Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Louis D'Amico Pottery

Pottery by Louis D'Amico. Click on photos to enlarge. 22 gone, 2 to go.










Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Sophia Thoreau

Sophia - born two hundred years ago (June 24, 1819) - was the person most responsible for making Henry David Thoreau posthumously famous. Henry was one of four children born to John and Cynthia (Dunbar) Thoreau, in birth order Helen, John Jr., HDT and Sophia. None of them married. All of them taught at one time in their lives. All died relatively young, even for that era: Helen at age 37, tuberculosis, John Jr. at age 26, tetanus, HDT at age 44. Sophia survived her famous brother by 14 years before dying at age 57, from tuberculosis.    

Daguerreotype of Sophia Thoreau, ~1855 
Sophia was two years younger than Henry David. While Helen was described as the quiet Thoreau, Sophia was known to be talkative and opinionated, with a dramatic wit. Their mother and their aunts were all active abolitionists and members of the Concord Ladies’ Antislavery Society. Sophia and her sister also belonged to the Middlesex County Antislavery Society. At an 1844 convention they signed a petition in favor of dissolving the country rather than being party to a country with states where slave ownership was legal. Prominent abolitionists visiting Concord - Parker Pillsbury, Loring Moody, and John Brown among them - made their way to the Thoreau home. The family provided lodging and aid to fugitive slaves. Henry’s antislavery activism rested on the long-time commitment of the women of his family.

After John Jr. died in 1842 and Helen in 1849, Sophia and Henry grew closer. They were both living in their parents’ house (Henry having done his stint at Walden Pond 1845-47). They would collect plant specimens together, make berry-picking excursions in season, and Sophia would occasionally accompany Henry on boat trips up the Concord, Sudbury and Assabet rivers. Both helped out in the family’s pencil and graphite businesses.

Henry David Thoreau died May 6, 1862, having attained only limited recognition in his own time. It was during Henry’s decline from tuberculosis and after his death that Sophia made the largest contributions to his literary legacy. She served as nurse and companion after an 1860 bout with bronchitis exacerbated his disease. She assisted in writing his letters and preparing his manuscripts for publication. In a lengthy 2016 article by Kathy Fedorko, titled “Henry’s brilliant sister”, a case is made that Sophia alone edited her brother’s essay collections for publication after his death as “Excursions”, “The Maine Woods”, “Cape Cod” and “A Yankee in Canada”. (Previously, more credit had been given to Ralph Waldo Emerson and William Ellery Channing, with little or no acknowledgement of Sophia’s contributions.)

After the death of her mother in 1872, Sophia spent the last three years of her life in Maine, with relatives, during the declining illness that finally took her life in 1876. Before dying she had entrusted her brother’s journals first to Bronson Alcott, who failed to follow her instructions about their care. She consequently deposited them in the Concord Free Public Library in 1874, along with many books and memorabilia that had been Henry’s. Sophia’s will dictated that the journals go to Harrison Gray Otis Blake, who saw to the publication of more content from the journals in the 1880s.

Portion of Thoreau’s poem “Fair Haven”, copied
onto leaves (1868). Click on photos to enlarge. 
Sophia was an artist and musician. Her drawing of the cabin by the pond was chosen by Henry for the cover page of the first edition of “Walden; or, Life in the Woods”. Sophia left behind one odd piece of memorabilia - five shagbark hickory tree leaves on one twig bear sixteen lines of poetry from her famous brother. Created October 13, 1868 (six years after his death). The poem – “Fair Haven” refers to a widening of the Sudbury River, on the border between Concord and Lincoln, and also to the hill on the east side of the river. The last four lines of the poem are “And when I take my last long rest,/And quiet sleep my grave in,/What kindlier covering for my breast,/Than thy warm turf Fair Haven.” The leaves are in the Concord Library archives.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In passing, Thoreau’s given name was David Henry Thoreau, after his recently deceased paternal uncle, David Thoreau. But since everyone always called him Henry, he decided after finishing college that he would prefer to go by Henry David.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Street Lights - Kerosene to LEDs

Starting 1878, the Town of Maynard committed to shining a light (lights, actually) on the nighttime thoroughfares of this new town. Amory Maynard, 74 years old at the time, was on the committee, as were Joel Abbott and John K. Harriman (grocery owner, father to sons who later operated Harriman Bros. New Method Laundry). The result was twenty-five, six-foot tall street lamps installed on downtown streets,

Example of a kerosene street lamp from another town
(internet download). Click on photos to enlarge. 
 Lighting streets expanded over time. The original effort, under management of a superintendent of street lamps, expanded to 36 lamps, to be lit 17 nights a month. By 1891, railing against darkness encompassed 74 lamps, lit 19 nights a month, sunset to midnight. (anyone out past midnight was expected to have their own kerosene lamp). Records show Fred Taylor as the last lamplighter, in 1901, paid 3.5 cents per lamp. The job was not easy. A horse-drawn wagon went from lamp to lamp each evening. From a ladder, wicks were trimmed, glass cleaned of soot, more kerosene added if needed, and lit. After midnight a second visit was required to turn down the wicks, thus extinguishing the lamps. A few businesses, but not the Town, supplemented street lights with their own far more luminous gaslights.

Night lighting via oil or kerosene lamps was not a novel concept. In cities, people out afoot at night could hire lantern-bearers to escort them from place to place. By the mid-1700s Paris had thousands of oil lamps. Kerosene, which burned cleaner than plant or animal (whale) oils, was originally made by heating coal in the absence of oxygen, liberating coal gas, coal tar and crude kerosene – then known as coal oil. Processes extracting and purifying kerosene were perfected and patented in the 1850s. In time, petroleum became the preferred raw material for extracting kerosene, as it is today. Kerosene (also known as paraffin oil) is used in heaters and for cooking in areas of the world without access to natural gas.

