Sunday, June 29, 2008

Captain Charles Brewer - An Extraordinary Man

The Friend - November 14, 1845

Richards, L.J. 1899
David Rumsey Collection

At the time this map was published, the former home of Captain Charles Brewer was in the hands of his son Edward, and sat directly in the path of the Prince street extension that would soon run from Pond street to Centre street. For the estate as it was in 1874, look here.

Charles Brewer was born in Boston in 1804. His father was Moses Brewer, a direct descendant of Daniel Brewer, who arrived with his wife at Roxbury in 1632. He is listed as both a dry-goods dealer and a ship's captain. His mother, Abigail May Brewer, was of the Jamaica Plain Mays, whose name is remembered by May street, at the bottom of today's Moss hill. Through the Mays, she was also descended from the same Daniel Brewer. After his father died in 1813, his mother moved to her family home in Jamaica Plain, where she remained until she died in 1849 at 79 years.

From the earliest age, Charles wanted to go to sea, inspired at least in part by his reading of Captain Cook's Voyages. While boys as young as 14 went to sea in his time, Charles' mother Abigail refused to let him go, and sent him to a series of schools in hopes that he would loose interest in the sea. During the War of 1812, as a schoolboy he marched with his classmates and others to Long Wharf, where they were carried across to Noddle's Island (present day East Boston) and then Dorchester Heights to work on the fortifications of Boston Harbor.

At the age of 14, he left school and went to work in a store. After three years, his mother relented, and allowed him to take a position as a seaman aboard the brig Palmer, bound for Calcutta. After 16 months at sea, it was only weeks before he heard the call and returned for a second voyage, this time to Liverpool.

In 1823, he sailed on the Paragon to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) picking up Sandalwood to sell in China, and returning to Boston with tea. After a few weeks at home, he was back at sea, this time as a second officer. During a trip to Liverpool, he fell 55 feet from the rigging,
damaging one leg permanently. He returned to the Sandwich Islands again, this time as first officer of the Chinchilla. Between 1826-28, they sailed between China, Russia and the Islands, bartering and selling various cargoes.

In 1829, he sailed the Ivanhoe to China for the Bryant & Sturges company of Boston, one of the great merchant companies of its time. After a dispute with the captain, he left the ship and in a short time was offered his first command, a small schooner trading at the Mexican coast.

As a captain, he sailed to Siberia to trade, and brought back the news to American whaling captains in Honolulu that whales could be found in the Sea of Okhtosk - a favorite whaling ground for many years after. Upon returning to Honolulu, he joined another Boston man, Henry A. Pierce, in a trading firm. When Pierce decided to return to Boston, Brewer bought him out, and named the firm Brewer & Co. That firm, which began provisioning New England whaling ships, would later become involved in the sugar trade and join with other American firms to be known as the Big Five. These companies dominated the Hawaiian economy and politics right up until statehood in the 1950s.

During a trip home in 1840, Captain Brewer married Martha Turner, daughter of Rev. Edward Turner. He returned to Honolulu with his wife and aunt. After a trip back to Boston, he returned to the islands with his wife to close out his business interest. On their return in 1849, they sailed on the Tsar, which carried the first gold dust from the California gold rush to Boston.

Back in Boston, Captain Brewer joined in partnership with Henry A. Pierce and James Hunnewell - the original owner of his Hawaiian firm. The three men came to own one of the largest fleet of ships in the nation. He built a house on ten acres of his great-grandfather's land in Jamaica Plain, on a site where Prince street now meets the Arborway..

