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Night of the Living Dead II at North Cemetery

by Pat Kennedy and Diane Brenner

On the evening of Saturday, August 29th, 2015, as the full moon rose, dozens of onlookers strolled through Worthington’s North Cemetery and encountered six of its permanent residents standing by their graves. These dead Worthingtonians were in a talkative mood, and their memorable words are chronicled here below.

North Cemetery, Worthington.

North Cemetery, Worthington.

North Cemetery, on Cold Street near its eastern junction with Rte. 143, is Worthington’s largest cemetery at 3.5 acres. In 2004 it was listed on the National Register of HIstoric Places. Its date of establishment is uncertain, though its earliest grave marker dates to 1790. Three of the cemetery’s four sides are lined with stone walls, and the eastern breaks in the wall are marked by four-foot-high granite posts, suggesting that gates were formerly mounted on them. Remnants of a vault for storing caskets in winter – when the frozen ground made burials impossible – can be found in the southeast corner.

North Cemetery has over 700 markers, mostly of granite or marble. One of these markers – broken in half, unfortunately – belongs to a prominent Worthington citizen, Samuel Buffington, who took a break from his eternal rest to tell us his story.

Cornelius as Samuel Buffington.

Cornelius Dineen as Samuel Buffington.

Samuel Buffington (1752 – March 17, 1830)

Good evening, fellow citizens, and welcome to my cemetery! Well, it’s not really mine, but I am one of its earliest and most prominent residents. I’m sure you’ve all heard of me, Major Samuel Buffington, Esquire. Surely my many achievements have left a mark on the little hamlet of Worthington, including the magnificent home I built, Buffington Place, at the top of what the town named Buffington Hill Road, undoubtedly in commemoration!

My Federal style home was built in 1806 on 120 acres of land that I purchased from Alexander Miller, the tavern owner, for 400 pounds sterling as a favor to help him get out of debt. Although it was really beneath me, I ran the tavern for a while. I already owned several large Worthington properties that I purchased when I first arrived in the 1780s.

Two houses similar to mine were built at the same time, but neither has the superior aspect and healthy hilltop location of my home. Both are down the hill at the Corners, and stand across the road from each other. One belongs to Judge Jonathan Woodbridge, and the other to William Rice, a mere trader. Some said they were competing with me. But my house remains a beautiful and elegant testament to my wisdom and good taste. That Woodbridge house shouldn’t be worth more than a shilling by now, and the Rice house probably crumbled into dust long ago!

I have to apologize for the condition of my headstone. “How the mighty have fallen!” That’s 2 Samuel 1:25, in case some of you are not so familiar with the Bible. So many other stones, even those for the lesser devoted, are standing tall. But the stone for poor Lucy and me has been allowed to break up and fall to the ground! I have to wonder who’s in charge of things now?

My Lucy was a good, obedient wife. She was the daughter of John Parlin and came from Cummington. As I said, we arrived in Worthington in the 1780s to take up farming. When her father died, she received her portion of his Cummington estate. Of course her property became mine because the law does not permit married women to own property independently. It’s only fitting and proper that the husband take charge of worldly affairs while women remain at home, working as the helpmeets they were ordained to be. I used that farm to breed fine Gordon horses. One of my best was a bay horse called Bay Richmond. He earned me a tidy sum with stud fees.

1782 commission for Samuel Buffington's service in the Revolutionary War.

1782 commission for Samuel Buffington’s service in the Revolutionary War.

Samuel Buffington's 1828 invalid claim as a Revolutionary War veteran.

Samuel Buffington’s 1828 invalid claim as a Revolutionary War veteran.

I regularly loaned money to neighbors less well off than myself, to help them make investments or pay taxes. I already mentioned Alexander Miller, but there were many others. Although Mr. Miller and I both expressed loyalty to King George, I saw which way the winds were blowing and became a lieutenant in a Massachusetts regiment. I acquitted myself honorably, receiving a pension for my service.

In 1787 I was called out again – along with my friend, Elisha Brewster – to aid General Shepard as he put down the insurrection known as Shays’ Rebellion. On Shepard’s order, I confronted Daniel Shays at the arsenal in Springfield. I can still remember what happened that day. Shays advanced with his sword drawn in his left hand, his pistol in his right, and familiarly asked me, “How are you Buffington?” I replied, “You see I am here in defense of that country you are endeavoring to destroy.” He rejoined, “Well if you are, we are both defending the same cause.” I assured him my men would successfully defend the arsenal against him, and of course I was right. Later, as befitting someone with my military background, I had the honor of watching General Lafayette pass directly by my house when he arrived in Worthington in 1825.

In 1797 I became part owner of the Third Turnpike, which ran from Northampton to Pittsfield. The roads were impassable at those times of year we lovingly call the “mud season,” and without private investors to maintain roads, all commerce would have ground to a halt. The turnpike had many tollgates, including one right by my property. Ridge Road in those days was an extension of West Street, one of the major thoroughfares in the town.

pho Buffington Hill, currently owned by Matt and Anne Sharron Lago

The Buffington House.

I was named a Justice of the Peace, which meant I served as a local judge, a position that afforded me much power and authority. Mostly I adjudicated petty neighborhood squabbles involving property boundaries or money. Some thought of me as haughty or arrogant, but I always tried to maintain the righteous demeanor appropriate to a wise and wealthy man such as myself.

My wife and I had only one grown child. Laura purportedly “fell in love” – as if that matters – with a young upstart named Gideon Lee, and had the temerity to marry against my wishes. Lee made his living as a tanner and shoemaker at the Clark factory in West Worthington. I threatened to cut her off without a shilling and told her never to darken my door again! It’s true that after they moved to New York State, Lee became quite prosperous as a leather merchant and eventually was elected Mayor of New York City as well as a representative in Congress. But Laura disobeyed me and that cannot be undone. Eventually she named her youngest child after me, probably a sign of her remorse. Grudgingly, without other heirs, I left my entire estate to Samuel Buffington Lee. My namesake grandson must have taken his rightful place in my impressive house, where his descendants must live today.


Onlookers surround Horace Cole, risen from the dead, to hear his story.

Onlookers surround Horace S. Cole I, risen from the dead.

as Horace Cole.

Jim Bebee as Horace S. Cole I.

Horace S. Cole I (June 10, 1799, Chesterfield, MA – October 9, 1887)

Welcome, dear neighbors! How kind of you to visit me. I am Horace Cole – the first! Did you notice that our family memorial is unique, constructed of zinc? I’ve always enjoyed trying new things, and this is guaranteed to last more than a lifetime! You’d see other zinc memorials, but the only company that made them was forced out of business by the stone cutters!

Zinc headstones for the first two wives of Horace Cole.

Zinc headstones for the first two wives of Horace Cole.

Memorial to seven of Horace Cole's children who died young.

Memorial to seven of Horace Cole’s children who died in infancy.

I’m joined here by my first and second wives and many of my children. I married Sarah King from Brooklyn, New York, in 1820 and she eventually birthed eleven children. Sadly, all but one died before adulthood. The only survivor was Samuel, born in 1835; his twin, Isaac, died at birth. Sarah and I had 37 years together, but the poor woman was worn out by all that birthing and died in 1857. I had to marry again – a man alone cannot run a household and manage a business. My second wife was John Kinne’s widow, Maria. We had 16 good years together but she did not bear me any children. She died in 1873. While some might say a man of 75 is too old to need a wife, I then married Almina Hall Gunn of Pittsfield, also a widow. She chose to be buried near her first husband.

I was born in Chesterfield in 1799, and in 1815 I left home to seek my fortune in New York City. To this day I’m not sure how I made it there. I was only 16, and I walked the whole way along with some neighbors. I got to work building stone walls and the dock at the new Brooklyn Ferry. A year of that was enough for me, so I returned to Chesterfield. But farm work didn’t suit me either, so I walked back to New York, expecting to work grading roads. When I discovered that the company that hired me had failed, I couldn’t decide whether to stay or return home again. I determined to let the cane I carried decide. I dropped it. If it had fallen towards home, I would have started walking there. But it fell towards New York, so I stayed and got a job with a leather merchant in the Lower East Side. I was good at this, and honest, so I was rapidly promoted from a laborer earning $1 a day to a salesman earning twice that much. I was able to buy some skins, and then a horse and a dray, and set myself up as a leather trader. I managed to make a small fortune, and married Sarah during this time.

In 1828, fearing I was losing my health, I turned toward home and bought a large farm on Ireland Street. We had 30 dairy cows and sheared upwards of 1,600 sheep a year. I also traded wool for the Northampton Woolen Company. But I was a restless type, so in 1845 I bought the general store that Hiram Bagg operated at the Corners. Bagg had just been declared an “insolvent debtor,” so I only had to pay $495 for the store along with his house and barn. Sarah and I moved into Bagg’s house. The store also housed the post office at Worthington Corners, and I served as postmaster. (Worthington had six post offices at that time.) In 1867, my son Samuel joined with me as a partner, and we renamed the store “H. Cole & Son.” In 1875 he took it over completely. The building burned down in 1859, but I rebuilt it in the fine Greek Revival style you can still admire.


The Corners Store, bult by Horace S. Cole I. Around the turn of the century, E. J. Bligh bought the store from Horace Cole II.

In 1855, I invested $20,000 to build a boot and shoe factory up on Buffington Hill, employing over 50 men. I also had a contract with the House of Corrections in Northampton to employ inmates. I built several large houses on the Post Road (now Old Post Road) to shelter all these workers. That worked out pretty well, especially during the War, but I eventually sold the business. For a spell I owned the pen factory down in South Worthington, plus I bought and sold real estate. I liked to keep myself busy.

In 1875, at the age of 77, I had some time on my hands and decided to build a cheese factory that came to be known as “The Spruces.” It could handle milk from upwards of 150 cows. The Magargals came to own it. I also tried my hand at tobacco, but it didn’t grow well in the clay that passes for soil here in Worthington.

One thing people don’t know about me is that I became a very accomplished wrestler, able to carry very heavy weights. Three times each year, on “training day,” I hosted and refereed matches between men from Worthington and Chesterfield. Training day is when the men gather to practice in case a militia is called up. We would train in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. I’ve learned through experience that I can always do more than I think I’m capable of. My son Samuel might look slight, but he too is very strong. As a young man he could lift a barrel of sugar, weighing near 300 pounds, up onto a counter. I was always proud of Samuel and prouder still that he named one of his fine sons after me.

Portrait of Horace Cole.

Portrait of Horace S. Cole I.

Among my other achievements, I was instrumental in getting our district #1 school, Lyceum Hall, built right next to my shoe factory so that the children would have a warm and spacious room for studying. And since I had a little extra time, I got elected a selectman. I served in both Chesterfield and Worthington, though not at the same time!

I am particularly proud of my role in building the fine, white Methodist Society Meetinghouse in South Worthington. I had joined the Methodist congregation after my return to Chesterfield in 1828. In 1848 I helped organize the building effort and contributed $100 to get things going. Then in 1865 I was among the voters who argued that the Congregational Church should be funded by members of that congregation, not by all the Worthington taxpayers regardless of religious affiliation. Deacon LaFayette Stevens, who is standing over there, surprisingly joined me in that opinion. And through our efforts, separation of church and state finally came to our town – admittedly a little late. In Chesterfield that happened in 1828.

I died of dropsy at the age of 87. I’d had a long and interesting life for a self-taught man. I believe my success was due to a willingness to fully engage in everything I did and to try new things. I guess few people here remember what I looked like, but at least these zinc gravestones will stand as a reminder of me and my family for a long, long time to come.

David ? as Lafayette Stevens.

David Madden as Lafayette Stevens.

Lafayette Stevens (November 30, 1824 – December 24, 1895)

Well, well, well, what a fine crowd! My, how our town of Worthington must have grown from its small population of 1,134 souls in 1850! And look! Over there the cemetery is expanding, so I’m sure the town is now bustling with farms, mills and factories!

I’m Lafayette Stevens, born here in 1824. My parents arrived in 1811. I was the youngest of seven. My father built the Aaron Stevens and Sons saw mill and hoop factory on Stevens Brook, near the border with Chesterfield. My brothers and I helped him run these operations. Besides sawing wood, we made drum, tambourine, and embroidery hoops. The work was monotonous and exacting, and we could only work during daylight hours, but it was a successful business. When the mill burnt down in 1837, we rebuilt a larger one. But that burned down too when stoves were left unattended. Of course we rebuilt again. We also had to rebuild those dams we needed for power every time they washed out, which was not infrequently. Eventually my brothers Aaron and Nathan bought the family mill and operated it for another 37 years.

The Stevens Mill at Stevensville.

The Stevens Mill at Stevensville.

In 1845, when I was 21, my father deeded me the family homestead across from the mill, with the understanding – written down in a mortgage – that I would care for my parents in their old age. That I have faithfully done. I lifted the original house and added a first floor to make a very respectable Federal-style home. It’s in Stevensville, of course, and still standing.

By 1857 I was in business for myself, and I built a grist and flour mill adjacent to our original mill, just across the Chesterfield line, for grinding corn, wheat, and buckwheat. Eventually I turned it into a woodworking mill, where we made embroidery hoops, drumsticks, and mousetraps, all necessary items in a farm house – well maybe not the drumsticks! We produced and shipped out these items by the thousands each year. We also made picker sticks for cleaning out the grooves in mill stones, and tree taps for maple sugaring. Every household with a maple tree needed those. We were pretty self-sufficient in Worthington back then, with many of our needs provided by local businesses such as ours.

The Stevens Mill c. 1910.

The Stevens Mill c. 1910.

I’ve kept a diary almost every day of my life, so people often ask me about the weather. I remember once in 1873 there was five feet of snow in April on top of the gravestones. When Mrs. Burton died, we had to draw her body by hand from the Corners to the tomb here in North Cemetery. The most terrible thing I ever saw, though, was when that dam collapsed in June of 1874 down in Williamsburg. The reservoir behind it gave way, and the Mill River flooded all the way down to Northampton. About 200 people were carried away by the torrent and drowned. I went down there with a lot of other folks to look at the awful destruction and it was hard to believe! Worthington’s Mr. Brewster was Hampshire County Commissioner and an overseer when that dam was built; it was rumored that he and the other commissioners allowed the builders to cut some corners.

I was a faithful congregant in the Congregational Church and was made a deacon in 1870, collecting taxes and helping to organize the Sabbath School in 1872. The worst fire I remember was when our church burned in 1887. A stove had been left unattended. Nothing was saved but the big Bible and the hymn book. The Sunday after the fire, the reverend was away and it fell to me to deliver a sermon. I chose for my text Isaiah 64:11: ”Our big and beautiful house where our fathers praised Thee is burned up with fire, and all our pleasant things are laid to waste.” Luckily we had some insurance and started rebuilding right away.

I was fortunate in my family life. In 1846, aged 22, I married Laura Packard from Cummington. We had six fine children, three boys and three girls. Only dear Ella died, when she was only four. We all worked hard and got ahead in the world. Of course we didn’t have much cash – country people like to barter goods and work. Laura knits mittens to trade for calico fabric.

I always took a keen interest in affairs of the day. I was strongly opposed to slavery, attended abolitionist meetings, and always voted Republican. I once heard Henry Ward Beecher speak in New Haven. In 1863 I registered for the draft, but luckily I never got called to serve. Not that I wouldn’t have been glad to go, but by then I was 38, and I had a family and a thriving business, and millers were considered important to the well-being of the town.

In 1874 I was elected as a state representative from Worthington. While in Boston, taking the oath of office, I shook hands with President Ulysses S. Grant. And he wasn’t the only famous man I’ve had the pleasure to meet. When just a babe of seven months, I was introduced to General Lafayette as he made his tour from Albany to Boston to lay the cornerstone for the Bunker Hill Monument. My father held me up and the General declared me “a promising child”!

By 1883 I was one of the four richest men in Worthington. I paid $190 in taxes. Our tax rate was $28 per $1000 valuation of our property. It would have been only $16, but the state stopped supporting the schools and forced the towns to take over. My son Alfred and his son, Eugene, eventually took over the mill work. The youngest, Flora, stayed at home to take care of the old folks, so she inherited the house the same way I did.

Eugene Stevens working on banjo hoops at the Stevens Mill.

Eugene Stevens working on banjo hoops at the Stevens Mill.

Death notice for Laura Stevens, Lafayette's widow, Springfield Republican, November 25, 1897.

Death notice for Laura Stevens, Lafayette’s widow, Springfield Republican, November 25, 1897.



I kept up my diary until a week before I passed at the age of 71. I had a stroke and Laura had to take over, since I could no longer write. She kept it up till her death two years later. Alfred also kept a diary, and he lived to be 87. And so did Flora. So between us Stevenses we covered a lot of years in Worthington. You can read our diaries at the Historical Society if you’d care to.

In 1980 a student at Tufts read my diaries and concluded that I was the perfect example of the rural nineteenth-century New England male: an honest family man and a hard-working Christian. I wonder who will be interested in what I’ve written, and whether the good people of Worthington will continue to honor the Stevens of Stevensville?

Diane Brenner as Anny Huyck Stone.

Diane Brenner as Anna Huyck Stone.

Anna Huyck Stone (May 27, 1849 – June 18, 1929)

Hello, everyone. I am Anna Huyck Stone. Everyone calls me Annie. I’m not used to speaking like this in public, so let me know if you can’t hear me. Actually, I’m not sure why I was invited tonight. You’d think that standing here I’d be someone important, but I’d bet none of you ever heard my name before. I did suffer a lot in my life, but I survived my 81 years thanks to lots of hard work and the help of my family. Well in truth, the family didn’t help all that much.

I was born Anna Elizabeth Mattoon in 1848 in Canaan, New York, the eighth child of William Mattoon and Margaret Short. My father was a carpenter and a mean man. We youngest children learned to stick together to protect ourselves. We all had to go to work when we were very young. The next oldest, my brother John, was sent to a farm in Connecticut when he was thirteen to help out three maiden ladies. They treated him nice, but as soon as the war to save the Union started, he joined up – he was full of war fever and foolishness. We weren’t abolitionists or Republicans. We were Union Democrats and determined to save the Union, even if it meant the folks down South got to keep their slaves. John joined the 21st New York Cavalry and loved soldiering so much he went out west to help fight the Indians in Colorado.

At the age of 14 I was sent to serve at a house in Pittsfield, and the work was hard. I wrote John about how my back was always feeling sore, and how unwell I was. John wrote back, mostly about soldiering, but at least he wrote. I was rescued by my married older sister Charlotte, who brought me to her home in Chatham, New York, to help care for her growing family. I liked helping her out but wish she had listed me as her sister, not her servant, when they came to take the census in 1870.

Death record for Edwin Huyck.

Death record for Edwin Huyck, indicating suicide.

No matter, by 1877 I was 28 and had married Edwin Huyck from Stockbridge. He was six years older, a carpenter like my father, and we had a small farm in Springfield. Well I can’t exactly swear we were married legally, but we lived like we were. I was Mrs. Huyck and nobody cared one way or another. I enjoyed the farm life and things were looking better for me, especially after my daughter Jennie was born in 1881. Ruby followed four years later.

Springfield was too expensive, so Edwin and I looked for someplace cheaper. In 1889 we bought a nice little farm from Howard Bartlett, right up the road here on Cole Street (now Cold Street), where it connects with the Ridge Road – a house, barn, and 83 acres for $1,600. I owned it in my own name. Edwin was never very good at managing money. Jennie and Ruby went to school down at Lyceum Hall. Things were going pretty well.

Then at the age of 54, Edwin hanged himself in the barn, right in the middle of a beautiful June morning. I’d always worried about his dark spells. There was a big article about it in the 1897 Springfield Republican, which you can go read for yourself. I can’t bear thinking about it. At least they didn’t have to bring him far to be buried – he’s lying right here near where I’m standing.

So there I was, 49 years old, a widow with a bad back and two school-age children. By auctioning off the land and all the farm animals and tools, we were able to hold on to the house. As you can imagine, our life was pretty hard.

The Lyceum Corners School, 1902, with Jennie and Ruby Huyck among the pupils.

The lower grade of the Lyceum Corners School, 1902. Jennie Huyck is seated far left, in the dark dress, and Ruby Huyck is seated fourth from the left, in a white dress, with short hair.

But life keeps changing, and soon my Jennie, almost 18, married Arthur Witherell from South Worthington. He was 23 and a good man with industrious, hardworking parents. Jennie and Arthur settled down on Ireland Street. And a few months after Jennie married, I remarried. My new husband was Sumner Stone, of the wealthy Stone family of Worthington. He’d had two wives before me, but I didn’t care. I had to provide for my Ruby, didn’t I? Sumner was 70 years old and rapidly turning into an invalid from what they called a “creeping paralysis,” but I had promised to take care of him and I keep my promises. Ruby and I moved into Sumner’s house in Worthington Center. I sold the Cole Street farm for $1,000 and gladly shut that door behind me!

Front side of postcard below.

Front side of postcard below.

In August 1900 Jennie’s son, Harold, was born – my first grandson. Two years later my first granddaughter, Frances, arrived. Unfortunately she was Ruby’s daughter. Ruby was barely 17, and only 16 when I had to give her permission to marry George Vebbers, a ne’er-do-well who lived down the road. Of course he couldn’t support a wife and daughter, so young Frances ended up living with me while George and Ruby moved around trying to find work. Sumner died four years after we married, so there I was, a widow again at 56, with a bad back and an infant to care for!

1910 postcard from Anna to her sister.

1910 postcard from Anna to her sister. She writes, “No I shall never move again until I can go into a home of my own. It nearly killed me to move last fall. I have not got over it yet and begin to think I never shall. It is dreadful to go through what I did and I am not well enough to move around. I do not like it here. The tenement is so unhandy and small but I shall not go unless I am carried to cemetary. Love to all, sister A. H. S.”

By 1909 I could no longer afford to live in Sumner’s house, so I sold it to Mr. William Granger for $1,400. Frances and I were forced to move into a rented apartment. We called them tenements. I was miserable. Luckily I could share my misery with my sister Charlotte, who saved the postcard I wrote her in March 1910.

But things do change. And two months later I was able to buy a house on Basket Street in Huntington. Ruby, George and Frances moved in with me. Jennie was happy raising her four children over on Ireland Street and working for that Reverend Mr. Conwell during his summer visits.

In 1914 Ruby’s husband George finally found steady work at the quarry in Becket. But a week after he started, he fell 80 feet off the ledge – crushed his skull and died instantly. No one was very sad. And pretty soon Ruby remarried Ernest Burke, a solid Canadian who worked building bridges in Huntington.

Death notice for Anna Huyck Stone.

Death notice for Anna Stone.

Frances at age 17 married Milton Agard, also a construction worker, and they had a son right away. So there were six of us in the Basket Street house together. Sadly Milton died untimely too – he was crushed during the demolition of the gym at Williams College. By then I was a great-grandmother twice over.

My own death was a quick one. I’d gone for a drive with Ruby and Ernest in their motor car. It was another lovely summer day. We were passing through North Chester when I felt the need for a drink of water. So we stopped at the store, and when they got back to the car I was dead. Heart attack! To bury me, they had to carry me a lot further than Edwin here, but I’ve never minded a bit of trouble. At least my back doesn’t hurt anymore!


Madeline Cahill as Katharine McDowell Rice.

Madeleine Cahill as Katharine McDowell Rice.

Katharine McDowell Rice (1859 – 1945)

Ah! Just a moment, my friends, let me finish writing this down. I’ve heard so many good stories today! Welcome everyone, welcome. For those of you who don’t already know me, I am Katharine McDowell Rice. I am a playwright. During my 86 years I wrote many plays, mostly in the comedic vein.

Katharine McDowell Rice.

Katharine McDowell Rice.

I was well ahead of my time. There were very few women playwrights. And I was also a careful businesswoman. I never gave away the rights to my plays, but charged royalties or fees – always reasonable – depending on how the play was being used. I kept careful track of every inquiry and payment, every manuscript sent out, every response I wrote back. Any profits I donated to a worthy cause. It is my belief that women can excel in anything if determined enough and given a chance.