Kerosene road torches, also called smudge pots, pre-dated battery-powered 
lights as a means of indicating road construction barriers. The most popular
 model was THE TOLEDO TORCH (Internet download).
People of a certain age may remember driving through construction sites at night, the sides of the road sporting 55-gallon metal barrels as barriers, and instead of battery-powered lights, kerosene-burning road torches, which were black, rounded top, a bit smaller than a bowling ball, open-flame. The effect of this lurid, flickering light was to make one feel one was driving through hell, or if not hell, a road next door to hell.  

September 1, 1902 saw a contact between the Town of Maynard and the American Woolen Company (AWC) to provide power for 92 electric lights. As with back in the kerosene days, the lights were not turned on during nights when moonlight sufficed, and were not lit all night. Over years, the extent of electric lighting expanded both for area and nights’ duration. News items in the September 1920 newspaper noted that a proposal was being considered to expand night lighting hours from eight hours to all night, at an estimated revised operating cost of $22 per light per year. At that time Maynard has approximately 250 street lights.

Circa 1931, the Edison Electric Illuminating Company of Boston began supplying power, there having been contentious debate that the American Woolen Company charged more than market rates for its monopoly on electric power. An engineers’ trivia fact here is that AWC power was 40-cycle alternating current while the U.S. national standard had settled on 60-cycle (many countries use 50-cycle). A lower frequency had the advantage of less power loss during transmission, the downside being a noticeable flicker in incandescent light bulbs and arc-type street lamps that were common back then.

Today, Maynard’s several thousand street lights are all LEDs (light emitting diodes) with the exception of early 20th century style ‘historic’ fixtures in downtown locations. The conversion to LEDs was expensive, but power requirements are lower, and the lights are supposed to last 15-20 years, so maintenance costs are lower. Additional advantages over the replaced yellow-tinted sodium lamps and white-tinted metal halide lamps included reducing glare impact on night vision and less light pollution. One negative is that street-directed LEDs leave sidewalks relatively dark. This can be remedied by adding sidewalk-directed lights. Unknowns include the long-term effects of LED street light wavelengths (less yellow, more blue and green) on plants and nocturnal animals.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

A Dearth of Trees

Maple Street, Maynard, 1910. Second tree on left appears to
be same tree as in photo below. Click on photos to enlarge.
Using Maple Street, Maynard, as a perhaps not entirely typical example, there is strong evidence for attrition of the urban treescape. A postcard in the collection of the Historical Society shows both sides of Maple Street (and the east side of Brooks Street) lined with maple trees; a 1910 photo shows the same trees  on Maple Street, larger, and allows for an estimate of perhaps forty trees at least six inches in diameter. Today, 110 years later, only four survive – one slowly dying. The greenway between the street and sidewalk contains these plus three replacement trees. The business district has suffered a similar loss. Roughly fourty sidewalk squares along Nason, Main and Walnut streets plus grass islands in the municipal parking lots were designed to host trees; many are treeless. Lastly, construction of the Assabet River Rail Trail through the center of town resulted in the loss of more than 600 trees more than four inches in diameter. Replacement plantings were perhaps one-fifth that number, and most of those north of Summer Street.

Maple Street, Maynard, 2019. Sickly tree on left is one of the
originals, most likely planted when houses were built in 1870s.
In addition to deliberate deforestation, our trees are at risk to species-specific diseases, invasive insect species, invasive plant species, uncompensated storm damage and deferred maintenance. Nationwide, chestnut blight took out three billion trees, elm disease another one hundred million. The larvae of Emerald Ash Borer have a fatal impact on ash trees, as does the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid on hemlocks. Oriental bittersweet vines grow into the tops of mature trees, overshadowing the trees’ leaves and breaking branches with weight, until the trees die.

Urban trees have value. A study conducted at Devens, MA, concluded that house prices in tree-rich neighborhoods are higher, energy costs needed to cool houses when trees provide share are lower, and asphalt streets have a longer lifespan before repaving is required due to a dampening of the daily heat/cool cycle. Trees capture rain, reducing the needs to channel and process stormwater runoff. Trees provide shade for outdoor activities, and muffle street noise. Plausible research suggests that patients in hospitals need less of pain relief meds and heal faster if their windows look out over gardens and trees versus a parking lot.

Nason Street, Maynard: stump of
removed urban tree. Eleven replace-
ment trees will be planted soon.
Counter to this, there is persistent lack of funding for urban forestry, consequence of tight budgets and an attitude that trees are “nice to have” but not necessary. Once a town or city has fallen behind maintaining an existing urban canopy, reversing the trend with an accelerated planting program is seen as too expensive. Only when a community recognizes that the commercial and personal health benefits of a trees sustainability program are real and important do annual budgets reflect the need. As of 2019, Nason and Main streets have lost most of their sidewalk trees.  

Norway spruce trees flanking house,
Glendale Street. 
Not only is Maynard suffering from a dearth of trees, it has no examples of remarkable trees. A pair of Norway spruces on Glendale Street approach 100 feet. There are sugar maples and white pines here and there that top 100 feet. Prior to the arrival of European colonists, New England’s white pines could top 160 feet, sugar maples 135 feet, eastern hemlock 130 feet, and tulip poplar trees 120 feet. Groves of 100-foot tall trees with trunks exceeding three feet in diameter were common, likewise trees 300 to 500 years old.    

The dearth of big trees rests on our history. To the colonists of the 1600s, every tree deserved an ax. Wood burning for household heat was so profligate that visitors from England wrote home that people were so extravagant as to having more than one fire burning at the same time! By 1850, more than half of New England was field or pasture, the remaining forests were second or third growth, good for firewood but not lumber. Locally, much of what had grown in abandoned farmland was leveled by the 1938 hurricane. A fair guess is that Maynard is home to no trees more than 200 years old, and that the majority is under 100 years old. What we have are adults with growing ongoing.


