Turner's Public Spirit, February 17, 1923
A look back in time to a century ago
By Bob Oliphant
Center. Mrs. Ella G. Langley, who formerly lived at Oak Knoll farm, passed away at a Nashua hospital on last Saturday, following a shock. She was born in Castleton, Vt., and before her marriage to Mr. Langley was a teacher. While in this town she was a member of the W.C.T.U., Tadmuck club and the Grange, at one time being a member of the ladies’ degree staff of the last-named organization, and while here made many friends, who will regret to learn of her demise. Of recent years she had made her home with her daughter, Mrs. Hiram Brooks, of Nashua. Besides her daughter she is survived by two sisters, Mrs. Morgan of St. Paul, Minn., and Mrs. Phelps, of Minneapolis, Minn. The funeral was held at the home of her daughter on Tuesday afternoon.
Mrs. Frederick Meyer is ill with the grippe.
Mrs. Charles Robinson reports having seen a robin in her yard on Wednesday.
Alonzo A. Sutherland is on the sick list.
Owing to the inclemency of the weather the attendance at the meeting of the Tadmuck club on Tuesday afternoon was rather small, but those who were out were well repaid by hearing the splendid address on the industrial problems of the day given by Rev. Karl Meister, of Lowell. Mr. Meister not only gave the social side of the question, but also the practical standpoint of one who has been an employee. The social and industrial committee of the club had charge of the affair.
The many friends of Alexander Cameron are pleased to see him about after his recent operation.
The first in the series of motion pictures to be given under the auspice of the Middlesex County Bureau will be held in the town hall on Saturday evening, February 17. The show promises to be a good one and a large attendance is desired. A collection will be taken.
The time of the Friday evening prayer meeting at the Congregational church has been changed to 7:30. Sunday services at the usual hours, 10:45 and 7:15. In the morning the pastor will preach on “The bridesmaids”; in the evening on “The bride.” Sunday school at noon, Junior C.E. at 4:30; Y.P.L. at 6:30.
[missing word or two] friends are reminded of the [large paper tear, about 4 lines missing] young people in the town [two words missing] night of Washington’s birthday, February 22, at eight o’clock.
Rep. Alfred W. Hartford acted as moderator part of the time at the town meeting on Monday.
John Ryan, aged sixty, an employee of the Fletcher Company, was found by the roadside on Tuesday night where he had fallen after alighting from a car. The case was reported to Chief Whiting on Wednesday morning, and upon investigation he found the man to be in a bad condition from the effects of liquor and with both hands quite badly frozen. He was taken to Ayer and later committed to Tewksbury, where he was taken by Dr. Packard, accompanied by Chief Whiting.
Town Meeting. While many questions of importance were discussed at the town meeting on Monday, many of the voters took no active part, while a number simply acted as spectators, not even voting upon many of the articles. The article calling for $2300 for the police department was subject to a little discussion, as two of the voters under the guise of economy tried to cut the appropriation to $1200. A vote was taken on the matter and the larger appropriation was carried by a good majority. Most of the citizens realized that with the increase in population, as the school figures go to show, and the amount of work done during the past year by the present chief of police, as reported on pages 68 and 69 of the annual town report, that such a department is needed in the town more than ever before. The appropriation in this department probably covers more items than that of any other small appropriation, namely the salary of the chief of police, transportation, pay for town constable, special police, legal advice when necessary, telephone, outside assistance on raids and other incidentals. We might by way of comparison state that the nearby town of Ayer with a population of 3052 (1920 census) against a Westford population of 3170 (1920), voted $5600 for police work for the coming year. The population of the town is increasing and the foreign population is much larger than that of the former town.
The article which received the most discussion was that asking for $100,000 for a school at Forge Village. It was necessary to poll the vote to get the sentiment of those present, and although the article was voted down, it seemed to be the unanimous opinion that congested conditions at Forge needed to be remedied, but what defeated the article seemed to be the large amount asked.
Many of the articles in the warrant were not discussed as fully as they might have been, as the meeting was so prolonged that many were obliged to leave before the articles were reached.
During the meeting a rising vote of thanks was extended to Oscar R. Spalding in appreciation of his many years of service to the town as selectman.
