Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Link Time: Guerrilla Engineering

Goldsmith brook, Arnold Arboretum.

We have a new entry into the world of Stony brook/Muddy river scholarship and study:

The Guerrilla Engineer.

While I explored the story of Stony brook in my blog Stony Brook: Gone, But Not Forgotten from a layman's, viewpoint, the Guerrilla Engineer will provide the eye of a civil engineer.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Link Time: Fort Hill History

I've added a relatively new history site to my link list: Fort Hill History. A very good job is being done looking at Fort Hill/Highland Park and Roxbury history in general. Check out Jamaica Plain's next door neighbor to the northeast.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Four Years of Cows and More!

My first post on this blog was October 25, 2007. In honor of that event, and in light of the fact that I just don't have much to add these days, I thought I'd repost the first entry.

Boston Globe, December 3 1908

Cow Tramples On Meredith

Animal Runs Amuck in Jamaica Plain.

Charges Would-Be Captors With Lowered Horns.

Last Seen Going Toward Franklin Park.

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Jabez Coney, Who Are You?

The Eliot School of Jamaica Plain was founded in 1676, and financed by money and in-kind donations, and by donations of land to provide long-term income. Most notably, John Eliot gave 75 acres to provide for the school. This was probably in multiple parcels, perhaps salt marsh for hay, an upland woodlot for fuel and/or land to be leased for farming. By the end of the 18th Century, the trustees of the school saw that they might better serve the institution by selling off plots of land and investing the capital. This required a trip to the state legislature for permission to amend the will of John Eliot. And so, around the year 1800, Eliot street was laid out between the road to Dedham (now Centre street) and Jamaica Pond.

At the time, there were few roads in the community. The Highway or Main road ran from Roxbury south to Dedham and beyond to Providence. Also relevant to the Eliot property, Pond street served as the Road to Newton. From the Dedham road, it ran to the pond, turned south along the water (now the Jamaicaway) and continued towards Brookline as it still does today. In May of 1834, Mr Jabez Coney became one of the first to buy an Eliot street plot and build a house.

Plan of Eliot street properties, 1849, showing the northwest half of Eliot street. Coney property at corner of Eliot and Pond streets.

Above we see a property plan from 1849, drawn for John C. Gore, who had purchased and divided the properties to the left. By this time, Coney had divided his property (marked in red above) and sold the smaller plot to an Elisha James. The house that James would build still stands on the property.

So far, we have a name, a date, and a property plan. But who was the man? What kind of person was building a house overlooking Jamaica Pond on the new Eliot street? Confusion over this question is what has kept this entry on the back burner for so long. A Jabez Coney shows up in historical documents as the owner of a major machine shop and foundry in South Boston in the first half of the 19th Century. There is also mention of a Jabez Coney of Dedham, housebuilder. So who was Eliot street's Jabez Coney?

It took some time to sort this question out, and I'm reasonably confident that I've got the answer now. A Jabez Coney was born in Dedham in 1774. In 1800, he married Irene Gay. The two would go on to have four children: Sally, Jabez, Irene and Hannah, all born in Dedham. In 1834, Jabez Coney buys three quarters of an acre land from the Trustees of the Eliot School.

But wait... in October of 1827, Jabez Jr. had married Mary Whiting of Dedham. So who bought the land in Jamaica Plain, father or son? State records show that Jabez Coney of Roxbury died in May of 1841 at 67 years old. That's Jabez senior, so we know that he had, indeed, moved from Dedham to Jamaica Plain (then part of Roxbury). So old Jabez only had seven years at most in Jamaica Plain, and his disappears from the story. What about the son?

Now we have to leave Jamaica Plain. Jabez Jr. shows up in the 1850 census, age 45, living in South Boston with his three children, aged 10 t0 21, his mother Irene, age 72, and 18 year old Mary Burns of Ireland. This raises two questions: what happened to Mary Coney, his wife, and who was living on Eliot street? Mary Coney disappears from Massachusetts records - I find no evidence of her death. The second question will be examined later.

Location of Coney machine shop, South Boston.

Close-up of Coney shop.

Although Jabez Jr's life was not in Jamaica Plain, we've gone this far, so let's discuss him. He opened his machine shop in South Boston in 1837 (shown above, circa 1850), and for a time it was one of the largest in the nation. In 1843, he began work on the iron-hulled steamer the McLean for the United States. In 1848, Coney was building locomotives - there is reference online to two built for the Old Colony line. In 1850, Coney's shop provided the machinery for the war steamer Saranac. That same year, he was confined to his home by a 'paralytic condition' (stroke?), and the company would close down.

