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.