European copper beech, Acton Street, Maynard, MA.
Estimated 90' tall and 90' wide. 
EXTRA: there are two European copper beeches that may be the largest-trunked trees in Maynard. One is next to St. Bridget's Church. The other is in a side yard on the west side of Acton Street. The oldest known introduction of copper beeches to the United States dates to around 1830. The church beech may have been planted when the building was completed, in 1884. It has a girth of 14'11' at four feet from the ground, meaning a diameter of roughly 4.75 feet. European beech trees can reach ages of 250 to 300 years and diameters of 10 feet, with a few exceptional trees exceeding 500 years and diameters of 20 feet. Maynard's two stately copper beeches will likely be with us and holding us in awe for decades into the future.

The Town was designated a Tree City USA in 1999 and 2000, and refiled the necessary documentation for re-certification in 2001. Allowed to lapse, but applied and approved in 2016. The DPW Highway Department is responsible for the maintenance of all public shade trees.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Never Eat Lobster Alone

For the English colonists who started arriving on the American coast in large numbers during the 1600s, lobster was what you ate if you could not catch enough fish. In fact, lobster was used as bait for fish. Lobster developed a reputation as hardship food, and food for the poor. All along the coastal communities, it is bandied about that indentured servants were known to complain if they were fed lobster too often. What changed all this – what converted lobster from poor man’s to rich man’s food – was a combination of the canning industry and the restaurant industry.  

Industrial canning and transportation by steamship and railroad developed in the mid-1800s. Inland, where a person would never in their lifetime see a live lobster, canned lobster was a reasonably priced commodity. The Burnham & Morrill Company was one of the early lobster canneries in existence in Maine, now better known for its B&M baked beans. Lobsters were still so plentiful that anything under three pounds was thrown back as not worth the labor needed to remove the meat for canning. Upper-class restaurants in Boston and New York began offering fresh-cooked lobster. The doings of the well-off were grist for gossipy newspapers, then trickled down to the upper middle classes.

Lobsters can exceed 25 pounds and be more than 50 years old.

Thorstein Veblen, a noted economist and sociologist best known for his 1899 book, The Theory of the Leisure Class, popularized the concept of “conspicuous consumption.” The term refers to spending money on luxury goods and services to publicly display economic power. While initially applied to the very wealthy, who might have large properties, yachts, etc., in this country it expanded in time to the fuzzy-edged definition of middle class, where discretionary income (or modest inherited wealth) allowed displays such as trading in for a new car every year or two, vacationing in Europe – and serving lobster (or caviar, or expensive wines) to one’s guests at celebratory events.  

The economists’ term “Veblen goods” applies to types of luxury goods for which purchases increase as prices increase, thus running contrary to the normal laws of supply and demand, which dictate that purchases decrease as prices rise. For luxury goods, higher prices make products desirable as a status symbol. Manufacturers abet this trend by deliberately limiting supply, per prestige clothing, or else the supply may be naturally limited. Oddly, when the price of a luxury item decreases, its prestige may suffer and demand decline.    

Six Maine (Portland-bought) lobsters transported across state lines to
Massachusetts, for a celebratory group dinner.
The current world market situation for live lobster is interesting. Last year, the abrupt imposition of a Chinese 25% tariff on lobster imports from the U.S., in response to the trade war started by the U.S. government, the market for shipping live lobsters to China, which was approaching $100 million per year, crashed to near zero (Canadian lobster filled the gap). The sudden surplus depressed market prices. A year later, the tariff is still in place, but the industry adapted. “Boat price” increased from $3.92 per pound in 2017 to $4.05 in 2019 despite a larger harvest, and more to the point, growth for demand for frozen lobster tails and trendy restaurant offerings such as lobster tacos absorbed the surplus. As of June 2019, local supermarket prices for live lobster are $10-12 per pound. Going forward, a new problem affecting lobster harvesting is a shortage of bait for the traps. Quotas are being set for herring catch, which will translate to higher lobster prices as substitute bait is purchased.

Returning to the premise of the column title, “Never Eat Lobster Alone,” as noted, today, lobster is strongly identified as a prestige food and a celebratory food, meant to be eaten in public restaurants, where people can be seen by the less fortunate. Even when purchased for consumption at home, the prevailing practice is for a couple (or family) to eat lobster together on special occasions. This shared consumption is a self-confirmation of worthiness and good fortune. For all these reasons, eating a lobster alone, whether at a restaurant or at home, is counter-productive to the very idea. The mouth may say “Yes,” but the brain will say “Sad.”  

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Brown-tail Moths (History, Science, and a Poem)

Brown-tail moth caterpillar winter communal nests, made from oak tree
branch-tip leaves. In the spring, the caterpillars emerge, about 1/2 inch long,
eating everything as they descend. On breezy days they will let go, to drift
away on the wind, hoping to land on another tree. In effect, in late May
it will be raining poisonous caterpillars. This is annoying.
HISTORY: A bit more than one hundred years ago Maynard and Stow, in eastern Massachusetts, had a moth problem. Two moth problems, actually. Gypsy moths had been deliberately brought to Medford, MA in 1869 in an attempt to create a hybrid with silkworm moths that would be the basis of a winter-hardy silkworm industry. This failed. Accidental releases created a wild population that rapidly spread across New England, and continues to expand south and west. Less well known now was the Brown-tail moth. This species was accidentally introduced from Europe to Somerville, MA in 1897 and rapidly expanded its territory south to Long Island and north into Canada. (WHAT IS IT WITH MASSACHUSETTS AND INVASIVE SPECIES?!! Water caltrop (an aquatic plant) was brought from China to Cambridge in 1874, deliberately spread, and now plagues our local rivers and ponds. Winter moths were Canada first, but ground zero for the U.S. infestation was in or near Boston, expanding slowly west.)

