Monday, August 29, 2011

Herbert L. Wilber Records the Great Atlantic Hurricane, 1944

Herbert L. Wilber (1890-1984) of South Middleborough was known during his life as a local pastor and teacher of Latin and Ancient History at Middleborough High School.  Less well known was the fact that he kept a daily diary for much of his life, beginning in 1919.  Among the many items Wilber recorded in his diary was the September, 1944, hurricane and its impact both at South Middleborough and Middleborough center.

Sept 14/44 Thursday  -  I am writing this by candle light.  The house lights failed about 8.20.  There was lightning at the time, but not much.  The hurricane is coming, and at present we are having a fairly good rain.  It rained last night and at times heavily.  Then there would be a lull.  There was a heavy, sultry atmosphere all day.  Several boys were excused from school to pick apples.  [Wilber's nephew] Kenneth was among them.  He told me that he picked 19 boxes of apples to-day....

Collected pay and got home as soon as I reasonably could.

Started to pick apples about 3.30.  Wife helped a little, and [Wilber's son] Philip, and in all we picked and put into the cellar 12 boxes of nice MacIntosh.

Sept 15/44  -  The hurricane has come and gone, and in our section did more property damage than [the 1938 hurricane] 6 years ago.  All the pines of the upper grove belonging to my mother are down.  Most of the lower grove are uprooted, and I have lost about half of mine below, and the Paull lot looked pretty sick as I passed it.

The heaviest part of the storm was from 11 to 12, and it eased enough by 1 A. M. so that I went to sleep.  Our best apple tree, in the back yard, is split in three with the largest piece broken clear off.  One pear tree is down.  I hate to think of what has probably happened to my other woodlots.  Is the White lot now prostrate?  Time will tell.  The country needs lumber, but who is going to cut this?  Who will haul it?  Who will saw it?

2/3 of the Baldwins are on the ground.  I will salvage what I can.  We are thankful that the house escaped injury with the exception of a very few shingles.  The barn windows and big doors were hurt a little, but not too badly.

Many houses below had shingles blown off.  My mother's, Smith's, the parsonage, the church - So. Midd, Sisson's too, I think.  Henry Guerin lost a good deal of his roof covering on the garage.

Many trees blocked roads.  Purchase St. was impassable.  So. Main was very bad.  No lights remained, and but few telephones.  Our phone seems out of operation.  We are using the outside pump.  I took up Kenneth to Middleboro, but there was no school, of course.  A score of slates had been ripped off the roof, but no trees were down [at the High School]....

Gangs were at work clearing the streets.  Ryder's Store [on Center Street] had a whole plate glass window shattered.  Clerks at the post office happily blamed the whole thing on the Democrats.

We came back and went to Tispaquin [Pond].  Bert Chase was standing disconsolately outside his house looking at about 3 ruined maple trees.  We could not go up Purchase Street, but crossed Carver's land to the pond.  The water level has come up 8 or 10 inches - back to Spring standards.  My dead pine and biggest dead oak are broken down and did practically no damage.  Other trees are bent but no other of mine is down there.

...Picked up over 4 bushels of windfall MacIntosh....

Cape Cod suffered this time.  Provincetown had to be evacuated.  Main St. was under water.

Little loss of life this time, on account of warnings.

While the concern for picking apples may seem misplaced in the face of a major hurricane, the storm occurred at the height of World War II when strict rationing of food was in effect, and so the salvage of any food item before it could be destroyed was critical.  As hinted by Wilber, one of the biggest impacts of the 1944 hurricane (along with its 1938 predecessor) was the destruction of large tracts of woodland.  Because labor was in short supply, much of this timber went to waste, and the hurricane would be responsible for hastening the decline of the local lumber industry.  

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Eastern New England Hurricane of 1869

Middleborough has witnessed its share of severe hurricanes, including the Great Colonial Hurricane of 1635,the Storm of October 1804, the “Great Gale” of September 1815, the New England Hurricane of 1938, the Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944, and Hurricane Carol (1954), among others. One of the most damaging of the 19th century hurricanes was the Eastern New England Hurricane of 1869, which struck Middleborough on September 9 of that year. Historically classed as a category 3 storm when it plowed into the southern New England coast, the hurricane passed over Rhode Island with its greatest devastation in that state and southeastern Massachusetts. Though believed to have been a compact storm, it brought fierce winds which did much damage at Middleborough. The town’s experience during the storm is recorded for posterity in the pages of the Plymouth Old Colony Memorial which originally excerpted the news from the Middleboro Gazette.

The Gazette contains an account of the storm in that place. Much damage was done to trees, and property. The most serious disaster occurred to the lately raised dwelling house of Charles Stratton (Tom Thumb) which had just been shingled. It seemed to have been taken up bodily and cast down, broken in fragments, into the cellar. In the fall of the chimney [smokestack] of the establishment of Messrs. Leonard & Barrows, down through the roof, a man named Perkins was injured on the head. The chimney on the house of the Pierce Brothers fell through the porch roof directly upon the laid supper table demolishing all thereon and the result of the girl’s day’s work upon the dresser, and injuring the girl slightly. The chimney upon Mr. Sylvester’s store descended through the window of the post office building adjoining. The Congregational church and weather-vane upon it and chapel adjoining the church received much damage, and the Baptist church steeple got a slight twist, and was looked upon anxiously by many curious ones who were fearful of its fall. We are told that the damage done to the property of Mr. Albert Alden, of the Bay State Straw Works, will approach $3,000, also that Mr. John B. LeBaron will sustain a damage of about $100. There are over 50 chimneys blown down. The morning of Thursday was indeed a ragged looking morning; trees, many valuable ones, small wood sheds, old barns, blinds from houses, glass and sashes from the windows, fences &c, lay around promiscuously. From all parts of the town the story is repeated.

Old Colony Memorial, "Middleboro.", September 17, 1869, page 2.

Friday, August 26, 2011

McKinley Memorial Service, 1901

On September 6, 1901, while visiting the Pan-American Exposition at Buffalo, New York, President William McKinley was shot by anarchist Leon Czolgosz.  McKinley survived the shooting for eight days before ultimately succumbing.  He died September 14, 1901.  In Middleborough, in the wake of the tragedy, a shocked and grief-stricken community assembled on Thursday, September 19, in Town Hall to memorialize McKinley in a moving and patriotic service.  The singing of "Nearer My God to Thee" as part of the memorial was a poignant reminder of McKinley's final moments.  The President is said to have spoken the opening lines of this favorite hymn as his final words.

