“Archaeology Month” Opens Door to Hingham Archaeology Exhibit in 2019

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is immersed in celebration.  Planning is well underway for the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the Mayflower in 1620,  the 250th Anniversary of the occupation of Boston by the British in 1768 and eventual evacuation in 1776, and the 400th Anniversary of the arrival of the Puritans in 1630. Hingham’s next big celebration–commemorating the landing of Peter Hobart and his group of settlers in 1635–is a way off, with the Town’s 400th anniversary just over the horizon.

Arch_Month_Poster_18Meanwhile, as we celebrate Massachusetts Archeology Month this October, the Hingham Historical Society is happy to announce that it plans to stretch the frame of celebration in the Commonwealth beyond centuries to eons, or at least to a myrieteris (a period of 10,000 years).  An exciting new exhibit, based on archeological discoveries found along the right-of-way during the construction of the MBTA Greenbush rail line in Hingham, will open at the Hingham Heritage Museum in the Fall of 2019.  Ancient artifacts representing the earliest recorded life and culture in what we now call Hingham, some dating back 7000 years, will offer visitors a very different understanding of who first lived here, and how they lived. Educational materials will play a prominent role as well.

Thousands of artifacts were uncovered and inventoried by Public Archeological Laboratory (PAL) and UMass/Amherst Archeology during several years of excavation by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and are now stored in Rhode Island and Amherst. The archeological work was required as a condition of gaining permits to proceed with construction of the commuter rail line.

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From “Roads, Rails, and Trails: Transportation-Related Archaeology in Massachusetts,” by Eric S. Johnson, Massachusetts Historical Commission, 2012.

What are the finds?  One discovery near Foundry Pond was an anvil stone which provided a surface used to chip and create spearheads and arrowheads for millenia. Found adjacent to the rock in a pile of chips was a Neville projectile point, a type of point known to date to the Middle Archaic period 8000 to 6000 years before the present era (BP).

Native American fire circles and post holes found near the corner of Central and South
Street, remnants of a tannery, including pieces of shoe leather and the sole of a shoe, information about which roads in town were originally native trails, a shiny belt buckle from the 1800s, clay pipe pieces, early redware and colonial pottery pieces–each of these has a story to tell, and all are part of the Town’s rich history.

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Archaeologists at work in Hingham Square.  Photo courtesy of Public Archaeology Laboratory.

Review and selection of artifacts and story lines are among steps underway in preparation for this new exhibit.  Michael Achille of the Hingham Historical Society has formed an Advisory Committee which includes Jim Peters, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Commission on Indian Affairs; Kathryn Ness, Curator of Collections at Plimoth Plantation; Suanna Crowley, President of the Massachusetts Archeological Society; Andrea Young, Administrator of the Hingham Historical Commission; and Andy Hoey and Katie Roberts, representing the Social Studies and Science Departments of the Hingham Public Schools. Historical Society staff and volunteers and representatives of the MBTA, UMass, and PAL will also be key participants in the development of the exhibition and educational program.  A generous grant from the Greenbush Historic Preservation Trust is underwriting initial planning and development efforts.  The Society will invite individuals and companies to participate  in matching this grant.

So keep an eye on this space. Formal announcements and details will appear over the next several months.

A Tale of One Family

A Review of Meg Ferris Kenagy’s Book The House on School Street: Eight Generations. Two Hundred and Four Years. One Family.

Not many people can say their family lived in the same house for eight generations, and even fewer strive to uncover the lives of these ancestors. Meg Ferris Kenagy is one of these rare individuals as she dives head first into this challenge and presents her discoveries in her book The House on School Street: Eight Fenerations. Two Hundred and Four years. One Family. Kenagy brings the history of her family’s house to life through numerous stories about her ancestors. We experience their lives and deaths, births and marriages, and the resulting joys and heartaches that accompany each event.

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Martha Sprague Litchfield, left, and Sarah Trowbridge Litchfield. Circa 1890. Photo courtesy of the Hingham Historical Society.

Kenagy’s vivid descriptions of her family, the house, and Hingham make it feel like she is sitting down with us and flipping through pages of a photo album while sharing her family’s story. We see Colonel Charles Cushing building the house in 1785 after fighting in the Revolutionary War, and we watch subsequent generations move into and out of the family home. We learn of the successes and struggles of the family as they find ways to make a living in a changing world. As Kenagy shifts the narrative’s focus to each owner chapter after chapter, she recognizes the unique relationship each family member had with the house on School Street. She successfully sees the house through each of their eyes.

