Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tripp's Ice Cream

For a history of Tripp's ice cream click here.

B. F. Tripp, trade card, c. 1880.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Center Street, 1930s

The photograph above originally appeared in the rotogravure section of the New Bedford Standard-Times in the late 1930s. "The scene is typical of Main Street, Anytown, but in this instance it happens to be Center Street, Middleboro, looking west", read the caption that accompanied the photo. Though "typical" the view may have been, it preserved for posterity a glimpse of the business section of Middleborough which was both unique and special to its residents.

Proceeding westward along Center Street, the first building at the right is the Fish Building, constructed in 1934 by Robert and Alphonso D. Fish. For years it housed the Walk-Over Shoe store which had been established in the early 1930s. In 1934, proprietor Roger W. Kelley sold the business to Daniel Besse and Fred Lang. Walk-Over would operated for many years at Middleborough center and would later be known as Stile's.

Adjoining the Fish Building was the Woolworth block constructed in 1927-28. The building was purpose built for the F. W. Woolworth Company to that company’s specifications by Arthur Shactman of Brookline, the owner of the property in 1927. Woolworth’s proposed leasing the building for a period of twenty years commencing May 1, 1928, and ending May 1, 1948, with yearly rent at $3,600 for the first ten years and $3,900 for the final ten years, and requested that the building be “the same in workmanship and material as the premises now occupied by the lessee at 297-297A Harvard Street, Brookline, Massachusetts”

Woolworth’s first came to Middleborough in 1911, establishing a store in the American Building on South Main Street as Middleborough’s first chain department store. This building was built the same year that Woolworth’s principal Middleborough competitor W. T. Grant arrived in town. Woolworth’s initially took a 20 year lease on the building commencing May 1, 1928, occupying the southernmost store.

In 1948, Woolworth’s expanded to occupy the entire building, but at the time of the photograph, the northern half of the building was occupied by the Park Café. The café’s owner, Nicklas Zervas, took a ten year lease on space in the building commencing April 1, 1928. His establishment occupied the northernmost of the two spaces.

Next is the woodframe building once occupied by Sparrow Brothers men’s clothiers which operated for nearly 50 years from 1880 through 1929. The Sparrows continued to own the building through 1945 during which time they rented it to various business concerns including the Economy Grocery Store and Town Cleansers.

Beyond Sparrow Brothers is the drugstore of Jesse F. Morse, housed in the former William S. Pierce House. This building has the distinction of being the oldest extant structure on Center Street in downtown Middleborough, having been built about 1833. Originally occupied as a dwelling by Pierce, in 1875, the structure was converted to commercial use by druggists Shaw & Childs which operated in the building until 1906. This firm was succeeded by Jesse F. Morse who operated the drug store until his death in 1948. At the time the photograph was taken, M. L. Hinckley and Son operated a jewelry store in an ell to the rear of the building which is presently occupied by Hollyberries.

Next to Morse’s and conspicuous by the “First National Market” sign extending from its façade is the Ryder Block. Built in 1927, the block was occupied immediately by stores housing a First National grocery market and a W. T. Grant store. The First National would remain in the block until 1941 when it had its own store building erected on the corner of Center and School Streets (now Benny’s). Grant’s would relocate to North Main Street in the 1950s. The Ryder Block would later be long occupied by The Boston Store.

The large wood-frame building beyond the Ryder Block was occupied at the time of the photograph by Ryder’s Department Store (the store name can be made out on the side of the awning hanging from the front of the building). Constructed in 1883 and demolished in 1968, the building housed a succession of “dry goods” firms including Whitman’s, Ryder’s and MacNeil’s. The site is now occupied by a branch of Sovereign Bank.

At the corner of Center and School Streets, a portion of the T. W. Pierce Hardware Store building can be glimpsed. Originally built as a shoe manufactory for Perkins, Leonard & Barrows in 1853, the building was occupied after 1872 by hardware dealers and tinsmiths Pierce & Paige. Following 1881, the business was operated exclusively by T. W. Pierce and remained in business until 1941. In 1940 the building was demolished to make way for a new First National.

Across School Street, the Glidden Building is conspicuous, and has been a Center Street landmark since the late 19th century. Beyond it is the so-called Klar Building which was built in 1895 for bakers and confectioners Pasztor & Klar. In 1911, Pasztor & Klar erected a new fire-proof building of brick on the next lot north, and it is barely visible in the photograph. Later occupied by Shaw’s Furniture, this building was occupied by a wide variety of businesses over the years, including Pasztor & Klar (from 1911 until 1920), Gliddens, and the Middleboro Bowling Alleys. It is presently being rehabilitated for use as a local theatrical venue.

The large building behind with the two visible dormers is the original School Street School dating from about 1850. At the time the present school building was constructed in 1907, the original school building was relocated to Center Street and converted to commercial use. Above the roofline of the school, just above the left-hand dormer, the roof of the Leonard & Barrows shoe manufactory tower is visible.

At the left side of the photograph, a small portion of the Thatcher Block is visible. At the time the block was erected in 1877, the Old Colony Memorial reported: “A large two story block has been erected on the Thatcher estate on Center street, containing four roomy stores, a hall to be used by the Sons of Temperance, tailor shop, etc. This adds much to the appearance of the town.” Over the years, the block would be occupied by a variety of businesses. The building still stands, although the second floor, which once housed the local Y. M. C. A. has since been removed.

Center Street, Middleborough, MA, 1930s, from "Rotogravure Section", New Bedford Standard-Times

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Lakeville State Sanatorium Design

When the Lakeville State Sanatorium opened in January, 1910, it was considered a model of tubercular hospital design. Identical ward buildings flanking a central administration building were constructed for male and female patients.

The design of these ward buildings by architect John A. Fox and the layout of the Lakeville complex reflected current thinking on modern sanatorium design at the time. Concurrent with the construction of the Lakeville hospital was the publication by the National Association for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis of a guide to sanatoria design. Entitled Tuberculosis Hospital and Sanatorium Construction, the volume discussed the importance of proper design, and it featured a photograph and floor plan of the Lakeville men's ward to illustrate the tenets it outlined.

