From Plow Blades and Horseshoes to Automobiles: A Metal-working Skill Lived On

Earlier this year I was researching Hingham’s Irish immigrant neighborhood in preparation for the launch of a Hingham walking tour tied to the South Shore Irish Heritage Trail.   As described in Not All Is Changed: A Life History of Hingham (1993, Hingham Historical Commission), “by the 1870s, Crowe’s Lane, Hersey near Elm Street, upper Elm, Emerald Street, and Bates Court, were an Irish village . . . .”  I spent time reviewing pages about these streets in the Loring Notebooks in our Society archives. These “notebooks” actually are binders filled with historic details about Hingham streets and properties, assembled by local historian Julian Loring (1899-1978).  The description of a property at the corner of Lafayette and Elm Streets — in the heart of the “Irish village” intrigued me.  Daniel Hickey, a blacksmith, and his family, lived on this corner from late 1889 until around 1910. I did some additional digging and felt rewarded for the effort:  the multi-generational Hickey family story that emerged paints a vivid picture of life in Hingham, and America, in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Daniel Hickey was born in Hingham to Irish immigrant parents. And it was with his father John that a metal-working family tradition began.

Irish immigrant John Hickey, from Kilkenny, met Bridgett Hackett, of County Cork, on Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia. They arrived in Boston in 1832 and married there that November.  They had settled in Hingham sometime before 1835 when their first daughter, Mary, was born. John described himself as a laborer on his 1845 naturalization form but would soon develop far more specialized skills.

Howard Foundry at Hingham Harbor, 1896. Kimball Family Photo Collection, Hingham Historical Society.

The Hickey genealogy in the 1893 History of the Town of Hingham tells us that John and Bridgett found a place to live on North Street near the harbor. Successive federal and state census records tell us that by 1850, John was employed as an “iron melter,” a “furnace man,” then an “iron screener” and, by 1860, a “moulder.”  Although no surviving record could be found, almost certainly John was working at the Howard Foundry at Hingham Harbor.

John and Bridgett’s 9 children—5 daughters and 4 sons–were born in Hingham. (John died in 1866 and his wife Bridget in 1873.) Three of their four sons–James, born in Hingham in 1839; Thomas, born in 1841; and Daniel, born in 1851–followed their dad into hot metal work.

Their eldest son James became an iron screener and moulder as a teenager (likely joining his dad at the local foundry) and then took his trade into the Civil War, where he served in the 4th Regiment of the Massachusetts Cavalry—perhaps making cannon balls as well as horseshoes for his unit. After the war James married and moved to Canada.

Second son Thomas, described as a blacksmith when he joined the 1st Cavalry in 1861, later served in the 4thCavalry. His 4 plus years of service were eventful and admirable as related in The Town of Hingham the Late Civil War (1876, F. Burr and G. Lincoln.) He mustered out at the war’s end in 1865 as a second lieutenant. James and Thomas were among the 24 young men from Hingham who were in cavalry service during the Civil War.

Burr-Brown Tassel Factory, Fearing Road, Hingham, c. 1865. Hingham Historical Society

Thomas returned to the family’s Hingham home on North Street, where in 1865, he (aged 23) and 4 younger siblings were living with their parents. His 21-year-old sister Ellen worked at the nearby Burr, Brown Tassel Factory, a popular employer for young women from Irish immigrant families, and John Jr., 19, was a periodical dealer, perhaps selling reading material to commuters from the then-downtown train station. Thomas married in 1866. By 1879, records show that Thomas had a 2-man blacksmith business in Hingham. It is quite possible that the second blacksmith at Thomas’ shop was younger brother Daniel, who would have been in his 20’s by that time. By 1880, Thomas and his wife Mary Jane had a home on Cottage Street and three young sons. They moved to Quincy in 1883.

