Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Representatives of the Great Cause: Roger C. Keedwell

Roger Charles Keedwell
Private, Company K, 23d Infantry, 2d Division, United States Army

On October 21, 1915, Keedwell enlisted in the Canadian Over-seas Expeditionary Force. He was just 15 and a half. Having falsified the year of his birth in order to enlist, Keedwell served ten months with the Canadian Grenadier Guards before his father secured his discharge due to his extreme youth. Undeterred, Keedwell enlisted in the American Army on April 1, 1917, and served on the Mexican border with Troop C, 17th Cavalry before sailing overseas for France. He served with Company A, 2d Military Police from October 2, 1917, through June 15, 1918, following which he transferred to Company K, 23d Infantry.

At the time of his posting to France, Keedwell sent the Middleboro Gazette a letter from Douglas, Arizona, full of optimism. “There are 300 men going to France out of my regiment and I am one of them and I can assure you that I appreciate leaving this part of the country very much. We leave here Saturday morning for Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, where we will be instructed in the French language for three or four weeks and then we will continue our journey to France, which I hope will be a very pleasant journey. We will go there to be military police in Paris. I hope that while in Georgia I will be able to get a furlough to go home to see my folks and friends before leaving for France….As for me I think the cavalry is about the best branch of the service and I regret leaving it, but the trip to France looks good to me. I hope that when we arrive there I will be able to scout up some of the Middleboro fellows because it would certainly seem good to see some of them.”

In mid-December 1918 Keedwell’s father received notice from the War Department that his son was listed as missing in action. On Christmas night the family was informed that Roger had been located in a hospital, having been wounded on Hallowe’en. The information, in fact, was wrong. Mr. Keedwell contacted the American Red Cross for further information, and the family received the following letter on January 20, 1919.

The American Red Cross National Headquarters Washington, D. C. Jan. 14, 1919

My Dear Mrs. Keedwell:

You have only received a notification that Private Roger Charles Keedwell, Company K, 23d Infantry, American E. F., was reported missing in action, as that was the extent of the information first reported. We have just received word, dated October 31, 1918, that he died of wounds. He was cared for in American Red Cross Hospital No. 110, where you may feel sure that everything possible was done to save his life, but he passed away on October 31, 1918. Any personal belongings he may have had at the time of his death will be forwarded to Major John A. Nelson, Effects Quartermaster, Pier 3, Hoboken, N. J., and if you do not hear anything concerning them in a reasonable length of time, we would advise you to write to Major Nelson. Private Keedwell died in service for the glorious cause of justice and liberty, and you will ever have the greatest pride in his memory. His name will be placed among the heroes of America’s Roll of Honor. The Red Cross extends to you heartfelt sympathy and assures you that we are ever ready to render you any service possible.

Sincerely yours, W. R. CASTLE, Director Bureau of Communications

Roger Keedwell died less than two weeks before the Armistice. He was not yet 19.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Representatives of the Great Cause: Fletcher L. Clark, Jr.

Fletcher L. Clark, Jr.
Captain, Company H, 36th Infantry, 12th Division, United States Army

