March 16, 2022
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Like many towns in the area, Littleton had an influx of Irish during the mid and late 1800s. Many of the Irish settled during the 1840-50s when the Fitchburg Railroad came through and the Irish help set the rails. They settled along Taylor Street to be near work. In fact, Taylor Street was referred to as “Dublin Street” until named Taylor in 1896.
This snippet from the 1880 census shows a number of Irish families living next to each other. The last three columns show the birthplace of the person, birthplace of their father, and the birthplace of their mother. The names are still familiar to us today.
not sure when my Great Great Great Grandfather came to Littleton, but he fought in the civil war and his last name was Moore.
My grandfather Francis McGovern lived on the upper end of Taylor St. in the early 1900’s
Thus growing up in Littleton air makes you part Irish. It’s a great history and hard working culture of the town to embrace.
I grew up on Taylor St and never knew it was once Dublin Street. In the 50s and 60s between the depot and Rt2 Taylor St was probably 90% Italian.
Thank you for sharing!
We all know the story of the Tory House and the bullet doors. Interesting to find that at some point between 1933 and 1945 the house was a restaurant serving Lunch, Dinner and Tea. Ms Frances H. Tomer purchased the house from Frank and Shirley (Houde) Lawton in November 1933. She is listed in the deed as being from Waltham. There is a Frances H. Tomer in the Waltham Directories 1933-1936, a teacher at the Waltham School for Girls. The home is sold in 1945 to Richard E. Truesdell by Frances H. Tomer of Rochester, New York It’s unclear how long the restaurant operated. Frances H. Tomer is not in the Littleton 1940 census but there is a Frances H. Tomer in Rochester Ny with the 1935 residence being Waltham.
It was interesting that on the front she advertised “bridge reservations.” You must have been able to reserve a table to play cards. That would have been a social activity that normally you would think they would just play at home but here you would be in a tea house.
January 26, 2022
Heyward Emerson Canney was an interesting Littleton native. Born 26 Feb 1890 to George W. Canney and Alice B. Bradley, he graduated from Lawrence Academy and fell into secretarial work. For 4 years he served as secretary to Dr. Samuel Smith Drury, rector of St. Paul’s School Concord, NH. During WWI, he served in the Navy as an apprentice seaman. Eventually, he ended up as private secretary to one of the partners of a large financial and investment firms on Wall Street, staying up all night writing his novel “Sentry” which was published in December 1928. It got mixed reviews. One article says “The main situation is hardly plausible. Some will consider it preposterous. There may be some local tradition in Littleton or its neighborhood which justifies it….The setting is clearly defined 20 miles due east of Wachusett and directly south of Monadnock.”
He died in August 1966 and is buried in Sleepy Hollow, Concord, Ma. This is fitting since his namesake, Ralph Waldo Emerson, is there as well.
We have similar story as the one in Sentry supposedly happening in Littleton to a man named Johnny Putt and Mr. and Mrs. Thompson of New Estate Road which may have inspired Canney. An account recorded by Martha H. Kimball in 1888 which was passed on to her niece, Faith Kimball, then to John A. Kimball is posted here.
Also, from Margaret Drury’s Scrapbook:
“Putt, John: an eccentric colored citizen who lived a hermit’s life and died at an advanced age. When fairly along in years he married the widow of one Thompson, who served in the war of 1812. But one fine day the return of said Thompson proved that she had had no claim to the title of widow. The disappointment of both men was very great. It was decided that they should stand up, side by side, and let the woman choose between them, the left-over to be comforted with fifty cents and 2 gallons of rum. The woman chose Thompson, the first husband, and Johnny Putt, in his grief, retired to this secluded spot and lived a hermit’s life (lived back of C.A. Kimball’s farm) enlivened probably by hunting and varied basket-making.” (C.A. Kimball lived in house across from Littleton Animal Hospital torn down in 2019).
December 24, 2021
Looking for some “new” Christmas or New Year’s recipes? Try these from the 1847 New England Economical Housekeeper. Try the New Year’s Cake with SEVEN pounds of flour…yummy!
Esther (Allen) Howland was born in Plymouth, MA in 1801. Her regional cookbook contained recipes, money-saving advice, and medical remedies. It was first published in 1844 by her husband, Southworth A. Howland and remained in print into the 1870s. Howland operated S.A. Howland & Sons, the largest stationery and bookstore in Worcester.
