the original Hibernian Hall in Middleborough is not known, though the division in 1896 established headquarters in the American Building on South Main Street “over Middleboro Market.” “The members of the A. O. H. are occupying new quarters in the American building, using the rooms formerly occupied by the [Massachusetts Catholic Order of] Foresters”, an Irish-American mutual aid society which formed a local chapter (Sacred Heart Court 96) in May, 1893. The local A. O. H. division may have been without a home for a time, as records indicate that it used various locations, including the Thatcher Block on Center Street (from about 1897 through at least 1901), the Red Men’s Hall (1901), the Nemasket Grange Hall (before 1904 through 1905) and Cushing’s Hall (mid-1905). In September, 1905, the organization found a more permanent home in the form of Boucher’s Hall on Center Street, provided through the courtesy of Thomas F. Boucher. T. D. Creedon, Michael Sullivan, E. F. Doherty, Daniel Hallisey and Edward McQuiggan were named a committee to furnish the rooms which were to include “a lodge room, hall and ante rooms”. The location became known as “A. O. H. Hall” for a time, though the occupation of the hall by the Middleboro Catholic Club (formed in late 1913), led to the hall becoming known as the Catholic Club Hall. The A. O. H. Hall was also lent to other Catholic non-Irish groups including the local French Canadian community for the organization of their own ethnic social, cultural and charitable society. There undoubtedly existed strong connections between the local Irish and French Canadians through Sacred Heart Church.

The local A. O. H. maintained an overlapping membership with other Catholic groups in town, including the Knights of Columbus, Massachusetts Catholic Order of Foresters, and the Middleboro Catholic Club, which further helped define the local Irish-American community. These organizations commonly shared a mission and, not surprisingly, frequently featured similar programs. In November, 1901, the Middleborough Knights of Columbus hosted a “smoke talk” featuring entertainment including “Daniel F. McCarthy’s tenor voice [which] was heard with fine effect in ‘Come Back to Erin, Mavourneen,’ and ‘The Homestead on the Hill.’” The following year, the 16th Club, a prominent Catholic lay organization, held a concert and whist party on St. Patrick’s Day, featuring a “Songs of Ireland” program and an address on “St. Patrick and the National and Religious Observance of the Day”. Prominent among the list of attendees were Dennis D. Sullivan and Mrs. Thomas Boucher.

The local Hibernians were noted for their entertainments, particularly the annual St. Patrick’s night celebrations held each March 17th. Typically the event featured an address by the local priest on a topic related to St. Patrick and Ireland. In 1903 and 1904, Reverend Father Daniel C. Riordan of Sacred Heart Church spoke on “The Life of St. Patrick”, 1909 saw Reverend Father John P. Sullivan speak on “St. Patrick”, while Reverend Father James J. Murphy of the same parish presented an address concerning “Reminiscences of Ireland and St. Patrick” in 1912. Early St. Patrick’s night celebrations featured whist parties (such as that hosted in Homestead Hall in 1903), while later they became more focused upon musical entertainments and dancing. 1912’s address was followed by a musical program consisting of piano selections by Frank H. Harrington and Francis M. McCarthy; violin selections by Charles H. Boehme; songs by Mrs. William Purtell, Miss Irene McDonald, Hugh Rogers, Mrs. Walter Rice, Mrs. Robert Ward, Michael Sheehan, Miss Albena Duffany and a sextette composed of Misses May Baker, Mary Bagley, Pearl Malley, Helen McLaughlin, Eliza Benjamin and Loretta Benjamin. In 1911, “Miss May Baker, suitably costumed, sang an Irish song with pleasing effect, while Mrs. L. Walter Rice and Mrs. Robert Ward performed a vocal duet, and Miss Esther Cashon and Michael Sheehan also provided vocal selections followed by dancing. Typically, these St. Patrick’s night entertainments were popular, the 1903 event attracting 200 participants. Funds raised were often devoted to Irish Catholic charitable purposes. For instance, despite the fact that St. Patrick’s Day, 1902, “went off very quietly in town, the only attractions being a dance and the whist and concert”, sufficient funds were raised and the proceeds were “devoted to the development of St. Mary’s cemetery.”

Other entertainments featured by the Hibernians throughout the years included musical programs, minstrel shows, and a two-day bazaar in late October, 1912, which raised over $150 for the group. “The division netted a substantial return although handicapped both nights by the weather.” Dances were popular as was the annual Hibernian ball. The Hibernians first ball was held November 25, 1901, and was widely attended. John Kerrigan served as floor director, and was assisted by James H. Creedon, George Kelley and Edward Howard. Among those present were John Boucher, Michael Sullivan, Edward Howard, William Kelley, T. D. Creedon, Daniel Hallisey, Frank Murphy, T. J. Brennan, John D. Emery, Michael Mack, E. M. O’Toole, Miss Nellie Boehme, Henry Boehme, Miss Annie Cronin, Andrew Cronin, Miss Ruby Macomber, Miss Lizzie Sullivan, Miss Florence Cummings, Mr. Edgar Nevitt, Miss Nora Sullivan, Mr. John J. Sullivan, Frank H. Sullivan, Herbert Shaw, Miss Martina Callan, Miss Rose Callan, Luke Kelley, Mr. and Mrs. E. O’Donnell, Harry Belmont, George Kelley, Miss Annie Kelley, and James Norris.