Daniel stayed in Hingham. In 1876, he married Margaret Hanley of East Weymouth, whose parents, John Hanley and Margaret Keane, were both Irish immigrants. John Hanley, a farmer, was born in Tipperary County. Perhaps Margaret met Daniel Hickey when he provided blacksmith services for her dad’s farm animals. After they married and started a family, the couple first lived on Ship Street. By 1892, Daniel and Margaret had 5 children — 3 sons and 2 daughters.

Detail from “A Bird’s Eye View of Hingham,” map published by A. F. Poole, Brockton, Mass. (1885). Hingham Historical Society

In November 1889, Daniel and his family moved to the corner of Elm and Lafayette, where the property included a barn suitable for horseshoeing. This excerpt from an 1885 illustrated map of Hingham shows the corner as it likely looked when Daniel bought the property in 1889, before the surrounding Maple Street neighborhood was developed, around 1900. Daniel also had a business location for his blacksmith business within walking distance, at 23 North Street. Daniel bought the corner property at 49 Elm Street from Alfred Howard, a carpenter and cabinetmaker, who may have built the home (c.1860) which still stands at this address. Alfred was the son of a blacksmith, Edmund Howard. Daniel had likely known the Howard family for years, as it was Alfred’s uncle, Charles Howard, inventor of the Howard Plow, who had started the Howard Foundry at Hingham Harbor.

A horse-drawn open wagon passes the Cushing House on North Street c. 1896. Kimball Family Photo Collection, Hingham Historical Society

The late 19th century was a busy time for livery stables and the blacksmith trade as horse and buggy was a primary means of transportation.  In the 1860 census there were 14 blacksmiths doing business in town, as related in a fascinating program on the history of transportation in Hingham researched and presented by archivist Bob Malme (and now available to view on the Society’s YouTube channel.

But times were about to change. The first automobile in Hingham, arriving in 1902 according to Not All Is Changed, was owned by Francis Willard Brewer (1846-1907), an affluent local “gentleman farmer.” By 1912 Hingham had acquired its first motor-powered fire engine, replacing one team of horses. That year, with their family now grown and local blacksmithing businesses gradually being replaced by auto repair shops, Daniel and Margaret downsized to a home at 37 Elm Street. But the family interest in horses, and in metal work, continued with their sons Daniel Jr. and Herbert.

Daniel Hickey, Jr., born in Hingham in 1883, and later living in Boston, was, at age 34, a riding instructor, according to his WWI draft registration.  He worked for a time at Boston’s Park Riding School, which was operated by a J. B. Ferry.  Daniel was also described as an “automobile driver”—which suggests he worked as a chauffeur in early automobiles, in addition to teaching students to ride horses.

Hudson Motors dealership, Summer Street, Hingham, 1926. Kimball Family Photo Collection, Hingham Historical Society

Indicative of the changing times, Daniel’s oldest son Herbert, born in 1878, moved to Detroit sometime after 1910, and had a long career in the fast-growing auto industry. For a time, he was an inspector at the Hudson Motor Car Company, which had an early dealership on Summer Street at Hingham Harbor. Hudson Motor Company, founded in 1909, merged in 1954 to become American Motors Corporation.  It was fascinating to learn how the Hickey family’s livelihood evolved with changes in transportation, while the skills in metal work continued through the generations.

The Farm Hills Civic Society

Individually we are ineffective, united we achieve results.

While researching my neighborhood around Peter Hobart Drive, I noticed that information about its history was limited in comparison to other parts of town. The road connects to upper Gardner Street, an area whose history extends to the early days of Hingham’s establishment. Various smaller streets branch off and create an entanglement of roads that forms our neighborhood community. My street was named after the Reverend Peter Hobart, one of the original settlers of Hingham and a pastor of the Town’s first church. However, the life of this neighborhood only stretches back to the early twentieth century, far later than the time period when Hobart lived.

