Saturday, May 31, 2008

When Jamaica Plain Was Dry

Boston Daily Globe February 19, 1921

Jamaica Plain Police Prosecute Cleanup

The liquor squad of the Jamaica Plain station spent the greater part of yesterday in the West Roxbury District Court.

Vincent Zambelli and Thomas L. Williams, charged with an illegal sale of whisky to a police officer at the barber shop, 736 Centre st on Feb. 7, were fined $50 each. They appealed.

Martin Costello and William Connolly, charged with an illegal sale at 3008 Washington st on Feb 7, were also fined $50 each. They appealed.

In the late afternoon, Federal Enforcement Agents Rogers and McNulty, wiht Sergt Healy and Sergt Fitzpatrick and Patrolman Foley, visited the store of Thomas Normile, 169 Lamartine st. The police claim that when they entered the clerk succeeded in breaking a bottle containing what they supposed was liquor. No liquor was found.

They then visited the store of John J. O'Connor, 430 Amory st, where they claim to have seized 2 1/2 gallons of liquor.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Dancing In The Streets

Boston Daily Globe August 25, 1920

Dance In Street In Jamaica Plain

Fully 10,000 Enjoy the Innovation in District

The novelty of dancing in the street to the strains of a jazz band was provided for residents of Jamaica Plain last night by the Boylston Hall Recreation Center, and fully 10,000 persons, men, women and children, enjoyed the innovation.

Visitors to the roped-off area of Amory st, between Minton and Porter sts, were not confined to the residents of the district and all who came were welcome to participate. The affair was voted as unqualified success.

Amory st, where the dance was held, has an asphalt surface, as smooth as a dance hall floor, and this was covered with cornmeal, which accentuated the smoothness of the surface, No additional lights were provided, as the arc lights used for lighting the street are of sufficient power.

Miss Elizabeth Paine, director of the Center, and Mayne Holdsworth, physical director, were in charge of the dancing, assisted by a committee of 50 men and women.

The Jamaica Plain Town team, the West Roxbury champions and the Jugaleers of West Roxbury, were special guests of the evening. Several candidates for political office appeared during the evening, but no addresses were made. Dancing continued from 7:30 till 11.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Charles Ponzi - The Jamaica Plain Connection

The following is part of a larger article from the Boston Globe. I'll assume the reader is familiar with the name Charles Ponzi and the eponymous investment scam, so I'm posting just the Jamaica Plain content of a larger article. I think it's fair to say that ice cream was the last thing the Italian Children's Home ever saw from Mr Ponzi. Within two weeks of the fund-raiser described below he was under arrest.

Boston Daily Globe August 1, 1920

Ponzi Won't Reveal His Method At Present

Promises to Give $100,000 to Italian Children's Home


Charles Ponzi, standing on the steps of the Italian Children's Home at Jamaica Plain yesterday afternoon, told Rev Fr Pasqule Di Milla, one of the directors, that he would subscribe $100,000 to the home as soon as he could arrange to meet the board of directors of the institution. He added that he would give the money in memory of the late Maria Gnecco of this city, Mrs Ponzi's mother.

The event which attracted Mr and Mrs Ponzi to the home was the field day of Ausonia Council, Knights of Columbus, held on the grounds in aid of the institution. Ponze spent his money freely at the various booths and supplied every woman and child with ice cream at his expense.

The affair in itself was a great success, to which the good work of the committee, headed by Felix Mrcell, GK, assisted by Paul Perotti, Rocco Leone, and members of Ausonia Council and ladies' Italian societies contributed largely.

The guests of honor included Rev Fr Anthony Sousa, Rev Fr Pasquale Di Milla, Rev Fr Daniels and Rev Fr Cosma.

Ponze left the grounds early in the evening and was given a rousing ovation as his limousine drew away.

For The Love Of Poultry

It's always good to see a local boy do good, even if in hindsight. Donald Rust seems to have lived at the Bacon estate on Pond street overlooking Jamaica Pond. This 1924 map shows the property, which aligns with the address in a Google Maps search.

This article raises a question I've been curious about: when and why did West Roxbury/Jamaica Plain high school start offering an agricultural program? Agricultural courses were offered when my parents and uncles attended the school in the late 1930s and 1940s, and were still offered at the time my brother was at Roslindale high school in the mid-1960s. This earlier entry shows no agriculture instructors in 1906, but the article below has a poultry course offered in 1921. I have wondered whether the presence of the Bussey Institute nearby influenced the agricultural course offerings in Jamaica Plain, but the Bussey undergraduate program in agriculture and landscaping had probably ended by the time the high school started its program.

So I'm still left wondering: why an ag course in JP? It seems to have started just after most of the great estates of Jamaica Plain had been divided up into the house lots we see now, and long after local farming had ceased to be a going concern. More digging to do.

Boston Daily Globe April 17, 1921

Hens Make Him Champion Donald Rust of Jamaica Plain Boston's Prize Poultry Raiser -- Will Make Poultry His Life Work After Going to College

If you wish to be a successful raiser of poultry you must love the hens and chickens, and the roosters too.

So says Donald W. Rust, the 17 year old schoolboy champion poultry raiser of Suffolk County, who has just won his spurs as the best poultry raiser in the Suffolk County Poultry Club by his brood of 15 prize hens. He won the sweepstakes prize and also the first prize for the champion of the county.

"You must take as much care of hens and chickens," he says, "as mothers do of their babies. That is what makes hens lay and what keeps them in good health and cheerful about their business in life. Feeding them properly, along scientific lines, is necessary and their living quarters must be as carefully cleaned and attended to as the rooms of the best hotel."

Donald knows, too, for when he is through with his classes at the West Roxbury High School he is going to enroll among the students at the Massachusetts Agricultural college at Amherst and become, after a four-year course, an expert poultry raiser, which he will make his life job.

Champion of the County

This schoolboy champion poultry fancier lives at 262 Prince st, Jamaica Plain, where his father is gardener on a large estate. Donald has little room for even his small brood of hens, but he has made the most of his space and has succeeded in raising the best hens in Suffolk County.