The Hibernians also sponsored lectures on cultural and political topics. In September, 1909, Rev. Fr. J. F. Kelleher of Brockton spoke before the Middleborough division concerning the “good of the order”, while the following month’s lecture featured a speaker from the Catholic University at Washington. The traditional St. Patrick’s night address in 1907, presented by past state A. O. H. president E. J. Slattery of Framingham, proved unusually political in tone.

There are many who do not clearly understand the position of the A. O. H. in their alliance with German societies. It is plain, however, for its purpose is to prevent the so-called Anglo-Saxon alliance till justice is done to Ireland. One and a half millions of Germans are enrolled, and they are as anxious as the Irish to prevent the arrangement from going into effect …

We are told to avoid entangling alliances, and to keep this probable entanglement from going into effect every effort must be made.

The preservation of the Gaelic language is a work in which we have interested ourselves, and we are meeting with great success both in America and in Ireland, in the revival of the native tongue of our people. Our next work will be to get fair play in historic matters. Even though a misleading English history is to be found in almost every school, all we ask is that by its side a fair Irish history be kept, that fair play may be given in the education of the American child.

The affairs in Ireland, tending toward better condition, are more favorable now than they have been for 700 years. The reform movement in England, resulting in the election of statesmen from the masses, will have its effects, and while we would all hope for the independence of Ireland it is not yet probable that it may be accomplished, though we may progress along constitutional lines to a better condition.

The leader of the Irish people, Mr. John Redmond, is a great and unselfish leader, and under his standard and work great achievements have been accomplished.

Ironically, Redmond would be marginalized in Irish politics following 1916.

The local A. O. H. division included a ladies’ auxiliary as well which remained active in sponsoring social events. One such event was a “largely-attended dance” held in Lyric Hall on September 17, 1913, under the direction of Miss Agnes Maddigan. In 1914, Mrs. Belle Kelley was installed as the auxiliary president during the same ceremony in which her son was installed as president of the local A. O. H. division. The women also took a political role (particularly on social issues) as evidenced by a quarterly convention of the county auxiliary at Middleborough on October 12, 1913. Meeting in the Knights of Columbus hall, the ladies’ business meeting passed a number of resolutions including one against the introduction of “sex hygiene” in the public schools which it maintained was the prerogative of the parents and the church. Nonetheless, the women took a liberal stance on the matter of the minimum wage. “In view of the fact that many girls are led astray by low wages and the high cost of living, we protest against low wages and resolve that a minimum wage of no less than $8 per week may be assured.”

Given the composition of its membership, it is not surprising that the organization maintained close ties to the local church. In December, 1912, Father James J. Murphy, priest at Sacred Heart Church since October, 1911, and the local chaplain of the Middleborough, Bridgewater and East Bridgewater divisions was appointed count chaplain for the Plymouth County divisions by Cardinal O’Connell. As a whole, Division 7 was active within the county and frequent quarterly conventions of the county organization were held in Middleborough. The local division also took part in the large A. O. H. parade at Boston in 1900.

Few records remain to document the operations, let alone the existence of the local Ancient Order of Hibernians division. The following roster indicates the officers who led the division as well as documented dates of service.

P. J. Crowley (1895), Michael J. Baker (1897), John H. Murphy (1899), John H. Murphy (1901), John F. Mahoney (1901-02), F. E. Doherty (1903), E. F. Doherty (1904-05), John F. Mahoney (1906), Thomas H. Kelley (1914)

Daniel Keefe (1895), Edward F. Murphy (1897), John J. Sullivan (1899), John J. Sullivan (1901), James H. Creedon (1901-02), Edward Drummond (1903), Edward Drummond (1904-05), John J. Morrison (1906), W. Joseph Houlihan (1914)

Recording Secretary:
Michael Barnett (1895), William J. Houlihan (1897), James J. O’Hara (1899), Michael Broderick (1901), Timothy H. Sullivan (1901-05), M. J. Baker (1906), Edward J. Kelley (1914)

Financial Secretary:
John Houlihan (1895), Peter Kerrigan (1897), Michael J. Baker (1899), Michael J. Baker (1901), Timothy D. Creedon (1901-06, 1914)

William J. Houlihan (1895), Richard T. Kilroy (1897), John J. Creedon (1899), John J. Creedon (1901), John J. Creedon (1901-02), George Kelley (1903-05), Michael Sullivan (1906, 1914)

Daniel Hallisey (1901-03), Oscar J. Boehme (1914)

John Kerrigan, photographic half-tone, Boston Daily Globe, "First Ball of Hibernians", November 26, 1901.
Kerrigan had the honor of serving as Floor Director of the first Hibernian Ball sponsored by the local division of the A. O. H. which was held November 25, 1901, in Middleborough Town Hall. Kerrigan emigrated from Ireland in the late 1800s and came to settle in Middleborough. In 1910, he was occupied as a freight handler at the local railroad station while later in life he served as the sexton of Sacred Heart Church.

