Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Ghost of Lamartine Street

Boston Globe June 23, 1888

Actions of a Female Spook

Residents of Lamartine Street Surprised at a
Ghostly Apparition that Makes Nightly Travels
Through the Street

Jamaica Plain has had numerous haunted houses and
fabled rendezvous of spooks, but none heretofore
have assumed such reality as the white object that
has for the past few days been the terror of women
and a mystery to the men residing on Lamartine and
Green streets.

As is usual with spooks, it appears only at night,
generally very early in the morning, but it is a
ladylike ghost. It is not up to the pranks of
conventional spirits, but appears always with
dignity, walking noiselessly up the street. This
midnight patroller evidently prepares to retire, for
she appears in night robes, her head being encased
in a fringed nightcap. The brick sidewalks and
cobble stones also evidently tire her tender feet,
for one Lamartine street resident coming early in
the morning found her seated on the stone wall,
panting as if from a hard run.

The ghost made her debut in the vicinity of
Lamartine street a little less than a week ago. The
driver for the Riverdale milk farm was distributing
his cans of milk one morning when he was terrified
and astonished at beholding a white object emerge
from the shade of the trees on the right hand side
of the street. The figure moved slowly up the
sidewalk. The milkman jumped into the wagon and
started in pursuit of the figure. The ghost started
on the run, and so did the milkman's horse, but the
heavy milk team, with its load of cans, was nowhere
alongside of the spook, which was moving in an easy
going trot. She turned up Green on to Elm street,
and when opposite to the Congregational church, the
milkman's eyes protruded from his head as she
daintily gathered up her skirts and disappeared.
Several residents on Lamartine street have seen her
go up the street towards Green, and some have
noticed her returning, but where whe went no one
knows. She usually was seen about 1 or 2 o'clock in
the morning.

Early in the morning, Frank Mahn, the musician, was
returning to his house on Lamartine street when he
observed this spook calmly seated on his stone

John Follen, a mason, also met her one night on
Lamartine street.

Officers Mou(?)ton and Driscoll of station 13 were
a few nights since walking along this street when
they observed this figure seated on a door step.
The officers looked, and even as they looked the
apparition arose and glided noiselessly and quickly
through the door, which she apparently opened. Last
night Patrolman Braissure with a delegation of
residents, walked about and watched Lamartine
street from midnight until 3 o'clock this morning,
but she did not appear.

An insane woman on Clark place who leaves the house
during the night is thought to be the spook that so
completely mystified and terrorized the

Happy Halloween!

Off To The Races

It's hard for me to keep in mind the importance of horses in the second half of the 19th century. On one hand, most people couldn't afford to keep a horse. The feed, outfitting and housing would cost too much. On the other hand, all freight moved between train depot and destination on horse-drawn wagons. Horses pulled the carriages, omnibuses and streetcars that carried passengers between outlying districts and the city. And their upkeep provided many jobs in carriage making, livery, harness making, and all the other associated professions.

On top of it all, they were a source of pride. Like today's sports car, SUV and luxury car owners, many horse owners must have enjoyed showing off their animals. Here we have even a local priest getting in on the fun.

Boston Daily Globe July 30, 1888

Jamaica Plain Horses

Some of the More Rapid Flyers in Ward 22

The question "What good is a boat if you have no water to sail it in?" might be easily transformed to embrace the ideas held by some of the horse owners in some of the crowded outskirts of the city of Boston, who have not facilities for trying their flyers. But in Jamaica Plain, never. It is sometimes a wonder that with such hard and straight streets and excellent drives, equal in some portions of the ward to a trotting park, that there should not be more fancy steppers than are related in this article.

Among the fast steppers about town is a black driving horse owned by Daniel A. Brown, but admired by every one.

Thomas M. Dolan in his home of leisure stirs up the roadbed with a fast gray gelding.

Dr H.H. Gage drives a speedy brown horse.

Dr. A.A. Eayis(sp?) has a well-formed bay horse which can complete the mile circuit in 2:50.

Rev. Thomas Maguiness, pastor of St.Thomas parish, is aided in going his fatherly rounds among his numerous parishoners by a very fast bay horse.

Dr. Austin Peters drives a fast and promising black colt.

E.I. Driscoll is the proud owner of a fine golden sorrel horse.

J.R. Fallon possesses a sorrel gelding called Rufus, which is acknowledged to be a fast stepper.

M.D. Ayers' bay does not often take second place while on the road.

John R. Alley the brewer, may be soon on the street with a fast brown horse, not, however, in the rear.

Charles Bohn(Bolin?) has a very speedy bay mare.

C.R. Ayer has a good-looking brown mare that gets over the ground in a manner that makes some of the fast ones hustle.

B.R. Weld drives a bay horse about town.

In the upper portion of the ward, William Sanders, proprietor of the Rockland House, easily takes the prize for fast horses. He has a speedy roan gelding, Accident, which has shown good time in the Norfolk Trotting park, doing a mile in 2:35. He has also a young chestnut mare, Mist, which has done a pretty fast mile on the Readville track. A large brown horse which he owns as also done complimentary work as a speeder.


Boston Daily Globe July 12, 1901

Cool Heads Prevent Catastrophe

Fire in Shanty at Jamaica Plain, Where 100 Pounds of Dynamite Was Stored.

Three barrels of gasoline and more than 100 pounds of dynamite came very near being food for flames in Jamaica Plain last evening. A catastrophe was averted by the cool-headedness of the workmen, but not without great excitement.

In the triangle formed by the junction of Day, Centre and Perkins sts, a shaft is sunk and a tunnel being bored that will extend from that point under Parker hill. It will be used by the metropolitan sewerage commission. Harry P. Nawn is the contractor.

To carry on the work there a pair of engines are used to hoist the elevator in the shaft and pump the water from the tunnel. Directly in the rear of the boiler house is what is called the powder house. Here are stored the gasoline, dynamite and a number of tools.

About 8:45 last evening a workman was sent to the powder house to fill a gasoline lamp. He carried on his arm a lighted lantern. While he was filling the lamp, the gasoline ignited, and in an instant there was a flash.

James Murray, another employee, who was standing close by, jumped to the assistance of the man and helped to extinguish the flames.

In the meantime someone ran to fire alarm box 263, a short distance away, and pulled the alarm. Another excited citizen, feeling that the engine did not respond quickly enough, pulled the hook four minutes later, and as a result the street in a short time was filled with few apparatus.

