Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Elizabeth Bethune Campbell - Socialite, Minister's Wife and Legal Pioneer

St John's Rectory, Alveston street.

Twenty-four Alveston street is a rather architecturally busy, if not particularly notable house on Jamaica Plain’s Sumner hill. It was not present in 1884, but shows up on an 1896 property map. It was apparently built as, and today remains, the rectory of St John’s Episcopal church, which sits around the corner at the intersection of Roanoke avenue and Revere and Elm streets. While the ministers who lived in the parsonage over the years may be the subject of future articles, this on will focus on one minister’s wife - Mrs. Elizabeth Bethune Campbell.

Elizabeth Bethune Campbell - wedding picture.

Elizabeth Louisa Bethune was born in Toronto in 1880. Elizabeth’s father was a successful politician and barrister, and her mother was a popular society hostess. When Elizabeth was just four years old, her father suddenly died, leaving her mother an estate of between $40,000 and $60,000. This the widow Bethune left to the management of her brother-in-law, lawyer William Drummond Hogg. Mrs. Bethune later remarried and separated, but her inherited property was kept in trust through this temporary relationship.

Reverend Thomas Campbell - in military Chaplain's uniform.

Young Elizabeth traveled through Europe, spent time in a French convent school, and was introduced, as befitted her social standing, as a “debutante” in her late teens. After receiving the attentions of William Lyon Mackenzie King, a future prime minister of Canada, Elizabeth married Reverend Thomas Clyman Campbell, an American Episcopalian minister, in 1907. After the Toronto society wedding, the couple moved to the United States, where Reverend Campbell took a position at St John’s church in Jamaica Plain. The Campbells lived in the rectory on Alveston street for the next thirty years, raising two children, James Bethune and Elizabeth Thomasine.

At right - the Campbell children --->

During the First World War, Reverend Campbell served as a chaplain in England. The children were sent to exclusive boarding schools, with parishioner Susan Revere Chapin (great grand-daughter of Paul Revere) apparently contributing towards their tuition. James went on to earn a medical degree from Harvard, and Thomasine (as she was known) attended Barnard College and studied in Vienna.

Described as a tall, striking figure, Mrs. Campbell did not take part in the affairs of the parish, nor did she join in the local women’s clubs of the time. She spent much time in Toronto and London, England, and that brings us to her claim to fame.

In 1922, at age eighty-two, Elizabeth’s mother had deteriorated sufficiently that control of her estate was put in the hands of the Toronto General Trusts Corporation, with Elizabeth’s two older sisters appointed “committee” - guardians of a sort. When she died two years later, Elizabeth’s mother’s estate was valued at $17,450, much less than Elizabeth believed proper.

Here, Elizabeth Campbell began a long, dramatic battle to learn what had happened to her mother’s estate. Out of it came a book, Where Angels Fear to Tread, her story of her travails, and of the people she dealt with along the way. She was represented my multiple lawyers. At the time, this meant travel across the Atlantic to London, as Canada had not yet made its peaceful break with the United Kingdom as a subject state and join the British Commonwealth of Nations.

Mrs. Campbell’s two main opponents were William Drummond Hogg, her uncle and the manager of her mother’s estate following her father’s death, and the Toronto General Trusts Corporation. Hogg was a major figure in the legal world of Ontario - a world in which it seems social and familial connections lent an almost aristocratic air. Toronto General Trusts Corporation was founded by men of similar social and professional standing, pillars of the establishment of the time.

So far, we have the story of a woman of moneyed background and born into social position battling men taken from that same class. What makes Mrs. Campbell notable is that in 1930, she went before the Privy Court in London to argue her own case, and she won. Without being a barrister, and without even attending college, Mrs. Campbell became the first woman to argue a case before the Privy Court.

So Jamaica Plain has still another trailblazing woman to claim. Her trail took her out of Jamaica Plain, and indeed clear out of the United States, but she seems like a remarkable woman in any case. Whether she was uncovering and battling an injustice, or a money-driven monomaniac, is impossible to tell, but she was a trailblazer nonetheless. And all the while, her husband continued tending his flock at St. John‘s. Which just goes to show that not all the fascinating stories on Sumner Hill are found in the most architecturally impressive houses.


Backhouse, Constance. "The Heiress versus the Establishment: The First Female Litigator Before the Privy Council."

Thursday, December 10, 2009

William D. Ticknor - Publisher

Offices of Ticknor and Fields (Old Corner Book Store).

William D. Ticknor was born in Lebanon New Hampshire August 6, 1810 on the family farm. In 1827 he left for Boston to work in the brokerage house of his uncle Benjamin. By 1832, he had partnered with John Allen to form the publishing company Allen and Ticknor, which was housed in the now-famous Old Corner Book Store building.

As partners came and went, the company named changed, with Ticknor and Fields being perhaps the best remembered. From the Old Corner Book Store, they published many of the leading literary lights of New England, such as Emerson, Hawthorne, Thoreau, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., as well as Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Horatio Alger. At a time when international copyright was not upheld, in 1842 they paid Alfred, Lord Tennyson a royalty for publishing his work, an early act of fair play in a business in which pirating of books was a common complaint on both sides of the Atlantic. While at the Old Corner Book Store, they also published the Atlantic Monthly. (For an extra credit nugget, I found a single sentence 1841 newspaper advertisement for De Quincey's Confessions of an Opium Addict). Eventually, the outgrew the location and moved to Tremont street. Over time, partners and name changes came and went, and the company eventually became part of Houghton, Osgood and Company, which later became Houghton Mifflin.

Burroughs street, 1874.

Ticknor house, Burroughs street.

In 1854, Ticknor bought land between Pond and Burroughs streets in Jamaica Plain, and built a house on the Burroughs street side. We can imagine friends like Hawthorne traveling out of the city and visiting the Ticknor home over the next decade. When Dickens came to America for a speaking tour, Ticknor was his host, and perhaps he might have visited Burroughs street as well.

[Note: I've just learned that Caroline Ticknor related a story of Dickens visiting the Ticknor house in Jamaica Plain. After the great man left the house, a shy relative followed him outside, and made a copy of the impression his foot left in the soft gravel.]

In 1862, William Ticknor journeyed south to Washington D.C. with his friend Nathaniel Hawthorne, where they met President Lincoln. In March of 1864, they set out to Washington again, in hopes that the milder weather would aid Hawthorne’s poor health. During the trip, it was Ticknor’s health that took a turn for the worse, and he died at the Continental Hotel in Philadelphia with his friend by his side. Hawthorne returned to Concord, but in a month he would be dead as well.

Ticknor and his wife, Emeline Staniford Holt had five surviving children, including three sons who went to Harvard. Howard Malcolm, Benjamin Holt and Thomas Baldwin Ticknor all went into the business. Before joining the firm, Benjamin first enlisted in the army during the Civil war, and at one time was in charge of recruiting at the Readville training camp.

Howard Ticknor lived in the family house through at least the 1880s . The 1874 map above shows the house still owned by the estate of William D. Ticknor. Son Benjamin stayed in Jamaica Plain as well, buying a lot on Harris avenue from Captain Charles Brewer. The 1874 map shows Benjamin H. Ticknor at 13 Harris avenue. Unlike his father’s house, Benjamin’s home still stands today as number 15. The small, twentieth century house that sits to the right of it was added to the same property, and now carries the address 13A.

Harris avenue, 1874.