In spite of his paralysis and the loss of his company, Jabez the younger apparently was able to keep active. An online search reveals that Jabez Coney submitted patent applications for several inventions. At the time, he was listed as a 'consulting engineer.' And there is one reference to him being associated with South Boston's Globe Locomotive Works as well. He would die in 1872 at a Silver street address, within walking distance of his old shop.

To close out the Jamaica Plain aspect of the story, the property was sold by son Jabez Jr. and his older sister Sally Hersey in February of 1870 to George H. and Irene Williams. And as it happens, George and his brother John, owners of a harness shop on Centre street, and both land developers/speculators in Jamaica Plain for many years, had married the two remaining Coney siblings, Hannah and Irene. So the property actually stayed in Coney hands - Irene Coney Williams, widow of John E. Williams, ended up with it. By 1884, the house was in the hands of an F.H. Downs, and the Coneys would be gone from the corner of Eliot and Pond streets. Irene did, however, remain on Eliot street, in a mansion on the corner of Eliot and Dane street that still stands. Irene would survive until 1895.

I started out this effort a few years ago when I noticed the Coney machine works in South Boston. At the time, I didn't have a sure connection between the Jamaica Plain and South Boston Jabez Coney.

So let's summarize what we've learned. No, the South Boston Jabez Coney was not the Jamaica Plain Jabez Coney, so Jamaica plain doesn't get credit for one of the leading manufacturers of the era. However, they were father and son. Also, we now know that all three Coney daughters came to Jamaica Plain, and married there. Hannah and Irene married into the Williams brothers and their Jamaica Plain real estate empire, and Sally married a Charles Hersey, and stayed at least for a time in the community. And when the property was finally sold,it was purchased by daughter Irene, and held by her for at least a few years more. And that's more than you ever imagined you'd want to know about the Coneys of Eliot street.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Lucrecia Crocker School

Lucretia Crocker school (City of Boston Archive Flickr photo group).

Crocker school, Bickford street, 1895.

Once more, I have to add a school that I've long had in mind. This time, I must confess the failure was one of memory, rather than material. The school sat between Bickford and Parker streets, and under the shadow of the Plant shoe factory. The Crocker opened as a primary school, consisting of grades 1-3.

The eponymous Lucretia Crocker deserves more attention than I can do justice to here. She was very active in education, with a particular interest in the sciences, and was one of the first women to be elected as a Supervisor of the Boston Public School system. For more about here, please go here.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Canterbury Street School

Canterbury street school (BPL Flickr photo group).

Canterbury street school, marked in red, 1874 (JP Historical Society).

In my effort to document every pre-recent school in Jamaica Plain, I had failed until now to include the Canterbury street primary school. It sat on the corner of Canterbury and Bourne streets, just south of Forest Hills Cemetery. The photo above, just available online in the Boston Public Library Flickr photo group, shows a typical wood frame primary school of the time. What is most interesting to me is that the school was located in what was at the time the middle of nowhere. The map fragment above shows houses along Canterbury street, and a wider view would show more on Canterbury street to the south, and further on along Mt Hope street, but the total number of houses in the area was small. I'm guessing that these people either worked at the Cemetery or on farms in the area.

The Manual of the Public Schools of 1890 lists the following:

Elizabeth Kiggen, West St., Hyde Park. Cls. I. and If.
Mary E. Roome, 68 Day st., Roxbury. CI. III.
Ella Norton, Janitor, Sargent st., Rosliudale.

Two teachers for three classes, and one janitor.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Central Congregational Church Fire

The original Central Congregational Church at the end of Seaverns avenue burned in 1935. This photo comes from the BPL Flickr group. I've already posts about Central Congregational here and here.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Lost and Found: The Peter Parley Homestead

Abram French house, Parley Vale (BPL Flickr group).

Abram French estate, Centre street, 1874 (JP Historical Society).

I've written about Samuel Goodrich, AKA Peter Parley in the past here and here. Parley avenue, Parley vale, Peter Parley road and Goodrich road all honor the (once) famous 19th Century author and editor of children's books, politician and ambassador to France. His property, expanded over the years by many purchases, ran from Green street to somewhere between Parley avenue and Robinwood street, and from Centre street back to the railroad tracks. As the property was sold off in pieces, it has been impossible for me to determine the exact location of the original Goodrich house.

So now I know, if I can trust the caption of the above photo. The caption reads "Old Abraham French House, "Peter Parley's" old house, Parley Vale, Jamaica Plain," although the correct name is Abram French. Mr French owned a substantial crockery and glassware business on Franklin street in downtown Boston.

By the time French purchased the house and land, the estate, while still substantial for the district, was much smaller than the original Goodrich property. Green street extended back from Centre street to Washington street, and Chestnut avenue cut behind the property from Green to Boylston streets.