A side note: The Howland’s daughter Esther, was an artist who is credited with popularizing Valentine’s Day cards in America. She has been called “New England’s first career woman.”
November 25, 2021
A Thanksgiving Find while wishing you all a nice holiday however you may celebrate:
The Whitney Hoar (Howe) house located at 564 Newtown Road, is in one of the oldest settled parts of town. It was built in 1685 by Josiah Whitney and is believed to be one of the oldest houses in Littleton.
In 1719 it was transferred to Isaac Powers, who sold it to Benjamin Hoar. It was inherited by Benjamin’s son, Samuel, who sold it to Calvin Blanchard, Jr in 1812.
The Calvin Blanchards were the last family in town to feed the Nashobah Indians who frequently called there and it is said that they had Thanksgiving dinner with the Blanchards. The home was owned by the Blanchard family until 1901.
I look at that house every time I drive or run past it. It looks old but I had no idea just how old it was. Thank you for the history lesson.
And thank you from Lyle Webster
and our family. We are so grateful for your sharing of this Littleton History lesson, as we are the descendants. Our family has owned the second oldest home in Littleton since our grandfather, Luther Blanchard Furbush, bought it and its farm when he got out of The Great War in 1919.
This is so interesting. Lyle -was Luther was Carolyn’s father??
November 11, 2021
Thursday Find for Veteran’s Day
One of our volunteers is sorting through a box of American Legion Auxillary records
Scrap Phonograph Records
“At a meeting of the President’s Committee on War Relief control held in Washington, D.C. on March 30, 1943, that Committee, at the request of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, requested the American Legion and Records for our Fighting Men, Inc to carry out a second campaign for old records. The Armed Services need new records, they cannot buy those new records without old records being turned in. The recording companies cannot make new records without old ones from which to obtain material.”….from American Legion Headquarters
Write Your Congressman
Like Bon Jovi sings “As The More Things Change the More They Stay the Same”
Sugar ration certificate 10/20/1943. Hope we don’t have to repeat this part of history.
October 31, 2021
Friday’s Find: Replica of Enoch Dole’s Tombstone & Ghost Story
Local Legend of Dr. Enoch Dole
Shortly before the Revolutionary War, Eve Cogswell and Dr. Enoch Dole became engaged. When Enoch was called to serve in the War, Eve made Enoch swear an oath before God that “he would surely return to her, if not in body then in spirit form.”
Dr. Enoch Dole was killed during the siege of Boston, the battle of Dorcester Heights on 9 March 1776. His tombstone is in the Old Burying Ground.
According to legend, months later, presumably at the Cogswell house on Beaver Brook Road, Eve was doing chores in the barnyard, and looking up, she saw Enoch walking towards her. When he got close to her she realized it was an apparition and she ran screaming to her parents. Shortly after, Eve sickened and died.
The spirit of Enoch Dole, according to local lore, wanders the fields and meadows searching for Eve. Perhaps he finally found her as his spirit has not been seen since the 1960s.
Like a lot of local legends, this story does not stand up to historical investigation. For one thing, Enoch Dole was married with five children before the Revolution started. For another, the only Eve Cogswell we find wasn’t born until 1785. The generations in the house on Beaver Brook Road don’t fit with an Eve who would have been of marrying age in 1776.
When did this legend first start? Is the story correct but the characters mixed up? Why can’t we have a good romantic ghost story without facts getting in the way?
Thank you thank you for sharing this story!
Our Friday Find: 1950 Littleton Hornets Champions of North Middlesex Junior Baseball League.
Baseball has always been very popular in Littleton both for school children and adults. From our Littleton Massachusetts 1714-2014 book: ” Initially coached and funded by Robert ‘Buzzy” Cozzens. the Hornets were part of the American Legion summer baseball program for teenagers from 1947-1957. The Hornets had an avid following and a rivalry developed with the teams from Acton, Carlisle, Concord and West Concord.”
We have the 1950 roster printed in the Lowell Sun I think Eddie Hunt is first row on the left and that must be a Hunt fourth from the left in the second row. Is that Kenny Johnson in the second row on the right? Can anyone help name the rest of the team?