Reverend Father James J. Murphy, newspaper clipping and photographic half-tone, Brockton Times, "County Chaplain, A. O. H.", December 11, 1912.
Given the large proportion of Irish who comprised the Sacred Heart parish in Middleborough, its priests (of Irish backgrounds themselves) maintained a close connection with the local A. O. H. and were frequent speakers at its events. Murphy served as pastor of the church between 1912 and 1914, and was named County Chaplain of the A. O. H. in December, 1912, by Cardinal O'Connell.


Boston Daily Globe, April 26, 1901; June 29, 1901; July 1, 1901; September 17, 1901; November 22, 1901; November 25, 1901; “First Ball of Hibernians”, November 26, 1901; “Opening of Polo Season”, December 1, 1901; December 2, 1901; December 17, 1901; February 2, 1902; March 18, 1902; December 22, 1902.

Brockton Enterprise, “Middleboro” and “A. O. H. Well Represented”, May, 1900; “Middleboro Hibernians”, March 18, 1903; September 28, 1903

Brockton Times, April 3, 1901; August 6, 1900; December 27, 1900; December 31, 1900; February 19, 1901; “Middleboro”, January 12, 1904; March 18, 1904; March 20, 1904; “Div. 7, A. O. H., Middleboro”, March 18, 1907; “Middleboro”, March 18, 1908; “Plan for Big Reunion”, September 26, 1909; “Middleboro”, March 18, 1911; ibid., March 18, 1912; “County Chaplain, A. O. H.”, December 11, 1912; “Joint Installation”, February 3, 1913; “Middleboro”, September 18, 1913”; “Hibernian Auxiliary for Minimum Wage”, October 12, 1913; “Middleboro Catholic Club”, November 15, 1913; “Middleboro”, December 5, 1913; “Joint Installation”, January 26, 1914

Middleboro Gazette, “Middleboro”, January 20, 1905, page 4; ibid., September 25, 1905, page 4; ibid., September 8, 1905, page 4; “A. O. H. Minstrels”, May 11, 1906, page 4; "Middleboro", May 18, 1906, p. 4; “Recent Deaths” [Daniel Hallisey], January 10, 1908, page 1; “Middleboro”, March 22, 1912, page 8; “A. O. H. Convention”, October 4, 1912, page 1; “A. O. H. Bazaar”, November 1, 1912, page 1; “Appointed Chaplain of County A. O. H.”, December 13, 1912, page 1; October 1, 1915, page 1; “What the Gazette Was Saying Twenty-Five Years Ago”, April 8, 1921, page 3; ibid., July 7, 1922, page 6.

New Bedford Standard, “Middleboro”, March 18, 1902

Resident and Business Directory of Middleboro and Lakeville, Mass. For 1895. Needham, MA: A. E. Foss & Co., 1895, page 38.

Resident and Business Directory of Middleboro, Massachusetts. For 1897. Needham, MA: A. E. Foss & Co., 1897., page 127.

Resident and Business Directory of Middleboro’ and Lakeville, Massachusetts, for 1899. Needham, A. E. Foss & Co., 1899, page 41

Resident and Business Directory of Middleboro, Mass.: 1901. North Cambridge, MA: Edward A. Jones, 1901, page 152.

Resident and Business Directory of Middleboro and Lakeville, Mass.: 1904-05. Boston, MA: Edward A. Jones, 1904, page 144.

Resident and Business Directory of Middleboro, Mass. 1906-7. Boston: Boston Suburban Book Co., 1906, page 158.

Resident and Business Directory of Middleboro and Lakeville, Massachusetts: 1909. Boston, MA: Boston Suburban Book Co., 1909, page 155.

Resident and Business Directory of Middleboro, Massachusetts. 1913. Boston: Union Publishing Co., 1913, page 156.

Resident and Business Directory of Middleboro, Massachusetts. 1914. Boston: Union Publishing Co., 1914, page 158.

Resident and Business Directory of Middleboro, Massachusetts: 1916-17. Boston, MA: Union Publishing Company, 1916, page 149.

Click on the A. O. H. icon above to learn more about the organization's history.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

"Paddies" No More: Success Comes for Middleborough's Famine Irish

While the first generation of Famine Irish were typically relegated to economic positions as manual laborers and domestics and frequently had little or no education to assist them in “bettering” themselves, second and particularly third-generation Irish-Americans in Middleborough availed themselves of the opportunity of free public education, and through the acquisition of new skills obtained better-paying employment which also held out the possibility of upward mobility. Through these changes, local Irish-Americans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries began to become assimilated and attain positions in fields previously closed to them including business, law, and insurance. Additionally, the Irish-American community entered into local politics, most notably through the Middleborough School Committee which proved a vehicle to further success and prominence within the larger community. All of these developments helped local Irish-Americans move away from the mid-19th century’s characterization of them as “paddies”.

Timothy F. Creedon

Among the earliest of Middleborough’s Famine Irish to achieve a level of economic success beyond laboring was Timothy F. Creedon (c. 1851-1923) who was able to parlay skills brought with him from Ireland into a successful career as a businessman and florist. The details of Creedon’s early life in Ireland, like those of many first generation Irish are conflicting and clouded. Born in County Cork, Ireland, about 1851, Creedon emigrated as a young boy, coming to America in 1856 and becoming naturalized two years later in 1858. Other sources indicate that Creedon emigrated at about the age of 14, having first worked with his father, a gardener and florist, on a large estate in Cork where he acquired his knowledge of plants, flowers and gardening.