For more about the McKinley assassination visit McKinley Assassination Ink, a comprehensive resource of primary and secondary materials on the event and its aftermath.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Cutting the Grass at North Middleborough, 1887

Prior to the development of push lawn mowers and their widespread adoption, lawns were mown with scythes if they were cut at all.  Roadways, on the other hand, were generally left untended and grass occasionally grew in strips where wagons and carriages passed over.  The situation at North Middleborough in August, 1887, was typical when residents contemplated an alternative solution for their unkempt roads:

Grass grows knee high in some of the principal thoroughfares of North Middleboro and people are asked to convert their cows into mowing machines.

"Rakes and Scythes", photograph by Markus Spring, April 8, 2007, republished under a Creative Commons license.

Old Colony Memorial, August 11, 1887, page 1.

Monday, August 22, 2011

"Milkweed Pods for War", 1944

Despite its poor reputation as a weed, the common milkweed played a vital role locally and throughout the nation during World War II when it became a strategic resource gathered by schoolchildren.

Milkweed is a distinctive plant. Growing some 3 to 6 feet tall with a single stout stalk in abandoned fields and along the margins of roads, milkweed takes its name from its latex or milk-like sap. In autumn, it is easily recognized by the large greenish-gray pods which eventually dry and split open to reveal seeds secured to fine white silky filaments or floss. Tethered to this floss, the seeds drift with the wind, and so are dispersed. It was this distinctive floss which in 1944 became vital to the Allied war effort as stuffing for life vests and insulation for flight suits.

Previously, life jackets and flight suits had been filled and insulated with seed floss from kapok, a tropical tree grown on the island of Java in what was then the Dutch East Indies. Following occupation of these islands by Japan, the Allied source of kapok fiber (also known as Java cotton) was cut off and an alternative fiber was needed. Milkweed floss was found to be the perfect substitute. The silky white hairs or filaments are hollow and coated with wax, giving them properties of lightness, buoyancy and water resilience very similar to kapok. It was found that a pound and three-quarters of milkweed floss could keep a man afloat for hours.

Since commercial production of milkweed would not have met the immediate needs of the American armed forces, schoolchildren were enlisted to gather pods of wild milkweed to satisfy military demand. Pods were collected during the fall of 1944 before they could split open and disseminate their seeds.

A national campaign to collect wild milkweed pods was inaugurated under the direction of the Milkweed Floss Division of the War Hemp Industries, agent for the Commodity Credit Corporation of the U. S. D. A. In Massachusetts, the effort was promoted and coordinated by the state department of education. Children throughout the nation were encouraged to gather milkweed pods with such slogans as “Two Bags Save One Life”, (since two bags of pods were required to fill one life vest).

At the start of the school year in September, 1944, Middleborough’s secondary-level school children joined the search for milkweed pods, with the collection drive spearheaded by Norman W. Lindsay, principal of the Bates Junior High School. Superintendent of Schools J. Stearns Cushing emphasized the importance of the collection in presentations to Middleborough eight graders on September 13, and the town’s seventh graders the following day. Within two weeks, students at the School Street School had collected 40 bags towards the town’s goal of 250, enough to produce 20 life vests. Ernest Salley was the first student to return a full sack, and others contributing were Richard Flood (3 sacks), Donald Wheeler (3 sacks), Louise Stets (2 sacks) and Loris Jackson, Jacqueline Jones, Clarence Tarr, William Warner, Robert Richardson, Charles McCrillis, James Provenche, Evelyn Roberts and Mae Guilford (1 sack each). Elementary level students at the Union Street School, though not officially part of the program, also contributed to the School Street School collection.

The pods were packed in open mesh onion bags which were provided by the government and which were favored as their loose weave allowed the pods to dry after packing. To further facilitate the drying of collected pods, filled bags (each holding a bushel) were suspended from the fire escapes of the Bates Junior High School and on the fence at the rear of the Union Street School. Filled sacks of fresh pods weighed about fifteen pounds, while those containing dried pods weighed just five pounds.

Ultimately, Middleborough schoolchildren gathered 109 sacks or an estimated 87,200 pods, enough for 54 life vests. 

The collected pods were shipped to the milkweed processing and seed extraction plant of the Milkweed Floss Corporation of America, built in 1943 at Petoskey, Michigan. The Middleboro Gazette on November 17, 1944, described the process which the pods would undergo at Petoskey for its readers. “…They will be run over a hot air dryer for a few minutes, then removed from the bags and put through a machine that first takes off the pods, then picks the seeds from the floss. The floss is pressed into bales and shipped to the manufacturers of life saving garments into which it is quilted.”

It is estimated that 11 million pounds of milkweed floss were gathered during the war.

Milkweed Pods, Union Street School, Middleborough, MA, photograph by Horace K. Atkins, November, 1944.
Flanking the 109 sacks of milkweed pods gathered by Middleborough schoolchildren in the autumn of 1944 are Superintendent of Schools J. Stearns Cushing and Bates Junior High School principal Norman W. Lindsay who let the collection efforts.

Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) pod, Pratt Farm, Middleborough, MA, photograph by Mike Maddigan, August 24, 2004.

Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) floss, Pratt Farm, Middleborough, MA, photograph by Mike Maddigan, October 28, 2004.

Troops Homebound by Ship, photograph courtesy of the Western History/Genealogy Department, Denver Public Library.
Tenth Mountain Division Troops return by ship to the U. S.  Several wear life vests

Middleboro Gazette, September 15, 1944:1, “Pupils on Hunt for Milkweed Pods for War”; September 29, 1944:5, “Collect 40 Sacks of Milkweed Pods”; November 17, 1944:1, “Milkweed Pods are Shipped to Michigan”

Friday, August 19, 2011

Malaria at Muttock, 1896-1914

In the first decade of the twentieth century, Muttock faced a potential health crisis of epidemic proportions when between 1909 and 1914, that community was afflicted by an outbreak of malaria, a disease seemingly unknown in Middleborough before 1896. The fact that it was able to avert such an outcome was the result of extreme vigilance on the part of a number of members of the community rather than the actions of the community’s public health officials.

Malaria and the similar yellow fever were greatly feared before 1900. Middleborough residents had long been accustomed to hearing of the dreadful yellow fever epidemics which periodically plagued the South, and like communities elsewhere, Middleborough was fearful of the disease’s potential appearance within its corporate bounds. Consequently, much mystery and caution surrounded a possible local case of yellow fever in late 1870. “It is whispered that a death from yellow fever has occurred in the village of Middleboro’”, reported the Plymouth Old Colony Memorial in November, unable to confirm its report. A generation later, reports of the yellow fever which plagued Spanish-American War soldiers continued to fuel local fears concerning yellow fever and helped foster the community’s apprehension concerning malaria.