Under Article 1 the following officers were elected: Selectman, 3 years, Arthur G. Hildreth; overseer of the poor, 3 years, Wesley Hawkes; assessor, 3 years, Leonard W. Wheeler; commissioner of public burial grounds, 3 years, Sebastian Watson; trustee of public library, 3 years, Alice Howard; school committee, 3 years, Edward Spinner and Eva Wright; board of health, 3 years, Alexander Cameron; moderator, 1 year, Hon. H. E. Fletcher; treasurer, Frederick Meyer; collector of taxes, Leonard W. Wheeler; constable William Wall; tree warden, Harry L. Nesmith. License question, Yes 135, No 135. [The 1923 Annual Report gives Yes, 135; No, 135; Blanks, 63.]
Articles, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8, regarding town officers’ reports, were accepted.
Art. 9. Voted that one percent of amount collected be the salary of the tax collector.
Art. 10. Voted $18,000 for highway purposes–$16,000 for general purposes and $2000 for removal of snow.
Art. 11. Voted $6325 for general government expenses.
Art. 12. Voted $10,200 for charities.
Art. 13. Voted $2300 for police department.
Art. 14. Voted $57,000 for school purposes.
Art. 15. Voted $2300 for the moth department.
Art. 16. Voted $1800 for the fire department.
Art. 17. Voted $1000 for expenses in connection with extinguishing forest fires.
Art. 18. Voted $142.72 to pay bills outstanding December 31, 1922.
Art. 19. Voted $15.84 to meet overdrafts in various departments.
Art. 20. Voted $250 as salary of the town treasurer.
Art. 21. Voted $200 for the rent of headquarters for Westford post, A.L. [American Legion]
Art. 22. Voted $600 for printing and distributing town reports.
Art. 23. Voted $75 for care of the common.
Art. 24. Voted $2400 for hydrant service.
Art. 25. Voted $600 for liability insurance.
Art. 26. Voted $125 for the sealer of weights and measures.
Art. 27. Voted $3000 for board of health.
Art. 28. Voted $300 to commemorate Memorial Day.
Art. 29. Voted $75 for fish and game warden.
Art. 30. Voted $300 for expenses of tree warden.
Art. 31. Voted $4500 for street lighting
Art. 32. Voted $2000 and receipts from dog licenses.
Art. 33. Voted $900 for cemeteries.
Art. 34. Voted $175 for cattle inspection.
Art. 35. Voted $600 for soldiers’ benefits.
Art. 36. Voted $250, selectmen to appoint director, the money to be expended by and the director serve in cooperation with the County Agricultural Trustees of the Middlesex County Bureau of Agriculture and Home Economics.
Art. 37. Voted $2000 for a reserve fund.
Art. 38. Voted to establish a hydrant on private [way] known as Palermo street.
Art. 39. An extension of time was allowed committee chosen at last town meeting relative to the establishment of a war memorial, as no action had been taken.
Art. 40. Voted to authorize the selectmen to expend money from the general road appropriation to purchase a tractor, loader and other machinery used in connection with the construction and repair of roads.
Art. 41. Voted to allow sports and games on the Lord’s Day according to law.
Art. 42. Voted to erect building on [paper torn, lines missing] to be acquired in Forge Village for schoolhouse.
Art. 43. As a two-thirds vote was necessary under this article to borrow $100,000 for new schoolhouse in Forge Village, the article was voted down, as the required number of votes were lacking.
Art. 44. Voted $300 for an addition to the schoolhouse in Graniteville.
Art. 45. Under this article the measurer of wood and bark and surveyors of lumber were voted the same as in previous year, also fence viewers and field drivers. Arthur Burnham was chosen to fill vacancy on finance committee caused by the resignation of W. R. Taylor, the rest of the committee remaining the same.
Art. 46. An extension of time was given the committee on by-laws, a copy of which was printed in the last annual town report.
Art. 47. This article concerning the adoption of by-laws for the regulation of carriages and vehicles used in this town was dismissed.