This house, then, would have received visits from Daniel Webster, Senator and one of the greatest orators of his time, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, whom Goodrich published before he was well known. We can imagine the carriages coming down Centre street from Boston carrying the great men of the day to visit the famous Peter Parley, and the politician Samuel Goodrich. Eventually, Goodrich went to Paris as the United States Consul to France, and would never return to live in Jamaica Plain. The estate has been divided many times, and the house is gone, but his carriage-way remains as Parley avenue. And if you walk in from Centre street to Parley Vale, the traffic of Centre street seems to disappear, and you might almost hear the carriages.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sweet Nut Margarine

Sweet Nut Margarine trade card.


Best as a spread
On biscuit and bread
And best for making cake

In cookies and pastry
In makes them most tasty
And you want it whenever you bake

Benefit Brand Sweet Nut Margarine.
Sweet Nut Butter Company
Jamaica Plain Mass.

Sweet Nut Butter Company, 159 Green street (Bartlett Square) 1924. Click on map for larger image.

The plant was directly opposite the Inbound Green street train station, and set back from Green street itself. I had noticed the company name on the map, but this is the first time I've seen any other reference to the company. The building is gone, as are all the others from the old Bartlett Square, but for one. The small brick building (in red) towards the bottom of the page (away from Green street) is still there. The larger building running alongside the Sweet Nut plant (labeled John J. Meehan) is long gone.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Jamaica Pond - New (Old) Views.

The Boston Public Library has just posted these photos, with quite a few more, to their Flickr group. Let's see if you can figure out where they were shot from.

Monday, January 31, 2011

New Blog - And This Is Good Old Boston

Since new material for the Remember Jamaica Plain site is coming slow, I thought I'd extend the franchise and do a Boston-themed blog. Thus: And This Is Good Old Boston. Of course you recognize the words:

And this is good old Boston
The home of the bean and the cod
Where the Lowells talk only to the Cabots
And the Cabots talk only to God.

I'll be trying to show the familiar in unfamiliar places, and remember the once-famous and now forgotten. So far I've looked at M.I.T. in Boston, the original Museum of Fine Arts, Boston's Newspaper Row, the gradual growth of the State House, and the Roxbury-South End border. Next up is a look at the South Boston Marine Park. I'll try to add at least one post per week. I may add links to other sites and book reviews as well. Come over and check it out.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hellenic College

Bacon estate, 1924.

I thought I had accounted for all the schools in Jamaica Plain, but I've just found that I missed one. Hellenic College is located mostly just over the Boston line in Brookline, but they do own a large plot of land along Prince street, overlooking Jamaica Pond. Here's an Associated Press article announcing the purchase of the former Bacon estate.

Plans for America's First Hellenic University Are Disclosed in Boston Today

August 5, 1939

Plans for America's first Hellenic University was, where disclosed today with the announcement that the Greek Orthodox Theological Seminary has purchased a 25-acre site in Jamaica Plain.

The property, known as the Gaspar Bacon estate, is adjacent to the present 35-acre layout of the seminary, just over the line in the town of Brookline.

The seminary will be the nucleus of the planned university in which those of Greek birth and antecedents are expected to contribute 100 million dollars.

The university, however, will be non-sectarian, although continuing a heritage of Greek culture.

Judge John C. Pappas, who purchased the property on behalf of the seminary, said chapters to foster the university will be established throughout the country.

"Spyras Skouras of New York and California, prominent businessman and industrialist, will lead the campaign for the 100 million dollars," said Pappas.

Pappas and his brother, Thomas, formerly in the diplomatic service, Angelo Cotsidas and Theodore Tonna are underwriting the first structure, a $250,000 building which will contain classrooms, library and gymnasium.

Here's an article on Gaspar Bacon.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Crowell Hatch

This 1859 map shows the location of the former Hatch house on Centre street, marked in red. The house sat between today's Soldier's Monument on the right and today's Arborway rotary, near the intersection on the left.

I've been sitting on this entry for far too long, in hopes that I would develop more information on the subject, Crowell Hatch. While I haven't found the information I've been looking for, I have discovered an interesting source I can direct readers towards - more on that later.

Crowell Hatch was born in Marshfield in 1740. He followed the route of many at the time, going to sea, becoming a Captain, and then retiring to shore to become a trader, buying ships, provisioning and stocking them, and sending crews out to trade in foreign lands. Hatch first shows up in Jamaica Plain in 1799, buying xx acres of land from Timothy Penny, then of the island of Jamaica. The estate ran between Centre and Pond streets (then the Road to Newton), following approximately the path of today's Orchard street. I've trace the history of this property back in time to Hatch and Penny in a previous article. This was at the same time when James Perkins, who was following a very similar career path, was buying his estate on the opposite side of Jamaica Pond. Hatch's estate also stood adjacent to that of John Hancock, though Hancock no longer inhabited that house.