Although Kenagy admits there are gaps in her family’s story that research cannot fill, she does not let this obstacle frustrate her. Instead, Kenagy embraces what she does not know and proposes answers to the questions she cannot answer. By doing so, she becomes more attuned to the motivations, fears, and struggles of her ancestors. When Kenagy does know the answer to certain questions, she occasionally quotes letters and other sources to add another layer to her family’s story.

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A large barn can be seen to the left of the house in this 1889 photo. A carriage house is to the right of the house. Photo courtesy of the Hingham Historical Society.

While this book presents the story about eight generations of a family, it also provides an overview of the history of Hingham. Through Kenagy’s detailed descriptions, we see Hingham’s transformation from a small village to a bustling wartime shipyard. Selected quotes from sources like the History of the Town of Hingham, Massachusetts and the Hingham Journal bring the town’s history to life. By acknowledging the history of the town, we can clearly recognize the family’s influence on Hingham’s community.

You can sense writing this book was a deeply personal experience for Kenagy. Not only does it document how she confirms family stories, but also how she uncovers family secrets. We are excited to learn more about Meg Kenagy’s experience writing this book and researching her family’s history when she comes to the Hingham Heritage Museum at Old Derby for a talk and book signing on Saturday, October 27, 2018 at 3:00pm. Please join us!

Hingham Bird Carving Artistry: Duck and Shore Bird Decoys and Avian Miniatures

Our “Boxes, Buckets, and Toys” exhibit at the Hingham Heritage Museum has celebrated the craftsmanship of Hingham’s coopers and box and toymakers. Another area in which the woodworkers of Hingham excelled was the carving of duck and shorebird decoys, as well as decorative miniatures.

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Joseph Lincoln’s trade card

Life-like wooden decoys are used by duck and shorebird hunters to attract live birds: groups or “rigs” of wooden birds are set in or near the water to lure birds flying by to stop and join them.  The coastal areas and freshwater ponds of the South Shore were popular shooting locations for both sportsmen and market gunners and making wooden decoys became a cottage industry at which a few local practitioners excelled.

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Joseph Lincoln with his decoys

The most famous of our local decoy artists was Joseph Whiting Lincoln (1859–1938), who lived and worked beside Accord Pond on the Hingham-Rockland border.  After working in a shoe factory, Lincoln undertook a variety of occupations before settling into a career as a decoy carver in the 1870s.  In what had been his uncle’s cooperage, Lincoln created decoys that were shipped all over the East Coast and are highly sought after today for their artistry.  This “no nonsense” Yankee  made some miniatures, almost always in decoy style, but generally referred to his miniature carvings as “toys.”

Elisha Burr (1839-1909), a box maker whose Civil War canteens and woodenware are collectibles today, and his son Russ Burr (1887-1955), were also well-known decoy artists.  Like Lincoln’s, their work is highly sought after by collectors today. Russ Burr is also well known for his miniatures, two of which are on display in the Kelly Gallery at the Hingham Heritage Museum.

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Russell Burr, “whittler,” with some of his miniatures.  Photo courtesy of Bob Mosher

Alston “Shorty” Burr (1910-1979), Russ Burr’s nephew, continued the family carving tradition using his Uncle Russ’ patterns for avian miniatures.  Two of Shorty’s miniatures, similar but cruder than his uncle’s, are also on display in the Kelly Gallery.

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A Russ Burr shore bird decoy.  Image courtesy of Bob Mosher

There is much to appreciate in these bird carvings, whether considered as hunting tools or one of the few purely American art forms.  According to Bob Mosher, a contemporary Hingham carver and decoy historian, the difference between Lincoln and Burr decoys is instructive.  Lincoln made “working birds”—even his miniatures were made as little decoys, and his work is simple and impressionistic.  Burr’s style, on the other hand, is more detailed and “busy,” creating an “active, alive” carving.

Contemporary carving by Mosher and Hingham carver W.D. Sarni can be viewed and purchased in our Museum Shop on the 1st Floor of Old Derby Academy.

 

The “Precedent” and the Birth of Fire Fighting in Hingham

In 1802, the Town of Hingham authorized the construction of firehouses at Little Plain (Hingham Centre) and Broad Bridge (Hingham Square), although the responsibility to acquire the fire engines themselves rested with private citizens—the proprietors of Engine Companies No. 1 and 2.  The “hand tub” engines that they commissioned and paid for were large wooden tubs placed on carts for mobility and filled by hand from the nearest water source. Once the bucket was full, firemen pushed long wooden bars (“brakes”) up and down, setting in motion a piston in the tub that pumped the water out through a hose and nozzle.