Art. 48. Voted that the committee appointed to investigate and report relative to the entering into a contract for lighting streets be authorized to enter into a contract with the Lowell Electric Light Corporation for lighting street lights upon such terms and conditions and at such prices as may to such committee seem fair and reasonable, and such committee is authorized to enter into conference with a committee from any other town and that the committee be authorized to make provisions in the contract for additional lights between the villages of Graniteville and Forge Village, and in the event that satisfactory contract cannot be so arranged with this corporation that the committee be authorize and empowered on behalf of the town to petition the department of public utilities to determine the price to be paid for such service.
Art. 49. Relating to the best and most economical way of heating the town hall, left with the board of selectmen as a committee to investigate and act in relation to the same.
Art. 50. The treasurer was given the usual authority to borrow money as needed during the year.
Art. 51. Voted that the usual manner of collecting taxes be adhered to.
Art. 52. Voted that the school committee be instructed to discontinue the present union school system and employ a superintendent for the schools of the town only.
About Town. Mrs. H. E. Fletcher and Mrs. F. A. Snow attended the vaudeville given by the Paint and Powder club at the Colonial theatre, Lowell, on Tuesday evening. Mrs. Harold Fletcher was one of the star performers.
- V. Conley, of Indiana, who is a student at Boston Theological school [now Boston University School of Theology], spent the weekend at the home of F. A. Snow. Mr. Conley preached in the Methodist church, West Chelmsford, Sunday, while the pastor, Rev. E. E. Jackman, was at Goffstown, N.H., directing the music in the Methodist church there.
It was a happy thought of Mrs. William R. Taylor to take the governor’s proclamation regarding the observance of Lincoln’s birthday to the annual town meeting which took place on that day. The moderator, Hon. Herbert E. Fletcher, called upon Charles L. Hildreth, the clerk of the day, to read it. Whereupon Mr. Bennett, of Forge Village, proposed that the audience rise and sing “America.” It was quite a fitting patriotic touch to the town meeting.
Invitations are out for the wedding of Edward Moseley Abbot, of this town, and Miss Natalie Swan Baron, of Lowell. The wedding will take place at four o’clock on Thursday afternoon, February 22, in All Souls church, Lowell. A reception will follow at the home of the bride’s mother, Mrs. C. C. Baron, at 88 11th street, Lowell.
On last week Friday a large fox was observed at the Morning Glory farm trying to run down a rabbit as a change of diet from three feet of snow. The rabbit won in choice of route, which was a circle with plenty of brushes for screening. The rabbit won the race. The deep snow and deeper bushes and the long, rangey circle proved to be more of an impediment to the fox than to the rabbit. We hear much of the rare cunning of the fox, but occasionally a rabbit displays a cent’s worth when hard pressed, and this was one of those occasions in selecting a long, rangey circle and sprangling bushes in the deep snow. In the straight open the fox would have won his breakfast. Having lost he was nagged on by hunger to boldly venture into the barnyard and try to coax a beloved hen of many years’ experience to be his breakfast. She declined such close affinity.
We have heard of one man who cast his vote at town meeting who has not missed “an annual” since he began to vote when he was twenty-one. That means he has attended fifty-six consecutive town meetings.
Mr. and Mrs. Whitton and her brother, who live on the Lowell road, at the Lybeck place, are ill. Miss Margaret Davis, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Harold H. Davis, on the Lowell road, returned last Saturday from the Lowell General hospital, where she had been for eighteen days.
- Arthur O’Brien, son of the late James O’Brien, and Miss Mildred Green, daughter of William Green, were married on Tuesday. The best wishes of their friends go to these well-known and popular young people.
The oldest remains of a cellar and still in good state of preservation is on the Old Oaken Bucket farm, built about 1685, on the westerly slope of Frances hill, near the residence of W. R. Taylor, on the second oldest road in town. This cellar and dwelling were erected by Thomas Read, grandson of Esdras Read, who was a resident here in 1654, and died in Boston in 1689. His gravestone is now standing in Copp’s Hill burying ground, Boston. This old cellar and building was one of the early tavern sites of the town in the days of the old stage coach enjoyments. The old tavern has long since passed away and the old elm that shaded it, but the old cellar remains for the woodchucks, snakes and skunks.
