Recollections of Frederic Alvan Fisher (1855-1941)

I have been asked to give out of my recollections a list of householders in Westford Centre and on Westford Street now, so-called, leading from the Common to the Westford Depot on the Stony Brook Railroad. By way of introduction I would say that I was born in the house now occupied by my brother, Alec Fisher, on October 9, 1855 and lived there until September, 1877 when I left home to enter the freshman class at Bowdoin College. I will not vouch for the accuracy of the given names which I use though they are probably correct.

Beginning at Westford Depot, Daniel Falls, the Depot-Master, lived with his family over the depot. Twice a day he delivered the mail to the post-office kept by Sherman D. Fletcher in the store now known as Wright and Fletcher’s at Westford Centre. Mr. Falls was a kindly man who if he did not happen to have a passenger would often give a small boy, who was climbing the hill to Westford, a ride. Crossing the railroad tracks, we come in turn to the grist mill, the saw mill, and at the rear of the saw mill, the cider mill which, as far as my recollections go, was always owned in whole or in part and operated by George M. Heywood. He was at different times associated with Charles H. Fletcher, Henry Chamberlin and for years, with Henry Burbeck.

The next house was occupied by Mr. Hayward who married for his first wife, Elizabeth C. Fletcher, the daughter of Abijah Fletcher, and by Mr. and Mrs. Henry Burbeck.

Next we come to the farm of Abijah Fletcher, one of the largest farms in town, the other belonging to Zachias [Zacheus] Reed, father of Henry Reed, for many years a Commissioner for the County of Middlesex. Abijah Fletcher owned large tracts of woodland, part of which was located on the North side of Stony Brook and around Burg’s [Burge’s] Pond. He had two sons, Luke L. Fletcher and Charles H. Fletcher.

The next house, some one-half or three-quarters of a mile further south was owned and occupied by William Kittredge and was situated on the left-hand side of the road just beyond an extensive woodlot which he afterwards bought and cleared and where there is now an apple orchard.

The next house on the right-hand side of the road was, to the best of my recollections, occupied by Mr. Wright whose given name was probably Asa and who was, I think the grandfather of Perley Wright now living on the John Lanktree Place.

The next building on the same side of the street was a shoe-shop run by two or three men by the name of Hildreth. They afterwards occupied a larger shop on the road leading from Westford to Forge Village on the premises occupied in his later years by George W. Hayward [sic Heywood]. The shop was located just at the right as one entered the premises from the driveway. This shop on Depot Street was located on premises owned by Mrs. Bean.

There was a pine grove behind the shop which in recent years has been cut down. True (Trueworthy) Bean came to Westford as a day laborer on the Stony Brook Railroad which at that time was being constructed. He was a wheelwright by trade but preferred to hunt and fish. Mrs. Bean was as I recall a daughter of a former Minister of the Congregational Church of Westford. Mrs. Bean was thought to have married beneath her station in life. He was a good-natured, handy man and upon the death of Mrs. Bean was without financial resources and well along in life. He died at the Westford Poor Farm.

The next house on the right was occupied by a newcomer whose name I cannot recall. I think he was connected in some way with the mills at West Chelmsford and Brookside. He was followed soon after by Peter Swallow of Dunstable who kept the store later carried on by Samuel Wiley. His daughter, Ellen, graduated from Westford Academy and was the first woman student to be admitted to the Institute of Technology from which she graduated with honors. Both she and her husband were professors of chemistry at the Institute and both attained distinction. A memorial tablet to her memory has been placed in one of the lecture rooms of the Institute. The house was later occupied for years by Deacon Asa Hildreth who as I understood, in his younger days had been connected with the mills in Lowell. He was the grandfather of Herbert V. Hildreth. He was a tall, dignified, scholarly man and for a time filled the office of Town Clerk. I think he was also Treasurer and possible Clerk of the Westford Mutual Fire Insurance Company.

The house across the street was occupied by Uncles Jesse and Oliver Wright. Jesse Wright had two sons, Andrew and Gilman. Andrew returned to Westford, I think, early in the ‘70s and after living with his wife for a time at the family home later purchased and occupied the farm to which I have already referred as belonging to one Wright. Gilman was for years Town Clerk. Uncle Oliver was unmarried. There was a famous pump in their front yard which was open to the public and provided with a tin cup which was in frequent use by the children during the summer. They were retired, kindly people.