The chicken barn that started the neighborhood c. 1963

Development began in 1938 with a chicken barn hiding behind an old bucket factory, and the rest of the houses were constructed throughout the fifties and sixties. To my dismay, much of Hingham’s historical research does not extend beyond World War II but rather focuses on the original era of English settlement. Although newly developed areas of town were not involved in Hingham’s establishment, they illustrate the pathway of change taken throughout Hingham’s existence.

The neighborhoods of upper Gardner Street have contributed greatly to the town’s politics and communal activities for the past few decades. The concern that initially brought the Farm Hills Civic Society together involved a proposal to extend Route 3 into the upper Gardner area. Residents worried that adding a busy highway in the middle of the neighborhood would  negatively affect the area’s character and interfere with the neighborhood’s tranquil and hospitable personality. In collective agreement that this proposal would create a great disturbance, residents collaborated to prevent the extension from being constructed.

Writing articles and calling meetings to present their views to others, the group achieved success in preventing the extension. This communal organization endures, still presenting their collective ideas for improvements to the neighborhood while fighting against town proposals that would threaten the area’s character.

Throughout the organization’s life, it has accomplished a variety of goals, both small and large. Creating a sense of community has been a principal goal of the Farm Hills Civic Society since it first began. One manner of accomplishing this has been hosting social events, such as annual Easter egg hunts and block parties. Involving neighbors in enjoyable communal activities enhanced the feeling of togetherness necessary for the FHCS to continue working for the benefit of the community as a whole. These events often catered to child residents, indicating the group’s desire to create a positive environment for families to raise their children.

According to an early resident of Peter Hobart Drive, Mary Thomas, many families moved from the Boston area to suburban towns, considered the “countryside” in the fifties, to enjoy the improved school systems, and today the neighborhood remains home to many families with young children. Consequently, many of the FHCS’s smaller goals centered on maintaining a safe and welcoming environment for children to grow up in. In the late seventies, the association prevented Pilgrim Arena from gaining a liquor license. This popular ice rink is often frequented by children for its exceptional activities and sports practices, and allowing such an establishment to sell liquor seemed inappropriate to the FHCS. The group also advocated for the preservation of safety in areas within the neighborhood where children often played. The same year as the ice rink victory, the society prevented an access road from being constructed through Kress Field. This plot was donated to the town to allow for a children’s playground to be built, and today it is a beloved part of the neighborhood’s child-friendly environment. In the early 2000s, they petitioned for the installation of a four-way stop at the intersection of Gardner Street, Winfield Lane, and Farm Hills Lane in order to preserve safety for families living near this area.

A 1969 newspaper article by Debra K. Piot in which the Thomas’s explain that they bought their home “looking for family roots in Hingham”

Just a few years after the FHCS was first incorporated, it faced a significant concern presented by the town government. The town provided the Selectman with permission to determine the relocation process of Route 228 with state officials. The six-lane highway would have cut through the Gardner Street neighborhoods, polluting the water supply with oil and salts while removing up to eighty-five homes around Farms Hills. To avoid the devastation this relocation would have caused, the FHCS united to defeat the proposal, which had been presented two separate times.

Gardner Street in a snow storm c. 1898

One of the Farm Hills Civic Society’s most notable accomplishments occurred between the years 1999 and 2000. A real estate company known as Mills Corporation of VA proposed a plan to construct a mega-mall where the South Weymouth Naval Air Station was once located. The development would have needed a connector road to be structured through the neighborhood, causing endless traffic on the surrounding streets. When the residents of the Farm Hills Area learned of this proposal, local town and state officials were already finalizing negotiations, explaining to the FHCS that the project was a “done deal.” However, neighbors rallied together, publishing newspaper articles to educate fellow townspeople about the issues this connector road would cause. With the tide turning in their favor, the FHCS called a town meeting, demonstrating the community support that their efforts had garnered and disrupting the supposedly “already decided” project.