Benjamin’s household was in interesting one. The 1880 census lists his wife, Caroline daughters Caroline, aged 13, and Edith, aged 11, as well has sister Elinor, aged 35 and brother Thomas, aged 30. To that, we can add four female domestics and one coachman. Although only two of five servants were Irish-born, two others had Irish parents, the other woman being from Newfoundland. So four women to care for six people, including the woman of the house. I think we can say that the Irish were nineteenth-century Jamaica Plain’s version of labor-saving devices.

Benjamin's daughter Caroline went on to have a career as a writer and editor. She wrote Hawthorne and His Friend (the friend being her grandfather William D. Ticknor), May Alcott, A Memoir, and Glimpses of Authors (cited above), and edited Holmes's Boston, with Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., and numerous books. In 1925, Caroline and sister Edith were still living at the house on Harris avenue.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving At The Zoo

Boston Daily Globe November 30, 1923

Animals in Zoo Given Thanksgiving Dinner

Codliver oil and garlic may not sound like the average person’s idea of a real Thanksgiving dinner, but they were two of the most popular dishes at the Franklin Park Zoo yesterday. Deputy Park Commissioner William P. Long, following the custom of some years, ordered a Thanksgiving dinner for the birds and beasts at the Jamaica Plain institution, and last night every one was happy, even Mutt, the hyena.

The codliver oil was for the two Polar bears, Pasha and Fatima, and the big beasts lapped the dishes dry and begged for more. As for the garlic it is Tony’s, the youngest elephant’s idea of white meat and fixin’s. Curiously enough Waddy, the other elephant, will not touch garlic, but ate the regular dinner of hay, bread and carrots with relish.

The other inmates received the “eats” which they love best. There was fruit of various sorts for the monkeys, mutton for the brown, black and grizzly bears, and so on down the long list.

Thanksgiving 1898.

Along with this somewhat pedestrian report from 1898, I'll at a link to an earlier entry - A Tale of a Turkeyless Thanksgiving.

Boston Daily Globe Nov. 25, 1898.

Thanksgiving Services of Protestant Churches at Jamaica Plain.

A union Thanksgiving service was held yesterday morning in the Universalist church on Rockview st, Jamaica Plain. It was attended by members of all the Protestant churches of Jamaica Plain, and held under the auspices of the Fraternal Council. All the members of the council - ministers of the various churches - assisted at the service, with the exception of Rev Mr Grose of the Methodist church, who was unavoidably prevented from being present.

Rev R.M. Hunt of the Baptist church read the opening responsive service. The offertory and hymn were given by Rev Mr S. Learman of the Episcopal church. Prayer was offered by Rev C.F. Dole of the Unitarian church and Rev C.L. Morgan read passages from the scriptures. Rev Mr Hildreth of the Episcopal mission of Boston read the Thanksgiving proclamation.

The sermon was preached by Rev W.R. Libby, pastor of the church. He took for his subject “Prosperity, Patriotism and Religion,” embodied in the proclamation, and said we should be thankful for the present prosperity, the genuine patriotism in the heart of the nation and the universal religion which seems to minister to our spiritual needs.

Wednesday, in response to the call of the Fraternal council, contributions of food were received by a committee appointed by the council, and yesterday more than 40 families in Jamaica Plain were provided for from the amount received.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Soldier's Memorials of Jamaica Plain

I finally got around to doing something I've been planning for a long time. I've put the soldier's memorials of Jamaica Plain on to a Google map to show their locations. Photos of the memorials can still be seen here. You'll need to zoom in to see the markers - at least until I figure out why I can't get a map of Jamaica Plain to show up here.

View Jamaica Plain Veteran's Memorials in a larger map

Friday, November 13, 2009

Veteran's Day Addition

William E. Canary Memorial, Centre street and South Huntington Avenue.

I just found another veteran memorial today, and since Veteran's Day has just passed, I figured I'd feature it rather than just add it to the existing veteran's memorial entry. I'll add these photos there as well. William E Canary served in the 101st Infantry Division, and lost his life at St. Mihiel, France, September 12th, 1918.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Colonial Megabucks!

Boston Evening Post July 20, 1761.

These are to inform the Publick

That the managers of the Roxbury lottery are now rolling the sixth class in order to draw the same on Wednesday the Fifth Day of August next; at which time they propose the Drawing said Class shall commence at the School House near Jamaica Plain in Roxbury; and such Persons as are desirous of being present at Drawing may give their Attendance at Time and Place accordingly. --- And as there are but few tickets remaining in the Managers Hands, those persons that incline to be Adventurers must buy speedily or they may be excluded. Tickets may be had of

Green & Russell in Boston

Roxbury, July
17, 1761.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Ward's Pond

Ward's Pond, Summer 2008 (click on photos to see larger images).

Ward’s Pond sits on the border of Jamaica Plain and Brookline, just north of Jamaica Pond and within Olmsted Park, one of the long links in Boston’s Emerald Necklace of parks. None of the surviving local histories or memoirs of Jamaica Plain we rely on mentions Ward’s Pond or its namesake. Perhaps the fame of Jamaica Pond overshadowed its much smaller neighbor, but as is so often the case in local history, once we start digging we unearth fascinating new stories.

First map showing Ward's Pond name - 1859.

J.Ward appears on 1852 map.

Ward’s Pond sits near the head of the Muddy River, so called, although the river was never more than a stream. It is now within a park along the Brookline Boston border, but for over 250 years was in private hands. The first map to show the name Ward’s Pond was published in 1859. The same map shows no Wards living near the pond, but two Wards are shown along Muddy River to the north. J.O. Ward is shown just south of today’s Riverway on the Brookline side, and H.S. Ward is to the east at the corner of what we now call Huntington and South Huntington avenues. An 1852 map shows a J. Ward living along Muddy River in the same area as well. With these initials go to by, we can begin to connect this Ward family to the pond that memorializes their name.

John Ward the first was born in 1626 in London and emigrated to this country. His son and grandson, Edward and Samuel the first, were born in Newton. John the second, son of Samuel, was born in 1748 in Natick, and in 1771 married Roxbury girl Martha Shed. In 1788, John – now a blacksmith – bought 44 acres of land along Muddy river from his brother-in-law James Shed. The deed gives us little to locate the precise boundaries of the lot, but it was bounded by the town line, and by land of Peleg Heath, which puts it somewhere between Muddy River and the Heath street/South Huntington avenue area. The deed also specifies that the sale is exclusive of the old mill, which may have been the old colonial grist mill that still, at that time, drew off Jamaica Pond water near Ward’s Pond to drive its wheel.

Portrait of John Ward. (Courtesy of Dean S. Bird)

Through 1805, John Ward would continue to buy land in the area from the Shed family. There are no mentions of a pond, but property boundaries on the Road to Worcester and the Road from Watertown tell us that he was buying land on the road where today’s Huntington avenue and Brookline’s Boylston street meet – we would also call it Route 9. This was the very edge of Roxbury, and directly adjacent to the old Brookline settlement of Punch Bowl, now known as Brookline Village. We can imagine that land near the village of Punch Bowl and along the busy road from Boston to the west would have made a good location for a blacksmith shop. In 1804 and 1805, John again enters the records, taking payment from the Boston Aqueduct Corporation for allowing them to lay pipe over his land. This would be the route that Jamaica Pond water would follow on its way to satisfy a thirsty Boston.