In 1884, at the age of 80, Charles Brewer wrote his Reminiscences for his children, which inform much of this article. A year later, he died, one of the most distinguished and successful residents of Jamaica Plain. At a time when the use of bicycle helmets is near-universal, we can only look back at such a life with a sense of wonder and awe. His journeys as a teenager were more dangerous than space flight is today. Many of his good companions from his sailing days died in shipwrecks. Each time he returned home safely from a voyage, it was a matter of weeks before he felt the call of the sea and returned. He felt his ship lifted by the massive body of a passing whale, and he was a life-long friend to a Hawaiian king. He was born of Roxbury and Jamaica Plain stock, and he retired to the family homestead. Progress, in the form of the Arborway and Prince street, has wiped out any evidence of the old Captain Brewer estate, but perhaps this article will bring him back to mind for some few commuters as they drive across the Captain's old property.

Other sources: Hawaii's Big Five

Monday, June 23, 2008

Let's Put On A Show!

Boston Daily Globe February 15, 1900

Young Women Run Theatricals Alone. Members of the Boylston Schulverein Give Three Plays, Two in German, and Make a Big Success of the Affair.

Boylston Schulverein hall, at Boylston station, was the scene of a novel entertainment last evening. It was furnished by the young women of the Schulverein and consisted of two plays in German and one in English. The young women prepared and presented them with no assistance from the male members.

The first play, given entirely in German, was entitled "Zerstreut," which literally translated means forgetfulness. As for the play itself it might be characterized as a general misunderstanding. A lot of clever, witty byplay greatly amused the audience.

Those who took part were Miss Elsa Sisterman, Miss Louise Malsch, Miss Marie Lenzi, Miss Elsie Malsch, Miss Emma Schweitzer, Miss Minna Bamseyer and Miss Bertha Bamseyer.

When the curtain went up the second time a vacant jury room was seen. In a few minutes "A Gentle Jury" filed in, led by Cyrus Hackett (Miss Dorothea Malsch), the sheriff. The jury was made up as follows:

Mrs Dingley, forewoman, Miss Minna Bamseyer
Mrs Fritz..................Miss Lena Lenzi
Mrs Dyer..................Miss Annie Doering
Mrs Small.................Miss M Monpiton
Mrs Fort...................Miss Agnes Malsch
Mrs Fairly................Miss Bertha Bamseyer
Mrs Jones................Miss Otelin Walther
Miss Skinner............Miss Elsie Malsch
Miss Jelivson...........Miss Emma Schweitzen
Miss Smith...............Miss Elsa Listermann
Miss Sharp...............Miss Anna Malsch

After the sheriff leaves the jury there ensues a scene remarkable and entertaining. The question of the guilt or innocence of the party tried is spoken of only casually midst the discussion of genuine gossip of the town, the latest recipes and the like.

The result if that the accused party is being fought over, some wanting to let him go because he is a handsome man, and others to convict him in order to stand by their sex, for the accuser was a woman.

The third play, in German, entitled "Ein Kaffeeklatsch," was an amusing little sketch. It disputed the occurrences of an afternoon tea. The cast was:

Frau Muller, hostess.. Miss Otella Walther
Frau Schulze............... Miss M Monpilton
Frau Meier...................Miss Agnes Malsch
Frau Mudicke..............Miss Annie Doering
Frau Lehrmann..........Miss Anna Maisch

The affair was under the management of Miss Louise Maisch and Miss Anna Maisch, with Miss Minna Ramseyer as theatrical director. The ushers were Misses Clara Walther, Minnie Setye(?), Marie Sanderstrom, Agnes Lewis and Isolde Listermann, and were dressed in white.

The evening's enjoyment was continued after the show by dancing.


Boston Daily Globe May 30, 1900

Young Actors Do Some Clever Work Members of St Thomas' Parish, Jamaica Plain, Present "The Broken Bowsprit" to a Large Audience.

The young men of St Thomas' parish, Jamaica Plain, produced last evening in Leo XIII hall, "The Broken Bowsprit." A large audience enjoyed the acting of the young people, who did some very clever work. The cast was as follows: Henry Damond, Thomas Barry; George Watson, Joseph Carroll; Nathon Tanner, James Smith; old man Tanner, Charles Mahan; Dave Martin, Louis Brown; Cleve Knipe, Thomas Roch; Bob Braser, Timothy Murphy; Mrs Vincent, Frederick Donavon; Adelaide Vincent, Bernard Ward; Mary Watson, Hugh Tate; Sarah Watson, Frank Collins; Delia, Joseph Glynn.