The FHCS has seen incredibly dedicated presidents and members over the years. Notably, Stephen Kelsch served as president during the eighties, and members of his community remember and admire his efforts. He focused much of his attention on the effects of development in the South Hingham area, and current residents appreciate the enduring accomplishments he allowed the FHCS to achieve. Kelsch, sadly, passed in 2013, but his impact on the town’s politics remains apparent. Alongside the FHCS, he involved himself in multiple town committees and historical associations, including the Hingham Historical Society.

Current resident of Farm Hills Lane, Judy Kelley, has been an active member of the FHCS for many years. Her efforts in vocalizing the ideas and opinions of the FHCS have tremendously aided the accomplishment of many of the neighborhood’s goals. One significant issue that she helped the neighborhood overcome was the impending development of a substantial apartment complex near the upper Gardner area. Between the years 2011 and 2013, a development company known as AvalonBay planned to replace 18.5 acres of wooded area on Recreation Park Drive with an apartment complex comprised of sixteen buildings and one hundred seventy-seven individual apartments. This location was chosen to avoid specific town zoning regulations that inhibit crowded population densities. The construction of these apartments would have also required an access road leading into the neighborhood from Deerfield Road. This development would have resulted in multiple four-story housing complexes squeezing uncomfortably into the small streets of upper Gardner, inevitably increasing congestion on nearby roads and highways. Judy Kelley explained in an interview with Jeff Keating from WGBH News that the development would not have been accepted if the size of the land and the community were taken into greater consideration. Ultimately, with the help of the FHCS, the town selectmen passed a proposal to utilize the land for further development of the South Shore Industrial Park.

Gardner Street (with stone walls and chickens), c. 1900

Documents describing the accomplishments of the FHCS express: “Individually we are ineffective, united we achieve results.” This statement perfectly depicts the organization’s dedication to creating a supportive community and advocating for the best interests of the entire neighborhood. The community still remains politically active, with residents involved in various aspects of the town’s government, and the Farm Hills Civic Society continues to advocate for the good of the neighborhood under the current president, Ted Healy, who has served since 2014. Former residents believe that the group is more dynamic now than ever before due to dedicated leadership over the years.

The author, Ella Kennedy, is a member of the Hingham High School Class of 2022.  She participate in the Hingham Historical Society’s high school intern program during the fall term 2021.    

Escaping to Hingham

When we think of tourism in Massachusetts, examples such as Hull’s Nantasket Beach, Cape Cod’s Provincetown, or Martha’s Vineyard’s Edgartown immediately come to mind. Perhaps surprising to some, Hingham held a role as a tourist destination, possessing three resort hotels throughout the 19th century.

First built in 1770, the Union Hotel was constructed where the Hingham Post Office stands today. In the early 19thcentury, it was renamed the Drew Hotel and then later the Cushing House and underwent various renovations before it was torn down in 1949.

Next, the Old Colony House was built in 1832 on top of Old Colony Hill, close to what is now Summer Street, with grounds extending to Martin’s Well. Founded by the Boston and Hingham Steamship Company, it burned down in October of 1872.

Thirdly, in 1871 the Rose Standish House was constructed in what is now Crow Point. The hotel was part of Samuel Downer’s Victorian-era amusement park, Melville Garden, until the park was dismantled in 1896.

What were some of the factors contributing to Hingham’s rise in tourism?

While Hingham could be accessed by horse drawn carriage, the development of steamships and railroads during the 1800s was important to connecting small, rural towns like Hingham to Boston’s wealthy citizens, and later the general public, in order to grant quick access to the pleasures they had to offer.

Furthermore, with the increase in urbanization due to the Industrial Revolution, towns such as Hingham became places of escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. As cities grew, doctors and scholars began to associate the city with not only various physical diseases but also mental maladies. While sea bathing and the sea air were thought to possess healing properties, it was also considered salubrious to take a respite from the city itself. An excerpt from the research magazine Scientific American, published in 1871, discussed the medical benefits of a seaside visit for people suffering from a variety of ailments: from anxious businessmen, to people living in crowded towns, or to people recovering from illness or injury. The author stated

To these people it is not the sea air alone, nor yet change of air; but it is change of scene and habit, with freedom from the anxieties and cares of study or business, the giddy rounds of pleasure, the monotony of every-day life, or the sick room and convalescent chamber, which produce such extraordinary beneficial effects . . . .