At the time of the 1909 outbreak, the cause of malaria was not well understood. Originally thought to have been an airborne disease, malaria in 1827 was given its modern name from the Italian for “bad air”, a term which replaced earlier names including intermittent or remittent fever, fever and ague, and marsh miasma. By the 1880s, a connection between malarial infection and stagnant sources of water was purposed. In 1881, Dr. J. F. Adams indicated to the American Public Health Association regarding the incidence of malaria in New England that malarial communities were “found to be, with scarcely an exception, on the border of rivers, or adjacent to swamps, ponds or artificial reservoirs…. It has thus shown a decided affinity for water.” It would not be for several more years, however, that the work of others would reveal that it was not the water, per se, that was responsible for the disease, but the fact that standing water constituted a prime breeding ground for the anopheles mosquito, the primary agent by which the disease was spread.

At Muttock, these mosquitoes found an ideal spawning ground. Since the breakdown of the dam at Muttock in the late 19th century, the Nemasket River had been left to its own natural devices. At times, the river ran with an extremely low volume of water, particularly after the cities of New Bedford and Taunton began drawing upon the river’s sources – Lake Assawompsett and Great and Little Quitticus Ponds – thereby lowering the level of the river. Particularly during the summer, little water flowed in the river, exposing its muddy banks and, more critically for the community’s public health, leaving pools of stagnant water along its course. The situation was particularly bad at Muttock. Dr. Adams painted a vivid picture of how rivers like the Nemasket at Muttock must have appeared to turn of the century witnesses: “overflowed in spring and laid bare in summer especially where low spots or obstructed ditches cause stagnant pools to form which are gradually dried up in the summer sun.” Former millponds like that at Muttock, Adams characterized as “very shallow and only full after the spring freshets. During the summer they become drawn down so as to expose great tracts of oozy bottom covered with rotting stumps and other vegetable matter.”

At the time of Middleborough’s first modern malarial outbreak in 1896-97, it was believed that it was a germ inherent in the exposed mud which was the causative agent of malaria, and this view would hold sway for many years. A concurrent malaria outbreak in Uxbridge, Massachusetts, in 1896, however, prompted Dr. Theobald Smith to suppose that “the malarial germ is caused by mosquitoes, not all mosquitoes to be sure but only those in infected localities. Anything that favors the breeding of these pests like stagnant ponds, pools, sewers, etc., would favor it.” Smith’s hypothesis, accurate though it ultimately was, was not made public at the time due to the uncertainty of the Massachusetts State Board of Health, with the consequence that measures to prevent and eradicate the disease would be delayed for years.

In September, 1898, Charles E. Grinnell, a summer resident on the Washburn estate at Muttock, complained of malarial conditions which had been prevalent in the neighborhood during the two previous years. Believing the cause to be the industrial pollutants and raw untreated sewage which since 1886 had been permitted to be dumped into the river, Grinnell and others petitioned the Middleborough Board of Selectmen to address the matter of discharges into the river.

Independent of the town and at the behest of Grinnell and the other Muttock complainants, a State Board of Health engineer viewed the conditions at Muttock, as well as the Middleborough sewer system, and the Commonwealth held two hearings on the situation of the Nemasket, the town’s disposal of sewerage and the prevalence of malaria at Muttock. Grinnell, himself, was successful in having a bill introduced into the Massachusetts legislature by Representative Dewey of Westfield, entitled, “An Act to Authorize Middleborough to Construct a System of Sewerage and to provide for the payment of the Cost thereof”. The bill received no support from town officials, who balked at the treatment plant’s price tag and who took umbrage at the Commonwealth exercising its authority on behalf of the community’s public health, and it is noteworthy that it was an official from the opposite end of Massachusetts who sponsored the bill rather than Middleborough’s own representative.

As a consequence of this opposition, the Nemasket was permitted to pursue its sluggish course through Muttock, bringing with it its annual “crop” of mosquitoes and the potential for malaria. In June, 1903, the Plymouth Old Colony Memorial reported that “Middleboro people are complaining of the extraordinary plentitude of mosquitoes this season. The pests make out doors sojourns almost unbearable after sundown.”

And with the mosquitoes came disease. Just a month following the reports of numerous mosquitoes came the Middleboro Gazette’s notice that “malaria has again asserted itself in town and its victims are alternately frozen and baked in a dry heat.” Yet, the connection between the two was still not recognized, and the outbreak was attributed to the rain. “It was predicted by physicians who have made a study of the disease, which appears to get a deeper and deeper hold on Middleboro each succeeding year, that there would be a wave when the rain came after the protracted dry season. And sure enough it did come.”

The sanitary conditions of the river, and particularly those at Muttock, became a source of grave concern following the start of the twentieth century. It was argued that the abandonment of the Muttock water privilege and subsequent deterioration of the dam had lowered the level of the river, allowing for the exposure of mud flats and the rise of “offensive odors”. More concerning was the prevalence of malaria in the neighborhood after 1909 with 13 of 15 houses at Muttock being affected.

The first cases to come to the public’s attention were initially outside Muttock. Edward H. Stafford, Jr., of 123 South Main Street, then a recent graduate of Middleborough High School, suffered an attack of the disease in August, 1909, which was reported in the Middleboro Gazette on August 13. The following year, in October, 1910, George R. Sampson of Everett Street, was similarly stricken. Undoubtedly, Sampson’s illness attracted the attention of much of Middleborough, given Sampson’s local prominence as a brick manufacturer, Peirce Trustee and former Massachusetts state representative.  Notably, the Nemasket River ran through the rear of Sampson’s property which was dominated by a large Greek Revival style home.

Those afflicted by the disease displayed the symptoms typical of malaria: headache, muscle aches, fatigue and shaking chills. Some undoubtedly complained of the nausea, vomiting and diarrhea which frequently accompany the disease. The onset of the disease was described in 1911:

A single paroxysm of simple ague may come upon the patient in the midst of good health or it may be preceded by some malaise. The ague-fit begins with chills proceeding as if from the lower part of the back, and gradually extending until the coldness overtakes the whole body. Tremors of the muscles more or less violent accompany the cold sensations, beginning with the muscles of the lower jaw (chattering of the teeth), and ex-tending to the extremities and trunk. The expression has meanwhile changed: the face is pale or livid; there are dark rings under the eyes; the features are pinched and sharp, and the whole skin shrunken; the fingers are dead white, the nails blue. All those symptoms are referable to spasmodic constriction of the small surface arteries, the pulse at the wrist being itself small, hard and quick. In the interior organs there are indications of a compensating accumulation of blood, such as swelling of the spleen, engorgement (very rarely rupture) of the heart, with a feeling of oppression in the chest, and a copious flow of clear and watery urine from the congested kidneys. The body temperature will have risen suddenly from the normal to 103 or higher.