The executive staff was composed of Daniel Lynch stage manager, Eugene Duplain and John Cronin assistants, Messers Cronin, Ryan, Harrington, Shaw, Coughlin and Reagan ushers, Patrick Smith and Walter Roch ticket takers and John Kelley stage carpenter.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Paul Gore Street Quarry

Paul Gore street, 2008. The stone wall rises to Cranston street behind the white garage in the background.

When I first read the first article below, I imagined that a block of exposed rock ledge had been crushed for gravel. It wasn't until I took a walk down Paul Gore street that I first saw the rock cliff that rises between Paul Gore street and Cranston street above. It was difficult to get a good picture of the rock face, but it runs along the north side of Paul Gore street and rises to Cranston and Sheridan streets for quite a way down Paul Gore street. There is a smaller but similar exposed rock face along the south side of Paul Gore street that rises to the houses along Oakview Terrace. I wonder if the rock climbers have any idea that this place exists.

Boston Daily Globe February 7, 1913

Stone Pile Caves In. Piscipo is Carried Through Chute in Jamaica Plain, Smiles and Resumes Work.

Frank Piscipo of 92 Quincy st, Roxbury, narrowly escaped serious injury while at work at a stone crusher on Paul Gore st, Jamaica Plain, yesterday afternoon.

Piscipo was working on a pile of crushed stone which caved in, carrying him along with it, half-buried, through a chute more than 25 feet long and landing him, feet foremost, on the loading platform.

Fellow employees, seeing him lying on the platform, motionless, rushed to his side, half expecting to find him dead. By the time they had reached him Piscipo had risen to his feet and declined all assistance, smilingly returned to his work, apparently none the worse for his unusual experience.

Boston Daily Globe May 14, 1923

Officer Praised For Saving Child Policeman Rescued Little Girl From Ledge Jamaica Plain Civic Association Commends Roy Bates

The Jamaica Plain Civic Association at its meeting in Boylston Hall yesterday afternoon voted to send a letter of commendation to Police Commssioner Herbert A. Wilson of the heroic act of one police officer and a letter of condolence to the familyof the late patrolman Oginskis.

The commendation recites the rescue from a perilous position on a 50-foot ledge on Paul Gore st of 10-year-old Catherine Curwen of 54 Danforth st, by motorcycle officer Roy Bates on the afternoon of April 29.

The little girl slid down the ledge about 20 feet and attempts of several citizens to rescue her with the aid of ladders proved fruitless. Officer Bates,who was off duty at the time, responded to an emergency call. He removed his rubber boots, slid down the ledge in his stocking feet, and brought the child to safety.

[unrelated matter follows]

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Arboretum Mocker

If Jamaica Plain had its own Official Bird, it would certainly be the mockingbird, as embodied by the famous Arboretum Mocker. Between 1914 and 1920, this singularly talented bird amazed observers with its large repertoire of songs and calls. He resided, for the most part, in the area of the Arboretum around the three small ponds below the Bussey Institute building and near the Forest Hills entrance. Over the years of his residence at the Arboretum, he was seen to subsist primarily on pokeweed, juneberry, hop hornbeam, barberry, inkberry, highbush cranberry, Siberian crab apple and corktree. He apparently kept to himself, even during a year when a female mockingbird was seen regularly in the Arboretum nearby.

As for his claim to fame, this notable bird was heard by his faithful observers to imitate 39 bird songs, 50 bird calls, and the calls of both frog and cricket, for a total of 91 sounds imitated. Some of the species imitated only pass through the Boston area during migration, and normally don't sing while migrating. Others were birds that normally didn't live as far north as Boston, suggesting that he may have come from a more southern region.