A crowd gathered and watched the firemen running about and the horses prancing. It suddenly became noised about that there was a fire in the shanty where were stored 500 pounds of dynamite and three barrels of gasoline. The news spread rapidly, but hardly more so than the crowd. In a very few minutes the firemen had plenty of room to work, and the policemen stood idly by and watched proceedings.

The excitement for a time was intense, and everybody was waiting for the explosion. But it did not come, and then it was learned there was no danger from the source.

Murray was taken to Wallace's drug store on Centre st, where his arm was bandaged, and then he went back and sat down in the boiler room, a few feet from the source of all the trouble.

After the excitement had cooled off, the men who work on the job on the surface gathered in the little boiler room to discuss the situation. When asked regarding the amount of dynamite on hand, one of the foremen said there never was more than 100 pounds . Every morning a fresh supply is received for use during the day and night. He said Murray had acted his part with true bravery.

The damage by the fire was very small.

The Schools - 1906

The Old Agassiz school (formerly the Central school) looking from Burroughs st.

This information is taken from the Manual of the Public Schools of the City of Boston, 1906. The system at the time was broken down in to Kindergartens, Primary schools (grades 1-3), Grammar schools (4-9) and High Schools (grades 10-12).

The Agassiz and Bowditch schools were built in the 1890s, and were segregated by sex. So why were there cooking and sewing teachers at the Agassiz? Did the boys learn sewing? That doesn't sound right. Maybe there were after-school classes. At some point, the system changed, the primary schools were eliminated and the Agassiz and Bowditch became K-6, as I remember. Which means there must have been empty classrooms in the 1960s when I attended the Agassiz. My mother went to the Bowditch and my father attended the Agassiz. Notice that truant officers were necessary for each school - that says something.

The Washington street school was a wood frame buiding just south of Forest Hills, along the railroad tracks on the left. The Tollgate Footbridge came over from Hyde Park Ave beside the school property. I suspect that the footbridge was built to get children from the Walk Hill area over to the school. The school sat very near Stony brook, and the area flooded when the brook was high, so the neighborhood people often complained to the city about the conditions. The Parkman school was built in part to replace it.

The Old Agassiz was originally the Central primary school, as the carved name above the entrance noted. I attended the Old Agassiz for my first three years, and have no memory of the inside of the building. I always though that it was odd that the entrance to the school looked out on the back of the retail buidings that faced Centre street. Now I believe that the school would have looked out above the wood frame buidings that once lined Centre street when it was built. Still an odd alignment, but not as puzzling.

The Parkman school had a portable school associated with it. I've seen mention of a portable school at the Agassiz school as well. Apparently, the system was overcrowded and they brought in one-room trailers of some kind. When they did the same thing in the 1970s to deal with overcrowding in some schools, people were horrified. It seems as if the solution had a history in Boston.

The Hillside primary school stood at the corner of Elm and Everett sts. My mother went to the Margaret Fuller school in the early 1930s, but she thinks she remembers the brick building on the corner, as it was opposite the Central Congregational church that she attended.

The Chestnut Ave school was a wood frame building that sat just north of Boylston st. That section of Chestnut ave had once been called Curtis st, and the school was the Curtis school, in honor of the Curtis family that had owned a farm in the area since the earliest colonial times. The Curtis homestead stood very close to the school on Lamartine st.

West Roxbury high school still stands on Elm street, now containing the ubiquitous condos. When first built, West Roxbury high school actually was the high school of the town of West Roxbury. Even after the town was annexed by Boston, it still served all of Jamaica Plain Roslindale and West Roxbury until Roslindale High School was built (in the 1920s?). A couple of things caught my eye. First, no agriculture courses! The school had the agriculture program when my parents attended in the late 1930s-early 1940s, and they were still offered in the 1960s. So when did the city of Boston decide to start offering agriculture courses to city kids? Someone help me out here.

A second thing jumped out at me. One of the faculty teaches Greek, German and Mathematics, another History, English and Mathematics. Either they were phenomenally well-rounded, or they were Jack-of-all, Master-of-none. It's certainly not the kind of thing you see these days.

I listed some primary and grammar schools after the high school. That's becuase they were in the Roxbury school district. The city didn't necessarily follow the old community boundaries when providing services, but both Heath street and School street were considered Roxbury by many at the time. During the 20th century, Jamaica Plain seems to have grown gradually towards Parker Hill, and those who grew up in the Hyde sq./Heath street area during the mid-20th century usually call it Jamaia Plain.

I have nothing to add about the Mendel, Jefferson or Heath St. schools. Which makes a point in itself. During the 20th century, Jamaica Plain was not a small town, where everyone knew everyone else. Children may have come together in high school, but Heath street and the Monument district were different communities. They were just too far apart for people to get to know each other.

Agassiz District (Jamaica Plain)

Grammar School (Boys)

Brewer and Burroughs streets

John T. Gibson, Master
Joshua Q. Litchfield, Sub-Master, Gr IX
Mary A. Gott, 1st Assistant, Grs. VII, IX


-----, Gr VIII
Clara I. Metcalf, Gr VII
Caroline N. Poole, Gr. VII
May E. Ward, Gr. VI
Mary E. Stuart, Gr. VI
Mary A. Cooke, Gr VI
Clara J. Reynolds, Gr. V
Elvera M. Bloom, Gr. V
Sarah A. Moody, Gr. IV
Ethelyn A. Townsend, Gr IV
Sara D. Davidson, Gr. IV

Special Instructors

Ellen B. Murphy, Cookery
Helen I. Whitemore, Manual Training
Grace E. Hayden, Manuel Training
Eldora M.S. Bowen, Sewing

George A. Cottrell, Janitor, 22 Thomas st., Jamaica Plain
Warren J. Stokes, Truant-officer, 1850 Centre st., West Roxbury

Washington-Street School
Near Forest Hills square

Josephine A. Slayton, Assistant, Gr. IV

Patrick M. Connelly, Janitor, 75 South st., Jamaica Plain

Francis Parkman School
Walk Hill street, near Hyde Park avenue

Arthur Stanley, Sub-Master, Gr. VIII

Jessie A. Shaw, Gr. Vii
Mabelle E. Lounbury
Mabel E. Smith, Grs. IV, V

Francis Parkman Portable School, No. 45

Ethelyn C. Hallstrom, Assistant, Gr. V
Henry T. Allchin, Janitor, 49 Oakview terrace, Jamaica Plain