Have any of you seen my plays? “Dr. Hardhack’s Prescription”? No? “Mrs. Bagg’s Bargain Day?” No? “Uncle Joe’s Jewel?” How disappointing. Well, maybe you will someday. My plays were called “farces.” They were always well received by the audience as well as the press. We produced many at Lyceum Hall, and I either acted in them or directed. My younger sister Susan, always the helpmeet, often served as stage manager. Opening nights in Worthington were gala events, attracting people from near and far, all dressed in their finest.

I could attract such a glittering audience because, simply put, I was a “Rice.” We were a distinguished family. My grandfather William A. Rice Sr. arrived here in 1806 and married Miss Wealthy Cottrell. They had twelve children. The house they built at the Worthington Corners was kitty-corner from the Pearce Tavern, Mr. Cole’s store, and the Woodbridge House. When my sister Susan and I lived there, it was the oldest house in Worthington still occupied by its original family. My grandfather, a trader who served in the War of 1812, headed the delegation when General Lafayette visited Worthington in 1825. The town celebrated the centennial of that event in 1925 with much fanfare, and you can still read my interesting article about it.

Katharine McDowell Rice.

Katharine McDowell Rice.

Many of my relatives moved to Albany. You’ve probably heard about my uncle James Clay Rice, who acted with such humble bravery at Gettysburg and later died of wounds received at Spotsylvania Courthouse. My father, William A. Rice Jr., attended Worthington’s Mountain Seminary and later became a successful druggist in Albany, where I was born. My mother was Hannah Seeley. We were four children: me, then Susan, then William Gorham and finally Josephine. We three girls attended Mme. Charlouis’ Select School in Albany. That was the extent of our formal education. Most women didn’t go to college, though we did get to travel.

We summered in Worthington and then moved her permanently when my father retired in 1883. My dear father was a cultured man who loved literature and could quote Shakespeare extensively. He helped found the Worthington Library, and in 1888 he served on the building committee for the new Congregational Church, influencing its elegant European design. He learned French at the age of 60 and helped me become a woman of fashionable good taste, as you can tell from my elegant clothing.

I was a late bloomer. I was 36 when my first book, Stories For All the Year, was published by Harpers in 1895. For a while I tried to develop a career writing children’s stories. Luckily I was financially independent, so in 1898, seeking new inspiration, I embarked on a year-long trip to Europe. That voyage started dramatically when the ship caught fire and had to return to New York. Those of us in first class were only a little distressed, but those below were inundated by smoke. I returned from Europe the following year invigorated and ready to commit to my true love – the theatre.

Notice of Katharine McDowell Rice's role as trustee and librarian for Worthington Library, Springfield Republican, September 15, 1899.

Notice of Katharine McDowell Rice’s role as trustee and librarian for Worthington Library, Springfield Republican, September 15, 1899.

Susan and I happily shared a home in Worthington that we called “The Maples,” and I never saw the need to marry. Luckily Susan – buried right here by me – was very sociable and we were never lonely there. She was an excellent cook, and also wrote and edited stories and verses for children. She was quite religious, and we often hosted guests of all ages from her many mission projects.

I became very involved with the Worthington Library, serving as its librarian for two decades until Mr. Capen took over in 1926. The library had outgrown its location in Lyceum Hall. We formed a corporation to erect a new building and I served on the board. I had quite a fight with my neighbor Dwight Stone, over at the Woodbridge House, about who would donate the land for the building and which way the door would face. Of course the Rices won out, and the new library building, dedicated at a very gala event in 1915, now faces the Rice Homestead.

Dedication of Worthington Library, September 2, 1915.

Dedication of Worthington Library, September 2, 1915.

Stage set for "Guilty O'Trespass."

Stage set for “Guilty O’Trespass.”

During those years I wrote upwards of 20 plays, nearly all of which were produced, some in Boston! My “Guilty O’Trespass” played four times daily at the Bijou Theatre in 1912. I always made sure to include strong and clever women characters. When I was 50 I determined to study with professor George Baker, who taught dramatic literature and theatre at Harvard and Radcliffe College. He was a renowned supporter of the modern theater and writers like W. B. Yeats, and a mentor for female dramatists. I was admitted to Radcliffe in 1909 as a special student, graduating in 1912. So I got to attend college after all, and an excellent one at that.

Poster for staging of "Guilty O'Trespass" in Northampton.

Poster for staging of “Guilty O’Trespass” in Northampton.

The Great War and the Spanish flu epidemic proved a dark time for the theater; many stood empty. And I had other concerns as well. In 1915 I helped found the Boston branch of the Women’s Peace Party, working to bring an end to the Great War through direct action. Jane Addams of Chicago’s Hull House headed the organization. We were among the first to use public demonstrations to get our points across. I later created the Worthington League of Nations group and continued to actively work for world peace. I was a supporter of prohibition and proud to register and vote as a Democrat.

After the war there was little demand for my style of playwriting – people wanted longer, more serious plays. Instead I wrote articles for the newspapers and focused on distributing my comedies. Schools and dramatic societies continued to find them appealing and excellent for fundraising events. I returned to Europe several times and worked on the parsonage project of the Women’s Benevolent Society. And of course Susan and I kept up our busy social life.

Susan died in 1937 and I felt her loss keenly. I continued to live in our Worthington home, but it was unheated and hard to maintain. After a few years I agreed to move to a nursing facility in Altamont, New York. I died in December 1945, the first born and the last to go. But time means nothing to us and I flourish here, reveling in the endless comedy of the afterlife. I applaud you for joining me.


Helen Sharron Pollard as Eurma Tower.

Helen Sharron Pollard as Eurma Tower.

Eurma Eddy Tower (June 12, 1900 – June 10, 1990)

Good evening, friends! How nice of you to visit with me here on this lovely evening in this beautiful place! I’m Eurma Vashtie Eddy Tower, and I’m happy to lie here next to my dear husband, Walter. It says Walter on the stone there, but everyone knew him as ”Walt.” We married in the summer of 1918, when I was 18, at the Congregational Church right in the middle of town. My Walt is descended from Samuel Tower who first came to Worthington in 1781. Samuel served in Captain Cushing’s company during the Revolutionary War, and his son, Samuel, Jr., was among the first Towers to be counted in a Worthington census in 1798. Walter’s family continued in Worthington for many generations. I was born and raised in West Chesterfield, but was happy to live my whole married life here in Worthington. I know I will never be a native, but I do feel like one.

Our home was built in 1777 by Jeremiah Prouty. It was passed down from William Tower to Walt’s father, Henry, until it was Walt’s and my turn. The house is just down the road on the left going toward Williamsburg. It’s a dark red color and hasn’t changed much. What did change was the road, which used to pass on the other side of the house, so what you see now from the road is actually the back side of the house. Sometimes I miss the slow, curvy dirt road we had before – except, of course, during mud season.

My husband and I were famous for our maple sugar business. The Tower family has sugared on our 100-acre farm for more than 130 years, and Walt and I kept it going for sixty of them. He was proud to use wooden buckets, taps and other tools made by his father. Wooden buckets keep the sap cooler, and cool sap doesn’t grow as much bacteria, so it makes a better syrup. In the early days we used horses and oxen to get back into the sugar bush, though eventually it was cheaper and easier to use a tractor. Don’t have to raise the hay to feed a tractor.

The Tower sugar house and home, c. 1980.

The Tower sugar house and home, c. 1980. Photos by Lois Ashe Brown.

In the years before lumbering got so big around here, everybody had a maple sugar bush and tapped a few trees for their own use. Our syrup and sugar was especially good for spreading on toast or waffles or just putting in your coffee. Many people stopped to buy it or sample the sap as it boiled. During boiling season the school kids would come and help collect sap, which had to be collected three or four times a day and immediately boiled so it wouldn’t go bad. Many of them spent their school vacations here helping out. They loved to gather eggs and then hard-boil them in the hot sap. Sometimes we had ”sugar in the snow,” where the kids would drip hot syrup on clean snow and make maple candy. And the Grange hosted an annual sugar eat at the Town Hall, where the syrup was served on shaved ice. That was a big social event during the sugaring season.

In 1908 you could buy a gallon of syrup for $1.85. By the 1950s, the price was up to around $12. We helped found the Berkshire Pioneer Maple Producers Association, which organized us together to buy supplies at wholesale prices and get a fair price at market. Sugaring is so dependent on the weather that you need all the help you can get! In the 1950s, photographs of our sugaring operation were included in The Face of America, a book put out by the publishers of the Saturday Evening Post.

In the summer I grew a beautiful field of gladiolas next to Walt’s vegetables. People drove by just to see the colors!

The Friendship Guild c. 1950.

The Friendship Guild c. 1950. Eurma Tower is seated in the second row, fourth from the left, in the dark dress. The Friendship Guild was associated with Worthington’s Congregational Church.

Sometimes we women needed a moment to ourselves. I was one of the ladies who started the Thursday Morning Coffee Hour in 1963. We met every week at someone’s house for almost twenty years. It was our way of welcoming new women to town. We kept the meeting time to one hour, and children were welcome. Whoever came put 35 cents into our kitty, and it added up. In 1981 we donated $8,000 to the Health Center to buy equipment. We donated to other worthy causes in town as well, and even got an award from the Grange for public service!

The Grange was important to farmers throughout the country, allowing them to organize, find the best deals on seed and equipment, market and advertise their goods, learn about farming methods, and – very important when you lived far from your neighbor – socialize. Walt and I were active in the Grange and helped run the Cummington Fair, which was the big summer event around here; I saw in the paper today that it still is!

Many of us women also ran the fair at the Congregational Church every summer. I sewed and sold aprons and baked cakes for the cake walk fundraiser. You may not remember how the cake walk worked. It was like “musical chairs.” We’d sell numbered tickets and mark off a grid with squares that matched the tickets. Then someone would play music and everyone would march around, until the music stopped and a number was called. The person standing on the square with the number won a cake! The bakers competed to see who could make the most beautiful cake.

In my fifties I began to feel very ill. I started going deaf, then grew confused. I couldn’t stand to eat anything, my stomach hurt so much. I just got weaker and weaker, and couldn’t keep up with chores. The doctors were stumped, so I was sure I was going to die. But luckily a doctor finally figured out I had lead poisoning from the water pipes in our house. A lot of old houses had lead pipes then, and some probably still do. We replaced the pipes and I gradually got better enough to live another 35 years or so.
Walt and I had one child, our daughter Dot, who married Howard Beebe of Chesterfield. She had two girls of her own.

Dot and Eurma Tower with a pair of oxen trained by Dot for gathering sap.

Dot and Eurma Tower with a pair of oxen trained by Dot for gathering sap.

Footstone of Walter and Eurma.

Footstone of Walter and Eurma.

Walt and I were married for more than 60 years. He passed a few years before me, but now we’re here together, enjoying each other’s company again. I had a wonderful life here in Worthington, where people work hard and are good to each other. I think I’m the last person you’ll hear from tonight, so thanks to all of you for stopping by and listening to us chatter for so long. We appreciate being able to share our stories. And be sure you drive carefully on your way home.

Memorial at Horace Cole's gravesite.

Memorial at Horace Cole’s gravesite.


Pat Kennedy teaches English at Holyoke Community College and is the commissioner for Center Cemetery. She came by her interest in cemetery care and preservation by way of genealogical research. Most of the information about burials in Worthington was not online, so she started producing burial lists with the help of Diane Brenner and Ed Lewis of the Worthington Historical Society. The Worthington Cemetery Commission has undertaken the task of repairing and cleaning stones in our cemeteries and has made significant progress over the last few years, thanks to the generosity of the Rolland Cemetery Fund.

Diane Brenner has lived in Worthington since 1994 and has been a longtime member of the Worthington Historical Society, serving on its board and as one of its archivists. As someone who loves the mystery and adventure of historical research, she has curated several exhibits and contributed articles and photographs to The Corners.



Much of the material presented in these scripts was drawn from the WHS publications Papers on the History of Worthington and Forty Worthington Houses, along with newspaper articles, obituaries, advertisements, census records, deeds, probate records, church records, and other sources.

A paragraph on Samuel Buffington’s service in the Revolutionary War is found in the 1896 book Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War.

A one-page biography of Horace S. Cole I is found in the 1879 book History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers, Volume 1, by L. H. Everts.

The diaries of Lafayette Stevens are held in the WHS collection.

The interest in Anna Huyck Stone was sparked when a postcard she wrote to her sister (seen above) was purchased by Diane Brenner on eBay. Letters from her brother John Mattoon were published in the 2008 book Manhood and Patriotic Awakening in the American Civil War: The John E. Mattoon Letters, 1859-1866, by Robert Bruce Donald.

Materials on Katharine McDowell Rice – including account books, scrapbooks, Radcliffe College yearbooks, plays, and photographs – were donated by the Rice family to the Worthington Library’s Rice Room, and are on loan to WHS for storage.

The article “A Conversation with Walt Tower,” by Glenda Laubeck, appeared in the journal Stonewalls, Vol. 5 No. 1 (1978), p. 22. Lorraine Kerley also provided Pat Kennedy with information about the Towers.

The dead Worthingtonians were played by Cornelius Dineen (Samuel Buffington), Jim Bebee (Horace S. Cole I), David Madden (Lafayette Stevens), Diane Brenner (Anna Huyck Stone), Madeline Cahill (Katharine McDowell Rice), and Helen Sharron Pollard (Eurma Eddy Tower). Their photographs were taken by Evan Spring.

Posted September 7, 2016.

The Ruins of Ringville

By Dave and Cath Whitcomb, with photographs by Kate Ewald

On September 28, 2014 – a glorious fall day – a contingent of amateur historians and interested residents followed David Whitcomb of Witt Hill Road on a tour through industrial ruins of the Ringville section of Worthington, Massachusetts, at the convergence of Watts Stream and Ward’s Stream.

Dave Whitcomb orients the walkers.

Dave Whitcomb orients the walkers.

The Little River at low flow.

The Little River.

The headwaters of Watts and Ward’s streams spring from the foot of Knowles Hill, the second-highest point in Worthington, at an elevation of 2,011 feet. By divergent routes the streams flow to Ringville, where they merge to become the Little River. These waterways were critical resources to the Ringville hamlet, providing both power and potable water. Water privileges for dams and mills could be sold independently by property owners.

The Ring brothers, Elkanah (1809-1899) and Thomas (1812-1863), saw the hamlet’s industrial potential and bought an old oil mill (perhaps linseed oil). The Rings added floor space and began manufacturing window shades (resembling venetian blinds) in 1830. Later they entered the lucrative business of manufacturing “Ringer” wagons, forerunners of Conestoga Wagons. They also made baby carriages and children’s sleds, sold nationally. The brothers were active in town affairs, developing houses in the area and starting a mail route between Worthington and the railroad’s mail drop in Huntington. It was around this time that the hamlet became known as Ringville. (A joke ran that Elkanah had three wives, thus three rings, thus “Ringville.”)

In 1858 the Ring brothers’ operation in Ringville, which employed nearly 50 people, was destroyed by a fire. (By this time the Ring brothers had expanded their operations to Knightville.) After the fire, the Ringville mill site was sold. A new mill was built and then sold in 1878 to Hayden & Sons, sled manufacturers. By this time Ringville was considered the industrial heart of Worthington, supporting a number of mills. Ringville had its own post office (one of four in Worthington) and one of the Town’s twelve schools, located on property currently owned by the Rida family.

Exterior of the Hayden & Sons / Ring brothers mill site.

Exterior of the Ring brothers / Hayden & Sons mill site.

A submerged dam is still visible.

A submerged dam is still visible.

Dave Whitcomb and Pat Kennedy among the ruins.

Dave Whitcomb and Pat Kennedy among the ruins.


Map of the Ringville ruins by Cath Whitcomb.

Map of the Ringville ruins by Cath Whitcomb.

Plane manufactured by the E. and T. Ring Company.

Plane manufactured by E. and T. Ring & Co. c. 1840s-1850s.

Interior of the Hayden-Ring mill site.

Interior of the Hayden-Ring mill site.

Another lucrative business of the late 1800s was the harvesting of pond ice to cool milk and cream in summer. Traces of an ice pond can still be seen in Ringville, on Watts Stream, just upstream from the Ring brothers’ factory dam. Axe handles, sledges and buggy whips were also manufactured at various times in Ringville. The hamlet’s last viable manufacturing operation was a creamery whose 1903 output was 6,500 pounds of butter. The Ringville Cemetery, established in 1866 on Witt Hill Road, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.


The former ice pond.

The former ice pond.

Foundation to the mill for ax handles, buggy whips, and barrel bands.

Foundation to mill for ax handles, buggy whips, and barrel bands.

Chiseled ruins of Ringville.

Chiseled ruins of Ringville.

A well head.

A well head.

Exterior of the Hayden-Ring mill site.

Exterior of the Hayden-Ring mill site.


Dave Whitcomb has been making summer visits to “Aunty Flo’s” house and exploring the Ringville property since his childhood in the 1950s. He and Cath have been Worthington residents since 1974.

Kate Ewald, an amateur photographer and assessor of human health risk for hazardous waste site cleanup, lives in Worthington with her husband, Evan, and serves on the WHS Board.


Old postcard of Ringville Cemetery.

Old postcard of Ringville Cemetery.

Posted January 19, 2016.

Night of the Living Dead at Center Cemetery

by Pat Kennedy and Diane Brenner

On the evening of August 9, 2014, as the full moon rose, WHS vice president Pat Kennedy led about 30 onlookers around Worthington’s Center Cemetery on Sam Hill Road. As the group would shortly discover, several residents of the cemetery had taken a break from eternity to tell their stories to the living.

The evening begins at Center Cemetery.

The evening begins at Center Cemetery.

Pat began with some background:

“In 1765, when Worthington began the process of incorporating, there were about sixty settlers and their families living here. The center of town was around what is now the intersection of Sam Hill Road and West Street. Worthington’s first parsonage still stands at that corner, and the first meeting house and burials were on the north side of Sam Hill Road, where the Mollison pasture is now.”

“There were probably lots of private, family burial plots from the time of earliest settlement, but the locations are mostly lost to us. In 1769, town meeting voted to establish three burial places, including Center Cemetery. The earliest burials associated with the church were moved to the present location from up the hill. The earliest recorded death date here is that of Ashel Rowe in 1790, but there may be older dates that can no longer be read.”

“In 1801, town meeting voted to look into future burial ground needs. In 1803 it was decided to raise money to ‘fence the grounds,’ and in 1831 to ‘procure a hearse, a harness, and a place to house’ the hearse. Elijah Gray was hired to ‘handle the hearse at 50 cents per funeral for anyone over the age of six.’ In 1842 the town decided that the hearse could be used for ‘any deceased person of any age that it may be called for.’ Each cemetery had a commissioner, who often acted as undertaker, hearse driver, gravedigger, and record keeper. As we’ll see in the case of Ella Crosier Burr, the commissioner’s wife might also be called upon to assist.”

“Although the last plot in Center Cemetery was sold in 1969, the burials continue.”

“We ask that you follow us as we visit some of the stones in a certain order and try not to trip over anybody. We will go a little out of chronological order to avoid having to walk back and forth around the cemetery. But I see in the distance that our first minister and his wife are waiting for us!”

Note: Some of the following text for Jonathan and Sarah Huntington is taken directly from Jerilee Cain’s 2007 paper, “Sarah Huntington: 1738/1790.”


Lincoln Fishman as Jonathan Huntington.

Reverend Jonathan Huntington (1734?–1782)

Welcome everyone to my cemetery. Well it must be mine, I was one of the earliest people buried here. My name is Jonathan Huntington, and I was the first minister of Worthington. Don’t ask what Church, that goes without saying. There was only one Church.

I accepted a call in 1771 to minister to the early settlers of this beautiful wilderness because, well, I had a wee bit of trouble with the Congregational Church hierarchy back in Connecticut. Plus here they were willing to pay me 40 pounds a year to start. Even as a child, I loved to think about theological questions. My father’s friend, the Reverend Ebenezer Devotion, came to visit often and we discussed many new ideas that turned out to be disturbing to the elders of the Congregational Church.

Our home in Connecticut was light-hearted and fun-loving and famous for its parties. My mother was bright and creative and known for her intelligence and sense of humor. People say I took after her! Of course I liked to have a little fun, but my reputation for revelry and drinking was overrated. My dear wife, Sarah Huntington, brought me stability and direction. She encouraged me to apprentice so I could learn medicine, which she thought was more suitable to my temperament, so I did that for awhile.

However, I couldn’t resist arguing about theology – it was such an exciting time and we were talking about such revolutionary ideas! For example, I believed that no matter how sinful a person had been, he could still enter the Kingdom of Heaven if he were truly sorry – even without the blessing of the Church! My free thinking, love of music and jokes, and my occasional fondness for libation meant it was hard for me to find a congregation in stuffy Connecticut. Plus I wanted to experience some adventure. So I ended up in the “wilds of Worthington,” preaching to this growing community of about 650 folks. Of course, not all of my parishoners agreed with my way of thinking, especially that Nathan Leonard and his kin from down along the Kinne Brook, who got themselves elected selectmen. Deacon Leonard thought I was too permissive and didn’t hesitate to say so.

As well as preaching, I had a farm and built a grand house where I saw patients. And the children kept coming! But we weren’t wealthy; our fortunes depended on the fortunes of the town, and sometimes the farmers can spare neither corn nor labor. I’ll admit, I sometimes got away from the domestic side of my life by partaking in spirits and lively conversation at the tavern of my good friend, Timothy Meech, over on the Post Road.

The Huntington Parsonage, 1885.

The Huntington Parsonage, 1885.

My brother Samuel, who championed the colonists’ cause, kept us informed of the troubles brewing with England. I believed in our cause and to prove it, I invested my money in the new Continental currency. Overall, life has been good in Worthington. My most fervent wish was that the good Lord grant me a long, peaceful life here, free of debt and worry, as I watch my liberal ideas blossom and my children and their children grow up in optimism and prosperity.

Judy Babcock as Sarah Huntington.

Judy Babcock as Sarah Huntington.

Sarah Huntington (1738–1790)

My name is Sarah Huntington. I was born in Lebanon, Connecticut, in 1738. My father, Simon Huntington, was a poor farmer who died when I was fifteen. My mother, left with seven children, remarried. You may be wondering why my married name is also Huntington. I married my cousin! This happens often in the colonies. There aren’t a lot of people to choose from, and most marriages are arranged anyway. It’s one way of knowing something reliable about the person you marry.

As it turned out, I grew to love my husband, Jonathan. We married in 1757 and our first child, Sarah, was born nine months later. She died within the month. But we were blessed by the arrival of Lucy in 1759. I knew Jonathan wanted to do something other than farming, so I encouraged him to study medicine. But I soon realized that Jonathan’s true inspiration came from those new and revolutionary ideas that were threatening the cohesion of our Congregational Church!

The Huntington Parsonage today.

The Huntington Parsonage today.

We were not wealthy and the babies kept coming, so I was relieved when Jonathan finally became a doctor. As a doctor his rebellious, fun-loving wit might be acceptable. But his heart was never in it and he just had to become part of the Church controversy, so he entered the ministry as well. I had hoped my husband would be appointed to a wealthy, prestigious church in Connecticut. Instead, he accepted the offer of a new church here in Worthington. We arrived here in 1771, not long after the town was incorporated.

I insisted on at least having a nice home, so Jonathan acquired a beautiful house, which he had moved to West Street. You can still see my lovely home if you look up the road to the corner. The church was built across the street. What a poor thing that church was – not much better than a barn! And it was never finished! Birds flew in and out and roosted in the balcony! But Jonathan believed that the physical structure of the church was not so important, as long as the spirit flourished. Although the town promised to pay him at least 40 pounds a year in coin and produce, he was never paid regularly.

I did manage to keep him respectably clothed in a black wool suit, which I made out of wool I had spun and dyed myself. He even had silver buckles on his shoes! The children were well-dressed too, and as they got older they helped farm; eventually some married and settled nearby.

Promise of payment to Jonathan Huntington from Worthington residents, 1780.

Promise of payment to Jonathan Huntington from Worthington residents, 1780.