This boy has been exhibiting his hens for a long time, and in most cases he carries off prizes. His champion hen took the winning trophy at the Junior Boston Poultry Show, and he has won several prizes at poultry shows at Lynn, Chelsea and at the Eastern States Exhibition at Springfield. Last Winter he went to New York to visit the poultry show in Madison Square Garden, but did not exhibit his hens.

All his hens are barred Plymouth Rocks and his prizes have been won by the perfect shape, color and excellence of their feathers.

Boys from the West Roxbury High School won all the prizes in the recent awards of the Suffolk County Poultry Club. Young Rust, who is a third-year pupil at the school, was named champion poultry raiser of the county. Harold W. Fraser, another pupil, won the second prize. Other boys in the school who received honorable mention were William Budge, Kenneth Steere, Joseph O'Donnell and Malcolm and Kenneth Craig.

Donald Rust has been raising hens for the past four years and has, meanwhile, been studying the scientific end of poultry raising under Thomas P. Dooley. Rust, according to his instructor, is a probable candidate for the State championship next year, when he will be a student at the Amherst Agricultural College. This year he has won over $60 in prizes at various poultry shows.

Going to Have a Real Farm

All the boys raise their chicks and buy their feeds under the supervision of Mr Dooley and are encouraged in the work by contests in the school as well as outside contests and shows.

At present there is an egg laying contest at the school, with bags of feed for prizes.

"If I only had more room," he says, "I am sure I could do much better with my hens. I should like to have hundreds instead of only 15. Sometime, after I have learned all there is to know about the business, I am going to have a real farm and go into the business of raising the best hens in the country. That is the work I love and I am going to make it my life work. There is plenty of money in it if one goes about it scientifically."

At the time of the recent county contest, young Rust had made a profit of $187.58 for the year from his 15 birds. His award for winning the championship will be a week at Amherst this Summer with all expenses paid.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tying Up Loose Ends

106-108 Chestnut avenue, from Forbes street. May, 2008.

Richards, L.J. 1899 (copyright © 2000 by Cartography Associates)
David Rumsey Collection

In an earlier entry, I posted an advertisement from the Cundy-Bettoney musical instrument company. The company manufactured flutes and clarinets and other instruments, and listed an address of 106 Chestnut avenue. I waited for some good weather to drive down to Chestnut avenue and poke around, looking for any evidence of the factory. I parked at the other end of Chestnut avenue and walked north looking for number 106. What I found was the building in the photo above. Number 106 is on the left, connected to 108 by a brick separating wall. The building certainly doesn't look like a standard home in the district, and I was pretty well convinced that I had found the old C-B factory.

When I got home with the photo, I took a look at some old maps of the area, including the one shown above. It turned out that 106 Chestnut avenue was right in the middle of the old Massachusetts Infant Asylum, which I've posted about before. Comparing the photo of the current building and the footprint of the Asylum building, they look very similar but not quite the same. The Asylum building is longer, and the front doesn't quite match up, but the general position is much the same. If you cut off the north wing of the Asylum - the top in the map - the look very close. If you look at this 1924 map, (upper right) you'll see that the Asylum building seems to have been added on to, and now looks very similar to the building in the photo.

So the take-home message is that I believe the Massachusetts Infant Asylum was purchased by Cundy-Bettoney for their musical instrument factory. In the maps, the building seems further away from the street than the current building, but the match is too good to let that impression sway me. So, in one fell swoop, I've figured out what happened to both the Asylum and Cundy-Bettoney - they survive to this day as housing. Not bad for a spring day's work.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Jamaica Plain Honors Its Heroes

Elm and Gordon sts., 6/2008.

Boston Daily Globe October 13, 1921

Jamaica Plain Pays Honor To Its Heroes

Veterans and Civil Societies Dedicate Four Squares

Broughton, Farnham, O'Gorman and Lieut Carr Eulogized

Jamaica Plain ex-service men, societies and citizens turned out 2000 strong yesterday afternoon for the dedication of four squares, named for four boys from their section, who made the supreme sacrifice in the World War.

The ceremonies were under the auspices of Michael J O'Connell Post, A.L., John W. Murphy Post, V.F.W., Jamaica Plain Council, K. of C. the Boy Scouts, a company of sailors from the U.S.S. Addroscoggin, the Central Club. the Eliot Club, the United Spanish War Veterans and the G.A.R. joined in the procession marching from square to square.

The first to be dedicated was Broughton sq at Gordon and Elm sts, in honor of Corp Harry Broughton of the (?) Field Artillery, son of Dr Harry Broughton. Broughton died in France Oct 8, 1918. At the exercises the Rev Charles H. Williams, pastor of the Central Congregational Church, Rev Dr A.Z. Conrad, pastor of the Park street Church and Maj Frederick Bauer, were the speakers.

The next was J. Harold Farnham sq at Elm and Everett sts, in memory of the young man whose name it bears, who was killed while fighting along with British aerial service in France. Rev John P. Chaffee, Dean Lord of Boston University and Rev Bailey Lipsky of Barre, Vt. delivered addresses.

At the junction of Centre and May and the Parkway, Lieut John Thomas Carr sq was named. Carr served in the United States Navy in the Spanish War and was a lieutenant on the U.S.S. Tampa, when it was torpedoed off the English Coast and he lost his life. Ex-Mayor James M. Curley, Rev Fr McNamara and Rt Rev Mgr Edward J. Moriarty of St Thomas Church made addresses.

At Pond and Prince sts and the Arborway, Matthew Edward O'Gorman sq was dedicated. Wilfred I Kelley DDSK of the Knights of Columbus told of the valor of O'Gorman, who not content with clerical work as chief sea man in the Navy, asked for foreign service and was killed with the bombing(?) squad on the Belgium front, Aug (?) 1918. Mr Curley and Mgr Moriarty also spoke.

Commander J. Edward M(?) of O'Connell Post, A.L. and Commander George Ainsworth of John W. Murphy Post, V.F.W. headed large committees from their organizations in (?) the arrangements.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

John B. Steeves, WWI Casuality Honored

Click on the photo to read the inscription.

A Memorial Day note: I was walking at Green and Washington streets today and noticed a sign proclaiming John B. Steeves Square on the corner opposite the police station.