My dad, Harold (Jim) Hunt is the little guy in the front row – 5 from left. He has this photo in his home and can name all of his teammates. His brother, Eddie, is front row, first boy on left.
1951 Championship team- First row left to right. Ed Hunt; Billy Hartwell; Bob Cozzens; Jim H Hunt; Charles Getz; Larry Kimball
Second Row left to right
Lorimer Scofield; Herbie Childs; Fred Napolitano; Oliver Whitcomb; Henry Whitcomb; George Fields; Jim Davis; Walter Clancy; Kenneth Johnson
Great picture. I remember my dad taking us to the games. I was 8.
My father loved to be the coach. He talked about it so often.
September 13, 2021
Our Friday Find: Adams Washington Tuttle (1843-1864) born in Littleton, Mass
He was the eighth of nine children of Capt. Edmund Tuttle and Louise Fletcher.
Adams Tuttle was a farmer. He enlisted 17 Mar 1862 at 19 years old. He was killed in action at the battle of Spotsylvania Court House in Virginia and has a gravestone at Westlawn Cemetery. He was a Corporal 1st Regiment Massachusetts Heavy Artillery Company L.
Imagine, as a young man going into this war, when he probably hadn’t traveled very far from Littleton. The things he saw and ultimately lost his life on a battlefield. Blows my mind.
Spotsylvania Court House was the second engagement of the Overland Campaign, a series of battles fought in Virginia during May and June 1864. Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, general-in-chief of all Union armies, directed the Army of the Potomac, commanded by Maj. Gen. George Meade, against Confederate general Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Grant’s objectives were to pursue Lee, cripple his army, and capture the Confederate capital of Richmond. Success relied on a relentless pursuit of the enemy, so Grant instructed Meade, “Wherever Lee goes, there you will go also.” from “American Battlefield Trust.”
September 5, 2021
Our Friday Find: Ornaments made of hair donated by Anna (Powers) Micciulla.
Lemuel Leland Powers was born 15 June 1756 in Littleton. He was one of four Baptist ministers who served a group of churches in New York, Vermont and Massachusetts. He resettled in New York. The pieces were hair from Lemuel’s great-grandson Warren (Matilda) Powers’ daughter Lydia and her husband Matthew Laird.
Hair jewelry was often given as tokens of affection as well as the traditional mourning pieces. The Victorians were highly sentimental, highly romantic, and hugely emotional. The idea of keeping a piece of a loved one close seemed like an ideal way to remember someone.
From Wikiwand: “Unlike many other natural materials, human hair does not decay with the passing of time. Hair has chemical qualities that cause it to last for hundreds, possibly thousands, of years.”
From Victoriana Magazine: “During the mid-nineteenth century hair work became a popular drawing-room occupation, as fashionable as the much-practiced knitting, netting, and crocheting. By acquiring knowledge of this art, ladies were able to manufacture the hair of beloved friends and relatives into bracelets, chains, rings, earrings, and thus insure that they could actually wear the treasured memento they prized. Godey’s Lady’s Book, in the 1850s, provided directions and pattern designs for creating these cherished keepsakes.”
Hair ornaments…yea or nay?
August 29, 2021
Our Friday Find: The Tiger Littleton High School Newsletter published Dec 1969 Vol 4 No. 2
One of the articles is a response written by Thomas Olsen to some criticism of his class of 1971. The Find seemed serendipitous since this is their 50th anniversary. We would love to accept any of the other volumes that were printed.
Love the interview with Mr. Webster, one of my favorite teachers.
I have this original copy. Craig was so young! (And I get a kick out of the way military responses snuck into some of his answers. He’d just gotten out of the Army.)
Read some of the text would not be PC today
August 14, 2021
Our Friday Find: 2 White Street is currently for sale. A recent inquiry of its history prompted this week’s find.
Jonathan Tuttle transferred property to Jedediah Tuttle of Charlestown on 27 Dec 1788. Sometime within the next 2 years a building was put up and transferred to John Porter on 17 Dec 1790. Who said real estate was slow in the winter months??
On the 1830 map this property is noted as the site of Reuben Houghton’s store. This is an interesting story. Houghton’s business was failing. Reuben Hoar, as his largest creditor, became assignee. Hoar analyzed the debts and realized the assets of the business could cover all Houghton’s debts and so Hoar assisted in managing the concern for the next two years. When all the obligations were settled, Reuben Hoar refused compensation as assignee, leaving a balance to recapitalize the enterprise.