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Francis H. Lincoln wrote in the 1893 History of the Town of Hingham:

If one were to imagine a fire in those days he would see a company of perhaps fifteen men at work upon the brakes and attending to the hose and pipe, while a line of men and women stretched away to the nearest water, which they passed from hand to hand in buckets, emptying it into the tub, passing the empty buckets back by another line to be filled again.

IMG_4495This wooden tub is from the Little Plain Engine, No. 1, nicknamed the “Precedent” because it was the first of what would ultimately be four such engines to be completed.  It was manufactured by local craftsmen: Peter Sprague made the tub from cedar furnished by Thomas Fearing. The ironwork was by the local firm of Stephenson and Thomas.

In 1830, the Town’s first suction apparatus, the “Hingham,” was acquired and “hand tubs” or “bucket tubs” such as the Precedent became obsolete.

The tub was reassembled and stabilized in recent years by Dick Kenney of the Bare Cove Fire Museum. It is currently on display at the Hingham Heritage Museum, on loan from the Bare Cove Fire Museum, 45 Bare Cove Park Drive, Hingham, MA 02043.

 

Hingham Community Band & “the old-time melodies which everyone loves”

“Sound drums and trumpets!
Farewell sour annoy!
For here, I hope, begins our lasting joy.” – William Shakespeare

Once a dependable and generous keeper of time, William Goodwin’s bass drum, on display in the Kelly Gallery at Old Derby, is a charming keepsake of Hingham’s lively past. The drum is a sizable and early relic, cased in birchwood, balancing on the rope tension while exhibit lighting illuminates it’s face. The periphery of the double-sided calfskin head, where impressions of countless striking remain, reads “Hingham Community Band”. A uniformed, marching ensemble comprised of traditional woodwind, brass and percussion instrumentation, the Hingham Community Band was organized during the first decade of the 1900s.

It was somewhere between 1920-1930 when William Eleazar Goodwin (1891-1952) was the chief director of the rhythmic beats essential to the collective timbre of the Community Band. Goodwin was born in Foxborough, Massachusetts to Charles, a railroad conductor from Groveland, and Mary Lovett. By age 19 he was living in Dorchester where he married Elizabeth Daly of Boston, daughter of Irish immigrants, in 1915. He later settled with wife and two, school-age daughters, Dorothy and Elizabeth, in West Hingham where he was a meat purveyor in a grocery under his ownership at North and Thaxter Streets.

While the drum is light of weight, it’s bulky volume requires a party of two to maneuver if the player is not sized to carry it comfortably on his chest. Since all the instruments in a marching band are to be played while mobile, the sturdy leather handle on the outer front of the drum’s case would be held by another band member.

Frederick L. Lane | General Manager of the Nantasket Steamboat Co | Boston Post Sun 26 Jun 1921

Boston Post Sun, 26 Jun 1921

Led by musical director Frederick Leavitt Lane (1872-1943), the band appeared in parades and celebrations, civil and religious ceremonies and played at sporting events including boxing matches throughout Greater Boston and the grand opening of the Boston Garden in 1928. Each member of the band was a trained musician and resident of Hingham. At times there were 80 marching members with a range of ages from 16 to 72. As the Boston Herald noted in 1928, “The Hingham Community Band has specialized in the rendition of favorite compositions; the old-time melodies which everyone loves”. Lane was treasurer of the Nantasket Beach Steamboat Line under company president and Hingham native Ebed Ripley. Designated the oldest ferry company in the country, the Boston and Hingham Steamboat Co. was founded in 1831. After 50 years the firm restructured and was renamed Nantasket Beach Steamboat Lines. The service provided excursion passenger transit between Rowes Wharf, Boston and Nantasket Beach, the “Coney Island of Boston”, from the 1890s through the 1930s. Lane began with the company as a bookkeeper and quickly ascended to general manager and treasurer in 1912. Due to Lane’s authority, the Hingham Community Band would perform on the Steamboat company’s crafts including the legendary “Mayflower” where on the foredeck they held concerts during the summer months. MayflowerA steam-powered, side wheel vessel, the Mayflower was the lone survivor of a wharf fire that destroyed 4 other Nantasket Steamboat passenger boats in 1929. After over 40 years, she was taken out of service and while grounded on Nantasket Beach, lived nearly 40 more years as the nightclub “Showboat”. Frederick Lane was also the owner of the Pear Tree Hill Dairy, purveyors of high grade milk, cream and butter located on Main St. in Hingham. Lane passed away in Warner, New Hampshire in July of 1943. He is buried in Hingham Cemetery.