Creedon worked in Connecticut and New York before being engaged on the estate of Judge David Allen Smalley (1809-77) at Burlington, Vermont. Probably following Smalley’s death, Creedon came to Middleborough to enter the employ of Levi P. Thatcher who hired him to tend his own gardens and greenhouses. Thatcher’s greenhouses had been erected about 1870 in the rear of Thatcher’s home facing Thatcher’s Row, and for 27 years Creedon would have charge of them.

Creedon purchased the Thatcher greenhouses in 1905 and relocated them to his home on Wareham Street at the corner of Benton Street where he established a floral business.

T. F. Creedon, the veteran florist so long in charge of the greenhouses on Thatcher’s row, has started the erection of a new greenhouse plant at his home on Wareham street. The plant comprises three houses, which are large and roomy and well adapted for his purposes.

As for most early Irish Catholics, the local Catholic parish provided Creedon with a strong sense of community and identity. Creedon’s connection with the local church was further strengthened by his marriage to Ellen Sullivan, the daughter of Patrick and Ellen (McCarthy) Sullivan in whose home on Wareham Street the first masses in Middleborough were held. At the time of his death, Creedon was one of the oldest members of Sacred Heart parish, and he had attended mass in Peirce Hall, the space above the Peirce store on North Main Street before the construction of a Catholic church in town. Creedon was also a member of the committee which acquired the site for St. Mary’s Cemetery, thereby providing a burial ground for Middleborough Catholics. Additionally, Creedon was an active member of local Irish and Catholic cultural organizations including the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Massachusetts Catholic Order of Foresters and the Knights of Columbus.

Creedon’s floral business became one of the most successful businesses in Middleborough. Following Creedon’s death, the business was operated as “Creedon, Florist” by Creedon’s son James Henry Creedon (1888-1955).

The younger Creedon’s experience, like that of many second and third generation Irish in Middleborough, demonstrated the powerful influence of public education. While most Irish immigrants recognized the value of educating their children, not all did. In April, 1902, James Houlihan was before Judge Allan in the District Court for keeping his son, Joseph, from school. “He agreed that the little fellow should go to school the rest of the term regularly, and his case was placed on file to see how well his promises will be fulfilled.” Yet whether public education was regarded as desirable or mandatory for their children by local Irish-American parents, it was a crucial factor in the improvement of their lives and their economic prospects.

James H. Creedon clearly fell into the camp which saw a public school education as indispensable. Availing himself of the opportunity of a free public education, the younger Creedon attended Middleborough public schools, graduating from Middleborough High School in 1900, and early in his career worked as a successful journalist for local newspapers throughout the region including the Boston Post, Brockton Times, Brockton Enterprise, New Bedford Evening Standard and Middleboro Gazette. Creedon was active in local Democratic party circles and in 1914 at a time when the position of local postmaster was a plum politically-determined appointment, Creedon (who passed the postal service examination in 1903) was named Middleborough Postmaster, a post he held until 1922. Creedon also served as a member of the local Public Safety Committee during the First World War, but limited his involvement in municipal affairs after that. In 1926, he declined appointment as an Overseer of the Poor in Middleborough.

Though the floral business was sold by the Creedon in 1938, for many years following it retained the “Creedon” name, an indication of the success which its immigrant founder was able to build within the community.

Thomas Boucher

Like Timothy F. Creedon, Thomas Francis Boucher was able to build a prosperous business which outlived him. “When one takes the time to look over the long list of firms which have given years of service to Middleboro, he should feel justly proud that there are stores in this town as Boucher’s paint store.”

Thomas F. Boucher (1866-1936) was born in Massachu-
setts the son of Thomas (c. 1830-1902) and Ann (Kerrigan) Boucher. The elder Boucher immigrated to America at the time of the Famine. Hampered by an inability to either read or write, he found employment as a common laborer throughout his adult life, at times working as an agricultural laborer. He appears never to have become a naturalized citizen.

Despite these disadvantages, Boucher was able to establish a comfortable life for himself and his family. Home ownership would become an important indicator of economic stability and success for Irish immigrants during the post-bellum period when many would acquire or build homes for themselves. In 1870, Boucher constructed a house on Center Street in the front of Sylvanus H. Vaughan’s livery stable, and five years later built a new house on High Street. For a century the Boucher family would be associated with this area of Middleborough near Everett Square.

Perhaps because of his lack of education, Boucher ensured that at least his sons, William, Thomas F., James and John E. attended school. [There appears no record that daughters Mary E. (1862-1939) or Katherine (1864-1934) ever did]. The eldest son, William Boucher (b. 1860), like many second generation Irish-American men followed in his father’s footsteps and worked as a laborer (1880), though he was skilled enough by 1884 to list his occupation as that of carpenter, while daughters Mary and Katherine found employment in the local shoe industry. For various social reasons, many Irish married late or never at all, and in fact neither of Boucher’s daughters ever married.