Clark was a graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School and was practicing law in the office of George W. Stetson in Middleborough prior to the war. As early as 1913 Clark attended military preparedness training at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and by 1916 he had been commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army Reserve Corps. Recommended for a first lieutenancy on the outbreak of war, Clark attended the First Officers’ Training Camp at Plattsburg. Temporarily stationed at Camp Devens, he sailed for France in fall 1917, serving with Company M, 103rd Infantry, a federalized National Guard unit from Maine. He served with distinction in France and was cited by Major General Edwards for marked gallantry and meritorious service in the capture of Torcy, Belleau Wood, Givry, Bouresches, Rochet Wood, Hill 190 overlooking Château-Thierry, Etrefilly, Bezult, Epieds, Trugny and the Fère-en-Tardenois Road from July 18-25, 1918 in the Second Battle of the Marne. He arrived back in the United States on August 26, 1918, and was stationed at Fort Dix, New Jersey, where he trained new recruits. Commissioned a captain on September 12, 1918, he was assigned to Company H, 36th Infantry, 12 Division at Camp Devens. He was discharged January 28, 1919. A frequent writer of letters home, Clark was an astute observer and his writings captured not only the destructiveness of war but the resilience of the human spirit, one letter recording the poignancy of French soldiers growing tulips and daffodils at the front amidst its devastation. Writing at Memorial Day, 1918, Clark recorded: “This has been a strange Memorial day here in France. We had services at a place where part of our boys rest. My company was the escort for the ceremonies, which were at the end of a village. Our men lie just beyond the wall of an old French cemetery. As we stood there I heard the power of the Republic extolled and the bravery of those who had paid the price. They spoke of the call that had brought us here to defend the world from despotism and exhorted us to finish the work. After the ceremonies were over two of the boys asked permission to visit the graves as each had a brother buried there. This was the first time they had a chance to visit the place and they might never have another. The French children have had their special graves to look after. That seems to be their outlet for patriotic activity.” Given that Clark would later fill the role of Middleborough Town Moderator for many years, it was perhaps prophetic that his parents sent to him in France a sample ballot, most likely from the 1918 annual town meeting. Clark regarded the ballot as a symbol of representative democracy. “That specimen ballot meant a lot to me; it is such a contrast to the ways of the nation we are trying to down.”

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Representatives of the Great Cause

RECOLLECTING NEMASKET is proud to announce the release of its newest title, Representatives of the Great Cause: Middleborough Servicemen & Their Letters from the First World War by local historian Michael J. Maddigan. A moving compendium of letters written by Middleborough’s First World War servicemen, Representatives of the Great Cause documents the sacrifices made by the community at the time as well as its views and understanding of war. The book is Maddigan’s sixth volume of local history relating to Middleborough and Lakeville.

 “I am still one of the representatives of the great cause.” So wrote Middleborough soldier William F. Harris to local newspaper owner Lorenzo Wood in 1919. Succinctly defining the role of a single community’s World War I servicemen and women, Harris’s letter to Wood was one among hundreds written by Middleborough soldiers that were published in the Middleboro Gazette between 1917 and 1919. Today these poignant and frequently moving letters comprise the community’s largest and most important collection of documents detailing the experience of Middleborough veterans of any generation in their own words. In presenting a selection of these letters, Representatives of the Great Cause permits the voices of these men to be heard once more. While the authors of these letters may no longer present, their subject is universal and their words remain relevant today, providing a deeply moving reflection upon the course and meaning of war by those who experienced it first-hand.

Representatives of the Great Cause will be launched at this year’s Krazy Days festival in downtown Middleborough where it will be available for sale at the Recollecting Nemasket booth on August 2 and 3. The author will be on hand to autograph his new work. Copies of his previous books will be available at this time as well. Books may also be purchased at any time following August 3 by visiting www.recollectingnemasket.blogspot.com.

Michael J. Maddigan, Middleborough is a local historian and author of the popular “Recollecting Nemasket” column in the Middleboro Gazette. His other works include Images of America: Middleborough, South Middleborough: A History, Star Mill: History & Architecture, Elysian Fields: A History of the Rock Cemetery and Lakeville’s King Philip Tavern.

Recollecting Nemasket is a small local history press devoted to publishing and selling histories related to Middleborough and Lakeville.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Babe Ruth League, 1957

In 1952, Middleborough joined the burgeoning Little League movement that had been founded in 1939 in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and which first expanded beyond that state in 1947.   Because Little League initially provided opportunities only for boys 12 and younger and given the success of Little League, the town soon afterwards began participating in the Babe Ruth League, an organization established in 1951.  The League was originally known as the "Little Bigger League", a clear indication of its program.  Above is an early schedule from the 1957 season for the four town Sachem League in which Middleborough participated with the Bridgewaters, each community fielding two teams.  Middleborough's two teams were sponsored by the Eagles and Thomas Brothers.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Nemasket Spring Labels