In 1952, at the age of 61, William Goodwin died in Hingham. Though remaining in Hingham until passing in 1980, his wife Elizabeth sold the property at North and Thaxter in 1954. Both are interred in St. Paul’s Cemetery.

Preserved in a delightful bass drum at the Heritage Museum is Hingham’s musical identity in the contributions of spirited and ambitious residents Frederick Lane and William Goodwin.

Black History Month: Did You Know . . .

1630    Slavery was present in Massachusetts almost from the the colony’s inception. As early as 1630 the Massachusetts Bay Colony instituted a fugitive law that allowed for runaways to be protected if they ran away to escape abuse by their masters. Enslaved people included both Africans and Native Americans.

1641    Massachusetts became the first American colony to legalize slavery.

1700    Judge Samuel Sewall (known for his involvement in the Salem witch trials) published “The Selling of Joseph,” the first anti-slavery pamphlet published in New England.

1722    During an epidemic, the first smallpox inoculations in America were administered in Boston. The idea of inoculation came from Cotton Mather’s slave, Onesimus, who described how African tribes had used inoculation. The procedure, administered by Zabdiel Boylston, helped save many lives.

1760    Briton Hammon, owned by General John Winslow of Marshfield, published a captivity narrative, “The Uncommon Sufferings, and Surprizing Deliverance, of Briton Hammon, a Negro Man,” considered to be the first autobiographical work by an African-American.  General Winslow moved to Hingham in the 1770s; it is thought that Hammon fought in the Revolution as part of a Hingham-Cohasset regiment.

1764    The first colonial census showed that Hingham had 77 slaves, one for every thirty-two persons, a high ratio compared to the whole colony. The population of Hingham at the time was 2,506.

1773       Enslaved African-American artist Prince Demah solicited commissions for portrait work, advertising in the Boston News-Letter that he “takes Faces at the lowest Rates.” Prince was owned by Henry and Christian Barnes of Marlborough, who were Loyalists, and after they fled to England in 1775, Prince enlisted in the Massachusetts militia as a free man. He died in 1778. Prince’s portraits of Henry and Christian Barnes, the earliest documented paintings by an African-American, are at the Hingham Historical Society.

440px-Mumbett701781    Elizabeth “MumBet” Freeman became the first enslaved African American to file and win a freedom suit in Massachusetts in the case of Brom and Bett v Ashley.

1783    Massachusetts became the first state to effectively abolish slavery when Quock Walker sued his owner for his freedom. The Supreme Judicial Court ruled that slavery was inconsistent with the Declaration of Rights in the Commonwealth’s new Constitution of 1780.  Prominent attorney Levi Lincoln, Sr., who argued the case for Walker, was born in Hingham. Chief Justice William Cushing, who decided the case, was from Scituate.

1801    James Tuttle (ca 1780-1847) married Rebecca Humphrey in Hingham. He founded 34687605614_5abbd89128_mthe small neighborhood of Tuttleville at the intersection of High and Ward Streets, whose residents worked in Weymouth’s shoe factories and farmed. His son James King Tuttle (1834-1906) is credited with leading the effort to build a small church in Tuttleville in the 1870s.

17463952823_a80d5f6137_m1806    Hingham’s Third Congregational Society (New North Church) on North Street was constructed with segregated galleries for people of color, men in one section and women in another. This “architectural lucretia leonardsegregation” ended in the church in 1841 when the Thaxter sisters insisted that their long-time servant, Lucretia Leonard, join them in their pew.

1830   Free African-American emigres founded the Wilberforce Colony north of present-day London, Ontario, Canada, where they were allowed political autonomy.  Sisters Vilana, Rosana, and Salome Quacum of Marshfield, Mass., whose family had ties to Hingham’s black and Native American community, moved north with their husbands and children to join the colony.

1835    The Hingham Female Anti-Slavery Society was founded. Some of the women from this original group joined the Hingham Anti-Slavery Society formed in January 1838. The Thaxter sisters were among the members.

1838    John Quincy Adams, who after his Presidency represented a Plymouth County Congressional district (including Hingham), introduced 350 antislavery petitions in the House of Representatives. This violated the “gag rule” in which no bills could be introduced to debate the issue of slavery.

Motto_frederick_douglass_21841    Frederick Douglass gave his first important public speech in Nantucket, Massachusetts. Douglass settled in New Bedford in 1838 after escaping slavery in Maryland. This speech at the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society’s annual convention in Nantucket launched his career as an abolitionist speaker and writer.  Later that same year, Douglass spoke in Hingham at the quarterly meeting of the Plymouth Anti-Slavery Society; the editor of the Hingham Patriot likened him to Spartacus and noted, “A man of his shrewdness, and his power, both intellectually and physically, must be poor stuff . . . to make a slave of.”