Primary Schools

Old Agassiz School
Burrought street, near Centre street

Caroline D. Putnam, 1st assistant, Gr. III


Mary J. Haggerty, Grs II, III
Clara E. Bertsch, Gr. II
Mary H. McCready, Gr I
Alice G. Cleveland, Gr I

George A. Cottrell, Janitor, 22 Thomas st, Jamaica Plain

Washington-Street School
near Forest Hills

Lucinda R. Kinsley, Assistant, Gr. III

Francis Parkman School
Walk Hill street, near Hyde Park Avenue


Annie V. Lynch, Gr. II
Mary A. O'Neil, Gr. I
Margaret M. Burton, Gr. I

Henry T. Allchin, Janitor, 49 Oakview terrace, Jamaica Plain


Old Agassiz School
Burroughs street, near Centre street

Isabelle H. Earnshaw, Principal
Helen B. Foster, Assistant

Francis Parkman School
Walk Hill street, near Hyde Park avenue

Julliette Billings, Principal
Olivia B. Hazelton, Assistant

Bowditch District (Jamaica Plain)

Grammar School (Girls)

Green Street

Edward W. Schuerch, Master, Gr IX
Amy Hutchins, 1st Assistant, Gr. IX


Cora B. Mudge, Gr. VIII
Annie E. Lees, Gr. VIII
Elizabeth L. Stodder, Gr. VII
Mary O'Connell, Gr. VI
Alice B. Stephenson, Gr. VI
Mary A.M. Papineau, Gr. VI
Elia F. Jordan, Gr. VI
Nellie I. Lapham, Gr. V
Lucy M. Bruhn, Gr. V
Delia U. Chapman, Gr. IV
Isabel P. Reagh, Gr. IV

Special Instructors

Ellen B. Murphy, Cookery
Helen E. Hapgood, Sewing

Samuel S. Marison, Janitor, 391 Lamartine st, Jamaica Plain
Warren J. Stokes, Truant-officer, 1850 Centre st, West Roxbury

Bowditch Portable School, No. 59

M. Louise C. Hastings, Assistant, Ungraded Class

Samuel S. Marison, Janitor, 391 Lamartine st, Jamaica Plain

Primary Schools

Margaret Fuller School
Glen Road, near Washington street

Mary E. Whitney, 1st Assistant, Grs. I, II, III
Olive A. Wallis, Gr. III
Anne K. Vackert, Gr. II
Mary E. McDonald, Grs. I, II
Tabitha Fitzgerald, Gr. I

Patrick F. Powers, Janitor, 104 Lauriat av, Dorchester Centre

Hillside School

Elm street, near Green street

Margaret E. Winton, 1st Assistant, Gr. III


Alice Greene, Grs. II, III
Martha T. Howes, Gr. II
Lena L. Carpenter, Gr. I
Sara L. Palmer, Gr I

Samuel S. Morrison, Janitor, 391 Lamartine st, Jamaica Plain

Chestnut-Avenue School
near Boylston street


Sarah P. Blackburn, Gr. III
Mary J. Capen, Gr I

Chestnut-Avenue Portable School, No. 9

Annie M. Johnson, Assistant, Gr. II

Edward Sealer, Janitor, 189 Chestnut av, Jamaica Plain


Margaret Fuller School

Glen road, near Washington street

Anna E. Marble, Principal

Hillside School
Elm street, near Green street

Lillian B. Poor, Principal
Florence J Ferguson, Assistant

West Roxbury High School
Elm street, opposite Greenough avenue, Jamaica Plain

George C. Mann, Head-Master
George F. Partridge, Master, Greek, German, and Mathematics
George A. Cowen, Junior-Master, Chemistry and Physics


Josephine L. Sanborn, English and History
Mary I. Adams, English and History
Blanche G. Wetherbee, History and Algebra
Caroline W. Trask, Latin, German and Mathematics
Frances B. Wilson, French
Rebecca Kite, Biology
Annie N. Bunker, English, History and Mathematics
Mabel O. Mills, English, History and Latin
Mary K. Tibbits, English and French
Emma F. Simmons, French and Mathematics

Special Instructors

Leon C. Colman, Commercial Branches
Ellen F.G. O'Connor, Drawing
Catherine L. Bigelow, Physical Training

John H. Kelley, Janitor, 25 Ballard st, Jamaica Plain
Mary E. McDonough, Matron, 59 Monadnock st, Dorchester

George Putnam District (Roxbury) Grammar School Ellis Mendell School
School street

Ede F. Travis, Assistant, Gr. IV

Primary School Ellis Mendel School
School street

Julia H. Cram, 1st Assistant, Gr. III


Amoritta E. Eallman, Gr III
Mabel L. Brown, Gr. II
Alice H. Shaw, Gr II
Anna H. O'Connell, Gr. II
Mary A. Gove, Gr I
Mary L Sullivan, Gr. I
Louisa Prescott, Gr. I

John D. Hardy, Janitor, 247 Shawmet av.


Ellis Mendel School
School street

Anita F. Weston, Principal

M. Alice Costello, Assistant

Jefferson District (Roxbury) Grammar School (Boys and Girls)
Heath street

Edward F. Sherborne, Master
John W. Lillis, Sub-Master, Gr. VIII
Elinor(sp?) W. Leavitt, 1st Assistant, Gr. IX


Annie B. Dooley, Gr. VII
Mary A. Leary, Gr. VII
Eleanor F. Somerby, Gr. VI
Margaret L. Toole, Gr. VI
Mary J. Fitzsimmons, Gr. V
Annie W. Leonard, Gr. V
Vincent A. Keenan, Gr. IV
Helen C. Laughlin, Gr. IV

Special Instructors

Margaret A. Fay, Cookery
Katherine Robinson, Manual Training
Mary L.E. McCormack, Sewing

Michael J. Crowley, Janitor, 25 West Dedham st.
Henry M. Blackwell, Truant-officer, 107 Brook av. Dorchester

Primary Schools Jefferson School
Heath street


Mary E. Murphy, Gr III
Mary J. Stark, Gr. III
Edith E. Cox, Gr. II
Susan H. Nugent, Gr. II
----- ------ Gr. II
Ellen C. McDermott, Gr. I
Mary V. Prendergast, Gr.