Boucher’s second son, Thomas Francis Boucher attended public school in Middleborough. It is not apparent how the younger Boucher occupied himself following his schooling, but about 1895 or prior he established a paint shop in the building which now houses Marra’s barbershop on Center Street. Boucher worked not only as a painter, but he retailed paint and wallpaper as well. He appears in a local directory for 1899-1900 as a house and sign painter as well as a dealer in “paints, oil and glass”. Working with Boucher was his brother, John E. Boucher (1873-1928), who was also engaged as a fireman, and who lived on High Street in a house near his father’s. Near the turn of the century, a new store immediately to the west of the original Boucher shop was constructed. Over this and the adjoining shoe store of Fred M. White Boucher constructed a second story which created “a fine appearing piece of property.”

Like the Creedons and other Irish-American families in Middleboro-
ugh, the Bouchers maintained close ties with and were active in both the Sacred Heart church as well as Irish Catholic fraternal and social organizations locally. For a time, the second floor space over Boucher’s shop known as Boucher’s Hall, was utilized by Catholic organizations in town such as the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Middleboro Catholic Club. During St. Patrick’s evening celebrations at the turn of the last century, whist was occasionally featured as an attraction and its popularity may have contributed to Boucher’s decision to use his hall as a “whist parlor” in 1905.

Second-generation Irish-Americans typically married “one of their own”, and in 1900, Boucher married Julia K. Mansfield (1864-1946), who like her husband had been born in Massachusetts of Irish immigrant parents. Their son, Thomas F. Boucher, Jr. (1906-2000) was also able to obtain an extensive education which would have been unheard of a generation before. After attending Middleborough public schools, he graduated from the New York School of Forestry in 1926 before entering his father’s business in 1927.

John Sullivan

John (1833-73) and Margaret (Hogan) Sullivan (1833-1912) were one of the several Sullivan families who came to Middleborough in the wake of the Famine. Both came from County Cork and they settled at Taunton, but came to Middleborough sometime in the late 1860s where Sullivan found employment with the Old Colony Railroad and where they settled on Vine Street. Sullivan died in 1873 of pneumonia, leaving his widow, two sons Dennis D. and John J., and two daughters Honora (“Nora”) and Mary.

Margaret Sullivan clearly understood the benefits of a public education and each of her children attended school. Later for a time, she was able to send her sons to the Eaton Family School, a prestigious Middleborough private school out of reach for most Irish-Americans. Her ability to do this is indicative in her belief in what was termed at the time as a “proper education.”

Despite this advantage, in early life Dennis D. Sullivan (1863-1941) led what was a typically Irish-American life in Middleborough. At 16 he went to work as a laborer, but in contrast to many boys at the time, he continued his studies. Education would prove the vehicle which would permit Sullivan to escape the pattern of a previous generation which had seen most Irish confined to manual jobs. Sometime after the completion of his studies, Sullivan in the late 1880s established a meat and provisions business from his home on Center Street (now 167 Center Avenue) delivering groceries and meat to local neighborhood homes through the early 1890s. It is likely that the operation was used to fund Sullivan’s higher education and help fulfill his ambition to enter the professions.

By at least 1895 if not earlier, Sullivan was able to establish a real estate and insurance business which was so successful that he was able to purchase the Middleboro Insurance Agency in 1905. While engaged in this field, he attended and graduated from Boston University Law School, being admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1898. Sullivan must have demonstrated remarkable legal ability for just two years later he was appointed as an associate justice of the Fourth District Court of Plymouth County. “Early in his years of practice, Judge Sullivan distinguished himself as a trial lawyer”, and he would enjoy an illustrious judicial career, serving for over 35 years.

Sullivan would serve in a number of civic and municipal roles, and was a strong promoter of business and residential development locally, serving as president of the Middleboro Land Improvement Company in the late 1890s, largely due to his local expertise in the real estate field.

Sullivan’s children would demonstrate the continuing success of third generation Irish-Americans. Daughter Irene L. Sullivan became one of the first college-educated Irish-American women in Middleborough, attending Trinity College in Washington and training as a kindergarten teacher at Boston, before entering the educational field. Eventually she was named principal of the Forest Street (Flora Clark) School before marrying Theodore Stegmaier in 1920.

John V. Sullivan was educated in Middleborough Public Schools, graduating from Middleborough High School in 1907 alongside his sister, Irene. Like his father, Sullivan attended Boston University Law School, graduating in 1910 with an LL. B. Admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1911, Sullivan joined his father’s practice which was subsequently known as Sullivan & Sullivan with offices in what is now the Glidden Building on Center Street, though then known as the Sullivan Building. In 1922, Sullivan was named Assistant U. S. District Attorney for Massachusetts and between 1925 and 1933 he served in various capacities in the combined district attorney’s office in Plymouth and Norfolk County. In 1931, he was promoted to First Assistant District Attorney, a position he later resigned in order to resume his private practice. In 1938, Sullivan succeeded his father as associate justice of the Fourth District Court. Additionally, he served as Middleborough and Carver Town Counsel, and was a member of the Middleborough School Committee from 1914 through 1922.

While Dennis Sullivan had a strong entrepreneurial sensibility, it was his brother John J. Sullivan (1870-1953) who became a noted businessman in Middleborough, for years operating a newsstand near the Four Corners. Like his brother, John Sullivan attended the Eaton Family School, but he left there at the age of 15 in order to take a job in the Bay State Straw Works on Courtland Street for the sum of $3.90 a week. Along with his sister Nora, he was afterwards employed in the Hathaway, Soule & Harrington shoe manufactory on Cambridge Street. Later, he was employed at Begley’s meat market and Beckman’s provision store and it is in this latter establishment that he learned the newsdealer trade.