With the development of a middle class during this time, more people could afford the time and money to engage in leisure activities and embark on day trips to Boston’s surrounding towns. From the naturalistic scenery of World’s End surrounding the Old Colony House to the dancing and boating at the Rose Standish House and Melville Garden, the escapist nature of Hingham’s seaside resorts provided urbanites a sojourn away from the city.

 

 

The Howard Foundry at Hingham Harbor

Photo of the Eagle Iron Foundry on Summer Street c. 1895, with Hingham Harbor visible beyond. From the Albert W. Kimball Collection at the Hingham Historical Society

Where we enjoy water views along Summer Street today, there was once a thriving industrial center at Hingham Harbor. On a section of the shoreline between Whitney and Barnes wharves once stood the Eagle Iron Foundry, locally called the Howard Foundry.

The Foundry was built about 1844, burned in 1846, and was rebuilt rather quickly. It cast sash weights, furnaces, and plow blades for the Howard plow. The plow blades were sent up to Middle Street, where the wooden parts were attached before the completed plow was sold.

The Foundry closed around 1895, and if you look closely you will notice that all the windows are boarded up. This helps date this photograph.

The building was renovated to house the generator powering the Hingham Street Railway and then, after the railway closed, George Kimball repurposed the building as a workshop.

Charles Howard (1791-1860) of Hingham invented the first iron plow capable of cutting the tough sod of the American prairie. This small model was made by his son, Elijah Leavitt Howard (1833-1904), for his own daughter, Anne B. Howard.  Gift of Anne O. Borntraeger and Esther Oldham, Charles Howard’s great-granddaughters, to the HIngham Historical Society.

All About Pipes

Among the many accessions made possible through the generosity of the Gay family is a collection of clay pipes and fragments, carefully sorted and well documented by Ebenezer Gay. Many were dug up during gardening or, in one case, when some foundation work was done on their former home on North Street.

While it’s a humble-looking collection at first glance, particularly since most of the pieces in it are just that—pieces—pipe collections like this can serve as a window into a fascinating corner of both archaeology and social history.

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Pipes and stems found at the Gay House on North Street in Hingham

Clay pipes are a frequent archaeological find. They were batch-manufactured by craftsmen with simple tools, used all over the colonies and later the country, easily broken and then, usually, cast aside. The fragments left behind, and the much rarer pipes found intact, can give us clues about the world they came from. The length or thickness of a pipe’s stem, or the size of its bowl, can be used to determine its age, and a knowledgeable observer might use that information to help roughly date objects found with the pipe  A pipe might give more specific information than that, as well:  several of the ones in the North Street collection feature maker’s marks. The names “Murray” and “McDougall” each pop up more than once.

pipe article copy (2)

A detail from Eben Gay’s notes on his pipe collection.  Gay was the curator of scientific instruments at Harvard; thus his wonderfully detailed notes. 

While tobacco is, of course, a New World plant and tobacco smoking something Europeans learned on this side of the ocean, the tradition of clay pipe making and smoking reached New England from Old England, where clay pipe makers’ guilds formed in the 17th century. Pipes much like the ones found all over the original colonies are also found at the sites of battles that took place during the English Civil War in the 1640s. The pipes the Gays found at North Street are certainly newer than this, and indeed clay pipes continued to be used through the 19th century. However, they newer ones, too, attest to the clay pipe industry’s British heritage. Several of the stems in the collection, along with or instead of maker’s marks, are stamped with their place of origin: Glasgow, Scotland.