Today, the symptoms would most likely be attributed to influenza.

The cure for such a malady was undoubtedly substantial dosages of quinine, then the only medicine known to ease the symptoms of the disease. Patent medicine makers also offered treatments with companies like J. C. Ayer & Company of Lowell manufacturing cures for malaria. Ayer’s Malaria and Ague Remedy, produced since the 1850s, consisted of 12 grains of orange peel, 8 grains each of quinia, cinnamon, Jamaican ginger, and peppermint, 4 grains of cloves, 3 ½ drachmas of glycerin and water “sufficient to make one fluid ounce”. The company touted it as “the very best medicine you can possibly take for ague or malarial poisoning, in all its forms. The medicine quickly and thoroughly destroys the cause of the disease and renders great aid to nature in bringing about a speedy and complete recovery.” Undoubtedly, such remedies found a ready sale in some of Middleborough’s pharmacies at the time.

In 1910, with the number of cases of “malarial infection” mounting, Ferdinand Landgrebe of North Street, along with others, petitioned for an improvement in the sanitary conditions of the river. Their concern regarding the health conditions at Muttock was also linked to the pollution in the river. Since 1886, raw untreated sewage from Middleborough Center had been dumped into the river and, combined with the industrial pollutants discharged, created a rank and frequently fetid stream. Ultimately, a bill (“An Act – To Authorize the Improvement of the Sanitary Condition of the Nemasket River and Adjacent Meadows in the Town of Middleborough”) was introduced into the Massachusetts state legislature by Representative Holmes of Kingston. The bill proposed the improvement of the river between the Lower Factory and a point just downstream from the dam at Muttock and would have authorized the town “to construct a dam and such structures as may be necessary, to prohibit or regulate the pollution of the river by sewage or other matter”, and to acquire and hold lands and buildings as necessary, the expenditure not to exceed $1,000. The bill simply provided the town of Middleborough with authority to act in the matter; it did not compel it to take action.

In testimony before the legislative committee on public health, Muttock residents were scathing in their attack upon the unsanitary condition of the river. One of the Misses Winslow characterized the conditions there as “shocking” and told the committee that she and her sister were compelled to keep the windows of their house midway up Muttock Hill on Nemasket Street closed, even on the hottest of days, determined to avoid admitting the stench rising from the river on those days into their home. (In so doing, they unwittingly prevented malaria-bearing mosquitoes from entering the premises, thereby avoiding the sickness which plagued the neighborhood during 1910 and 1911). Representative Holmes who spoke in favor of the bill, stated that the failure of the dam many years previously had resulted in the exposure of the river’s mud flats and the resulting offensive odors. “… In the fall when the air is damp, malaria is prevalent, and even children are sufferers from the disease,” the committee was informed.

Apparently more concerned with the image of the community abroad, Middleborough Board of Health agent B. J. Allan opposed the bill calling for improved sanitation along the Nemasket “on the grounds that the town is fully aware of the existing conditions, and intends to give them its attention.” Allan cited a number of doctors who contended that the public health of the town was not dependent upon reconstruction of the dam. Further, reconstruction of the dam was to be considered at the 1911 annual town meeting. Following Allan’s testimony, the legislative committee agreed to defer action and referred the bill to the next session of the General Court, thereby allowing the town an opportunity to remedy the situation at Muttock “if it sees fit.” Clearly, the legislative committee had been swayed by the authority of the local Board of Health, though ironically at this time, the State Board of Health had characterized the condition of the river as “more objectionable than in any previous year.”

In the meantime, 1911 witnessed a string of attacks. John G. Tinkham, John Perkins, and Levi Tinkham were all reported as ill with the disease during June and October, while George Sampson apparently suffered a relapse in July. By mid-July, Tinkham, a letter carrier, had recovered enough to resume his duties delivering mail. In September, 1913, Mary MacAuley fell ill with the disease, as did Lester Newton (who had a “severe case” in April 1914), the Newton twins and Wendell Sturtevant. Undoubtedly, there were more cases. How many we shall never known as doctors were then not legally required to report cases of malaria. Sturtevant appears to have been the last to have contracted the disease in Middleborough.

Ultimately, it was the partial reconstruction of the dam at Muttock rather than the actions of the community’s public health officials which brought the outbreak to an end. With a higher level of water maintained in the river, the shallow pools of stagnant water where mosquitoes bred were largely eliminated, thereby helping control the disease.

Not until 1914 was malaria a reportable disease in Massachusetts.

Nemasket River at Muttock, Middleborough, MA, cabinet view, late 19th century.
This view depicts the Nemasket River at Muttock following abandonment of the industrial works there.  The remnants of the dam shown in the photograph were washed away in a freset in the 1880s, but already the low water levels that encouraged the propagation of anopheles mosquitoes is apparent.

Winslow House, Nemasket Street, Middleborough, MA, photograph, c 1900.
During the hottest summer days, Isabella and Maria L. C. Winslow who occupied the Weston House on Nemasket Street at Muttock refused to open their windows, determined to avoid admitting the stench rising from the river into their home.  In so doing, they unwittingly prevented malaria-bearing mosquitoes from entering the premises, thereby avoiding the sickness which plagued the neighborhood following 1909.  One of the Misses Winslow characterized the conditions at Muttock as "shocking".

Monday, August 15, 2011

Reverend Mr. Palmer

One of the most controversial men to have served in the ministry in Middleborough was the Reverend Thomas Palmer, who served as pastor of the First Congregational Church of Middleborough between 1696 and 1706, and who was, by the standards of today, an alcoholic.

Following the August, 1695, death of the church's first pastor Reverend Samuel Fuller, Isaac Cushman was called to the pastorate, followed by Mr. Clapp and Mr. Cutting. Eventually, in August, 1696, the church settled upon Thomas Palmer, initially engaging him to preach for three months.  In October, 1696, he was voted an annual salary.

Apparently, he was not resident in Middleborough at that time, for the town voted in November, 1698, "that his goods shall be brought from Plymouth at the town's charge." Little is known of Palmer's origins, other than that he is said to have been a native of Plymouth and the brother of William Palmer of that town.

There is believed to have been some initial opposition to Palmer becoming the settled pastor, which may help explain why it was a number of years before he was finally ordained. The 1852 history of the First Church gives the likely date of Palmer's ordination as May 2, 1702, but notes that it could have been one or two years prior.