The next house on the same side of the street was occupied by Ancil [Anson] Davis who lost his life in the Civil War. Mrs. Davis and her three daughters carried on a milliner’s shop. Her son, Albert, graduated from Harvard College and for a time was Principal of Westford Academy. He died of consumption.

Crossing the street we come to the house in later years owned and occupied by John Feeney. In my younger days it was occupied by Thomas Richardson who probably died before I was ten years of age and later by his widow, an active and energetic woman. He was a wheelwright by trade. Both he and True Bean occupied my father’s shop for a time carrying on the wheelwright business.

The next house on the right-hand side of the street was occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Sprake Livingston. Their son-in-law, Howard Wright and his wife also lived there. He was a locomotive engineer on the Boston and Maine Railroad noted for his skill and efficiency. He finally retired and went into partnership with Sherman H. Fletcher in running the store now known as Wright and Fletcher’s.

Across the street was a dwelling-house occupied by Mr. and Mrs. James Flint with their numerous family of children. I used to spend at least half of my time there with the Flint children. Jim Flint worked for my father. He lost his life in the Civil War and Mrs. Flint was left with a large family with no financial resources. She died soon after either by her own hand or of a broken heart. The children were divided among their relatives most all of whom lived in Carlisle. I remember attending the funeral at the house of her sister, Mrs. Davis. I think all of the children have now passed away unless it be the youngest girl whom as I was informed married a man in Carlisle. I think her given name was Emma.

The next house on the same side of the street was occupied by Alvan Fisher, my father, and the next by Greenleaf Drew. He had two sons, George and Frank. George was an active, energetic, young man who died of consumption in early life. Frank Drew owns and occupies the farm of my grandfather, Eli Tower. Mrs. Drew had a daughter by her former husband, Laura Mace. She studied elocution and gave readings and, I think, taught the subject in the Lowell schools but I am not sure. (See letter enclosed, dated Nov. 19 A.H.)

The next house on the right was occupied by Charles L. Fletcher, brother of Mrs. Eli Tower and my uncle on the maternal side, and also was maternal grandfather of Herbert V. Hildreth. He was a quiet man, an excellent mechanic and worked for years for the Sargent Company in Graniteville. There is a tradition that he solved by practical methods a problem in construction which no one of the several graduates of the Institute of Technology to whom it was submitted were able to do.

The next house on the right-hand side was owned and occupied by Winthrop Wheeler. Between his house and the Fletcher house there was a long line of purple lilac bushes which were patronized by the school children in early summer. There were two or three horse chestnut trees in front of the house.

The next house on the same side of the street was owned and occupied by Preceptor Ephraim Abbot whose portrait appears in the town history. He was a tall, dignified and venerable man. After the death of Mr. and Mrs. Abbot, their two daughters and their son, George, remained there until the place was sold to Charles H. Fletcher, son of Abijah, and is now known as the White Place. George was a graduate from Harvard College but he lacked his father’s energy. It was rumored in my younger days that he was preparing a book on synonyms.

The next house on the left was owned and occupied by Deacon Proctor. Like most of the residents of Westford Centre he was retired from active business. He set out and carefully nurtured the large shade trees which still line that side of the street.

The next house on the right was occupied by Deacon Wright [Wight]. I know nothing of him or his family except that I have a few unpleasant recollections of his having disciplined me for cutting a stick to make a whistle from the Osgood property across the street.

Next on the same side of the street was the blacksmith shop of John Lanktree. The shop set back some distance from the street and in front of it he always maintained an attractive flower garden. It think there was no rival to it unless it was the one kept by the Rev. Leonard Luce.

The next buildings were the house and store of Samuel Wiley. He was a generous, high-strung man who in his younger days made bricks in the south part of the town on what was known as Brick Kiln Hill, just north of Parker Village. In his later years he ran the store which heretofore had been occupied by tenants. The first store-keeper I recall was Peter Swallow.

Directly across the street was the home of Dr. John [sic. Benjamin] Osgood. He was our family physician and I recall one visit that he made to our home. He probably died before I was ten years of age. The place was occupied by his widow, his daughter, and his son, Benjamin. The land for the Town House was taken by right of eminent domain out of their home place.