John and Martha Ward had eight children, Of those, only two daughters and one son are recorded as having survived to adulthood. Samuel, who would inherit the property, was born in September of 1772. Unlike his father, Samuel became a farmer. Samuel appears in an 1818 newspaper article reporting on a Brighton cattle show. In a plowing match on a fine October day, a yoke of oxen owned by Samuel Ward of Roxbury was awarded second prize. The story notes that farmer Ward’s team pulled the famous plow made by Jeffe Warren of Dedham. Roxbury farmers were leaders in the agricultural improvement movement of the time, so it should be no surprise that a Roxbury man was using the latest in plow technology. We also find Samuel Ward’s farming prowess cited in a history of Boston published in 1881. It states there that “The farm of Samuel Ward now belonging to the Brookline Land Company, was famous fifty years ago for its Roxbury Russet apples, often producing a thousand barrels a year; and also for cherries, of which he sent to market forty to fifty bushels daily in the season, and occasionally he dispatched a four-ox team to Providence with seventy-five bushels.”

Samuel Ward had married Joanna Bird in 1799. Joanna bore 14(!) children, few of whom are recorded to have survived to adulthood. Already mentioned are Henry Shed (H.S.) Ward and James Otis (J.O.) Ward, whose initialed names appear on the 1859 map discussed above. Henry actually died in New Hampshire at 37 in 1844. His share of the old estate would pass to his brother James, who survived him by 11 years.

James Otis Ward.

The life of James O. Ward takes us away from Jamaica Plain, but is worth remembering. As told by Dean S.Bird, a descendent on both the Ward and Bird side of the family, James Ward traveled to New York to sell the produce of his father’s farm. Remaining in New York, he became a successful businessman. After first running his own chandlery business, supplying ship owners and seaman with all their various needs, he then purchased his own ships and became a trader between New York and the West Indies. His son, James Edward Ward, founded the Ward Line, one of the largest steamship lines of its era.

Ward property plan, 1845.

When James O. Ward died in February of 1855, flags in New York harbor flew at half mast. In March of 1860, the executor of his estate sold 80 acres of land along Muddy River for $83,000 to the Brookline Land Company. The property plan shown here was drawn in 1845, and shows the Ward Farm at the time. Most of the estate at that time was in Brookline, but the name Ward’s Pond is recorded for the first time, and the pond itself sits inside the town of Roxbury. To the north, the farm extends to today’s Riverway at Brookline Village.

So now we know: the Wards lived on the old Roxbury/Brookline border, more Roxbury than Jamaica Plain residents. They did once own the land surrounding the eponymous pond, and left their name to one of Jamaica Plain’s small jewels on Boston’s Emerald Necklace.

Special thanks go out to Dean S. Bird for his many contributions to this article: family genealogy, stories, and portraits. The portrait of Samuel Ward shown here has been passed down through the Ward and Bird families, and is owned today by Dean.


Massachusetts Spy, October 28, 1818. Brighton Cattle Show article.

The Memorial History of Boston; including Suffolk County, Massachusetts 1630-1880. Vol. 4. Samuel Ward farming citation.

Suffolk County Registry of Deeds:

162:16 – 1/8/1788. James Shed, 44 acres to John Ward.

Norfolk County Registry of Deeds:

22:61 – 7/27/1804; 22:196 – 1/7/1805. John Ward, rights to lay pipe to Boston Aqueduct Corporation.

285:1 – 3/1/1860. Estate of James O. Ward, 80 acres to John Wetherbee Jr., broker, for Brookline Land Company.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Jamaica Plain Historical Society Tour - Stony Brook

Abt Hall - Jamaica Plain Neighborhood House.

I'll be leading this week's Saturday tour of the Stony Brook neighborhood. We'll start at the Stony Brook Orange Line T station and work our way down to Green street. I'll be talking about the changes in the district, from the time that wolves prowled the forest through the coming of the railroad and the settlement of German immigrants in the area. We'll visit James Michael Curley's church and the old Haffenreffer brewery complex - now the home to Sam Adams beer.

Tour starts at 11:00 AM, weather permitting, and is free. Come by and say hello.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Moses Day - the Man and the Street

Mr Moses Day.

Blue line indicates the home of Moses Day. Red line indicates the home of his son, Moses H. Day. 1859.

The two Day properties - 1873.

Bird's Eye View map, 1888. View faces south-west over Parker Hill towards Jamaica Plain.

Sewell & Day Cordage Co. Between Parker street and Huntington avenue. (Bromley, 1884)

Jamaica Plain's Day street runs north from Centre street at Hyde Square towards Heath street. It originally connected with Heath street, but now stops where Minden street connects a block short of Heath street. Day, Centre and Heath streets all date far back into Jamaica Plain history, and all may originate to the 1662 Roxbury laying out of streets that gives us the earliest recorded street date. In 1825, another common date for street acceptance in Roxbury, the road between Centre and Heath streets was given the name Cross street (as shown on the 1859 map above).

So how did Cross street become Day street? The answer comes from the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds. In May of 1848, Benjamin Sewall and Moses Day, partners in Sewall and Day Cortage Company, purchased 8 acres of land from Joseph P. Shaw, then of New Orleans. In time, Day would buy part of the lot, with his house already built upon it, from his partner Sewall. In April of 1868, Cross street was renamed Day street, in honor of one of Roxbury's leading businessmen - along with owning the ropeworks, Day bought and sold land in Roxbury.

[In a correction to the original text, I now show the home of Moses Day at its correct location on Heath street adjacent to the house of William Heath. The house originally shown as belonging to Moses Day at Heath and Cross streets was actually owned by his son, Moses H. Day.]

t. The bottom map, from the same year, shows the Sewall and Day Cordage Company, between Parker street and Huntington avenue. Note the long, narrow building along Parker street. That was the rope walk, a traditional part of every rope factory. The longer the rope walk, the longer was the rope that could be made in one piece. Rope walks appear in Roxbury maps from the early/mid-19th Century. They were a fire hazard because of all the dry hemp and hot tar they contained, and the smell of tar made them unattractive as well. The newly filled land that makes up today's Fenway district was just the place to put a rope walk. Note that the 1884 map shows Sewall and Day owning land across Huntington avenue as well. That land would become the Museum of Fine Arts property soon after.

Sewall and Day opened their ropeworks in 1835. Day himself is noted for having modified the spinning jenny to assemble rope yarns in 1841. At a time when Boston ships carried a large share of American sea-going freight, rope-making would have been a critical industry for the area, and any improvement in manufacture would have given advantage to Boston's overseas traders.

Anyone interested in the Day family genealogy, please visit:

Special thanks to Glen Wallace and the Day family descendants for correcting and adding to this article.

Resources: American - Ropemaking
Norfolk County Registry of Deeds:

180:101 - 5/10/1848 Joseph P. Shaw to Benjamin Sewall and Moses Day
310:198 - 12/2/1862 Benjamin Sewall to Moses Day (part of same lot).

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

How Creighton Street Got Its Name

Creighton street development plan - 1859.

Bromley Atlas, 1884.

Creighton st. 1895 (David Rumsey Collection).

As a follow-up to an earlier street name post, I've done some digging and added Hyde Square's Creighton street to the list of known street name origins. As so often happens in local history, I came about the source of Creighton street's name in a roundabout way. I was investigating the Blessed Sacrament Church property, which once was the site of the Withington Tavern. Phineas Withington sold the tavern and 3 acres of land to Phillip Wentworth for $6000 in 1805. The second map above, dated 1884, shows Elizabeth Wentworth still in posession of the property. It was Elizabeth who led me to the Creightons.

