Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Amory Maynard Descendants

Visitors gathered at the Maynard family crypt. From left to right:
Peter Morgan, Jr., Kim (Anderson) Donovan, Burrell and Pamela (Morgan) Jull,
Eric Fine, Barbara Fine, Dave Castle, Merry (Morgan) Hill and Anne Morgan.
Last week, seven people visited Maynard because they had Maynard in their blood. Literally. These were great-great-grandchildren and great-great-great-grandchildren of Amory and Mary Maynard, participating in a family reunion, and for some of them, an opportunity to meet each other and visit the Town of Maynard for the first time ever.

Because no descendants live in Maynard, there has been a bit of misconception that there were none. Not true. What did happen was a combination of dispora and untimely deaths that scattered and ended, respectively, early descendant branches. Lorenzo, the oldest son, had had five children, but none of them had children in turn. He had moved to Winchester in 1902, and all of his lineage are buried in the Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge. The last to die was William H.K. Maynard, 1925. Harlan, the youngest son, had died of typhus while in his teens.

Photo portrait of Lessie Louise
and Harlan James Maynard
Tomb key. M.S. Peters was Amory
and Mary's grandchild, married
to Warren Peters. Her daughter, Mary
Sanderson (1874-1947), was last 
Maynard to live in Maynard.
The visitors were descendants of Amory and Mary through William, their second son. William married Mary Adams in 1853, when he was 20 years old. They were together 53 years, she surviving him by an additional 14 years. They had seven children.

Barbara (Maynard) Fine, the one great-great-granddaughter amongst our visitors, traces her lineage from William Maynard to his son Harlan James Maynard, to Harlan’s son John Maynard, who married Frances Edna de Haro and had three children: Joan, Diane and Barbara. Apparently, Barbara was the only descendant who had visited Maynard before, for the interment of cremation remains of her father, her mother, and her sister Diane. Barbara tells a story that her father (Amory’s great-grandson) had visited Maynard during the centennial anniversary year of 1971 and was given a tour of the mill complex by no other than Ken Olsen, founder of Digital Equipment Corporation. For last week’s visit, Barbara was accompanied by her son, Eric Fine, a great-great-great-grandchild of Amory and Mary.   
Skylight at the crypt, looking up.

The five other great-great-great-grandchildren were Merrill “Merry” (Morgan) Hill, Peter Morgan, Jr., Anne Morgan, Kim (Anderson) Donovan and Pamela (Morgan) Jull. Their lineage traces from William to his daughter Lessie Louise Maynard, who married Paul Beagary Morgan, of the Worcester Morgans. Lessie and Paul had five children, who in turn had children, so there is a whole passel of Morgans out there.

Ironwork on top of the crypt,
protecting the skylight. Click on
any photograph to enlarge it.
The first stop in the tour of the town was the Maynard family crypt, in Glenwood Cemetery. The Department of Public Works, responsible for cemetery operations, had cleaned up around and in the crypt, and unlocked the door. Family members were able to step inside and read the inscriptions of the 23 family members who are interred there.

The tour went on to several town sites connected to the family history here: Ben Smith Dam and the Asa Smith house on Summer Hill Road, where the Maynard family first lived after they moved from Marlborough in 1846; the pair of houses that Amory and Lorenzo built on Main Street, just west of the Post Office, and then Lorenzo’s mansion on Dartmouth Street – Beechmont back then - overlooking the mill from the south side. Amory Maynard had also constructed a mansion on the hill, but it burned in the 1960s during a planned conversion to apartments. From there, the tour stopped in the parking lot by Battle Road, for a view of the mill from across the pond, and then a drive through the center of the mill, with a stop at the watergate that had controlled flow into the powerplant. [Originally a waterwheel to provide mechanical power, later replaced by a turbine to provide electric power.]

Window added to the Congregational Church rectory by
Lorenzo Maynard, circa 1890.
The tour finished at The Sanctuary, until recently the Congregational Church. William Doyle, now owner of the building, provided some history of how Amory and Mary had been instrumental in getting the original building built, and then how in 1890 Lorenzo had sponsored the stained glass windows in memory of his parents and daughters.