Palmer's ministry, following his settlement, was a troubled one. He is depicted as having "been a rash, headstrong man," and Thomas Weston, in fact, calls his "the most unfortunate ministry in the history of this church".  Again, there was some opposition on the part of several church members to his ordination, though, once more, the reasons therefore are not explicitly stated though presumably they stem from Palmer's increasing volatility and drinking.

Little has been left on record concerning Palmer's addiction.  Though alcohol was both widely available and widely valued for social and medical reasons in colonial Massachusetts, and public intoxication and over-indulgence certainly were not unknown, Palmer's habitual drunkeness went beyond community accepted norms.  At the time, habtual drunkeness was considered sinful, an attitude which helps explain the later punishment meted out to Reverend Palmer, and the characterization of his affliction as an "immorality". In 1673, the influential Increase Mather of Boston had in two noteworthy sermons (later published as Wo to Drunkards) preached that "drink is in itself a good creature of God, and to be received with thankfulness, but the abuse of drink is from Satan; the wine is from God, but the Drunkard is from the Devil", an attitude which remained prevalent in communities like Middleborough for several generations.

By 1706, there was some thought of deposing Palmer from his ministry due to mounting disaffection and dissatisfaction.  Though Palmer continued to be voted an annual salary, the vote on his pay for the year 1706 added the proviso that "he continue in the work of the ministry the whole year; if removed, to pay him proportionally", an inkling that his removal was at least being contemplated.

Ultimately, charges of "intemperance and excessive drinking" were levied against Palmer in late 1706. To deal with the matter, the church convened a council composed of elders and representatives of churches from neighboring towns which, after hearing the case in November, "judged it proved that he was a man addicted to drinking, etc., and thereupon disapproved of his continuance any longer in the exercise of the Evangelical Ministry there." The town soon after voted "to seek out a man for the supply of the ministry" to replace Palmer.

Palmer, however, "and some of his friends felt aggrieved by the action of the council, and they with the town and church, called a second council." This second council judged that Palmer should continue in his ministry "until the council should meet more fully." Finally, a third council of twelve churches was called in June, 1707, and advised the church to dismiss Palmer.

In accordance with this last advice, the church voted to not only dismiss Palmer from his ministry, but to suspend him from communion "for his scandalous immoralities."

Voted, by the church of Middleborough, that, in pursuance of the advice of twelve churches, in council here convened, which have declared that Mr. Thomas Palmer, the former minister and pastor, ought to be removed from the work of the Gospel ministry, and suspended from communion at the Lord's table for his scandalous immoralities, - therefore, in conformity to said advice of said council, as also upon the advice of a convention of reverend ministers at Boston, the church doth now declare that they now look on Mr. Thomas Palmer as no longer their pastor, but as deposed from the work of the ministry, and also suspended from the table of the Lord; and we withdraw from the said Mr. Palmer, and unite in our endeavors to settle the ordinances of the Gospel among us.

Palmer seems to have stopped (or been stopped from) preaching sometime in 1706, though after bringing suit against the parish, he recovered a judgement for his full salary up until the time of the council's recommendation of his dismissal. During this time, Palmer had preached in his own house which was located on East Main Street, west of the Green, "where he had a few hearers."  Ultimately, the church authorized the Selectmen, December 12, 1707, to engage Reverend Peter Thacher to preach for a quarter of a year. Thacher would ultimately succeed Palmer as the settled pastor.

Following his dismissal, Palmer retired to his homestead and practiced "physick" or medicine, slowly regaining some of the respect he had lost as minister while providing for his large family, including sons Samuel and Job who were later educated for the ministry at Harvard.  An anecdote relating to this period of Palmer's life has been handed down to the present and depicts a less rash and less headstrong Palmer. Following a visit to a patient in Middleborough's West Precinct (now Lakeville), Palmer borrowed the patient's horse in order to return home. Having arrived home, Palmer set the beast on its way back to Lakeville, but, so as the riderless horse would not be impounded on its return journey, Palmer allegedly attached the following lines to the animal's bridle:

Don't take me up, but let me pass
For I'm my master's faithful ass;
He Doctor Palmer lent me,
Who rode me to his house,
And gave me a pottle of oats,
And home again he sent me.

Late in life, Palmer is said to have been reconciled to the church which he once served as pastor. He "became sincerely repentent for his former course, and on November 13, 1737, the censure of the Church was taken off and he was restored to his communion by unanimous vote of the church, after full confession of his error."  The implication is that Palmer, by this time, had overcome his affliction.

Thomas Palmer died June 17, 1743, at the age of 78.

Photograph by Alison Curtis, August 5, 2009.  Republished under a Creative Commons license.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Dr. Lucy Morton Robinson

Lucy Morton Robinson, M. D., death notice,
The Journal of the American Medical Association, 85: 132,
July, 1925.

Though Mertie E. Romaine's History of the Town of Middleboro states that Dr. Helen Ham of North Middleborough was the Town's first female physician, Dr. Ham in fact was preceded in that role by Dr. Lucy Morton Robinson (1840-1925), also of North Middleborough.

Lucy Robinson was born at North Middleborough, the fifth of eight children of Dr. Morrill and Mary (Shaw) Robinson. The elder Dr. Robinson, originally from Raynham, practiced medicine at Titicut from about 1828 until his death in 1873, and was a respected member of the North Middleborough community.

Undoubtedly inspired by her father, Lucy Robinson discovered an early avocation for medicine, and was probably encouraged by stories of pioneering women physicians such as Elizabeth and Emily Blackwell, and Marie Zakrzewska, as well as the foundation of groundbreaking institutions such as the New York Infirmary and New England Hospital for Women and Children, hospitals operated by female doctors for female patients.

Lucy Robinson's earliest medical studies were carried out under the tutelage of her father, who apparently believed firmly in the value of liberal education for women. (Another daughter, Sarah, was educated at Mount Holyoke Seminary).

Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania,
photograph, late 19th century.
In 1885, Lucy Robinson enrolled in the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania, founded at Philadelphia in 1850 as the nation's first medical school for women, and one of the few which offered a comprehensive medical education for women beyond "midwifery". Graduating with an M. D. in 1888, Dr. Robinson immediately returned to her native North Middleborough to establish an allopathic practice. In July, 1888, she became a member of the Plymouth District Medical Society after "passing a remarkably fine examination." In so doing, Dr. Robinson became the first Plymouth County female to become a member of the Massachusetts Medical Society.