Boston Daily Globe May 15, 1922

Honor Man Slain At Chateau Thierry

John B. Steeves of Fifth Marines Buried

Jamaica Plain Youth Enlisted Day After America Entered War

Funeral services for John Burton Steeves of the 5th Regiment of the United States Marine Corps, who was killed at Chateau Thierry on June 6, 1918, were held yesterday afternoon in Curtis Hall, the Municipal Building of Jamaica Plain. Rev Wilfred Harrison, pastor of the Ramsay Congregational Church of Dorchester, officiated.

Several thousand people lined the streets as the body, on a caisson from the Commonwealth Armory, passed on its way to its final resting place in Mr Hope Cemetery.

The line included delegations from the Michael J. O'Connor Post, American Legion; also the band from the Cecil W. Fogg Post, delegations from Veterans of Foreign Wars Post, from Carpenters' Local 67, led by a Spanish War veteran, from the Massachusetts Marine Corps Association and from Troop A, 110th Calvary. There was also a detail of pallbearers from the Marines attached to the Navy Yard, and a firing squad of Marines, which did final honors at the grave.

Burton was one of the first Jamaica Plain boys to enlist, having entered the service the day after America entered the war.

While returning from the funeral, James A. Johnson, aged 23, of 10 Garfield st, Jamaica Plain, was seriously injured when, in attempting to mount the rear seat of the caisson, his foot slipped, causing him to roll under the wheels, one of which passed over his body. He was sent to the City Hospital. Doctors found he had suffered a fracture of one rib and also that his right lung had been punctured. The accident happened in South st, near Arborway.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Achorn: Honored Lawyer and Dead-End Street

As a follow-up to the previous entry, this post identifies the source for the name of a small dead-end street that was probably part of the 19th-century White estate. Achorn Circle is off the west side of South street, between Bardwell and Custer streets. Mr Achorn lived on South street at the head of what would become Achorn circle in 1896, as shown in this map. At the time, in place of Bardwell street you see Hathaway street turning the corner from Centre to South street around the Weld estate.

Boston Daily Globe July 15, 1922

Edgar O. Achorn Honored By Sweden Decorated With Order of Vasa by King

At a dinner held in his honor at the Copley-Plaza Hotel, last evening, Edgar O. Achorn of Jamaica Plain was decorated with the Order of Vasa, at the instance of His Majesty, the King of Sweden. Olof H. Lamin, the Royal Swedish Consul General, conferred the decoration

In the presentation speech Mr Lamin said that he considered it a high honor to be allowed to transmit this decoration, which was conferred upon Mr Achorn for the high esteem in which he is held for the work he has done to help the Government of Sweden.

Upon receiving the decoration Mr Achorn replied to the Consul General: "I am confident that the business of no consulate, taken as a whole, either of Sweden or of any other country, has been handled with greater dispatch, greater fidelity to the interests of its nationals, greater success that this business of the Boston Consulate. May I ask that you will cause to be expressed to His Majesty, through the channels of the department, my deep sense of appreciation of the great honor he has done me, my grateful thanks for the same and my wish for his long continued health and happy reign."

Mr Achorn has been the legal adviser for the Swedish Consulate here in Boston for over 15 years.

Among those present were Vice consul Carl W. Johansson, Dr Ivan Contervall, A. Konrad Johnson and Sanford Bates, law partner of Mr Achorn and Commissioner of Corrections.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The White Estate

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

I'm always curious about street names. We take them for granted, but at one time they were important to someone, if only as a vanity affair. In this case, house lots were carved out of the White estate on the west side of South street, south of today's Bardwell street. The map above is from 23 years after the auction, and shows two sections of a White street. Poor Mr White was lost to local memory by 1885 when a map show the streets were renamed Custer and Woodman streets.

This little section of map also shows some other lost names. Keyes street - spelled Key on the map - was changed to McBride to honor a WWI casualty. Walker street was changed to Sedgwick (perhaps in honor of the unfortunate General John Sedgwick), and Starr street became Call street after John M. Call.

Auction of lots on the White estate, May 31, 1851 (added 10/22/2008). (click on the plan to see a larger, legible version).

Boston Daily Atlas June 7, 1851

Sale of Real Estate -- A Dwelling House and Twenty-nine Lots of Land, forming part of the White estate, at Jamaica Plain, adjoining the residence of Stephen M. Weld, Esq, were sold at auction by Loring, Porter & Co., yesterday afternoon.The house and 11,000 feet of land brought $3425; -- 2 lots sold at 10 cts. per foot; -- one at 8 cts; -- one at 6 1/2; -- one at 5 1/2; -- one at 4 1/2; 2 at 4 1/3; -- one at 3 3/4; -- 2 at 3 3/16; -- one at 2 3/8; -- one at 2 1/4; -- 3 at 1 7/8; -- 3 at 1 3/4; --5 at 1 1/8; -- 2 at 1 1/4 cts.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Bull For Sale

The gentlemen farmers of Jamaica Plain took part in the agricultural improving efforts of their time. Here, Capt. John Prince returns as a member of the Massachusetts Society for Promoting Agriculture. The bull being disposed of was called an Alderney at the time. This name was used in England to refer to cows coming from either the Channel Islands or from the nearby French coast. Alderney was the closest shipping point to England, and the English did not distinguish animals from particular islands at the time. Similar animals are now known as the Jersey breed, the name coming from another of the Channel islands. They were are are still favored for the high butterfat content of their milk. Perhaps this was one of the first Alderney/Jersey cows to be imported to Massachusetts and the United States.

American Federalist Columbian Centinel October 11, 1823

Alderney Bull for sale.

The very fine full blood ALDERNEZ(sic) BULL, which was presented to the Massachusetts Society for promoting Agriculture, by John Hubbard, Esq. This breed is considered in England, as superior for the richness of their milk, making considerable more butter from the same quantity of milk, than any other breed. He is now two years and three months old, is in fine health, and a gentle animal, and may be seen at the farm of John Prince, Esq. Jamaica Plain, Roxbury. For terms of sale, which will be very liberal, apply to JOHN LOWELL, Esq or said PRINCE, of Roxbury.

