Get out the Vote!

Election day is upon us! We’ve all received numerous mailings and seen countless ads; now it’s time to make our way to the polls to perform our civic duty and receive the iconic (and much desired) “I Voted” sticker. Filling out our individual ballots and sliding them into the ballot box seems routine to us, but this was not the original voting practice of the Commonwealth. A dive into the archives can help us look into the history of voting in Massachusetts and the integral role our state played in establishing our voting practices today.

Pasted on the pages of one of the many bound books in our collection is a series of political ballots from the 1870s and 1880s. You can see these ballots belong to both familiar and unfamiliar parties – from the “Regular Republican Ticket” and the “Regular Democratic Ticket” to the “Liberal Republican Ticket” and the “Regular Greenback Labor Ticket.”

 

Political ballots, or party tickets, were created in the 19th century to make it easier for people to vote. Prior to these ballots, Massachusetts voters had to write down who they wished to elect. This meant voters had to not only remember the names of their desired candidates, but also the spelling of the names to avoid the possibility of the vote being thrown out. While early voters could remember the few names of elected officials within the small colony, as Massachusetts’s state government grew, this task became much more challenging.  Enter David Henshaw.

Henshaw, a Bostonian, decided to take a printed list of 55 candidate names and submit it as his ballot in 1829. For over one hundred years, Massachusetts law had required voters to handwrite their vote, but Henshaw challenged this practice. His act led to a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court case: Henshaw v. Foster. The Supreme Judicial Court ultimately recognized that the original law did not foresee how large the government would grow and how many candidates voters would have to elect; therefore, the Court determined that printed ballots were acceptable. And so began the mass production of party tickets in Massachusetts, and, soon, the nation.

Party members printed these ballots in newspapers or distributed them on the streets. Party leaders soon realized that by incorporating party symbols, elaborate designs, and vivid colors in their ballots, they could appeal to more voters, both literate and illiterate. Below you can see how parties in Massachusetts sought to visually appeal to voters. You may even notice the names of a few Hinghamites: John D. Long, Charles W.S. Seymour, Arthur Lincoln, and Alexander Lincoln.

 

If politicians disagreed with the candidates chosen to be on their party’s ballot, they sometimes chose to rebel by creating their own party ballot. If there was just one candidate a voter didn’t like on the ballot, the voter could cut out the name of a desired candidate and paste it over the name of the original candidate. You can see on the ballot below that one voter preferred “Henry Stephenson of Hingham”.

 

Over the years, parties found ways to intimidate voters into taking their ballots or stuffed the ballot boxes themselves, resulting in a cry for reform. In 1888, Massachusetts became the first state to pass legislation requiring the creation and use of state-issued ballots which listed all candidates of all parties on one ballot, a practice Australia had already used effectively. Massachusetts once again began a voting system that the whole nation would eventually adopt, a system that is currently in practice today.

So as you make your way to the polls, remember how far we’ve come as a state and a nation to ensure our democratic experiment is a success!

To learn more about party tickets and voting, check out these articles/sites referenced:

“19th Century Political Ballots” by the Boston Athenæum http://cdm.bostonathenaeum.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/p16057coll29

“Rock, Paper, Scissors: How we used to vote” by Jill Lepore https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2008/10/13/rock-paper-scissors

“Vote: The Machinery of Democracy – Paper Ballots” by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History http://americanhistory.si.edu/vote/paperballots.html

“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.

p. 22_Page_22

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.

Greenbush_Main

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.

74 School (c) 1890
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.

74 School Street 1889.jpeg

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!

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.

hpwood

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.

 

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!

1915.1.1-5DIII_20170113_2698-Catalog Copy.jpg

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.

Steppin’ Out

[The photos and text are from a 2011 exhibit put together by Mary Fitzmaurice and Suzanne Buchanan to showcase shoes, boots, and other footwear in our costume collection.]

After farming, shoemaking was the most common occupation listed in the 1893 Hingham Genealogy.  Like aprons and stockings, the shoes that people wore every day rarely survived. They simply wore out. That explains why most of the shoes on display here are in pretty good condition. They probably were worn only on special occasions or by people who could afford more than one or two pairs of shoes.