The Arboretum Mocker made his way into the scientific literature of his day, and still gets mentions whenever notable mockingbird singers are discussed. In our days of molecular biology and DNA sequencing, the observations of amateur naturalists don't often make their way into publication, but we owe those curious and observant naturalists of the early 20th century a debt of gratitude for recording the exploits of Jamaica Plain's most famous bird.

Source: The Auk: Vol. XXXIX 1922

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Let's Go Walking

I'll be filling as leader for a Jamaica Plain Historical Society walking tour of Green street this Saturday, June 14th, at 11:00 AM, weather permitting. We meet at the Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center at 640 Centre st - that's the corner of Centre and Green sts. You can read about this tour and others here. Come by and say hello.

Monday, June 9, 2008

400 Entries? Holy Smokes!

With that last post, I've hit 400 entries. Some have been trivial, but I've tried to find interest in each, and hey, this isn't a book, and it's worth every penny you pay for it. I've already picked all the low-hanging fruit of Jamaica Plain history I could find, and although I have some things in the works, I'll be stopping the every day posts now. For those who have been coming back regularly - both of you - I appreciate the interest, and I'll be adding items as I can put things together.

Make sure you come out to JP Historical Society walks on Saturdays during the summer. I'll be helping out this year on two of the walks, and people always seem to have a good time.

Banned in Boston - Animal Dances

I've been sitting on this article for a while, and I've decided that although it has no Jamaica Plain content, it is Boston, and it's just too good to keep under wraps. I've posted a few articles about dances held during the late 1800s and early 1900s, and I've often wished I could see a demonstration of what kind of dances they were doing. By 1913, a new type of dance had hit the scene - the "animal dances." Unlike the more genteel dances of the past, these steps involved partners pressing against each other in tight embraces. These dances were banned in many cities across the country, with Boston joining the killjoy effort. A year later, the foxtrot would become popular, and this new mode of dance would take the country by storm.

I have no specific reference to how the Mayor's edict affected dancing in Jamaica Plain, but I'm sure that as elsewhere, the kids found a way shock and annoy their elders.

Boston Daily Globe October 11, 1913

Bars Improper Dancing.

Mayor's Orders for Public Halls Includes the Tango, "Animal Dances" and Some Others.

By orders of Mayor Fitzgerald yesterday, improper dances of all kinds are excluded from the public dance halls of Boston. The prohibition includes all the so-called animal dances, such as the turkey trot, bunnie hug, bear dance, etc, also the kitchen sink, tango and other extravagances.

John M. Casey, the licensing clerk, wrote out the Mayor's directions in 17 short rules which are to be posted in a conspicuous place in each dance hall. The management of each hall will be held strictly responsible for enforcement of the regulations, and violations will result in the suspension or revocation of the license, it is announced.

Some of the regulations follow:

Improper dancing will not be tolerated; persons so indulging will be immediately ejected.

No moonlight or shadow lighting effect. The hall must remain fully lighted.

No dance shall continue after 3 o'clock a.m. unless by written permission of the Mayor,and not later than 11:45 Saturdays.

Pass-out checks are not to be issued.

Matrons shall be employed at every public dance and have entire charge of ladies' rooms.

Minors under the age of 17 years shall not be admitted to hall unless accompanied by parent or guardian.

By special instructions of the directors of the Musician's Union, all orchestras are directed to obey the orders of the representative of the Mayor to cease playing should conditions so justify.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Mrs Mc'Keige's Seminary for Young Ladies

In 1807, a Mrs Cranch and her daughters opened a school for young ladies in Jamaica Plain. The following entry is a transcription of a notice published some time before 1823 for a second young ladies' academy in the village. A scan of the original sheet is available for viewing online at the Boston Public Library web site.





The English, French and Italian Languages... Sacred, Ancient and Modern History... Geography... Astronomy... The Uses of the Globes... Composition... Drawing and Painting of Figures, Landscapes, and Flowers... Writing and Cyphering... With Useful and Ornamental Needle Work, including Embroidery, Tambour, and Rug Work.