If the above animal is not previously disposed of, he will be at the Public Sale at Brighton on THURSDAY 16th October, at 12 o'clock.

Roxbury, 30th Sept. 1823

Source: The Alderney Cow.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

From Baronet to Prince

In an earlier entry, we saw how Captain John Prince sought to put a street through his property, from Pond to Perkins streets. The estate probably ran from Perkins street on the Brookline side of the pond, south and east to today's Arborway. The advertisements below give us a view of how the property changed hands, from the Colonial Governor, Sir Francis Bernard, to businessman Martin Brimmer, and from Brimmer to Captain Prince, the buyer of the Brimmer estate.

Just a thought... why did afternoon survive, but beforenoon disappear from the lexicon?

The Independent Ledger and the American Advertiser

May 17, 1779

[Excerpted from a larger article]

And on TUESDAY the first day of June next, at 11 o'Clock, beforenoon will be sold in the same manner, A large Mansion-House, with Out-Houses, Gardens, Orcharding, and about 50 Acres of rich Land, lying in the Town of Roxbury, about four miles from Boston; beautifully situated on the Border of Jamaica Pond; being lately the Country-Seat of Sir Francis Bernard, Baronet.

At the same Time and Place, will be sold,

Two Lots of Wood-Land, containing about 15 acres, and also, a Piece of Salt Marsh, containing about 3 Acres, belonging to said Estate; all lying in Roxbury aforesaid.

The Sale to be on the Premises.

The Repertory March 18, 1806

To be sold at Publick Auction,

On TUESDAY 1st of April next,

The whole or part as may suit purchasers,

The Seat of the late Martin Brimmer, Esq, situated in Roxbury -- consisting of a Mansion House, large barn, Ice House, Hot House, and about 46 acres of Land, encircling near one third of Jamaica Pond. An opportunity like the present is seldom offered to the gentleman of taste, to furnish himself with a retreat, combining such advantages of distance, prospect, fruit, shade and water. And extensive Garden, improved by 20 years cultivation and supplied with the choicest fruit, will be justly appreciated by those who have witnessed the trouble and expense of similar improvements -- Terms liberal. -- Sale at 12 o'clock.

T.K. JONES & Co.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Joe Downey - A Need For Speed

Joe Downey of Jamaica Plain lived at the right time to catch the bug for speed. He began on bicycles, moved on to automobiles, and if the last article below is to be believed, moved on to airplanes. I can't find any more references to Joe online, so we can't be sure for now whether he ever made it into the air. He certainly had the classic daredevil spirit of the time - one can imagine him in a leather jacket, and perhaps a scarf and goggles. If you know anything about Joe Downey, please let me know.

Boston Daily Globe July 16, 1899

Mile in 1.16 2/5. Joe Downey's Wonderful Ride at Norwood. On the State Highway He Makes Two Attacks on Record. First Attempt Results in 1m 25s Flat. Second Pushes the Mark Down Further. Paced by Motor Tandem -- Timed by Three Watches.

One mile in 1 minute 16 2-5s, paced by a motor tandem without wind shields or other contrivences, is the record redden by Joe Downey, the diminutive cyclist, on the mile straightaway course on the state road at Norwood Yesterday.

This is the fastest mile ever ridden by a cyclist except that behind a locomotive by Murphy, who had a shed and a suction strip to protect him from the wind. Since Downey is only 16 years of age, it may be said safely that not only has the limit of pacing machines not been reached, but the limit of riders is certinly some years away.

[cut ride details]

Downey is 16 years old, and lives in Jamaica Plain. He is already a middle-distance rider of prominence, although last year he was only considered a comer in the amateur ranks.

May 31, 1906

Smash At Readville Downey Hurled From Car. It Turns Over and Falls on Him. Next Hurls Him Against Fence, Then He Gets Up. Racing Motorists Make Fast Time.

Joe Downey, driving a 90-horse power Mercedes rcer, furnished the spectators at the Bay State A.A. races at Readville yesterday afternoon with a thrill that will last them for a long while. That he was not killed or seriously injured seemed a marvel to those who witnessed the hair-raising spectacle as his racer crashed into another car, turned upside down and caught fire.

Downey took the care out on the track to tune it up in prepartio for his two special match races. Because of the bad weather of the last few dys he was unable to give it a trial and get it working properly. The big machine had been taken apart when he brought it from Ormond, and it was only a few days ago that he put it together. So he had to give it a warming up.

The track was clear when he sped around shortly after 2, but a few minutes later some cars were sent down to the starting point. When Downey had got to the three-quarter mark he let the car out a bit, and as he swung into the stretch he saw another car on the track, owned by S.W. Boyson. The space between the car and the fence was not very wide, and Downey had to go through it.

His racer skidded, struck the other car, ripped off the forward wheel of that machine and sent it flying. The next moment Downey was flying in the air, landing 15 feet away; his car turned upside down and dropped on him, smashed into the fence, tearing away the stakes for 20 feet, and rolled off Downey onto the track. The gasoline caught fire in a moment, and started to burn.

When the car struck the fence there was a yell from hundreds of spectators as many of them rushed away from the scene. They feared an explosion of the gasoline tank. Others rushed on the trackand ran to Downey's assistance, but he was on his feet before the people realized it. He brushed himself and assured the anxious ones that he was all right. Meanwhile people began throwing sand, dirt and grass on the car to smother the flames, and in a few minutes it was put out and the car taken from the track.

[article continues]

October 18, 1910
Downey Takes Up Aviation. Jamaica Plain man Leaves for Mineola and Plans to Make a Flight in the Near Future.

Joe Downey of Jamaica Plain, who won renown as a bicyclist and later as a driver of racing automobiles, is to take up aviation.

Downey left for New York yesterday afternoon and will go to the aviation field at Mineola. His machine is a monoplane of the Bleriot type, equipped with an Anzini engine.

Downey, while acting as official chauffeur for the contest committee at the Harvard aviation meet, devoted a great deal of time to the study of aeroplanes and motors.