After the tour, the family retreated to continue their story sharing over a dinner of pizza from Roasted Peppers and ice cream from Erikson’s Ice Cream. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Why do We Sweat?

If we were any other species of mammal, including our closest relatives, the great apes, we would not perspire, and the deodorant industry would not exist. Humans perspire a lot; horses a bit. Dogs (and wolves, coyotes, fox, lions) pant. Prey species such as deer are fast in a sprint, but not equipped for long distance running without overheating. It’s us, the hairless ape, that is unique.

Sweat scene from movie Airplane! This is an example
of emotional sweating. It can include sweaty hands, which
does not occur during thermal-triggered sweating. A third
type of sweating is in reaction to eating very spicy food. 
The major function of perspiration is to cool. When water on skin evaporates there is a transfer of huge amounts of heat away from the skin. Cooling of the skin’s surface cools blood circulating underneath, which cools the body as a whole. Panting, while not as effective, serves the same purpose. Kangaroos, which neither sweat or pant, lick their forelimbs, achieving evaporative cooling that way.

No evaporation, no cooling. Hence the truth behind “It’s hot, but it’s a dry heat.” In humid weather, we still attempt to cool by sweating, but the moisture soaks our clothing and drips off without the benefit of evaporation. (Standing in front of a fan helps.) In passing, worth a mention that a traditional sauna practice reverses the heat exchange process. Sauna is very dry heat, so a person can be comfortable in temperatures of 140-180 degrees Fahrenheit, versus 110 to 115 degrees tops for a steam bath. “Löyly,” the practice of throwing water on superheated stones during a sauna, converts the water to steam, which then condenses on cooler surfaces, such as skin. The condensation process transfers heat to the skin. The intense wave of heat experienced about 30 seconds after water hits hot stones is the opposite of evaporative cooling.

What is sweat? First, it is initially sterile, and hence not initially smelly. However, our skin is inhabited by billions of moisture-loving bacteria. The smells we associate with sweated up clothing are from the happily replicating bacteria that consumed our skin gland secretions for food and produced their own smelly waste products. Men and women have different mixtures of skin bacteria, and thus different smelling sweat. Interestingly, some studies show that homosexual women and men are more sexually attracted to the smell of same-sex sweat, versus heterosexual women and men who are more turned on by opposite sex sweat, but whether this is genetic or driven by one’s sexual orientation is not known. For some people, skin harbors Propionibacteria which product propionic acid, a compound that smells a lot like the chemically related acetic acid in vinegar. Time to wash those clothes and take a shower!       

Back to sweat. Sweat is 99.9 percent water and one-tenth of one percent minerals and organic compounds. Sodium makes up the majority of the minerals, then potassium and small amounts of calcium, zinc, copper and iron. Sports performance researchers have looked into heat adaptation. Results suggest that sweat at the end of a long, hot day has much the same composition as in the morning. However, over days in a hot environment, mineral content decreases by as much as a third. Thinking is that the body has adapted to conserve minerals while still managing evaporative cooling.  
Sports drinks (Gatorade, Powerade) are a multi-billion dollar industry based on the theory that modest amounts of minerals (primarily sodium, but some potassium and magnesium), plus calories will have a performance benefit over water during a prolonged period of exercise. There is a kernel of truth there. Given water to drink, actively exercising people will drink less than the water being lost to perspiration. And that’s generally okay, as athletic performance begins to suffer only after two percent weight loss. A salty-tasting, slightly sweet beverage will cause people to drink more compared to plain water. More is not necessarily better, just more. The sodium provides no performance benefit. The carbohydrates do provide usable energy, but that only really matters for hours of strenuous exercise.

People in the U.S. consume too much sodium. Our kidneys dump the excess in urine, but the effects of high sodium consumption include hypertension and higher risk of stroke and coronary heart disease deaths. National surveys estimate that average adult consumption is 3,400 milligrams per day, whereas recommendations are to consume less than 2,300 milligrams, and  1,500 milligrams per day is defined as an adequate amount. Only for people doing prolonged, vigorous exercise, say a hundred mile-bicycle ride, might there be a benefit for calorie-containing beverages or snacks during the event. That’s for energy. After the event, normal foods and beverages will replenish whatever minerals were lost.  