Instruction in the above branches, and Board,......$50 per Quarter.

Music, ............................................................................15 "

Use of the Piano, .............................................................3 "

Dancing, ..........................................................................12 "

N.B. Should any further information be required, respecting the great attention paid by Mrs. Mc'Keige to the Morals and Manners of her Pupils, the healthy situation, the convenience and spaciousness of the house and grounds attached to the establishment, rendering it in every respect a most eligible residence for Young Ladies, apply to


THOMAS AMORY, Esq. Roxbury,

REV. MR. GRAY, or JOHN PRINCE, Esq. Jamaica Plain.




Mrs. Mc'Keige's Seminary.

The hours for rising, from May to December, are at half past five; and from December to May, at half past six. In summer, the bell rings for prayers at half past six, and in winter at half past seven; all the Pupils are expected to attend, with their hair, teeth, and nails, in exact order; having made their beds, and regulated their clothes.

The Young Ladies enter class at eight, and pursue their studies until one; during which period, at eleven o'clock, twenty minutes are allowed for recreation. After dinner, the Pupils retire to their chambers to dress for the afternoon. At three, they enter the class again, and prepare their duties for the ensuing day, until five; after that hour, they amuse themselves with reading, music, or walking, until half past eight; when the bell rings for prayers, and they retire, in silence and good order, to rest; no conversation or noise will be allowed afterwards. In half an hour a person will attend, to take the lights. It is also a regulation of the Seminary, that a young lady cannot receive or write letters, without the inspection of Mrs. Mc'Keige, or receive visitors until the afternoon; as such interruptions during the morning, would be detrimental to improvement.

As French is constantly spoken during the hours of class, and at meals, it is expected every young lady will use her endeavours, after studying that language a short time, to comply with this regulation, as it will greatly facilitate their progress in the knowledge of that language. The Pupils entering the Seminary, are expected to be diligent, attentive, and obedient, as those qualifications are necessary to all who wish to make a rapid progress. Every indulgence compatible with improvement, will be acceded to with pleasure by Mrs. Mc'Keige, to add to the happiness or comfort of the Pupils of JAMAICA PLAIN SEMINARY.

Each Young Lady brings a silver Tea and Table Spoon, Knife and Fork,Blankets, Sheets, Towels, Tumbler, Mug and Basin, which are returned when the Pupil leaves the Seminary.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

JP High School Hockey Team - 1924

There seems to have been nothing special about the 1924 Jamaica Plain High School hockey team, but this very nice picture gets them remembered for posterity. The coach was John Kay. Sadly, we only get their first initials.

Boston Daily Globe January 22, 1924

Jamaica Plain High Rink Team In Long Uphill Fight


Jamaica Plain High School hockey team has done fairly well in its games in the Boston District High School League series this Winter and hopes to improve its record in the remaining games.

Only one outside game was played last week, with Belmont High School, which succeeded in taking the measure of the boys from the West Roxbury District.

Raymond is captain of the Jamaica Plain team and has distinguished himself as a player. Other members of hte team who have covered themselves with glory are A. Raymond, J. Maguire, E. Kelleher, E. Cox, W. Norton, C. Cronin, C. Holmquist, T. Mills, B. Hicks, E. Costello, F. Randall and G. Porter.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A Jamaica Plain Confederate

Anna Greenough was the daughter and third child of the second David Stoddard Greenough of Jamaica Plain. She was born in 1817, and in 1838 married Henry King Burgwyn, planter, of Northhampton County, North Carolina, who had attended Harvard. They lived on the Burgwyn plantation, where they had eight children.

Of note to history was their first son, Henry King "Harry" Burgwyn, Jr., also known as "the Boy Colonel. He had studied at West Point, the University of North Carolina and Virginia Military Institute, and at age 19 was elected lieutenant colonel in the Confederate Army. He served in eastern North Carolina and in Virginia, and was killed in the Battle of Gettysburg on July 1, 1863.