Those who know Downey predict a brilliant future for him in the aviatio game. He plans to make his first flight in the near future.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Death of Daniel Webster

Were people more civic-minded back in the day? Daniel Webster was an admired orator at a time when oratory meant something. By the time of his death, his reputation had lost some of its luster, but he still rated the closing of schools and businesses, and the wearing of mourning crepe. When was the last time that the natural death of a politician brought out that sort of memorializing?

Boston Daily Atlas October 29, 1852

West Roxbury -- A meeting of the inhabitants of West Roxbury was held at Village Hall, which was presided over by Moses Williams. Appropriate resolutions were passed, and it was resolved that the Selectmen be requested to toll the bells of the town from 12 to 2 o'clock on Friday next, and that a delegation of fifty be appointed to attend the funeral. The School Committee were also requested to close the schools, and the citizens their stores, on the day of the funeral. It was also voted to wear crepe on the left arm for 30 days.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Lost: One Cow. Found: One Frenchman.

A Joseph de Valnais was French Consul in Boston, receiving an honorary degree from Harvard in 1779, and in 1781 marrying Eunice Quincy. I think we can reasonably assume that this Monsieur de Valnais is the same gentleman who placed the advertisement listed below. In the name of international relations, I hope he got his cow back, but I'm left wondering exactly where Parker's tavern was.

Independent Chronicle and Universal Advertiser October 3, 1782

Strayed or stolen from

the subscriber, on Monday the sixteenth of September last, a red Cow, of a middle size, five or six years old, head and tail of a dark colour. Whosoever will take up said Cow, and return her to the subscriber, shall be entitled to to a generous reward, and all reasonable charges paid by Joseph De Valnais, living near Parker's tavern,

Jamaica Plain, October 3 1782

Source: Publication of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts

Friday, May 16, 2008

Moses Williams - Champagne Scoundrel, Or Slandered Man Of Integrity?

The Moses Williams estate stood on Centre street, just beyond today's Holbrook street. The property went quite a way back toward the pond, and would later make up much of the Dunster road properties. He was active in the Unitarian church at Eliot street and in the community. In business, he and J.D. Williams (relationship unknown) were wine and liquor merchants, with offices on State street in Boston.

The entry below comes from 1866, just a year after the end of the Civil War. Mr Moses and Co. seem to have found themselves at the center of a nasty accusations regarding their business interests. The problem is that the article only told one side of the story. With a little more diligence, I was able to find a short book written to refute the charges in detail. With both sources, we still don't know who was telling the truth. The responding book makes much of the integrity of Boston merchants, but the truth is that from colonial times to the China trade, Boston merchants were notorious smugglers. In any case, he had a neat house, and it's a shame they didn't save it as they did the Loring-Greenough house.

The location of the house is shown below. In this 1899 map, you can see how the house and estate disappeared into contemporary Dunster road.

For a view of the property in 1874, go here.

The Pittsfield Sun June 6, 1866

Astounding Frauds and their Outrageous Compromise.

The great Custom House frauds at Boston, of which mysterious notices have, from time to time appeared in the Eastern papers, are fully set forth by a pamphlet by ex-Collector John Z. Goodrich, who was removed from office a few months since, and his opponents have asserted that he and Mr. Tuck, the Naval officer who was also dismissed, lost their places from having been benefited pecuniarily by compromise with the guilty parties. To prove his innocence Mr. Goodrich has entered into a long explanation of the facts. The facts condensed by one of the readers of this pamphlet, as as follows: --

John D. and Moses Williams, heavy importers of wines and liquors had constantly and systematically cheated the Government for nineteen years by means of false invoices on champagne. In 1865 their frauds were suspected, and their books seized. From them abundant evidence was obtained that, at the instigation of the Messers Williams, a French wine maker, L. Roederer, manufacturer of the Schrieder brand of Champagne, invoiced his wines at a rate much below their market value. This invoice was presented at the Custom House, while another of the correct amount was sent to the Williamses. The loss to the Government from this trickery, between 1845 and 1865, exceeded the enormous sum of $2,200,000.

It was also proved that the firm had played a similar game in regard to importations of sherry the frauds in this case amounting to over $25,000. The offences dating more than five years back, could not be punished, by reason of the operation of the statute of limitations and the others the offenders were desirous of compromising. They employed as their agent to wait on the collector one Samuel A. Way. He offered $100,000 as a settlement. This Mr. Goodrich refused, demanding, as he says, from three to five hundred thousand dollars. Finally, the Secretary of the Treasury authorized him to accept the $100,000, exclusive of $25,000 paid to settle the sherry transaction, and discharge the guilty parties.

This settled the question so far as the Williamses were concerned; but it leaked out that Way received, in addition to the $125,000, the sum of $32,000, ostensibly not from his own benefit, but to be used at his discretion. Mr. Goodrich denies that he got any of it, and says he thinks that neither Mr. Tuck nor any other Custon House official, to his knowledge and belief, received any. The inference from this is that either Way pocketed the whole sum or paid it to some persons whose names do not appear.

The whole affair is simply abominable.The swindlers not only cheated the Government during a time when it needed every dollar of revenue it could raise, but regularly perjured themselves on the arrival of a consignment of champagne. For government officials to negotiate with such rascals, through a hired go-between, was outrageous. The additional charges of bribery could hardly render their conduct more odious.