The book's remarks about sanatoria in general were applicable to Lakeville as constructed:

These buildings are intended, as their name indicates, to house and care for patients who are unable, because of the advanced condition of their disease, to live in lean-tos or open cottages....

An advanced case hospital does not mean a home for incurables, for there can be no hard and fast line of demarcation drawn between curable and incurable cases. It has been found that many patients sent to institutions where they can be isolated until their death, improve under good hygienic surroundings and recover for all practical purposes. It is the opinion of many authorities that the advanced case does better on a porch in the open air than in an enclosed room and can stand with benefit a comparatively large amount of cold and exposure. It is therefore necessary that buildings for this purpose, besides being heated and supplied with the comforts and conveniences of a general hospital, also have large verandas connected with the wards and rooms by windows cut down to the floor, and doors through which beds can be rolled, in order to provide the same facilities for the open air treatment necessary for incipient cases. Such porches should be used in pleasant weather by patients, even when far advanced in the disease, as there is hope for all when they are not in a dying condition....

An essential point to be considered in planning buildings for advanced cases, is that tuberculous patients in the last stages of the disease are very annoying to each other, and should therefore be housed in separate rooms instead of wards. They are easily affected by disturbances, and any excitement, such as grief, anger, or worry, is usually followed by a fit of coughing and depression. Coughing is not only bad for the individual, but when patients are housed in wards it may disturb ten or fifteen others, and is also a strong suggestion which often causes an epidemic of coughing among them. The mistake and cruelty of placing in one room a number of persons suffering from a serious chronic disease is beginning to be appreciated; and there is no doubt that many patients who fail to make satisfactory progress against disease when housed in wards, rapidly improve when removed to the quiet and privacy of a separate room.... The psychological tendency of a private room is to make patients more contented, and also to increase their self-respect.

Advanced case hospitals are built not only in order to care for the patient, but also to prevent the spread of pulmonary tuberculosis, which is due in a great measure to the cases of consumption which remain and die in their homes, infecting other members of their families. If all advanced cases could be cared for in hospitals, it is believed that the disease would more rapidly disappear. Public opinion at present will not allow the passage of laws compelling persons in the advanced stages of this disease to enter institutions for their segregation; therefore, hospitals should be made comfortable and home-like in order to attract the patients and hold them.

Specific to Lakeville, the book noted of the men's ward:

This is one of a group of four buildings erected as a hospital for treating patients in all stages of pulmonary tuberculosis, and is one of two pavilions constructed from similar plans. It is two hundred and forty-eight feet long, built of wood, and rests on a concrete foundation and brick piers. For description it can be divided into a central block 36 feet wide by 65 feet deep; two wings 64 feet wide by 20 feet deep; and two extensions from the wings built in the form of right angles, each having about nine hundred square feet of floor area.

The central block is two stories high with a cellar under it which contains three large locker rooms and a storage area for trunks. On the first floor is a sun parlor; a large room equipped with lavatories, baths, and toilets; a diet kitchen; a treatment room; and three small wards. The second story is 36 feet wide by 50 feet deep and is divided into nine bedrooms, a bath, and a linen closet.

All the space in each wing is devoted to a large ward for advanced cases housing twenty patients. The extensions from the wings are open air pavilions and house twelve incipient cases. The building faces south with porches in front of the wards nine feet wide and in front of both arms of the pavilions five feet wide. The building has a capacity of seventy patients and cost $17,600.

"State Sanatorium, Lakeville, Mass.", postcard, c. 1910.
This postcard view of one of the two ward buildings at Lakeville was produced shortly after the hospital's opening in 1910, and construction materials appear to be strewn about. Patients may be seen at on the "platform" or porch in front of the right-hand ward. Access to the porch was through full-height windows which reached to the floor permitting beds to be rolled outside.

Lakeville State Sanatorium, Pavilion for Men, First Floor Plan, from Thomas Spees Carrington, Tuberculosis Hospital and Sanatorium Construction (New York: The National Association for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis, 3rd ed., 1914), p. 101.

Thomas Spees Carrington, Tuberculosis Hospital and Sanatorium Constuction. New York: The National Association for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis, 3rd ed., 1914.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Peanuts, 1884

The peanut contract for Onset Grove the coming season, has been taken by a Middleboro retailer, who has laid in a stock of one hundred bushels specially for this anticipated trade.

"Shells", photograph by
crononauta, May 22, 2010, reprinted under a Creative Commons license.

Old Colony Memorial, "County and Elsewhere", April 24, 1884, page 1.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Middleboro Gazette Building (1876)


The Middleboro Gazette Building consists of a three-story building in Greek Revival style measuring 24 feet wide by 42 feet deep and a two-story 22 by 35 foot addition to the rear.

The main building, erected in 1876, rises three stories from a granite foundation with the gable end fronting Wareham Street. The walls are constructed of red brick produced in James F. Eldridge’s Purchade brickyard in Middleborough and set in a running bond pattern.

The two first floor entries are situated above the level of the street and a flight of concrete steps approaches each one. The entry on the left (east) which accesses the second floor has a modern steel panel door, while that on the right (west) through which entrance to the first floor is gained has a modern plate glass and aluminum frame door of the commercial type. To the right of each door is a large square plate glass and aluminum frame window. A concrete lintel spans nearly the entire façade over the two doors and windows. Hanging from this lintel, over each door, is a lantern-style lighting fixture with a nearly spherical glass globe. The one on the right (west) is missing at present.

The window bays on the second and third floor façade all contain 2/2 sash and are symmetrically placed. The three bays on the second floor are rectangularly-shaped and have granite sills and lintels. The two third story bays are segmentally-arched. These, too, have granite sills with brick lintels composed of a single course of bricks set in rowlock fashion.

Above these last two windows, in the center of the gable peak, is an engraved marble plaque set into the brick wall bearing the inscription: “ERECTED 1876 BY CHAS. SHOCKLEY”.