The County Bureau motion pictures will be given in the town hall this Saturday evening with a five-reel picture similar to “Spring Valley.” The name of this new picture is “Joe McGuire,” to be supplemented with other interesting reels as usual.
A second small pigeon owl is doing business at the Morning Glory farm, catching doves. Its recent mate joined the deceased crowd. The barn cat proposed it for membership and the same cat is liable to make a deceased emeritus of present activities.
[torn paper, line or two missing] Chelmsford, has bought of Joseph E. Langstaff, of Lowell, the lot of land where Marshall’s hall stood before the fire. This lot, on the town line, lies half in Westford and half in Chelmsford. The lot contains three acres, three houses and a barn. How much land goes with this purchase we profess ignorance, but the town would like to see $79 for taxes on the land in Westford.
First Parish church (Unitarian) Sunday service at four p.m. Preacher, Rev. Frank B. Crandall, the minister. Subject, “Miracles versus wonders.”
Lincoln’s Words. We offer as our contribution to the birthday eulogies of Lincoln, the lover and inspirer of the every-day plain people, his own words when as a young man rafting wood down the Mississippi river and landing at New Orleans, he witnessed the pathetic and cruel side of slavery at the auction block, where parents and children were sold into bondage and separated forever from each other, the parents with tears of anguish in separating from their children. Here at these scenes Lincoln uttered his most vital thought of his inborn love of the common people. While he observed these auction scenes, his lips quivering, his cheek flushed and his eye fixed with indignation, he said “If ever the time comes under Providence I will strike this thing, and I will strike it hard.” It is easy to connect these words with the emancipation proclamation, and there will be no need of applying the X-rays to see where Providence comes in.
I recall hearing those vital words of Lincoln from the old First Parish church some forty years ago from the overflowing spirit of a Methodist minister, closing as he did with the thought, “Lincoln was God’s man, whether he belonged to any church or not.”
Fish and Game Situation. I would like to occupy a little space with a few quotations from the annual report of our genial and efficient fish and game warden, Joe Wall, as he signs up (I always thought his name was Mr. Joseph Wall):
“I have given more time to the work than in former years and I think that our common birds are getting more scarce every year. There are no martins, very few swallows and very small flocks of red-wing blackbirds; thrushes and finches about the usual number. Our common song birds that nest near the dwelling will never increase very fast until we can induce people to keep their cats shut up during the nesting season. We have a few quail, but the snow is too deep this present winter. I think that we should have a closed season on partridges for five years and two years on pheasants. Pheasants have no chance to increase where they are liberated in the summer and the law comes off in the autumn.
“There is a small family of otters that frequents our ponds and brooks. They are quite tame and if they can escape the trappers for a few years we will have quite a lot of them. I got a report from one of the adjoining towns telling me that they had a family of beavers on one of the brooks in their town. All of our brooks and most of our ponds have been stocked with fish the past year, and in looking over the trout brooks we can say they are all doing fine.
“During the year I have made two arrests for illegal hunting. The cases were tried in the district court at Ayer. Both were convicted and paid the usual fine in such cases, ten dollars.
“The following is a list of the fish and game put out in the town of Westford during the year 1922: 5000 brook trout fingerlings, 75 brook trout adults, 6000 rainbow trout fingerlings, 1200 white perch adults, 1600 hornpouts, 2000 black bass fingerlings; game and birds, 38 snowshoe rabbits, 50 adult pheasants, 12 yearling pheasants, 100 pheasant eggs.”
If anyone can read this report and not come to the conclusion that we have got to have a closed season for several years or else come plump [sic] up against annihilation, then they read into this report illogical thoughts that cannot be deduced from it. “Liberate in the summer and shoot off in the autumn.” If there is any more senseless attempt to preserve and perpetuate game than this we would like to have a photograph taken of it as a memento of statesmanship wisdom. We can save seventy-five dollars a year as salary of the fish and game warden by annihilating all game. I declare that I never thought of finances that way before, but how can we reach that desired financial heaven? Shoot off all the birds, save seventy-five dollars, and in turn we get annihilated ourselves by pests. Are we not speeding up to reach the haven of annihilation as fast as we can?