John A. Andrew District Heath Street School

Mary M. Phelan, Assistant, Gr. I

Nellie G. Watson, Janitor, 818 Heath st, Roxbury

Kindergartens Jefferson School
Heath street

Ida E. McElwain, Principal

Mary G. Murray, Assistant

Heath Street School

------ ------, Principal

Catherine L. Gately, Assistant

Deadly Bomb!

The scene of the crime - photo, 2008.

This is quite a crime story. Never believe anyone who tells you that there was no crime in Jamaica Plain until the Nineteen -Seventies.

Boston Daily Globe May 24, 1889

Deadly Bomb

Thrown Into a Private Residence.

A Terrific Explosion Follows.

Rose Donnelly Escapes Death by Jumping.

House in Jamaica Plain Shattered.

Remnants of Gaspipe Loaded with Buckshot Found.

The residents of Jamaica Plain, who live in the vicinity of Centre and Holbrook streets, where shocked last night by an explosion which rattled their windows, and for a while brought up visions of earthquakes.

The alarm, however, was caused by what appears to have been one of the most cold blooded attempts to murder an inoffensive woman that can well be conceived.

Some one deliberately threw a bomb through the window of a residence, and that an innocent life was not sacrificed seems to be due only to the merciful interposition of Providence.

The scene of the startling event was a large two story frame residence corner of Centre and Holbrook streets, owned and occupied by Miss C.M. Weld as a summer residence. Miss Weld spends her winters in Boston, and has not yet taken up her residence at the Plain, so that the only occupant of the house at the time of the explosion was Rose Donnelly, the housekeeper.

She was sitting in an armchair beside the window in the kitchen, on the Holbrook street side at 9 o'clock last evening, when a long black object came crashing through the window within about a foot of her face and landed in the middle of the floor. Not stopping an instant to investigate she dashed out of the door into the hall.

Scarcely had she slammed the kitchen door behind her when a terrific explosion took place, which shook the house as if by an upheaval of the earth, and left it in utter darkness. Tearing open the front door she screamed for assistance, and her cries brought to the scene sergeant Follett, who lives near by, and several citizens who were in the immediate vicinity. Officer Albert Hildreth heard the report and was present in a few moments.

The explosion was followed by a lively blaze, and a still(?) alarm was rung, which brought engine 28, Captain Reilly, and hook and ladder 10. The fire was soon extinguished the only damage from that source being the destruction of a lot of newly laundered clothing and a general scorching of the woodwork about one of the windows.

An inspection of the damage by the explosion of the bomb showed that the three windows in the kitchen were blown out, pane and sash, and the glass, blown to powder, was scattered over the lawn for several feet outside, glistening like frost in the rays of the electric lights from the streets beyond. The range was wrecked, the floor was torn up as if some one had been freely using an axe upon it, and the ceiling was started away from the walls. Pieces of the casing of the bomb and its contents, a charge of buckshot, went clean through the closet doors and woodwork, some of which was an inch in thickness. In the centre of the floor, where the bomb struck and exploded, was a hole as big as the crown of a hat.

The bomb was a piece of iron pipe, apparently gas-pipe, 10 inches in length and an inch and a half in diameter, having upon each end a heavy iron cap screwed on with a thread. In one end a hole was bored through which a fuse was passed. The charge was gunpowder, and also buckshot, a large quantity of which was picked up about the room by firemen and police officers.

The pipe was blown into many pieces, varying from half an inch to two or three inches in length. The largest piece was a strip in length of the pipe and about an inch and a half in width, twisted and distorted, and having rough, jagged edges.

Not more than two-thirds of the pipe could be found, the rest, evidently, either having gone out the windows or become embedded in the woodwork.

Had the explosion occurred a few seconds sooner, or had the woman delayed a moment in her exit, nothing could have saved her from a shocking death, as not a vestige was left of the woodwork, or glass of the window by which she had been sitting. Several other windows besides those in the kitchen were broken, while those in the pantry, immediately in the rear, were badly riddled as those in the room where the explosion took place.

Miss Donnelly received considerable credit for the nerve she displayed after the explosion, and she retired for the night quite well satisfied upon learning that Officer Hildreth would stand guard in the house during the night.

Superintendent Small, upon hearing of the affair, sent out a general alarm to the stations ordering the officers to arrest all suspicious persons and hold them until further orders from him. Nothing has yet been learned of the identity of the miscreant.

No possible reason for such an attempt at destruction could be learned last night, although it is said that an incendiary fire was set in the stable of the same residence on the night of Jan. 9 last, which was the night of the policemen's ball. The floor was saturated with kerosene and fired, though, owing to prompt discovery and a ready response by the department, it was extinguished with little damage.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Car Talk

I found this picture online. Someone was auctioning it off. The body is by Farnhan Nelson.

I have a particular interest in manufacturing in Jamaica Plain. I suppose there are two reasons. First, the Jamaica Plain I grew up in was almost exclusively residential and retail. There was some industry on Washington Street between Forest Hills and Green Street, but in any case I didn't pay attention to it. Second, I've worked in factories, and I have a general interest in old machine tools and technology. I certainly would never have guessed that Jamaica Plain was home to more than one automobile manufacturing plant. I had a little Detroit just up the street and I had no idea!

Near the top of this 1914 map, you can see the pink (brick) buildings of the former Sturtevant Blower Works. Near where Union avenue makes its right angle turn, you can see the Farnham and Nelson name on an angled brick building, part of the old Sturtevant facility.

Jamaica Plain News Saturday January 27, 1912

A Growing Local Industry

The Farnham and Nelson Co. of Jamaica Plain Have Built Up Large Business in Building Automobile Bodies

The rapid and almost universal spread of the automobile the past few years finds a striking illustration locally, not only in the number of machines owned and operated in the district, but in the development of various lines of business connected with the automotive trade. Among the instances of the business development there is none in the local district that has been more rapid and substantial than that of the Farnham & Nelson Co., of Jamaica Plain, the large and well-known concern engaged in the building of high-grade automobile bodies and all that pertains to the automobile above the engine and running gear.