Early spring Brown-tail moth
caterpillar, 3/4 inches long.
Gypsy moths caused the most severe foliage damage, but Brown-tail moths were the most dangerous to people. The problem was that barbed hairs (bristles, actually), of the caterpillars contain and deliver chemical compounds with hydrolase, esterase and hemolytic activity, the net result being a poison ivy like rash when in contact with skin, and respiratory problems if inhaled, especially for people with asthma. The hairs are shed, and remain toxic for years, so activities as simple as lying on the grass, mowing the lawn, sweeping a deck or raking leaves caused exposure. Rashes can be present from just hours, to weeks. There are no antidotes for the toxins, so symptoms are treated with anti-itch products. In severe cases, oral corticosteroids (inflammation response suppressors) can be prescribed.

Brown-tail moth caterpillar. Two red spots on back, near tail,
differentiate if from other hairy caterpillars (Internet download)
The Brown-tail moth life cycle is hatch in August, grow during summer and fall, over-winter as caterpillars in communal webs created at branch tips, resume feeding in April or May, pupate in July, emerge as winged adults in August, then quickly mate, lay eggs and die. In addition to toxic bristles on the caterpillars, the adult female sheds brown bristles from her tail (hence name) to protect the egg cases, and the molt prior to pupating protects the pupae. The caterpillars can be identified by presence of two red spots on the back, toward the tail end. This differentiates from other fuzzy caterpillars such as Eastern tent and Gypsy moth caterpillars.

Brown-tail larvae have been reported as feeding on more than a score of tree and shrub species. This generalist behavior is considered unusual. Combined with its tendency to reach extreme outbreak densities, this species is a major pest of fruit orchards, ornamental trees and hardwood forests. Partial list of plant species: apple, cherry, beech, elm, grape, hops, oak, pear, raspberry, rose and willow. In a mixed maple/oak forest, there is a strong preference for oak. An early description of the introduction to the United States in the 1890s identified pear and apple trees as most greatly afflicted, but mentioned that once trees were entirely bare of leaves, the larvae would descend to the ground in great numbers and move toward any leafy plant, including garden vegetables.

Maynard's Moth Department crew and wagon, circa 1910. Ladders were used
to get to higher parts of trees. Toxic chemicals were sprayed from the end of a
long pipe. Click on photos to enlarge (Maynard Historical Society).
In Maynard, the moth plague was so severe that the town had a Moth Department, with staff and equipment, to spray trees, remove Gypsy moth egg cases and in winter, clip branches that had Brown-tail moth communal nests. The annual budget was less than that for roads & sidewalks or the fire department, but larger than the police department allotment.

Circa 1906 there was an attempt at biological control of Gypsy moths by the introduction of Compsilura concinnata, a parasitic fly. The parasite was not species-specific, so it impacted many native moth and butterfly species, and while it was not particularly effective against Gypsy moths, it was spectacularly effective against Brown-tail moths, the reason being that Brown-tails were one of a very few species that over-wintered as caterpillars, which are what the fly larvae live within. Voila! By the early 1930s the Brown-tail had become extirpated from all of the afflicted territory with the exception of a few islands off the coast of Maine, and the tip of Cape Cod. And so the status remained until around 2000, when Brown-tails reappeared in increasing large numbers in southern coastal Maine, from Portland to Bar Harbor. One possible reason for the resurgence is a parasitism of the C concinnata fly by a species of Trigonalid wasp, a situation referred to as hyperparasitism.

MORE SCIENCE: Brown-tail moths are not unique in evolving poisonous spines. The term is "urticating hairs" which are actually hollow bristles or spines that contain toxins. For certain species of caterpillars, human reactions range from mild stinging and itching to intense pain, allergic reactions, kidney failure and death. Tarantula spiders also have detachable hairs which they will scrape off their abdomen into the face of an attacking predator.

Head to tail about one inch.
Female abdomen end is
covered in brown bristles,
hence the name. Bristles are
shed to cover egg clusters.
Brown-tail moth caterpillars, like other caterpillars, will shed their skins (molt) six to eight times between hatching and reaching full size. Immediately post-molt the caterpillar has few bristles, but quickly grows more. Each molt, bristles are shed as part of the discarded skin. These break off and are distributed by wind and any actions that disturb ground surface, such as mowing lawns and raking leaves. Touching surfaces with hands and then touching skin elsewhere can transfer loose bristles. The toxins remain potent for up to three years.

As of 2019, along the coast of southern Maine - north of Portland, south of Bar Harbor, but spreading in all directions - experiments in prevention are being funded by the state of Maine and local communities. Some of the pesticides are banned because run-off into the ocean affects marine life, specifically, lobsters. Small trees, such as apples and other fruit orchard trees, can be managed by cutting the branch tips that have the winter nests. This is not feasible, however, for mature oak trees, which are the preferred sites for females to lay eggs. Instead, testing being done with injecting pesticides into the tree trunk, with the idea that in theory this will be transported upward into newly forming leaves. Multiple injections per tree are needed (every 4-6 inches of circumference), and there is harm being done to the tree. This can cost hundreds of dollars per tree. Organically certified biorational controls are being researched, as are searches in the original habitat (Europe, western Asia, northern Africa) for species-specific parasites. Spraying the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is partially effective.

After vacationing in an afflicted area all clothing should be washed in warm to hot water. Tops and bottoms of shoes should be wiped with damp paper towels. Same to inside of suitcases. Even where native, there are historical reports dating back to the 1500s of severe outbreaks in cities, with trees of all types eaten bare of leaves. Southern parts of England are reporting 2019 as a very bad year. 

And a poem:
                                    IT'S RAINING CATERPILLARS
In fall, 
we hatchlings
climb upward, 
eating as we go.

At branch tips, 
we gather, 
bind leaves about us, 
and freeze.

All winter, 
we dream not.
Night, ice and snow
are our blanket.

Come spring,
we awaken,
climb downward, 
eating as we go.