The next house on the left was owned and occupied by John B. Fletcher who kept the store just beyond and after that came the Orthodox Church. On the opposite side of the Boston Road was the school-house or District Number 1; and beyond, the home of Cyrus Hamlin at the junction of the Boston and Littleton roads.

Returning to the north end of the Common the home next beyond Wiley’s store, a double tenement building, was occupied and probably owned by Jacob Wright. He had a small cobbler’s shop located between his house and the store. One of his legs had been amputated. The younger people of the town looked upon him with awe because we were told of the suffering he bore when his leg was amputated which was before anesthetics came into use. He was a generous, kindly man. I frequented his shop as I did most of the places in the neighborhood and I have very pleasant recollections of him. He had two sons, one of whom, Edward, I think lost his life at the time the house was burned some years ago.

Next came the Unitarian Church which some time after the Civil War was remodeled and partially turned around under the administration of Rev. George H,. Young, who according to the Town History was ordained October 17, 1866. The next house on the right-hand side was occupied by John W. P. Abbot and after his decease by his widow. Mr. Abbot was a leading citizen of town, a lawyer by profession and a man of means. There is an excellent photograph of him in the Town history.

The next building on the same side of the street was the store of Sherman D. Fletcher for years, the Town Treasurer and Post-Master. In his youth he had been a page in Congress at Washington. He was a very dignified man and was one of the leading citizens of the town. His tastes were literary and he was the author of a number of interesting articles. His daughter, Emily Frances, was a naturalist. Her collection was gratefully received after her death by the Botanical Society connected with Harvard College. She left the town a fund, the income of which is to be used for lectures on nature subjects. His son, Sherman H. Fletcher, was a man of prominence and for a number of years, Captain of the Spalding Light Cavalry.

The next house on the same side of the street was occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Herrick and their son-in-law, Mr. Dodge, and his family. Mr. Herrick used to come to the Post Office every day to borrow Mr. Fletcher’s newspaper whispering aloud to himself as he read it.

Next we come to the farm buildings of Artemus W. Cummings at the corner of the road to Graniteville. The house was burned one Monday night in the winter season probably about 1875. Mr. Cummings built a new house which was sold after his death to Abiel J. Abbot who built a spacious residence now standing on the premises. He sold the Cummings house to Henry O. Keyes who caused it to be moved down the Graniteville road where it now stands at the brow of the hill on the left-hand side looking north, the last building but one on that edge of the village.

About opposite the Cummings Place was the home of Sherman D. Fletcher and the next building going back on the south side of the street was a dwelling-house with an iron fence in front of it which was occupied according to my early recollections by Charles L. Fletcher, grandfather of Herbert V. Hildreth. Either he or Mrs. Fletcher had charge of the Town Library which was next taken in hand by either Mr. or Mrs. Dodge and later located at the Charles L. Fletcher house on Depot Street.

The next house somewhat back from the street was occupied by Rachel Blood, a domestic servant of John Abbot, father of John W. P. Abbot. I remember her as a very aged person. She did her cooking over a fireplace. On her death the house was sold to Samuel Wiley and moved to the foot of the hill on the Boston Road and now belongs to Mr. John F. Sullivan.

Next came Westford Academy on the south side of the Common which has since been moved to the rear of the Orthodox Church and converted into a fire-house.

Next to the Academy was the home of Nathan S. Hamlin. Beyond that was the barn of Cyrus Hamlin and beyond the Hamlin home place on the opposite side of the street from the barn on the Littleton Road was a small dwelling-house occupied by Mary Ann Hildreth, a sister, as I understood, of Charles L. Hildreth, agent of the Lowell Machine Shop, who owned the next dwelling-house on the same side of the street which he afterwards moved across his land to the Boston Road and is now owned by his nephew, Charles L. Hildreth, a member of the Bar and the present Town Clerk.

Going back to the Orthodox Church and southerly down to the Boston Road the first house on the right, now occupied by Dr. Blaney, was then occupied by John W. Abbot and later by Frank L. Fletcher. The next house on the same side belonged to the Whitings, probably an old family of Westford who were living in New York City and was occupied for years by Moses Caryl. The next house on the same side was occupied by an old Westford family whose names I cannot recall and later, probably when I was about twelve or thirteen years old, by Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Eldridge Wright and their three sons, Sidney, Charles and Frank Wright, all residents of Westford, the last of whom was recently deceased.