This firm is located at 47 Union Avenue, Jamaica Plain, in one of the best of the large brick buildings formerly a part of the Sturtevant blower works. The proprietors are J.T. Farnham and F.D. Nelson and the business was established in December, 1908. The concern is, therefore, just beginning its fourth year, and some idea of the rapid rise of the business can be had from the fact that the volume of business done during the year just closed will approximate $75,000.00.

Previous to establishing their business on Union Avenue, both Mr. Farnham and Mr. Nelson were superintendents of different departments in two large automobile concerns, one in Boston and one in Cleveland, and are, therefore, men of large experience. That they are successful businessmen is shown by the fact that they started with nothing, in the way of trade, and the second year more than doubled their volume of business, while the third year will yield a one-third increase over the second year.

The secret of success of the firm is due, in addition to the skill and business ability of the two proprietors, to the fact that they supply a special product for a special class of people. They are designers and makers of special automobile bodies, tops, windshields and other equipment for people who cannot purchase ready-made cars that are entirely to their liking, so that a large portion of their trade is making bodies for imported and domestic cars which are purchased without bodies by some customer who then engages them to design and build a special body to suit their particular taste or requirements. It is interesting to note, and it may be a surprise to some, that people cannot buy an automobile ready-made from the factory that is satisfactory to them in all respects any more than they can get a custom-made suit of clothes that is to their liking in fit, style, etc., so they buy the chassis and have the body of the car built to order.

In the factory, they have a large portable blackboard, some 20 feet in length by 10 in height on which they draw the designs at full size so that the customer can see exactly how the finished body of his car is to look. In addition to building bodies, they make and repair all other parts of the car above the engine, making a special windshield and doing a fine class of leather and upholstering work, and making the tops for high-grade cars. All of their work is of the highest-class and their customers include the owners of the largest and most expensive cars in use. The firm handles the line of work both for private individuals and manufacturers.

A considerable portion of their factory work is also supplied in making bodies for those cars whose owners desire a closed body for winter, and an open one for summer. If a machine has a limousine top they will build an open type for the summer, and vice versa.

An interesting feature of their business is that of a large proportion of the bodies they build are of aluminum and their factory is equipped with the latest devices for metal working, including a power trip hammer, and other appliances.

The firm employs 50 men and its factory includes a woodworking, painting, upholstering and blacksmithing department. The large factory building is heated by steam and equipped with electric power, with separate motors for all departments. The factory thus being heated makes a desirable place for automobile owners to leave their cars during repairs or through the winter when they are having a new body built, and a walk through the building reveals about 75 cars in various stages of completion, some entirely new with bodies being made for their first use, and some limousines for which the firm is building open bodies for summer use. All cars for regular customers are stored free of charge. Special bodies for cars devoted to special uses such as hospital and sanatorium use are also built there. One that attracts particular notice of a visitor to the factory is a body specially constructed to admit sick persons who are obliged to ride on a cot and which is used for carrying invalids to and from trains, and, for other private purposes.

In brief, the firm makes and repairs everything about the automobile except the engine and running gear, and the rapid development of the company's business in the last three years it has been established shows clearly the large and growing field its particular line of work fills, as well as proving the fact that the firm meets the demand well with its equipment and quality of work.

Come Out Fighting!

I had to do a little investigating after reading the first article below. The Improved Order of Redmen was a social organization that was originally based on the Sons of Liberty of Boston Tea Party fame. By this time, they seem more like any other fraternal group of the time, a place for men to get together and smoke cigars and curse. I also had to look up the term buck and wing dance. It was a predecessor of tap dancing, and seems to have come from both African-American and Irish sources. The dancing, singing - and bell solo! - are an interesting addition to boxing matches. Unfortunately, the article fails to say where the bouts were held. I wonder if those Duffy brothers were the predecessors of the Duffy family that was in Jamaica Plain in the 1960s. The second bouts interested me because it was held at the St Thomas Aquinas Grammar School hall. I remember fights in the schoolyard, but none in the hall.

Boston Daily Globe March 14, 1912

Good Boxing At Smoke Talk.

Fred Duffy Shows a Lot of Speed at Jamaica Plain.

A series of fast exhibition bouts were put on by Pawnee Tribe, I.O.R.M., before a crowd of 300 at a smoke talk in Jamaica Plain last evening. The first one was between James Emery and Neil Lynch, both of the Medford A.C. The Flanagan twins, Bill and Tom, of South Boston, followed with a swift exhibition. Some good work was seen between Johnny Duffy, the 105-pound amateur champion of Greater Boston, and George Lang, both of the Jamaica Plain A.A.

A good showing was made by the Acme A.A. of Jamaica Plain, which staged bouts between M. Heiser and Jack O'Brien, Barney Schneider and John Sherman, and John Drey and Billy Sullivan. Mark Spencer of Boston and Wilbur Hawkins of Jamaica Plain put up a snappy exhibition.

The star bout of the evening was between Fred Duffy of Jamaica Plain, the 135-pound champion of New England, and his brother, Henry Duffy. Fred's fast work and science convinced his friends that he is a "comer" in the pugilistic world.

John Sayce entertained with a bell solo and George O'Brien of the Forest Hills A.A. contributed several songs. A buck and wing dance was given by George Pritchard of the Forest Hills A.A. Billy Coleman and William Sweeney gave vocal selections.

Boston Daily Globe January 20, 1920

Amateur Boxers Contend In Bouts At Jamaica Plain

The hall of Leo XIII School, Jamaica Plain was filled with boxing fans last evening to see the amateur bouts, directed by Francis J. Horgan of St Thomas C.A. The feature bout was the 115-pound semifinal between Joe Cavanaugh of Cambridge and Jack Chanty of Somerville, won by the former.

Cavanaugh's hand was injured so badly that it prevented him from entering the final with Jim Johnson of Jamaica Plain, who was awarded the decision by default. There were 15 bouts in all. The finals:

115-pound Class, Jim Johnson, Jamaica Plain, decision over Joe Cavanaugh, Cambridge, on default.

125-pound Class - Pat Kelley, decision over Young Linehan of South End, who quit in first round.

135-pound Class - Chester Finn, Jamaica Plain, decision over Tommy Gannon, South Boston.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Streetcar Protest - 1874 Style

Boston Daily Globe March 24 1874

The Jamaica Plain Street Cars - A Woman's Protest.