The fenestration of the side elevations of the main building consists of irregularly-placed rectangular window bays with some articulation in the form of granite sills and lintels. Each contains 2/2 sash.

The asphalt-shingled roof of the main building is steeply pitched with deep eaves overhanging the façade. There is an interior brick chimney located below the gable ridge in the center of the western side of the building.

The addition to the rear of the main building rises two stories from a granite foundation. It appears to have been constructed in the first quarter of the 20th century, but after 1903 as it does not appear on the map of Middleborough center of that year.

The first floor bays of the addition are all segmentally-arched with lintels of a single rowlock course of bricks, and sills. These bays contain 1/1 and 6/6 sash. There is an entry located in the near center of the west elevation of the addition. It has a segmental arch with lintel of two rowlock courses of bricks, and an aluminum and plate glass commercial door.

The nine second story windows of the addition are all large industrial-type metal frame windows of twenty lights each, arranged in four horizontal rows of five. The six central lights of each of these windows are framed to open as an awning-type window to provide ventilation. Each of these windows has a narrow granite sill.

Over the entry on the west elevation is a large bay for freight. It has a large wood batten door, a granite sill and a segmental arch with lintel of two rowlock courses of bricks. Above this bay is a hoist and pulley.

The roof of the addition is asphalt shingled and has a minimal pitch.

At the time the Gazette Building was constructed in 1876, it was recognized as a substantial building – substantial in size, fabric and design with its first floor set half a story above the level of the muddy street. This fact undoubtedly prompted Shockley to situate the commemorative plaque noticeably in the gable peak to let passersby know of his accomplishment.

Ironically, though the building served as a proto-type for two other business blocks in Middleborough (the two Richards Blocks in Middleborough’s West End), the style of the Gazette Building – essentially a brick rendition of the earlier wood-frame commercial buildings in Middleborough - was rapidly outmoded. Later brick business blocks such as the Copeland/Glidden Building, Middleborough Savings Bank Building and Peirce Block were all built on a much greater scale and in vastly different styles including Romanesque and Colonial Revival.


The lot upon which the Gazette Building stands was purchased as a vacant lot, April 7, 1875, by Charles Shockley of Lakeville from Philander Washburn of Middleborough, the owner of numerous parcels of land upon which much of present-day Middleborough center stands [Plymouth Deeds 4111:194]. Newspapers at the time recorded the progress of the development:
It is current on the street that Charles Shockley of Lakeville has purchased the lot and land fronting on Water street, between George Soule’s estate and E. T. Jenk’s machine shop, paying therefore $1,000. [Middleboro Gazette, April 17, 1925, “What the Gazette Was Saying Fifty Years Ago”]

Charles Shockley has commenced work for a foundation for a tenement on lot of land between McElroy & Cushman’s store and Jenks’ building. [Middleboro Gazette, January 8, 1926, “What the Gazette Was Saying Fifty Years Ago”]

The walls of the structure were constructed of brick manufactured at Purchade near North Middleborough with Shockley purchasing 40,000 bricks from James F. Eldridge in April, 1875 [Middleboro Gazette, April 2, 1926, “What the Gazette Was Saying Fifty Years Ago”]. Upon completion of the structure, Shockley placed a commemorative marble plaque in the gable peak.

Undoubtedly, Shockley envisioned the building as a rental property, but by whom the main floor was occupied is not known. What is known is that Randall Hathaway and Josiah P. Marshall opened a fish market in the building’s basement in 1876 as recorded in the pages of the Middleboro Gazette which termed the structure the “new brick building on Water street” [Middleboro Gazette, August 20, 1926, “What the Gazette Was Saying Fifty Years Ago”].

In 1882, Shockley sold the building to James M. Coombs of Middleborough, editor of the Middleboro Gazette who was seeking a suitable home for his newspaper after years of rented premises [Plymouth Deeds 484:550]. The Middleboro Gazette had been established in 1852 as the Namasket Gazette by Samuel P. Brown (who also served as the paper’s editor) with the first issue appearing on October 7, 1852. Two years later, the newspaper was sold to Reverend Stillman Pratt who changed the name to the Middleborough Gazette and Old Colony Advertiser. The elder Pratt died on September 1, 1862, and the paper continued to be published by Pratt’s son, Stillman B. Pratt who expanded the operations of the newspaper by acquiring additional newspapers outside Middleborough and by establishing a job printing office to print invitations, notices, broadsides, advertisements, booklets, reports and other ephemera for local residents. Among the items printed in the Gazette offices were several of Middleborough’s Annual Town Reports for the period as well as the 1867 Plymouth County directory.

Coombs purchased the newspaper in 1869 and continued at its head for twenty-five years. Under Coombs’ direction, the operations of the newspaper were modernized and a permanent office acquired in the form of the Shockley Building.

Ill health ultimately compelled Coombs to sell the newspaper to partners Lorenzo Wood and Wallace Tinkham, though ownership of the Gazette Building was retained by the Coombs family until 1913 when Coombs’ daughter, Estelle B. Coombs, sold the building to Dr. Charles S. Cummings [Plymouth Deeds 1154:191]. Cummings, in turn, sold the property in two separate conveyances in 1913 and 1917 to Chester E. Weston who later transferred his interest to the Nemaskett Press, Inc., a job printer which operated in a portion of the building during the first half of the twentieth century [Plymouth Deeds 1154:193, 1273:2, 1392:293]. The property was acquired by Albert Deane who sold it December 10, 1945, to Lorenzo Wood, son of the newspaper’s original Lorenzo Wood, who succeeded his father as owner, publisher and editor of the Middleboro Gazette upon the latter’s death in 1930. Throughout this period, the newspaper’s offices remained in the building.

With the death of the second Lorenzo Wood in 1968, the Wood family sold, first, the Gazette and later in 1978 the Gazette Building itself [Plymouth Deeds 4414:74]. Title to the property has since been held by a number of individuals, and the building employed for a variety of purposes including an ice cream parlor, game room, realtor’s office, municipal office space and photographer’s studio. Today, the historic building is occupied by Salon Corsini and two apartments.