For a year, Dr. Robinson practiced at her home facing Titicut green, but, in 1889, she removed her practice to Brockton, locating an office on Main Street in the center of that city where she was located when she became licensed in 1894. Though there were a number of female physicians practicing at Brockton at that time, they were either midwives who confined their work solely to obstetrical cases, or women who practiced upon the fringes of accepted medicine (including two "clairvoyant" physicians and a "botanic" doctor). At the time of her death in 1925, Dr. Robinson was readily accepted as "Brockton's first woman physician."

In Brockton, Dr. Robinson's "work was especially helpful to the women of the community, and she had a large clientele in the outlying districts as well, where her unselfish work and sympathetic manner endeared her to her patients. She was always ready to respond to a call regardless of weather conditions."

In 1897, Dr. Robinson was listed in the Biographical Review of Plymouth County, a compendium of short biographical notices concerning the county's most notable personages, an indication of her stature, locally. Dr. Robinson never married, devoting her life's attention to the care and well-being of others.

Dr. Robinson's defiance of the common convention that the woman's place was in the home, helped subvert an increasingly anachronistic view and promoted the expansion of the women's rights movement from a campaign focused upon temperance and suffrage to one devoted to the achievement for all women of a meaningful place in society. While Dr. Robinson may have shared the vision of full equality for women articulated by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone and others, hers was a more pragmatic course, demonstrating the possibility of integration in the areas of education, clinical training and professional service in medicine, and providing inspiration for the women who followed her in the serious study of medicine, and the other professions. In Middleborough, young women like Helen Ham and Ella Goodale would pursue medical careers in the decades following 1900, a course available to them because of women like Dr. Lucy Morton Robinson whose life was testament to the ideal that gender equality in medicine, in particular, and society, in general, was not only possible, but desirable.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Family of Wong You, 1921

Family of Wong You, Middleborough, MA, photograph, c. 1921.
From left to right: Yee Wah Quock with Robert Seeto Wong standing in front,
Jew She holding William Henry Wong, Wong You holding Florence Mary Wong,
Elizabeth Wong, Wong Nen Hi [Sue Wong], Philip Francis Wong.
Photograph published by kind permission of M. K. Wong.

The Wong family was Middleborough’s first Chinese nuclear family, previous Chinese immigrants having consisted solely of single men or married men whose wives and children were forced to remain behind in China because of restrictive American immigration policies. The Wong family resided in the Middleborough and Lakeville area from as early as 1913 when Elizabeth Wong was born at Middleborough through 1921, during which time Wong You was engaged as a laundryman in the establishment of Wah Lee on Center Street.

The Wong children attended local schools as did Wong’s nephew Yee Wah Quock who is probably identical with the E. Wah Lee recalled by the late Lyman Butler as a classmate, and the family quickly began to become assimilated into American society and culture. (Note in the photograph that all members of the family except Jew She appear in American dress). Wong You may in fact have been disconcerted that the assimilation of the family was too rapid, and that the family was losing its ties with its Chinese heritage. Accordingly, in November, 1921, Wong You applied for passports for his children Nen Hi [Sue], Elizabeth, Philip, Robert, Florence and William and nephew Yee Wah with the intention of departing from Seattle “as soon as passport is issued.” The object of the visit, as listed on the passport applications, was to visit Wong You’s father in China. Family recollections, however, indicate that Wong You wished to have the children educated in China which is supported by the fact that at the time application was made, Wong You insisted upon individual passports for each child, “as he may leave some of them in China with their grandfather”. All except one of the children eventually returned to the U. S., with some such as Philip travelling a number of times between China and the U. S. with trips noted in 1931, 1938 and 1940.

The experience of Wong You's family illustrates the strong family and cultural ties many immigrant, first and second generation-Chinese maintained with China, including frequent visits home where they visited relatives, pursued new economic or educational opportunities, or remained permanently following a residence in America, an important aspect of the Chinese-American experience largely overlooked by scholarship.

Wong You and Jew She, U. S. Passport Application, November 29, 1921.

Letter dated November 29, 1921, in which a U. S. passport official explains Wong You's request for individual passports for his children.

Wong Nen Hi, U. S. Passport Application, November 29, 1921.
Note that she signed her name in both English and Chinese.

Elizabeth Wong, U. S. Passport Application, November 29, 1921.
Like her sister Wong Nen Hi, Elizabeth Wong signed her name in both English and Chinese, indicating that despite attending Middleborough schools, the children were still being educated in Chinese in the home.

Philip F. Wong, U. S. Passport Application, November 29, 1921.

Robert S. Wong, U. S. Passport Application, November 29, 1921.

Florence M. Wong, U. S. Passport Application, November 29, 1921.

William H. Wong, U. S. Passport Application, November 29, 1921.

Yee Wah Quock, U. S. Passport Application, November 29, 1921.

M. K. Wong, correspondence, July-August,2011.
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Washington D.C.; Passport Applications for Travel to China, 1906-1925; ARC Identifier 1244180 / MLR Number A1 540; Box #4463;Volume #50.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Assawompsett School Scholars, 1914

Graduating Class, Assawompset School, Lakeville, MA, photograph, 1914.
Photo courtesy of Scheren (Smalley) Dunham.
Among the graduates are Mary Agnes McGuinnness seated in the second row, second from the right. The school's principal, Mrs. Elizabeth Benson, stands at the rear.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Assawompset School Scholars, c. 1913

Students, Assawompset School, Lakeville, MA, photograph, c. 1913.
Photo Courtesy of Scheren (Smalley) Dunham.
Students stand outside the newly-erected Assawompset School which was constructed in 1912 and opened in September of that year.  Pictured along with the students are teacher Esther M. Barnes and school principal Elizabeth H. Benson.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Ocean House Demolished, 1910

"Ocean House" with Middleborough Municipal
Electric Light Plant, Wareham Street,
Middleborough, MA, photograph, c. 1900.
Located on the west shore of the mill pond at Wareham Street was once a ramshackle building known around 1900 as the “Ocean House”, possibly as a satiric barb aimed at seaside luxury resort hotels of the era. For lower class Middleborough children, this was their oceanside alternative. The Ocean House which had originally been associated with the industrial works on the river nearby proved popular with local children who would dive from its open windows into the mill pond below. This activity ended, however, following the tragic 1905 death of six year old Wallace Spooner who while engaged in diving from the building struck his head upon a stone wall, fell into the river and drowned. Nothing, however, was done with the property until 1908 when the Middleborough Board of Health condemned the structure which was demolished two years later in spring of 1910.

The “Ocean house,” a blot on the landscape by the river side for many years, is no more, and all the lumber has been cleaned up. The beneficial change which has resulted would well repay one a trip to the Wareham street bridge. All the old tumble-down structures are now out of the way, and the appearance in that locality is materially improved.