To the Editors of The Globe:

Sir: Why will those who are in the habit of riding in the Jamaica Plain horse-cars allow themselves to be so jolted and shaken around without making the slightest complaint? I believe that patience is a virtue, but, beyond certain limits, it ceases to be such. If any of my fellow-passengers are so amiable that they prefer to sacrifice themselves for the good of the road, I have nothing to say in their behalf; but, believing that the majority of those who ride are not so inclined, I desire to venture a word. I was witness, a few days ago, of the dangerous effects produced upon a lady passenger by the horrible conditions of the road, and I know of other cases where permanent injury has followed, and where death itself was believed to have been hastened, if not largely caused, by it.

If the highway and the tracks are in such a condition that the drivers cannot possibly get along without "jumping" the track, and being off and on for long distances, have not the city authorities power to look into the matter, and have the street put in order? If it is not the fault of the track, why should such careless drivers be employed? Hoping that the aid of your valuable columns may be given to bring about a much-needed reform, I sign myself, unhappily,

A Sufferer

P.S. - If any officer or director or the road has any doubts about its condition, and will send his wife to ride over it, I will agree to accept her verdict.


It's in little stories like this that you learn the little things about life in the past. The horse-drawn streetcars would jump the tracks - I wouldn't have though of that. I've read that the area between the two tracks was paved with cobble-stones, so when the wheels came out of the tracks, the wheels on one side would be in dirt, and the other side on cobbles. Kind of defeats the whole purpose, no? I imagine the spine would take a good going-over under those conditions.

A Brain Blow - Ouch!

Boston Daily Globe February 24 1891

Cock Fighting at Jamaica Plain

A cocking main between Dedham and Boston birds took place yesterday in a barn in Jamaica Plain. Two battles were fought. In the first fight both birds were brown reds and each weighed five pounds four ounces. The bout lasted 15 minutes, ending with the death of the Boston fowl. A good deal of cold cash changed hands on the result. The last battle was between a Boston brown red, weighing four pounds ten ounces, and a Dedham gray, weighing four pounds two ounces. This battle was $10 a side. The Dedham bird won by getting in a brain blow. Time, 4m, 10s.

Real Estate - A Hard Business

Richards, L.J., 1899 (copyright © 2000 by Cartography Associates)
David Rumsey Collection
Note the nine houses built by Alexander Dickson around his own home at Warren Square off Green Street.

O.H. Bailey & Co. 1891 (BPL)

Within a year and a half, to respected Jamaica Plain citizens took their own lives. Coincidentally, both were real estate developers. Alexander Dickson build nine houses on the property around his own home on Green Street that still stand today. Look for Warren Square on the way down Green Street on the left, and you'll see a house set back with houses facing it on either side and around the back. Mr. Dickson sounds like an interesting character, and I'd love to learn more about him. Alden Bartlett built the Bartlett Block, on the east side of the Jamaica Plain (Green Street) train station, and owned all the land between the railroad tracks and Union Avenue on Green Street.

The picture above is from an O.H. Bailey birds-eye view map of Jamaica Plain published in 1891.

Boston Daily Globe January 25, 1878

Suicide At Jamaica Plain Alexander Dickson, a Wealthy and Highly Respected Citizen, Cuts His Throat and Shoots Himself.

The body of Alexander Dickson, a wealthy and highly-respectable citizen of West Roxbury District, was found in the coal-bin in the cellar of one of his unfinished houses on Green street, Jamaica Plain, at 1:15 o'clock yesterday afternoon with his throat cut from ear to ear and three bullet wounds in his head. The body was found by William R. Edwards, one of the workmen in the building, who at once notified Officer White. The latter, after examining the body, summoned Medical Examiner Draper, who likewise viewed the body and delivered it to Undertaker Murray. Beside the body was found a razor covered with blood and a Colt revolver with three chambers empty. From appearances, the razor was first used and then the pistol. Mr. Dickson was last seen alive by one of the workmen entering the basement of the building.

There are of course various theories as to the cause of the act, but diligent inquiry sifts the probable cause to temporary insanity. It is said that for the past five years he has taken a deep interest in spiritualism and become so infatuated as to always consult a medium ere undertaking any task. Secondly, that building nine houses at the same time was too severe a strain upon his intellect, and fear is expressed that he became financially embarrassed, but his widow can assign no reason for the act, and asserts that he had all the money on hand he required to prosecute the work in which he was engaged. Of late he has had spells of absent-mindedness if not depression.

Mr. Dickson was about sixty-five years of age and leaves a widow and four daughters. He was a blacksmith some years ago, occupying a shop on Green Street, but for the past eight or ten years has turned his attention to real estate speculation, in which he was fortunate enough to amass at least $75,000. He has now nine houses in the process of erection, near each other and his own dwelling. He was universally respected by his neighbors and those with whom he had dealings. During the Town Government he was an engineer of the Fire Department for thirty years, tax collector three years and assessor under the City Government for one year.

Boston Daily Globe May 26, 1879

A Sad Suicide. A Jamaica Plain Real Estate Owner Cuts His Throat from Ear to Ear.

Alden Bartlett of Jamaica Plain committed suicide yesterday afternoon in a stable attached to his house. Mr Bartlett was a well-known real estate owner, and was at one time considered very wealthy. For some time past, however, he has been exceedingly low spirited on account of the depreciation in the value of real estate. Yesterday afternoon he left the house shortly after dinner, and toward evening his wife became anxious.

A search was made for him, and his wife found him in the loft of the stable. His throat was cut from ear to ear, and lying beside him was the razor with which he had committed the deed. He was lying on his side, and appeared to have died without a struggle. Dr. Cross was called in. He thought the man died almost instantly. Dr. Draper was notified, but deemed an inquest unnecessary. Mr Bartlett was fifty seven years old, and leaves a wife, but no children. He had a real estate office directly opposite the depot at Jamaica Plain, and was one of the most influential men in the West Roxbury district.