The Houghton family was able to amass, in two generations, the means to help found a library in the name of their benefactor. William Stevens Houghton, son of Reuben, donated $10,000, half of which was to purchase books, half to be an endowment for future acquisitions. These donations were matched by $2,500, raised by subscription, and $10,000 to be appropriated by the Town for construction of a town house to accommodate town offices and the library.
The Town Hall was built in 1887 (burned in 1943) at 19 Foster Street.
In 1895, William S. Houghton’s children funded construction of a separate library building in honor of their father. Built at 4 Rogers Street, the Houghton Memorial Building housed the Reuben Hoar Library until 1988. It is now the home of the Littleton Historical Society.
Back to 2 White Street, subsequent owners were J.G. Elliott (1856), Gardner Prouty (1875) and Bartholomew Leahy (1899) The Leahy family owned the property until 2014 when it was purchased by its present owners.
2 White Street Littleton MA
William Stevens Houghton
Helen Lavertue Powers
Love the history. Were any of the town records saved when the town hall burned? I would love to find the house plans for the house where I grew up. It was built in 1880 (I think) and I was told that it was made into a 2 family in the early 50’s.
Littleton Historical Society Inc Massachusetts
Helen Lavertue Powers Littleton was lucky that many of the records were saved. Unfortunately, none of the building department records were. So many times we’ve needed them! There might be something from the 50’s though. The fire was in 1943. Not sure how the present building department has things organized.
August 7, 2021
Our Friday Find: You never know where Littleton history will show up. Sandra Murphy Mauer (a descendant of Walter Powers) found some early 1900 letters relating to the Drew/Osborn family at an antique shop in Gloucester and donated them to the Society.
The Marion Drew letters came from the Superintendent of Swampscott Schools re-electing Miss Drew to teach and advising of her salary, $1,350. The other letters are to Marion’s mother, Gertrude (Osborn) Drew from various family members.
Gertrude Silsby Osborn and Fannie Matthews Osborn (Marion’ aunt) were the children of Dr. John Henry Osborn II and Mary Fannie Little. Dr. Osborn was Supervising Inspector for the N.E. Live Stock Insurance Co of Boston – the president of which was the Honorable Joseph Harwood. Harwood encouraged Dr. Osborn to move out to Littleton in 1893.
They moved into the house now located at 10 Murray Park Drive (now painted red). Gertrude’s notes say “The snow was deep and filled the roads from stone wall to stone wall. William Leahy moved the furniture on sleds.”
Records indicate this house was owned in the early 1700s by Marah and Nathaniel Russell, Justice of the Peace (bap. February 28, 1707). On November 13, 1755, he performed the marriage of his son, also Nathaniel Russell, and Abigail Goldsmith at the house. Nathaniel Russell, Jr. served in Captain Samuel Gilbert’s Company in Col. William Prescott’s Regiment during the Revolutionary War. In the early 1800s, the property was owned by Samuel Smith, for many years the Town Clerk of Littleton and a local historian and genealogist. Many of Smith’s papers are on file at the Littleton Historical Society.
According to notes written by Dr. Osborn’s daughters, Fannie and Gertrude, “Dr. Osborn was instrumental in getting house telephones because every phone call from Kimball’s store at the depot cost 10 cents extra for the boy to bring the call to the house. Dr. Osborn had a fine practice here and was instrumental in getting more humane methods caring for cattle.”
Dr. Osborn was killed tragically on 2 Feb 1896. He had taken a man home from church who lived across the tracks at the depot. The gate man had gone to dinner and left the gate unguarded and Dr. Osborn was struck by a train as he started back over the tracks for home. “The sleigh was smashed but the horse didn’t have a scratch on it.”
On 18 Dec 1899, at a double wedding ceremony, Fannie married Dr. Joseph Nelson Murray, a young veterinarian who took over Dr. Osborn’s practice and Gertrude married Curtis Drew who was a farmer and rural mail carrier. The Drews moved into a home on Warren Street (since torn down for Rte 495).
Curtis Drew delivering mail.