The responding book: A Defence of the Merchants of Boston Against the Aspersions of the Hon. John Z. Goodrich, Ex-Collector of Customs, by Samuel Hooper, 1866.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Blood Drive

Jamaica Plain Citizen, 1944

During the Second World War, the Jamaica Plain Citizen carried the same stories every week. Lists of those who enlisted or were called up in the draft, promotions and honors for serving soldiers, and always the lists of casualties. Also there were the calls for sacrifice on the home front. Civil defence wardens were needed, reminders of rationing and conservation were repeated and as the advertisement above shows, there was always a need for blood. The copy is poor, but shows that the Holtzer-Cabot company from Amory street was sponsoring a blood drive at the time. The level national mobilization during those war years is difficult for us younger people to imagine. Bless them for their sacrifices.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Rev James Freeman Clarke

James Freeman Clarke

Reverend James Freeman Clarke is one of those men who were well known in their own time, but have disappeared from popular knowledge since their day. Clarke was born in 1810 in New Hampshire, and in time became a leading Unitarian minister, a productive writer, a reformer and a friend and peer of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Theodore Parker. After attending Harvard and Harvard Divinity School, he moved to Lexington Kentucky - the "West" at the time - to help spread Unitarianism to the American frontier. In 1841, Clarke and his family moved back to Boston, where he founded a new kind of Unitarian church, serving the Boston area rather than a local community. The Church of the Disciples survived the loss of Freeman for three years to illness, and reformed when he returned. After a failed attempt to revive Brook Farm in West Roxbury, the Clarke family settled in Jamaica Plain in 1856. During the 1860s, During the 1860s, he served on the Massachusetts Board of Education, and was named to the faculty of Harvard Divinity School and the Harvard University Board of Overseers. Clarke was a pioneer of the study of comparative religion. He remained active throughout his life, and died at his home in 1888.

The Clarkes lived in Jamaica Plain on Woodside avenue, between Washington and Forest Hills streets. In this 1874 map, find Egleston square at the top left. Moving down the left side of the map, Woodside avenue is just above Glen road.

Forest Hills Cemetery.

Source: Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biography

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Disappearing Daughters On Jamaica Pond

Skating on Jamaica Pond.

I found this entry in an online version of The Horticulturalist, and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste from 1858. It's interesting to know that they were skating on the pond in March - that's a long winter!

"Winter Ruralities of Boston -- A reliable Boston correspondent gives us a curious and amusing account of the newest winter fashions of the people of that city. It appears they were all crazy on the subject of skating. All the young men and maidens from twelve to twenty-five years old did nothing in March but skate on Jamaica Pond. They say on fine days 5000 might be seen, including the heavy fathers and mothers, who went on the ice to chaperon their daughters. The latter were then hustled by the young men, and skated and slid against until they were all mixed up, when the daughters disappeared in the melee. The Balmoral petticoat was another great feature of the scene. The whole lake was surrounded by the carriages of the wealthy Bostonians from twelve to four o'clock, or high change, and the sight, it is said, was beautiful. There was a great number of excellent skaters among the young ladies who can cut their names backwards; the best skater was the greatest belle, and as for the young men, he who could not cut a ring backwards on the outside skate was nobody. Instead of balls and parties, the whole visiting and gaiety the past season was on the ice. The young men and girls made up parties of fifteen and twenty, and went up Charles River ten miles to some village, where the heavy fathers who had driven out met them, and had a jolly dinner, when young Boston skated back by moonlight, and old Boston dozed back in the coaches. Healthful, all this, for mind and body; but we protest against the treatment of the old folks, and wonder the young ladies should disappear under the circumstances. "

Monday, May 12, 2008

Paul Dudley's Markers

Four, Five and Six Mile Markers, 2008

In 1735, Judge Paul Dudley set out to mark the miles along the main roads that lead from Boston to the surrounding towns. The top marker, fixing mile five from the old Town House in Boston, sits at the Soldier's Monument at Centre and Eliot streets, and is the one I know from my childhood. The lower marker, mile six, gave me some trouble. When I learned that it was placed near Allandale street, I made an effort to find it whenever I drove by. After many unsuccessful attempts to locate it, I gave up and drove to the Arboretum and walked up to the site. Sure enough, there was the marker, set in the wall directly opposite Allandale street. I've looked for the marker at mile four, near Hyde Square, but I haven't been able to find it. I read somewhere that it was lost, but I can't confirm it.

These surviving markers were in place when British soldiers stopped in for drinks at the Peacock Tavern at Centre and Allandale streets. They were there for the Revolutionary War, and for Samuel Adams and John Hancock to see when they lived nearby. Carriages, stage coaches, hourlies, horse streetcars and the first electric streetcars all passed by in their time. Pretty cool if you think about it.

Addendum: With the help of a commenter, I was able to find the 4 mile marker. No wonder I missed it last time - it's right in the front wall of a store front at ground level. I would have walked by there for years without seeing it. It sits opposite Creighton street.

JP Historical Society article.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

He Who Smelt It... (Governor Francis Bernard)

Once upon a time, there were smelts in Jamaica Pond - who knew? This article on the introduction of smelts into the pond makes me wonder what happened to them. Were they fished out? Did they die off naturally? They seemed to have lasted there for many a smelt generation. Smelts naturally live in nearshore ocean waters, moving into fresh water streams to breed in the spring. I do remember a time in the mid-late 1960s when the pond was "reclaimed" - that is, the fish were all poisoned out to remove unwanted "trash" fish, and replace them with more popular game fish. People were walking the banks of the pond, picking up dead fish to take home. I hope the smelts of Jamaica Pond didn't survive that long, only to be poisoned out of existence.

Farmers' Register - 1840


From the Proceedings of the Boston Society of Natural History, 1840.

Dr Storer presented the following report on the fishes referred to him at the last meeting of the society.

The fishes presented to the society at its last meeting, as having been taken from the Jamaica pond, about five miles from the city, are the Osmerus sperlanus, common smelt. You may be surprised at the circumstance of salt water fishes being taken in a fresh water pond entirely disconnected from the sea. During the preparation of my report upon the fishes of Massachusetts, I learned from Benjamin Weld, Esq. of Roxbury, it was generally understood that the smelts found in Jamaica pond, were originally placed there by Governor Bernard Investigating the subject, to procure some data, I met with the following extract, in a note, by Daines Barrington, the then vice president of the Royal Society, to a letter from John Reinhold Foster, "on the management of Carp in Polish Prussia:" "I have been informed by Sir Francis Bernard (the late Governor of New England) that in a large pool which he rented not far from Boston, and which had not the least communication with the sea, several of these fish, originally introduced from the salt water, had lived many years and were, to all appearances, very healthy." As I have never heard of this fish having been taken in any other pond in the neighborhood, there can be but little doubt that the "large pool" referred to in the above note was Jamaica pond. The specimens you perceive are considerably smaller than those purchased in our market - all that I have seen from this pond, for the last year, are smaller than those commonly met with. From the quantities yearly taken, however, they must have increased considerably in number; and their flesh has lost nothing of its sweetness or flavor, as I have repeatedly had opportunities of testing.