School Days

Hopkins, G.M. 1874 ( copyright © 2000 by Cartography Associates)
David Rumsey Collection

This entry was taken from the classified section of the Boston Globe. Much has been written about the Boston Public school system, usually beginning with Boston Latin school. Usually lost in the discussion is the fact that much of today's Boston was not part of the city when Boston Latin was founded. Jamaica Plain was part of Roxbury until seceding as part of the Town of West Roxbury in 1851. Then, at the same time the school below was advertising, West Roxbury voted to be annexed to Boston. At the time, there were few schools in Jamaica Plain, and private schools were a common choice. My impression is that girls often went to private schools until annexation to Boston made free public education available. This school was clearly aimed the children of the well-to-do, and it sounds like they were marketing to Boston proper as well as Jamaica Plain locals. The map above was published the same year. Although May Street isn't labeled, it runs between Pond and Centre Streets. Don't be confused - there was no Arborway at the time.

Boston Daily Globe September 19, 1872

Jamaica Plain Collegiate And Commercial Institute On Pond Street, Opposite May Street.

Preparation for Business, College, Ladies' Institutes, American and European Universities, Civil, Military and Naval Service. A separate room for each class. Also, a Primary Department for young children.

PRIVATE LESSONS to ladies and gentlemen at the Institute or their own residences in Boston and vicinity.

LANGUAGES: French, German, Italian, English, Latin, etc.

SUMMER AND WINTER BOARD on moderate terms. Spacious, healthy, and delightfully situated play-grounds (about three acres), at a short distance from Jamaica Pond, permit various exercises in the open air, such as Horseback, Gymnastic, Swimming, Hunting: also; Field Games, which offer ample opportunities for the practice of FRENCH CONVERSATION, in addition to daily study,frequent Readings, Parlor Games, "Conferences Literaires," and performing of French Plays.

Apply at the JAMAICA PLAIN COLLEGIATE AND COMMERCIAL INSTITUTE on Pond street, opposite May street. Steam-cars from the Providence Railroad train-house, foot of Eliot street. Fare: One dollar for 12 tickets. Stage from the Jamaica Plain station to the Institute, Fare one dollar for 14 tickets. Horse-cars every half-hour from Tremont House, Boston, to the Soldier's Monument, Centre street, Jamaica Plain - a short way from May street.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

You Can't Shout Fire In A Movie Theatre

The Strand marquee (formerly the Emmett) is visible in the middle of this picture.

I had never heard of the Emmett Theatre before I found this article. The building wasn't there in 1905, but is shows up on this map. It stood on the south corner of Centre Street and Starr Lane. I wish they told us what was playing that day.

Boston Daily Globe May 4 1912

Prevents Fire-Panic By Ruse

Manager Finds Roof of Theatre Ablaze.

Dismisses Audience on Plea Picture Machine Is Broken.

People Amazed on Seeing Engines Working Outside.

Prompt action by the firemen and the coolness of the manager, Arthur Thompson, prevented the possibility of a panic when the roof of the Emmett Theatre, Jamaica Plain, took fire about 4:30 yesterday.

Mr Thompson first became aware of the danger on smelling smoke. Leaving the hall quietly so as not to disturb the audience, largely women and children, he walked out into the street, but could see no signs of fire there. His fears allayed, he started back into the building and up into the hall by a rear stairway. There he saw smoke issuing through cracks in the roof.

He ran downstairs and across the street to the house of Engine 42 and notified the firemen. A fireman who was seated at the window had seen the smoke at the same time and he hastened to notify the officer at the patrol box.

Returning to the hall, Mr Thompson found the moving picture operator reeling off the last picture of the performance and told him of the fire, and he promptly stopped the machine, cutting the picture short. Mr Thompson stepped forward on the stage and informed the audience that the moving picture machinery was out of order and that he would unfortunately be obliged to close the performance at once.

The people, a trifle disappointed, but not suspecting danger, quietly left the building, and were greatly surprised when they reached the street to see the fire apparatus pouring streams of water on the blazing roof.

The fire was quickly extinguished and the damage was slight.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

No Radar Gun Here!

The date of this story makes it interesting. When did they change from "autoist" to "motorist"?

Boston Daily Globe October 5, 1908

Many Caught In Auto Trap

Police Keep Watch on Arborway Course.

Threaten With Arrest Persons Who Warned Autoists.

Fourteen to Face Court on Speeding Charges.

The automobile trap in the Arborway at Forest Hills was in excellent working order yesterday, and during its operation by Sergts Gilman and hennessey of division 13, Jamaica Plain, assisted by patrolmen Forbes and Egan, 14 alleged violators of the speed rules in parks were gathered in.

The one-eighth mile trap is located in a particularly dangerous part of the parkway. It is down grade across South St, dips under the bridge of the NY,NH & H railroad, and then the autoist is compelled to cross the tracks of the elevated railroad in Washington St under the elevated structure.

The trap was set at 9:30 and was worked until 11:15. For a time the officers had no difficulty in catching violators. A crowd of spectators took positions of vantage to watch the officers.
After a while the police noticed that, although there were just as many autos on the Arborway, the operators had a wise look in their eyes and all of them were moving at a speed less than 10 miles an hour.

Sergt Hennessey sent for the police auto and with patrolman Fred Brauer as chauffeur rode through the Arborway to Centre St, where he discovered a crowd of young fellows who were warning autoists of the trap.

It took Sergt Hennessey and patrolman Brauer but a short time to break up the crowd of informers, with the threat that if they caught them doing the same thing again they would arrest them.

Later Sergt Gilman got into the police auto and by a roundabout route reached the arborway near Centre St. On his way through the parkway road a man came out of the bushes, waved his hand to Sergt Gilman, who was in citizen's dress, and warned him "Look out, the police are working a trap at the top of the hill."

The informer was told to go on his way or he would be arrested for interfering with the duty of a police officer. He ran as fast as he could till out of sight. But those autoists who had been caught in the Arborway trap had many of them gone back over the parkway roads and informed other autoists of the operating of the trap, and business was soon after suspended for the day by the officers.

The autoists who were held up will probably appear in the municipal court at Jamaica Plain some time this week. All were residents of the state, so no arrests were made.


I thought I added this to the picture in the last post: copyright © 2000 by Cartography Associates. The print is from the David Rumsey collection, and is available at

Friday, October 26, 2007

Foreign Labor, 1887 Style

The Boston Thread Works was between the railroad tracks and Washington Street at Keyes Street (that's McBride Street now). In the picture taken from a bird's-eye-view map of Jamaica Plain published by O.H. Bailey in 1891, it is on the left, marked 17 (open the full size picture to see the number). Ross & Turner was the sales agent for Boston Thread and Twine, so the names are confusing. They were across the street from what later became the Boston Gas company building, which became Jamaica Plain High School, and then English High School. The present buildings at the site do not appear to be from the Thread Works era.