Middleboro Gazette Building (Shockley Building), 8-10 Wareham Street, Middleborough, MA, photograph, 1880s

By the time this photograph was taken, the Middleboro Gazette had moved its offices into the building to which it would later give its name. For years, the Gazette had lived an intinerant existence occupying a number of offices about Middleborough Four Corners. Once located here in what had previously been known as the Shockley Building, the Gazette would remain for nearly a century. Besides printing and publishing one of the local newspapers, the Gazette operated a steam press which performed job work, a role clearly indicated by the large "PRINTING" sign which hangs from the front of the building.

Middleboro Gazette Building, 8-10 Wareham Street, Middleborough, MA, photograph by Michael J. Maddigan, late 1990s.

Nemaskett Press, Inc., advertising card, early 20th century
The Nemaskett Press suceeded the Gazette once the newspaper discontinued job print work. For years Nemaskett remained a presence in the building. Wareham Street has been renumbered a number of times. At the time this card was produced, the location was 47 Wareham Street.

Middleboro Gazette Building, 8-10 Wareham Street, Middleborough, MA, photographed by Michael J. Maddigan, late 1990s.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Murder on North Main Street, 1925

Mercifully, murders in Middleborough and Lakeville have been relatively few, though they are not entirely unknown. One of the more lurid crime stories in Middleborough's history is little recalled today despite the fact that it spanned nearly the entire second quarter of the twentieth century. The gruesome shooting death of forty-one year old Katherine Harriet Cooke on April 13, 1925, was locally unprecedented, for it was only twenty-three years later that her estranged husband, Napoleon J. Cooke, would be acquitted of killing her "in a fit of jealous rage."

Cooke, a native of Canada and a French-speaker, had emigrated to the United States either in 1908 or 1910, settling at Newport, Vermont, where in 1920 he was engaged as a sawyer in a veneer mill. Cooke's wife, also a Canadian emigrant who arrived in 1911, was ten years younger than her husband. Sometime in the early 1920s, the Cookes came to Middleborough from Vermont, opening a small restaurant which they relocated a short time after their arrival to the Nemasket House hotel on North Main Street. The middle-aged Cookes, like many during that period, struggled financially, and Cooke had held jobs as a boat pilot and Boston & Maine Railroad worker prior to coming to Middleborough.

Though they hoped that Middleborough would provide them a new start, the Cookes continued to experience financial difficulties, as well as marital problems, so much so that Mrs. Cooke moved out of their small apartment in the Norris Building on North Main Street next to the hotel, in the early spring of 1925.

Cooke was stated to have appeared "morose" at the time, and when he failed to appear at the restaurant the evening of Sunday, April 12, Nemasket House proprietor Fred L. Hammond went to Cooke's apartment, but could get no response. Concerned, Hammond notified patrolman William Murdock who, gaining admittance to the apartment, found Cooke suffering from a headache. While not an extraordinary circumstance, it was later "thought that he was planning the affair which took place the next day."

Though she had moved from their apartment in the Norris Building, Mrs. Cooke returned there on Monday, April 13, to conduct errands for Mrs. Sarah Matheson, who was confined to her neighboring apartment by a case of the measles. As Mrs. Cooke was returning from the post office and climbing the stairs of the Norris Building, she was met by her husband standing in the open doorway of their apartment. Raising a revolver, he pointed it at his wife, and fired point blank.

The first shot missed and struck the wall, and Mrs. Cooke fell, breaking her glasses and scratching her face. Cooke's second shot missed as well. "She vainly tried to reach Mrs. Matheson's room but before she got there, Cooke seized her and dragged her through his own rooms to the bedroom and throwing her on the bed sent a bullet crashing through her head, killing her instantly." Mrs. Cooke's futile struggle had been made all the more difficult by a fact little reported at the time - she had previously lost her left arm while working in a laundry in Vermont.

While Mrs. Matheson, alerted by the shots in the neighboring apartment, shouted for help, Cooke fired two additional shots - one into his side, and one into his head.

When Chief of Police Alden C. Sisson and Patrolman Alton R. Rogers arrived, they found a horrific scene. Mrs. Cooke was pronounced dead by Doctors Edward L. Perry and C. S. Cummings, both of whom held little hope for her husband's survival. Mrs. Cooke's remains were removed to Soule's mortuary and Rogers left in charge of the scene, which had begun to attract the curious, the shooting having occurred just before noon in the business district of town when many people were present.

"Later in the afternoon, Cooke regained his senses and asked for water. He was then rushed to the hospital." Cooke, in fact, recovered sufficiently to be arraigned for murder on April 22, before Judge Nathan Washburn of Middleborough. Cooke at that time presented a pathetic appearance, "haggard and worn", he could only partially comprehend the situation around him. He sat "with a glassy stare in his eyes ... apparently not able to hear what was going on, owing to the deafness caused by his attempt of suicide by shooting himself in the head."

Cooke only mumbled at the arraignment hearing, and Washburn ordered a plea of not guilty entered on his behalf. Cooke was held without bail at the Plymouth County House of Correction until his indictment by the grand jury in June, 1925. In accordance with the law, Cooke was then examined by two psychiatrists who found him to be not of sound mind, and he was committed to the State Farm at Bridgewater to a ward for the criminally insane. At the time, many believed this to be the final sad ending to a sad affair.

It was not. Twenty three years later, in August, 1948, Cooke, then in his seventies, was transferred from Bridgewater to the House of Correction preparatory to standing trial for his actions years earlier, it then being believed that he was competent to stand trial.

District Attorney Edmund R. Dewing nolprossed the murder charge on which Cooke had initially been indicted, and entered a charge of manslaughter, a lesser offense. Judge Frank E. Smith presided and the few witnesses then still alive, including Sisson, Rogers, Mrs. Matheson, Dr. Perry and Dr. A. V. Smith, then assistant medical examiner on the case, testified to the recollections of an event nearly a quarter century earlier.