There are caterpillars,
green inchworms,
which lower themselves 
to the ground on silken threads.
Cowards.

To travel, 
we let go,
cradled by the wind, 
falling toward
an uncertain future.  

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

This Old House (in Maynard, MA)

Winter view, 10 Maple Street, Maynard, MA
Maynard, Brooks, Greer, Hanna, Partridge, Barlow, Marsden, Jones and D’Amico/Mark. Those are the families who owned the property at 10 Maple Street from 1870 through the present. A reproduction of an 1875 street map at the Maynard Historical Society shows a house belonging to Charles Brooks, so the house itself is at least 145 years old. As built, the house likely did not have indoor plumbing, as the town did not have a water system until the late 1880s. The closest public well was at the corner of Concord and Brooks Streets. The house may have had piped gas for gaslight fixtures. Electric lights did not begin to reach Maynard until 1902, when the Mill contracted to provide power for street lights.

Learning the names of the litany of owners (and the price at each sale) required going to Middlesex County Courthouse, Cambridge, to leaf through records of property sales. The oldest showed A&L Maynard Company selling the property to Charles Brooks in 1870 for $2,430. Mr. Brooks was 56 years old at the time of purchase. The 1870 U.S. Census described him as a widower working at a saw mill, with four teenage daughters. The saw mill was most likely the one owned by the woolen mill, near the Walnut Street bridge.

The deed does not specify whether there was a house on the property at the time of the sale to Brooks, but Amory Maynard and his son Lorenzo owned other lots on Maple Street at the time. It is possible they were building and selling houses in addition to owning and operating the mills. In support of this theory, most of the houses on Maple Street and Maple Court have a similar architecture, indicating they were all built at the same time.

The Owners:
   Before 1870          A&L Maynard Co.
   1870-1879             Charles G. Brooks
   1879-1896             Alexander & Elizabeth Greer
   1896-1924             Mary Hanna
   1924-1926             Charles T. Partridge
   1926-1953             William and Carrie Barlow
   1953-1987             Thomas and Blanche Marsden
   1988-2000             Craig & Tresa Jones
   2000-Present         David Mark and Jean D’Amico

At first glance that’s nine unrelated owners over 150 years, but a bicycle trip through Glendale Cemetery complemented what was learned from the deeds. Alexander and Elizabeth Greer bought the house from Brooks in 1879. The 1880 U.S. Census listed Alexander as a watchman at the woolen mill. Alexander and Elizabeth were both born in Scotland in 1827.

Summer view, 10 Maple Street, Maynard, MA
The Greers had three children: Mary, Walter and James. Walter died in 1885, aged 24 years. James died in 1879, aged 16 years. Mary married John Hanna in 1880. She took over ownership of the house. Thus, two generations of Greer/Hanna owned the house for 45 years. John was a carpenter at the woolen mill. Mary lived to 91, and in doing so, survived her parents, brothers, husband and children.  

Before she died, Mary Hanna sold the house to Charles and Esther Partridge. Upon Charles’ death it went to their daughter Carrie Barlow, and in turn to her daughter, Blanche Marsden, who had no children. This time, three generations of the family owned the house for 63 years. The Partridge/Barlow/Marsden plot is also in the Glendale Cemetery. The Marsden inheritors sold it to Craig and Tresa Jones in 1988. Jean D’Amico and David Mark bought the house from the Jones in 2000.

The house is white, with black shutters. The foundation is field stone cemented in place, topped with a few feet of brick. The scarcity of stone walls in Maynard suggests that most of the farm walls were recycled into foundations and chimneys. While the stone is likely local, it is very possible that the wood for the wide plank pine floors, framing and walls was brought in by railroad, as almost all of eastern Massachusetts was denuded of trees by the early 1800s.

Painted loon (over front door) came with house in 2000.
Houses change. The Greers were there for hook-up to town water. The Marsdens were most likely responsible for converting a front porch to a room on a concrete slab, for extending the kitchen, adding a downstairs bathroom, and for adding the current back porch with its wooden slat awnings. D’Amico/Mark removed the cramped second floor bathroom and attic space over the kitchen, and converted that into a full-size bathroom plus a laundry room and walk-in closet.

The property also includes a 25x40 foot, two-story barn, with what was a stall for one horse. Construction date unknown. A good guess would be that Brooks, Greer and/or Hanna kept a horse and wagon to haul freight to and from the railroad. As late as 1920 there were still more than 100 horses residing in Maynard.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Maynard's Native Americans

Post-apocalypse movies are a popular genre – what will people do after civilization breaks? Whatever the catalyst – atomic war, zombie viruses, aliens, the Rapture… the movies imagine what humans will do after the big, transformative event. Typically, there is starvation and death (a lot of death!), a breakdown of legalities, loss of culture from a failure to educate the next generation, a few who fight back… Now, think about how this is exactly what happened when Europeans, with European diseases, European concepts of land ownership and European weapons, arrived in the Americas.

Wherever Europeans arrived, within a generation entire cultures and populations were wiped out. The initial causes were smallpox and other diseases (plague, measles, influenza, scarlet fever, leptospirosis…) – with epidemics in 1616-19, 1631-33, 1645, 1650-52 and 1670 – capped by exclusion from traditional lands and outright war. The first spate of diseases was the worst, and was thought of by the English as divine intervention. King James I is quoted as saying “There hath, by God’s visitation, reigned a wonderful plague, the utter destruction, devastation, and depopulation of that whole territory…” Pre-contact with Europeans, the Algonquin region that extended from Long Island to Maine numbered 100,000 to 150,000 people. One hundred years later it was one-tenth that.

As a result, the Puritans who made up the “Great Migration” from England, 1620-1640, found this to be ‘empty’ land that had until recent years been cleared and farmed by the native populations. This was easily returned to productive farmland – a process of combining the native crops of corn, beans and squash, with European wheat and an assortment of edible animals (cattle, hogs, sheep, goats and chickens). With crops suitable for winter storage plus domesticated animals to eat, the colonists did not have to rely so heavily on hunting, nor move to the seashore for the summer months. Instead, they owned and farmed and prayed in place.