Monday, August 1, 2011

"A Plumbago-Consuming Fraternity": Periodical Pubishing in Middleborough, 1850-90

During the period of Middleborough's most rapid growth in the last half of the nineteenth century, the Middleboro Gazette was but one of a number of periodicals published at Middleborough. Others including the Middleboro News, Washburn’s Fireside Journal, and People’s Fireside Journal along with the Gazette, formed a fraternity motivated by shared interests and common challenges.

The dramatic increase in literacy in America in the first half of the nineteenth century was accompanied by a correspondingly large increase in the number of newspapers and journals directed towards the new general reading public. Among them were The Old Colony Democrat edited and published by Benjamin Drew, which appeared about 1832 in Middleborough, having moved from Plymouth, and was reputedly the town's first, though possibly second, newspaper, and The Namasket Gazette, the forerunner of today's Middleboro Gazette, begun in 1852 by Samuel P. Brown, also at Middleborough Four Corners.

At the time of the Gazette's foundation, Middleborough, in general - and Middleborough Four Corners, in particular - was in the first flush of an economic boom brought about by the arrival of the railroad in 1846. By the 1850s, it was clear to the prescient observer that the Four Corners was emerging as the predominant village in town, its growth outstripping and itself supplanting older villages like the Green and Muttock. In 1852, the year the Gazette was first published, Middleborough Four Corners was the locale of Peirce Academy, the Central Baptist and Congregational Churches, and the industrial works at the Upper Factory on the Nemasket River, while not far distant were the eighteenth century townhouse, railroad depot, and Lower Factory mills. By mid-century, land prices at what would become Middleborough Center had skyrocketed, yet despite this, commercial, industrial, spiritual and municipal activities and interests were inexorably gravitating towards the intersection of Main, Center and Water (now Wareham) Streets and the town seemed poised for fantastic and unfettered residential growth.

Accompanying this expansion was the creation of both a local reading public hungry for new journals, and the establishment of printing firms - most notably Harlow & Thatcher on Middleborough's emerging West Side - ready to print these journals, or at least provide the technical expertise to do so. The market for varied reading material locally was readily apparent, and it is not coincidental that it was during this period that local private libraries such as those of Peirce Academy and the Central Baptist Church Sunday School and commercial lending libraries funded through public subscription including those of S. Williams (1857) and Robinson Bros. (1872) were founded, as were the Middleboro Library, and ultimately in 1875, the Middleborough Public Library.

Namasket Gazette, original masthead, October 7, 1852. 

It is hardly surprising then, that with this ready market for new reading materials existing within a milieu dominated by expectations of commercial and residential growth, that a number of newspapers and journals would be established to cater to both readers and potential advertisers, particularly following the Civil War. The journals published at Middleborough during the 1870s and 1880s, ultimately formed what one of them would term a "plumbago-consuming fraternity", an allusion to the local print industry's demand for lead for the production of its print type, while the foremost among them – the Middleboro Gazette and the Middleboro News - would together help define the shape of modern Middleborough. In fact, though both newspapers would struggle throughout the post-bellum period to find newsworthy items to print and would rely heavily upon the liberal generosity of advertisers, most importantly they together would articulate a desire for and promote a vision of a better Middleborough and, in so doing, would help define the future of the community.

In October, 1875, it was reported that a local religious paper called the Gospel Messenger was to commence publication at Middleborough, though whether it ever did so is not readily apparent. The following December, it was "whispered that there is to be a new paper printed here by Messrs. Harlow & Thatcher, the printers of this place." This was, no doubt, the Bay State Enterprise, the self-proclaimed mission of which was to "astonish the nation and all creation." Though the first issue was to have been published on January 6, 1876, for some inexplicable reason the proposal, in the words of Plymouth's Old Colony Memorial, "a complete failure," and the newspaper seems never to have appeared.

People's Fireside Journal, Middleborough, MA,
advertising trade card, 1870s.
A more successful venture, however, was the 1878 establishment of the People's Fireside Journal, an eight-page "literary paper" published by Silas W. Deane and F. B. Washburn of Middleborough. The Fireside Journal had evolved from Washburn's earlier eponymous Washburn's Monthly Journal, printed as early as 1876 on the corner of Center and School Streets, a self-described monthly journal of "music and general miscellany".
Commenting upon the Fireside Journal's inaugural issue in 1878, the Plymouth Old Colony Memorial enthused: "The first number is excellent, and if we may judge from this it will be a success." And so it was.

Two years following its foundation, Deane disposed of his interest in the Journal to his partner, Washburn, who conducted the paper "under the same general plan as before." The paper, a miscellany of literary matter of varying quality with an appeal to a more genteel reader, remained at Middleborough through the spring of 1884 when it was relocated to Boston with aspirations of a wider readership.

"Domestic" Fashion Gazette, S. H.
Sylvester, Middleborough, MA, September,
Also published during this period was Solomon H. Sylvester’s “Domestic” Fashion Gazette which though intended primarily as an advertising vehicle for his “bazaar” on Center Street, provided images of and news on the latest women’s fashions which otherwise was not available in the community. The Fashion Gazette remained popular in the mid-1870s and was ultimately responsible for providing Sylvester’s son with a rudimentary understanding of local publishing.

Though published at Middleborough, such literary and religious journals sought to appeal to a wider audience beyond the boundaries of the town, and so had very little bearing upon the community. Not so with the Middleboro News, a newspaper established in 1881 by Henry H. Sylvester as a direct competitor of the Gazette for the patronage of Middleborough advertisers and readers, alike.

Sylvester (1859-1900) had early learned the fundamentals of journalism from his father, Solomon H. Sylvester, a Middleborough barber, taxidermist, and merchant, and one-time contributor to the Old Colony Memorial, while the more technical aspects of printing were acquired in Harlow & Thatcher's print shop. The younger Sylvester quit Harlow & Thatcher for a position as a contributor of Middleborough news items to the Old Colony Memorial and writer for the Barnstable Patriot. In early 1880, Sylvester acquired an interest in the Provincetown Advocate, but returned to Middleborough to found the News the following year. He was just 22 at the time.

Though few copies of the Middleboro News survive, excerpts from it reprinted in other local newspapers provide little indication that it was very distinct from the older Gazette. The similarity was probably deliberate. The Gazette's mix of local and national news, literary excerpts, religious and political filler, and local boosterism, all stamped with a marked social conservatism, had found a ready appeal with local readers. By October, 1859, just seven years after its establishment, the Gazette could boast, "We have not only the largest subscription list of any paper in Plymouth County, but we have the vanity to believe it is the best."