Hatch has entered into a second earlier article, in which I discussed the Boit family. In 1789, Hatch, then 49 years old, married Hannah Boit, the 24 year old daughter of John Boit, and merchant, importer and leading citizen of Boston. Ten years later, he bought an estate in Jamaica Plain from Timothy Penny.

The Columbia, as drawn by the ship's artist, George Davidson.

Crowell Hatch has two claims to fame that come down through the years to us; both as an investor, rather than a ship's captain. The first is the voyage of the Columbia, the first American ship to circumnavigate the globe. Following the publication of Captain Cook's journal in 1784, a group of partners including Hatch (then a resident of Cambridge) bought the Columbia, originally built in the North river yards between Scituate and Marshfield. The ship was put under the command of Captain John Kendrick, with a smaller sloop joining the voyage under the command of Captain.Robert Grey. (Here, I'll add that the Columbia carried in its crew one John Boit, son of John Boit mentioned above).

The goal of the voyage was to collect sea otter skins from the Pacific Northwest and trade them in China. Western traders suffered a fatal weakness when dealing with China at the time. While China had many products desired by the West - primarily tea - the West had little to offer China other than silver. As the United States had no source of silver at the time, expensive three-way trading was required to satisfy the Chinese and gain access to Chinese markets. Sea otter fur was of very high quality, and the Russians had been recently using it in their own China trade.

The full story of the Columbia is beyond the reach of this blog. The first voyage of the Columbia began the American China trade, which would make many Boston and other American seagoing cities' fortunes. Hatch later bought out his partners and sent Captain Grey back to the Pacific Northwest, where he named the Columbia river, and bought millions of acres of land for Hatch. While this second voyage set up the American claim on the Pacific northwest (Oregon), Congress failed to see the benefit of Hatch's great land transaction, and failed to recognize it.

Boston Exchange Coffee House.

The second, and lesser claim to fame for Crowell Hatch is in another investment; in this case, the building of the Boston Exchange Coffee House in 1809. The name belies the significance of the building. The Boston Exchange Coffee House was a seven story hotel, stock exchange and merchant/trader's meeting place built by Andrew Dexter in 1809. At the time, it was the tallest building in the nation. Although Dexter had investors - one of whom was Crowell Hatch - much of the money needed to build the Exchange was generated by fraudulent bank manipulation, from Boston to Detroit. At a time when paper money was mistrusted, and the national government was still not the master of its currency, Dexter had banks print money far beyond their deposit's ability to cover. Much like our own time, these banks were massively over-leveraged. In time, with the Exchange built, the financial house of cards would fall, and Dexter would flee to Canada. Just eight years later, in 1818, the building would be destroyed in a fire.

When I first read of Hatch's connection to the Boston Exchange Coffee House, I was hoping to learn more about him through this story. Unfortunately, he seems to have been a minor, silent partner, and shows up nowhere in the story after his initial investment. Hatch lived in Jamaica Plain at the time of the Exchange construction and financial scandal, and died in 1814 - not the 1805 you may see repeated in old documents on the internet.

No doubt by now you're forgotten that at the top of this article, I hinted of more to come. Crowell Hatch does have another claim to fame (or rather infamy) - one that very few people would have been aware of until very recently. One of the first online references I found to Crowell Hatch - which now seems to have disappeared - described him as being "of black-birding memory," or some such phrase. When I looked up the term, it was as I expected: black-birding referred to catching slaves, or dealing in the purchase and sale of the same. This is what stopped me from writing the Crowell Hatch entry: I was hoping to find more evidence that Crowell Hatch had traded in slaves. It should be no surprise that it should be true - Boston was built on trade among the colonies and with other nations, and slaves were just another cargo to them until at least the Revolution and the outlawing of slavery in Massachusetts in the 1780s.

I never did find the evidence I sought, but recently I returned to the subject, and an online search came up with a new source of information on Captain Hatch. A group of amateur historians from the South Shore of Massachusetts has set about telling the story of the voyage of the Columbia expedition: Hit and Run History. In association with WGBH.com, you can watch their story in a series of videos. The episode featuring Crowell Hatch and slavery can be seen here. The Hit and Run History folks have taken local history to the next step, producing their own 'television' documentary, piece by piece.

For a good read about this largely-forgotten episode in Boston's history, read The Exchange Artist: A Tale of High-Flying Speculation and America's First Banking Collapse by Jane Kamensky.

John Boit's journal of the second voyage of the Columbia.

Mass. Historical Society Columbia voyage page.

The Discovery of the Columbia River
- a nice article published in a series Old South Leaflets. I can't find a date. The Old South Meeting House produced a series of educational articles on American history through the late 19th Century to go with their lecture series on the same topic.