The native populations that had lived in our area were referred to as ‘Nipmuc’ and may have numbered as many as 10,000. Nipmuc has many alternative spellings, such as Nipmug, Neetmock and Nipnet, all generally accepted as translating to “fresh water people.” The Nipmuc were not so much a tribe as a geographical area of peoples speaking an Algonquin dialect, previously either subject to or allied with strong neighboring tribes, such as the Pequot to the south, Masachuset to the east, Wampanoag to the southeast and Pocumtuc to the west. They grew corn and other crops, hunted deer and moose, and in the spring enjoyed the bounty of herring, alewives and shad swimming upriver to spawn.  

The Puritans were firm believers in Christianity and farming. In that order. Some of the native peoples who had survived the diseases converted and gathered into what were referred to as the Praying Indian Villages. One of these was Nashobah, now Littleton. What is now Maynard and part of Stow went by the name Pompositticut, said to mean “land of many hills.” There are no artifacts or known history to suggest this was a densely settled place. In contrast, Concord was originally referred to as Musketaquid for “grassy plain.” Stow, as created in 1683 had attached to it a narrow strip of land extending west beyond the Nashua River. This came about when Lancaster and Groton were created in the 1650s. A corridor of land had been left between the two for the Native Americans of Nashobah to travel west to winter hunting regions

All this accommodation crashed to an end with King Philip’s War of 1675-76. Metacom, also known as Metacomet and by the English name Philip, was a Wampanoag chief. Attempts to maintain a truce between the Wampanoag and the English colonists were frayed by colonial expansion and scattered acts of violence on both sides. In the summer of 1675, the actions of the native Americans coalesced into concerted attacks on towns across the Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island, New Haven and Connecticut colonies. Locally, history has it that natives met atop Pompositticut Hill to decide whether to attack Concord or Sudbury (the answer: Sudbury).    

Although the colonial militias were supplemented by volunteers from the Praying Villages, there was suspicion that Nipmuc were also collaborating with King Philip. To remove this perceived threat, many were relocated to Deer Island, in Boston Harbor, an early example of a concentration camp. Winter weather combined with inadequate housing and food led to more than half dying there. In 1676 King Philip was shot, his body drawn and quartered, his head on display in Plymouth for many years. Male prisoners of war were transported to Caribbean islands and sold as slaves. (Returning ships sometimes brought Negros from the islands to sell as slaves in New England.) Many of the native Americans who survived this catastrophe moved north or west and assimilated into other tribes.  

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Maynard Rocks

Maynard Rocks started as a pebble that turned into an avalanche. Peter Morgan, resident of Maynard and parent of two school-age daughters, had traveled to Tacoma, Washington, in 2017 on a business trip. There, out for a walk, he spied several, small painted rocks lodged in the gaps of a stone wall. He brought one home. April 2017, he and his wife Andrea Blondin Morgan, and their daughters, started Maynard Rocks, mirroring it after Tacoma Rocks. The genesis of all the “____ Rocks’ programs trace a history back to The Kindness Rocks Project, started in early 2015 by Megan Murphy on Cape Cod: “…created to spread inspiration and a moment of kindness for unsuspecting recipients through random inspirational rocks dropped along the way.”

A collection of Maynard Rocks at the Morgan house.
The Maynard Rocks concept is more image-driven than word driven, but can be either, or both. Participants are encouraged to place rocks in public places where they will be seen by vigilant passers-by. People are advised at Maynard Rocks Facebook to either leave found stones in place, move those to a new spot, or replace with one of their own, keeping the found one instead. Photos of finds can be added to the Facebook page. Contributors have ranged from young children taking a paint brush in hand for the first time, to experienced artists, to participants from Maynard’s Council on Aging. The Morgans host rock painting events, and some of Maynard’s businesses have held Maynard Rocks parties.

It's not complicated. The Morgans recommend either glacially- or ocean-rounded rocks smaller than fist-sized. Some people prefer flat rocks, or unusual shapes that can be incorporated into the painting. All rocks should be washed in soapy water, thoroughly rinsed, then dried. The paints of choice are acrylic. Quill and Press, on Route 27, Acton, has a vast supply of paints, also glue-on googly eyes and glitter. After painting, rocks are sealed with either matte- or glossy-finish clear acrylic sealer, available as a spray. Krylon and Mod Podge are two brands. Alternatively, spray-paint rocks one color, use oil-based paint pens (Artistro, Sharpie, Posca) to write words, then seal with clear acrylic spray. This works better for Kindness Rocks style, which is word-based rather than pictures.  

The Morgans recommend that the back side of rocks be lettered with “Maynard Rocks,” and perhaps the Facebook symbol – a lower-case letter “f” in white against a blue background. This promotes posting photos of found rocks at the Maynard Rocks Facebook site, and perhaps induces people to relocate their findings rather than becoming rock hoarders. There has been a sprinkling of photos that indicates rocks that traveled outside Maynard. Perhaps future photos will show handheld rocks with the Statute of Liberty or the Eiffel Tower in the background. The Assabet River Rail Trail has become a favorite rock placing and finding site, as it gets lots of traffic by people of all ages. Oft times, parents and grandparents are out with young children.