Meanwhile, Jonathan continued to involve himself in Church and governmental controversies. He spent a bit too much time at the tavern of Timothy Meech, where revolutionary ideas were being discussed. As he mentioned, we ended up getting into fights with the Leonard family, who were pretty powerful in both the Church and the town (which really were the same thing in those days). They just couldn’t appreciate Jonathan’s friendly and relaxed style, but my dear husband was so well loved that his congregation remained loyal to him.

Then we lost our money! My husband had invested in Continental currency, which became worthless. And the people of Worthington couldn’t pay Jonathan with cash or goods. My dear husband, harried by the Leonards, was heavily in debt, preaching in that awful, drafty building, and worrying about how to feed his family. He caught sick and died, imagine! He was only forty-eight. My children and I were penniless and our creditors and the Leonards were our ruination.

After our debts were paid I was left owning a one-third share of my house as my “Dower Rights.” My son Simon inherited another third, and my brother-in-law Samuel bought the last third so that I did not have to share my home with strangers. But I was only allowed to use the back stairs, and only at certain times of the day. I was given a portion of the barn so that I might keep a cow. And my boys were given one suit apiece from my husband’s belongings.

Those Leonards took control of the church and had it moved over east to Harvey Road. They also hired a new minister, that boring and pompous Jonathan Pomeroy. My heart broke when they moved the graveyard to a place halfway between the new church and the old one on Sam Hill Road. My baby Sybil’s stone was lost!

But as my children grew up and married – and some married very well, like my namesake Sarah, who married Elisha Brewster – my life improved. I didn’t remarry and died ten years after my husband. But here we are in this lovely spot, facing the setting sun every day, in the beautiful town of Worthington.

Gravestone of Jonathan Huntington.

Gravestone of Jonathan Huntington.

Gravestone of Sarah Huntington.

Gravestone of Sarah Huntington.

Rose Cherneff as Ella Crosier Burr.

Rose Cherneff as Ella Crosier Burr.

Ella Crosier Burr (September 1860 – May 21, 1930)

Oh! There you all are, I was waiting for you to get over here. Just standing here counting gravestones to pass the time. There are a lot more now than I remember from the last time I was here. I am Ella Crosier Burr, though I was a Burr for many more years than I was a Crosier. I was married to my Clement for nearly 60 years at the time of my unexpected passing.

He was from an old Worthington family, as you can see from all the Burr gravestones around here. I was an outsider, from Chesterfield. We had five sons, and two of them, Frank and Joe, lived here in Worthington, too. They were all born in our farmhouse on Kinne Brook Road. It’s still owned by a Burr and standing proud for all to see. The boys were a bit wild. I remember the day they were brought a gift of a doll, and when I next looked out the window they were shooting arrows at it. We sent them to be educated at the Conwell Academy down in South Worthington.

My Clement courted me for several years before I agreed to marry. He kept on pestering his “Nell” with letters and asking me to write back, even when he was sent away to see if he liked life in Illinois, which he didn’t. Then he came back just to be with me, and since I really liked him anyway, I gave in. His father had just died and someone was needed to take over the Burr family farm. That was back in 1870.

Mostly I spent my life as a farm wife. You know what that means – working from dawn to dusk. I was always good with numbers so I kept the books, not just for the farm but also for Clement’s business as an undertaker. (That was one of several Burr family businesses.)

Parsonage of the Women's Benevolent Society.

Parsonage of the Women’s Benevolent Society.

I was also Secretary-Treasurer of the Church’s Women’s Benevolent Society for decades. I was one of the original members in 1888, and one of the original incorporators in 1894. Mrs. Chauncey Pease loaned the WBS the money to build a parsonage, and I was especially proud, in 1920, to deliver our final payment to her. We were grateful that she only charged interest every other year! And I am proud to say that my son Frank’s wife, Harriett, eventually took over from me as treasurer of the WBS.

But really I am not here to tell you about myself. I want to tell you a sad story not too many people know about.

There used to be a lot of small factories in Worthington making things mostly from wood: sleds, tools, drums for banjos, pen holders, you name it. Pen holders – you know – the handles for metal pen nibs! Many of these factories hired young men in the summer to help out.

During the summer of 1912, three German boys arrived to work at Bradley’s pen factory in South Worthington. On September 12 they all went for a swim in Russell H. Conwell’s Little Galilee Pond – you can still see it off Ireland Street. Hermann Sachtleben, poor lad, drowned. He was only 18! He was buried two days later in Ringville Cemetery. The boys who were with him came to the funeral. They spoke little English but Mr. Willard, the preacher, said a prayer in German and at least they understood that.

Death certificate for Hermann Sachtleben.

Death certificate for Hermann Sachtleben.

Now I’ve had five children, and can only imagine what a grief it would be to lose a grown son, especially one so far away. So I wrote to Hermann’s mother, Bertha, telling her of his death and including a photograph of his grave. And she wrote back – two letters in fact – with a photograph of her family, including Hermann.

The Sachtleben family.

The Sachtleben family.

Such a fine young man he looked to be, and his mother’s heartbreaking grief was terrible to read. She wrote in German, but I was able to get Mr. Williard to translate. Here’s what she wrote:

Letter from Bertha Sachtleben to Ella Crosier Burr.

Letter from Bertha Sachtleben to Ella Crosier Burr.

We are honored dear Mrs. Burr, and deeply grateful that you have told us that you yourself had a share in preparing our dear child for his last rest. We know now that he sleeps quietly and softly, and this is a great comfort for us. For my mother-heart would not otherwise be quiet. May dear God richly repay you, Mrs. Burr, your great love and goodness which you have done to our child and so to us…And I venture to…make another request. On the second of December is the birthday of our Hermann, when he would have been 19 years old. We would be very pleased if on this day we might know that there was a wreath on his grave. Would you, my dear Mrs. Burr, be willing to undertake this?

I wrote to assure her that we would do as she requested, without cost to her. A year later I got one more letter:

My dear, most honored, Mrs. Burr –

Surely, you must have been surprised to remain without a message from us for so long. I will soon explain…accept our most heartfelt thanks for your loving endeavors concerning the grave of our beloved Hermann. We are comforted to know that…our poor child, who has gone so far away from home, does not lie abandoned on his birthdays…Oh, dear Mrs. Burr, the painful wound is not yet healed…

Now I will finally tell you why my letter has been so delayed. Our uncle in America, Klocke is his name, lives in Mayville and he wanted to talk with you about erecting a tombstone for our son. We have waited a very long time for news from our uncle about this visit, and it seems a letter must have gone missing; otherwise we cannot understand what happened…Please do not think…we wished to refrain from attending to the care of the tombstone – we were waiting until our uncle appeared in Worthington with you. Should he be further delayed, then I ask you, dear Mrs. Burr, to once again decorate the tombstone of our beloved son on the anniversary of his death, the 8th of September. We are regretful to hear that you, dear, honored Mrs. Burr, have suffered so in your eyes. We hope wholeheartedly that you are once again in good health.

Uncle Klocke never showed up and this was the last letter I received from Hermann’s mother. Sadly, Hermann’s grave in Ringville Cemetery remains unmarked, his memory in Worthington mine to keep and share now with you. Ach! My heart breaks for those people.

Clement and Ella Crosier Burr, c. 1880s.

Clement and Ella Crosier Burr, c. 1880s.

My health started to get worse and by the late 1920s I couldn’t do most of the things I once could. I was often bedridden, besieged by headaches and painful joints. I lost a lot of weight. I didn’t go to church or go out to visit. I couldn’t go upstairs or wash dishes or do any housework for nearly a year. While I was ailing, my husband, Clement, along with some of the boys, did the cooking, laundry, cleaning and washing up, and the repairs as well as all the farm chores. I could talk with folks on the telephone we had put in – other folks from nearby houses could listen in on the party line, but that didn’t matter. I also went out on automobile drives from time to time, and got to watch Lindbergh’s mother fly over our house in an aeroplane.

Clement and Ella Crosier Burr c. 1930.

Clement and Ella Crosier Burr c. 1930.

We also had one of those new radios, and while I couldn’t move much out of the house unless someone helped me, the whole world opened before me. Who’d have ever thought I could listen to the speeches of both Herbert Hoover and Al Smith after each was nominated for president, or that I would get to hear the election results as they were happening? (By the way, Clement voted for Mr. Hoover, but Smith won handily in Worthington.) Then there were Douglas Fairbanks and John Barrymore speaking right to me, and Gene Tunney’s knockout fight, sounding like it was happening right in our living room.

We read a lot too, although those electric lights were a bit too bright for our taste. Each Thanksgiving, Clement and I would think and talk about the things we were grateful for. We never lacked. Just sitting there with him, after all those years together, always seemed enough. I am glad we can continue to be together here.

Samuel Follett Hills (1846–1930)

Greetings folks! I was born back in 1846 in my house up the road, built by my great-grandfather, Sam Follett, in 1783. He was a Revolutionary War hero who fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill and voted for George Washington. In his time there were half a dozen houses up there, and the church, parsonage, and burial ground were just down the hill near West Street. It was pretty much the center of town at that time. Follett is my middle name, and I am sure proud of it! When my great-grandfather died, the property was left to his granddaughter, Elizabeth Follett Hills, my mother. She had married Julius Hills some time before and had two sons. My mother wasn’t allowed to own the property because she was a woman, but she could keep it in trust for me and my brother Daniel until we came of age. My house isn’t there anymore, but parts of it can be found in other houses all over Worthington.

Sam Hills in front of his house c. 1925.

Sam Hills in front of his house c. 1925.

The farm contained 100 acres, much of it cleared, and we raised cows and sheep. We also had a large orchard. The road ran from West Street past my house and continued west over to the middle branch of the Westfield River. The part that ran through Horace Bartlett’s property had gates across the road at the start and end of his pasture to keep his cattle from wandering too much.

Every time I came or went I had get down from my wagon and open and close them. What a pain! Well, I went to town meeting and tried to get those fool selectmen to help me change this, but to no avail. I finally had to sue the town. They knew they were in trouble because I was already famous for taking my law books to town meeting. One day in court the judge asked me if the gates were “pretty fair gates, as gates run?” I replied that I “never saw a gate run,” so I couldn’t really say.

The case cost the town several hundred dollars, which was a lot of money in those days. It took a couple of years, but it was finally settled in my favor when Deacon Bartlett agreed to fence the fields and remove the gates. This solution cost $15 and that was that. Eventually they named the road for me, but of course they got my name spelled wrong. It’s “Hills” with an s, Sam Hills! Any fool would have known that. But I guess Sam Hills Hill Road would have sounded strange.

I was just a boy when the Town Hall was built in 1855. It was built on land donated by Mr. William Coit. He stipulated that a four-and-a-half-foot fence be built around the building – folks were big on gates and fences in those days. Anyway, Mr. Coit lived up on the Old Post Road, near the Bartlett place, which became the Bartlett Hotel and then the Worthington Inn. He made such a fuss when they built the new Town Hall, making them move it just south of the church so he could have an unobstructed view of the church from his home. There were a lot fewer trees in those days. That was the church that burned in 1887.

Jesse Rothman as Sam Hills.

Jesse Rothman as Sam Hills.

Speaking of the old days, another thing you young folks might not remember is what we called a “turkey shoot”. They were held near the basket shop at the Corners. The hen was placed on top of a barrel and weighted so it couldn’t get away. The fee was 10 cents a shot, at a distance of 8 or 9 rods (40 or 50 yards for those of you who don’t know anything). I brought my great-grandfather’s flintlock gun. They laughed at my old-fashioned gun, but I didn’t let that bother me. I succeeded in shooting several hens. When Mr. William Ward tried out my gun he got his hen all right, but the gun kicked him over and his wig flew off! We got a good laugh out of that.

I was around long enough and was enough of a bother that I eventually was elected as a selectman myself, a couple of times if I recall correctly. Loved to debate any chance I got, and especially loved showing off those law books at the annual town meeting.

In 1871 I married Josephine Mayhew, who had grown up on the next farm over, and we had a son and two daughters. We had a good life here in Worthington without hardly ever having to leave town. And I lived to be eighty-four!

Sam DeBosky as John Adams.

Sam DeBosky as John Adams.

John Adams (May 4, 1804 – July 29, 1873)

Good evening, kind folks. My name is John Adams. I was born right here in Worthington on May 4, 1804. Although my father was from Connecticut, my mother, Elizabeth Watts, descended from one of Worthington’s earliest settlers. After my father became president of the Union Bank in Boston, we moved there and that’s where I spent my childhood.

I married Mary Ann Bryant of Chesterfield on New Year’s Day in 1838. I was 34 and she was 24, and we came back to live in Worthington. I set up as a hardware merchant, as well as a farmer. My first house was near the town’s first schoolhouse, about a mile south from what was called Worthington Center.

The Adams house.

The Adams house.

Just before I married, I bought a 146-acre farm off of Luther Higgins for $5,300. It stretched on both sides of what is now Huntington Road. That house was too small and mean for a growing and prosperous family like ours was going to be, so I had it torn down and by 1843 had replaced it with a modern house in the Gothic style with a two-story entry porch, board and batten siding, and those beautiful bay windows. The kitchen and carriage houses were conveniently in separate wings on the back. People whispered that it was just too modern and not like the other houses around here, but I didn’t care. I thought it was handsome and so did Mary Ann. You can still see it up there on what they now call Radiker Road, though it has suffered some over time.

I was voted selectman from 1842 to 1844, which shows not only my commitment to the town, but that I commanded respect and was viewed as a man of influence.

In 1852 I joined with my neighbor Elisha Brewster to start the Agricultural Society. We got 150 members just like that. Three years later, we changed our name to the Green Mountain Agricultural Society to include other towns. For a decade or so we held big cattle, sheep and horse shows every year on the Town Commons surrounding the church. That was a highlight of the summer’s activities. Eventually we became The Grange. By then I was a prominent member of the Church, and in 1856 I was elected representative to the general Court of Massachusetts. An honor, of course, but it meant I had to undertake the difficult trip to Boston more than I wanted to.

My wife and I farmed and were lucky enough to have five children, three boys and two girls.

You may not know this, but from the time the town was first settled, the town government and the Church government were intertwined, like peas in a pod. The community was officially called the Parish of Worthington. Each year when we got a tax bill, half would go to maintaining the town – the roads and schools and the like – and half went to the Church. The idea of separation between church and state was not appealing to many of the citizenry of this fair community. At the annual town meetings, parish as well as secular business was the order of the day. The elected town officials managed the day-to-day operations of both town and Church, although the Church retained the exclusive right to discipline its members. By 1862 I was back to being selectman, and two of us (I won’t name names) felt that the town and Church should be independent of each other. We spoke up about it until the state, in 1865, ordered the town to call a meeting and separate town and Church – separate money, separate management. Needless to say, some of the powers-that-be were not so happy about this and it might be said they knew how to hold a grudge.

These particular years may not have special meaning for you folks any more, but the nation had splintered following Lincoln’s election in 1860 and was then at war. The War of the Rebellion was what we called it. The President called for 75,000 volunteers, and in 1861 the Worthington selectmen voted to pay $50 for each volunteer, and to pay families left needy by the departure of a loved one up to $2,000 to help them get through. We didn’t think the war was going to last much longer than three months.

My son was one of the first volunteers, though he did not sign up in Worthington. William enlisted in the New York 61st Regiment in October 1861, but he never made it into battle. He died in an Army hospital in Alexandria, Virginia, on December 26, 1861. For him the war did only last three months! Volunteers weren’t very easy to find in Worthington, even after we upped the bounty to $125. In 1862 my other son and namesake, John, enlisted with the 86th Illinois Regiment, Company H, and was made quartermaster. He died in Nashville, Tennessee, in February of 1863, of a fever. Imagine how my poor wife felt when she learned that her boys lay dying in distant field hospitals, and she unable to get to them. In John’s regiment more men died of disease than were killed outright in battle. This was, unfortunately, pretty typical.

The call for a volunteer army didn’t work out and in 1863, President Lincoln instituted a draft. Many of Worthington’s young men went to serve, but not a few found themselves paying the nice sum of $3,000 for someone else to go in their stead. This was perfectly legal and pretty common at that time.

Although I remained an active selectman, in my personal life I despaired and became a recluse, refusing to leave the house to attend church or to pay my Church taxes. It was compulsory in those days to attend church, and the Church retained the authority to strictly discipline anyone who failed to abide by its requirements. To be named someone “who walks disorderly” could spell financial and personal ruin. I was visited by a committee of my former friends and “warned” to mend my ways. Ha! I didn’t want to have any further concert with those hypocrites who couldn’t understand my grief! I went so far as to apply for permission to join the Methodist Church in South Worthington, though I never went through with it. In the end I was suspended from the Church by a vote of 18 to 1. Discipline triumphed over compassion.

I eventually returned to the Church. In 1868 I wrote a nice letter to Deacon Lafayette Stevens, agreeing to let bygones be bygones and pursue the path of peace.

Peace had come to our reunited country three years earlier. Our sons were two of over 700,000 boys on both sides to give their lives in that terrible conflict. Imagine how I felt in 1866, when I was part of a committee asked to study a proposal to “see if the Town [would] raise money to refund to individuals the money paid by them for substitutes.” The men who could afford to pay another man to take his place in the draft – and quite likely take his place in a shallow grave – wanted to be reimbursed! We voted no!

I lived ten years longer than my two boys, which just isn’t natural or expected. And I never really got over the loss of them. A farmer needs many sons to build a future for. Well, thank you for your time. It looks like there’s a lady over there beckoning, so you best hurry along.

Lila Cherneff as Bessie Ames.

Lila Cherneff as Bessie Ames.

Bessie A. F. Ames (1856 – 1951)

Over here! I am Bessie Anne Fletcher Ames, born in Marshfield, Massachusetts, on March 26, 1856. Let’s see, that makes me 158 years old! I don’t look at day over 95, do I? And I lived through three great wars and a few lesser ones!

I’ve always been Bessie Ames, never Mrs. anybody, so you can call me Miss Ames, if you please. My father, Luther, was a shoemaker, and my mother, Mary Spinney, kept house. We were five children. By 1880 my family had moved to Cheshire, New Hampshire, so my father could farm. At that time I was 23 and a certified bona fide nurse – one of the first graduates of the Boston Training School for Nurses, established by the Massachusetts General Hospital in 1873. I spent the winters nursing in Springfield and the summers farming in New Hampshire.

By 1883 I had saved enough money to buy my own house. Worthington seemed like a fitting town for a young woman making her own way in life, and I was able to buy a house on Harvey Road that was originally built by Sidney Brewster. I paid the grand sum of $1,500. I was surrounded by Brewsters in those early days. I joined the Congregational Church in 1888, the same year the new church building was completed, and became one of the earliest members of the Women’s Benevolent Society – just like my friend Ella Burr over there.

The Bessie Ames house.

The Bessie Ames house.

But then – oh, it was horrible! – the house burned to the ground. Luckily, with a little help from my friends and some hard-working neighbors, I was able to rebuild a very large, commodious Colonial Revival house. You can still see it. Very tasteful and well-built, don’t you think? It meant I could take in boarders, and by 1900 my aging father, his second wife, four boarders, and a lovely young Swedish servant named Frederika were all living with me. I continued to do winter work as a nurse at my office at 68 Court Street in Springfield. The house was too cold for winter boarders.

I had quite a lot of land, and rented it out to the neighbor farmers. Besides overseeing all my tenants and rebuilding the house, I became active in the Women’s Benevolent Society and served as president for six years, starting in 1912. Those were exciting years, when all sorts of new ideas were getting discussed – especially about what women could or could not do!

Springfield Daily Republican, August 14, 1913.

Springfield Daily Republican, August 14, 1913.

I can still see the audience at the WBS meeting in Lyceum Hall that day in August 1913 when, as president, I introduced Miss Amy Wren. She had come from Brooklyn, New York, to talk about the legal status of women (which wasn’t very good, I can tell you). The front of the stage was covered with masses of green foliage and yellow flowers, and large yellow “Votes for Women” banners were draped all around. Miss Wren was a commanding speaker and the audience was rapt. She told of how women had been considered property throughout most of our history, and how things were changing – mostly due to women’s own efforts, but thanks in part to those brave men who were willing to put themselves on the line. The applause was so loud – too bad there were so few men there to see and hear her.

I finally did get to vote seven years later, in 1920. I was lucky that I was already thirty, which was the legal age for women. There was a presidential election that year, and I chose between Warren Harding (whose running mate was our neighbor from Northampton, Calvin Coolidge) and his opponent, James Cox (whose running mate was the handsome and youthful Franklin Delano Roosevelt). By the way, men could vote when they were 21. I won’t tell you who I voted for because my vote was secret. But I did vote!

By this time I was getting older, and spending time as a nurse every winter was getting harder. So I decided to turn my home, which I had named Hilltop Farm, into a summer guest house. My nephew John Ames had been living with me since after the Great War, and he helped out. He complained when I asked him to sleep in the barn during the summer, but really, there wasn’t enough room and I needed every penny I could get. During this time Worthington became what you folks now like to call a “destination.” There was the grand Worthington Inn run by the Trows at the Corners, that lovely new golf course, a casino, and many other attractions. Several of my neighbors took in summer guests as well.

Hotel Register for Hilltop Farm.

Hotel Register for Hilltop Farm.

My house was special. I could serve lunch and dinner in the dining room, and many folks from around town came here just to eat. I charged $10 a week for the rooms and most of my guests were lovely people, up from the cities – Springfield, New York, Boston – women who came with their children for a week or for the whole summer while their husbands visited on the weekends. Some came from as far away as California and England.

Of course there were always a few complainers, especially the man who told me I should get running water piped in from the new water system that was built in 1911. I had a perfectly good well. I told him the hand pump in the kitchen was good enough for him if it was good enough for me, but he made it clear that if I wanted to keep my customers, I needed to get more modern. I wasn’t against being “modern” – it was the cost! Everything was so expensive and running a guest house isn’t cheap, I can tell you that. I did put in the running water, and made a private bathroom, but I put a box on the top of the tub so that anyone who wanted to use the water could pay me 10 cents a bath. Water doesn’t grow on trees, you know. But I admit, it was nice to be able to take a hot bath once in awhile.

While I have your attention I want to let you know that there is absolutely no truth to the rumor that on weekends I rented rooms to working girls who came from Springfield. Of course since I’d been a nurse down there I knew quite a few girls of all kinds. And even if I did rent out the occasional room, whatever they did in there with their gentlemen friends was their business. I ran a respectable guest house and many of my customers returned year after year.

By the 1930s, though, things were not so good with the economy. The Lafayette Lodge (the name the new owners gave to the old Worthington Inn) burned. People found it hard to find the money for long summer vacations, or even for the gas to come up to the hills. The air and food might be good up here, but not worth spending the rent money for.

Also my nephew John had fallen for one of those tubercular girls who were recovering in that sanitarium across the street (I think someone named Gerrie Kennedy lives there now). He wanted to marry her! So he built her a house across the street from me, with lots of windows and no screens anywhere, so it could be full of fresh air and breezes. He moved in with her, but then a few months later she died! What was he thinking? He eventually married another woman, Hildy, and we got along just fine. She was a churchgoing woman and into good works, and eventually she and John helped me as I had helped John when he was younger. I lived through another awful war and didn’t die until I was 95, but those last ten years are a bit of a blur – I was told I could be quite a hoot! I guess I always was.

So that’s some of my story. Glad you could come visit us all today. If you stick around for a bit we’ll be glad to share a toast to the living and the dead!



Pat Kennedy teaches English at Holyoke Community College and is the commissioner for Center Cemetery. She came by her interest in cemetery care and preservation by way of genealogical research. Most of the information about burials in Worthington was not online, so she decided to start producing burial lists with the help of Diane Brenner and Ed Lewis of the Worthington Historical Society. The Worthington Cemetery Commission has undertaken the task of repairing and cleaning stones in our cemeteries and has made significant progress over the last few years, thanks to the generosity of the Rolland Cemetery Fund.

Diane Brenner has lived in Worthington since 1994 and has been a longtime member of the Worthington Historical Society, serving on its board and as one of its archivists. As someone who loves the mystery and adventure of historical research, she has curated several exhibits and contributed articles and photographs to The Corners. The original owners of the 19th-century home she shares with her spouse, Jan Roby, are buried in nearby Center Cemetery. Her other main focus is public health, and she serves on the Worthington Board of Health and as president of the board of the Hilltown Community Health Center.