[the article leaves Jamaica pond here]

Source: Salt Water Fish Naturalized in Fresh Water Ponds.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Cuban Youth Dies At Jamaica Pond

If you thought that Jamaica Plain's first Latinos arrived in the 1970s, think again. Stephen M. Weld and Charles W. Greene both operated private schools for boys in Jamaica Plain, and both accepted Cuban students. The origin of the Cuban connection is a mystery to me. I assume they came to prepare for Harvard, but how did they find these Jamaica Plain schools from Cuba?

Daily Atlas July 8 1845

We are grieved to state that an interesting youth, Miguel Aranguren, aged 17, from Havana, a pupil at Mr Greene's Academy, Jamaica Plain, was drowned, yesterday after noon, between 5 and 6 o'clock. He had been visiting friends in Boston, and only returned a few minutes, before he repaired to the pond to bathe, and met with his untimely fate. More than half an hour elapsed before his body was recovered. Medical assistance was at hand, and every means employed, for three hours, but in vain. Dr Addison, Surgeon of the Ohio, was passing by, and kindly lent his able efforts. Mr Greene has been employed in education for twenty-six years -- has had more than five hundred young gentlemen under his care, and never but one has died at his house. Those who know his unwearied and parental oversight of the lads committed to his charge, will sympathise with him and his lady in this painful event. The deceased was a young man of full growth, and regarded by all as able to protect himself. The boys of the School are never permitted to bathe alone. The deceased was accompanied by his cousin, a youth of 16.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Charles B. Amory - A Civil War Story

I've been looking for Jamaica Plain's Civil War veterans, and other than the casualties memorialized at the Soldier's Monument, I haven't had much luck. Until now. Meet Charles Bean Amory, of the 24th Massachusetts Volunteers. The Amory name is an old one in Roxbury, memorialized by the street of the same name. I don't know the connection of Charles B. to the original Amory settlers, but during the town of West Roxbury period his family lived in a house on Pond street opposite Jamaica Pond, between Pond and Burroughs streets (there was no Jamaicaway at the time, so in our terms it was between the traffic lights at the pond boathouse and the corner of Burroughs street). The property extended all the way back to Myrtle street in the back, as shown in this map. The father, Jonathan Amory, shows up in the Boston Directory of 1855:

Amory Jonathan, agent Baker's Furnace Co., 28 State, house at Jamaica Plain.

The 1865 listing:

Amory Jonathan, notary public and U. S. Agent, 28 State, house at Jamaica Plain

Charles Amory was born in New York in 1841, and attended school in Jamaica Plain. His service in the Union army is detailed in the autobiographical booklet A Brief Record of the Army Life of Charles B. Amory, written for his children. It's an interesting story, and I highly recommend following the link and reading it through. Terrible battles, an escape from a prison camp and a long trek to Union lines are all described in less than 40 pages. At the end of the war, he became a cotton merchant, working out of New Orleans, and then becoming involved in mills in Massachusetts. In 1911, he was one of six veterans chosen by Governor Foss as part of a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1913. He died in Milton in October of 1919.

Boston Daily Globe October 19, 1919

Maj Chas. B. Amory, Cotton Broker, Dies

Distinguished Civil War Veteran

Milton, Oct. 18 -- Maj Charles B. Amory, a distinguished Civil War veteran and for many years a prominent cotton broker, died suddenly early today at his home on Atherton st. He was 73 years old. Death came while he slept.

Maj Amory was born in New York in 1841, one of his grandparents being Gov James Sullivan of Massachusetts. He attended school in Jamaica Plain and at 17 entered the counting room of B.C. Clark & Co. Commercial Wharf, Boston. When the Civil War started, he had already served two years in the New England Guards and was commissioned first lieutenant in the 24th Massachusetts Volunteers.

He won continued promotion and was finally breveted major for gallantry at Petersburg. He was prisoner in Richmond Jail, but escaped, rejoining the Union forces.

For two years after the war Maj Amory was engaged in the cotton business in New Orleans and in 1868 became a member of the firm, Tabary & Amory, cotton buyers. Until 1885 he engaged in cotton buying and cotton brokerage business in New Orleans in the firms of John A. Burnham & Co and Appleton, Amory & Co.

Coming north he became treasurer of the Hamilton Manufacturing Company of Lowell. He retired in 1909, but continued until his death as a director of the company.

In 1906 he was elected commander of the Massachusetts Military Order of the Loyal Legion. He was one of six veterans from Massachusetts to act on the commission to prepare for the 50th anniversary of Gettysburg in 1913.

Maj Amory had been a junior vice commander of Post 13, G.A.R. and was a member of the Massachusetts Military Historical Society. He also belonged to the Somerset Club in Boston and the Hoosic-Whisic of Milton. His Boston residence was at 241 Commonwealth av.

In 1867 Maj Amory married Miss Emily A. Ferriday of Concordia, La, who died in 1879. In 1881 he married Miss Lily Clapp of New Orleans, who, with their four children survives him.

The children are Charles B. Amory Jr, Mrs Charles E. Perkins of Burlington Ia; John Austin Amory and Rodger Amory.

Additional source: Boston Daily Globe, May 19, 1911

The story of the 24th Regiment, as remembered by surviving members in 1907 can be read here.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

From Francis Bernard To Deval Partrick - A Long Road

Francis Bernard was Colonial Governor at a time when the citizens of Massachusetts were setting themselves firmly against what they saw as misrule by the home country. His summer estate sat somewhere near Pond street, just south of Jamaica Pond. He played a significant role in Revolutionary Boston, but what caught my eye was the passing reference made below.

The following is taken from The Beginnings of the American Revolution, by Ellen Chase.

"Upon the Governor's departure, the Jamaica Plain house was let, and Lady Bernard and the children removed to "Cherry House," near Boston, accompanied by Cato, their black slave, and the negro coachman. "

Add one to the Jamaica Plain slave count.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Play Ball!