Also of note, the couple's second son was William Hyslop Sumner Burgwyn, a name well known to Jamaica Plain historians. Another son whose name is relevant to Jamaica Plain was John Alveston Burgwyn. In the book Victorian Boston Today, Edward W. Gordon informs us that Alveston street on Sumner Hill was named after Anna Greenough Burgwyn's North Carolina estate. The only reference I can find online to the Alveston of the Burgwyns is a death notice from March 11, 1851: On the 20th ult., at Alveston, Halifax Co, the residence of Thomas P. BURGWYN, Esq., Donald, son of Rev. Cameron F. McRAE, in the 3d year of his age.

The grave monument of Anna Greenough Burgwyn can be seen here. The monument to her son Henry King Burgwyn Jr and his picture can be seen here.

Sources: The Pilgrims of Boston and Their Descendants , Inventory of the Burgwyn Family Papers, Abstracts from the Fayetville Observer, John Burgwyn MacRae papers.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Ruth Vogel - Supergirl!

Boston Daily Globe March 12, 1922

Boston's Perfect Schoolgirl

Ruth Vogel Wins First Prize in Competition for Poise -- Just a Normal Girl, Her Parents Say, Except That She Likes to Wash Dishes

With the exception of adoring to wash dishes and disliking fish, also oysters, Ruth Vogel has in all her 15 years of life been just a normal healthy girl.

This must be said in the first breath because Prof and Mrs Frank Vogel want so much to have it understood that their little girl is simple and natural. Ruth is a student at the Girls' Latin School and has two more years to go.

Ruth won the first prize in the first competition for poise in Boston schools last week.

Twenty-four girls took part in the competition as representatives of 16 High Schools, each girl being chosen from every 500 pupils in the school. The final stunts included walking, standing, marching, sitting and getting up, running, climbing stairs and severe physical tests.

Judges, the best in the physical culture world, eliminated entries until Ruth stood unexcelled, Ruth, the best-poised of Boston school girls.

Way Any Child Should be Brought Up



That's what so many have been wondering. But Prof and Mrs Vogel treasure the normalcy of childhood so much they declined to assist in making a to-do about the award and firmly refused interviews. (Making the Globe feel rather exclusive with this, the only one.)

Tuesday morning, the day of the competition, Ruth mentioned carelessly that there was going to be "some kind of a thing going on" at school in the afternoon. That's all any one at her home, 95 Robinwood av, Jamaica Plain, knew about it.

When she returned she brought the posture winner's certificate with her, and according to her mother "was so extraordinarily overwhelmed that she began jumping up and down the minute she got inside the door."

Ruth knew she was going to take part in a competition drill, but as for winning - the idea had never entered her head.

Ruth has never consciously done anything to get perfect poise, her father says.

They what about her home life? Ruth's mother insists it is quite ordinary and certainly nothing more than the way any child should be brought up.

Things That Have Helped

Mrs Vogel, mother, said that, yes, when Ruth was a baby she rubbed the little back every night before putting her to bed. She did it with all the children.

"Is it more than every mother does?" she asked. Perhaps it isn't, but it is one thing that gives a key to the theme of the story - "a military regime with Mrs Vogel as commander-in-chief, always," quoting Prof Vogel.

Is it every family who sleeps right outdoors Winter and Summer, snowdrifts, below zero or sleet?

Or who has informal gymnastics now and then.

Or who takes breathing exercises night and morning, "common breathing exercises," said Prof Vogel, illustrating, as much to say, "Why, what every one does, don't you know?"

Ruth has been brought up like that. Is it every family who is "all in bed" at 10 o'clock at night? Ruth's bedtime begins at 9:15.

The family does not drink tea or coffee, either. Ruth doesn't know what they taste like. Frank junior, who is a chemistry student at Tech, where his father is a professor, is beginning to drink coffee, however. He is quite a modern young man, anyway.