The well-worn working man’s shoe in the center of the bottom picture is the one exception to that rule. It is one of thousands of shoes that were hidden in chimneys and walls by New England families when they built new homes in the 1700s and 1800s. The origins of this tradition are murky, but shoes dating back to the 15th century have been found in the walls of houses in England, so we know that it came over with the Colonists. Some scholars think it was a way to bless the house or bring good luck. If you live in a historic house, you may have an old shoe in your wall, too.

First group 

  1. Light blue kid high-button boots, ca.1890, with a 1” Louis heel, ten milk-glass buttons, and scalloped button hole edges. COS-SH8
  2. Shoe box from T.E. Moseley & Co. of Boston, printed by August Gast & Co. of NY in 1887.  Gift of Mrs. Alfred Cushing.COS-SH23.
  3. Ivory kid high-button boots, ca. 1890.
  4. Red child’s shoe with ankle strap. Metal buttons center front. Made by Foster and Peabody of Boston, 1850-70.
  5. Green leather child’s shoe with metal buckles, 1890s
  6. Black leather girl’s shoe with 3 straps and bows, 1890-1910
  7. Child’s pink scalloped high-button shoes, c. 1900-20.  COS-SH33.  Gift of Wisconsin Historical Museum.

 Second Group

  1. Ladies’ black kid shoes with cut-out details and pink silk lining and gold chain stitching.  Made in Paris, Viault-Este, and sold in London by Thierry & Sons. c. 1850-1875.  Gift of Clara L. Barnes.  COS-SH26.
  2. Ladies’ bronze kid leather evening shoes with brown tie bows and vamp heel and a pink satin insert on each toe.  c. 1920-25.  Made in Paris by Viault-Este.  Gift of Mrs. J. Andrews. COS-SH29
  3. Ladies’ pale green satin slippers with gold and clear glass bead decoration over short, round vamps.  Ivory kid and cotton innersoles and lining.  Stamped on right innersole: Thayer McNeil  & Hodgkins, 41 Temple Place, Boston.  1890-1910.  Gift of Mrs. George F Bennett.  COS-SH21.
  4. Child’s black high-buttoned shoes with red leather lining, c. 1900-20.  COS-SH32
  5. Beige ladies’ leather tie shoes with silk ribbon ties, bound in silk grosgrain. c. 1810-1860.  COS-SH25.
  6. Child’s flat brown leather slippers with square toes and vamps.  From I.E. Moseley & Co.corner of Summer and Hawley Streets, Boston.  Late 19th century. COS-SH17.

Shoes Third group 

  1. Pair of men’s “gutta percha” shoes, an early type of rubber galoshes, c. 1840-50.  Gift of the Prudden Family.  COS-SH40.
  2. Men’s black leather shoes with square toes and brown shoe laces. c. 1810-1850.  Gift of Robert Hurley.  COS-SH31.
  3. Women’s wooden clog, or patten, with velvet strap and pointed toe.  “Willard” written on bottom.  c. 1700-1780.  COS-SH46.  Susan Barker Willard Bequest.
  4. Brown leather man’s shoe, c. 1750, well worn, found behind the chimney at 25 Ship St., which was built in 1753 by Jonathan Churchill.

Pattens-1

The pattens on the right side in the last picture deserve brief additional mention.  In days when streets were unpaved and a woman’s dress fell all the way to the ground, these wood or metal platforms lifted her feet and clothing above the muck.

“The Old Tory”

thumb.php (1).jpg            This beautiful drop-front desk and bookcase, newly installed in the Kelly Gallery at the Hingham Heritage Museum at Old Derby Academy, was built for Martin Gay (1726-1807) and Ruth Atkins Gay (1736-1810) upon their marriage in 1765 by cabinetmaker Gibbs Atkins of Boston, Ruth’s brother.