Peanut Wisdom. The congressional financial committee of the farmers’ bloc has reported in favor of loaning $1,000,000 to the peanut farmer in Virginia. “Peanut statesmanship” say some. It certainly has a squint that way, for with a heavy tariff on peanuts if it then cannot stand alone, why prop it up with special financial peanut legislation? In several areas the farmers’ bloc has aggravated the trouble it was intended to relieve. For three years several western states have produced potatoes far in excess of the law of supply and demand, and the government loans cheap money to raise more potatoes that are selling now in the western potato states for fifteen cents per bushel and so clear down low cheap that the government who loans the cheap money to raise cheap potatoes estimates that 1000 bushels a day in each of the potato states is being fed to stock and thousands of acres yet to dig. Why must the government come to the rescue of our greedy over-producing folly?
Peanut wisdom says “Yes”; wisdom that can be justified of her children says “No.” We have no more use for a farmers’ bloc than for a union labor bloc—both are a menace to the law of supply and demand and a healthy, normal government.
Town Meeting Comment. Article 41 in the town warrant, to allow sports and games on the Lord’s Day, was certainly one of our up-to-date new day innovations and to the surprise of some of us was carried by a large majority. I am not proud of the vote, but proud to be in the minority. Is there anyone in town mentally, morally, physically, spiritually, socially or financially ill because they cannot play baseball on Sunday and make it a sin of go-as-you-please day? If this is not such an emergency why had we bring the day down from its quiet serenity and its moral health [paper torn, about 2 lines missing] why sink from this foundation to the uncertain sand? Besides, we have Saturday half-holidays which our fathers and mothers never had to ease up their week of ninety hours, and to the Saturday half-holiday we have added daylight saving, which history shows is ample time enough to play baseball, steal peaches and watermelons. Does anyone for a moment expect that open Sunday sports will tend to get us into such a moral straight-jacket that we can dispense with a police force? Is a commercial and sporting Sunday the trail to follow towards “safety first?”
To some of us it looks like sending the fundamental principles of the Mayflower down beneath the billowy waves of an already excessively over-balanced commercial and sporting Sunday.
Article 51, and the last article, to see if the town will withdraw from the present union school system, relating to superintendent of schools, and set up all by our lonesome little one-horse show; well, that’s what we did vote, not knowing whither we went nor where we cometh out at for the school committee, whose duty it is to school children and some adult town meetings, discovered that we have one of the best superintendents that we have ever had contracted under the union system for three years. But of course, we are so wealthy here in town that we cannot afford schoolrooms for all of our scholars, so that it will come easy to us to pay that salary of two superintendents, one active and the other superintendent emeritus. In this way we can make our vote work. I would suggest that after this we find out what the school committee have in mind before we go into the half-cock firing business. The town is fortunate in its superintendent of schools and principal of the academy high school.
More Wasteful Facts. An old Scotch proverb has it “Aye to gie oursels to see oursels as ithers see us.” So with this saying in view here is to Sir Edward Mackay Edgar, a well-known British industrialist and financier: “That America is using up its natural resources at a rate that in about ten years will deprive the country of enough for its own consumption and create a world shortage of certain essential commodities,” to which the Springfield Union replies:
“It may be somewhat overdrawn, but that there may be real cause for alarm is evidenced by the growing scarcity of lumber and the fact that the United States has already become a heavy importer of oil. Attention was long ago called to the disappearing forests and the need of conservation of timber resources, but the warnings then given were little regarded and it has only been under the spur of the recent high prices of lumber that the belated recognition of the imperative need of reforestization [sic] has been taken. So also in other resources there has been prodigality and waste with no thought of replacement. The danger line may not be as near as Sir Edward predicts, but that there is grave danger ahead is not to be doubted and now is the time to look forward and plan to avert it.”