Addendum (9/29/09) In browsing the History of the First Church in Roxbury, I learned that after Phineas Withington sold his inn to Phillip Wentworth, he opened another inn on Naushon Island during the War of 1812.

The property plan at the top of the entry shows the Halsey Homestead Sites in 1859, with Creighton street in place - if only in the imagination of a surveyor. Notice the difference between the property plan and the 1884 map. On the 1859 plan, there were house lots laid out on either side of Creighton street. Twenty-five years later, Elizabeth Wentworth owned all the land on the east side of Creighton street. In fact, a deed search shows that Elizabeth purchased lots 22-27 in December of 1859, the same year the plan was drawn.

But what of the Creighton name? Elizabeth purchased the six house lots from Thomas Lloyd Halsey Creighton. In one bold stroke, we connect the Halsey name to Creighton - it's not often that it's that clear cut. Thomas Creighton was a Halsey, and his antecedent, Thomas Halsey, had owned the same land when Withington sold his tavern to Phillip Wentworth in 1805.

Unfortunately, Thomas Halsey's presence in Roxbury at the turn of the 19th Century has so far eluded my grasp. Thomas Lloyd Halsey was born in either Boston or Newburyport Massachusetts (depending on sources) in 1750, and died at Providence, Rhode Island in 1838, at 88 years old. Thomas had seven children, including another Thomas, who served as Consul to Buenos Aires during the early 1800s, and Harriet, who married Commodore John Orde Creighton, USN. They had six children, including Admiral Johnston Blakeley Creighton and Thomas Lloyd Halsey Creighton, whom we've already met. Various deeds list all six Creighton siblings as owner of the old Halsey estate.

That leaves me with two mysteries: how did the Halsey's get from Roxbury to Providence, where Harriet, mother of Thomas Lloyd Halsey Creighton, was born and died? And how did the children of Harriet - rather than Harriet's siblings - end up owning the property?

Unfortunately, I've been unable to nail down Thomas Halsey himself. A Thomas Halsey arrived at the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the early 1630s, but he moved on to New York, settling on Long Island. Online sources all point to that earlier Thomas Halsey, and leave us wondering where our Thomas came from, and how his family ended up in Providence.

As a bonus to our Creighton exploration, I can tell you that Commodore Creighton served in the Mediterranean, where his notorious temper involved him in multiple cases of abuse of seamen and near-mutinies. If Creighton street was named for the man, and not for the family, then it carries an interesting origin indeed. Beatings, whippings, petitions to Congress and charges brought against the man bring us back to a time when naval service - and sea-going life in general - was closer to slavery than our modern ideas of military service. An online search for John Orde Creighton will tell the tale for those interested.

You never know where you'll end up when you start digging into the most prosaic of local history topics.


Thomas Lloyd Halsey genealogy
Thomas Lloyd Halsey papers
History of the First Church in Roxbury

Norfolk County Registry of Deeds:

23:85 - 6/11/1805: Phineas Withington to Phillip Wentworth.
283:82 - 12/30/1859: T.L.H. Creighton to Elizabeth Wentworth.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Jamaica Plain's Little Ireland

Plan of the south portion of the Greenough estate - August, 1850.

Keyes street extension - east of the railroad tracks.

Five generations of Greenough inhabited Jamaica Plain, between 1783 and 1924. The original 50 acre estate stayed in the family until the third generation of Greenoughs began developing the estate and selling off property. I'm focusing here on the south-most portion of the property, which was developed by the eldest sibling, David S. Greenough the third. The plan above shows Carolina avenue, Starr street (later Call street), Lee street and Keyes street. Keyes street later became McBride street (discussed here), and it's Keyes street that we'll be looking at today.

The name Keyes comes from John Keyes, who purchased the south-most end of the Joshua Loring property at the same time as the Greenoughs aquired the larger, northern portion. The Keyes property ran from the edge of this plan - the McBride/Boynton street back yard border - south towards Forest Hills, and probably included today's Boynton, Hall, Rosemary, Spalding and Anson streets. Keyes was a tanner, and ran a tannery somewhere on the site.

While this and other plans of the Greenough property show house lots with frontage of 90 feet and more, the lots of Keyes street were mostly a uniform 50 feet wide. Before the 1840s and the development of Green street, Jamaica Plain was dotted with estates of an acre and larger, so Keyes street was clearly aimed at a different market than the Boston businessmen who had settled into the Jamaica Pond area. In fact, as the list of buyers below shows, Keyes street was laid out to provide homes for the Irish laborers who had flooded into Jamaica Plain in the immediately preceding years. These small lots for the Irish immigrants were put on the far edge of the Greenough property, away from Centre street, Jamaica Pond and the northern part of the Greenough estate, which would be sold off in much larger lots to wealthier buyers.

The second plan shows Keyes street extension, on the Washington street side of the railroad tracks. This was the location of the Jamaica Plain Gas Company, which provided the fuel for the gas lamps of the community until bought out by Boston Gas at the end of the 1800s. They actually produced gas on the site from coal, as I've discussed here. At least one lot on this plan appears on the list below, so I've added this plan for completeness.

Going down the list of buyers below, the first thing that jumps out at me is that most of them appear to have already lived in the town of West Roxbury (which existed from 1851-1874). Most of those probably lived in Jamaica Plain, rather than the less populous Roslindale or today's West Roxbury district. So if the Irish just arrived in Jamaica Plain in the 1840s, and this was one of the first developments of housing for lower income workers, then where had they been living before they bought these lots? My guess is that many of the listed laborers probably lived in on the existing Yankee estates as live-in handymen. The 1850 Census lists many such Irish in Jamaica Plain, women as servants and men as laborers. They may also have lived and worked on the farms that still operated of the outskirts of the community, such as those near today's Morton street and Franklin Park. There are house builders, carpenters and masons among the buyers, a blacksmith and a plasterer. Edward Ward, the plasterer, got his lot by virtue of his wife Mary, who purchased the land in her own right, free and clear of her husband's interference. You'll often see the generalization that women had no legal independence during this era, but deeds such as this one show otherwise.

With the Gas company at one end of Keyes street and the horse car barns soon to come to South street (1858). Keyes street was well situated to serve as the new Irish district of Jamaica Plain. Over time, the neighborhood would extend north to Carolina avenue and south to new streets along South street. It's no accident that the first Catholic church in Jamaica Plain was built a block from Keyes street and next door to the horse-car barns and the jobs they provided. Where the Irish went, the church followed.

August, 1850 - Peter Dolan, Roxbury - Lot 9.

September 1851 - Daniel Sweet, Roxbury, Housewright - Lot 60.

October 1852 - Michael Dunlavy, West Roxbury, Laborer - Lot 6.

October 1852 - Patrick Condray, West Roxbury, Laborer - Lot 7.

January 1853 - William O. Farrell, housewright - Lot 11.

May 1853 - John D. Neif, Blacksmith - Lots 1 & 2.

June 1853 - Michael Harney, West Roxbury, Laborer - Lot 5.

October 1853 - John Mahar - Lot 3.

October 1853 - Patrick Fahy, Yeoman - Lot 12.

October 1853 - Edward Dolan, West Roxbury - Lot 4.

March 1855 - Michael Mulry, West Roxbury - Lot 22.

November 1856 - Lawrence Kelly, West Roxbury, Laborer - Lot 6.

December 1856 - Thomas Byrne, West Roxbury, Stone layer - Lot 13.

June 1857 - Patrick Comerford, West Roxbury, Carpenter - Lot 17.