Called “the Old Tory” in acknowledgement of Martin Gay’s political leanings, the desk travelled to Nova Scotia with Martin upon the evacuation of Boston in 1776.  Many Loyalists were unable to bring larger pieces of furniture when fleeing, but Martin Gay owned a ship which made it possible for him to move the piece such a distance. Because Martin was a deacon of the West Church in Boston, he was charged with protecting the church’s valuables during the British occupation. Martin filled the drawers and shelves of his secretary desk with linen and silver communion service for safe keeping while exiled in Nova Scotia.

In 1788, Martin made a trip to England with hopes of procuring an indemnity for his losses as a Loyalist. Once again, “Old Tory” made the trip with Martin as he stayed in England for two years. Upon his return to Boston in 1792, Martin brought “Old Tory” back with him, filled with the linens and silver communion service to be returned to the West Church.

When Martin died in 1807, Ruth moved to the Gay family home on North Street in Hingham and lived there until her death in 1810. The desk descended in the Gay family until Ebenezer and Diana Gay donated it to a grateful Hingham Historical Society in 2014.

How Artist Joan Brancale Designed the Exhibit Mural for “Boxes, Buckets, and Toys: the Craftsmen of Hingham”

M1 Joan Brancale Hingham 1630 v2The birds’-eye view of Hingham Harbor, circa 1680, envisions Hingham as its earliest settlers found it, a heavily forested coastal village with a safe harbor and large tidal inlet called “Mill Pond.” The mural’s design concept, developed with Suzanne Buchanan, was to give context regarding the importance of the harbor for trade, the vast resource of timber that later helped drive the woodenware industry, and to depict how the early development of the village stemmed from the harbor front.

Working with exhibit designers Ed Malouf and Carol Lieb of Content Design Collaborative through a series of rough idea sketches, the following design evolved: M1 Joan Brancale Hingham 1630 NorthThe focus is on early North Street, later the route by which woodenware from village workshops of Hingham Centre and Hersey Street made their way down the harbor where ships awaited to carry them worldwide. The twilight setting was inspired by exhibit writer Carrie Brown’s description of candlelit homes in a world fueled and maintained by wood.

We see the village at twilight–simple homes, windows aglow—along “Town Road,” now North Street, where the first settlers were granted lots along an Indian path that followed Town Brook to what is now Beal Street. In the distance, I faintly M1 Joan Brancale Hingham 1630 Old Shipsuggested the steeple of Old Ship Church (not yet built) to help locate the site of an earlier meetinghouse on Main Street. At the harbor a single wharf, likely located at the mouth of Mill Pond, suggests the beginning of Hingham’s commercial harbor.  In later years, Hingham harbor’s many wharves were key to the success transporting goods produced by local tradesmen to Boston and beyond.

M1 Joan Brancale Hingham 1630 Mill PondThe viewer may be surprised at the prominence of Mill Pond—how it extends in the distance to what is now Home Meadows. This once broad expanse of water carried early settler Peter Hobart and company to their landing point at the foot of Ship Street at North Street. Mill Pond, flushed by tidal waters and fed by the Town Brook, is, alas, no longer.  In the late 1940s it was “paved over for a parking lot” along Station Street and the historic brook sent underground. The vestige of Mill Pond’s shoreline still remains, along the rear of old buildings lining the south side of North Street.

M1 Joan Brancale Hingham 1630 harbor detailResearch was important to surmise how Hingham Harbor may have first appeared to arriving settlers. I found no local 17th century drawings or paintings on which to base the design. Instead I used a variety of sources to help me understand what might be a plausible view. My research included:

  • Maps and harbor views of New Amsterdam and Boston and research done by the committee working on the development of Hingham Harbor’s Master Plan.
  • The 1893 History of Hingham, which provided information about the abundant hardwoods early settlers would have seen along the coast and drumlins of Hingham;
  • Not All is Changed, Russ and Lorena Hart’s aptly-titled history of Hingham, which includes early maps, including the first 12 lots granted along North Street, and vintage harborfront maps, which helped approximate the location of the first commercial wharf and buildings. These likely extended along Mill Pond near the grist mill, whose ancient foundation supports the old timbers of what is today called Liberty Grille.