These are the first references I can find to sports teams at West Roxbury - later Jamaica Plain - high school. Baseball had been popular for decades by 1901, but apparently high school sports in Boston didn't take off until the dates cited below. It seems as if West Roxbury high was a late-comer to organized teams, but that may have been from a lack of boys. Many boys went to schools like Boston English, which didn't accept girls, and thus funneled off boys from the district schools like West Roxbury and the rest of this new league. All league games were played at Franklin Field in Dorchester, which had been created to keep ballplayers out of Franklin Park.

Surprisingly, West Roxbury high fielded a football team eight years earlier than baseball, and they gave Dedham high a good thrashing.

Boston Daily Globe December 1, 1893

West Roxbury High 12, Dedham High 0.

Dedham, Nov 30 -- About 600 spectators saw the West Roxbury high school team defeat the Dedham high school eleven in a football game on the grounds of the West Roxbury athletic association at Highland today, and by their victory win the silver cup offered by Edward F. Draper of Boston. The Dedham eleven was clearly outclassed as the weight, and, apparently, as to science. The features of the game were the rushes of the West Roxbury eleven; J.D. French's end plays,, center rushes and tackling; the end plays of A.C. Whittemore, Lewis, Conant, Peterson and Easterbrook, and the tackling of Clark, A. French, Meehan, Lewis, Zuner, Currier, A.C. Whittemore, Wight, Chute, Easterbrook, S.R. Williams and Collins. Score, West Roxbury high school 12; Dedham high school 0.

Boston Daily Globe March 20, 1901

Five Schools.

Makeup of New Highland Baseball League.

Organization Effected and a Schedule Arranged.

Great Rivalry Exists Among Its Members.

A new interscholastic baseball league has been formed by Roxbury high school, East Boston high, Charlestown high, Brighton high and West Roxbury high, which will put no less than 16 schools in the various championship series this spring.

The new association will be known as the Highland interscholastic baseball league, and with the preparatory league, which comprises Hopkinson, Cambridge Latin, Boston Latin, Brookline high and Newton high, the interscholastic league, which comprises English high, Cambridge high and Somerville high, and interpreparatory league, which comprises Milton academy, Nobles and Greenough, Volkman and Roxbury Latin, much interest and enthusiasm are promised among the schoolboys.

None of the schools in the Highland league are, or have ever been, members of the Boston interscholastic league, although Roxbury high has been anxious to get into it.

The five teams constituting the Highland league are members of the Highland battalion of the Boston school regiment, and in consequence much rivalry exists among them. Roxbury high has been represented by a fairly strong team for the past six or eight years, but to the other schools little attention has been drawn. Brighton high has shown much interest in athletics during the last year, and there is every indication that the ball team will be as successful as was last fall's football eleven.

Charlestown high, West Roxbury high and East Boston high have a large number of candidates out for their respective teams, and every effort will be made by these schools to get out strong aggregations.

The schools have contributed money for a magnificent silver loving cup, the design for which has been accepted already. This will be offered as the championship emblem, and the school winning it four times will become the permanent holder.

At a recent meeting of the delegates of these schools the following officers were elected: Richie, Charlestown high, pres: McDevitt, Brighton high, vice pres; William A. McCann, Roxbury high, sec; and Barrows of Charlestown, treas. The schedule adopted was as follows.

[Each team played the other twice, all games being played at Franklin Field.]

Monday, May 5, 2008

Historic Walking Tours - It's Time!

The Jamaica Plain Historical Society begins its 2008 walking tour series this Saturday, May 10. The walks are held most Saturdays through the summer at 11:00 a.m., weather permitting. There are six different walks in different parts of J.P., each with its own emphasis. The walks are led by volunteers, and the price is right - they're free! See you there Saturday.

For a schedule and more information, go here.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Great Greenough Caper

The reference to "stone knee buckles set in silver" found below set me a-Googling. The only hits I got for the full phrase were for two theft cases from the Proceedings of the Old Bailey, London, dated 1766 and 1772. Knee buckles in general were a common adornment, used to secure the kneeband of breeches.

The Herald of Freedom May 20, 1791

Fifty Dollars Reward.

Last night the HOUSE of the Subscriber was broken open, and the following articles Stolen, viz.

A large Gold WATCH, with Gold Face, a Stone Seal with arms, set in Gold, a Silver WATCH, Silver Soup Spoon, a pair of Sugar Tongs and 12 Tea Spoons, and 1 Table Spoon, marked with a Cypher A. D. A Large Silver Tobacco Box, with arms on the top, a Silver Cross (or Stand) for the middle of a table, with arms, 2 Table Spoons marked H. D. a small Silver Funnel with a strainer, an oval Plated Tea Pot, a Plated Punch Ladle fluted, a pair of Stone Knee Buckles set in Silver, &c. &c.

Whoever will apprehend the Thief or Thieves, so that he or they may be brought to Justice, shall receive the above reward from me the Subscriber.


Roxbury, Jamaica Plain
, May 19, 1791.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Another School That Never Was

Here's another within-my-lifetime tidbit that I didn't know about until recently (see the entry about Don Bosco here mater - was eventually moved to the ). There was a proposal to build a new Boston Technical high school - later the John D. O'Bryant school - on Franklin Park land near Forest Hills. The plan was blocked, and the school - my almaRoxbury Memorial building on Townshend street between Warren street and Humbolt avenue in 1958. I actually think it would have been a good idea. Access to the Arborway and Forest Hills transit stations was next door, and a new building would have been nice. And not being one to worship at the alter of St. Olmsted, I can see better use for land than as a resting place for dog waste, which that end of the park seems to be now.

I wonder if my Boston Tech letter jacket is still hanging up in Mom's basement...

Jamaica Plain Citizen July 11 1957

Franklin Park Site Sought For School

Mayor John B. Hynes and the Boston Parks and Recreation Department can save Boston taxpayers a half million dollars in property valuation if they would get together on giving a few acres in Franklin Park to the Boston School Committee for the building of the Boston Technical high school, according to school committeeman John McMorrow. The Boston Finance Committee lashed the School Committee recently for seeking to buy 10 acres to relocate the school. McMorrow said that he agreed with the Finance Committee that 10 acres is too large for the site.