July 1857 - Mary Ward, wife of Edward, of West Roxbury, Plasterer - Lot 16. ("Sole and separate use and free from the interference and control of her husband.")

August 1857 - Patrick Lawler, West Roxbury, Laborer - Lot 15.

August 1857 - Henry and Elizabeth McDonald - *** Lots 1,2,3.

February 1858 - Thomas Harney, West Roxbury - Lot 18.

July 1858 - Martin Seaver, West Roxbury - Lot 20.

May 1859 - Richard Corcoran, West Roxbury - Lots 58 & 59.

May 1859 - JP Gas Co. - *** Lot 4 plus a passageway.

May 1859 - Peter Dolan, West Roxbury - Lot 1.

May 1861 - James Gatlety, West Roxbury, Laborer - Lots 41 & 42.

February 1862 - James Dolan, West Roxbury, Laborer - Lot 57.

May 1863 - Henry Land, Weymouth, Merchant - Lots 44 & 45.

July 1863 - Patrick Gavin, West Roxbury, Laborer - Lot 46.

October 1866 - Thomas Cunningham, West Roxbury, Laborer - Lot 47.

October 1866 - Michael Shanahan, West Roxbury. Laborer - Lot 45.

December 1867 - Patrick Condray, West Roxbury, Laborer - Lot 54.

March 1868 - Roddy Doyle, West Roxbury, Laborer - Lot 53.

December 1869 - James Gately, West Roxbury, Laborer - Lot 43.

September 1870 - John and Patrick Devine, West Roxbury, Laborers - Lot 51.

October, 1870 - Michael Donnely, West Roxbury, Laborer - Lot 54.

September 1872 - John Corbett, West Roxbury, Laborer - Lot 53.

Source: Norfolk County Registry of Deeds.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Jamaica Plain Historical Society Tour - Sumner Hill

This week's tour features Sumner Hill. We start at the Loring-Greenough house and walk up Greenough avenue to the home of General William H. Sumner, who built the first house in this part of the old Greenough estate. This tour features some great architecture plus the fascinating people who lived there. We have an industrialist, a suffragist and the mother of a Confederate hero.

Tour starts at 11:00 AM at the Loring-Greenough house, weather permitting, and it's free, as always. And as an added bonus, I'll be leading this tour, so come by and say hello.

For more info, go here.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Who is that street named after?

I did my best to list the people that streets are named after. As you approach the end of the 19th Century, it gets harder to figure out who the streets are named for - I'm guessing that most of them were not long-time residents. Thus, no Sheridan, no Hall, no Dunster or Dane streets. No doubt I've missed some easy ones. Unfortunately, no one kept records of who named the streets, or how the names were chosen.

Achorn circle - Edgar Achorn, lawyer, lived along South st.

Amory st - Amory estate.

Ballard st - Ballard family owned land along South st.

Beethoven st - German composer.

Bismark st - German politician.

Boylston st - Nicholas Ward Boylston, owned land from Centre street back to the railroad tracks.

Brewer st - Sarah Brewer lived in the house at the corner of Brewer and Thomas streets.

Brown terrace - land owned by A.S. Brown, businessman.

Burroughs st - William Burroughs laid out road.

Bussey st - Benjamin Bussey - owner of the Arboretum land during early 1800s.

Call st - John M. Call had an estate near Green street train station.

Child st - probably Abner Child - owned land across South street - sold the land for St Thomas' church.

Eliot st - John Eliot, Apostle to the Indians, gave the land on either side for the Eliot School.

Goldsmith place - Benjamin Goldsmith owned a house along Centre st and a slaughterhouse set
back from the road.

Goldsmith st - Benjamin Goldsmith owned a farm along Centre street where the Arborway and the Arboretum are now.

Goodrich rd - Samuel Goodrich, pen name Peter Parley, lived across Centre st.

Greenough ave - D.S. Greenough developed the street from his family's estate.

Hagar st - Daniel Hagar was principal of the Eliot school during the mid-1800s, lived in the area.

Harris ave - Luther Harris, doctor.

Heath st - Heath family, including General Heath, Revolutionary war.

Holbrook st - Amos Holbrook had a house and farm along Centre st beside the Unitarian church.

Hopkins Road - named in 1926 for Sabina Hopkins McCourt, mother of Francis M. McCourt (1886-1956) who purchased and developed the street and surrounding lots (added from comments).

John A. Andrews - Mass. Civil War Governor

Lamartine st - French poet, friend of Samuel Goodrich, whose estate was part of Lamartine street.

Louder's lane - Louder family.

Marlou terrace. - A portmanteau name from Marie and Louis Mahn, owners of the land later subdivided into the street.

May st - May family - John May, settled the land in the 1600s.

McBride st - deceased WW I soldier

Meehan st - Patrick Meehan, builder, developer owned land.

Mozart st - Austrian [German] composer. Commenter Eeka points out that Mozart was Austrian. The Germans of Jamaica Plain may have seen him as one of their own.

Newsome park - George Newsome bought estate, moved the old house and developed the street.

Parley ave - Author Samuel Goodrich had estate on site.

Parley vale - Same as above.

Paul Gore st - Gore family owned land along Centre street at site of road.

Perkins st - James Perkins purchased Pinebank land in early 1800s along Connecticut road,
named Perkins street in 1825.

Peter Parley rd - Pseudonym of author Samuel Goodrich - built a house here, but never lived in it.

Prince st - Capt.John Prince bought the old Governor Bernard estate along Jamaica Pond, developed the road between Pond and Perkins streets.

School st - land surrounding School st between Stony brook and Walnut avenue was donated to the Roxbury public school - later Roxbury Latin - by Daniel Bell.

Seaverns ave - Luther Seaverns owned land the fronted on Centre street where Seaverns ave. is now.

Starr lane - Daniel Starr, blacksmith, had a shop set back from Centre street here during the early 1800s. Starr lane was probably a right-of-way to get to his property. His wife actually bought the land in her own right.

Thomas st - Hugh Thomas and wife donated land to the Eliot School.

Walter st - Rev Walter, first pastor of 2nd Roxbury parish.

Warren sq - land formerly owned by Dr John Warren.

Weld avenue - Weld family owned Arboretum land until 1802, and much of Forest Hills after that.

Weld Hill st - Weld family.

Wyman st - Wyman family owned land here.

Monday, July 6, 2009

J.P. Historical Society Tour - Monument Square

Come along this Saturday, July 11, for a tour of the Monument district of Jamaica Plain. The Soldier's Monument, the Unitarian Church, Eliot Hall and the Eliot School are all featured, plus some great examples of Victorian houses and stories of fascinating former residents.

The tour starts at the Loring-Greenough house at 12 South st. at 11:00 AM, weather permitting, and it's free as always.

Tour web page.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Mrs Walker's School

Among the community histories recorded at the Jamaica Plain Historical Society web site is the Reminiscenses of Jamaica Plain, 1845-1875, by Miss Ellen Morse. In it is a passing mention of a Mrs. Walker's school house on Centre street. I've posted entries about some private schools (Stephen Minot, Mrs. McKeige, Mrs. Cranch) but others have been on hold for want of information. While doing a general search for new Jamaica Plain stories, I recently came upon the advertisement above. Not only are we given an address that is in accord with that described by Miss Morse in her memoir, but we also get Mrs. Walker's home address.