No rules have been laid down to Ruth about posture. But there are a number of things which might count as "influences."

Inherited Poise

First, Ruth's ancestry was pretty fine. Her father's father, George, was in the Regular Army from 1852 to '57. He took to chasing Indians and then went into the Civil war for two years. He is the author of a book of his experiences in the land beyond the Mississipppi before any railway had got there. He had traveled every State and territory on horseback.

"Ruth is probably the exact opposite of her father," said her father. "I've liked to bend too much over books, I like to slump in my chair." (Don't be really deceived. Mr Vogel is a tall and splendid looking man). He continued: sits straight up. I've never seen her lean back.

"There's Ruth's mother. Her back is as straight as a ramrod... Isn't your back straight as a broomstick?" asked Prof Vogel, when his wife came in later. And Mrs Vogel fluttered her hands and look discomfited and demure, just like the dear commanderette-in-chief she undoubtedly is.

About this time it was settled that Ruth's grandparents gave Ruth an inheritance of poise.

"Yes, Ruth's straight as an Indian," commented Ruth's father.

"But she isn't an Indian," commented Ruth's mother and there seemed to be a kindly electric message waving through the air. So we asked if Ruth liked sewing.

Leader in Girl Scouts

That's when we learned Ruth liked washing dishes.

Something else strikes us as interesting. Ruth will ofter get up before the rest of the family are awake so she may creep downstairs and prepare breakfast, time about 6 o'clock. Ruth likes all kinds of housework. She likes darning stockings!

Her outdoor activities take up two hours every day and in the Summer time she's outdoors all the time, running, playing, rowing a boat, tramping or swimming. She took to the water when she was 2 and 3 years old and she spends a great deal of time in it during the months when she is with the family on vacation at a camp or farm.

One of Ruth's Winter sports is shovelling snow. She and her brother take turns at it.

Ever since she was old enough she has been active in the Girl Scouts and is now a leader of a troop at her school.

So with her musical talent, which has been trained from childhood by her mother. When she was a baby her mother says she would sway and dance and balance spontaneously to a tune. The rhythm and the grace seemed right in her and her interpretations were charming. Now she plays the piano, sings well and can also play the violin.

Watched Brother at Drill

Healthy as a day of sunshine, Ruth has never had even the string of child diseases. With her health has grown up an exuberance and enjoyment of life. She has initiative, an admirable capacity for concentration and a will power.

"She does whatever she sets out to do," her father says, "and I suppose she has always wanted to stand straight."

One little thing was almost skipped over. Frank Jr was practicing for drill when he was 14 years old and going to the Boys' Latin School. His little sister - Bertha, now in her last year at the Girls' Latin School, and Ruth - watched him practice the drill at home and child-like wanted to drill also. He showed them how, and they practiced together.

Frank was awarded first prize in the individual drill that year What sort of impression do you suppose that made on a little girl named Ruth?

Was it an inspiration for a young lady's 5 feet 8 of perfect balance?

Death Of A Priest

The weekend obituary informs us of the death of Msgr. Edmund Sviokla, formerly Fr. Sviokla of St Thomas Aquinas parish. When he came to St Thomas parish in the early 1960s, he organized a marching band for the local youth under the auspices of the Catholic Youth Organization, or CYO. It was just in time to catch the wave of baby boom children who were filling the streets from the Arborway to Franklin Park. Bands, drum corps and drill teams from Rockland to Gloucester marched in parades and competed in CYO contests on summer weekends.

Fr. Sviokla hired top-notch instructors for the band, which led to a quick rise to success in competition. His own role, as "spiritual advisor," was more complex. He was a combination of father figure and army general, loving but stern. He was playfully referred to as "The Pope" by the children, and his large car known as "the Popemobile." When the Archdiocese decided to move him from St Thomas to another parish, protests and petitions from Jamaica Plain caused a rare stay of the order.