1843    Jairus Lincoln of Hingham published his song book, “Anti-Slavery Melodies: For the Friends of Freedom” for the Hingham Anti Slavery Society. The book included some of his own original songs. It was a featured element at an 1844 anti-slavery picnic and subsequent anti-slavery events.

The same year, Sydney Howard Gay left Hingham for New York City to become editor of Portrait-Sydney-Howard-Gay-205x300the National Anti-Slavery Standard.  He was an active participant in the Underground Railroad. Records recently discovered at Columbia University suggest that, in the 1840s and 1850s, Gay and his colleagues, including black freedmen William H. Leonard and Louis Napoleon, helped over 3,000 slaves to escape north to Canada.

1844    Hingham hosted the largest anti-slavery picnic in the United States in Tranquility Grove, now known as Burns Memorial Park. Thousands paraded from Fountain Square through the town and along Main Street to the grove. Frederick Douglass spoke at the event, for which Jairus Lincoln was the Grand Marshall. Unfortunately, the massive crowds caused so much damage to the property that the Thaxters, who owned the grove, vowed never to have a public event there again!

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1848    John Albion Andrew (1818-1867), a leader of the Massachusetts Free Soil Party in the 1840s and 50s and governor of Massachusetts during the Civil War (1861-1866), john-albion-andrewmarried Eliza Hersey of Hingham and considered the town his true home. Four of his five children were born in Hingham.

robert-gould-shaw-memorial1863    After a long effort lobbying the Lincoln administration to allow free men of African descent to enlist in the Union Army, Governor Andrew was allowed to form the 54th and 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiments. Their impressive performance, particularly the 54th’s at Fort Wagner under the leadership of Robert Gould Shaw (1837-1863), garnered further Northern support for abolition. David Henry Champlin (1835-1886) was a Hingham resident who enlisted in the 54th as a substitute soldier and quickly rose to the rank of corporal. Following the war he convinced Hingham to provide his family the same level of town aid that was granted to white soldiers.

Free Christian Mission

1873    A group of Tuttleville residents, led by James King  Tuttle, petitioned the Town to build an evangelical chapel at the corner of Ward and High Streets. The chapel, which also functioned as a school, was called the Mt. Zion Chapel or Free Christian Mission and had an official membership of thirty, although at times up to 100 people worshiped there.

Selected Sources/Resources

Hart, Lorena Laing and Francis Russell. Not All Is Changed: A Life History of Hingham. Hingham: The Hingham Historical Commission, 1993.

Hingham Public Library, Local History & Special Collections.

Emma Ryan, Tranquility Grove: Standing Up to Slavery. 2017.

Matthew Johnson, Timeline of Events Relating to the End of Slavery.

A Hurricane in Hingham

2016322-large-2On September 18, 1933, under the headline, “Railroad Tracks Washed Out During Storm Last Sunday,” the Hingham Journal reported:

Fully 500 feet of the New Haven tracks running from Hingham to Cohasset under the bridge of the Cohasset-Hingham new road were washed out and all trains held up during the height of the heavy gale and rain storm on last Sunday afternoon.

The break in the track was discovered by Daniel Magner, who told his grandfather, Thomas Magner, who in turn notified the railroad officials.  The last train over the line before it gave way was at 11:02 A.M.  The 2:52 P.M. from Boston carried just one passenger, who was transferred at the washout in an automobile. A downpour of water carried away enough roadbed to undermine about 50 feet of track.  Part of the track hung suspended in the air and part gave way. A full wrecking crew was called into action at once and work was continued all Sunday night. . . .  The force of the water took telegraph poles along with it, temporarily causing telephone disruption.  This was speedy repaired so that little inconvenience was caused.

The scene was viewed by thousands, police being on duty at the bridge to keep traffic moving.

440px-1933_Atlantic_hurricane_13_trackThe storm that took out the railroad embankment is not as locally famous as the Hurricane of 1938 or 1954’s Hurricane Carol, both of which devastated the Northeast.  Later named the “1933 Outer Banks Hurricane,” it travelled from the Caribbean up the East Coast and into Canada between September 8-18, 1933.  It was the 13th storm of the Atlantic hurricane of the season that year.  The 1933 Atlantic hurricane season was one of the most active recorded, with the highest aggregate combined accumulated cyclone energy score (a measure used by NOAA to express cyclone activity through an approximation of wind energy) from 1851 (when hurricane activity was first recorded) to date.