The Morgans continue to support the project by conducting rock-painting workshops, and by painting and placing hundreds of rocks each year. Recognition of the impact the Morgans and Maynard Rocks have had on making Maynard interesting was recognized by Maynard’s Cultural Council at the 2018 grant awards ceremony. And then, the effort was so much seen as part of Maynard’s creative fabric that for the 2019 event, the second annual “Maynard Rocks” award was given to Denise and John Fitzsimmons family for the way that their fifteen years of open-door, ‘spaghetti night’ dinners have introduced old-timers and Maynard newbies to each other, in the process providing a place to discuss how to make Maynard better. Additionally, in 2019, a sampling of rocks was on display as part of the annual “Only From Maynard” art show at ArtSpace. Because Maynard Rocks.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Trail Of Flowers Event, May 4, 2019

Flower at peak bloom, May 4, 2019. Click on photos to enlarge.
A flower-viewing trail walk took place on May 4. It started at 10 AM, on the Assabet River Rail Trail behind Maynard's CVS pharmacy, then proceeded one mile north, passing flower beds along the way, to end at the Marble Farm historic site, where ~1,000 daffodils were planted. Light refreshments were provided. There were about a dozen walkers.

BACKGROUND: The concept of making Maynard more interesting by converting the 2018-completed Assabet River Rail Trail section in Maynard and Acton into a "trail of flowers" was the brain-child of David Mark, Maynard resident since 2000, long-time volunteer on ARRT projects prior to the actual construction, and author of the column Life Outdoors in the Beacon-Villager. the weekly newspaper for Maynard and Stow. The kernel of the concept was the idea that every fall, volunteers would plant flowering bulbs (daffodils, tulips...) along Maynard's section of the trail, followed by a flower-viewing trail walk in the spring. Repeat. 
David Mark, wearing daffodil headgear, standing next to
daffodil sculpture. Where from? The national flower of  Wales
is the daffodil, traditionally worn on St. David's Day. Fans of
the Welsh rugby team wear these hats when cheering on their
team. The ONLY IN MAYNARD sweatshirt is from ~2005,
now a collector's item. David made the sculpture. 


FALL 2018: Donations from the Assabet River Rail Trail organization and Maynard Community Gardeners made possible the purchase of 2,000 daffodil bulbs from K. van Bourgondien. The order was for a mix of early- mid- and late-blooming varieties so as to prolong the blooming period in the spring. Email blasts solicited potential volunteers. On October 20, 2018, sixteen volunteers showed up at the Marble Farm historic site to put in a damp Saturday morning digging out an area about seventy feet long, four feet wide, six inches deep, bordering the stone wall at the back of the level area that faces the Rail Trail. Into this were placed roughly 900 bulbs. Over the following two weeks, other volunteers planted the remaining 1100 bulbs: more at the Marble Farm site, 250 parallel to the trail near the Cumberland Farms gas station, 250 at the intersection of Summer, Maple and Brook streets, and hundreds elsewhere adjacent to the Rail Trail.

SPRING 2019: First daffodil bloom was April 2, 2019. Over weeks, green sprouting leaves broke the soil's surface in ever-enlarging numbers, followed by flower buds and yellow flowers. A four-foot wide sign was painted to identify the connection to trailofflowers.com. It was installed at the Marble Farm historic site on April 13, 2019. By the end of April the earliest flowers were beginning to fade while the laggards were still emerging. Peak impact spanned April 28 through May 11.   

TRAIL OF FLOWERS: Surprisingly, the website trailofflowers.com was available (as was trailofflowers.org). Both were registered through GoDaddy. The .com website stays current with project activities whereas .org is being held in reserve in case this project ever becomes an official not-for-profit organization. The short-term goal is to add more bulbs, flowering annuals and flowering perennials to the borders of the Assabet River Rail Trail in Maynard, with Acton, Hudson and Marlborough to follow. Coordination may be possible through each town's garden clubs. Donations will be solicited from local businesses with a natural tie-in to flowers, gardening and landscaping. Additionally, people who have property abutting the trail will be asked to add flowering plantings to the bordering parts of their property.
Steps to cellar of Marble Farm
historic site, built circa 1705.

MARBLE FARM: A plaque erected adjacent to the Rail Trail explains the nature of this historic site of one of earlier homesteads settled in what would become Maynard. Historic maps show the property as the Marble, Whitney or Parmenter homestead, but the true history was the farm staying owned by one family for 220 years. The name changes reflect Sarah Marble marrying Daniel Whitney and their daughter Mary marrying Joel Parmenter. Through the years the farm was part of three different towns. Joseph Marble and his family moved from Andover, MA to 140 acres of what was then part of Sudbury in 1704. His son and neighbors petitioned to become part of Stow in 1730. Then in 1871, with the creation of Maynard, this property became the northern border of the new town. The two family, Georgian colonial style house in the photo burned to its foundation in 1924. What you see is the 28' x 32' foundation, with stone steps to the basement and the crumbled bases of two chimneys. 

Artemas Whitney (1815-1907), seen in the second photograph, was the sixth generation to live in the house. His parents were Daniel Whitney and Sarah Marble Whitney. With him are his daughter, Lucy Jane Whitney Case, his grandson Ralph Case, and his great-grandson Frank Case. The Case family owned W.B. Case & Sons, a large clothing and dry goods store on Nason Street. Artemas was in charge of construction of the Ben Smith Dam and the canal that conveyed water to the mill pond. He was one of the signers of the 1871 petition to create the Town of Maynard. Prior to that, all land north of the Assabet River was part of Stow, and south of the river part of Sudbury. The fast-growing community, centered around the woolen mill, had been known as Assabet Village. It is likely that Artemas constructed the stone walls at this site. 

Maynard walkers posing with the daffodil sculpture.
MAY 4, 2019: The day started with steady rain early in the morning, tapering off to showers that ended around 9 a.m. The temperature was in the low 50's. Turnout was smaller than expected, probably because of iffy weather. The group walked north on the Assabet River Rail Trail, passing the clusters of daffodils and tulips at the Summer/Maple/Brooks streets intersection and by Cumberland Farms gas station. At the Marble Farm site, people posed for a photo with the daffodil sculpture that had been created for the planting event the previous fall. Everyone snacked, and had coffee or apple cider. The sculpture was left on site, to be dismantled May 11th. The Trail OF Flowers sign will be removed at the same time.