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Rise and Fall of Vitamin E

Vitamin E was the vitamin D of the 1990s – good for whatever ailed you. Claimed benefits led with cardiovascular disease and cancer, but piled on with macular degeneration, pregnancy, dementia and other significant diseases. With no apparent concerns about safety, there was a race up to mega-dose amounts being widely sold as non-prescription dietary supplements. Vitamin E even ended up in skin care products, with claims for helping hear scars and burns, in shampoos with claims for healthier hair. Things changed.

Worldwide, government organizations are not quite in agreement on how much is recommended and what is the safe upper limit. The U.S. recommends 15 mg/day, and up to 1000 mg/day as safe. Japan recommends 7 mg/day and no more than 900 mg/day (for men, numbers a bit lower for women). The European Union recommends 11 mg/day for women, 13 mg/day for men, and no more than 300 mg/day for both sexes. Actual consumption is less. Worldwide, median dietary intake is 6.2 mg/day for alpha-tocopherol.

Alpha- and gamma-tocopherol are the two most common
forms in plants. Alpha- has three methyl (CH3) groups on
the leftmost ring of carbon atoms while gamma- has two.
The arrows point to the difference. (Internet download).
Click on image to make larger. 
Note that intake number is for alpha-tocopherol. “Vitamin E” is actually a collection of eight chemically related but distinct molecules: alpha-, beta-, delta- and gamma-tocopherol and the same four designations as tocotrienols. Leafy green vegetables are predominately alpha-tocopherol and seed oils gamma-tocopherol (with exceptions). Palm oil is higher in tocotrienols than tocopherols. Although gamma-tocopherol is the highest percentage dietary form, our bodies create a blood transportation protein that preferentially binds only to alpha-tocopherol, making it the majority molecule in blood and organs. It is also by far the most potent antioxidant of the eight. So, “vitamin E” is usually taken to mean alpha-tocopherol, with a minor contribution to alpha-tocopherol equivalents from the other forms.     

The popularity of naturally sourced or synthetic alpha-tocopherol as a dietary supplement began with a juxtaposition of theory and observation. Vitamin E is thought to function as an antioxidant. Oxidation is all about oxygen (duh!). Normal biological processes create oxidating compounds, also referred to as free radicals, that need to be neutralized, else cell damage takes place. One of the theories of aging is that oxidation causes cumulative damage over years and years, leading to what we identify as the diseases of aging. Our bodies create antioxidants and also use vitamin E (and vitamin C, and selenium) as antioxidants. These nutrients, alone and in combination, have been heavily researched for disease prevention. With mixed results.

Observational studies tracked the lifestyle habits and health histories of tens of thousands of nurses and doctors. Results showed that those who on their own either consumed more vitamin E because of food choices, or had chosen to take vitamin E dietary supplements, had a one-third lower risk of heart disease. Publicity from this let to roughly 50% of nurses and doctors to use vitamin E as a dietary supplement. Millions of Americans followed the examples of their health care professionals. Sadly, subsequent clinical trials that enrolled people to either vitamin E or a placebo and tracked them for years were not as consistently positive. Collectively, there appears to be a modest reduced risk for heart attack, no benefit for risk of stroke, and no change in all-cause mortality. With hindsight, in the initial research, health professionals who had decided to consume vitamin E supplements may have made other lifestyle decisions that promoted good health. It is an example of correlation not necessarily reflecting causality.

Research for other diseases has also had mixed results. An antioxidant combination appears to slow progression of age-related macular degeneration, but vitamin E alone has not been evaluated. There has not been enough research for any recommendation on effects on dementia, or on Parkinson’s disease. Vitamin E in combination with vitamin C was not seen as beneficial for pregnancy outcomes. Cancer results are mixed depending on type; also some evidence that while low amounts of a supplement are beneficial, higher amounts actually increase risk (a similar cross-over effect seen for higher amounts and cardiovascular disease).