Some more large-sized octavo volumes of truth and sadly pointing to our excess wasteful slaughter habits with a literal interpretation of “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
The Wright Wight Place. When quoting facts that are only half facts it is but every-day working wisdom to come forward with the error and produce the whole facts. Anything short of this is either ignorant obstinacy or cowardice. Thus, after studying my lesson from History of Westford, I come forward and deliver the Wight house on the Groton road to Jacob Wright, who owned the Wight or Lyon farm in 1730, as per map of the town of that date, and how long prior to that date unknown. But [it] is safe betting without putting up any money that the Wright house is better than 200 years old, for Jacob Wright, with seventy others, was taxed several years before Westford was incorporated on September 29, 1729. But I cannot surrender Deacon Caleb Wight as a one-time owner and well on towards a century ago, for I fortify facts by many a friendly boy handshake in the Sunday school seventy years ago. He was then living in Westford Center and many years previous had sold the Wright Wight farm to Bradley V. Lyon. I recall his long, helpful, hopeful prayers fore and aft the Sunday school when without dinner I had more appetite than faith, but it was good, wholesome training to steady life by, and I have not forgotten it. Better this a thousand times and multiplied by two than a noisy, commercial, baseball, go-as-you-please open Sunday.
Graniteville. The Abbot Worsted Soccer club of Forge Village won a fine victory from the Fore River club in Quincy on last Saturday 4 to 0, in the fourth round of the national cup series. By winning this game the Abbots will now meet the J. & P. Coats team of Pawtucket, R.I., in the semi-final for the eastern championship. It is expected that this game will be staged later in Tiverton, R.I., the date to be announced. The Abbot management will probably charter a special train for this trip to accommodate the fans.
Both masses in St. Catherine’s church last Sunday morning were celebrated by the pastor, Rev. A. S. Malone, who read the regulations for Lent, and also announced that the usual Lenten devotions would be held on Wednesday and Friday evenings at 7:30 during the Lenten season. The members of St. Catherine’s Holy Name society held their regular monthly meeting last Sunday afternoon at three o’clock.
Mrs. Minnie F. Gray and her mother, Mrs. Martha Fallonsbee, of Wilton, N.H., have been spending the winter at the home of J. B. Carmichael here. Mrs. Gray made a brief visit to old friends in Wilton recently, where she had the pleasure of participating in the degree work of an Eastern Star lodge of the above named town.
A whist party in aid of St. Catherine’s church building fund was held in the Abbot hall on Monday evening with a good attendance. After much spirited play the following were declared the winners: Ladies’ first prize, Miss Mary Wall; consolation, Miss Catherine Canley [sic, Hanley is meant]; gentlemen’s first prize, Arthur Healy; consolation, Alex Dube.
The Ladies Aid society of the M.E. church will hold a food sale at the home of Mrs. Lucy Blood on Friday afternoon and evening.
The annual town meeting drew a large crowd at the town hall on last Monday. There were a giant number of articles to be acted upon, and among the number town voted to have Sunday baseball. It was a very spirited meeting.
Forge Village. Alvin S. Bennett, a former resident of Forge Village for nearly thirty years, died in Worcester on February 8, aged ninety-five years and ten months. He was in his usual health till February 4, when he fell, fracturing his hip; later pneumonia set in, resulting in his death February 8.
Mr. Bennett was born in Groton, but much of his early life was spent in Boston and Lowell. About 1855, he, with others of a pioneer band, journeyed to the Wisconsin frontier, finally reaching a small settlement called Weyauwega. Here he took up land, built a log cabin and sent to Massachusetts for his wife and child. In spite of dangers and hardships the settlement prospered, and, during a residence of nearly forty years, he saw thriving towns and fine farms take the place of what had been wilderness.
After the death of his wife in 1891 Mr. Bennett returned to Massachusetts, making his home in Forge Village with relatives until the summer of 1921 when he went to live with his son, Frank S. Bennett, in Worcester.
Besides his son he leaves five grandchildren and fourteen great grandchildren, also two sisters, Mrs. Sarah McIntire and Mrs. Marcy I. Drake of Shrewsbury. He was a member of the Weyauwega Masonic lodge. Interment will be in the family lot in Weyauwega, Wisconsin.
News Items. Erastus B. Lewis caught three fingers of his left hand in the back gears of a lathe at the mills of the Abbot Worsted Co. in Forge Village last week Thursday.