Origins of the Quacum Sisters: Founding Mothers of Wilberforce Colony, Ontario

Marshfield, MA sisters Vilana, Rosana, and Salome Quacum, with their husbands, were founding members of the Wilberforce Colony, established near London, Ontario, in 1829 by and for free African Americans. This fascinating blog post from “Of Graveyards and Things,” reviews history and genealogy–including their Hingham connections James Tuttle and Lucretia Leonard.  Follow the link to read more.

Of Graveyards and Things

Sisters Vilana, Rosanna, and Salome Quacum were born at the turn of the 19th century on the south shore of Massachusetts, the daughters of a multiracial family with African, Mattakeeset (Massachuset) Indian, and Herring Pond (Wampanoag) Indian heritage. Although they had lived as free New England women, they each married husbands in the 1820s who were fugitive slaves. After spending several years in their hometown of Marshfield, Plymouth County, Massachusetts and Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, each of the married sisters made the decision to leave their extended family behind and become founding members of the Wilberforce Colony in Ontario, on land which was owned and governed by African Americans, and thus offered security to the Quacum sisters’ husbands from American slave catchers, as well as the possibility of living in a more welcoming community with black governance.

The Origins of the Quacum Sisters

Their father Thomas Quacum was a resident…

View original post 2,986 more words

Launching the Hingham Heritage Google Map

I had no idea when I retired in March 2015 that so much of my early retirement would involve projects tied to history.  These projects culminated in the Hingham Historical Society‘s Custom Google Map Project, which I have shepherded for the past year.   As the opening of the Visitor Center at the Historical Society’s newly renovated Old Derby Academy approaches, it is exciting to unveil our work.  The new Hingham Heritage Map is a custom Google map with a series of topical overlays on which locations of local historical significance are geo-located and described.

Not sure what that means?  Just click in the upper left hand corner to see the “legend,” or list of overlays, and in the upper right hand corner to enlarge the map:

Select one of the themed layers using the map “legend” on the left, and the Google map will populate with icons representing sites of interest.  Click on one and scroll down to read more about its history and in some cases, see historic and contemporary photos.  Note: Many historic structures on this map are private homes today, but exteriors can be viewed as you walk, bike, or drive along.

Eileen McIntyre with veterans

Eileen McIntyre with veterans Norm Grossman and Syd Rosenburg (Barry Chin photo for Boston Globe)

Over the past two years, I was pleased to make connections with fellow history-minded Hinghamites whose help and encouragement made the project possible.  In late 2015, I met with Andy Hoey, Director of Social Studies in the Hingham Public Schools, to explore ways I could put my experience with a new StoryCorps smartphone app to use, capturing oral histories. I’d originally thought I might work with some students to encourage their use of the app.  Andy suggested that I consider capturing stories of local military veterans and introduced me to Keith Jermyn, Hingham’s Director of Veterans’ Services. I kept in touch with Andy as I interviewed veterans in town over the succeeding months to come. The initiative was covered in a Globe South story that ran with their Veterans Day coverage last year.  While we did not realize it when we connected about StoryCorps, both Andy and Keith would later prove helpful in the map project.

Detail from W.A. Dwiggins map, “The Old Place Names,” 1935

In March of 2016, I met with Suzanne Buchanan, then Executive Director at the Hingham Historical Society, and others to explore a potential way-finding project for the planned opening of the Visitor Center at the Hingham Heritage Museum.  Over the next several weeks, I researched an earlier signage project explored by the Hingham Downtown Association. My findings suggested that adding more signs to point visitors to Historic Downtown Hingham, and the new Museum, would be challenging. I also realized that for most of us these days, physical way-finding signs are not a major navigation tool. As I pondered this, an unrelated event sparked an idea.

In the spring of 2016 I attended my 45th college reunion and was impressed by a custom Google map the Boston College alumni office had created to guide attendees to the events held on two campuses. I wondered if we could design such a map as an easy-to-access resource to the Hingham history all around us–so I contacted the BC alumni office to find out how the map had been created.  The Associate Director, Strategic Marketing and Writing, of the Office of University Advancement, Stacy Chansky, was very helpful, sending me online resources. Wow, I thought. Maybe some local students could be enlisted to help me with create a custom Google map to showcase Hingham history that would launch when the new Hingham Heritage Museum opened.