Despite the widespread belief that topical vitamin E can help with burn and wound healing, rigorous clinical trials belie that conclusion. There is no useful evidence supporting the idea that a vitamin E containing shampoo or conditioner improves hair health.

Cumulatively, doubts about efficacy and concerns for subtle negative effects of higher doses led to a massive decline in the percent of people buying vitamin E.  What to do in the face of all this ambiguity? Eat more fruits and vegetables (always an easy recommendation). Most daily multi-vitamin/mineral products will include 100% of the Daily Value for vitamin E, which can be seen as do-no-harm. Beyond that, the merits for a vitamin E as a supplement are suspect, and this is definitely not a more-is-better situation.

The Wikipedia article on Vitamin E has references for most of this content.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Work/Live/Play - Maynard

Struck as I was by the recent find of an aerial photo of the mill from the 1930s with no parking lots, I wondered if Maynard is again becoming a town for people who want to work, live and play in the same place. Of course, the reason back then was the dearth of car ownership. The reason now is the realization that every minute taken by commuting is a minute stolen from quality of life. Realtors tell us location, location, location. And now, websites such as Zillow, Trulia and City-Data help potential buyers parse exactly what location means.

Business in the mill
Work: Without a broad mix of employment opportunities, cities and towns have no reason to continue to exist. This is especially obvious in the decay of one-company towns. Examples can be as small as New England’s once-upon-a-time mill towns, but also as large as what has caused the median house sale price in the city of Detroit to be under $50,000. Old rules dictated that cities developed around seaports and navigable rivers, sites rich in natural resources, or in places where falling water could power mills. In time, infrastructure that contributed to creating or supporting cities grew to include canals, railroads, roads and airports. And as the nature of work became more cerebral, cities with good universities attract companies that required hyper-educated employees. Think Boston or San Francisco.    

Apartment building construction, fall 2014, next to McDonald's
restaurant. A dentists' clinic occupies the first floor.
Live: The options are few: don’t work, live where you work, or live in a “bedroom suburb,” i.e., sleep here, work there.  Critical for rebirth after a company has departed from a one-company town is a mix of old and new housing, owned or rented, at affordable prices, near enough to the new places where people will be working. Right now, Maynard is the low-cost hole in the middle of a high cost donut. It attracts renters and first home buyers. Because the homes are small and on small lots it also attracts empty nest downsizers who do not want to leave the area.

Safety is a critical issue for any “live here?” consideration. Schools matter even if there are no children in the family, as quality of schools helps drive home values. Commuting distances to where the jobs are matter. Having a vibrant arts, music and food culture is icing on the cake. One big advantage for Maynard is walkability. Once downtown, which for many is just a short walk, everything is a short walk. I was recently in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, where the median house price is over one million dollars and nothing was walkable.

John A. Crowe Park. Named after Reverend Crowe, Pastor at 
St. Bridget's Parish from 1894-1905. He was instrumental in 
securing the land for the park,and served as its first superintendent. 
He was present at the dedication of the park in 1915.
Play: From bar crawl to nature walk, communities that offer a variety of recreational options are more attractive than those that do not. A partial list: playgrounds, playing fields, woodland trails, a rail trail (!), theater, music, art, dance, restaurants and bars. There should also be opportunities to gather at public places, where one might run into friends and meet new people: a farmers’ market, concerts in the park… Having a variety of what-to-do options when living in a town that has a retail center are not new to this century. Maynard used to have a bandstand, more than one movie theater, billiard parlors, bowling lanes, a roller skating rink, ice skating on a man-made pond next to Glenwood Cemetery, Vose Pond for swimming…

Maynard is months away from the official opening of the Assabet River Rail Trail (there will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony), which adds a walking and biking (and skateboarding) means of connecting the edges of the town to the center. It is an interesting observation that the Hudson portion of ARRT was completed ten years ago, and coincidently or not, downtown Hudson has had a significant increase in vitality. Looking forward, the same may happen here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Maynard: Founders' Day 2018

The inaugural celebrations marking the founding of Maynard, April 19, 1871, are described in great detail in the 1921 book "A Brief History of Maynard." Drawing on newspaper accounts of the time, the first town meeting, on April 27th, just eight days after the Commonwealth had granted the petition to create the town, met for the purpose of electing key officials, and then ended early, to turn to the celebrations.