During the period that it bottled spring water and manufactured carbonated beverages, the Nemasket Spring Water Company on Plymouth Street advertised its products with colorful designs, branding its drink bottles with stylish labels featuring two Natives making their way to an idealized depiction of the spring.  Most consumers of the product were probably unaware or unconcerned that Middleborough includes no mountains such as those depicted on the label.  Despite the artistic license, the Native imagery helped distinguish Nemasket beverages in the market and were successful in establishing the Nemasket name as a brand.  Nonetheless, Nemasket also manufactured under the Cape Cod brand as seen in the colorful matchbook cover from the 1930s.  "Ask for Nemasket Spring Water beverages", the cover urged, "Made with America's purest spring water."

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Lyon's Neck

The most dramatic feature of the landscape along the northern portion of the Nemasket River at Purchade is the unique ox-bow bend made by the sharp turning of the river which flows northwards, then southwestwards, then southeastwards where it comes within some 350 feet of doubling back upon itself before finally turning westwards towards its confluence with the Taunton River. In the process, the river circumscribes a 22 acre triangular-shaped parcel of upland fringed with swampy ground.

The land defined within this ox-bow bend is historically known as Lyon’s Neck, four generations of the Lyon family having owned land there from about 1730 through 1821. The comprehensive Lyon Memorial genealogy in 1905 noted the long association between the family and Lyon’s Neck, remarking “traditions of the ‘Ox-bow’ linger still among the descendants of Samuel [Lyon]”, the original settler. Sadly, the editors of the volume do not elaborate on what those traditions were, though they were no doubt rooted in the family’s unusual geographic situation, a large portion of their land being nearly surrounded by the Nemasket.

Little is known of the pre-Contact history of Lyon’s Neck. According to Maurice Robbins’s 1973 map Middleboro Purchases, the area between the Nemasket River and Purchade Brook (including Lyon’s Neck) was known to the Native peoples as Tepikamicut. This land was included as part of the Purchade Purchase, the second purchase made from the Native peoples in Middleborough. Completed in 1662, the Purchade Purchase was subsequently divided into lots running perpendicularly to the Nemasket River with the area of Lyon’s Neck being set off as the fourth lot to Peregrine White (1620-1704), the first known English child born in America.

Though the area Lyon’s Neck is today fairly remote, uncrossed by roadways other than old woods roads, in the early 17th and early 18th centuries, it was visited more regularly. A 1742 deed makes note of the remains of an “old house” situated near the Nemasket River on what was probably the adjoining third lot of the Purchade Purchase as well as a “way [that] goes down the bank [of the river] to the old fishing stage or fishing place”, indicating the close connection between the first settlers and the Nemasket River which served as both a transportation route and a source of fish.

The fourth lot of the Purchade Purchase passed through a number of hands until late 1730 when the northernmost 70 acres came into the possession of Samuel Lyon (1679-1756) of Roxbury, Massachusetts, who purchased the property from Benjamin White of Middleborough for £545. Notably the 1730 title deed records the boundary as following the Nemasket River “ down stream round the Neck”. Lyon removed to Middleborough and was settled enough to join the First Church of Middleborough on January 23, 1732, constructing a house about one-third of a mile south of the neck in an area of meadows.

Over time the division line between the third and fourth lots of the Purchade Purchase became lost and by 1742 the owners were “uncertain where they stood”. Consequently, Samuel Lyon as the owner of the northern portion of the fourth lot, Lyon’s in-law Thomas Knowlton as owner of the southern portion of the fourth lot, and David Miller as the owner of the third lot agreed to establish a line delineating their parcels “so that all disputes and controversies concerning the bounds and line between the two …. Lots of land may be ended.”

On March 16, 1750, Samuel deeded his 70 acre farm at "Purchade Neck, Middleboro (the ‘ox-bow’)" to his son, Jedediah Lyon (1721 - 1807), for £100. The deeded land included the entire 22 acres on Lyons Neck, another 20¾ acres of woodland immediately to the south, 18½ acres of cleared land south of the wooded tract that was the site of the Lyon homestead and was later set off as a dower lot for Vinal Lyon’s widow Chloe (Richmond) Lyon, and still further south several acres of swampland in what was known as Lyon or Lyon’s Swamp.