Beginning in 1907, Sullivan sold Sunday newspapers, having purchased the right to do so from druggist John Shaw. In August, 1908, Sullivan opened his own place of business on Center Street near the Savings Bank Building. The business, known as Sullivan’s News Stand was described by Middleborough historian Mertie E. Romaine as “probably the smallest business establishment in Middleboro … just a chink in the wall at 30 Centre Street, approximately six feet wide and thirty feet deep.” Nonetheless, the business proved profitable enough for Sullivan to purchase the former home of John C. Sullivan on Pearl Street where he resided for the remainder of his life with his sisters. At the time of his death, Sullivan left an estate of $100,000, a considerable sum at the time.

Luke Callan

Like the Sullivan family, the Callans would find successful professional lives in the legal and judicial profession despite the humble origin of their immigrant ancestor, Luke Callan.

Luke Callan was born the son of Philip and Rose (Boylan) Callan in County Cavan sometime in the 1830s, and emigrated to America in 1854, first coming to Woonsocket, Rhode Island. Later he relocated to East Taunton, Massachusetts, and became engaged in the shovel industry there.

“He rapidly learned all portions of this trade and became remarkably proficient, so much so that when the company operating the shovel shop in Middleboro, located at the Wareham street dam, in looking about for a skilled workman secured Mr. Callan and paid him a big salary for those days.” Callan produced the shovels exhibited by Brown & Sherman of Middleborough at the Philadelphia Exposition in 1876, a display which was awarded first prize. Following the destruction of the Wareham Street shovel works by fire, Callan was employed by the Star Mill and later by Hathaway, Soule & Harrington, shoe manufacturers. In these positions, Callan was required to read, though it is recorded that he could not write.

Likely through these wages and savings earned over time, Callan was able to purchase a house lot from Philander Washburn for $350 on the newly-built Clifford Street in March, 1872, upon which he constructed a house (which no longer stands).

Like the Creedons and Bouchers, Callan was actively involved with the Sacred Heart church, serving as a sexton for a considerable length of time.

Callan’s children were among the early Irish-American second generation attending Middleborough public schools, and obtaining better positions in the local shoe and woolen industries. Philip Callan (1858-1916) worked in the Star Mill before relocating to Providence and his brother, John L. Callan (b. 1862) also worked there for a time. Martina Callan (1869-1931) was engaged in the shoe industry, working as a shoe steamer, while her sister Rosetta [“Rose”] Callan (b. 1871) worked as a dress maker. Youngest son Luke F. Callan (b. 1872) also worked in the local shoe factories as a laster. By 1910, he had risen to the position of foreman and he was able to purchase the Charles Peirce house on Clifford Street at that time, thereby remaining close to his family.

Callan’s son, Luke F. Callan, Jr., who was better known as L. Francis Callan (1901-62), was educated in Middleborough public schools and Dartmouth College, graduating in 1923. He subsequently attended Boston University Law School as had Dennis and John V. Sullivan before him. Following his graduation in 1927 and admission to the Massachusetts bar, Callan was assisted in his early legal career by Dennis D. Sullivan, by whom he was employed, and Callan’s career would remain connected to that of the Sullivans. In May, 1944, when John V. Sullivan was elevated to the Superior Court, Callan succeeded him as presiding justice of the Fourth District Court. Also like both Sullivans, Callan became associated with local business circles and served as a director of and counsel for the Middleborough Co-operative Bank. Additionally, like John V. Sullivan before him, Callan served as a member of the Middleborough School Committee between 1935 and 1946. His son and granddaughter would continue the family's association with the legal profession.

Michael and Thomas Maddigan

It is not clear when the Maddigan family emigrated from County Kilkenny, Ireland, though it appears to have been about 1854-55. Arriving by way of Rhode Island, the extended family of Michael (c. 1797-1863) and Mary (Welch) Maddigan, their son Thomas (1828-1900) and his family, and probably Michael’s nephew John Welch and either Welch’s wife or sister Mary were settled at Tremont in Wareham in 1855. There the Maddigans found jobs as laborers their experience was typical of that of other Irish-Americans. Like many men of the period, Michael Maddigan’s sons, Michael and James both served as Union soldiers during the Civil War. James (c. 1824-64), served in the 58th Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteer Militia, and died of wounds incurred during service in 1864.

Thomas Maddigan’s son Michael J. Maddigan (1855-1931) like other second generation Irish-Americans, attended school early on, though later left to take a job to help support the family. By 1870, he was working with his father in the Tremont Iron Works and was occupied as a nailor and later a heater. By the age of 20 he had reached the rank of foreman in the “mill which smelted iron and rolled it for the Tremont Nail Company”.

The family removed to Middleborough sometime between 1886 and 1889, at which time Maddigan entered the dairy business on Rocky Meadow Street, a pursuit which would later be followed by his son, James F. (“Frank”) Maddigan . About 1889, the family moved to Middleborough center, ultimately purchasing a home at 10 Star Avenue. It was about this time that Maddigan took a position in the Four Corners grocery store of Ira Tinkham before being hired out to Everett Lincoln. Maddigan later was employed as a day laborer and fireman and nightwatchman in the Nemasket Worsted Mill.