That home address, Elm and Walker streets, brings in another thread. I had noticed in the past that on the 1874 map below, a Mrs. Walker lived on the corner of Elm and what we now call Sedgwick street (see below). Directly opposite are a house and an empty lot owned by a G. Walker. The 1873 West Roxbury Directory tells us that Mrs. Mary A. Walker was the widow of Mr. James P. Walker, and Gideon Walker was a carpenter with a business at the Jamaica Plain train depot at Green street. There seems to be no family connection between Mary and Gideon, so we are left wondering whether the street was named for her or him. By 1881, Sedgwick street was extended to John A. Andrew street and Walker street was no more.

G.M. Hopkins, 1874 (JP Historical Society).

For more information about Mrs. Walker, we go to the 1880 census (available at Mary Walker was born in Massachusetts in 1832 of English-born parents. Unfortunately, the online archive says of her husband only that he was born in New Hampshire. Their oldest child, a son, was born in Ohio, followed by two girls, born in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The household in 1880 also included Mary's sister, Martha A. Matthews, and a Miss Hattie F. Seager, both teachers, presumably at Mrs. Walker's school. Also in the house were housekeeper Martha H. Stevens of Maine and servent Katherine Kelley from Ireland.

Regarding the school itself, I'll quote from Miss Morse's reminiscense, which starts at the Unitarian Church at Centre and Eliot streets: " Beyond the Parsonage was the fine house occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Nathaniel Curtis. Then came the house of Mr. Moses Williams, which is no doubt remembered by some of these present.Then came the Hallett House, which was originally a very pretty two-story house. Later with an additional story it was Mrs. Walker's schoolhouse. I associate it as being occupied for some years by Mr. and Mrs. Charles Horton and their handsome daughters and sons. " There may be some confusion as to the exact location of the school-house, but I suspect that it was at the location shown below. In fact, the Moses Williams house preceeded the Curtis house, so we can't rely entirely on memories when sorting these things out.

Edit: I've done some digging at the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds that should clarify the location of the school house. Miss Morse tells us that the school was in the Hallet house, which later housed the Horton family. No Hortons owned property on Centre street during those years, so they must have been renting. The map below shows a house on the corner of Centre and Orchard streets owned by a George Cox.

Mr. Cox was a builder, and in 1869 he bought a lot of land from Dr. Benjamin F. Wing and his wife Adelaide. The land had come to Adelaide from her father, George Hallett. He also bought land from Joseph W. Balch, who had inherited it from his late wife Maria, also a Hallett daughter.

In 1832, George Hallett of Boston had purchased from a Mr. Samuel Billings 10 acres of land between "the Great Road" (Centre street) and "the road to Newton" (Pond street, or today's Jamaicaway). Just five years earlier, Billings had obtained the land from Ellen Gibbs, daughter of Crowell Hatch. Hatch, a sea captain and ship owner, had purchased it in turn from Timothy Penny of Jamaica - the island, not the Plain - in 1799.

So we've traced Mrs. Walker's school house back through it's owners to 1799. Timothy Penny listed the island of Jamaica as his address when he sold the land, so he must have returned there after having spent time in Jamaica Plain. Crowell Hatch is deserving his own entry here, and one will come in time. I know nothing of George Hallett, but while he owned the property, he must have rented the house to the Hortons, who are mentioned by Miss Morse above and show up on the 1859 map below.

Centre and Orchard sts, 1874.

1859 - Centre street runs right to left.

And finally, we can see the old house disappearing in the twentieth century.

1905 - the house still present, but new lots are planned in its place.

1924 - the house is gone, replaced by two brick apartment buildings.

So the forgotten Mrs. Walker and her private school took us back to the turn of the 19th century. What was once a ten acre estate became much of Orchard, Aldworth and Dane streets and Dunster road. The house was one of three that lined Centre street throughout much of the 19th century between today's Soldier's Monument and the Arborway, and sadly all three were sacrificed to squeeze in as many residents as could fit into 20th century Jamaica Plain.

As an added bonus, I picked up another nugget while examining deeds for this entry. The Penny-Hatch deed of 1799 puts the north boundry of the estate on "the road to New Town," that being the road to Newton, or Pond street, also our Jamaicaway. The Boston street atlas lists the origin of Pond street as 1825, but notes that it may have been a public highway previously. Now we know that the public had access to Jamiaca Pond by way of Pond street by at least 1799 and probably earlier. We might speculate - in fact I will - that Governor Bernard's estate of decades earlier may have sat on the same road. So you never know what you'll find when you dig into the details of local history. Mrs. Walker got me back to Timothy Penny of Jamaica, and perhaps to a Royal Governor as well.

Norfolk Count Registry of Deeds:

379:198 5/21/1869 B.F & A. Wing to George D. Cox

382:78 7/22/1869 J. W. Balch to George D. Cox

97:98 8/13/1832 S. Billings to George Hallett.

83:291 11/23/1827 E.M. Gibbs to Samuel Billings

11:40 8/23/1799 T. Penny to Crowell Hatch.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

JP Historical Society Tour - Woodbourne

The former St. Andrew the Apostle Church.

Come out this Saturday, June 20, at 11:00 AM (weather permitting) for the Jamaica Plain Historical Society's Woodbourne tour. Running south of Walk Hill street, the Woodbourne area was home to wealthy lawyers and businessmen in the 1800s. The family estates gave way to residental development, including an experimental housing project built by the Boston Dwelling House Company.

The tour starts in front of the former St. Andrew's church on Walk Hill street. And as usual, the price is right (free!).

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

J.P. Historical Society Tour - Green Street

The Jamaica Club house - formerly at Green and Rockview sts.

Come out this Saturday, June 13, at 11:00 AM (weather permitting) for the Jamaica Plain Historical Society's Green street tour. Green st was laid out in the 1830s, soon after the railroad was built, and the combination of the two could be said to have set off the development of modern Jamaica Plain. Learn about blacksmiths and harnessmakers, schools and factories. Green st. was the home to a trailblazing professional woman and a world-class manufacturer.

For an extra added bonus, I'll be leading this tour (and it's free!), so come out and say hello. The tour starts at the corner of Centre and Green sts.

JP Historical Society tour page

Thursday, May 14, 2009

JP Historical Society Tour

House on Alveston st., Sumner Hill.

This Saturday, May 16 will be the first of three Sumner Hill tours through the season. The tour begins at 11:00 AM, weather permitting, and starts at the Loring-Greenough house at Centre and South streets. The tour combines architectural gems with historical context, and tells the stories of a variety of fascinating past residents.

Tour info.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Susan W. Fitzgerald

Susan Walker Fitzgerald was born in 1871 in Cambridge, Massachusetts to well to do parents. She attended Bryn Mawr college, graduating in 1893. After time working at Bryn Mawr and Barnard College, she married Richard Y. Fitzgerald, an attorney. His family's business interests took them west, where Susan and daughter Rebecca left San Francisco just four days before the great earthquake. An illness suffered by Richard returned them east, and after a time Susan took a paying job supervising Pauline Agassiz Shaw's social work in Boston. In 1911, they moved to Greenough avenue, Jamaica Plain.

Susan was active in the suffrage movement, serving as an officer in various local and national organizations. From 1911-1915 she wrote a column three times a week in the Boston Evening Traveller. After a failed campaign for the Boston School Board, she won election to State Representative from Jamaica Plain, being the first woman Democrat to serve in the Legislature (Sylvia Donaldson was elected the same year as a Republican). After a single term, she left politics but remained active in public life.