While our collection of pipes is resolutely plain, extending in a few cases to some raised decoration on the pipe bowls, decorative pipes became quite an industry in the 19th century. Pipes were made with bowls shaped like animals, ships, people, or anything under the sun. Decorated pipes were used for advertisement, political commentary and commemoration of events. This connection to the events of the day is not unexpected. While smoked primarily (though not exclusively!) by men, pipes were smoked by those of essentially all social positions and in all sorts of environments: in taverns, on the job, or quietly at home. All things considered, it’s unsurprising that such a ubiquitous type of object should have left so many – and to the history enthusiast, such welcome— examples of itself behind.

auction photo

 

A Crow Point Cottage

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Clambake Pavilion, Melville Garden on Crow Point, Hingham

One of the earliest surviving structures on Hingham’s Crow Point, the house at 7 Merrill Street was erected around 1860, most likely as a worker’s cottage.  This was shortly after Dorchester industrialist Samuel Downer (1807-1881) bought up most of Crow Point as the site for a proposed kerosene factory.  After the Civil War, Downer took his real estate investment along Hingham Harbor in a different direction and opened Melville Garden, a Victorian amusement park, in 1871.

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Daniel Frasier

This changed the fortunes of the cottage as well.  Its first recorded owner, Isadore Smart of Cambridge, appears to have rented the house as early as 1879 to a company, also from Cambridge, called “Frasier and Smith,” which manufactured felt covers for piano key hammers. Its main operations were located in Cambridge, but perhaps there was a good market for his wares in the music halls of Melville Garden.

 

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The Frasier and Grozier cottages alone on Merrill St. in 1892.

By 1892, the house was also serving as a summer cottage for Daniel Frasier, owner of the firm, and his family. The families of Edwin Grozier and William Covill lived next door in the so-called “Jones Cottage.” Grozier, editor and owner of the Boston Post, had once been Joseph Pulitzer’s private secretary. Grozier and Frasier were active in the same Cambridge social circles.  The three families had Merrill Street to themselves and could watch the steamboats come in to Downer’s Wharf from their back porches.

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Crow Point seen from Hingham Harbor c. 1900. 7 Merrill is visible behind the sailboat’s mast.

Along with a few similar cottages dotting its hillsides, Crow Point boasted four mansions by the 1890s. Living conditions were rather primitive, however: modern sewer service was not introduced until the late 1940s.  During much of this period, Crow Point’s cottages served principally as summer rentals for Boston families.

pavilion

The hexagonal pavilion salvaged from Melville Garden, shown in 1956

Melville Garden was closed and dismantled in 1896. It might have been Daniel Frasier who moved on of the old  Melville Garden pavilions to the north corner of the house at that time.

In 1897, Crow Point was surveyed and subdivided into residential building lots.  The lots were small, and it appears that few were purchased singly. Amid this development, the property at 7 Merrill Street only reappears in Plymouth County title records in 1944.  That year, it was purchased by George and Margaret Knight, who also purchased the adjacent Jones cottage . The Knights tore down the Jones cottage in 1956 and doubled the size of 7 Merrill the following year, making it a comfortable, modern year-round home.

A photo from 1956, just before the Knights began their renovations, shows the Jones cottage before it was razed. It was at the time similar in size and style to 7 Merrill, and, though it would be considered impractically small by today’s standards, no fewer than eight members of the Grozier and Covill families spent the summer of 1892 there together.

The Knights moved the main entrance to 7 Merrill to the driveway side to accommodate easier access from a car. The current owners have restored the entrance to the front of the house, where it was originally located, and added the portico and an extra chimney for symmetry. Also new is the extension to the living room overlooking Hingham Harbor and an inviting rear terrace.

The house at 7 Merrill will be a featured stop on the Hingham Historical Society‘s 92nd Historic House Tour on Sunday, October 2, 2016.

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7 Merrill’s mansard roof is one of the remnants of original construction. After the Civil War, the style became popular with rich and poor alike because it provided a full attic for living space.  The stately portico and fish-scale shingles are modern enhancements.