As a child a veterinarian lived in the house and I can remembering bring our dog to him. I don’t remember the vet’s name.
That must have been a beautiful home. I can just barely remember it prior to 495.
Our Friday Find: A recent donation of an aerial photo of the Trotting Park on Russell Street (no date).
According to the donor, Aaron Lund took this picture in his biplane. He was a WWI pilot in France with the Escadrille (French Air Force). His house was on the corner of Great Road and Russell Street. now occupied by Charles Bell / Nashoba Securities.
It’s a great birds-eye view of the stables and trotting park and to see so much vacant open space and trees! Along the left side of the road from bottom to top: Lund’s house; “Stan’s vegetable stand” house; old Chase Farm (taken down for the police station), Proctor Farm. Along the right side: The Long Store; Carrigan house; Poor Farm; SpringDell and Spring Brook farms barely visible at top.
The trotting park is always a fascinating story and would have been something to see in its heyday. Later it became home to the National Lancers.
Russell Street Trotting Park
The first horse trots were on 4 September 1893 and according to the news clipping “witnessed by 1600 people. Those interested pronounce it a success, both morally and financially.” Familiar Littleton names mentioned are Hosmer, Fletcher, McDonald, Gardner, and Durkee.
All during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s July 4th celebrations and picnics were held here with bicycle and horse races and meets.
The National Lancers were organized in 1836 by Gov Edward Everett as his personal mounted militia. He wanted the mounted unit to escort him to the Harvard commencement with the pomp and ceremony he felt his office deserved. The troop was given an official position in the State Militia.
The Lancers were called upon to keep the peace in the 1837 riot at Faneuil Hall, the 1842 threat against rev Elder Jacob Knapp, 1863 Boston draft riot. During the Civil War, in 1861, the Lancers had 2 war troops, Companies C and D, 1st Massachusetts Volunteer Cavalry. They fought in 11 major battles and campaigns including Gettysburg.
In 1916, they were called to patrol the border between Texas and Mexico after attacks by Mexican terrorists. In 1917 they were ordered into active duty for WWI. They fought in six campaigns in France.
After WWI , the unit became mostly ceremonial, reenacting the rides of Paul Revere and William Dawes.
In 1945 the DiCarlo brothers purchased the old riding academy on Russell Street complete with 25 horses, 90 acres, and a half mile track. They converted the old tack room into officers’ quarters and the hayloft into barracks and armory and leased it to the Lancers for $1 a year. By 1977 the Lancers had relocated to Framingham and a suspicious fire destroyed the barn on 12 May 1978.
We were lucky that an alert citizen cut out the plaster murals from the remaining buildings after the fire and donated to the society. We are now trying to find a way to preserve them.
I think the pamphlet ” Horses & Buggies” had a page about it too. This is great, thank you!
I thought that Stan’s Vegetable Stand was taken down for the police station, and Chase Farm was across the street.
Thanks for clarifying
Learning about the history of all our small towns always teaches us something we never would have expected! So interesting. Please keep posting
Our Friday Find: Picture this: it is 97 degrees out, sweat is pouring down your back, the sun has beating down all day. You decide to go to the Long Lake Beach and have a nice dip in the cool lake so you shed your clothes and put on…your wool bathing suit?
This photo taken in the late 1920s shows the throngs at Long Lake in their finest swimwear. Believe it nor not, swimming for recreation was just starting to be popular round this time. Resorts, like the Long Lake area, were being created all over the United States.
Bathing suits were made of wool, in part, because it was available. Cotton would sag once it was wet, even if tightly woven, and wool would be stretchier. But, as you can imagine, it became very heavy when wet – not ideal for swimming. Silk, taffeta, and jersey fibers might also be used. Gradually synthetic fibers became the preferred material providing more comfort and fashion. Interestingly, natural fibers are again being used in the manufacture of swimwear in the name of sustainability and eco-friendliness. Just please don’t make us wear bloomers with full-length stockings! And, sorry, but few men could pull this little number in our collection off.
Long Lake’s heyday was in the late 1920s, as this photograph shows. With the building of the camps, city folk would come to spend summers in Littleton taking advantage of cooler air and the lake. On a nice summer day, hundreds of people would gather to enjoy our little “resort.” The photo of the cars parked is at the end of Beach Road. The town better not get any ideas to turn that back into parking. Don’t make me regret posting that picture!
