Thursday, July 25, 2013

History Bits and Pieces

Revised 8/1/13 to correct factual errors

Greater Maynard Revisited: The 1871 petition to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to create the town of Maynard outlined proposed borders which would have incorporated more of Stow and Sudbury than the final result. What has recently come to the knowledge of the Maynard Historical Society is an earlier petition that was never submitted. In this petition, thought to be from 1870, the name of the proposed town is left blank. Furthermore, the petition proposes to take land from four towns [Acton, Concord, Sudbury and Stow], not just two, and lists the gun powder mill along with the paper mill and wool mill as part of the proposed town.

One consequence of this discovery is a changed perception of who the town's founders were. The official petition of January 26, 1871 was signed by 71 men. Two supporting petitions dated February 1871 added 63 more names. The newly discovered document has 68 names. There is a bit of overlap with the subsequent petitions, but it adds at least 50 more men supporting the creation of a new town. As just one example, the list includes six with the surname Smith, known to be early settlers and major land owners of the territory in question. Interestingly, Amory Maynard's signature does not appear on any of the petitions.

Date nails 28, 31, 37 and 52 from Maynard railroad track ties
Date Nails: Railroad maintenance in the pre-computer days was not particularly organized. Rather than try to keep records of when railroad ties were replaced, the railroad companies would have the installation crews hammer 'date nails' into the top of each tie.

These nails, about 2.5 inches long, would have a two-digit number on the head, indicating the year. Decades later, when a maintenance crew identified a rotting tie, they could look for nails on adjoining ties to see how long a stretch was of the same era and might also need replacement.

A walk on the tracks through the north end of Maynard (north of Concord Street) will reward sharp-eyed strollers with sightings of a few date nails. Most are from the 1930s, with a sprinkling from the early 1950s. Use of the track from Acton to Marlborough had declined by those later years. Passenger service to Maynard ceased in 1958; freight service to Maynard and beyond ended a few years later.

Prices for a pair of date nail cufflinks hover just under $100. Some men buy a pair commemorating their birth year. This presumes first, that they have shirts with French cuffs, second, that they have occasion to wear a dress shirt, and third, they want people to know how old they are. The date nails are not the expensive part; Ebay prices average around one dollar per nail.  

The Masons have left the building: The Charles A. Welch Lodge, A.F. & A.M., has ceased to be housed in Maynard. Welch helped found the lodge in 1872. The lodge moved into the Main Street building in 1888, then known as the Maynard Block, but after the Masonic Corporation bought it in 1922 it became known as the Masonic Building.

The primary reason for selling the building was the high valuation and hence high property taxes placed on the building by the Town of Maynard. The actual sale price was well below the town's assessment. The Lodge has relocated, and will continue to meet as Maynard's Charles A. Welch Lodge, A.F. & A.M. Rumor has it that the new owner of the building intends to initially upgrade the building's 2nd and 3rd floors as office space, with option for subsequent conversion to apartments or condominiums, leaving the commercial businesses on the first floor intact.

By the way, the initials A.F. & A.M. refer to Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. All lodges in Massachusetts are A.F. & A.M., as that was the designation of the initial colonial Grand Lodge, in Boston, in 1733. In some states the term is F. & A.M. (Free and Accepted Masons). The difference is a carry over from a 1700s schism among England's Masons into Ancient and Modern. The separation has long since been resolved. States' Grand Lodges and their member lodges recognize each other's members as true Masons.

The map is an amalgam. The current borders (i.e., 1871) are superimposed over a circa 1850 map of the roads, households and bodies of water. The railroad is shown, but not Main Street or Walnut Street, both of which were built before Maynard became a town in 1871. Sudbury originally extended only as far northwest as the Line of Two Mile Purchase; it was in 1649 that the town was expanded to the Assabet River. There is a theory that when Maynard's borders were proposed in 1871 the southeast line was planned to follow the old Sudbury boundary from 222 years earlier. Regardless, Sudbury opposed giving up so much of its northern land, and Maynard became what it is. There is no known map of what parts of Acton and Concord that the Maynardites-to-be intended to annex.   

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