The lands at the neck were an important part of the homestead farm of Jedediah Lyon whose grandson Isaac Lyon noted that the portion of the farm lying along the Nemasket “was known by [name as] the neck” with the western portion (the furthest downstream) being known as the “lower neck” and the eastern portion further upstream as the “upper neck”. Though the use to which the neck may have been put is not recorded, it is possible that it was used as pasturage for cattle, the nearly complete circuit of the river forming a natural barrier to keep cattle from straying. There is a record dating from 1821 of a fence running across at least the eastern portion of the neck down to the river, giving credence to the thought that the neck was used for livestock.

One of the earliest if not the first recorded appearances of the name “Lyon’s Neck” is in a deed written in 1825 indicating that the feature was clearly known by this name at the start of the 19th century, if not earlier. By 1904, the name had become well known enough that in the valuation list of Middleborough properties that year, the land at the neck then owned by Earl H. Cushman of Bridgewater could be listed simply as “Lyons Neck Lot”.

With the decline of the Nemasket as a transportation route, access was provided to the neck by woods roads. When Samuel Lyon purchased the property in 1730, he also acquired the right to use “a cart way from said tongue meadow unto the highway that leads to the causey [causeway] called Samuel Eaton’s causey.” In 1821 when the upper neck was sold to Solomon Alden of Bridgewater, Alden was granted “the privilege of going with the team from the highway to and from said lot through gates and bars…”. Later U. S. G. S. survey maps indicate a roadway that connected the neck with Murdock Street, though the original approach may have been from Plymouth Street near White’s Hill.

The distinctiveness of the Nemasket ox-bow at Purchade notwithstanding, it does not appear on maps until 1855 when it is clearly depicted on Walling’s map of Middleborough of that year. Despite the inclusion of Lyon’s Neck on the map, Walling misidentified it, labeling instead as Lyon’s Neck the area on the opposite bank of the river.

The neck remained in the possession of the Lyon family until the first quarter of the 19th century. In 1810, Isaac Lyon, Samuel Lyon’s grandson, sold the westernmost 10 acres or lower neck to Captain Nathaniel Bump/Bumpus of Middleborough. Fifteen years later in 1825, Seth Eaton, Jr., administrator of the estate of Vinal Lyon (1762-1819), Jedediah’s son, sold the remaining acres at the upper neck to Solomon Alden of Bridgewater. Since that time, Lyon’s Neck has largely been abandoned. Tracts to the south and southeast were utilized well into the 20th century as woodlots including lands later owned by Ezra Morse and jointly by Luther B. and Silas H. Murdock.


Map of Lyon's Neck, Middleborough, MA.  
The base map is U. S. G. S. survey map, Bridgewater Quadrangle, 1940.

Facsimile of Samuel Lyon's Signature from the Lyon Memorial (1905).

Samuel Lyon Grave Stone, Purchade Cemetery, Middleborough, MA.
The image first appeared in the Lyon Memorial (1905).   


Kinnicutt, Lincoln Newton. Indian Names of places in Middleborough, Lakeville and Carver, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, with Interpretations of Some of Them. 1909.
Lyons, A. B. and G. W. A. Lyon, eds., Lyon Memorial. Detroit: privately published, 1905.
Plymouth County Registry of Deeds 29:41, 35:36, 41:64, 115:124, 144:200, 155:104, 296:241.
Robbins, Maurice. Middleboro Purchases. 1973.
U. S. G. S. survey maps, Bridgewtaer Quadrangle, 1940, 1962, 1977.
Walling, H. F. Map of the Town of Middleborough, Plymouth County, Mass. 1855.
Walling, H. F. Map of the County of Plymouth, Massachusetts. New York: D. R. Smith & Co., 1857.