I do historical costume and have worn wool in the summer. It can be quite comfortable — think a lighter weight suit wool, for example.
Wow. This is so cool thank you for sharing this!!
I remember wearing a wool bathing suit in the 1940s
July 17, 2021
Our Friday Find: We were asked about the house at 120 Goldsmith Street. Traditionally, it is known as the Goldsmith or Houghton or Kimloch (Kimball) Farm. Obviously, the name of the street is from the man who really established the farm. Lets find out a little bit about him.
John Goldsmith’s father died when John Jr was just 4 years old. He was instantly killed when he was helping to construct a flume for a mill in Harvard and a timber slipped and fell on him. He left his wife and four young children who, after his death, were separated for a time. John Jr went to live with his grandfather Richard Goldsmith on Oak Hill.
When young John turned 19, he went to work for the widow Sally Davis on her farm in Harvard. She liked him so well that when she married Capt Francis Kidder Jr of Littleton, he went with her to their new home at Littleton Common. The Kidders kept a tavern there and later he worked for Simeon Proctor who kept a tavern near Lake Nagog.
John wasn’t a man of all work and no play. Sebia Kimball caught his eye and they married in 1818 (John was 25). He started farming on his own preferring to work for himself. He and his bother-in-law, Simeon Conant, worked a farm together in Stow. However, both he and Sebia wanted to live in Littleton. He heard that the farm owned by Thomas Hartwell was for sale and he bought it paying $1400 for 30 acres of land and a very dilapidated set of buildings. He was to pay interest plus $100 on the principal yearly. Hartwell had let the buildings run down, the land was run out and the barn still had an earthen floor. In 1820 John, his young wife, and baby daughter Sophia moved to Littleton. His family wasn’t too keen on his new home, they felt he had paid an extravagant amount for a dump and wouldn’t (or couldn’t) lend him any money. So determined were they to own their own farm that John and Sebia worked and saved the money. She knit gloves and mittens, made butter, cheese and dried apples and economized so that she thought “her store bill did not exceed $5.00 for the whole year.”
Over the years, they had seven children; 5 of whom lived past infancy. To accommodate their family, the house was added onto many times over the years. John continued to buy land and eventually doubled his farm. When the mills in Lowell attracted workers, John took his produce to Lowell weekly and did so for years.
He wasn’t just a farmer though – he served on the Board of Selectman, took part in debates at the Lyceum, and was very active in the church. He joined the temperance society and was a staunch temperate. He refused to entertain any guest or acquaintance at the tavern and refused a social glass himself although he was often slighted for doing so. As a Selectman he always voted against allowing a liquor license.
He was instrumental in improving the road to Lowell which tremendously helped the farmers of Westford and Littleton while the town of Chelmsford fought it. When the railroad came to town, he attended a meeting for a Fitchburg RR agent selling stock. No one dared to trust their hard earned money to such a risky venture but Goldsmith turned to Reuben Hoar and said “I will take one share if you will. $100 will not break either one of us and I will risk so much if you will.” With that, the Fitchburg RR received its first two shareholders in Littleton. He was remembered as being “an influential man who stood well in town.” He was a quiet and stern and no one dared disobey him, but was well respected and certainly led a fine life.
At his death he left $1500 for the town to be expended annually for education in the Common Schools of Littleton. The fund still exists and had a balance of close to $20,000 at the end of 2020.
Our Friday Find: How I long for the days when the newspaper was relevant!
In 1877, Edward Russell Frost, at 16, published Littleton’s first newspaper the Littleton Amateur which became the Littleton Courant. The weekly paper could be subscribed for $.10 cents per year.
It is a great source, not just for the town news but for the advertisements as well. It gives great insight into the business in early Littleton.
This is the July 1878 Littleton Courant published by Frost at his home. He had a great sense of humor and it often comes out in his writings. Frost was born 1860, son of Benjamin Dix Frost and Martha Duty. Benjamin Frost was the chief engineer of the construction of the Hoosac Tunnel. His advertisement appears on page 4.
The Frosts lived at the house on the corner of King and Russell Streets. E. Russell Frost was the 3rd great grandson of Capt John Russell, the first of the Russells in Littleton. You can see Russell Street, as a path, to the left of the house. Frost’s secretary desk is in the collection at the Historical Society.