“Gentleman Farmers” of the 19th Century

Brewer BarnThe “gentleman farmers” of the 19th century were men who typically had made their fortunes in that century’s industrial and commercial expansion and, only afterwards and as an avocation, applied the scientific and economic values and principles that had fueled their successes in those arenas to agricultural pursuits.  For instance, in 1856, wealthy Boston businessman John Brewer built a mansion along Martin’s Lane in Hingham, which later grew to encompass the twin drumlins of World’s End and the Hingham Harbor islands, and his son, Francis W. Brewer, built “Great Hill,” an estate off Hobart Street, now More-Brewer Park. (Shown here: a print from a glass plate negative of the barn at Great Hill, the foundations of which can still be seen in the park.)

Portrait of Samuel Downer

One prominent father-son duo of “gentleman farmers” with a strong connection to Hingham were both named Samuel Downer. The father, Samuel Downer, Sr. (1773-1854), was a Dorchester merchant with ties to shipping and the Massachusetts maritime economy.  He was a founder of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society and devoted horticultural experimentalist, known for having developed several new varieties of pears.  We have in our collection a portrait of the elder Mr. Downer, painted by Henry Cheever Pratt in 1840.  Mr. Downer chose to pose with fruit and flowers and a popular naturalistic work of the era called The Romance of Nature—all reflecting his desire to be remembered for his agricultural interests and not the trade and commerce that had led to his wealth and position.

Portrait of Samuel Downer, Jr.His son, Samuel Downer, Jr. (1807-1881), was a pioneer in the development of kerosene and a participant in early petroleum exploration in Pennsylvania.  (Locally, he is known for having bought up most of Crow Point in Hingham and developed the mid-19th century resort Melville Garden.)  This Samuel Downer (photo at right) also cultivated fruit for a hobby.  One of his inventions was “Downer’s Late Cherry,” a useful application of scientific principles to farming: it bore fruit later than other varieties of cherry, effectively extending the local cherry season.

PH503The Hingham Agricultural and Horticultural Society, founded in 1869, was also comprised of local men and women, many of whom were involved in industry, trade, and commerce.  (Here, they pose for a formal portrait in front of Hingham’s Agricultural Hall in the late 1880s or early 1890s.) As a society, they were earnestly dedicated to scientific farming, that is, using the progressive values of the 19th century and the power of new knowledge and industrial technology to “improve” agriculture along “modern” lines. At the agricultural fair each fall, prizes offered in different categories attracted many entrants. One could win a medal or ribbon—and an accompanying cash prize–for anything from crops and livestock to flowers and preserves.

The prizes offered for “Agricultural Experiments” demonstrate this interest in scientific farming.  A poster advertising the 1863 Agricultural Fair (detail reproduced below) offered prizes for the “best conducted experiment” in several areas, including for instance, “ascertaining the most economical manner of apply Manures for a crop of Indian corn, not less than ½ acre . . . .”

Africultural Fair Poster 1863 #2

Glimpses of Huit’s Cove

Courtesy of George and Linda Luther Watt, the Society recently acquired a pair of watercolor drawings of Huit’s (or Hewitt’s) Cove—the site of the Hingham Shipyard—in early 1942.

Huit's Cove, in watercolor and pencil, by Beatrice Ruyl, January 23, 1942. Hingham Historical Society

Huit’s Cove, in watercolor and pencil, by Louis Ruyl, January 23, 1942. (Hingham Historical Society)

The earlier drawing, dating from January 1942, shows part of the area prior to construction of the Bethlehem Shipyard. Hingham artist Louis Ruyl slipped into the area only weeks before construction began and captured a weedy winter landscape where only a few months later would stand an enormous industrial complex on almost all of the site’s 150 acres.

“Slipways” Watercolor and pencil picture by Louis Ruyl of the start of construction of the Bethlehem-Hingham Shipyard. May 2, 1942.