Unlike other early Irish-American immigrants, Maddigan married a New England Protestant, Mary E. (Dunham) Maddigan, and through her influence some members of the family became associated with the Episcopal Church of Our Saviour, including the couple's son Ralph William Maddigan (1890-1973). Others, like Maddigan’s eldest surviving son Frank would adhere closely to the Catholic Irish-American pattern, remaining a lifelong communicant of Sacred Heart church and marrying Catherine M. Gibbons who had emigrated from County Roscommon to Providence where she worked as a domestic before coming to Middleborough.

Though a number of the Maddigan children would take employment in the nearby Nemasket woolen mill, Ralph W. Maddigan took a different course and would achieve the highest level of professional success. At the age of 12, Maddigan went to work for his older brother Frank who operated a dairy. “He milked cows, and, pulling a small cart, peddled milk in the neighborhood, measuring out the milk (at 5c a quart) into cans which customers brought to their door.” Maddigan attended high school for two years before leaving for employment in a shoe shop. At the time, educational opportunities still remained a luxury for many Irish-American families who needed the children to work in order to support the family. Nonetheless, like Dennis Sullivan before him, Maddigan continued his studies at night school, studying bookkeeping and mathematics.

Maddigan later said that “nearly as soon as I was 21, I left the shoe shop, because I didn’t feel that there were as great opportunities there as somewhere else.” Through an acquaintance, Maddigan became interested in insurance and took a job with the Prudential Insurance Company, having responsibility for a premium collection route in Middleborough and East Taunton. This, in turn, led him to sell insurance on a commission basis.

Like the Sullivans and Callans, Maddigan began the study of law and, upon the advice of George Fox Tucker, a lawyer residing in Lakeville, Maddigan entered the law office of Bert J. Allan. Maddigan offered to his services without pay if Allan would help him learn law. Allan, himself, had learned in a similar fashion in the office of John C. Sullivan. Through training in Allan’s office, Maddigan learned real estate, as well, while continuing to sell insurance.

In 1917, Thomas M. Ryder who operated an insurance agency founded in 1877 died, and control of the firm was assumed by his son, Charles M. Ryder. Under the management of Maddigan and later his son, Ralph Maddigan, Jr., “the company expanded until it is now (1969) regarded as one of the largest insurance agencies in the southern section of the state, handling all types of insurance.”

Though the firm, now owned by the third generation, has been associated with the Maddigan family for nearly a century, it has always retained the Ryder name, a consequence of anti-Irish prejudice which lingered as late as the 1920s.

The reason the Maddigan name was not given, lies in the shadow of one of society’s great faults: racial prejudice. In these parts, 50 years or so ago, to be Irish, and Catholic as well, was to be a member of an unpopular minority. This was particularly true of Cape Cod at that time, where the original T. M. Ryder Company had a major part of its patronage. [Ralph Maddigan], whose ancestors on his mother’s side were Yankee ships chandlers and New Bedford whalers, but whose father was of direct Irish descent, recognized the fact that in the Cape area the Ryder name had Anglo-Saxon Protestant status and acceptance.

Like the Sullivans and Callan before him, Ralph Maddigan sought a place on the Middleborough School Committee. Though ultimately unsuccessful in his bid, his son, Ralph Maddigan, Jr., would serve as a Middleborough selectman from 1946 through 1955, being probably the first local Irish-American to serve in that post. By that time, however, ethnicity and religion (at least in regards to the Irish) was no longer an impediment to social or economic advancement and success within the community, thanks in large part to the second and third generations of Irish-Americans who paved a way towards a better future for their families and their descendants.

T. F. Boucher, advertisement, Resident and Business Directory of Middleboro and Lakeville, Massachusetts: 1909 (Boston, MA: Boston Suburban Book Co., 1909), page 62.

"Wall Papers", advertisement, Middleboro Gazette, March 9, 1906, page 4.

Sullivan Family Outside 49 Vine Street, Middleborough, MA, photograph, 1880s. Courtesy of Chris Sullivan.
This photograph depicts the Sullivan family outside their home which was purchased in May, 1870 from William Jeffers. It was here that Dennis D. Sullivan, seen holding the bridle of the horse, first established a meat and provisions business as indicated by the "MARKET" sign on the barn. His brother John stands next to their mother, Margaret (Hogan) Sullivan, while sisters Mary and Nora are also present.

Judge Dennis D. Sullivan, photograph, mid-1930s. Courtesy of Chris Sullivan.

Sullivan Family Outside 791 Center Street, Middleborough, MA, photograph, early 20th century.
In 1890, Margaret Sullivan purchased this house on the corner of Center and Lovell Streets which she occupied with her family. The house, only recently built at that time, was a step above the Vine Street house which was both older and smaller, and the purchase demonstrates the upward mobility which local Irish-Americans began to experience at this time. Nonetheless, the Vine Street house held sentimental value for Mrs. Sullivan and it was not sold until 1913, a year following her death. John Sullivan waters the lawn, while his brother Dennis sits. Margaret Sullivan is again at the center of the picture with her daughters Mary and Nora. This is the photograph which appears on the cover of Images of America: Middleborough.