As mentioned above, some of the text for Jonathan and Sarah Huntington was taken directly from Jerilee Cain’s 2007 paper, “Sarah Huntington: 1738/1790.” Information on Sam Hills and John Adams came from various papers in the book Papers on the History of Worthington. Additional information on Sam Hills, John Adams, and Bessie Ames came from the book Forty Worthington Houses, by Daniel R. Porter III. For Bessie Ames, Pat Kennedy interviewed Ted and Shirley Porter, and Diane Brenner found newspaper articles documenting the women’s suffrage meeting in 1913 and Ames’s involvement with the Women’s Benevolent Society. Newspaper obituaries were found for Sam Hills, Ella Crosier, and Bessie Ames. We’re very fortunate to be able to consult the work of other researchers who’ve contributed to telling the story of Worthington, including Elizabeth Payne, Carl and Ida Joslyn, Lois Brown, Kathy Baker, and Beverly Smith.

The material on Ella Crosier Burr came mostly from the Burr Family Archives, including the Sachtleben letters and Clement Burr’s diaries from 1868-1869 and 1929. The second Sachtleben letter was translated from the German by Shannon Godlove.

The idea for a series of WHS walks was proposed by Rose Cherneff of Worthington’s Sawyer Farm. It was also Rose’s idea to invite some deceased Worthington residents to visit with us.

The dead Worthingtonians were played by Lincoln Fishman (Jonathan Huntington), Judy Babcock (Sarah Huntington), Rose Cherneff (Ella Crosier Burr), Jesse Rothman (Sam Hills), Sam DeBosky (John Adams), and Lila Cherneff (Bessie Ames). Their photographs were taken by Evan Spring.

Posted August 8, 2015.

The Brown Family Bottles

Ben Brown in 2007.

Ben Brown in 2007.

by Diane Brenner, with photos by Kate Ewald

Ben Brown grew up in Worthington and has been collecting old bottles since he was five. His enthusiasm encouraged his father, Harold (“Brownie”) Brown, to begin collecting as well. The photographs below show only a part of Ben’s collection, which was catalogued for a 2007 exhibit at the WHS building.

The Brown bottle collection – all excavated from Worthington soil – includes some marvelously beautiful objects that provide a window on our daily lives in the not-so-distant past. These bottles held patent medicines, beauty products, food and beverages, and other household items – some whose names remain familiar, and others that have, often deservedly, been forgotten.


Until relatively recently, composting was so much the norm that it didn’t even have a name. Every Worthington home not only composted but also had one or more dump sites for uncompostable materials: old cans and bottles, broken dishes, unrepairable shoes, bent nails, rusted carriage parts, you name it. These sites were often pits located away from the house and eventually covered over with dirt. Often they were located near streams, whose steep banks were convenient for moving materials out of sight. Some dump sites still exist, but they are ever harder to find and their contents are increasingly broken and decayed.


In the photo above, the five-inch-tall bottle on the far left, from the Williams & Carlton Co. in Hartford, held root beer extract and dates from the late 19th century.  The third bottle from the left, which reads “USE RENNE’S PAIN KILLING MAGIC OIL,” is from the early 20th century and the “magic oil” probably contained an opiate.


Among the Brown Collection are many other questionable home remedies. One patent medicine bottle from the late 19th century, embossed with “DR. KING’S NEW DISCOVERY FOR COUGHS AND COLDS,” contained a mixture of morphine and chloroform that was both seductive and toxic. The “New Discovery” brand was marketed starting in 1885 as a cure for consumption.

Another curiosity in the collection – found near Elderberry Lane, just northeast of the Corners Grocery – is an amber, pear-shaped bottle embossed with “VALENTINE’S MEAT JUICE.” This combination of glycerin and meat extract, prepared by Mann. S. Valentine of Richmond, Virginia, was promoted in the late 19th century as both a restorative food and a medicine, achieving popularity among prostitutes as a supposed cure for sexually transmitted diseases.

Advertisement for Valentine's Meat-Juice.



This faceted, amethyst-tinged bottle stopper from the mid-19th century was Ben’s first find at age five. The stopper was partially exposed above ground near 43 Witt Hill Road.


The second bottle from the left, from the early to mid-19th century, was found at the same spot and reads “DR. LANGLEY’S ROOT & HERB BITTERS, 76 UNION ST., BOST.” Bitters is an alcoholic herbal preparation, still used today.

The taller bottle in the middle reads “DR. D. KENNEDY’S FAVORITE REMEDY, KINGSTON, NY.” This patent medicine from the late 19th or early 20th century was a cure-all for kidney, liver or bladder trouble, not to mention – according to their advertisements – “all weaknesses peculiar to women” and “all the unpleasant and dangerous effects on the system produced by the use of whiskey, wine or beer.”


Second from the left is a hexagonal, late 19th-century ink bottle, 5.5 inches tall, with fluted panels, and embossed with “NOT TO BE TAKEN.” The tall cobalt bottle in the middle is an apothecary jar from the late 19th century, possibly used as storage for tablets, cotton balls, and so on.




In the late 19th century, Carter’s Cathedral Ink was sold in these dramatic cobalt bottles with gothic arches embossed on hexagonal panels. This special edition bottle is eight inches tall.


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Many older bottles can be dated or identified by their “pontil scars,” the marks formed on the bottom where the glass-blowing rods were removed. Later bottles tend to be blown into molds and do not have pontil scars.

The second bottle from the left, from the mid-19th century, is almost two inches tall and once held ink for dipping a quill or steel-nib pen. The third, octagonal bottle is also an ink holder, flanged out at the base, from the early 19th century.


The four-inch-tall bottle on the left, found near Conwell Road in South Worthington, contained liquid soap or glycerin. “J.D. Larkin, Manufacturer of Plain and Fancy Soaps” started his company in Buffalo, New York in 1875, and soon expanded from laundry bars into soap powder, harness soap, and oatmeal soap.

The bottle on the far right is embossed “STEPHEN SWEET’S LINIMENT INFALLIBLE.” Sweet’s Liniment, an oil-based pain-relieving lotion, was manufactured by Richardson & Co. in Norwich, Connecticut. As noted in an 1861 history, Dr. Sweet “was most remarkable for his skill as a bone-setter, and a preparation made in accordance with his prescription has been advertised by this firm wherever newspapers are printed.” This bottle was blown in a mold, and then the top was reheated and an “applied top” was added.


The teal-green bottle resting on its side, found at the Witt Hill Road site, is from the mid-19th century and reads “GARGLING OIL, LOCKPORT, N.Y.” The brand name was Merchant’s Gargling Oil, manufactured from 1833 to the early 20th century. This topical ointment treated humans, horses and other animals for ailments ranging from burns, sprains and bruises to hemorrhoids, piles, toothache and sore throat. Other veterinary applications included garget, mange, roup in poultry, horn distemper in cattle, foot rot in sheep, and ringbone, poll evil, and foundered feet in horses!


The green bottle on the left likely held a liqueur in the mid-to-late 19th century.

The quart-size amber bottle with a coat of arms reads “DUFFY MALT WHISKEY COMPANY, ROCHESTER NY.” This company was founded before 1881 by Walter B. Duffy and closed down after 1925. Though basically whiskey with a high alcohol content, Duffy’s was also marketed as a medicine and the company was a member of the Proprietary Association of America, an early lobbying group devoted to preventing regulation of patent medicines. In any case, the people of Worthington went for it – Ben found this bottle at several different sites.



The bottles resting on their sides have rounded bottoms and were known as “ballast bottles,” because they were used as ballast in ships traveling to and from Europe and the Caribbean. These specimens are from the mid-to-late 19th century and likely held beer or rum.

The somewhat uneven bottle on the far right, with the applied top, reads “THIS BOTTLE NOT TO BE SOLD” and was used for soda or beer around the late 19th century. Though such bottles were indeed sold, the warning was intended to discourage people from taking or not returning the bottles, or, even worse, selling them to rival bottlers. This bottle was found near 343 Huntington Road.




This amber bottle, almost eight inches tall, with its original stopper, dates from around the late 19th century and probably held peroxide. The bottle was found near the Corners Grocery, and still contains some of its original contents.


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The second bottle from the left is 6.5 inches tall and reads “ATWOOD’S JAUNDICE BITTERS, MOSES ATWOOD, GEORGE-TOWN, MASS.” Atwood manufactured this product from 1840 to 1850, when he left for Iowa.

The bottle on the far right reads “NERVINE” in an arc just below the neck. In the late 19th century, nervine was a popular sedative made from inorganic bromides and used to treat any case of “nerves.”


The narrow-necked bottle in front held ammonia.

The bottle with the embossed floral pattern held lime juice manufactured by L. Rose & Company, founded in Edinburgh by Lauchlan Rose in 1865. To prevent scurvy, the disease caused by vitamin-C deficiency, sailors on long trips were supplied with lime or lemon juice preserved in 15% rum. Rose, who was born into a family of shipbuilders, patented a process that prevented fermentation and preserved fruit juice without alcohol. The signature “lime leaves & fruit” pattern adorned the bottles from the beginning. Rose’s Lime Juice is still sold today.

The bottle on the right, found near 343 Huntington Road, is embossed “GREAT BEAR SPRING, TRADE MARK, FULTON, N.Y. THIS BOTTLE IS LOANED, NEVER SOLD.” The Great Bear Water Works Company was founded in Fulton, New York in 1884. The business expanded rapidly and for decades sold and distributed water throughout the Northeast.

In the photo below, the pinkish bottle in back held olives (or perhaps oysters) and was probably dumped by the Worthington Inn/Lafayette Lodge, the large resort hotel that burned down in 1931.


Almost all the bottles in the Brown Collection were gathered in the 1960s. Ben says there was always some surface clue to a dump site, and he never had to dig around with a shovel to locate them. He would excavate the sites carefully with a potato hook or some other tined implement. Bottle collecting for fun and profit caught on in the 1970s, and all the visible sites were soon picked clean.

You may still have a concealed dump site containing beautiful bottles on your property. All you need is a little luck.


Diane Brenner moved to Worthington in 1994 and shares her large white house with her artist spouse, Jan Roby. She is an indexer with a background in public health and an avid interest in historical research and genealogy. She is a longtime member of the board of the Worthington Historical Society, and has been active as one of the society’s archivists, helping to create many recent WHS exhibits including the one discussed in this article. She also serves on the Worthington Historical Commission and Worthington Board of Health, and is president of the board of the Hilltown Community Health Centers. At her home she has found a few tantalizing pieces of old plates and one or two bottles, but she is still looking for the main dump.

Kate Ewald is an amateur photographer living with her husband, Evan, in Worthington, MA and serving on the WHS Board. She received her PhD in Environmental Health Sciences from the University of Massachusetts, so when not photographing she assesses human health risk for hazardous waste site cleanup.

WHS board member Evan Spring provided supplementary research for this article.

Posted January 28, 2015.

Shays’ Rebellion: Trouble in the Hills

by Richard Mansfield

The Declaration of Independence stated, “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” For the first ten years after the Declaration, it would be the job of the state government in Boston to protect the “forms” which generated evils for the rural part of Massachusetts. These “forms” were the courts, an unimproved relic of British rule, and the evils were a result of a war-ruined economy that turned the majority of rural Massachusetts residents into debtors. The efforts of the debtors to “right themselves” began with peaceful petitions and a broader understanding of the new word “democracy,” and ended in a short-lived armed conflict called Shays’ Rebellion.

Woodcut of Daniel Shays (left) and another rebel leader, Job Shattuck (right).

1787 woodcut of Daniel Shays (left) and another rebel leader, Job Shattuck (right).

The land in Massachusetts west of the Connecticut River was frontier land. The Peace of Paris, signed in 1763, ended hostilities between the colonists and the French and provided the safety and time needed for breaking new land. Most of the land on which the “hill towns” were to be built was owned by a few of the richer residents of the valley. These men, according to historian Robert Taylor, were nicknamed “river gods,” and the towns they lived in, such as Springfield and Northampton, replaced Boston as the center for decision-making and trade.

The river gods (John Stoddard, Israel Williams and John Worthington among them) were well connected with the royal government in Boston and were mainly lawyers who used their connections and legal knowledge to enrich themselves through land speculation. With the exception of Joseph Hawley, all the greater and lesser river gods were of a conservative nature and found that business with England was much more desirable than war. Their link with England and other foreign markets was the river, and the chief crop of the surrounding hills, flax, could be traded for foreign items such as wool, molasses, sugar, indigo, and tea.

The people who occasionally left their newly built homes in the hills to bring down their crops for trade along the river were of a very different nature from the residents of Boston. These hilltowners were a mixed group (one of Worthington’s enlisters in Shays’ army was a Negro, according to Marion Starkey) who were beginning a new life for different reasons. What little time that remained after subsistence farming was spent in church, or maybe just rest. Education was a luxury.

Boston, on the other hand, was a well-established international city. One of the things that inflamed Boston against the British was the British attitude of superiority, and Boston could ill conceal this same attitude toward her Western subjects. Boston was a far distance from the towns west of the Connecticut, just as she was far away from London. The hundred miles overland was tiring and hazardous, and traveling down the river and by sea to Boston took as long as 18 days.

The Intolerable Acts of 1774 did much to bring Eastern and Western Massachusetts together. Boston Harbor was closed and the city was charged with billeting British troops sent to control the local residents. These same troops were given immunity from local courts. Town after town in Western Massachusetts assembled committees of correspondence, joined in the boycott of English goods, and sent food and clothing to suffering Boston. Soon political awareness had spread to the extent that a session of the Royal Court scheduled in Pittsfield was blocked by a group of about 200 people.

During the Revolutionary War, residents of Western Massachusetts weighed in on the most pressing legal matters. They donated their lives and materials in hopes that the courts and other symbols of British rule would never be reinstated.

Continental currency ("continentals") issued by the Continental Congress during the Revolutionary War.

Continental currency (“continentals”) issued by the Continental Congress during the Revolutionary War.

Those who came home to their farms in the hills returned to a shattered economy, with only vouchers for their services in the war instead of money. The new government had paid the soldiers in vouchers or “continentals,” with the understanding that this substitute currency would be backed by gold or silver after the war. The vouchers were traded among soldiers, many of whom would end up in court for matters concerning debt.

These courts the debtors stood before seemed little different than the British courts, except that the judges and officials were appointed by the governor in Boston instead of the King of England. Once a debtor was found guilty he was imprisoned at state expense for the first 40 days. After this period, if the debt was still unpaid, the creditor could keep the debtor in jail by providing for his keep. Court costs, inflated by the salaries of a heavy bureaucracy, were added to the sum of the debt.

These courts met first under the authority of the Continental Congress and would then be maintained by the state constitution of 1778. This constitution was rejected by the majority of representatives from Massachusetts towns, because it lacked a Bill of Rights and did not provide for separation of powers of the various facets of government. Until a new constitution was approved in 1780, the courts continued to try and jail debtors with absolutely no democratic approval.

There were many different courts, ranging from the hearings held by the justice of the peace to the Superior Court of Judicature. The Superior Court was comprised of a chief justice and four associates who heard appeals from the lower court and had original and concurrent jurisdiction in land title cases. It traveled on circuits and met once a year in Springfield for its Western Massachusetts session. This was a high court complete with wigs and gowns and was led to its sitting by a formal procession. The justices of the peace handled small disputes over debt and tavern brawls. These justices were appointed by the governor, and the court met four times a year, dealing with crimes of a moral character as well as assessing the county taxes and directing how they were spent. The other court of the county was the Inferior Court of Common Pleas, which heard only civil cases, mostly involving debt. Appeals were not only granted, they were expected, and the normal case started in the inferior court and worked its way up at considerable expense to a superior court. Debt could rarely be settled out of court since there was no legal recognition of debt other than through the courts.

Soon the veteran-debtors were meeting with each other and drawing some conclusions. The obvious question before them was: If it had been an act of patriotism to close courts in 1774, and these new courts had sprung up without the consent of the people, and in the same form they had taken under the king, was it now an act of treason to block them?

Block them they did. Groups of up to 300 stood in front of the court doors and refused entry to judges. This was not treason, because the courts were meeting without authority.

The constitution of 1780 gave the necessary approval to the courts. This constitution was much more conservative than the one rejected in 1778. It was approved not because of support from the rural West but because of apathy and cynicism. Many Western Massachusetts towns sent no representatives to the convention. This constitution reinstated property qualifications for voters, and the governor was given more appointive powers over judges, justices, and petty officials.

The legality of the courts hardly improved their reputation among the general populace. In Berkshire County, the buildup of opposition to the courts became quite clear. A large group assembled to block the meeting of the Court of Common Pleas, and the local militia was marched to dispel the crowd. There was an uncomfortable standoff until some democratically minded person in charge of the army suggested that those in favor of the court meeting step to one side of the street, while those against step to the other side. Only a handful showed their approval of the courts, and so the court’s meeting was cheerfully abandoned.

This shared feeling by the majority of residents in Western Massachusetts was the main reason why there was so little bloodshed in what came to be called Shays’ Rebellion. Officers of the army often saw their ranks defect, and never dared order the remaining loyal troops to fire on the other side. As for the Regulators (as opponents to the courts referred to themselves), they were always poorly armed and preferred to use the superiority of their numbers to win their objectives. The early Regulators were sincere believers in the democratic system and were confident that the justness of their cause would be enough to win their demands. As the dispute became more intense, both sides came to rely increasingly on shows of force and the reform of democracy fell by the wayside.

The whole problem in Western Massachusetts was glossed over by the Boston newspapers, and readers were led to believe that any trouble out there was a result of Tory influence and the residents’ taste for luxuries.

In Northampton in 1782, Samuel Ely led a mob to the door where the Common Pleas court was meeting. His group was rowdy and armed with wood found nearby. They said they were after the judges and wanted to “knock their gray wigs off.” Ely was later arrested and jailed in Springfield. A group of 120 forced their way into the jail and released him. This group was pursued and a fight broke out, but negotiations somehow occurred in the midst of this, and in place of Ely, who had already escaped, three hostages were given up to the Sheriff. After it became clear that there would be another attack on the jail to release the hostages, they were freed on the condition that they secure Ely at the demand of the General Court.

When word of this reached Boston, reaction was strong. At the meeting of the General Court the right of habeas corpus was revoked. The court also made some compromises, lowering some court fees and forming a grievance committee that was led by Samuel Adams and sent to a convention of Western towns in Hatfield. The delegates complained of the burden of taxes and debts, but said that they didn’t support the radical actions of Ely. Adams and his fellows heard them out and returned to Boston certain that things would improve.

But no sooner had the committee left than the noise began to rise again. Local papers in Western Massachusetts were full of protest, such as the following written by Justus Wright of Chesterfield in the Hampshire Herald of 1784: “Are we not governed by aristocracy, only allowing one word to be transmitted, noble to ignoble; and are not officers in the state, even those who partake of the smallest share of the spoils, and those who only receive a special deputation, as great tyrants as Louis the fourteenth – judge.”

The courts continued, oblivious to objections. The state passed a Stamp Act for newspapers and agreed finally to redeem vouchers given to the war veterans at face value. These vouchers had long since been sold at considerable discount to wealthy speculators, and now these speculators – many of them in positions of influence in the government – stood to make considerable profit.

Reason had failed with England, and now it was failing with Boston, so the many dissatisfied veteran-farmers began to look for a leader. Daniel Shays, because he was a military man and not a politician, came forward. He had served in the Revolutionary Army and had worked his way up to Captain. Lafayette had found him a brave soldier and gave him a sword as a reward. Shays sold the sword while still in the army and came under heavy criticism. (It was not an unusual occurrence for American soldiers to sell things; a young officer of the British army, taken captive, reported that he saw a Massachusetts brigadier pull the boots off his feet when a prisoner offered a guinea for them.) Selling the sword, coupled with the fact that he came about his commission by enlisting a detachment of soldiers to serve under him, made him something less than a gentleman in the eyes of his fellow officers. Shays resigned his commission after the war.

Gilbert Stuart portrait of William Shepard.

Portrait of William Shepard by Gilbert Stuart.

Shays wasn’t among the first to enter the battle against the courts, but when he did, he entered as a military man, a position he knew and loved. He took the lead of a group of men, organized them into military ranks, and marched to Springfield where he confronted General William Shepard, who was in charge of defending the court meeting there. Shays paraded his men, and Shepard watched many of his soldiers discard the slip of paper they wore as a symbol of their support for law and don a sprig of hemlock, the symbol worn by the Regulators. The court was unable to meet, and the new military nature of the Regulators alarmed Boston.

The governor, from Boston, ordered that a riot act be read to future demonstrators. This act augmented the denial of the right of habeas corpus and stated: “All offenders who should continue for the space of an hour, their combinations after the act was read to them, with the confiscation of their property, the infliction of thirty-nine stripes, and imprisonment not more than a year with thirty-nine stripes every three months during the term of their imprisonment.”

These no-nonsense government policies gave the Regulators the feeling that the die was now cast. As an anonymous Regulator wrote in the Hampshire Gazette, “…we have advanced so far, and know that there is no safety but in completing the business, and leaving not one stone upon another.” A letter signed by Daniel Shays and widely circulated and printed in the Northampton newspapers read: “Gentlemen, By information from the General Court, they are determined to call all those who appeared to stop the court to Condign punishment. Therefore, I request you to assemble your men together to see that they are well armed and equipped with sixty rounds each man, and to ready to turn out at a minute’s warning; likewise to be properly organized with officers.”

So that each man would be well armed, Shays decided to lead an attack in unison with Luke Day on the Federal Arsenal in Springfield. He sent word to Day as to the time of the attack, and Day replied by messenger that the attack would have to wait until the following day. This message was intercepted, and Shays marched to the Arsenal to find it well-protected with troops and cannon, with Day’s troops nowhere to be found. Nonetheless, Shays drew his men up close to General Shepard – who was again in command of the defense – and demanded access to the Arsenal.

Up to this point the conflict had inflicted nothing more than bruises, and neither commander was sure of his troops’ willingness to take aim and fire upon their fellow countrymen. But the cannon on the government side was more impersonal, and it fired twice over the heads of the Regulators, and then into their midst. At that point the Regulators threw down their weapons and fled with the cry “Murder, murder!” Three Regulators were killed, and one of Shepard’s soldiers lost his arms when he stood in front of the cannon after it was lit.

This was the last aggressive act on the part of the Regulators. From then on it was retreat, first as an army and then in disjointed groups. Shays and his army were pursued by General Lincoln, who had been dispatched from Boston and arrived in time to take over the final dispersement.

1784 portrait of General Benjamin Lincoln by Charles Willson Peale

1784 portrait of General Benjamin Lincoln by Charles Willson Peale.

The Regulators first retreated to New Salem, and when they heard that Lincoln was in pursuit, they proceeded to Petersham. Communication between the two armies at this point was limited to the terms of surrender, which revolved around the question of amnesty. Shays’ men had been largely unaware of a general amnesty offered to anyone who would take a loyalty oath after the closing of the court session in Springfield, or else they did not think it would apply to them. Lincoln told Shays’ army that all he could do was accept their surrender, and that he would ask for their pardons as they were brought before the hated courts to face “condign” punishment.

When Lincoln surprised Shays’ troops by making an all-night forced march through a severe blizzard, what was left of the Regulators fled across the border into Vermont. From that point the army of Shays was disbanded and each man had to look out for himself. Vermont was a nation unto itself and offered a haven for the Regulators who hadn’t already gone back to the farm. From the Berkshire and Hilltown areas, many fled to New York where they made a few unorganized and non-political raids back into Massachusetts.


Daniel Shays Rebellion Marker, outside the Petersham Historical Society.

All that remained was to deal with the Regulators who were captured or had turned themselves in. The scene turned from the rural hills to Beacon Hill, where the Senate and House had to reach agreement on just what punishment was necessary and who would receive it. Most of the legislators were aware that the Regulators were respected by the general populace and that their cause was still considered just. Most legislators were anxious to have the whole affair peacefully ended by granting pardons to everyone who would pledge to uphold and respect the constitution. Sam Adams led a faction that was anxious to brand the Regulators with treason, and he insisted that they be hanged, just as Britain had hoped to hang him for the same offense.

