By James VanBever
Charlie would continue to serve Westford as town clerk from his home office on 25 Boston Road until he retired. But being town clerk was only a small part of a rich life that Hildreth lived. A major part of that life was his lifelong love of photography. Charlie’s living room was adorned with beautiful pictures that he had photographed. Many of these pictures were of “Westford’s beautiful highways and byways.” One of his favorite photos was of Vice President Charles G. Dawes and General John “Black Jack” Pershing. Hildreth took this picture at a Revolutionary War celebration in Lexington.
But civic engagement would always be part of Mr. Hildreth’s life. During World War I, Westford men who were too old or did not qualify for military service entered a military standby unit. These men would march and drill on the Westford Common or the Whitney Playground. Charlie would become a sergeant in this unit.
During this time, a major emergency occurred in the City of Boston when the Boston Police Department went on strike. This strike was the first of its kind in the entire United States. Calvin Coolidge, who was governor of Massachusetts at the time, declared that “there is no right to strike against the public safety.” The governor went on to say that “without police, rowdies roamed Boston.” Accordingly, Coolidge called up 1,100 recruits to restore order. Hildreth and his fellow Westford men were among them.
In 1925, tragedy would strike Charlie when his beloved wife Elizabeth passed away when she was only 45 years old. The couple had been together since their student days at Westford Academy. In Charlie’s diaries while a student at Dartmouth College, Elizabeth had always been the center of his life. His son Roger was sixteen when his mother died.
Young Roger would soon follow in his father’s footsteps and became involved in Westford’s civic affairs when he became Town Moderator of Westford in 1933. At the time, the 23 year old Hildreth became the youngest town moderator in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He would hold this position until 1942.
During his time as town moderator, Roger recalled one humorous incident that occurred at a town meeting. There was a discussion about the regulations for Fairview Cemetery, when a voter asked “Are there any lots left in the cemetery? A woman in the audience yelled out, “You need not worry, they have a lot saved for you.”
Charlie would remarry in 1935, when he married Alice Ann Battersby of Lowell. The couple would reside in their home on 25 Boston Road. Alice would become involved in town affairs and eventually became assistant town clerk, and when Charlie retired, she succeeded her husband in that role. Mrs. Hildreth would become Westford’s first female to hold this position.
Tragedy would again strike the Hildreth family in May 1964, when Roger Hildreth, while on a camping trip in Maine, failed to return to his camp site after an early morning hike to watch the sunrise. Unfortunately, Roger was not found until a year later when a boy camper discovered his remains on Mt, Katahdin. The State of Maine authorities declared that there was no sign of foul play. Roger Hildreth was 54 years old.
Mr. Hildreth would resign his position as Town Clerk in 1965. This would conclude 59 years of service to the Town of Westford. His wife Alice would continue in this role until she died in 1974. The Town Clerk’s office continued to be housed at their home on 25 Boston Road until the office was transferred to the Town Hall in 1973. However, Alice never made the move to town hall, but her assistant Enid Vaughn did.
Charles L. Hildreth would pass away on February 7, 1968 at the age of 88. His wife Alice would die on February 9, 1974. After Charlie retired, the Town of Westford’s Annual Report best summed up his service to the town when it wrote: “He has kept the Town Records; the Town Meeting notes and voter registration books. He has issued birth and death certificates, and marriage licenses. In many ways his work has been part of the lives of all of us in Westford.
Read Notable of the Month – Charles “Charlie” L. Hildreth, Part 1
By James VanBever here
Westford Wardsman, January 27, 1906.
Lowell Sun, “Alumnae of School Holds Banquet,” June 16, 1924, p. 18.
Ibid. “Hildreths for Key Places in Westford Government”, February 11, 1933, p. 1.
Lowell Courier-Citizen, 1938 or 1939, exact date unknown.
Lowell Sun, “Lowell Businessman’s Body Found in Maine”, June 1, 1965, p. 54.
Ibid. “No Sign of Foul Play in Hildreth Death”, June 2, 1965, p. 107.
Ibid. “Area Residents to Honor Westford’s Charles L. Hildreth Wednesday”, November 14, 1965, p. 67. Ibid. “200 Honor Retiring Westford Town Clerk at Testimonial Dinner.” November 19, 1965, p. 50.
Ibid. “Atty. Charles L. Hildreth Dies at 88.” February 8, 1968, p. 3.
Westford Eagle, “Westford’s Gallant Men at Boston Police Strike in 1919.” Gordon B. Seavey, August 16, 1979, p. 5.