On October 28, 1948, the jury found Cooke not guilty by reason of insanity, some twenty-three and a half years after he had shot his wife, and following twenty-three years of confinement at the State Farm. He was remanded to Bridgewater following his trial, a sad and broken man.


"North Main Street - Business Section Looking South, Middleboro, Mass.", picture postcard, "Tichnor Quality View", Tichnor Brothers, Inc., early 20th century
North Main Street as it appeared about a decade before the Cooke murder was a busy mixed commercial and residential street. The Nemasket House where the Cookes operated a small restaurant appears as the columned building at the right. Immediately adjoining it though out of view to the right was the Norris Block, the residence of the Cookes and the scene of the murder.

View of North Main Street, Middleborough, MA, photograph, early 20th century
Few views of the Norris Block remain. Here it is seen as the building at the far right sometime in the mid-1910s during a less tragic time in its history. Originally occupied by shoe manufacturing and retail firms, the building was acquired by T. A. Norris of Brockton in 1905. The upper floor included a number of apartments, including one occupied by the Cookes. The building was later used by Winthrop-Atkins and a Community Center operated by the District Nursing Association before being demolished along with the Nemasket House in 1939. The site of the Norris Block is now occupied by the western end of the Grant Building.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Lake Assawompsett, Then and ... Then

The above two views depict the southern shore of Lake Assawompsett in Lakeville from nearly the identical spot about a quarter century apart. The top view was photographed as part of a series of staged scenes which were published as stereoscopic cards in the last quarter of the 19th century under the title "Lakeville Views" by druggists Shaw & Childs of Middleborough. The same subjects appear in a similar view taken in the same vicinity and published as a part of the series. The view appears to have been taken during a particularly dry year as a considerable expanse of shoreline is exposed. By the time the second view was taken in the early 1900s, the City of Taunton had erected its pumping station (the smokestack of which can be seen at right center above the treeline) on the shore of the lake. Technology had also arrived with the construction of the trolley line along Bedford Street linking Middleborough with New Bedford, and the telephone with its ubiquitous poles, an intrusive addition to the scenery. In both scenes, however, boaters enjoy the waters of the lake.

"Lakeville Scenes", Shaw & Childs, publisher, Middleborough, MA, stereoscopic card, late 19th century
"Along West Shore of Lake Assawampsett", postcard, early 20th century

Friday, July 16, 2010

Captains of Shockley Hill

Shockley Hill, which rises above Long Pond and Lake Assawompsett in Lakeville and which was earlier known as both Shingle Hill and Alden's Hill, was home to three families of New Bedford sea captains during the nineteenth century which occupied a farm near its summit. Though this farm, located on the east side of Highland Road, is better remembered for its later owner, Morgan Rotch of New Bedford, it had an equally fascinating history during its ownership by Rotch's immediate predecessors.

In 1798, Captain Christopher Hammond (1753-1825) of New Bedford acquired 85 acres situated at the top of Shockley Hill from Joseph Whelden, a mariner of New Bedford. The property, which had been owned the previous century by Nathaniel White and his grandson, Abiel White, included a Cape Cod style farmhouse which was located upon a large rock near the road. The house faced north towards Lake Assawompsett and from its front door, a view could be had over the nearby ponds.

Hammond was a ship's captain, who was affectionately known as "Captain Kit." He had a large family, including two sets of twins, and was one of a number of mariners making their home in what is now Lakeville at the time.

In November, 1810, Hammond's wife, Desire (Tobey) Hammond died and was laid to rest in the Pond Cemetery near the base of the hill on Bedford Street. Eventually, Captain Hammond moved to Nantucket, selling his farm to his eldest twin sons about the time of their marriages. The first son, Elisha Hammond (1787-1858) married Sally Macomber of Middleborough, April, 1812, and eight months later bought half his father's farm, including a half share of the house, barnyard, cornhouse, orchard and fields. His brother, Samuel, who followed in his father's footsteps as a mariner, purchased the remaining half of his father's homestead, July, 1813, just prior to his marriage to Betsey Spooner of Middleborough.

The Hammonds, with the sea in their blood, were forever a restless family; neither Elisha nor Samuel remained long on their father's farm. Samuel, after just two months, sold his portion of the farm to his cousin, Joseph Shockley (1789-1863) of New Bedford, and moved first to Lund's Corner in New Bedford and later to New York's Mohawk Valley. Elisha sold his share to another family relation, his Uncle Shockley's father-in-law, Captain Humphrey Alden (1763-1844), and relocated to Rochester where he died in 1858.

Alden, also a sailing captain, was well remembered in his last years by his grandson, Andrew J. Shockley (1834-1911), who recalled Alden as a "strong, stocky man who wore knee britches and a wide black felt hat, winter and summer, turned or pulled according to the weather."

Ultimately, in 1821, Alden sold his half of the farm to his son-in-law Joseph Shockley, who had wed his only daughter Sally, in 1811. Alden retained a life estate in the property, living out the remainder of his days there. He is buried in the Pond Cemetery, alongside his wife, Mary (Lord) Kettel Alden, who had fled Boston during the Revolution because of her Loyalist sympathies.

Joseph Shockley was a shipwright by occupation, and he continued to pursue maritime interests while working the farm. In 1817, he, with twenty-six others, leased a New Bedford shipyard in order to construct a whaling vessel. Later, Shockley was part owner of a number of New Bedford vessels, including two barks - Jasper and Peri, and two ships -Liberty and Saratoga. Much of Shockley's time must have been devoted to travel between Lakeville and New Bedford, aand correspondence with his business partners.

Shockley, like his uncle, Captain Hammond, had a large family, and he raised a two story addition to the back of the house to accomodate his fifteen children, all of whom were said to be at least six feet in height, including his seven daughters. One of the sons, Andrew J. Shockley remembered his sisters' Sunday ritual and the problems created by the large number of children: "The first of [my] sisters to get dressed for Church, looked pretty well, but by the time the seventh girl was ready, she was likely to be dressed pretty shabby." Nonetheless, the Shockleys, with their height and dark features, must have made an impressive sight as they filed into the Pond Church at the base of the hill.