Daniel Shays Rebellion marker, Petersham Historical Society. This marker erected in 1927 celebrates the government victory against the rebels.

Daniel Shays Rebellion marker, Petersham Historical Society. This marker erected in 1927 celebrates the government suppression of the rebellion.

In 1987, to mark the 200th anniversary of Shays' defeat at Petersham, this alternative marker celebrating Shays was mounted on plywood, with a spring of hemlock, next to the 1927 marker.

In 1987, on the 200th anniversary of Shays’ defeat at Petersham, this rejoinder to the 1927 marker was mounted on plywood with a sprig of hemlock, next to the 1927 marker.




Only two hangings actually happened, and they were for charges other than treason. The reward for the capture of the leaders of the rebellion was dropped, and later they were pardoned. Shays himself moved to New York and ended his days in obscurity.

What would have happened had the rebellion been successful? A military man given a little momentum can never rest, and if the rebellion had succeeded, soon another would have followed and our democracy might have suffered the same chaos and bloodshed endured during the French Revolution.

A poet of the times summed up the aftermath as follows:

There Chaos, Anarch old asserts his sway,
and mobs in myriads blacken all the way;
See Day’s stern port, behold the martial frame
Of Shays’ and Shattuck’s mob-compelling name…
Thy constitution, Chaos, is restored,
Law sinks before thy uncreating word,
Thy hand unbars the unfathom’d gulph of fate,
And deep in darkness whelms the new born state.



Richard Mansfield, a romantic dreaming of grassroots rebellions, is a Worthington resident.


Bibliography for this article

Minot, George Richards. The History of the Insurrections, In Massachusetts, In the Year MDCCLXXXVI, and the Rebellion Consequent Thereon. Worcester, MA: Isaiah Thomas, 1788.

Smith, Edward Church, Philip Mack Smith, and Theodore Clarke Smith. A History of the Town of Middlefield, Massachusetts. Private printing, 1924.

Starkey, Marion L. A Little Rebellion. Alfred A. Knopf, 1955.

Taylor, Robert J. Western Massachusetts in the Revolution. Brown University Press, 1954.

Other books of interest

Gross, Robert A., ed. In Debt to Shays: The Bicentennial of an Agrarian Rebellion. University Press of Virginia, 1993.

Kaufman, Martin, ed. Shays’s Rebellion: Selected Essays. Westfield, MA: Westfield State College, 1987.

Richards, Leonard L. Shays’s Rebellion: The American Revolution’s Final Battle. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002.



Posted January 25, 2015.

Lyder Frederickson, Hilltown Artist

by Jim Dodge

Frederick Lyder Frederickson.

Frederick Lyder Frederickson (1905–1990)

Frederick Lyder Frederickson was born in 1905 in Mandal, a harbor on the southern tip of Norway. When Lyder was a teenager he helped his uncles on a sailing ship transporting lumber south to England. He once told me about a beautiful day when the schooner was under full sail and how he climbed way up the ship’s rigging to the very top of the mast. Lyder was a strong athlete, a gymnast in his high school. He balanced his extended torso on the top of the wooden mast and held his balance on his hard stomach for as long as he could. He exclaimed how he could feel the ship moving through the waves and that he was momentarily flying with the seagulls with his arms outspread.

That wonderful fascination with the world around him was something Lyder kept throughout his amazing and creative life. As an artist his observations of the landscape, both natural and man-made, were reflected in his oil paintings and wood carvings. He studied art at Oslo University, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree. Lyder moved to New York City in 1926 and took a job as a window washer. “Fourteen stories up with no safety belt!” he recalled.

New York with Reflection in the East River, 30" x 20"

New York with Reflection in the East River, 30″ x 20″

He met his future wife Renee – newly arrived from Paris and working as a nanny – in Central Park during the Depression years. Lyder received a Metropolitan Scholarship to attend the Art Students League and study landscape painting under Leon Kroll. Lyder also studied with Raphael Soyer, a noted representational artist who was in opposition to abstract art. Some of Lyder’s early paintings follow what was known as the Ash Can School with gritty street scenes of New York City.

Boxing Ring, Under New York Street Lights, 16"W x 20"H

Boxing Ring, Under New York Street Lights, 16″ x 20″

At one point Lyder and Renee were in Europe visiting relatives and luckily caught the last passenger ship to depart France before the war started! Lyder supported his family as the superintendent of their apartment building on Lexington Avenue, and as a carver of wood frames at the noted House of Heydenryk. Once he showed me a huge painting by van Eyck at the Frick Collection and asked me how I liked it. Not the portrait, but the intricate carved frame that he had gilded with gold leaf.

Excerpt from Howard Devree's column "A Reviewer's Notebook" in the New York Times, Nov. 10, 1940.

Excerpt from Howard Devree’s column “A Reviewer’s Notebook,” New York Times, November 10, 1940

Excerpt from "Among the New Exhibitions," by Howard Devree, New York Times, October 22, 1944.

Excerpt from “Among the New Exhibitions,” by Howard Devree, New York Times, October 22, 1944

Lyder’s work was presented in various exhibit spaces, including The Hudson D. Walker, Montross, Marie Harriman and Marie Sterner galleries. Some of his exhibits were reviewed favorably in the New York Times. Lyder was considered at that time a contemporary of Milton Avery and Reginald Marsh. In the 1930s Lyder was a close friend of Louis Eilshemius, an outrageous self-promoter and painter of nudes. Lyder and Renee had a circle of artistic friends that revolved around a dynamic prewar New York City art scene, associates at the House of Heydenryk, and the Art Students League.

Landscape at Night, 15" x 10"

Landscape at Night, 15″ x 10″

In the early 1950s Lyder and Renee read a newspaper ad for a summer cottage located on the Middle Branch of the Westfield River. It came with 60 hillside acres in Worthington and a house in Middlefield. They spent many summers fixing and expanding it with a studio where Lyder could paint. Renee grew flowers in her garden and Lyder painted them in her vases. Their young son Erlend explored the valley and eventually became a geologist. Whenever friends from the city would visit, Lyder and Renee took them up to Williamstown to see the classic paintings at the Clark Art Institute.

Deepfreeze in the Berkshires, Westfield Middle Branch Sunset, 29" x 24"

Deep-freeze in the Berkshires, Westfield River (Middle Branch) Sunset, 29″ x 24″

Lyder would often ensconce himself at the Worthington Golf Club’s restaurant with the New York Times and order his favorite breakfast, “Eggs Frederickson.” When he visited the town dump, he would retrieve any cans of discarded house paint that he could use for his work.

Lyder became friends with Dr. Harold Stone, who owned Brookstone Farm on River Road. He painted their farmhouse as well as the nearby grotto swimming pool, and the Stone family later donated both of these works to the Worthington Historical Society.

Brookstone Farm, 24.5" x 29.5"

Brookstone Farm, 24.5″ x 29.5″

Flowers for Michele and Jim

Flowers for Michele and Jim, Summer 1987, 9.5″ x 15″


Lyder was a member of the Pallet and Trowel Club, a group of local artists that included Ann Rauch. For over twenty-five summers Lyder operated the Rondo Gallery and then the Tempo Gallery in Lenox, where he presented his own paintings as well as works by other New York artists including metal sculptor Bill Bowie and painter Pierre Jacquemon.

At first Lyder realistically painted portraits, landscapes and still lifes as well as sculpting in wood. He was influenced by the abstract impressionists in the 1960s, and a decade later enjoyed creating his complex collages. Every time I study one of his intricate collages I still discover something new.

Stone's Pool, 29.25" x 21.5"

Stone’s Pool, 29.25″ x 21.5″


Excerpt from “The Lenox Art Galleries,” by John Stuart Cox, Berkshire Eagle, July 13, 1960

North Adams Transcript, August 19, 1966.

Excerpt from “Berkshire’s Fine Galleries,” by Linda Shapiro, North Adams Transcript, August 19, 1966

Collage Woman, 12" x 24"

Collage Woman, 12″ x 24″

A $60 Collage, 8.5" x 6.5"

A $60 Collage, 8.5″ x 6.5″

In the winter months Lyder and Renee would migrate down to Key West, where he maintained his Tempo Gallery. On several occasions I drove them down to Key West in their old station wagon loaded up with artwork. Lyder would sit in the front passenger seat with the window down, smoking a cigar stuck in his corn cob pipe. Renee sat in the back seat calmly stroking her cat all the way to Florida! Those were wonderful trips where they related old stories that I had heard before and was always ready to hear again.

Bathers at Key West, 29.5" x 9.5"

Bathers at Key West, 29.5″ x 9.5″

Once I helped Lyder patch the chimney on their cottage on River Road. Then a spry 80-year-old, he could easily run up and down the ladder keeping me supplied with bricks and mortar. When I delivered a load of firewood, they would give us a painting. When Renee served dinner, it was always gourmet!


Renee’s Flowers in a Pitcher, 11″ x 14″

The paintings presented here show how a classically trained artist of the old school evolved and changed over the years. One time I found Lyder out in his front yard glueing up a collage that included paper doilies, pieces of various objects from his workshop, shards of broken glass, and even a coating of sand and pebbles from the river. He set the finished panel on fire with some lighter fluid and stood there calmly smoking his pipe while watching all the ingredients melt. A few moments went by before he smothered it with a blanket. Lyder exclaimed that the secret to his artistic success was knowing when to put the fire out!


Renee with Beret and Cat, 17.5″ x 30″

Burnt Offering, 10" x 20"

Burnt Offering, 10″ x 20″

Collage, Shards & Coffee Cup Cover, 9" x 24"

Collage, Shards & Coffee Cup Cover, 9″ x 24″

Upside-down "e" Under Glass, 8" x 10"

Upside-down “e,” Under Glass, 8″ x 10″

New York City, Mirrored, 8.5" x 6.5"

New York City, Mirrored, 8.5″ x 6.5″

New York on Plywood, 15.5" x 10"

New York on Plywood, 15.5″ x 10″

City at Night, 15" x 11"

City at Night, 15″ x 11″

Carved Chestnut Plank, 72" x 8"

Carved Chestnut Plank, 72″ x 8″

Carved Chestnut Plank, detail

Carved Chestnut Plank, detail

Carved Chestnut Plank, detail

Carved Chestnut Plank, detail

Carved Chestnut Plank, detail

Carved Chestnut Plank, detail

Abstract 1, loaned by Darrell and Karen Shedd

Abstract 1, loaned by Darrell and Karen Shedd

Abstract 2, loaned by Darrell and Karen Shedd

Abstract 2, loaned by Darrell and Karen Shedd

Grumbacher, 24" x 16"

Grumbacher, 24″ x 16″

The Three Sisters, 14" x 18"

The Three Sisters, 14″ x 18″

Collage, on Solo Wire, 19" x 6"

Collage on Solo Wire, 19″ x 6″

Fabric Swatch with Gold, 12" x 16"

Fabric Swatch with Gold, 12″ x 16″

Golden Collage with Straw, 9" x 11"

Golden Collage with Straw, 9″ x 11″

Birthday Flowers, 1978, 6" x 8"

Birthday Flowers, 1978, 6″ x 8″

Flowers in a Wormwood Frame, 5" x 11"

Flowers in a Wormwood Frame, 5″ x 11″

Flowers for Holly, 9" x 11"

Flowers for Holly, 9″ x 11″

Key West Flowers, 16" x 12"

Key West Flowers, 16″ x 12″

A Large Bouquet, 18" x 24"

A Large Bouquet, 18″ x 24″

Flowers, watercolor, 7" x 9"

Flowers, watercolor, 7″ x 9″

Renee's Flowers in a White Vase, 9" x 12"

Renee’s Flowers in a White Vase, 9″ x 12″

More Flowers in a White Vase, 15" x 19"

More Flowers in a White Vase, 15″ x 19″

Sailboat on a Lake, 8.5" x 20"

Sailboat on a Lake, 8.5″ x 20″

Approach to Pittsfield, unfinished, 29" x 24"

Approach to Pittsfield, unfinished, 29″ x 24″

Landscape on foam core, 9" x 8.5"

Landscape, on foam core, 9″ x 8.5″

The Ballet Dancer, 6" x 12"

The Ballet Dancer, 6″ x 12″

Black & Blue, 16" x 7"

Black & Blue, 16″ x 7″

Blue Abstract, 15.5" x 7"

Blue Abstract, 15.5″ x 7″


Jim Dodge moved from Pittsfield, MA, to Worthington in 1976. He and his wife Michele raised their two daughters in an old farmhouse on River Road. Jim was a partner in the Newborne Company, a sales and marketing company based at Brookstone Farm in the 1980s. His innovative designs in juvenile furniture helped grow the business to the point that Fisher-Price acquired the company’s product line. He then developed another successful importing company in Los Angeles, L. A. Baby Juvenile Products, and traveled extensively in Asia. He has served the Town of Worthington on the Conservation Commission, Fire Department, Historical Society and Westfield River Committee.

Note: All photos of the artwork were taken by Kate Ewald.

Posted January 25, 2014.

18th-century Virginia Court Documents Found in Worthington Attic: Stolen by Union Troops in 1862?

by George H. Bresnick

The countryside around Stafford, Virginia – bordering the Potomac River, and now part of the Washington metropolitan area – was devastated by the occupation forces of the Union Army in November, 1862. So severe was the physical damage and the loss of population that it is said that the land and the populace around the township of Stafford Courthouse didn’t recover fully from the War until almost 70 years later.

Two-thirds of the documents in the Stafford County Courthouse were either burned or stolen. Only two have been repatriated: a deed book returned from Maryland shortly after the War and a court ledger book stolen by a Massachusetts officer and returned recently to the Library of Virginia by a library in New Jersey that recognized its provenance.

Against the loss of human life and suffering, the loss of a cultural patrimony pales. Yet there are certainly practical effects, such as verifying the deed to a property one would like to buy only to find that most of the evidence prior to 1862 is gone. Of significance also is the psychological impact resulting from the destruction of the written records of a culture by an invading military force.

In 2009 an elderly woman who lived in the old Methodist Episcopal Parsonage, in the village of South Worthington, Massachusetts, across the street from my home, passed away in a nearby convalescent home. When a family member, who was the executor of her estate, asked me to help triage the contents of the house, I found a packet of papers in the proverbial “old trunk in the attic.” The papers were mainly deeds, letters and documents relating to the adjacent village of West Chesterfield. Although I urged the family member to give the papers to one of the local historical societies, she was under too much stress to attend to such details, and the papers were sold to a local antiques dealer along with all the contents of the house. When I learned of this, I tracked down the dealer and bought back the papers for their possible historical significance.


The old Methodist Episcopal Parsonage in South Worthington, 1915.

The same building in 2001.

The same building in 2001.

Almost all of the papers were from the 19th century and belonged to the Cole and Smith families of West Chesterfield. Amaziah and Rebecca Cole were the progenitors of the family, having migrated from Plymouth County, Massachusetts, to West Chesterfield in the 1770s. Among the papers were deeds to properties belonging to the Cole and Smith families, as well as a date-list of family births and deaths and several handwritten essays and poems. But there were two peculiar documents that differed from the rest: they were from the 18th century (1753 and 1776), and both were legal documents from Stafford County, Virginia.


Court document commanding that Robert Ashby Jr. be taken before the justices at the Courthouse (Stafford County) on the second Tuesday in May, 1753. The text reads: “George the second by the Grace of God of Great Brittain France & Ireland King Defender of the Faith &c. To the sheriff of stafford County Greeting We comand you that you take Robert Ashby Junr. & him safely keep so that you have his Body before our Justices of our said county Court at the Court House of the said County on the 2nd Tuesday in May next to satisfie Patric & Wm. Bogles three pounds & two shills. & nine pence half penny (with Interest thereon from the 21st of December 1753 till paid) recorded against him in our sd. County Petition also 79 lb tobo. 7/6 costs of sd. Petition whereof he is c[illegible] as appears to us of record. And have then there this writ Witness Henry Tyler Clk of our said Court this 8th day of April in the 33d. Year of our Reign. Henry Tyler 60/” [Transcription by Jerilynn MacGregor.]

The older document (above) is a court order informing the sheriff of Stafford County to bring a Robert Ashby Junior to the Courthouse for a hearing on the second Tuesday in May, 1753. Apparently “Patric and Wm. Bogles” were tobacco merchants with roots in Glasgow. The other document (below) was a promissory note obligating Joel Reddish to pay “eleven pounds four shillings six pence half-penny current money of Virginia” on a loan provided to him by the James Ritchie & Company of Glasgow, Scotland, dated 24 February, 1776. Reddish was a Virginia tobacco farmer, and Ritchie, the owner of the Company, was one of the “Tobacco Lords” of Glasgow who made vast sums of money importing tobacco from the Colonies and selling it on the Continent. The Tobacco Lords established their own banks and regularly lent money to tobacco farmers in Virginia and elsewhere, enabling the farmers to plant their cash crops. I couldn’t at the time figure out why these documents were found in a cache of family papers almost 500 miles away from Stafford, in rural western Massachusetts.


Promissory note, dated February 24, 1776, obligating Joel Reddish to pay James Ritchie & Company of Glasgow.

As I was very eager to find out more about the two principals mentioned in the documents, I contacted the Stafford County Library and was told that I had probably reached a dead end, since most of the official records of the County were stolen or burned during the Union Army’s occupation of Stafford Courthouse. I immediately seized on the idea that someone connected with the families was among the occupying forces.

According to federal census records, one of Amaziah Cole’s children, Amaziah Cole Jr., had a daughter, Lucy, who married Wareham Smith, originally from nearby Chester, Massachusetts, and like the rest of the Cole family members in the area, they raised their children as farmers on Ireland Street in West Chesterfield. Wareham and Lucy Smith had two sons, Ptolemy and John D., both of whom were of military age at the start of the Civil War in 1861. For some reason, only John entered service, mustering in as a private in the 37th Massachusetts Regiment Volunteers in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in September, 1862. He and his Company D were sent first to Washington, D.C., and then on to Stafford Courthouse, where they remained camped for two weeks in October/November 1862, in preparation for what would become the Battle of Fredericksburg.

I assumed that it was during that sojourn that Private John D. Smith acquired the two stolen court documents and subsequently sent them to his family in West Chesterfield as “war booty.” They could have been sent in the regular regimental mail from Virginia. However, in the summer of 1863 the 37th was sent to New York City to help quell the Draft Riots instigated there primarily by Irish immigrants who felt mistreated by the U.S. Congressional draft laws. During that stay in New York, Private Smith might very well have sent the two documents by mail to his family back home.

With the help of the town clerk of Chesterfield, MA, and the chair of the Chesterfield Historical Commission, I was able to obtain a list of 96 Chesterfield men who served in the Union Army during the Civil War, including in most cases their dates of service and regiments. There were at least eleven men who served in the 37th Massachusetts Regiment Volunteers, but only John D. Smith seemed to have had a close relationship to the Cole/Smith families. A review of the regimental histories of the other units represented revealed that only one other (the 7th Massachusetts Regiment Volunteers) had camped at Stafford Courthouse, but again there were no men from that regiment with obvious connections to the Cole/Smith families. Thus by elimination, the most likely source for the documents was Private Smith. Sadly, he never returned to Chesterfield, as he was killed in the bloody Battle of the Wilderness in Virginia on May 6, 1864, and was most likely buried in a mass grave at the Wilderness Battlefield. One other company member from Chesterfield was wounded at the Wilderness, and he subsequently died in a Washington, D.C., hospital and was buried in Arlington Cemetery.

Ptolemy Smith, the brother of John D., married Mary E. Smith, and moved down the road from West Chesterfield to Worthington in 1866, where he was an active member of the South Worthington Methodist Church, as were his mother Lucy Cole Smith and father Wareham Smith. It is likely that it was through Ptolemy and his descendants that the Cole/Smith family papers ended up in a trunk in the attic of the Parsonage. Ptolemy and Mary had a daughter, Idella, and a son, Howard Clayton. Idella married Wilbur T. Hale, a minister of the Methodist Episcopal New England Conference, in 1896. They lived in many places around the State where Wilbur was minister, settling finally in West Springfield, MA, after his retirement. Wilbur died in 1955 and Idella in 1959 leaving no immediate heirs. Howard Clayton also moved to West Springfield as a young man, and had two sons: Rexford and Wayne C. Smith. In Idella’s obituary, printed in the Springfield Union newspaper, Wayne C. Smith is listed as the executor of her estate. One year later, in 1960, Wayne C. Smith purchased the Methodist Parsonage in South Worthington from the New England Conference of the Methodist Church for $1. In 1968 he sold the old Parsonage to Beatrice Mercer, the elderly woman who kept the Smith/Cole family papers and the Stafford court documents in a trunk in her attic. It is likely that they were left there by Wayne Smith, who acquired them either from his aunt Idella or from his father Howard Clayton.

Jerilynn MacGregor, one of the local historians with the Stafford County Historical Society, has provided more context on the two documents:

The two 18th-century documents being returned by the H. Stanley Bresnick Foundation provide fascinating glimpses into Stafford’s early history. The Robert Ashby, Jr. document reveals that Ashby owed the mercantile firm of Patrick and William Bogle £3.2.9. This company operated a store in the town of Aquia, now part of Aquia Harbour subdivision.

While the 18th-century economic system was based upon tobacco, it had some striking similarities to the financial structure of our own time. Prior to the American Revolution, Virginia’s economy was centered on tobacco and credit. Tobacco, represented by “tobacco notes,” circulated and was used to purchase goods and real estate and to pay taxes, fines, and debts. Individuals maintained accounts at local stores, purchasing items on credit with the expectation that they would pay their bills after the fall tobacco harvest. Merchants ordered their store goods from England and Scottish suppliers, also on credit. They were unable to pay the suppliers until their customers paid their store accounts. A bad growing season could mean economic disaster for customers, merchants, and suppliers alike.

In coastal Virginia most of the merchants were Scottish. They were noted for their tenacity and even ruthlessness when it came to debt collection. The Ashby document most likely records the Bogle Company’s efforts to collect a past due store account. In addition to the £3.2.9 debt, Ashby was required to pay 79 pounds of tobacco as a court fine. If he failed to do this, the Stafford Court would sell so much of his personal property as would satisfy the debt and fine.

Robert Ashby, Jr. (c.1720–c.1780) lived in the upper part of Stafford now occupied by the Quantico Marine Corps reservation.

The Reddish document is similar in content. Joel Reddish (1748–c.1826) lived at Reddish Hill (now the site of Margaret Brent Elementary School and Mountain View High School). This document is a promissory note in which Joel pledges to pay James Ritchie and Company £11.4.6. Ritchie and Company were merchants and tobacco shippers who also operated a store in the town of Aquia. A Loyalist, James Ritchie returned home to Scotland at the outset of the American Revolution, leaving numerous uncollected debts. This promissory note was likely an attempt to create a legal paper trail on those owing money to the company.

After the Revolution, the British Mercantile Claims Commission was established to track down those who owed pre-Revolution debts to English and Scottish merchants. Documents such as Joel Reddish’s note would have been used to prove outstanding debts due creditors.

On November 13, 2013, in a ceremony at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Representative for western Massachusetts, Richard Neal, unofficially presented the two Stafford County documents to Robert J. Wittman, the U.S. Representative for Virginia’s first congressional district. On the following day I repatriated the documents in person by donating them to the Stafford Courthouse. The Clerk of Court received them, and will display them permanently in a glass case in the Courthouse.


(From left to right) Rep. Richard Neal, Rep. Robert Whittman, and Dr. George Bresnick meet on November 13, 2013 for a symbolic transfer of the Stafford County court documents.


George Bresnick has been researching Worthington history since moving to the village of South Worthington in 1999, and has continued his interest in the area even after relocating to St. Paul, Minnesota, in 2010. During his tenure as Chairman of the Worthington Historical Commission, the South Worthington Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places. As founding director of the H. Stanley Bresnick Foundation, George reconnects material objects of historical significance with people or organizations closely associated with those objects. The repatriation of the Stafford County court documents to the Stafford County Courthouse is part of that effort.