Middleboro Gazette Building, 10 Wareham Street,
Middleborough, MA, photograph by Mike Maddigan,
The Gazette's popularity was well noted, and it was deemed "a local paper so acceptable as to find its way into all but a very few families in town". Such success permitted the Gazette to expand in size, install a new cylinder press in 1878, and, most conspicuously, purchase a substantial brick business block on what is now Wareham Street to house its offices in 1882, whereupon the newspaper abandoned its rented and cramped former quarters on Center Street. Additionally, the newspaper financed the completion of a comfortable house for its owner and editor, James M. Coombs, on South Main Street in 1877.

Clearly, the News sought to emulate the success of the older newspaper. Like the Gazette, the News was socially conservative in outlook, complaining of fox hunts and fishing trips conducted locally on the Sabbath. The Gazette in 1881 had similarly fussed about clambakes being held on Sundays, and had sarcastically suggested in 1887 that church sextons wear slippers rather than squeaky boots so as not to disturb sleep-inclined churchgoers.

A second similarity between Middleborough's two newspapers and one undoubtedly not anticipated by the News upon its foundation was the challenge of a perpetual dearth of news throughout the period. As early as 1876 the Gazette had grappled with this problem. "Middleboro is so hard up for news that the fact of a physician's being seen riding out is reported; also that the greenhouse of one of the residents is occasionally visited for the purchase of choice bouquets." In response, the paper offered a copy of Webster's dictionary or a complete set of Gibbons' History of England to the person contributing the greatest number of local news items during the course of the year.

At the News, Sylvester's own frustration with this aspect of the news business was equally evident. In August, 1883, he commented that "it is harder to flatten [a fly] with a rolled copy of the News than it is to introduce water works into Middleboro, or move the county buildings from Plymouth," two notoriously elusive projects which the News supported.

Nonetheless, advertisers remained plentiful, and they would provide the mainstay for both the News and the Gazette which were the few advertising vehicles available at the time. Advertising revenue would long support the editorial efforts of both newspapers, despite their struggle for newsworthy items to report, and each would actively solicit local businessmen to fill their advertising columns. The Gazette, with characteristic humor, explained to potential advertisers in February, 1872, that "trying to do business without advertising is like winking at a pretty girl through a pair of green goggles. You know what you are doing, but nobody else does."

Yet, despite the preponderance of advertising, the columns of the Middleboro News, like those of the Gazette were also filled with the many contributions of local writers. In February, 1885, the News began to carry an agricultural column penned by Elbridge Cushman of Lakeville, President of the Plymouth County Agricultural Society and member of the State Board of Agriculture, "so valuable a contributor." Cushman was a noted local authority upon agriculture and his column lent a certain level of prestige and authority to the News on agricultural matters, despite his sharp criticism of the state agriculture commissioner in just his very second column.

The Gazette meanwhile continued to fill its columns with historical matter. Since its inception in 1852, the Gazette had published numerous items concerning local history and lore, and Stillman B. Pratt had, in 1867, published his historical register of Plymouth County which included a short history of Middleborough. Many Gazette items from this period recounted Middleborough's past with the greatest number coming from Granville Temple Sproat who helped foster what would become a tradition of historical writing for the Gazette.

In April, 1885, the News began being issued as a semi-weekly, appearing on Tuesdays and Fridays, primarily to accommodate a glut of advertising, and this greater frequency of publication proved a noteworthy success.  News, however, still remained scarce.  "If the party who stole the geranium and pot from Center Street a few nights since, will call at the house, they can have the saucer belonging to the pot." Though items such as this from the summer of 1885 demonstrated the News' desperation for "newsworthy" copy, it also revealed Sylvester's humorous nature, a characteristic for which he was well remembered.

The situation was no easier at the Gazette. In March of that same year, "the Middleboro Gazette commenting on the quietness of the town at present, says that a person after inspection of the village, came to the conclusion that it was a good place to set a hen, as the chances were she wouldn't be disturbed."

Middleboro Semi-Weekly News, advertisement, 1889.  
In 1885 when the Middleboro News began to appear twice a
week, it changed its name to reflect that fact, though it would
continue to be known informally as the News.
The following April, 1886, Sylvester departed the News in order to take a position with the East Boston Free Press, though he retained ownership until November, 1886. Sylvester's replacement as editor was Marcus M. Copeland of the Wareham Times who served in that post until July when he was replaced by William H. Wood, who ultimately purchased the paper from Sylvester. (Copeland would eventually return a short time later to resume charge of the News).

Wood, still grappling with a lack of news worthy of reporting, solicited items from his readers, asking particularly that they submit birth and marriage notices - "it is just the news your wives and sisters like to read." Though publication of such notices and other social items proved popular, hard news stories still remained scant. Advertising, on the other hand, remained the driving force behind the newspaper and within a year, Wood had expanded the Friday edition to six pages - "the increase being on account of crowded advertising columns."

Advertising remained the salvation of both the News and the Gazette during lean news periods, so much so that editor Wood of the News was not above chiding local businesses for not advertising, and he refused, at one point, to mention non advertisers by name. "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 come from" (1887). Both newspapers, as well, relied to a greater or lesser degree upon job printing contracts, competing with the print shop of Henry L. Thatcher which had, ironically, given the News its start.

Though the value of both the Gazette and the News as advertising mediums and news purveyors was clearly recognized at the time, their more impactful and enduring contribution to the community was their fostering of the rapid growth of Middleborough Four Corners following the mid-nineteenth century. Despite their often quaint parochialism, both newspapers demonstrated a marked sophistication in the liberal proposals they chose to put forth and sponsor and, in the process, they became influential advocates for continued growth and modernization. Their advocacy of such advances as fire and police protection, gas lighting, street naming and numbering, municipal water and sewerage, street lighting, village beautification, and the formation of a national bank at Middleborough, was largely responsible for the ultimate realization of these and innumerable other projects.

These two like-minded newspapers, or more correctly the informal fraternity they together formed, served as a unified conscience for the community - a role made possible by increasing denominalization within the community and the fact that no single church could continue to speak for the entire community. The Gazette and the News alternately persuaded, cajoled, shamed, ridiculed, needled and inspired residents to action. In one such instance, the Gazette in 1856, after reporting the various municipal improvements of surrounding communities, challenged, "Who will suggest improvements in Middleboro?" The Gazette and its sister News would and did.

Throughout the post-bellum era, Middleborough's newspapers would set the local political agenda, while directing and fostering the economic growth and social maturation of the community. Together, they would define the face of modern Middleborough. That was their enduring legacy.