Boston Daily Globe December 3, 1922


Susan W. Fitzgerald Talks on Place in Public Life

Representative-Elect Speaks Before Twentieth Century Club

Susan W. Fitzgerald of Jamaica Plain, one of the first two women to be elected to the State Legislature, representing the 22nd Suffolk District, spoke at the Twentieth Century Club yesterday afternoon on was (sic) "The Function of Women in Public Life."

Mrs Fitzgerald said that women were in political offices really to learn, as well as to serve. She emphasized the point that she wished people to regard her as representing the district as whole, and not as simply a women representing women in a district. On the other hand, she said, her interest should be that of the entire community rather than personal or sectional interests.

she said she believed women in office had really more to learn than to give, and that politics was a great school in which women might learn in a great many ways to be good sports, to take work as it comes, to seek no favors, no deference, no advantages - in short to be treated as man to man.

She spoke of the personal interest people had taken in women's work in politics, and said that in her own case that interest had strengthened a personal bond between her and her neighbors as nothing had done in the past. This bond she said was a basis for the right kind of political activity.

She stated that men voters had shown an interest in the candidacy of women for public office, and that this was a proof of the trust in woman's ability to represent people capably.

A question period followed. Samuel Hubbard presided. Dr. E.A.Winship gave a short talk on his travels in Dakota.

Source: Susan Walker Fitzgerald Papers

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Church and State

J.G. Hales, 1819 (BPL)

Ward Nicholas Boylston was the son of Loyalist Benjamin Hallowell. After the Revolution and the seizure of the family homestead by the new government, Ward Nicholas, having taken his maternal uncle's name, returned to Roxbury and won back the property in a lawsuit. The house and property were on Centre street, near the corner of what became Boylston street. Read more about The Hallowells and Mr. Boylston here.

Massachusetts was the last state to go through disestablishment - the legal separation of church from state - and that did not happen until 1833. In 1802, residents were still required by law to attend and support their local church. In this case, Mr. Boylston had to get an act of the Legislature to allow him to leave the First Roxbury parish in Roxbury proper and join the Third parish at Centre and South street. Since the parishioners supported the meeting house financially, any movement among parishes could harm the fiscal health of the church, and as such was of concern to the state. In this case, Mr. Boylston got his wish. Perhaps coincidentally, when the Town of West Roxbury was cut from greater Roxbury in 1851, Mr. Boylston's land would sit just inside the northern border of the new town.

Columbian Minerva September 14, 1802.


Commonwealth of Massachusetts

In the year of our LORD one thousand eight hundred and two.

An act to set off Ward Nicholas Boylston, of Roxbury, and his estate on Jamaica Plain, from the first to the third precinct or parish in Roxbury.

Section I

Be it enacted by the Senate & House of Representatives, in General Court assembled and by the authority of the same, That Ward Nicholas Boylston, of Roxbury in the county of Norfolk, with his estate there consisting of a Dwelling-House, and nine acres of land more or less, be, and hereby is set off from the first and annexed to the third parish in Roxbury on Jamaica Plain. Provided the said Boylston shall pay his proportion of parish charges due from his to said first parish prior to the date of this act.

June 21, 1802.

By the Govenor approved..

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Postal History of Jamaica Plain

I've already posted two entries on the Jamaica Plain post office - here's a history that adds much to the story.

Jamaica Plain News April 29, 1899


The Local Historian Traces Its Existence from 1829 to 1899 With Relative Facts that Bear on the Progress of Jamaica Plain.

The history of our local post office is a coincidence in the growth of Jamaica Plain. It bears weight in evidence of what our own district has been and assumes a position in indicating what Jamaica Plain is.

A search into the records of the Boston postal department show that in the beginning of the second quarter of the century Jamaica Plain formed a community too modest in point of numbers to justify a post-office. However, four years later this order of things was changed.

Whether by this time the place had received an impulse towards growth or the voice of these few inhabitants had been heard at headquarters, true it is, that in January, 1829, Mr Joshua Seaver was appointed post-master with the full authority of the office. Mr. Seaver was a merchant of the village, and the distinction that fell to him would imply an enterprise on his part and an esteem on the part of his fellow townsmen, two qualifications that his grandsons, of the firm of R. Seaver & Sons on Centre street, bear today.

On the site occupied by the present store of this latter firm, Mr.Joshua Seaver conducted the duties of his office with the honorarium, for propriety permits no other name, of twelve dollars per annum. In 1833, Mr.Seaver was succeeded by his son, Robert Seaver, himself later accepting the office in Roxbury which he held from 1845-49.

The records read at this time, not without uncertainty in the matter of date, that Andrew Jackson, on a visit to Boston during his presidency, called at the Jamaica Plain post-office. One is left in doubt as a result of this absence of specification on the chronicler's part whether Joshua the father or his son Robert had the honor of receiving the nation's chief executive.

The present store, of the firm that we have alluded to, being built at this time, Mr. Robert Seaver set apart a corner in the building for the purposes of the government. Evidently Mr. Robert Seaver and his office agreed, for we find him holding it 16 years, with an interval of six years, from '49 to '55, when Mr. Jacob P. George assumed the duties and temporarily removed the department to a building on the site now occupied by W.F. Fallon's fish market.

During this time the emoluments of office were keeping pace with the growth in sales of stamps. In 1839 the amount was $151.68 and in 1849 the incumbent drew, during his first year's term, the salary of $215.68.

The share of receipts received by the government for the year 1849 was $320.94.

Not until 1870 did Jamaica Plain rise in dignity from a fourth class postal division to a third class, with receipts of over $1000 per annum. Ten years later it assumed its present status of second class which demands an annual income exceeding $8000.

Upon the reappointment of Mr.Robert Seaver in 1855, the salary had risen to $452.79, and in 1859 to $495.44, with a net reserve to the government of $474.29. Here observe that the postmaster was more fortunate than the government and this became frequently the case in fourth-class postoffices now that the salary was based on the cancellation of stamps and not on their sale. Yet, in face of the advantage to the postmaster that this new order of things there have frequently been found unscrupulous enough to avail of the opportunity to increase their income by surreptitiously passing city mail through their own particular department.

With no evidence to indicate that Mr. Robert Seaver had a successor during the period covered from 1855 to 1863, we are safe in assuming that he enjoyed another eight years of postmastership in spite of his democratic principles in opposing the Lincoln administration of the last three years of this period. But by this time a change of functionary, evidently anticipated by the friends of the government, was incumbent if the principle be maintained, to the victor belong the spoils, for we find the office in 1863 passing into the hands of Dr.Marcus T.Robinson.

Coupled with his professional duties the doctor for a short time only, however, handled the mail constructing for the purpose a primitive building on Centre street, now occupied by the Dillingham Express Company. With the death of Mr. Robinson, his widow took charge, and in 1873, when Mr. Silas Poole was appointed to the postmastership, was still discharging the duties.

During the three latter years of Mrs.Robinson's term the receipts of the office exceeded $1900 annually. This now made the department a third-class office and a gift at the disposal of the President. The salary attached thereto was $1000, a comfortable income for the good widow.

As we look back it seems, as far as permanency of location is concerned, that our post office of those days fared no better than the tent of the Arab.

With the installation of Mrs. Poole came another change of locality, the government this time taking up its quarters at 725 Centre street, in the store now rented by the Messers. Libbey Bros. Two years later this growing factor in the industrial life of the community was about to assert its importance and secure a recognition it had for some time been entitled to. In 1875 the Jamaica Plain post office became a branch of the Boston general office and the advantages connected with the step were soon felt in the district. Mr. Silas Poole became Superintendent Silas Poole and a more central locality for the postoffice was a question that was started.