I am grateful to Ms. Jerilynn MacGregor and Mr. Al Conner of the Stafford County Historical Society for information regarding the Union Army’s occupation of the Stafford Courthouse and the ill fate of the court documents. I offer thanks to Sandy Wickland, town clerk of Chesterfield, MA, and Dee Cinner, chair of the Chesterfield Historical Commission, for information regarding the residents of Chesterfield who served in the Union Army during the Civil War. Also thanks to Diane Brenner of the Worthington Historical Society for genealogical information regarding the Smith family. Finally, I appreciate the efforts of Anita Dodd, chair of the Historical Commission for Stafford County, and Barbara Decatur, clerk of the court for Stafford County, for arranging to receive and display the Stafford County court documents.

For further information: This New York Times article from December 5, 1862, details the “utter ruin” of Stafford County Courthouse during the Union Army occupation.

Posted November 30, 2013.

Recollections of Emerson Davis

Emerson Jewett Davis.

Emerson Jewett Davis.

Introduction by Diane Brenner

Emerson Jewett Davis (“Emmy”) was born in North Adams, Massachusetts on February 17, 1888, the sixth child in the Davis family. His father, Raymond Harrison Davis, was a Vermont-born architect/carpenter; his mother, Harriet Emeline Wilson, was originally from Groton, Massachusetts. Emerson was preceded by Orrin (b. 1876), Ida (1878), Walter (1880), Mary (1882) and Rockwell (1886). Three years after his birth, his mother bore a set of twins, Harriet and Harrison (1891).

In 1902, at the age of 14, Emerson left school to help work in the family grocery store in North Adams. He eventually returned to school (Mt. Hermon School for Boys in Gill, MA) in 1906 (age 18) to study art and design, but did not graduate. Sponsored by a wealthy New Yorker who admired his work, he studied for two more years at the Pratt Institute in New York before dropping out once again. In June 1911, Emmy’s younger sister Harriet married Walter Higgins of Worthington and moved there to live with him. Following his father’s death on Christmas day, 1913, Emmy traveled briefly to Africa as part of a Museum of Natural History taxidermy group, and then to Europe as an employee of Cooks Tours, providing tours of museums and at one point lecturing at a Paris art school. When he returned to North Adams, he worked as a landscaper and gardener, also creating paintings and writing poetry.

In 1917 Emmy registered for the draft, but sought and was granted conscientious objector status after he stated that he would rather be shot than forced to kill his German “brothers”; the draft board was loathe to make him a martyr. Letting his hair and beard grow was part of his protest against the First World War. Although he also registered for the draft during World War II, he remained a conscientious objector throughout his life, proudly affirming his opposition to the war in Vietnam.


Emerson Davis home on Dingle Road, likely before he bought it. Figure unidentified.

Being a conscientious objector was not a popular stance during the First World War, and at the end of 1917 Emerson moved with his widowed mother from North Adams to a new home in Worthington, characterizing himself as a “political exile.” In October 1917 Emmy paid $1000 to Howard Mason for 50 acres with a house along Dingle Road. The 1920 census lists him as living there with his mother, along with his sister Harriet and her family. The 1930 entry for that property lists only him and his aging mother, who died in October 1935 at the age of 85. In the 1940 census he is listed as living with Harriet and her family, possibly at a different Worthington location.


1930 census listing for Emerson Davis and his mother Harriet (at bottom).

By the 1920s, Emmy, identified as a farmer on the 1920 census, was well established in Worthington and found much work as a landscaper. Over the years he became increasingly involved with the Worthington Grange (later the Pomona Grange), the Congregational Church, and town government. From the 1930s and well into the 1960s, his name is frequently mentioned in the local newspapers and associated with one event or another. He was in charge of decorations at both the Church and the Town Hall, and he rang the bell for Sunday services. He served as an officer of the Worthington Grange, arranging and overseeing numerous meetings, events and contests including the annual “sugar eats.” His positions on behalf of Worthington included cemetery commissioner for North Cemetery, Town Hall custodian, “special police officer,” and gypsy moth superintendent. Always artistic, he capitalized on two large snowstorms in the 1950s and 1960s by building snow arches that remain embedded in many memories.

Emerson Davis appointed gypsy moth superintendent, as reported in the Springfield Daily Republican, March 10, 1942.

Emerson Davis appointed gypsy moth superintendent, as reported in the Springfield Daily Republican, March 10, 1942.

Emmy’s most famous role, however, was managing the disposal area, which he did free of charge, but with despotic and eco-conscious precision. Located on the land he owned on Dingle Road, the dump was formally placed in operation in 1946. The enormous pride he took in the facility was reflected in his pressuring the town to officially proclaim it a “disposal area” at the 1955 Town Meeting. As a result of changes in state law, the disposal area was finally closed in 1977 and relocated to town property near the center of town. Many years later, environmental testing showed the Dingle Road site to be remarkably clean and toxin-free.

In 1931, Emmy’s 50 acres along Dingle Road were set aside for the creation of the Glen Grove Wildlife Sanctuary, while remaining his property. (It’s unclear how long Emmy and his mother continued to live there.) Dedicated to Russell Conwell, the land was intended to provide a beautiful place for walking and contemplation. On October 21, 1935, Emmy took advantage of a tax lien and purchased the 180 acres across Dingle Road for the amount of back taxes due: $30.79! The disposal area was located on this land.

Emmy lived to be 90. During his later years, as his health failed, he was celebrated by the town and supported by many caring individuals. He was allowed to live in the Town Hall until his final illness, when it became clear he needed more help. In his will, he donated his land and Glen Grove Wildlife Sanctuary to the residents of the town of Worthington. After some debate involving the funding for Emmy’s final nursing home costs, the town accepted the gift, and the land was deeded to the town in 1980.

And here’s what else I have learned about Emmy. He said he stopped smoking when he was 17. In 1942, when he registered for the WWII draft, he was 5′ 7¾” tall and weighed 160 pounds. He slept on a table at the Town Hall, with a cardboard mattress and newspaper blankets. He was generous and deeply committed to his Christian transcendental beliefs, and he lived as close to the earth as he could. He was a perfectionist, and if you put your trash in the wrong place he would call you out in the blink of an eye. He never learned to drive because people would always pick him up, no matter how bad he smelled. And he ate raw hamburger daily, washed down with buttermilk, which grossed a lot of people out.

An unusual amount of information about Emmy is available in the public record, from which we have culled many details. But these articles and documents only provide the basic facts and small windows into his life. Emmy Davis the person lives on in the memories of those who knew and worked with him.

1963 profile of Emerson Davis in the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

1963 profile of Emerson Davis in the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

1963 profile, continued.

1963 profile, continued.

“Recollections of Emerson Davis”: Sunday, June 23, 2013, 2:00–4:00pm

The following is a transcription of “Recollections of Emerson Davis,” a kind of community storytelling event at the Worthington Historical Society. Minimal editing has been applied for readability, and editorial clarifications are in brackets. If you would like to share your own memories of Emmy, please contact anyone on the WHS board; further remembrances are included after the transcription and can still be added to this exhibit. 

Around 50 people were in attendance. Diane Brenner served as an informal moderator, and led things off with an introduction about Emerson Davis, concluding with “I never knew him, but I hope those of you who did will share what you know. So thank you.” 


Helen Sharron Pollard: So should we tell stories? I’ll just start because –

Diane Brenner: You have to say who you are.

Helen Sharron Pollard: Yes, I will, I’ll say who I am and why I’m going to start, and why I think this is so important for us to do today, because memories of people like Emerson Davis are disappearing. I’m in my fifties; I remember him from the time I was six until he died when I was seventeen. It’s a shame to lose those memories if we don’t. If you don’t know who I am, I’m Helen Sharron Pollard. I’m the president of the Historical Society and the daughter of Julia and Connie [Cornelius] Sharron. So I’ll just start this with a little memory, and it’s not really a memory about Emerson Davis himself, but it’s really more about his presence. Because if you live in this town, eventually you’ll get to know that we have the Congregational Church, and that’s it. And there are lots of old churches around town that we have, but there’s no Catholic church. There was one in Huntington. And there weren’t a lot of Catholic families in town, but boy [were they?] [laughter]. So there were a few years in the ’60s and ’70s where the priest from St. Thomas parish in Huntington would come up to Worthington, and Emmy would set up the Town Hall for us to have Mass. And he would put those beautiful wooden slatted chairs out in a semicircle, kind of like we’re sitting today, and the altar would be in the front of the church [in the Town Hall], right underneath the basketball hoop. And the Sharrons would sit here, and the Ryans would sit there, and the Modestows – depending on who was later, would come in the back with their families. And we had a Mass. And you could count on him taking care of that, all the time, he was in the background. And [sermon-wise?] I’m not sure that this town could have moved forward without his service to us. So that’s my childhood thought about one aspect. Plenty of others; certainly the eating hamburger was awful [laughter]. So can I just tag somebody out of the group? My mom is Julie Sharron, and she was selectman of the town – I think selected just before Emerson passed. And my mom was the first female selectperson in the Hills.

Emmy's church decorations, 1940s.

Emmy’s church decorations, 1940s.

Julia Sharron: Well I’m Julie Sharron and I certainly do have a lot of wonderful memories of Emerson. One of the things – and I’m sure other people will talk about – is the disposal area on Dingle Road. If you didn’t separate your garbage and do it just right he would yell at you. However, he would be there all day long sorting through people’s garbage, making sure everything was just right. Many times at nightfall, you would see somebody coming down the road, and who would it be but Mr. Davis after a long, hard day of work, walking from Dingle Road – in the middle, because there were no streetlights – to the Town Hall, because that’s where he was residing. I also remember Mr. Davis when we had our “sugar-on-snow.” It would be maple syrup, and we would have snow and pickles. The Town Hall would be full, and he would set up the tables and chairs for that. Nobody could pick up these double chairs because they would scratch the floor. And believe me, they were heavy. And he, every year, put aside snow so that we could have it for the sugar-on-snow, which was really a wonderful thing as well, and then there was dancing afterwards. And I also, with the other board of selectmen – he was living at the Town Hall, and we became very concerned because he was failing, and if he put water on or anything on the stove, he would forget it. And so we came to the conclusion that we had to do something. He got paid also from the town for doing some of his duties, but checks were all over. They were in the water fountain, they were in the cellar, they were all over [laughter]. And so with everything like this going on, we thought we would have to get him into a nursing home, and it would be the best thing for him, for his safety. And he probably didn’t like that too well. But anyway, we made arrangements. I brought him down, and they said “bring all his clothes and toiletries,” and I said, “Wait a minute, I’m bringing Mr. Davis, he doesn’t have anything.” I said, “I’ll bring him there. He does need a shower and everything,” but I said, “I will run out.” And there was a store in Florence, I don’t remember the name of it, but it was right at the corner. I left Mr. Davis off, ran to the store, got whatever they told me to get – pants, pajamas, and all this – brought it over. And so every day, for about two-and-a-half to three months, I went down to get Mr. Davis at the nursing home, brought him up here to the Town Hall, and he thought he was still working. He would take that broom, and he would go up and down the floor, all day long, sweeping the floor, because he was in his mind thinking he was the custodian still. And everybody respected him. He was there for the kids to play basketball all the time. He was always there for somebody. And towards the end of his life he was getting a little cranky – if they were too noisy he’d kick ’em out – but he was a wonderful person. And those are my reminiscences of Mr. Davis.

, March 1965.

The Springfield Union, March 13, 1956.

A Worthington sugar eat.

A Worthington “sugar eat,” c. late 50s to early 60s.

Evan Johnson: Julie, can you answer Diane’s question about when he moved into Town Hall?

Julia Sharron: Well, I don’t really know. We moved into Worthington in ’66 and he was already living there. And his bed was just a sheet of cardboard that he put on the table.

Diane Brenner: Does anybody know?

Janet Dimock: It was sometimes the story that his house fell down in the ’38 hurricane, but I don’t know if that’s true or not.

?: That’s the story I heard.

Diane Brenner: So from ’38? Well the 1940 census says he’s living with his sister, but that’s not necessarily true. Ben?

Benjamin Brown: I know from what my dad had told me, he first moved into the Town Hall to stoke the boilers on cold nights when things would have frozen otherwise. And little by little he just stayed there more and more often. I don’t know exactly when that was. It sounds like somewhere around there, maybe before World War II.

Emmy is appointed to the flower show committee, as reported in The Berkshire Eagle, August 4, 1950.

Emmy is appointed to the flower show committee, as reported in The Berkshire Eagle, August 4, 1950.

Marcia Feakes: Emerson liked native plants. He did our garden, and our wedding in ’58. And he was going to have [twee trucks?], which are known now as – anyway, he couldn’t get them so he went down to Westfield and ordered what he wanted, and as my brother said, he had expensive tastes [laughter]. He used to arrive at our house at suppertime, we’d give him supper. He would plant our whole garden, it’s still there. Some of the things, like euonymus alatus I don’t particularly want, but it’s there, and I’m not going to worry about it now. But he was always able to do gardens, and he had ideas, and they were not ordinary ideas, they were something above. When we had the Drury [?] house on Old Post Road, he put in the lawn, and my father said he put in [breen’s cress?], you know, it was so fine, instead of the ordinary grass. So he knew what he was doing, I think, and he was a lot of fun, and he was intelligent.

Diane Brenner: Please say who you are.

Warren Packard: I’m Warren Packard, better known in this area as “Bam.” Pete’s brother, probably which identifies me. Ted [Porter] and I were just talking about it, we think he moved into Town Hall right after World War II. Ted has just pointed out that he lived for a while in the church, when there was a stove in the basement of the church. When that was discontinued he moved into Town Hall. But Marty [Marcia Feakes], your comments about his landscaping – I can still remember so clearly, Emerson had very firm ideas about how lawns were to be mowed. Of course in those days you mowed with a real mower, by hand. And you must mow straight back and forth, never around the edges as we all do, until we finally got it down at the point in the middle. It had to be done properly. And so if you worked for him, you learned to do that properly, or you didn’t work for him very much. So he was very firm about that.

Marcia Feakes: I don’t know that he mowed our lawn, it was usually somebody else, but I can imagine that he was fussy.

Warren Packard: He also always kept the Town Hall locked. We kids were welcome to go there. I think Julie [Julia Sharron] mentioned that the kids were still shooting baskets long after Ted [Porter] and I had grown too old to lift the ball. But we were welcome to be there any time he was there, as long as we didn’t break anything or do any damage. When he wasn’t there, so that he wouldn’t lose the key, he always hid the key somewhere outside, around Town Hall. It never took us more than fifteen minutes to find it [laughter]. We used the Town Hall a lot when Emmy wasn’t there. And we learned a lot of philosophy. And what else did we learn from Emmy, Ted, would you say? Whatever we learned as kids we learned from Emmy, pretty much.

Marcia Feakes: He was born in North Adams, he used to talk about when they went through the mountain there –

Diane Brenner: The Hoosac Tunnel.

Marcia Feakes: Yeah, yeah. He knew all about that, that was quite an engineering job in its day.

Deen Nugent: Maybe that’s where he got the idea – I’m sure Ted remembers – remember when he built the arch into the church from the snow bank?

Diane Brenner: Probably there were two, at least – one in ’58, and one in ’47. In  ’47 there was apparently a huge blizzard –

Deen Nugent: That’s probably the one I remember.

Diane Brenner: – and then he kind of reproduced it in 1968.

Snow arch built by Emmy, from the Springfield Morning Union, February 28, 1958.

The Springfield Union, February 28, 1958.

Pat Kennedy: I have a question. Was there ever any romance? Oh Ted, Ted would know [laughter].

Ted Porter: I can answer that question. There was a lady by the name of Greta Klein who lived in the White Rock Farm down on Fisk Road, and he was intending to marry her. She did give him plenty of meals; he used to go down there and do work and he’d have meals. But all of a sudden she disappeared and it was off. But he was infatuated with her for at least two years. And I got a lot more –

Marcia Feakes: She led him on, and got all of her landscaping done, and he thought he was going to marry her. I mean really –

Ted Porter: He did, he thought he was going to marry her, but she had other ideas. She wanted her lawn mowed anyway [laughter]. Well as far as the dump was concerned, that was a big thing with him, and you didn’t call it “the dump,” you called it the “disposal area.” And he picked the spot for it, that field going down, with the brook at the bottom, never thinking that that leach would run into the brook. And that’s why they closed it, because it was in a poor place. But he would tell about it – he’d stop into Liston’s a lot of times, and he’d talk about it. And he worked a lot of hours up there, he sorted stuff that he really didn’t have to. And he said he was so tired that he’d fall asleep walking back to the Town Hall. And one night he fell asleep and he found himself up by the golf course. He’d gone down Ridge Road instead of [Routes] 112 and 143. And somebody said, “Well, hope you don’t fall asleep and stay asleep or you’ll end up down in Huntington.” [laughter] But I had a different thought of Emmy – he hired kids, and he hired me when he put in the foundation of the Brewsters’ stone. He tended to the Brewsters’ lawn, which was in the center of town down there. Of course Judge Brewster, Elisha Brewster, was a former judge, and he wanted things done just right, so he wanted the foundation put in for his monument. So Emmy dug the hole, and he formed it up. I was fourteen years old at the time. He got me to fix the cement and pass it down to him. And he worked in that hole for two days, because each stone had to be a certain place, certain side up, and be tamped in. And two weeks later, when he took the forms off – he wouldn’t take them off too quick – we looked at it, and it was perfect. With most people who do cement work there’s a void here, and a void there, but this was perfect. And they put this big stone – the Brewster stone is a big stone – and today it’s just as true as the day that they put the stone on.

Profile of Emerson Davis in , February 17, 1968.

1968 profile of Emerson Davis.

Diane Brenner: Where’s the stone?

Ted Porter: Center Cemetery. Well then, seeing we’re on cemeteries, the town had a grant – I think it was $13,000 for someone to study the cemeteries, what we should do, this, that, and the other. And it was these two girls, they came up and did it. And they were really bright and they really did a good job. They knew exactly who was buried where, and they did it with computers. And so when we went up to the North yard – they asked me to go up there with them – they said “It looks like there was a vault there.” And I said that there was. “Well what happened to it?” “Well,” I said, “Emmy Davis tore it down.” “Emmy Davis tore it down, who’s Emmy Davis?” So I said, “Well he was the custodian of the cemetery.” And I said, “One corner had fallen in a bit, and at that time, Henry Schneider wanted some wall stone. So Emerson tore the back of the vault down.” And they said, “Well who’s Henry Schneider?” I said, “You didn’t know Henry Schneider?” [laughter] He was the chairman of the board of selectmen, he was the chief of police, he was an assessor. He was the town man, and if he wanted stone, nobody said anything about it. So he got his stone. I’m not sure they all went there, but they were nice stone. These girls said that never should have been torn down. That was one of the showplaces. There’s also one at the Brewster cemetery in Worthington. It never should have been torn down, but it was, and I suppose now the average person doesn’t even know the difference.

?: Where is he buried?

Worthington officers portrayed in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, February 5, 1966.

Worthington officers portrayed in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, February 5, 1966.

Ted Porter: Emerson is buried right as you go in the upper driveway of the North Cemetery. And on the right is a big oak tree, and that was his lot. Well, he was going to be buried there, and he decided, “Uh-uh, I don’t want anybody to disturb the roots of that tree.” So he was cremated, and he’s got just a little stone, I was up there yesterday. Just a little stone that’s his name and date of birth and –

?: I’ll have to see that.

Ted Porter: Now I’ll let somebody else go. I got a lot more, but –

[various people]: No, no, keep going.

Ted Porter: There’s a lot of other things. To get back to the Town Hall, what Bam was talking about – it was before the addition was built on the back of Town Hall, and that chimney was exposed. It’s a fieldstone chimney. And he had a certain place he hid the key. Well I’d go, get the key, open the door, go in, put the key back in place, and he’d come – “How’d you get in here?” I said, “Gee, the door was open.” [laughter] And he finally got on to me, but he was sure that we didn’t do any damage or anything like that.

Warren Packard: I always thought he left that key so we could find it [laughter]. He didn’t hide it very well.

Ted Porter: No, no, it wasn’t hidden very well, and we knew where it was of course. But he was custodian of the church also for a little while, and he evidently didn’t feel right about not being dressed up to go into church. I was bellringer, and he also rang the bell. He would just open the door a crack and put a little chair up there and sit there and listen to the sermon only, and the rest of the time he’d take off. He was interested in what was going on.

Diane Brenner: Apparently he earned money for much of the work that he did for the town but he didn’t collect it, he wouldn’t take the money.

Ted Porter: He never had much money.

Diane Brenner: Right, but not because it wasn’t offered to him entirely.

Ted Porter: There were quite a few people that used to buy him sandwiches and soda up at Liston’s when he walked back. And he had a checking account at one time, and he’d leave his checkbook around. Well, this fellow from town decided he needed some of the money, so he wrote a check out to himself and he signed Emerson’s name, but it was E-m-m-e-t-t, Emmett [laughter]. It never got cashed. And it was handled in town, it never went to court or anything like that. Now that would be a big deal today, they’d have the cops up looking. But everything was handled right in town, everybody was happy.

Pat Kennedy: Ted, can I ask you another question? Did he ever talk about being a conscientious objector? Did he have a reaction to the Vietnam War or anything?

Ted Porter: No, he didn’t want to talk about that. And another thing, I think he regretted that he didn’t take better care of his mother. Because he told me that they were going to put that stone up. He got people to say they’d help him put that stone that’s there now, and dedicate that to his mother. And he just walked away from the place. I went there when it was in disrepair; there were porcupines living in it, the roof had collapsed. But it was a nice little spot up in there. But he never went back. They took the stove out of it and it went to people in town, that was the only thing of any value.

Warren Packard: Can I come back in again?

Diane Brenner: Please.

The dump is officially renamed the "disposal area," as reported in , February 5, 1955.

The dump is officially renamed the “Disposal Area,” as reported in The Springfield Union, February 5, 1955.

Warren Packard: While we’re on his place over there on Dingle Road, we talked about his separating the trash. You had to call it the “disposal area” – he would get quite angry if somebody called it “the dump.” More that once I heard him really lay people out because they called it “the dump.” But across the road he used to make gravel. I don’t know if you’re aware of that, but he redirected the small streams – always of course in the hardest rainstorm. He would spend hours out there, sometimes two or three days redirecting little streams coming down the hill toward that brook that Ted mentioned, so that the streams would take the loam and the soft part of the dirt away, and leave the gravel, which he sold some of then to the town. You were wondering where his money came from; he made a little bit of money for that, and he sold it to some other people. And then he got paid for the landscaping and lawn care work that he did, so he earned a little bit of money in addition to what people gave him. But he was so far ahead of his time. Nobody even knew the word “ecology” when Emmy was already doing this sort of thing at the landfill, his treatment of the land. And his diet – all you mentioned was his raw hamburger, but he ate a number of very healthful things. He really lived on milk. He drank milk straight out of – in those days it was a quart bottle. That was his basic dietary food, but he ate a few potato chips, because he needed the salt, because he was perspiring so much from the work he did. He ate those, crackers. But in the store, as you say, he would just get, say, a quarter of a pound or half a pound of raw hamburger and eat that. In those days that was not extraordinary at all. Today we think that’s crazy, but steak tartare was quite popular in those days, so it was no big deal. So he ate well, he never ate junk food, we never saw him drink Coke, we never saw him eat a candy bar. He ate only good foods. So he was way ahead of the average person in a health sense at that time as well.

Diane Brenner: Did he drink alcohol?

Warren Packard: I never knew him to drink alcohol.

Diane Brenner: I know he didn’t smoke.

An early notice of Emmy's decorating skills in the Springfield Daily Republican, May 12, 1932.

An early notice of Emmy’s decorating skills in the Springfield Daily Republican, May 12, 1932.

