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, 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 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.
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.
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 S. Cole I, risen from the dead.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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 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, 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 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.
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. 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 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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. 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.
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.
ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS
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.
SOURCES, CREDITS, AND IMPERSONATORS OF THE DEAD
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.