Returning again to the Orthodox Church and going south on Boston Road, the first house on the left was occupied by Louis [sic Abel Lewis] Davis and the next by Marcellus L. Fletcher later by Anson Tuttle with his son and their families. They built the Wheelwright shop now standing. The son continued there after his father’s death.

The next house on the same side of the street was occupied by Luther Wilkins who had a large family of boys. For years he was the janitor of the Unitarian Church.

The last house at the top of the hill was occupied by Nathan Prescott, father of Noah Prescott.

Returning to the Drew Corner, the first house on the left-hand side of the road to Lowell was occupied by the Rev. George Matthias Rice, minister of the Unitarian Church, later by a family from Lowell with a large flock of children, and later still by Marcellus H. Fletcher.

The next house on the same side of the street was occupied by Timothy Fletcher and the next by Mrs. Tufts who had a son, Eben, and one or more daughters. Eben was given credit for all the deviltry done in the village, usually with justice. He was a skilled mechanic who had a small shop still standing. It was equipped with a metal and woodwork lathe. He was also a hunter and carpenter. As a boy I used to enjoy visiting the shop and being allowed to use his firearms.

The next house was occupied by Deacon Rugg whose given name I have never known. He was a tinsmith and a very useful man in the community.

The next house well down the hill was occupied by Solomon Richardson who had a large family. One of his daughters married Wayland Balch and a second, Sherman H. Fletcher.

Returning to the Timothy Fletcher house and going down the back road the first place on the right was occupied by Elbridge G. Spalding and his family and his bachelor brother, Asa Spalding.

The next house on the left was occupied by Uncle Ira Leland and was located at the crotch of the roads. He had two daughters, one of whom was a great friend of my mother’s. The other daughter married Hiram Whitney who after his death gave the town the Whitney Playground.

These recollections go back sixty years or more. Many of the residents of Westford Centre were retired from active business and in comfortable circumstances. Their dwelling-houses were shut off from the street by walls and fences. The Centre of the town was bountifully supplied with cherry trees. There were about six or seven along the road between the driveway of my father’s premises and the Drew property. Many of the neighbors had immense trees which bore small black cherries.

Since those days the three shoe shops above mentioned have been torn down and the homes of Jacob Wright and John W. P. Abbot have been destroyed by fire.

The new structures include, in addition to those already named, the commodious house on Depot Street recently constructed by the present owners of the Kittredge Farm; the dwelling-house opposite my father’s home place built by Frank Drew, the present owner; several dwelling-houses standing back from the street on the Preceptor Abbot Place; the new Library; the Abiel J. Abbot residence; the house occupied by my sister, Mrs. Buckshorn on Depot Street; the house next south belonging to the children of Mary Kittredge now deceased, sister of William L. Kittredge; the new Academy buildings; the Donald M. Cameron house; the dwelling-house north of the Town House; the Town House; the new Post-Office recently constructed; the house formerly of Noah Prescott on the Boston Road; two of [or] three dwelling-houses on the same side of the street next north of Noah Prescott’s house; the Spalding Light Cavalry Association buildings; the new dwelling-house on the Wilkins place; the new grammar school on the Lowell Road; and the Cameron house opposite Wright and Fletcher’s store, which is located in part on the site of the building above named with the iron fence in front of it, occupied by Allen [Allan] Cameron until he built the new house.

Many of the old dwelling-houses and buildings have been remodeled. The monuments at the north and south side of the Common are of recent date. In my younger days there were two rows of trees along the south side of the Common some or all of which were pine trees. The flag pole on the Common was furnished by Abijah Fletcher and is reputed to have been cut on the Cold Spring Lot. I remember seeing it hauled by our house by a string of oxen one summer as we were all seated at the supper table and later being on the Common and seeing Cyrus Hamlin who was by trade a carpenter, with other men working on the new Flag Pole and its supports. I cannot recall being present at the dedication.

I have a clear recollection of standing outside the fence of the Common and seeing the Westford Company training under the command of William Metcalf, father of Edward Metcalf who gave the town the Monument at the south side of the Common.

(Signed: Frederic A. Fisher)
Lowell, Mass. August 29, 1931
P.S. I find that I have overlooked the new house built by John B. Fletcher for his son John M. Fletcher, between his own house and the store.