Five of the Shockley sons, with their Hammond and Alden ancestry, were inevitably drawn to the sea. Three became captains. Eldest son, Joseph, Jr., served as master of his father's barks Jasper and Peri. Second son Humphrey Alden Shockley was a part owner of the ship Roman, and master of her, as well as master of Two Brothers, William Hamilton, and Lucas, and is said to have circumnavigated the world eight times. Third son, William, also became a whaling captain, and wed, as his second wife, the daughter of one of the builders of the Charles W. Morgan. Sons Ephraim (who was lost at sea) and Andrew also led seafaring careers. It is from Andrew that the Lakeville Shockleys descend.

Joseph Shockley died during the war in 1863, and the farm was left to his unwed daughters - Mary F., Almy J. and Averick T. Shockley - and to his youngest child, Benjamin Shockley, who had been born blind in 1843, and also never married. They sold the farm to their brother Charles in 1869, who continued to farm the property for an additional twenty years until 1889 when he sold the property to Rotch. The Hammond-Shockley farmhouse was destroyed by fire shortly after the turn of the century, and with it one of the last tangible reminders of the sea captains who occupied Shockley Hill.

It is from Shockley and his descendants who lived on the farm until 1889, that the hill, once known as Shingle Hill, and later Alden's Hill, took the name Shockley Hill.

Joseph Shockley gravestone, Pond Cemetery, Lakeville, MA, photograph by Michael J. Maddigan, September, 1997

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Green School Color to be Discussed

On Tuesday, July 20, the Middleborough Historical Commission will meet with the Green School Preservation Committee to discuss the color of the Green School. Following mitigation work to remove contaminated soil surrounding the building last fall and winter, the schoolhouse which is located in the historic Green section of Middleborough was structurally stabilized and the exterior primed. The schoolhouse now requires painting. An infomal poll conducted recently on Recollecting Nemasket's sister site Green School History indicates that the majority of respondents prefer the building to remain green, a color with which it has been painted for many years, though it is unlikely to have been the original historic color of the building. The Historical Commission meets at 7.30 pm in Middleborough Town Hall.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Thomas S. Peirce

Most local residents are familiar with the Peirce Trust, the large fund of money which was bequeathed to the Town of Middleborough by Thomas Sproat Peirce (1823-1901) following his death on September 16, 1901. At the time, the bequest received widespread attention, largely due to the sum of money involved - $600,000 - or in today's value nearly $13 million. Newspapers throughout the region, including the august New York Times felt compelled to cover Peirce's death. Below is Peirce's obituary as it was carried in that newspaper. (The misspelling of the family's surname is retained as it appeared in the original article).


Thomas S. Pierce, Son of Peter Hoar Pierce, Dies in Middleborough, Mass., Leaving $600,000 to the Town.

MIDDLEBOROUGH, Mass., Sept. 26. - Thomas S. Pierce, who has just died and left this town $600,000 richer than it was, was the last of a remarkable family, which has for nearly half a century been the life of the town, although non of them ever held office or participated publicly in town affairs.

In 1826, when Peter Hoar Pierce erected a store here larger than any this side of Boston, people shook their heads. But Mr. pierce asked no one's advice. He sold everything from cloth and butter to rum and molasses, and the whole Cape came to him to buy.

Mr. Pierce raised eight sons and three daughters. All were extremely eccentric. He knew it, for when he was dying he whispered: "I leave behind me a fortune, equally divided among eleven very queer children." In this country town this man had amassed no less than a million dollars.

Of the eleven children only three married, and none of these had issue. Each, as he died, left his original share, with its accumulations, to the others, so that when Thomas was left alone his wealth was enormous. Though his great white house across the road was well supplied with feather beds, he always slept in a little room back of the meal sacks in the store.

A silk hat was his invariable headpiece and a cheroot was always in his mouth. He was a great reader and in reading he passed his spare time. He made no friends - not because he was selfish, for he was as generous a man as ever lived. His store furnished his work, his books his entertainment, and he needed nothing else. When some one asked him if he made his peace with God, his reply was:

"I will do so when I meet him. I deal with no middlemen."

So much did he love nature that he bought all his firewood, though he owned hundreds of acres of woodlands. Passersby, late at night, occasionally heard coming from the store the notes of a flute. Old airs were played with a feeling and skill that always held the listener until the last note died away. Only when alone did he ever take this instrument from its case.

So this strange man with the fortune of a King and a good education lived out his solitary life in this country grocery store. He was never melancholy and apparently happy, but whether he was in reality happy or not none will ever know.

"Last of an Odd Family", The New York Times, September 27, 1901.

Thomas S. Peirce, daguerreotype, mid-19th century.

Peirce Store, North Main Street, Middleborough, MA, photograph, c. 1900.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Summer Mishap

As is the case today, advertising over a hundred years ago relied upon humor to promote products and services. Solomon H. Sylvester, a Center Street dealer in photo albums and frames, jewelry, and other assorted merchandise, and grocer Ira Thomas on North Main Street employed the same set of advertising trade cards to distribute to their customers, both actual and potential. In this set, the hapless man attempts to secure a water lily for his lovely companion. Unfortunately, he plunges into the water below. Though he has retrieved the flower, he has lost his bowler (along with his dignity).

Such advertising trade cards were popular in the last quarter of the 19th century as printing advances made color lithography popular and inexpensive. Sylvester particularly was noted in Middleborough for the wide variety of colorful trade cards he distributed, many of unique design.

Ira Thomas, Grocer, Middleborough, MA, advertising trade card, late 19th century

S. H. Sylvester, Middleborough, MA, advertising trade card, late 19th century

Monday, July 5, 2010

Making Hay

Before the cranberry, hay was Middleborough’s most valuable agricultural crop, well suited to the general paucity of the area’s soil. During the 1855 season, the town produced over 3,000 tons of English and swale hay, and had some nearly 3,000 acres devoted to mowing. In 1872 it was “admitted by the wisest and most experienced farmers among us, that a grass farm and the production of hay is about the most profitable branch of agriculture in this State.” Accordingly, agriculturalists encouraged the cultivation of hay: “The two principal crops that the dairy farmer here in Massachusetts should raise are Indian corn and grass, each to be liberally fed, both green and dry” [1884].