Boston Globe August 29, 1887

Imported Female Labor.

Alleged Violations of United States Law.

Irish Flax Spinners Contracted to Boston Twine Manufacturers.

Five Girls Detained on the Catalonia by the Emigration Commissioner.

Information was recently received at The Globe office that a firm of twine manufacturers in this city was conducting a wholesale importation of foreign female help, and that for several weeks past Scotch and Irish factory girls ranging all the way from 17 to 30 years of age, in parties of from five to 10 each, have been arriving by Cunard steamers. It was reported that 60 operatives arrived by the same line of steamers two weeks ago, having a contract to work for a twine firm in Ludlow. It was also reported that five more girls were expected to arrive Saturday on the Catalonia.

As a similar case charged against a Providence firm a short time ago excited much interest, such importation being illegal, a Globe reporter was sent to investigate the matter.
The firm in question is that of Ross, Turner & Co., manufacturers of thread and twine, with a factory at Jamaica Plain. About 125 hands are employed, and at least 25 of this number are foreign female operatives, who have been in this country but a few months. They are rapidly learning the methods of manufacture and are superseding the "Yankees" as they call them. They are from the north of Ireland and Scotland, and are considered skilled laborers. They were induced to come to this country by the promise of good wages, to perform the same labor they have been accustomed to in the factories at home. It has been represented to them that their steamship passage was paid by friends in this country, who sent them tickets: but it is said the firm has paid it through their agent, Samuel G. Rea, and $1 per week has been deducted from their slender earnings by the firm until the full amount of the passage money, $21.25, has in each case been paid. Ninety cents per day and certain kinds of work were promised them, but it is estimated that less than half of them are receiving that amount, the balance being obliged, till places are mode for them, to put up with 85 cents, and in a few instances the youngest among them receive only the paltry sum of 80 cents per day.

The kind of labor has been objected to, and two weeks ago when a certain piece of work was assigned to them to do, which the Yankees had refused, they struck in a body. The difficulty was quickly adjusted and they only remained out one day, receiving a promise of different work. It has been given out that skilled laborers were required and that none could be obtained in this country; but the fact that they are required to do the same work as others already employed would seem to disprove the statement. The business is practically a monopoly, as in addition to the two above-named places there are but a few factories located in New York city, Patterson N.J., and in Ohio.

A call was made last evening on several of the operatives at Jamaica Plain. The first seen were two sisters, one 19 years of age, the other 21. The conversation was addressed to the youngest, who was barefooted with the merest apology for a dress. She said she was from the north of Ireland, and had done flax spinning since she was 10 years old. "I have been in this country for only a few weeks, and was induced to come here with my sister and a few other friends by an agent of the company, who promised us 90 cents per day and steady work. Tickets were furnished for our passage over here and 91 cents each week was to be deducted from our earnings by the company, but you see it will take five months for me to pay them, and it leaves me nothing to send to my folks at home, who are dependant on me for help. I am more fortunate than some and get $5.10 per week. My board costs me $2.50 and taking out the dollar for my passage, it leaves me $1.60 per week. Some girls I know have only $1.30 left a week.
"The work is not what I expected, and I shall only stay here till I pay the firm and then hire out for housework or go back home, where I made better wages than I can here. Besides, the hours are longer. I do not think the girls are treated fairly, and wish something could be done to prevent others from coming here.

Inquiries about a number of others elicited about the same replies, all being emphatic in denunciation of the firm and anxious to obtain other work.

[The article goes on to describe a search of passengers on an arriving steamship.]


I found it interesting that these young women were not helpless victims. They were willing to walk off the job, and ready to go back home if necessary. Of course, the desire on the part of companies for foreign labor hasn't changed, has it?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Not a Neighborhood

In my first post on this Jamaica Plain blog, I just wanted to get that off my chest. Jamaica Plain is not a neighborhood. Hyde Square, yes; Forest Hills, sure. But Jamaica Plain is not a neighborhood any more than the town of Walpole is a neighborhood. A neighborhood is where the people you know live. It's the place your children play, and the the stores you walk to. When I saw that the City of Boston web site was calling Jamaica Plain and Dorchester neighborhoods, I knew that the carpetbaggers had taken over. Let's get this clear, City Hall; Dorchester, Hyde Park and West Roxbury is where the neighborhoods are, not what the neighborhoods are.

Now that I've purged that pet peeve, on with the show!

Here's an item from the Boston Globe, December 3 1908

Cow Tramples On Meredith

Animal Runs Amuck in Jamaica Plain.

Charges Would-Be Captors With Lowered Horns.

Last Seen Going Toward Franklin Park.

A black and white cow ran amuck yesterday noon in the heart of Jamaica Plain, knocking down at least one person, demolishing fences and causing a panic on the streets of the district.
Jeremiah Meredith of 15 Call st, Jamaica Plain, was trampled on by the infuriated animal on Williams st, near the railroad bridge of the New York, New Haven & Hartford railroad and his head was badly cut. A report that a woman was attacked by the cow at the corner of Blue Hill av and Seaver st the police were unable to verify.

The cow was first seen acting in a peculiar manner on Rockview st, Jamaica Plain, about noon. Its antics soon attracted the attention of people on the streets, and some men endeavored to catch the animal: but when the cow reared and kicked and charged at them with horns lowered most of them went on their way.

Some however, followed the vicious animal as she nimbly jumped fences and tore at furious speed through yards of houses making her exit from the enclosures by breaking down other fences.

As the infuriated cow was passing through Williams st, followed by a large number of men, women and children, who gave it a wide berth, Jeremiah Meredith endeavored to intercept its flight. He put his arms about the cow's neck, in an effort to hold her, but the cow shook him off and then trampled on him as he lay in the street, cutting his head severely.Patrolman O'Brien of division 13 at this moment appeared on the scene, but the cow continued its wild run though Williams st toward Franklin park, while the police officer assisted Mr Meredith to his home.
Who the cow belongs to, whence she came or whither she disappeared are still mysteries to the police of the Jamaica Plain station. It is thought the animal may have been bitten by a dog affected with rabies.


So did you know that there were cows in Jamaica Plain in 1908? Neither did I.