July 2 2021
Our Friday Find: The family of Bernard “Benny” Halpin (1920-1986) has generously donated his WWII papers including those from the time he was a German P.O.W. We hope to compile them into a story of his experiences. He was 24 years old at the time of his capture. It is extremely sobering to leaf through the archive thinking of what he, and his loved ones on the home front, went through. Benny was born in Bridgeport, CT to Charles & Amanda Halpin. After the war, he married Mabel Reed in 1949 and raised a family on New Estate Road.
Halpin was a pilot stationed at King’s Cliffe in Northamptonshire England. From an article in the Littleton Independent: “On 21 November 1944, while protecting another pilot in trouble, Halpin’s plane caught fire and he bailed out at 24,000 feet. Landing in a tree, he hung there with about 20 German soldiers below him. He was taken by truck to Stalag Luft III. In January 1945, with guns from the front visible, the camp was evacuated, the men walked in a blizzard for several days, then crammed in boxcars headed for southern Germany to Nuremberg. Finally, in the spring at the end of April, General George Patton came through and liberated the camp.”
Included in the archive, a book of memories called “Stalag Luft III” that was complied by Bob Neary in 1946. Appropriately for Independence Day are these two excerpts by unknown authors:
“I shall never forget the most beautiful sight I have ever seen…the Swastika coming down and the Stars and Stripes rising gloriously in Moosburg, not far from camp.”
“On June 2 after sixteen days at sea, we watched in reverent silence as the Statue of Liberty loomed out of the haze. I had nothing to say my heart was too full for words. I had never fully realized before going overseas just how wonderful this country of ours is. I had always taken for granted my complete Liberty, freedom of speech and countless luxuries…..I think I have learned my lesson well and feel that I shall never forget it…I am an American! and I am grateful.”
Jane LeCount LaGoy
June 26 2021
Our Friday Find: The Ice Man
Hot enough for you? Well, when you reach into your freezer for an ice cube think about the process of getting and keeping ice before electricity. Maybe our Friday Find will help cool you off.
From the estate of Mabel (Reed) Halpin: Mabel’s father, Carl Reed, came to Littleton to work as a farm hand for Langdon Prouty. He lived on King Street one house toward the depot from New Estate Road (now Gruskowskis).
The picture of him in their driveway shows the Socony gas station which used to be on the corner of King Street and New Estate Road.
He bought the ice business and rented the ice house on Mill Pond from Curtis Drew. Originally he used the ice house on the left side of Mill Road but later built a bigger ice house on the right side of Mill Road, which may be the one in the photo. Carl Reed cut his own ice with the help of local farmers. Roger Conant took care of running the horses which were used to pull the saws and run the lift to get the ice up to the top levels of the ice house. Ice companies had an agreement to only sell in their own towns. Carl delivered all the ice himself.
June 20, 2021
Our Friday Find: More of the donations from the Hager estate. In one of the boxes, we found a collection of invitations, calling cards, and at home cards.
Think of calling cards and at home cards as 19th century social media.
Calling cards were fashionable in Britain, Europe and eastern United States. Leaving a card at a friend’s home was a way to express thanks for a recent dinner party, offer condolences or simply to touch base and say hello (a precursor to Facebook). If the friend wasn’t home, a servant would accept the card and leave it in a silver tray in the entrance hall. A tray full of calling cards was a way to advertise who was in one’s social circle, and usually the wealthiest or most influential people were displayed on top of the pile.
The interesting thing noted on the ones we have are the wife’s maiden name either added at the bottom or on a separate attached card. A genealogical goldmine!
June 12, 2021
Our Friday Find: Invitation to 1945 Inauguration Ceremony for President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent to Gloria Mawhinney’s father Joseph. Gloria Mawhinney was a dedicated Reading Specialist teacher at the Shaker Lane School, retiring in 1984. She died in November 2018 and several items from her estate were donated to the Historical Society including the invitation and a gorgeous 1920/30’s flapper dress.
June 5, 2021
Our Friday Find: We received a donation this week of a cool photo from the WWII era. The back of the photo reads: “John Henry Wilson and son, James, on Airplane Observation Patrol Post in Littleton Mass in December 1941 beginning of the War with the Axis.”