While haying is today frequently depicted as having been a bucolic pastime reminiscent of a simpler age, in reality, hay-making in the nineteenth century and earlier was back-breaking work, the most grueling and toilsome of the farmer’s tasks and one which was dictated by the weather. Since hay needed to dry and couldn’t tolerate a substantial wetting without getting moldy or musty, farmers frequently scrambled to get the crop in during the heat of late June and early July in between seasonal storms.

In this regard, the Green and Muttock neighborhoods had a unique resource, however, in Captain Nathaniel Wilder (c. 1744-1825), owner of a farm on Plymouth Street near Nemasket Hill Cemetery. Wilder was well-noted as “a farmer of distinction” and more so for his uncanny ability to accurately predict the weather during hay-making time, a most valued skill in planning the harvest of such a commercially valuable crop.

Frequently, Middleborough farmers might be required to engage in haymaking on Sunday, which some in the community found offensive. “Last Sabbath, a number of persons in this place occupied a considerable portion of the day in haymaking,” reported Namasket Gazette editor Samuel P. Brown in July, 1854. “A few men can be found in almost every place,” Brown continued, “who have no regard for the laws, human or divine. Some people consider it necessary to labor on the Sabbath, whenever they can save an extra dollar by it, but we are thankful to know that the mass of people believe in and practice another way.”

Realizing that the weather often dictated this course of action, however, a respondent simply identified as “Frank” wrote Brown that “you censure those farmers who saw fit to spend some of the hours of last Sabbath in making hay. We had had several days of wet weather and their hay was considerably injured by being wet and remaining so for so long a time, and that, no doubt, was their reason for spending the Sabbath as they did. So far as I noticed, they did their work in a quiet way, not disturbing the whole village, or making any more noise or display than was absolutely necessary to accomplish their objective.”

Brown remained unmoved. “When a person takes his hay from the field upon a wagon, and gets on the top of his load, drives it through the main street, gleefully saluting others by the way, and after weighing his load returns in the same way, it looks to us a great deal like ‘more noise and display than is absolutely necessary’”.

To assist in haymaking, Middleborough farmers engaged agricultural laborers, as it was imperative to get the crop in before summer showers ruined it while it was still in the field. In 1869, Simeon M. Pratt paid $550 in wages and board to his hands, a considerable amount at that time, and a large portion of which was undoubtedly expended during haymaking season. Some farmers, like Jack Morey, engaged these laborers months in advance to ensure that they would be on hand at the appropriate time.

Though Nahum M. Tribou (a progressive farmer and former agricultural implement dealer who owned a farm between Muttock and Warrentown) had acquired a Ketchum mowing machine as early as haymaking time in 1859, and though mechanical mowers were exhibited and demonstrated locally the following year, it would be some years before the use of such machines to cut hay would become widespread. Until that time, great scythes (some with cradles attached) would be utilized and a number of Middleborough merchants such as grocer Ira Tinkham and George Waterman could generally be found advertising such implements in the local newspaper in early June, just before haying time. For example, in June, 1866, Tinkham touted “scythes in great variety, from the most celebrated manufactories in the country.”

Once cut, hay would be left where it lay to dry in the field for the day. The following day, it would be turned, and allowed to dry further. Finally, it would be gathered and brought in to the farmstead to store.

The chore of turning and loading hay was one often carried out by boys and young men who would turn the hay to dry, load it into wagons and transport it to barn lofts and hay mows where summer temperatures could well reach 100 degrees. Often the task had to be performed quickly when thunderheads were spotted on the horizon.

Rain was not the only threat to hay at harvest time. Carelessness, as well, could jeopardize a crop as indicated by the following report from July, 1891: “A Middleboro farmer had eight tons of hay vanish into thin air last week. The hay lay in long windrows ready to load, when the men thought to vary their work by burning out a “yellow tails’” nest. They started a fire and lit out. When they turned to see the hornets flying out of the flames with singed antennæ and smoky eyes, they beheld the hay crop burning briskly. The wind had shifted in a twinkling, and saved the hornets’ nest at the expense of the hay”.

The local production of hay remained a commercially important occupation, throughout the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth when the local dairy industry expanded rapidly. The decline of dairying, however, brought with it an equally rapid decline in hay cultivation, a now increasingly rare summer occupation locally.

Loaded Hay Wagon, cabinet card, late 19th century

This cabinet card is believed to depict an unidentified Middleborough farmer and his load of hay. Typically, hay wagons would be heavily loaded with dry hay which would be taken for weighing at scales at Middleborough Center or brought directly into barns where it would be stored for the season.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

"Middleboro's Glorious Fourth", 1910

"Middleboro's Glorious Fourth", advertising postcard, 1910
This postal card helped advertise events which were included as part of Middleborough's celebration of Independence Day a hundred years ago. Included among them was a parade of "Antiques & Horribles", a tradition common to many communities in New England and beyond in which costumed participants dressed as horrifying or ridiculous characters. Notice the tower of Middleborough Town Hall just above the patriot's tri-corner hat.

Friday, July 2, 2010

King Philip Tavern History

The Lakeville Historical Commission in conjunction with P. O. L. L. (Preserve Our Lakeville Landmarks) has recently published a new addition to its series of historical booklets entitled Lakeville's King Philip Tavern: An Illustrated History by Michael J. Maddigan.

The King Philip Tavern of Lakeville, Massachusetts, enjoyed but a short-lived existence as an automobile inn in the decade following 1909 catering largely to tourists who traveled by automobile and made only brief stays before motoring on to their next destination. Such inns combining the amenities of the finest resort hotels with modern convenience and practicality were popular in the first quarter of the 20th century and anticipated the rise of roadside motor camps and cabins in the 1930s and motels in the post World War II era. In 1910, the year following its establishment, the King Philip was heralded as a “new breathing spot of the most attractive sort,” and despite the fact that it was leveled by fire nearly a century ago, the King Philip Tavern has become an integral part of Lakeville’s social history.