The parade included the Eagle Cornet Band, International Order of Good Templars, the Amateur Brass Band, St. Bridget Temperance and Benevolent Society, and town officials. A Revolutionary War cannon was borrowed from Concord. The Treasurer's Report recorded $13.50 spent on gunpowder.   

Aerial view drawing of the center of Maynard, made eight years after the
creation of Maynard as a separate town. Mill complex smaller and pond
larger than present-day. Both parts of the image show the mansions of
Amory Maynard and Lorenzo Maynard on the hill south of the mill.
Prior to the date, Assabet Village, as the hamlet was known, was a fast-growing mill town straddling the Assabet River, which was also the border between Sudbury and Stow. These ‘parent’ towns had been against the idea, as the proposed new town would take roughly 50 percent of their populations. Stow residents circulated three petitions which garnered about 140 signatures. Sudbury held a vote at Town Meeting, 183 against and 88 for. In disregard of this opposition (and perhaps influenced by some undocumented lobbying), the request to form a new town was granted. Some solace was achieved by Maynard making payments to the towns seceded from. 

A note here on the 'founders' of Maynard. Histories of the town list as founder the 71 men who signed a petition dated January 26, 1871. There is more history behind this history. Months earlier there had been a petition with 68 signees to create a town, name not yet selected, to encompass small parts of Acton and Concord in addition to larger portions of Sudbury and Stow. This was never submitted to the state legislature. The second petition gave up annexing the gunpowder mill land from the first two towns.

Subsequent to this official petition there were three additional supporting petitions with 76 more names. All tallied, minus six who signed more than once. the count came to 209 men who favored the creation of a new town. (Women not achieving a right to vote until 1920.)

Maynard Centennial medal shows Amory Maynard. He and
William Knight started the woolen mill in 1846.
Amory Maynard was not among the signees although he was perhaps the largest landowner and also part owner and manager of the woolen mill. His sons Lorenzo and William signed, and Lorenzo became the town's first Treasurer and Tax Collector. An account of the day, in the Hudson newspaper, had this comment on how the town came to be named: "Mr. Maynard is the chief founder of the community now incorporated in his name. He is a taking man withal, and his personal christening of the new town is a popular acknowledgement of his agency in its birth and breeding."

Milestone anniversaries have been celebrated in various ways. The 50th anniversary was a huge event. According to the program, church observances on Sunday, April 17th, school observances on Monday, and on Tuesday morning a 50-gun salute and a parade of an estimated 1,000 people down Main, Nason and Summer Streets. Speeches by Governor Cox and Senator Gibbs followed. Local veterans of the Civil War (!), Spanish-American War and the Great War participated. Afternoon activities included Glee Club and choir singing, a band concert and ball game - Maynard versus Concord - at Crowe Park.

Centennial Time Capsule
Click on photos to enlarge.
Likewise, the 100th anniversary was a huge event. Huge. Celebration was pushed to June (perhaps in hope of better weather). Ten days of celebrations included picnics, concerts and performances, capped by a parade and fireworks on July 4th.  

The 125th anniversary celebration, in 1996, appears to have been a subdued affair. The Maynard Historical Committee published a collection of essays on town history. One puzzle: there are photos of the Olympic Torch being carried through Maynard by a young runner. It turns out that the torch was in Massachusetts on June 15th to be relayed along the entire route of the Boston Marathon, and while in the state, visited many other towns, including Maynard and Stow.

Looking futureward, hold this date, as the Town of Maynard is planning several events to celebrate its sesquicentennial (150th) anniversary celebration. Events will start with the opening of a 1971 Time Capsule (actually, a box) currently on display in Town Hall.