“The Office of Civilian Defense (OCD) was established by the federal government in early 1941 to organize volunteers nationwide to serve as airplane spotters, air raid wardens and fire brigades.
In December 1941 the Littleton Campfire Girls donated their camp building on Warren Street for use as a post for plane spotting. The building measured 10 feet by 10 feet and was moved by volunteers to the corner of Foster and Taylor streets. A wood stove was installed to provide heat in the winter.” (from “Littleton, Mass 1714-2014, Celebrating 300 Years of History”)
The Rev. John H. Wilson was minister of the Unitarian Church in the 1930s-1940s. In the 1940 census he lived on Foster street with his wife, Lucile and children John, Lewis, Jean and James.
Fun fact: Son Lewis Wilson was the first actor to play Batman on film in a 1943 serial!
May 31, 2021
Soon after the conclusion of the Civil War, cities and towns took to decorating the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers and flags. In May 1868, General John A. Logan, who was the second Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic from 1868 to 1871 and a member of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the U.S. after the war, designated the 30th of May to be a nationwide day of remembrance. Known as Decoration Day, northern states continued the tradition, and by 1890 they all had declared it a state holiday. Following WWI, the tradition grew and remembrances for all war dead became the norm. In 1971, Congress changed the observance from May 30 to the last Monday in May and declared it officially as “Memorial Day.”
The newspaper clipping is from the “Littleton Guidon” 3 June 1899 relating how Littleton observed the early holiday. The photos are of the G.A.R. (Civil War fraternal organization) soldiers on parade and the ceremony at Westlawn Cemetery in 2019.
May 28, 2021
Our Friday Find: Three descendants of Augustus P. Hager visited the Littleton Historical Society this week and donated photos and artifacts from the family. The Hager family lived at 338 King Street (Kimball/Morgan/Gruskowski) from 1858 to 1972. Leslie Augustus Hager was a Moxie salesman for 42 years and traveled extensively throughout the east coast in the Moxie Cadillac. Pictured here are two Moxie Cadillacs and the Moxie Horse mobile.
Are you a Moxie drinker? Moxie is…an acquired taste. My uncle once claimed it was the “blood of old schoolmarms.” Now owned by Coca-Cola, it is one of the first mass-produced soft drinks in the U.S. getting its start in Lowell in 1876. It is flavored with gentian root extract, which gives it its distinct taste.
Our Friday Find: It is human nature…whether in exercise class, the movie theater, or church. We have a certain spot we always sit in. We can get very indignant when someone is in “our spot.” If you are nodding at this, you’ll like this find.
Pews at early meeting houses were sold to families to raise money for the operation of the church. They were purchased, sold, and inherited and were formally recorded at the Registry of Deeds.
Dated 9 July 1813
Samuel Reed, executor of Samuel Reed’s estate (his father), to James Kimball, yeoman, for the sum of $54.00 ”…the said pew being situate in the southerly part of said meeting house being the first pew on the easterly side of the door at the southerly end of said meeting house on the lower floor and numbered thirty nine”
Recorded at Middlesex Registry of Deeds
Stands to reason Mr. Kimball never had to shoo anyone out of his spot on Sunday morning.
May `4, 2021
Our Friday Find: one of our volunteers came across this class photo today. It is Miss Anna Woodbine’s 5th & 6th grade class taken about 1914 in front of the Union School. The school was located in what is now the front parking lot of the Reuben Hoar Library. Twenty-five girls and ten boys attended these two grades. There are some familiar names in the class list. I love how the boys are in ties and the girls in dresses with big hair bows obviously the fashion.
Back row: Miss Anna Woodbine, ?, Beulah Kimball, Hilda Lund, Edith Barber, Hazel Straight, ?, Marjorie Goddard, ? Goddard, Margaret Hartwell, Barbara Priest
Middle Row- Alice Pat Hager, Elizabeth Pickard, Charlotte Pickard (her sister), Hazel McNiff, Florence Wesley, Rose O’Banion, Hope Fletcher, Lillian Mannion, Hazel Bradlee, Leslie Rowe, Ruth Jewett
First row: ?, David Hall, Parkinson Oddy, Ted Leahy, Henry Ewing, ? Tom Mannion
Can anyone fill in the missing names?