I shared my idea with Suzanne and, based on her enthusiasm for the concept, I reached out to Andy Hoey to see if any Hingham High School students could be enlisted when school resumed the following September.  Andy came through for me, not only identifying two interested seniors, but also gaining approval for them to receive course credit for the hours they spent on the project.  Seniors Eliza Cohen and Collin Bonnell and I agreed on a multi-themed approach to mapping the history of our Town. Our objective would be not only to pinpoint locations but also to include text and photographs.

PC158 First Universalist Church

First Universalist Church and Society, now a private home on North Street.

Both students had themes they wanted to research. Eliza set off to document the Town’s historic meeting houses, places of worship, and cemeteries, while Collin dove into Hingham’s rich military history across the centuries. (I contacted Keith Jermyn about Collin’s work and he contributed by giving Collin material on the many military monuments around town.) Later, Collin also would help me research Hingham’s farming history.

Abolition Banner

Banner from Hingham’s historic 1844 abolitionist event at Tranquility Grove (Burns Memorial Park today). 

Other topics I took on were bucket-making and other early industry in town and the history of Tuttleville, a 19th-century freed black community in Hingham.  This latter topic would later expand to include Hingham’s historic relationship to our nation’s abolition movement. Each research topic would become a layer of the custom Google map.  And I made sure that the Hingham Heritage Museum would be represented on each map layer, through a reference to archival materials or artifacts related to the theme for that layer of the map. (I’ve learned much along the way about the rich resource our new museum will be for all kinds of research.)

As the project got underway last fall, the Society’s registrar, Michael Achille, helped us find information and photographs from the Society’s archives and the Public Library’s history collections.  Michael has been invaluable as both an expert resource and a cheerleader throughout this project.  He is now working with Andy Hoey on an Historical Society-sponsored internship for Hingham High School students starting next fall.  Assignments for the students are expected to include future enhancements to the custom Google map we have created for the Heritage Museum.

For a project with the scope of ours, it was best to begin by populating a shared database. We made Google sheets the home for all of the data we began collecting beginning last September.  Later in the fall, one of my contacts from the StoryCorps project, Hingham-based journalist Johanna Seltz Seelen, put me in touch with Yael Bessoud, a university-level history student with good technology skills–and her future son-in-law.  Yael joined our team early this year, first researching photographs at the library and in the Society archives and then referencing the Hingham Comprehensive Community Inventory of Historic, Architectural and Archeological Assets to populate the database with content for additional Google map layers, including ones documenting the more than one hundred pre-1800 homes and other structures still standing in Hingham.  Later, Yael was instrumental in transferring the information we had put into our database onto a Google map.

Everyone involved in this project is excited that, less than a year from the project’s inception, we are launching what is now an eight-layer custom Google map documenting so many aspects of the Town’s history.  I want to give special shout-outs to Eliza Cohen, who is beginning her college studies at the Shanghai, China, campus of New York University; Collin Bonnell, who is off to college at Fordham University in New York City, and Yael Bessoud, who, with an Associate Degree in History from Quincy College completed, is now continuing his studies toward a B.A. in Education at Framingham State University.

The map project is ongoing. I appreciate the recent assistance of Geri Duff, who found digital images for many of the historic homes on the Google map and house histories compiled by Historical society volunteers over many years of Hingham Historical House Tours.  With these, I have been able to enrich the descriptions for many sites.

Other resources of value to the project have included: the entries on this blog, which document many of the archival resources that we have tied into map descriptions; Martha Reardon Bewick’s well-researched Lincoln Day address this year, which filled in much detail about the abolitionist gathering at Hingham’s Tranquility Grove (a site on one of the map layers); photos and stories provided by Town Historian Alexander Macmillan; and valuable clues about Hingham’s extensive dairy farm history provided by Peter Hersey, based on the labels from his historic milk bottle collection.

Any project worth doing “takes a village” . . . or in this case, a Town.