The following year when Superintendent Poole handed his office over to Superintendent Wilson H. Fuller, Woolsey Block became the favored location. From here, occupying one half of a store of which Mr. A Haxton occupied the other half, the office was transferred to the stores 7 and 9 Call street. Though out of the way as far as the public was concerned, and inconvenient to the officials themselves, the location on Call street served for a few years.

In April, 1887, Mr. John Lewis, who now holds the office, was appointed superintendent, and in March, 1897, Mr. M.C. Coin was appointed acting superintendent, having been transferred from Cambridge. Mr. Coin called the attention of the general office to the defects of the locality, and as a result, in October, 1897, the office was replaced to Woolsey Block, where it now stands.

On the same date the demand of the district for better service was met in the establishment of sub-station 25 at 672 Centre street, in the store of what was until recently, the New York Dry Goods store. Forest Hills was the next to be acknowledged in this respect, and in November of the same year a sub-station 28 was opened at W.H. Blake's drug store. In September 1898, Boylston station had to be considered, and as a result sub-station 38 was located at J.L. Locke's drug store, 158 Paul Gore street. The last to be established was sub-station 3(?) in the drug store of L.O. Wallace, 380 Centre street, being placed there January of this year.

The Jamaica Plain post office has kept pace with the advance of Jamaica Plain. From one officer drawing a salary of one dollar a month has it grown to a staff of twenty-five officials with a pay roll of over $1800 for the same period, ranking today as one of the best equipped suburban branches of the Boston General Office.

The staff comprises six clerks (including superintendent) eighteen carriers and a messenger boy.

From consolidation with the Boston office came the box delivery and the first carriers appointed were Mr.J.R. Dickson of 12 Harris Avenue and Mr.J.E. Page of 2 Alveston Street, who are still active in their offices.

The district covered by the delivery includes an area of some five miles, extending from Hoggs Bridge, Roxbury to Walk Hill Street, Forest Hills, and from Franklin Park to Brookline. By uniting her postal interests with those of Boston, Jamaiaca Plain gained ten years of the advantages of the free delivery. So indispensable is the system to the comfort of the community that the extension in this department should not escape notice. At the present time we find that sixteen of the routes have four deliveries daily and two each have but one less.


A final paragraph discusses contemporary revenue numbers - not particularly interesting to us.

Monday, May 4, 2009

It's Tour Time!

This coming Saturday, May 9th begins the 2009 tour season for the Jamaica Plain Historical Society. This year's series begins with the Monument Square walk and adds a new Jamaica Pond tour, for a total of seven different walks, all repeated three times through the season. I'm scheduled to lead three tours later this year, and I'll make note of each when the time comes. So come out, bring a friend and learn the secrets that surround you when you walk the streets of Jamaica Plain.

JPHS tour schedule.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Stephen Minot Weld - Schoolmaster

Weld School - Centre and South streets, 1859 (BPL).

The Weld School - Centre and South streets (1874 map, JPHS).

This entry is less a biography than an excuse to use some information I found in the 1850 census records. Schoolmaster Weld deserves a more thorough treatment, and when I have the time I'll give it to him.

Stephen Minot Weld was the son of William Gordon Weld and Hannah Minot. The first Weld to live in Jamaica Plain was Joseph, who was granted a large lot of land in the vicinity of today's Arnold Arboretum for his service in the Pequot War during the late 1630s. Welds continued to live on the homestead until the early 1800s, and stayed in the area for another 100 years.

While William Gordon Weld and his son William Fletcher were both wealthy shipowners and traders, son Stephen Minot Weld (1806-1867) chose to open a preparatory school in Jamaica Plain. There were few public high schools at the time, so the sons of the well-to-do in Greater Boston were sent to boarding schools to prepare for Harvard College. The Weld school was one of the most successful in the area, and attracted students from remarkably diverse sources.

The 1850 census gives us a window into the schoolhouse and its inhabitants. Weld and his wife, Sarah, had three daughters and one son, aged 2-10. There were 4 domestics (women), three from Ireland and one Massachusetts native. The record also lists 4 laborers (men). The students, aged 10-17, came from many different states and countries:

Massachusetts: 6
Maine: 1
New York: 2
Maryland: 1
Tennessee: 1
Louisiana: 3
California: 3

Cuba: 4
Yucatan: 1
Mexico: 1
Spain: 1

Which tells us that the former village of Jamaica Plain was, by 1850, fully connected to the outside world. Other 1850 census records for the community list many Irish domestics, so while there were few places for Irish to set up homes in Jamaica Plain at the time, they were fully integrated into the workforce, living within the households of Yankee residents. How Stephen M. Weld attracted students from such a wide geographic area is not yet known. Perhaps it was just the proximity to Harvard that encouraged fathers to send their sons to Jamaica Plain. The school of Charles Greene at Centre and Pond streets also had Cuban students. Perhaps trade connections between Boton ship owners and captains and their far-away trading partners made Boston the popular place to send one's sons. We certainly know that the first Spanish-speaking residents of Jamaica Plain didn't arrive in the 1970s.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Norfolk Blanket Cleansing Company

A century ago, the Jamaica Plain News published a series of articles proclaiming the virtues of a series of local businesses. It's not clear to me whether the companies had to pay for the priviledge of being so praised, or whether it was the boosterism of the publisher at work. In any case, this article informs us that one Jamaica Plain business of the time was a national leader in its field.

Jamaica Plain News November 18, 1905

A New Enterprise.

The important transfer of real estate on Brookside avenue, near Green street, which occurred recently, whereby the J.B.Shaw factory, situated on a lot of land containing sixteen thousand square feet, became the property of the Norfolk Blanket Cleansing Company, develops an interesting addition to the industries of Jamaica Plain. There are about ten thousand square feet of floor space available in the main building of two stories, and a thorough renovation of the interior, with the installation of a sixty-horsepower engine and boiler, places a first-class factory on the list. The engine and boiler house will be an addition, situated at the northwest corner of the building. Another contemplated improvement is a large stable.

The rear land follow the line of old Stony Brook, the centre of the brook marking the line. This gives ample yard room and space for future improvements. The Norfolk Blanket Cleansing Company will install in a part of the new factory its blanket cleansing and bedding department, leaving the carpet cleansing department in the old building on Call street. Increased business makes this move a necessity, it being a somewhat remarkable fact that the largest business of this nature in America is conducted in Jamaica Plain, and by this company, and it will interest many to learn that from San Francisco to Jekyll Island off the coast of Florida, blankets are forwarded here for treatment. Add to that fact that steamship lines and parlor-car companies have everything cleansed at frequent intervals, and that this concern handles the cream of this trade, with a constantly growing local business, and it can readily be seen that more room is needed.

The balance of the space in the new factory is to be fitted up as a first-class laundry establishment, with the latest improved machinery and methods and with power and water furnished by the new owners, to a suitable tenant, or if that is not available, the Norfolk Blanket Cleansing Company will add the above feature to its regular business, and under the management of the same progressive gentleman, who for a quarter of a century was engaged in the manufacture of blankets, and as a consequence is peculiarly adapted to the business of cleansing them, there is no doubt that the new venture will prove successful.

Enterprises of this nature should be encouraged and the district is indebted to this company for its consideration in making such an important investment here, thus adding to to the commercial importance of the district, the wage earning capacity of its inhabitants, and the trade of its merchants.