Ted Porter: The only time that I ever heard he drank alcohol was when the Rod and Gun Club had a contest about who would get the biggest deer, and then they’d go and they’d have a party afterwards. And one day he came and his ear was all roughed up. And I asked him, “What’s the matter?” “Well,” he said, “they took me home and I couldn’t find my way in just back, so I followed the wall around and I rubbed my ear on…” [laughter] And in 1951, when they had the graduation at the Russell Conwell school down there, my sister was in eighth grade and she graduated. Well, Emmy was at the Town Hall decorating, and he did a great job decorating the Town Hall. And my folks felt sorry for him. So my mother said to my father, “I just cooked a chicken dinner, will you take some up to Emmy?” He said, “Sure.” So she got it all ready on a plate, and it was good – a chicken dinner, and it was stuffing and vegetable and potato. And then she had a little pitcher of gravy. So my father took it up and set it down, and he said, “Emerson, you might as well eat this now while it’s hot.” He comes over and looks at it, he grabs that pitcher of gravy, and he drinks [laughter]. My father said, “Well that was to go on top of this.” He says, “It’s all just the same nutrition.” He wasn’t fussy about that.

Notice of Emmy's church decorations in The Berkshire Eagle, April 5, 1947.

Notice of Emmy’s church decorations in The Berkshire Eagle, April 5, 1947.

Deen Nugent: He would decorate a bridal shower, or a wedding, or whatever was going to happen at Town Hall. And I don’t think we ever had to pay rent to use the Town Hall, did we?

Ted Porter: No, not as far as I know, there was no –

Deen Nugent: But Emmy would climb up on this really tall ladder, and today it would give you the willies thinking about it, but he would take these streamers from the center of the ceiling. He was a perfectionist I think, and he would have the ceiling all beautifully decorated with a bell hanging down, and it was just really something. But he’d always do it, he would decorate, whatever function was going to be there.

Diane Brenner: I got a call from Jeanette Horton. She couldn’t be here today, and she said that her memory is exactly that, that he decorated for her wedding reception. As a kid she had hung out at the Town Hall, and she particularly remembered the square dances, and that they became friends. She was from Huntington, and Jack, who she was marrying, was from Pittsfield. And they decided that the best place for them to have the reception was at the Worthington Town Hall, because that’s where she felt most comfortable. And he insisted on doing all the decorations for cost – which might have been a lot, as Marcia said, because he had expensive taste. And she’s ever grateful. She remembers him always being in shorts, but I have photographs, and in the few photographs I have he’s not in shorts at all. And [she remembers] him as being just very, very artistic, that was her primary memory. But she didn’t have any pictures of her wedding reception.

The Berkshire Eagle, September 15, 1963.

The Berkshire Eagle, September 15, 1963.

Ted Porter: His footwear was almost always rubber boots.

Joan Hicks: Could I ask a question?

Diane Brenner: Please, this is free.

Joan Hicks: You said he was artistic, did he ever do anything like painting?

Diane Brenner: Well presumably – he studied art a little bit. I don’t know, I hear that he did. Peter McLean said he did some sculpture, but I don’t know. I know he did stonework – I understand he did the fountain here in the center of town. Does anybody know if that’s –

?: The drinking fountain.

Diane Brenner. Yes. And probably other stonework. When he was younger apparently he painted, and studied art. Jim [Dodge], do you know anything about that aspect of his life?

Jim Dodge: I don’t think he had any paintings that were ever exhibited or anything.

Disposal area regulations as reported in the Springfield Morning Union, August 1955.

Disposal area regulations as reported in The Springfield Union, August 1955.

Ted Claydon: You know something, I don’t think anybody’s talking about Emmy and the disposal. I think that’s where myself, and the majority of all the people here remember Emmy, because that was an experience every time you went there. He was very strict about where things went – I think Ted [Porter] mentioned that. But my introduction – I guess it was 1967. I bought my place and I was young and eager, and I was tearing back the ell, the big two-story ell in the back of my house. My son and I were taking it down and of course there was all this old lumber. And I got a load of lumber and I found out where the dump-disposal was, and I went over there, and Emmy wasn’t there. So I asked this fellow that was doing some road-grading there, I said, “Where do I put this old lumber?” And he said, “Well, don’t make no never mind to me.” So I said, “Oh, that’s a big help.” Anyway, I guess Jerri Bunce was tearing the ell off the back of her house at the same time. You know Jerrilee Cain, [her last name] was Bunce. And there was a guy there tearing it off, and he’d been down [at the disposal area], and he had dumped some lumber down about where I thought it should be. So I figured, “Well, that must be the place.” So I unload this load of lumber – it was a lot of it, and he wasn’t there. Went back home to get another load, and got another load and came down there, and Emmy is there. And he’s mad, because it’s all caught fire. So here’s this pile of lumber burning, and he’s yelling. He sees me, he says, “What idiot did that?” [laughter] And I said, “Me.” I said, “I didn’t know where to put it, so I saw somebody else put stuff…” and so forth and so on. “Don’t you know the burnables go over there?” Well, he had moved where they were going to put the burnables the day before, and didn’t tell us about it. And so he’s yelling at me, and in the meantime, this thing’s burning pretty good. And then he turns around and he says to me, “You see that pine tree in back?” This is just in back of where it was burning, about a thirty-, forty-foot pine tree back there. He says, “You see that pine tree? I wouldn’t take five hundred dollars for that tree.” Just about that time the fire hit it. Whoosh, like this, it was gone. And I retreated, and I think Emmy and I were kind of tentative for quite a while [laughter]. But wound up good friends. I have lots of other stories, but I won’t bore you with all that stuff. We wound up good friends anyway, and as I say, he was one of the first conservationists that you’ll find. He used to flatten tin cans. And you never went there and threw anything over the bank, because you had to look first, because chances are he was down there and you’d throw it on top of him [laughter]. So he was definitely one of a kind. It was a pleasure and an experience to know that man, because there aren’t too many of them left. I think I’m getting into that stage [laughter]. But he was really, really an asset to this town, and I think everybody that knew him appreciated him. And nobody ever complained, or thought there was anything wrong with what he did, or what he set up, or how he did it. You might not like it but he went ahead and did it. So my hat’s off to him, he was a great guy, he really was.

Profile of Emerson Davis in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, March 25, 1971.

Profile of Emerson Davis in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, March 25, 1971.

Dottie Fitzgerald: I’d like to ask, what kind of a voice did he have?

[several people start imitating Emmy at once]

?: He had a whiny voice – [imitating Emmy] “Why don’t you put that over there.” [laughter]

Dottie Fitzgerald: I needed to hear his voice to go with his face.

Ted Claydon: When he got excited it wasn’t great [laughter].

Dottie Fitzgerald: Was his vocabulary okay?

Ted Claydon: Oh yeah, oh yeah. I’ve got to give you one more thing. This is again when we first moved up here, and my wife and my daughter used to ride around in the evening on various roads to see where things went, and so forth. And they were out one night, and a couple of guys started following them. So my wife didn’t know where to go. She was back in that end of town, so she drives down to the dump and Emmy’s down there. And she said, “These men are following me.” He said, “They’re obviously intoxicated.” [laughter]

Warren Packard: I never heard him use profanity, though, did you, Ted?

Ted Claydon: No, never, never.

Warren Packard: He had a fine vocabulary.

1964 portrait of Emerson Davis by Humphrey.

1964 portrait of Emerson Davis by George W. Humphrey.

Ted Porter: He used to referee basketball games when we went over from the school to play basketball at recess. Remember he refereed occasionally? Oh, and by the way, Emerson was always shooting foul shots. With Mr. Albert – A. E. Albert – that would be Ben’s father. And I was up there with him one day, and I wasn’t doing too well [at foul shots]. And he says, “You know, there’s only three people in town that I consider competition when I’m shooting foul shots – Bam Packard, Ellie DuCharme [spelling?], and A. E. Albert.” They were up at the top of the basketball shooting, along with him. He played on a team when he was a youngster, but back then basketball was a lot different – you had your position, and you threw it back, and finally somebody would shoot. It’s nothing like it is now, on the move, you know. But he had his perfected way that he’d shoot the foul shot.

Diane Brenner: Did he have any special friends?

Ted Porter: Well, I think everybody. I don’t think anybody hated him, really.

Diane Brenner: But I mean anyone he was specially –

The Berkshire Eagle, June 3, 1969.

The Berkshire Eagle, June 3, 1969.

Ted Porter: Well, he was at Schneider’s a lot. And Henry would take him for a haircut when he was running the mail, and Eva would give him food. And he was there quite a little.

Diane Brenner: He seemed to have been friends with the Humphreys as well. The drawing up there is a Humphrey –

Ted Porter: What Humphrey was that?

Diane Brenner: George. And he did a lot of decorating for their ballet performances. I don’t know, it just seemed that that was a name that came up fairly frequently.

Ted Porter: I thought the Humphreys were later than he was.

?: No, they were here in the ’60s and ’70s.

Julia Sharron: Jean Humphrey used to have her ballet classes and a yearly performance at the Town Hall, and Emmy did take care of decorating. He’d have beautiful plants all over, and it was really very nicely done.

Diane Brenner: And lighting as well, he did lighting.

Julia Sharron: Yes.


The beard contest of 1968.

Helen Sharron Pollard: Can I ask a question about the beard-growing contest in 1968 for our bicentennial? Because we’re coming on 250 years, and I’m just wondering: What was the impetus behind that? Nobody here was growing a beard then, were they?

Ted Porter: In one of the history books there’s a picture of all the people. And there was some controversy about that. They said the judges weren’t fair [laughter]. But that’s the way things go in a little town. But as far as I know, he had a lot of beard. In fact he had a beard most of the time.

Diane Brenner: Yes, I think he started having a beard quite young.

Ben Brown: Did he win?

Another look at the beard contest.

Another look at the beard contest in the Springfield Republican.

Evan Johnson: He was one of two winners according to the picture over here.

Diane Brenner: So how many people here actually knew him?

[most people in the room raise their hands]

Diane Brenner: Wow, that’s a lot.

Steve Kulik: You know Bam mentioned milk, and many people mentioned the raw hamburger. And we moved here in ’76 –

Diane Brenner: Who are you?

Steve Kulik: Steve Kulik.

Diane Brenner: Thank you.

Steve Kulik: And so we experienced a couple years of the disposal. I can’t remember when he stopped doing that, but you’d go up there on Saturday in summer, and he’d have his little piece of meat, and butcher paper that he got at the store. And I can remember a quart carton of buttermilk – he drank buttermilk a lot, and it would just be out there in the sun, you know [laughter]. He didn’t have a cooler or anything like that, and every now and then he’d take a break and have a little snack and a slug of buttermilk. It left an impression on me for sure.

Suzanne Kulik: I’m Suzie Kulik, and our enduring memory is – you know we moved here from the city, had no idea what we were getting into. I knew we were supposed to take our trash to the disposal. We had a cat; I carefully put the cat food in a Triscuit box, got to the disposal, and here is this guy who’s dumping the cat food out of the Triscuit box – [laughter]

?: And of course flattening the Triscuit box [laughter].

Steve Kulik: The other thing I remember, there was a really nice party for Emmy after I think he was down at the nursing home. It was a birthday party, I think, at Town Hall, and a lot of people showed up. There’s probably an article here about it or something. But that was a really wonderful party, and at that point I sort of remember he didn’t see very well, he didn’t hear very well. But there must have been a hundred people there, and it was just really a nice event.

The Boston Globe, January 27, 1973.

The Boston Globe, January 27, 1973.

Ginger Donovan: I can remember – [identifying herself] Ginger Donovan – I can remember walking on a Saturday morning, as Steve was saying, and Emmy would be up there fixing his breakfast, and even had his carton of milk there, and what I thought was cereal of some sort – it was probably crushed crackers. But he would put a raw egg on top of those crackers and then drink the milk up [laughter].

Michelle Dodge: This is back to the disposal again – Jim and I had the same experience as a lot of people that moved here in the ’70s, in that we also took part of our house to the disposal area. And I remember backing up, and it was very difficult to miss him because all of the sudden these orange gloves would pop up. And you knew he was down below because –

Jim Dodge: That’s where he worked.

Michelle Dodge: – you could see the orange gloves.

Emmy Davis, 1975.

Emmy Davis, 1975.

Elodi McBride: I have something to add to that. Again, like many of us, my family moved up [to Worthington] in 1970. I was eighteen, and I grew up in a small town, so we had a dump, but – it was a novelty. And I can remember hearing this man, not really cursing, but kind of muttering so you didn’t really understand him, with a giant potato hook, ripping apart plastic bags – very unhappy about plastic bags, he did not care for those inventions. And at that time my parents were renovating the barn, and it had all caved in, and so we had a beer party. And Ron [McBride] and several college mates came up and we cleaned out that end of the barn that had dropped from the roof all the way down into the basement. And we took over ten dumptruck loads of debris, of all various wood materials. And we had pre-arranged with Emmy, because we knew you had a certain place, and we had to go down on the lower road that he had specially plowed for us, so that we could start dumping all the way at the far end, and just keep dumping in succession until we filled all that area up for him. And the funniest thing I remember is that – Ron and I were dating at that time, and I can remember going up some Saturday morning and just talking to him about whatever, and he looked at us and he said, “Don’t trust anybody over thirty.” [laughter] It just astounded me, but you know, we took it for what it was worth. He was just fun – he talked to you, he never put you down for what you said, and if he didn’t agree with you, he’d kind of say, “Well, hmm…” and then, “This is how it should be.”

Ted Claydon: Did anybody remember the lagoon? Remember when he had the lagoon down there? It was rainwater that filled in this hole. And I remember John Medesto was down there and I was coming down – he waves at the window and says, “Stop, stop, stop.” So I stop and said, “What’s the matter?” He said, “For Pete’s sake, go clockwise.” [laughter] You had to go around this thing to get out. He said, “I went counter-clockwise and he raised all kinds of Cain.” [laughter]

Emmy at the disposal area, 1975.

Emmy at the disposal area, 1975.

Pete Thomson: I’m Pete Thomson, and I worked for Emmy. And I know Ben Brown did. I was wondering who else did, way back. Ted Porter. Ernie Nugent worked up there. Well, on the lagoon, at the disposal area, it was actually a solar evaporator, which put Emerson ahead of his time. I came to town I think in about ’68, but I’d gone to Gateway [Regional High School] so I had friends that I knew in town, and I’d heard of Emmy. But I didn’t really get to know him or work part-time for him until – oh, probably about ’74. Worked for him part-time on weekends or whatever, just because he was such an interesting character. It was about the lowest-paying job you could find in town at the time, but you got to hang around Emmy. And the sort of disappointing part on that sometimes is, he’d get you going on something and he’d just be out at the Town Hall, so there you were by yourself, doing whatever. Yeah, the solar pond; at some point the state stopped outside burnings. Demolition material like barns and stuff, and just general trash, used to be burnt over a bank. And through the EPA or whatever, they eliminated that and went to what they call “sanitary landfills.” And that meant that it had to be covered up weekly, like with a foot of clean fill, which pretty much came from Donovan’s. I think the hours for the disposal area became like Saturday and maybe Wednesday, or something like that. And there were no stickers, no tickets, no bag fee or anything. And it wasn’t mandatory that you sorted your trash, but things like bottles and cans and milk cartons would go in an area, and then it was Donovan’s that would come up once a week and they would crush it. And some people thought, “Well isn’t that a waste of time, why separate that?” And he’d just simply explain, “Well you take a Coke bottle, dig a hole nine inches down, and run over it with anything you can come up with, and you’re still going to have a Coke bottle – you’re burying air.” So it wasn’t to separate the metal like they do it now, or the glass – it was just to decrease the volume. I think he even did that before, when they were still burning. Maybe I was just a visitor at the time; I’m not sure when they went away from burning. But that was the reason for that. The solar collector was made so that [imitating Emmy] “All the water that falls on this place will remain here.” It would evaporate, so it was to keep it from going over the bank. And a couple of other things: the little circle around the lagoon, like clockwise, counter-clockwise – [imitating Emmy] “Where you from, England, driving in the wrong direction?” [laughter] On food, I think Judy maybe can back this up, I think he ate Cheerios.

Ben Brown: Wheaties.

Pete Thomson: Wheaties, wheaties. I know he had some sort of cereal at the Town Hall. And a couple of other things: He said he didn’t need a car because he had 75 chauffeurs. And he got back and forth between the disposal area and the Town Hall. The Hoosac Tunnel – I think one of his uncles was an engineer or something on that project. That project was – pshew! – 175 people or whatever over like a 20-, 25-year period. But one of his uncles was an engineer, and he had relatives that were architects, in the Adams area. I think one of them was involved with either like a town hall, or a courthouse, in either Adams or –

The Berkshire Eagle, February 17, 1973.

The Berkshire Eagle, February 17, 1973.

Diane Brenner: His father [Raymond Harrison Davis] had designed the doors for North Adams –

Pete Thomson: I think they were involved in more than just the doors and stuff –

Diane Brenner: But he was an architect, I believe.

Pete Thomson: One relative ran what I guess you’d call a lumberyard or something, but they used to manufacture windows. You didn’t go to Anderson, or you didn’t go to Cummington Supply and get your windows from Virginia or somewhere. They were made locally. Emmy would complain – somebody [mentioned] new materials, plastic and stuff. When that first started coming out – the cardboard boxes with the styrofoam corners on your TV set – that freaked him out [laughter]. He said, “What!?” He said, “Most businesses should go out of business.” Because he couldn’t crush them, he couldn’t burn them, and he just had to bury them. But anyway, back to the building supply thing. He said, “Back in the old days, they’d take a truck, have an order for windows up in Savoy or something, coming out of Adams or Cheshire or whatever, and they’d wrap them all in these shipping blankets. And they would load the truck with all the windows. When they delivered them, they would fold up all the blankets and they’d use them over and over and over again. Now you get a one-way box for your TV or your windows, and the cardboard and all the dunnage – [that’s] what you call it in the shipping business – just goes in the landfill. That’s why he would flatten the boxes. If he took a box and I jumped on it, it wouldn’t be flat. But you learn to take a standard box, you find one corner and that’s where it’s got a seam. You don’t need a box knife; it’s sort of like ripping a phone book in half. And you can pop it, then you can lay it flat. He would sort of estimate how much trash he was going to get. He would build these little walls out of cardboard boxes; it was sort of a crate for a lot of cardboard boxes, because if the trash got higher than the little wall you were building that they were going to cover on Monday or Tuesday, you were over the bank. And then he would tamp down; he’d put the boxes down, he’d walk back and forth, just like if you were tamping a road. So that’s a little about why things were sorted, and the solar thing.

Helen Sharron Pollard: Can I just suggest, Pete – it looks like people are getting a little hot, what if we took a ten-, fifteen-minute break, had a little drink?

Jim Dodge: I want to say one thing. Over the years I watched certain people take care of Emmy. And Mrs. Liston would give him a bowl of soup on a cold day, and Bill Wilson would give him a ride up the road – a lot of people did. Pete Packard would work on the Glen Grove Sanctuary board and committee we had. But in his last weeks, it was Julia Sharron who really made sure he was taken care of. And I want to thank Julia for her efforts at that time, because everybody in town cared about Emmy, and his last days were much better. [applause]

The Springfield Morning Union, July 8, 1978.

The Springfield Union, July 8, 1978.

At this point everyone took a break and enjoyed the layout of snack foods, ice cream, cake, iced tea and sangria. After the break, Willie Brown and Diana Noble, whose band is called EarthRiders, started off the second half with a performance of Willie’s composition “Emerson Davis.”

Willie Brown: This is my lovely and able assistant, Diana Noble. And we have a song we’d like to play, written especially for this day.

Diana Noble: Twenty years ago.

Willie Brown: Twenty years ago [laughter].

Diane Brenner: It’s been a long time coming, I guess.

Willie Brown: Originally because I thought that “Emerson Davis” was sort of a lyrical-sounding name, but of course no one has been more deserving of a song than Emerson Davis.

Diane Noble: Will told me that his mom [Lois Ashe Brown] used to be one of the taxi drivers; Will was a little boy in the back seat, and when Emmy needed to get somewhere, Lois took him. And it’s funny because all the stories [we’ve heard tonight] are like all wrapped up in the song.

Willie Brown: You might think I wrote it after listening to today’s discusssion, but it’s not true. But I have enough fodder for a third and a fourth verse now. So this is called “Emerson Davis.”

[Music begins; click below to hear the performance.]

“Emerson Davis”

When I was a kid growin’ up in town,
there was a pretty cool man around.
He worked at the dump most every day,
but if you call it “the disposal” he’d prefer it that way.
At night he would sleep in the Town Hall,
and that’s where we go to play basketball.
Sleepin’ on a table up on the stage,
his only blanket was a newspaper page.
And we weren’t sure if he was asleep or dead,
but sometimes a ball would hit him in the head.
And he would awake long enough to say,
“If you can’t control the ball you won’t be able to play!”
Emerson Davis [x3]
Emmy Davis was his name.
Emerson Davis [x4]
His sneakers were Converse All-Stars,
on the bench at lunch he ate his hamburger raw.
He washed it down with a Peppermint Pattie,
he smelled pretty bad and his clothes were ratty.
But Emmy Davis loved this little town,
Worthington was sacred ground.
If you’re in the Town Hall late at night,
and you hear a noise or catch a sight,
keep it down, that’s my request,
it’s only Emmy tryin’ to get some rest.
Emerson Davis [x3]
Emmy Davis was his name.
Emerson Davis [x8]


Willie Brown: And this event is long overdue. If this is the first memorial for Emerson, this is a wonderful thing, long overdue.

Diane Brenner: Thank you. [applause]

Willie Brown: And I’ll listen carefully and I’ll have enough material for two more verses [laughter]. Thank you all.

Helen Sharron Pollard: That was great, thank you very much. Can we turn the floor back over to Pete? Because he was really starting to get rolling.

The Berkshire Eagle, November 21, 1977.

The Berkshire Eagle, November 21, 1977.

Pete Thomson: Back to the disposal area, I think I sort of left off with Emerson not liking styrofoam and the new packaging that came out. And somebody asked earlier, how did the disposal area come to be? Well, I’d asked Emerson about that. I don’t know what year he started it, but he said there was a problem in town, that there wasn’t a central place to get rid of trash, anything from building material to bedframes. And people used to just throw it behind the barn or whatever, the bottle pile or the can pile. So at some point he sort of took it upon himself. I don’t know when this was, like if it was in the ’40s or the ’50s or whenever he started the disposal area. And they used to burn trash, and burn as much as they could. And he started running it. The other change was when they didn’t allow you to burn anymore; they came up with this mandate where it had to be buried once a week. That became very expensive, and that was the reason for reducing the volume, because the less fill you had to bring in, the cheaper it was. And it also involved getting a [bull]dozer from Donovan’s every other week or whatever to come up there. And all the towns were facing the same dilemma, like Cummington. Everybody was running out of space, without another site. So the town finally went to a compactor like all the other towns had done. But one thing about the landfill – I said, “Well what are you going to do?” He says, “Well it’s a sanctuary” or whatever. He says, “Well I’m going to put a ball park here.” I said, “Emmy, you know this isn’t big enough.” The solar evaporator had been filled in at some point, and it was all leveled off. And he says, “So I’m going to put a ball park here.” And I said, “Emmy, this isn’t big enough.” I’ll get to one more remembrance there. I said there weren’t any stickers or whatever. There was a group that had a cabin up in Peru – they had like a hunting place or summer place, and they used to go up there and party. They were connected with Ferrara Spring [Works], which is a truck spring big machine automotive industrial truck place. And they had a place in Peru, and they would go up there hunting and stuff. They had a piano they were trying to get rid of, and they brought it down to the sort of flat area where I think the tin cans and stuff went; they set it up and they just put it there. They had a pretty good pickup truck with a hydraulic tailgate to get it off; three or four of them came up. And they left it and said, “Well jeez, we hate to throw it out, but somebody gave us this better piano.” And this one guy – can’t recall his name – was the piano player. So there’s this flat area out in the middle of nowhere, and this guy’s playing the piano. And it was nice weather, it wasn’t going to get rained on. But I wished I had a photo of it, because if I tell the story, it’s hard to believe that it really happened. “So there’s this guy in the middle of the woods, in this field, playing the piano…” Unfortunately the piano got crushed up the following week. A few other things, a jukebox went through there, that didn’t make it. The other thing, back to the ballpark – they were getting I think ready to cap it off and go to a transfer station. I think there was talk of even putting the transfer station up there at one point. I think I was out of town, because I’d been in and out of town. But I said, “Where’s the ball park going to go, Emmy, you can’t fit a ball park in there.” There was no way that that little knoll where the rock is, if you’ve ever been up there, could be a ball park. And he said, “Mister,” and he pointed off into the sky, and he said, “That’s my ball park.” I’ll leave it at that.