Like other priests and ministers before him, Fr. Sviokla stood out from churchmen of his time - he affected the lives of literally hundreds of children, who now live with fond memories of those special days. He didn't have a school named after him, like Ellis Mendell of Boylston Congregational, a library, like Msgr. Connolly of Blessed Sacrament, or even a traffic overpass, like Msgr Casey of St Andrew's, but he will be honored in the memories of those of us whose lives he touched.

Bless his soul.

Rogerson House/Home For Aged Men Open In Jamaica Plain

Rogerson House, 2008.

The Rogerson House is another in the long list of institutions that came to Jamaica Plain after beginnings in Boston proper or the South End. It is still open at its location on the Jamaicaway, but now cares for people with Alzheimer's disease and memory loss.

Jamaica Plain Citizen January 24, 1957

Home for Aged Men in Planned on Local Site

Jamaicaway Building to be Called Rogerson House

Boston Mass, January 22 -- Plans for the opening of a modern 40 room home for aged men at 434 Jamaicaway were announced by the board of directors of the Home For Aged Men, following the 96the annual meeting of the organization.

The new building, to be called the Rogerson House, will replace present facilities at 133 West Springfield st., where the home for aged men has been located for nearly a century. It will be opened in the Spring of 1957.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Norfolk Laboratory

1832 - found online.
The word Laboratory is difficult to read, but it is in the lower right quadrant, between the long straight Washington street and the meandering Stony brook above it. This is two years before the laying out of the railroad tracks, but this map and the one below show a similar area.

The Map of Roxbury (John G. Hales) 1832 at the JP Historical Society web site give a much clearer view from the same year.

Sidney & Shields, 1853 (BPL)
The word "Laboratory" goes through the dotted line of the railroad tracks, just above the large capital "R" near the lower right corner.

Finally, this 1874 map from the JPHS shows Chemical avenue, today's Cornwall street.

I've been puzzling over a street name for a while. Cornwall street, which runs from Washington street to Amory street, was once called Chemical avenue. The 1874 map linked above shows Chemical avenue ending at Brookside avenue, where the Aetna Rubber Mills stood. By 1885, the Cable Rubber Co. stood on the opposite corner. Now the process of vulcanizing rubber is a chemical process, but I would think that Rubber street would have been a more appropriate way to memorialize the business than Chemical avenue. Soooo.... I kept looking. Or at least I finally got around to looking into Chemical avenue.

I believe that I've probably accounted for the "Chemical" name by starting with a notation on an old map, seen above. Both maps, published 20 years apart, show the word Laboratory. It turns out that there was a Norfolk Laboratory in Roxbury during those very years. I suspect that Chemical/Cornwall avenue was the original driveway to the factory from Washington street. In the early 1830s, Amory street, Brookside avenue and Green street had yet to be laid out, so this was an isolated location, with easy access to the Dedham Turnpike (Washington street). The articles below tell us that there was a fire at the factory in 1830, and that they were still in business in 1847.

A note on the first article: they were producing ether in 1830 - that's before the discovery of the anesthetic effects of ether. It was being used for medicinal purposes, but the anesthetic powers of ether were not recognized until the next decade, when Boston played a major role in it's introduction into surgical use. Also, a demijohn was a large glass bottle of up to several gallons, often covered with a weaved matting for cushioning.

And finally, I finally found something to deal with my chronic King's evil.

Essex Gazette March 16, 1830

A Fire broke out on Monday noon, in the Chemical Works of the Norfolk Laboratory, in Roxbury, from the bursting of two demijohns of ether. The fire spread so rapidly that the whole building, with its contents, was consumed. Loss estimated at 10 or 12,000 dollars, and no insurance.

Boston Daily Atlas August 4, 1847

CHLORIDE OF SODA. An Article which has proved highly beneficial in scrofula, king's evil, and most of the cutaneous affections, and as a disinfecting agent. Prepared at the Norfolk Laboratory, and for sale at No.5 Hichborn Block, Ann street, by O.W.F. MELLEN.

Additional source: History of ether.