Originally a private residence owned first by the Washburn family of Lakeville and later by Fred C. Hinds of Newton who transformed it into a summer estate known as “Hindsmere”, the King Philip Tavern embodied the deep history of the vicinity. Today, few physical reminders remain to relate the story of the King Philip Tavern, and its site is now occupied by the United Church of Christ located in the historic Precinct Church at the junction of Precinct, Bedford and Main Streets opposite the equally historic Lakeville Town House. Yet, while the King Philip Tavern is no longer physically present, its tale is one which should not be relegated to history, for the story of this fascinating property and its immediate neighborhood touches upon the most important aspects of Lakeville’s heritage: its Native history and lore, the Federal era growth of the community and its subsequent “secession” from Middleborough in 1853, the incipient social development of Lake Assawompsett and surrounding ponds as a regional summer resort area following 1878, and the role these same lakes assumed as municipal water sources for the cities of southeastern Massachusetts with the incumbent issues and concerns which that status brought. It may in fact be argued that to a certain degree, the story of the King Philip Tavern is the story of Lakeville.
[Taken from the book's preface].

Lavishly illustrated with dozens of color images and maps, the 44 page book documents the King Philip Tavern's origins, history and operation, as well as the rise of tourism along Lakeville's Assawompsett shoreline in the last quarter of the 19th century.

Lakeville's King Philip Tavern is available for purchase at the Lakeville Town Clerk's Office and the Lakeville Historical Society Museum on Bedford Street, as well as from the Lakeville Historical Commission. The cost is $10 and all proceeds benefit the programs of the Lakeville Historical Commission. Previous booklets including Historic Pierce Avenue, Salute to Those Who Serve, Old Main Street and Crooked Lane & A Self-Guided Tour of Main Street, and The History of Hill Top Farm in the Words of Lydia W. Rotch are also available and would make a fine addition to your local history library.

Lakeville's King Philip Tavern: An Illustrated History (Lakeville, MA: Lakeville Historical Commission and P. O. L. L. [Preserve Our Lakeville Landmarks], 2010), cover.

King Philip Tavern, photograph, early 20th century.
Though the tavern itself is no longer extant, the granite and white quartz walls visible in this picture remain and help the modern viewer place the tavern, the site of which is now occupied by the Lakeville United Church of Christ.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Westward Ho!

This post marks my first in a number of weeks, and I apologize for the length of time between posts. What I intended as a brief hiatus ended up being longer than expected with part of the time being spent in Arizona, an appealing distraction.

The West has always held an allure for Middleborough folk for different reasons. Following the Revolutionary War, numerous Middleborough residents headed "west" to Vermont because of economic hardship at home and the promise of greater financial security. The early and mid-1800s saw Middleborough residents emigrate further afield to places such as Minnesota and Missouri, then considered the western frontier. Among them were members of the Barrows family.

The discovery of gold in 1848 in California unleashed an unprecedented flood of westward emigration, and Middleborough residents for years to come would be attracted not only by the prospect of riches, but by the continuing allure of productive land which was inexpensive (if not free) and an invigorating and healthy climate. Dura T. Weston of Thomastown emigrated temporarily to California during the period of the Gold Rush, though he later returned, none the richer to Middleborough. In 1856, S. W. Marston gave up his private boarding school on East Grove Street (later better known as the Eaton Family School) in order to pursue his future "out west". Accompanying him were Middleborough furniture dealer Solomon Snow (who was succeeded by George Soule) and clothing retailer George Wilbur, also of Middleborough. Another prominent Middleborough resident who moved west during the mid-19th century was George Leonard. Born at Middleborough in 1816, Leonard was a prominent shoe and boot manufacturer at Middleborough until 1868 when he relocated to Rochester, Minnesota, for the health of his wife and son. At Rochester, Leonard continued in the shoe business and also engaged as a gentleman farmer, owning two farms, 30 cows and over 80 other head of livestock. He was recognized as "an upright, honorable and much beloved citizen" and was described as one of Rochester's "oldest and most respected citizens" upon his death in 1893.

The Klondike gold rush of the late 1890s similarly caught the attention of Middleborough residents. A number of Middleborough residents proposed making the journey to western Canada, including Charles P. Drake of North Middleborough in 1897, and it was reported that Middleborough men's clothiers Sparrow Brothers had outfitted at least one Middleborough resident with heavy weight apparel suitable for the Yukon.

Nonetheless, some of these western dreams proved illusory, including that of Charles W. Wadhams (1850-85). Wadhams married Phebe Ann Gerrish of North Rochester, Massachusetts, in 1879, and though troubled by heart problems, he failed to reveal the condition to his wife, no doubt for fear of alarming her unnecessarily. The condition, however, was severe enough to prompt Wadhams to emigrate to Redlands, California, where he proposed making a home for himself and his wife who he left behind in Massachusetts. At the time, Redlands was gaining notice for its healthful dry climate which would soon make it a citrus-growing center in southern California, and it is likely this factor which encouraged Wadhams' emigration. However, he was not to realize his dream. He died at the age of 35 a short time after coming to Redlands. "It seems that Mr. Wadhams had been informed some time since that he had heart trouble and might die at any time and might possibly live two years. He was frequently troubled with irregular circulation and palpitation, but had carefully kept all these troubles from the knowledge of his wife and mother at home. He was laboring to make a home for his wife, and his forgetfulness of self, as it appears in a detailed account of his life, shows the true and noble spirit with which he was possessed." Wadhams' remains were brought back to Middleborough and interred in Hope's Rest Cemetery at Rock.

"American Progress", oil on canvas, John Gast, 1872
Gast's 1872 painting has since become an iconic image of American Manifest Destiny, depicting various aspects of the nation's westward expansion.