Emerson Davis with police chief Dave Tyler, 1966.

Emerson Davis with police chief Dave Tyler, 1966.

Evan Johnson: Jim, tell your story please. [pause] Jim? Aw, c’mon. Can I tell your story?

Jim Dodge: You can tell it.

Evan Johnson: I have no idea if this is true, but if it’s not –

Jim Dodge: That’s why I’m not telling it [laughter].

Evan Johnson: We came to town in ’84, so we missed the whole Emmy scene, unfortunately. But early on, I met Jim and he told me about a day when Emmy was at the Town Hall, and if I’m not mistaken it was a COA [Council on Aging] event that was taking place. And it was a hot day, and Emmy had slept without his clothes on. And there were still curtains up on the stage at Town Hall back in those days, and apparently he got up for his morning, and pulled open the curtains, and apparently there was a whole group of COA people in there setting up the tables for the luncheon, and many false teeth were dropped [laughter]. That was always my favorite Emmy story, whether it’s true or not.

Jim Dodge: They put it in the minutes of the meeting [laughter].

Steve Kulik: I have a question. Bam and I were talking about this at the break, but he had heard – many years before I did – but we both heard that Emmy had studied at the Sorbonne, in Paris. You had mentioned that he had gone to Europe and done art tours and things, and I don’t know if anybody else had heard that story.

Pete Thomson: What little I know about it, I believe he had two years at Pratt [Institute]. And I got the story – this is I think how I got it – is that he left “to see the world, and they taught me all they could out of books.” So that’s how he ended up in Europe. What became of that, and where he went after that – if he returned to Adams and then came to Worthington – I don’t know. So yeah, he had gone to travel or whatever and study.

Diane Brenner: Right, that’s what’s in the articles, that he studied briefly at Pratt, and he had a mentor, I think who was at Mount Hermon [School], who encouraged him to come down to New York and study, but I’ve never heard that he actually studied at the Sorbonne.

Suzanne Kulik: He told us once that the climate of Florence was the closest to Worthington [laughter].

?: Right, he did say that.

Diane Brenner: So can somebody talk a little bit about the current status of the Glen Grove Sanctuary? Who’s on the board?

Dedication of the Glen Grove Wildlife Sanctuary, as documented in The North Adams Evening Transcript, September 6, 1931.

Dedication of the Glen Grove Wildlife Sanctuary, as documented in the North Adams Evening Transcript, September 6, 1931.

Jim Dodge: I’m not sure –

Pat Kennedy: And is it Glen Cove or Glen Grove?

Diane Brenner: It’s Glen Grove, but in all the Mass Recreation publicity and maps, it’s “Glen Cove.” And if you look at orienteering sites, “Glen Cove.” So that’s one of those mistakes that gets repeated and repeated, but it was originally “Glen Grove.”

Jim Dodge: After Emmy died, Pete Packard wanted a member of each board in town to be on a board of the sanctuary and meet once a year. And I was on the Conservation Commission at the time, so I became a member of that board. And we’d meet at Pete’s house and have coffee, and have an official meeting, but then we’d go up to the sanctuary. You can walk the parameter, the lines. And Bill Wilson knew where some of them were, and a lot of them we didn’t know where the corner pins were, and we found them. It’s a good piece of land.

Diane Brenner: Yeah, it’s 180 acres on that side, and 50 on the other side.

Jim Dodge: I mean, we all think that it’s just where the landfill was, and that’s a few acres, but it goes way beyond that.

Diane Brenner: Anybody can go up there?

Jim Dodge: Yeah, yeah. You wouldn’t know. There’s no trails. But it’s a nice piece of property.

Helen Sharron Pollard: So what is it?

Jim Dodge: It’s a forest, it’s a woodlot.

Helen Sharron Pollard: But is it set aside? Is it a conservation area?

Julia Sharron: It’s just a wild bird sanctuary.

Helen Sharron Pollard: Oh, I remember, right.

Julia Sharron: And as Jim said, we met once a year for many years, to make sure that nothing was dumped illegally there – a couple of times there were things. Made sure that there was some fencing, and so we honored the property the way it should be. But there was never any money to do anything, you know, extravagant, there. So it’s just kind of an area. But we do have a stone. And that’s it.

Jim Dodge: But since Pete Packard’s gone, there hasn’t been a meeting.

Julia Sharron: No, no.

Evan Johnson: Is there still a board, Jim?

Jim Dodge: If you’re not on a town board, are you a representative anymore? I don’t know.

Julia Sharron: No, no, it had to be a representative of each board.

?: Is it owned by the town?

, February 17, 1977

The Berkshire Eagle, February 17, 1977

Julia Sharron: Yes, yes.

Jim Dodge: So the selectmen probably should look into it, there should be at least an annual –

Diane Brenner: And is the memorial boulder to Harriet Davis, his mother, on that property?

Julia Sharron: No, it’s not.

Diane Brenner: Where is that?

Julia Sharron: I don’t know where that is.

Bam Packard: Is it right by the landfill, Julia?

Julia Sharron: I don’t believe it is.

Ted Porter: It’s just east of the landfill, going down the road.

Diane Brenner: On the left- or the right-hand side as you go down?

?: On the right-hand side.

Willard Brown: There’s still a path mowed to the boulder, I believe.

Ted Porter: I remember one time they used to mow that out yearly, but I don’t know if they do now.

Willard Brown: I think they still do. I don’t know who, probably Cork [Donovan].

Elodi McBride: I have something to add to that. My son Randy took it on as an Eagle project – I’m trying to remember if it was ’99. And he and the kids in the neighborhood all played there, that was like their territory. And it was never malicious, it was always finding the snakes or whatever, creep up on a bear. Anyway, for his Eagle project he had Ernie [Nugent] as his counselor to pick up some of the debris that had become exposed over the years. And so they organized it, and it was an all-day event. And they cleaned up a bunch of – just stuff that had popped up, but it was pretty well emptied out anyway. And the kids had a good time, they took a couple of dumptruck loads out to the new disposal and re-dumped the old stuff. But they put a bench up there that I think is still there, I have not been up there. It would be by the boulder? He poured cement and put a chain on it and locked it all up up there. And I don’t think that there was any other plans – I know Randy himself had to talk to Pete Packard. I don’t know that he went before the board, but Pete spoke for everybody, so – [laughter]. But I know Randy had contacted him, he learned a little bit about the history and stuff. And like I said, the kids in the neighborhood really felt that that was their playground, really. And they wanted to take care of it and make it more natural and clean it up, and that’s what they ended up doing. And it was not too long after that that the town had to do that – I forget what that was called –

Evan Johnson: Kate [Ewald] and I did a site assessment out there, and as a tribute –

?: Capping.

Evan Johnson: But this was after the capping, we had to do a site assessment to make sure that the landfill was not something that had to be further cleaned up. And as a tribute to Emmy Davis, the water and the groundwater out there was pristine. So really, he did something right for sure.

Ginger Donovan: Question: the sanctuary, is that on both sides of the road, or just on the landfill side?

?: Both sides.

Ginger Donovan: It is both sides. And how many acres?

Diane Brenner: Well 180 on one side, and 50 on the other. So it’s 230. That’s a lot.

?: Janet, did you have something you wanted to add?

Janet Dimock: Oh, we were talking about traveling. I remember – it must have been at Emmy’s memorial service that Doug Small talked about having a conversation with Emmy about all the Easter lilies in the Holy Land. About Emmy being there and seeing them. But I don’t know when he traveled there, if anybody else knows.

Amanda Emerson: I wish my father could be here, because he knew Emmy Davis. My father was Lawrence Waldo Emerson, and he lived and worked with a Reverend Berkus [spelling?] here? Who also was a farmer, and who I think slaughtered animals? Well anyway, when my father lived here with Reverend Berkus, Emmy was here. And that would probably have been when my father was a teenager, or maybe shortly after he graduated from Smith Vocational school. My father was born in 1919, and he fought in World War II, so it was somewhere before he went to war. But he knew Emmy as a person who worked with his hands, and picked up gravel with a banjo shovel – whatever that was, I’m not sure – but wrote poetry. And I knew Emmy. I didn’t know Emmy, I met Emmy once in a while, when I worked for de Beaumont’s on River Road at Brookstone. Well, we always wondered but we were too polite to ask, was he related to us? And it doesn’t really matter, because he was a credit to the name of Emerson.

Diane Brenner. He was. And I think he took that name to heart, even if he might not have been a relative.

?: That was lovely, thank you.

Amanda: Thank you.

Emmy Davis.

Emmy Davis.

Bam Packard: Has anyone actually seen the poetry that he is rumored to have written? I never saw him write, I didn’t know that he actually wrote poetry, so I wondered if anybody had actually seen it.

Ben Brown: I wanted to mention that I finally got in touch with Ralph Thompson yesterday, who went on to become Ralph the blacksmith, a lot of people may remember. He was in Worthington in the ’70s, and he worked for Emerson and became very attached to him. Maybe he was the closest thing Emerson had to a disciple. But he mentioned in our conversation that Emerson was one of the most significant people in his life, because he’s the only man that he ever met that Ralph considered to be living his ideals without the compromises that most of us are obliged to make in a variety of ways. And Ralph really revered Emerson, and worked for him for a long, long time. I can still remember him driving around with a trunk full of tools in a beat-up Falcon doing jitney for Emerson as well as working in the dump – the disposal, excuse me – [laughter] and maybe sometimes the North Cemetery.

?: Ben, you were talking about his shorts. Would you describe his shorts?

Ben Brown: Oh, yeah. So I remember when I was very young he used to mow lawns for some people in the center of town, with the real mower like you were talking about, and he would always wear these very vivid, silk basketball shorts [laughter]. And he often wore those around the Town Hall, too, I can remember that from being a kid.

Diane Brenner: What color? Do you remember what color?

Ben Brown: Yeah, he had some green ones, I remember. He had several pairs. Probably left by the visiting team [laughter].

Diane Brenner: Well we really appreciate all of you who came and stayed through this heat, and who contributed. And if you remember things or want to add to what you’ve said or didn’t say, we always really appreciate it. We have our website, you can post a comment there, or you can email me or anybody on the board. Or call, or come by and talk, whatever. We’d like to get as much as we can while we can, and have it available for other people in the future. Okay, well thank you, there’s still some more stuff to eat and drink…

Several people: Thank you.


Cover of annual report, with dedication inside by Lois Ashe Brown.

Addendum: Further recollections of Emerson Davis

The following accounts of Emerson Davis were given to the WHS in written form.

Emmy Davis photographed in... The caption read, "Assistance of Town Hall custodian Emerson Davis ran the gamut from tacking up posters, setting up tables and chairs to buttonholing townspeople and urging them to attend the Meeting!"

Emmy Davis photographed for the 1956 booklet New England Town Meeting Telephone Style, published by the Bell Telephone Company. The caption read, “Assistance of Town Hall custodian Emerson Davis ran the gamut from tacking up posters, setting up tables and chairs to buttonholing townspeople and urging them to attend the Meeting!”

Jim Dodge: I first met Emmie when I moved to town and brought a truck load of various things to the town dump. I backed up to a pile of garbage and got out of the truck to unload it. There didn’t seem to be anyone around. As I started unloading stuff someone yelled “THAT DON’T GO THERE!” It was Emmie and he was mad at me for not putting things in the right places, as he had the dump all managed in to certain areas. I got started on the wrong foot with Mr. Davis but soon learned the wisdom of his ways when it came to where things went at the dump. When Emmie got on in age there were several people who looked after him. Bill Wilson and Mrs. Liston helped him in many ways. Julia Sharron helped Emmie get into a nursing home and made sure that he got the care that he needed. In his will Emmie left his land, which included the town dump and what would be called the Glen Grove Wildlife Sanctuary, to the Town. Pete Packard, our retired postmaster, asked for a member of each town board to also serve on the board of the Glen Grove Wildlife Sanctuary. There was an annual meeting held at Pete’s home and some years we walked the boundary lines of the sanctuary.

Merrill Bancroft: I have many memories of Emerson Davis although I lived in Chesterfield. I operated a television repair business I called The Electronic Shop in the center of town, and had customers in Worthington. Many times when I was on the road there I would see him walking along the road and would give him a lift. He would usually be heading for the dump. To him it was the disposal area and never the dump. If you called it the dump he would pretend not to know what you were talking about. I found him to be very intelligent which didn’t always reflect his demeanor sometimes. My mother would tell about him at Grange. He had a reputation of being a perfectionist when he decorated the Worthington town hall for weddings and other affairs. He installed the library lawn in Chesterfield and was the quintessence of perfection. Every town needs an Emerson Davis. Emmy made the town his own by living there, working there, and made the town better.

Posted August 19, 2013.

Bandana Dan (1965–2013) Remembered


Bandana Dan.

Daniel G. Steer, better known as “Bandana Dan,” was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts, on October 1, 1965. He lived in several places around the state, including North Andover, Lawrence, and North Reading, before moving to Windsor in 2005 and Worthington in 2007. He died Thursday, March 7, 2013 at his home on 211 West Street in Worthington; he was 47.

He is survived by his son, Corey Daniel Steer; his beloved Karen Mae Steer (“Aggie Mae”); his girls: Karen’s daughters, Alanah Mae Johnson and Daryl Laura Johnson, and Karen’s niece Leah Laura Lynn Callahan; his father, Robert W. Steer, Jr., and stepmother, Julia; his mother, Carol A. Ray; his brothers and sisters, Linda M. Steer, Mary S. Clark, R. Michael Steer, David K. Steer, Geoffrey R. Steer, and Kelli S. Parece; his many, many extended family members and friends; his cats Comet, Nova, and Colby; and with love and gratitude, his Worthington neighbors Carole Fisher and Mike Chermesino.


Corey Daniel Steer and his father.

In the words of Karen Mae Steer, “Corey was his pride and joy. Dan would always say how Corey was undeniably his son, due to his identical looks (except his nose) and his musical talent. Dan said Corey had ‘a natural, bone-deep talent’ that Dan loved.”

It was a life dream of Dan’s to provide access to music education for children in need. On July 27, 2013, Liston’s Bar & Grill hosted an all-day celebration of Bandana’s life with live music, BBQ, $1.00 beers and a silent auction – the kind of party Dan would love – all to benefit the Bandana Dan Music Scholarship Fund.

The following speech by Michael Chermesino was delivered during the funeral service for Bandana Dan at the Pease and Gay funeral home in Northampton on Friday, March 15, 2013. Note that “Forrest” refers to Forrest Landry, who lived at 211 West Street before Bandana Dan replaced him as a tenant. Dan later bought the property, which he referred to as “Liston’s West.”

The first day I met Dan was the beginning of what would become for me an unforgettable friendship. I can just imagine what he was thinking he had gotten himself into as he drove up West Street with Forrest to see his new house. What greeted him instead was my car stuck vertically in a tree. I was running late that morning, and I was fumbling to click in my seatbelt, take a sip of coffee, and maybe a few other things. I was too distracted – and drove off my driveway and over a small cliff.

It was a rainy day and I was all mud from head to toe. I think the first thing I said to him was “I’m gonna be a bit late for work today.” They just sort of nervously laughed and drove off. I can only imagine what they were thinking.

I recall being excited that my new neighbor seemed to be mature and responsible. And that things might quiet down a bit on West Street. That was an impression I perceived due to his clean-shaven head, and Forrest had told me this older responsible musician friend might be moving in to take his place. Well, as it turns out I had a lot to learn about Dan. It wasn’t long after Dan moved in that he started cleaning up the place. He mowed the lawn, scrubbed and stained the siding, and really tried to make his place look nice. Almost instantly I noticed the sounds of people’s horns as they passed by my new neighbor’s home and I wondered, “Who is this popular guy?” But I also noticed that things weren’t all that quiet down there. Dan and his buddies were in the beginning stages of putting a band together, and practicing most weekends and a few weeknights as well. The sounds coming up the hill were loud and unorganized at first, but soon I found myself looking forward to my free weekly concerts and tapping along from afar.

The weeks and months rolled by, and Dan and I pretty much kept to ourselves. Dan was busy practicing with his band and working around town and I was in the final throes of a failing relationship. I can tell you that getting my car stuck in that tree didn’t help much with that, but pretty soon she was gone and I was in free-fall mode. As the empty bacon packages and whiskey bottles began to accumulate I decided that every surface my ex-wife touched would obviously have to be burned, and, so, I began to dismantle my house.

Help is not something we ask for too freely here in the Hilltowns. But in a moment of clarity I had the wisdom to crawl down the driveway and see if Dan could sort some electrical issues as live wires were dangling around the place from the spots where walls and ceilings used to be. Dan didn’t judge me, or try to stop me from acting irrationally. He just danced around me and tried to make me laugh, while ensuring that I worked safely, and helped me redirect my energy.

Soon the wires were all neatly tucked away, and you could just about see the floor again through the mess. Dan was coming over now not to work but to keep the drinks flowing. The rules for Dan were simple: We will laugh, we will drink, and we will make music. But we will not talk about politics, religion, taxes, health care or anything else that was a bummer. I soon learned the rules of the road and began to feel at home at what became known to me as Liston’s West.

Many times over the too few years to follow we would call on each other to assist in this, or hide this, or you didn’t see that, or spot me while cutting down this tree, or just hang out with me all day as we sipped whiskey mixed with fresh hot maple sap. He helped me when Cork Donovan left his excavator on my property with the keys in it but forgot to teach me how to use it. He helped me when I found the love of my life, and needed a band to help me celebrate. He helped me when I stuffed too many pieces of bacon in my mouth and needed the Heimlich maneuver – twice. He helped us build our dream home. He was always there when we went on vacation to keep the house warm and feed our pets. He loved Timmy the dog and Timmy loved Bandana. And we all loved how he inspired anyone with any musical ability to practice and play often. Especially my nephews.

Carole and I have often said to each other over the years “how lucky we are” to have such a great neighbor and friend. Dan wasn’t perfect but he was always able to make us laugh and remind us to enjoy and make the most of every day. He had a magical way of impacting everyone positively and making them feel appreciated. That’s why this room is so full today. We loved Dan. We count ourselves lucky to have known him and called him “friend.” Peace.

The following photographs of Dan being transformed into Mephistopheles were taken by Barbara Porter in the winter of 2010–2011 at the Worthington Historical Society building, during a joint WHS/Hilltown Arts Alive event showcasing the talents of Western Mass resident Beckie Kravetz, an accomplished sculptor, mask-maker, and opera artist.


The following words by Dan’s fiancée Karen Mae Steer, who took his name after his passing, are a composite of speeches she gave at the funeral service on March 15 in Northampton and the memorial service on Saturday, March 30, at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Wakefield, Massachusetts.


Dan and Karen.

Any loss sucks, but this isn’t the first time I’ve had to deal with the loss of my soul mate Daniel. The first time around at least I knew that he was walking and talking and laughing, and although we weren’t together he was just a phone call away. We spoke often that first year apart. Our phone conversations were loving, bittersweet and short. Eventually he made his decision and took his own path in life and had his son Corey. I went my way and had my daughters Alanah and Daryl. After a mere 23-year break and one phone call we were once again “Dan and Karen” or as Dan loved to put it, “We rekindled our love.” From the moment I laid eyes on Dan I lost my heart truly and forever to him. He was all of 17 and I a 21-year-old woman. He had the most gorgeous head full of long thick curly hair I’d ever seen – yes, he actually had hair back then – and his eyes of bright green twinkled with his inner light and that mischievous good humor that I adored.

When Dan and I reunited I had a habit of always wearing black or very dark colors. I had spent the previous twenty years of my life in emotionally dark situations so it seemed appropriate that I should let my attire imitate my mood. I don’t dress all in dark any longer. Dan loved the bright things of life, the smiles, the clothing, laughter and hope and especially the bright colors in nature. In the animals, plants and flowers. In Worthington in the summer of 2010 there was an amazing field of little yellow flowers on Old Post Road as far as the eye could see. On our way out to a friend’s home, Dan slowly pulled the car over at this field, shut off the engine, came around and helped me from the seat of the car and we walked into that field until we were surrounded by yellow blooms blowing in the breeze while we stood there holding hands and smiling like fools at one another for a long time. That was a good day.

Dan loved the way the green leaves of the trees would change to oranges and reds and yellows and the way the ferns that covered our back hill would go from light green shoots in the spring to medium green fans to a dark green cover moving in a dance of currents and sun beams. He loved them and would talk about them every day. The eyes of our three cats held all kinds of wonder for Daniel. He’d notice how the irises were layers and were one color one way and then the cat would blink or move and their eyes would be another color suddenly. He paid attention to every detail of his life. Like the color of snow, it amazed him in all its hues and shapes and the different sounds it made of softly falling flakes to the cool, crunchy stuff underfoot.

He also appreciated the color of insects; he knew the names of them too. I do not like insects, and in fact I’m terrified of them. Dan always joked that he was going to make a bug-proof “Aggie net suit” so I could enjoy the woods with him. He never had to, though, because I’d douse myself with bug spray just to sit for hours with him on our swing as he pointed out every pretty beetle, interesting ant, bumble bees, centipedes, jeweled dragonflies and every crawly thing he could to me with utter wonder. I was a bio-hazard of DEET but we didn’t mind because we were together.

One time he decided to take me to the old airfield strip in Worthington so we could look at the broken-down foundation. It was the height of summer and the hay fields on either side of the road towered over Dan’s Ford Escort. The windows were open and Dan pointed out the huge beautiful gleaming grasshoppers that were flying everywhere. Of course within moments one flew into the car and I freaked out and wanted Dan to pull right over, but he did not. I wanted to crawl through the vents because I was sure that giant creature was going to attack my neck at any moment. Dan calmly took my hand, smiled with that ever-present patience in the face of my insect terror, and said “Honey, it’s okay, he probably only needs a lift to the other end of the airfield road, maybe he’s got a girl there. He’s probably in the back seat smoking a butt with his legs crossed playing a tune and enjoying the ride.” And that was what my Daniel did for me, he calmed my fears and made me laugh and at the same time challenged me, encouraging me to find the surprise behind the scary things if I just looked a little beyond my first reaction to find something terrific and amazing and full of the wonderful colors of life. Plus he’d always find some way to make it hilarious, he was always satisfied when I was in hysterical laughter.


Bandana Dan performing at Worthington’s Blackburn Inn on January 5, 2012.

But most of all in the past three years, My Love never, never let me or anyone else down unless it was for a damn good reason. On February 9, 2013, he and his new band mates were to perform at Liston’s for a friend’s birthday party. He was ill then and was having trouble breathing but the show must go on. So he did a few songs, badly he thought. The crowd thought different, but he apologized for “letting them down.” That was Bandana. The Dan who always treated me like a lady but knew instinctively I wasn’t offended by his flirtatious personality or his raunchy humor. My Daniel knew I accepted everything about him and wouldn’t ever try to impose my will on him, nor would he impose his will on mine. I got such a deeply satisfying contentment to see my Dan transform into Bandana Dan at outings, not that he was any different at home, but his spirit was fed by the energy of people’s beautiful spirits.

So I will continue to wear bright colors in honor of My Wonderful One, and I’ll be angry at him for being stubborn on March 7, 2013. I’ll be sad because he’s not here to hug any longer, I’ll be frustrated because his girls won’t have him around as a great example of what to look for in a man, but mostly I’ll be grateful I knew him at all. When I first met Dan he was tough and rebellious, trying to find his way in this world, and I’m so beyond happy and proud that I got to spend the last years of his life with the grown-up Daniel who shared his hopes and his dreams and fears and laughter and his devoted love with me, a man that found everything his heart desired and more.

Posted July 16, 2013.