"Life Insurance", advertisement, Middleboro Gazette, July 19, 1912, page 8.
Ralph W. Maddigan was just 22 when he placed this ad in the local newspaper. He initially sold insurance from the family's Star Avenue home.

Ralph W. Maddigan, photograph by Clint Clark, newspaper half-tone, January, 1971.

"Insurance Notice", notice, Middleboro Gazette, December 28, 1917, page 8.
In part due to lingering prejudice against Irish Catholics, Ralph W. Maddigan chose to retain the Ryder name when he purchased T. M. Ryder & Son. While the firm became known as T. M. Ryder & Co., and the notice mentions Maddigan's involvement with the firm, it continues to stress the firm's origins and Ryder connections. Ironically, Maddigan was an Episcopalian.


History and Directory of Middleboro, Mass., for 1889. Needham, MA: A. E. Foss, 1889.

History and Directory of Middleboro, Mass., 1892. Needham, MA: A. E. Foss & Co., 1892.

Lainhart, Ann S. 1855 and 1865 Massachusetts State Census for Middleborough. Boston, MA: n. pub., 1988.

Middleboro Gazette, “Middleboro”, June 9, 1905, p. 4; ibid., June 23, 1905, p. 4; ibid., July 7, 1905, p. 1; ibid., August 4, 1905, p. 4; November 10, 1905, p. 1; “Middleboro”, September 6, 1907, p. 4; ibid., June 19, 1908, p. 4; ibid., October 9, 1908, p. 4; ibid., July 2, 1909, p. 2; ibid., July 9, 1909, p. 6; July 19, 1912, p. 8; February 27, 1914, p. 5; “Recent Deaths” [Luke Callan], May 19, 1916, p. 1; December 28, 1917, p. 8; July 5, 1918, p. 1; August 30, 1918, p. 1; October 10, 1919, p. 1; January 30, 1920, p. 1; February 6, 1920, p. 1; February 27, 1920, p. 1; “What the Gazette Was Saying Fifty Years Ago”, June 25, 1920, p. 6; July 2, 1920, p. 1; December 31, 1920, p. 4; February 11, 1921, p. 3; April 8, 1921, p. 1; “What the Gazette Was Saying Fifty Years Ago”, March 10, 1922, p. 5; May 5, 1922, p. 5; June 30, 1922, p. 2; July 21, 1922, p. 5; December 15, 1922, p. 1; April 4, 1923, p. 9; June 22, 1923, p. 8; June 29, 1923, p. 5; “What the Gazette Was Saying Twenty-Five Years Ago”, August 17, 1923, p. 10; March 21, 1924, p. 1; “What the Gazette Was Saying Twenty-Five Years Ago”, April 4, 1926, p. 6; October 3, 1924, p. 8; October 31, 1924, p. 4; “What the Gazette Was Saying Fifty Years Ago”, October 9, 1925, page 8; ibid., November 27, 1925, page 6; “Middleboro”, March 19, 1926, p. 1; June 17, 1927:2; August 12, 1927, p. 8; September 16, 1927, p. 1; November 18, 1927, p. 1; “What the Gazette Was Saying Twenty-Five Years Ago”, May 11, 1928, p. 6; ibid., August 17, 1928, p. 8 December 7, 1928, p. 1; ; “Recent Deaths” [John E. Boucher], December 21, 1928, p. 1; January 9, 1931, p. 1; “Recent Deaths”, [Martina Callan], January 16, 1931:1; November 20, 1931, p. 1; December 23, 1932, p. 1; “Recent Deaths”, [William Boucher], February 17, 1933, p. 1; October 6, 1933, p. 1; January 1, 1934, p. 1; “Recent Deaths”, [Catherine Boucher], June 15, 1934, p. 1; June 8, 1934, p. 1; December 28, 1934, p. 1; January 25, 1935, p. 1; “T. F. Boucher Paint Store”, April 19, 1935, page 1; July 26, 1935, p. 12; “Recent Deaths” [Thomas F. Boucher], November 20, 1936, p. 1; “Newsstand has 44-Year History”, October 30, 1952, p. 1; “Newsdealer Sullivan is Dead”, April 30, 1953, p. 1; “How to Succeed in Business”, January 14, 1971

The Plymouth and Bristol Counties Register for 1899-1900. Boston, MA: Union Publishing Company, 1899, p. 101.

Resident and Business Directory of Middleboro and Lakeville, Mass. For 1895. Needham, MA: A. E. Foss & Co., 1895.

Resident and Business Directory of Middleboro, Massachusetts. For 1897. Needham, MA: A. E. Foss & Co., 1897.

Romaine, Mertie E. History of the Town of Middleboro, Massachusetts. Volume II. Middleborough, MA: Town of Middleborough, 1969.

Chris Sullivan, Sullivan family photographs and information.

Seventh Census of the United States, 1850. National Archives Microfilm Publication M432. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Record Administration, n. d.

Eighth Census of the United States, 1860. NARA microfilm publication M653. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.

Ninth Census of the United States, 1870. NARA microfilm publication M593. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.

Tenth Census of the United States, 1880. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1880.

United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900. T623. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1900.

United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Thirteenth Census of the United States, 1910. T624. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1910.