The second picture dates from May 1942, when construction of the shipyard was well underway. The artist titled it “Slipways.” There are cranes, tugboats, and, In the distance across the Cove, the Bradley Fertilizer Works.  Within a very short period, the shipyard was up and running.

Launch of a destroyer Escort, Bethlehem-Hingham Shiphard, 1944 or 1945. (Hingham Historical Society)

Launch of a destroyer escort from Bethlehem Hingham Shipyard, 1944 or 1945. (Hingham Historical Society)

Fewer than 10 years earlier, Huit’s Cove had been the site of an enormous costume pageant to celebrate Hingham’s 300th anniversary. Nearly 1,000 residents participated.

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The cast of one scene in the Tercentenary Pageant–the “Ordination Ball”-in colonial costumes. June 1935. (Hingham Historical Society)

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Spectators in bleachers built at Huit’s Cove for the Hingham Tercentenary Pageant, June 27-29, 1935 (Hingham Historical Society)

Prior to to that, a short-lived airfield called Bayside Airport occupied the site.

Biplane in a hangar at Bayside Airport, Huit's Cove, Hingham. (John Richardson Collection, Hingham Historical Society)

Biplane in a hangar at Bayside Airport, Huit’s Cove, Hingham. (John P. Richardson Collection, Hingham Historical Commission/Hingham Historical Society)

Going further back, into the 18th century, Patience Pomatuck was said to have gathered native and naturalized plants from Huit’s Cove, which she used for medicinal, herbs, dyes and other household uses. Patience made a living selling these plants to her English neighbors in Hingham. We have no record of which plants grew in the Cove’s many acres, but among them would probably have been rushes, which could be formed into baskets and rush lamps; wild gentian, for use as an emetic; and mullein, used as cough medicine.

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Common Mullein

Fringed Gentian

Wild Gentian

End of an Era, Easter Day 1902

Much recent attention has been paid to Hingham’s 19th century industrial period, when our town dominated the national woodenware industry, and boxes, buckets, and wooden toys churned out of workshops and factories in South Hingham. Hingham’s former nickname “Bucket Town” is the title both of a recent book and a recent exhibition at Old Sturbridge Village.

This predominance waned in the later 1800s for a variety of reasons, but the steam-powered bucket factory that the Wilders had built on Cushing Pond in the 1840s came to a spectacular end when it burned down on Easter Day, 1902.

Fire at the Wilder Bucket Factory, Easter 1902. (Photo: Hingham Historical Society)

Fire at the Wilder Bucket Factory, Easter 1902. (Photo: Hingham Historical Society)

Fire at the Wilder Bucket Factory, Easter 1902 (Photo: Hingham Historical Society)

Fire at the Wilder Bucket Factory, Easter 1902 (Photo: Hingham Historical Society)

The Back Office in 1914

George E. Kimball Lumber Company 1914.

George E. Kimball Lumber Company, 1914.

This recently donated photograph depicts the interior of the George E. Kimball Lumber Company office on Summer Street near Hingham Harbor. The office perfectly represents the changing times around the start of the 20th century. Taken in 1914—as evidenced by the calendar on the wall to the right—the photo depicts furnishings which are a telling mix of new and old. The bentwood chair, spare tire, and cabinets filled with all manner of supplies, along with the desks themselves, show a company that has been around for years. The telephone, electric fan, and hanging electric lights are representative of a business that is readying itself for the future. Identified in the back of the photo, wearing an apron, is the mustached James M. Kimball. He would help keep the business running for years to come by shipping lumber by boat from Kimball’s Wharf or delivering it by cart to locals residents and builders. To his left is his nephew James H. Kimball. In addition to helping run Kimball Lumber, he was the leader of the Imperial Saxophone Quartet in Hingham and a member of several of Hingham’s earliest baseball teams at the end of the 19th century.  The well-dressed man at the desk presumably is the eponymous George E. Kimball, father of James H. and founder of the firm.