FUTURE: Tentatively, there will be summer plantings of annuals and perennials at the Marble Farm site and elsewhere. followed by another bulb planting weekend in October. Currently, the intent is to add plantings in Acton and central- and south-side of Maynard.  





Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Flower-viewing Trail Walk

First daffodils, blooming, week of April 7-13, 2019. 
Several efforts about town can be cataloged under “making Maynard interesting.” These include free band concerts in Memorial Park, “Maynard as a Canvas,” which brought us the murals on the Murphy-Synder building, two years of Maynard Rocks, and more recently, “Trail of Flowers,” started by yours truly.

Last fall, generous donations from Maynard Community Gardeners and the Assabet River Rail Trail organization made possible the purchase of 2,000 daffodil bulbs. Volunteers helped plant those in various locations. First flowers began appearing the week of April 7, with expectations that a peak will be achieved late April into mid-May. (A mix of early-mid-and late-blooming was chosen to prolong the flowering period.)   

A flower-viewing walk is planned for May 4 (rain date May 5). The event will start at 10 AM on the trail behind the CVS parking lot, to go north one mile to the Marble Farm historic site, where the largest number of daffodils were planted. Light refreshments will be provided. Given young children are expected to participate, please no dogs and no bicycles.

More in bloom, April 20, 2019
Daffodils were chosen because deer eat tulips, because daffodils have a good chance of naturalizing, meaning continuing to bloom for many years, and also creating multiple bulbs where only one was planted. Tulips, on the other hand tends to disappoint after three years. First year every bulb is synchronized to timing, flower size and height; second year the timing is not as tight; by fourth year some have stopped blooming entirely (instead managing only one large leaf), and the others are a chaotic mess on size and timing. Going forward, this project will still plan for tulips in flower beds closer to the center of town, with the understanding that more frequent maintenance will be necessary. Small bulbs – such as crocuses and snowdrops – will be sprinkled in.

What meaneth “Trail of Flowers”? Naming was borrowed from the Bridge of Flowers. This now-famous tourist attraction is a 400-foot long footbridge spanning the Deerfield River, between the towns of Shelburne and Buckland. Once a trolley bridge, its use for transportation ended in 1927. A few years later, the Shelburne Woman’s Club sponsored a proposal to cover the bridge with topsoil and plant flowers. Ever since, the bridge has been a free display of flowering annuals and perennials, open April through October. The Bridge has its own webpage, Facebook, non-profit status, donation program and cadre of volunteers. Worth a visit if ever out in northwestern Massachusetts.

Sign at Marble Farm historic site (across from Christmas
Motors) for trailofflowers.com
The impetus for Trail of Flowers was the realization that now that the north end of the Assabet River Rail Trail is completed, there is not much scenery to see, especially traversing Maynard. From north to south, the Maynard section starts across Route 27 from Christmas Motors, then wends southward between backyards to Summer Street. En route, it passes the Marble Farm historic site, and Cumberland Farms gas station. Beyond Summer Street: parking lot, bridge over Assabet River, parking lot, Main Street, High Street, and then a tree-bordered stretch to the Stow border.

When this project was first proposed to the Town of Maynard, there were three questions: Will this cost the town anything? Will maintenance by the town be needed? Will this interfere with the town’s intent to periodically mow grass and weeds immediately adjacent to the rail trail? With the answer being “No, No and No,” the Town replied “This is a great idea!”

Going forward, plans are for a planting of flowering annuals later in May, plus suggestions made to homeowners with yards abutting the rail trail that they consider planting annuals, perennials and flowering scrubs and trees next to the trail. In the fall, another round of bulb planting, perhaps extending into Acton. And so on, and so on.

More about the Assabet River Rail Trail can be found at a Wikipedia article and at the organization’s website: www.arrtinc.org. Current status is 3.4 miles paved in Acton and Maynard, 5.6 miles paged in Hudson and Marlborough. The gap between can be negotiation trough Stwo on a combination of dirt road and public roads. More on Trail of Flowers at www.trailofflowers.com.  

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Maynard's By-Laws: 1872

Maynard, MA By-Laws, 1872
Not quite a year shy from the creation of the Town of Maynard, the residents adopted the first set of By-Laws on March 11, 1872, approved by state of Massachusetts on March 20, 1849. By way of comparison, current-day by-laws for Maynard is 95 pages. An original of the By-Laws is in the collection of the Maynard Historical Society. ARTICLE II is a more entertaining read than ARTICLE I. A transcript, in its entirety:   

ARTICLE I: TOWN MEETINGS AND TOWN AFFAIRS

Section 1. Town -Meetings shall be notified by posting attested copies of the warrant, calling the same, in the Post Office and five other public places in the town, seven days, at least, before the day appointed for said meeting; and if any emergency arises rendering it necessary in the opinion of the Selectmen to call a meeting upon shorter notice, such meeting may be notified by posting attested copies of the warrant in ten additional places in the town, three days, at least, before the day appointed for said meeting.
Section 2. The annual town meeting shall be held on the second Monday of March in each year, and a town meeting may be help on the first Monday in April for the purpose of completing any unfinished business of the annual meeting, and to act upon any new business.
Section 3. The financial year of the town shall begin with the first day of March in each year and end on the last day of the following February.
Section 4. No action shall be had at any town meeting on the report of any Committee previously chosen, unless the same shall be specifically notified in the warrant, calling said meeting.
Section 5. All notes given by the Two shall be signed by the Town Treasurer and countersigned by the Selectmen, or a majority of the Selectmen.
Section 6. It shall be the duty of the Constables of the town to see that the laws of the Commonwealth relating to truancy are enforced.
Section 7. The doings and expenditures of each board of Town Officers shall be reported in detail and printed and distributed each year.

ARTICLE II: STREETS, POLICE, ETC.

Section 1. Coasting [sledding] in any of the public streets is prohibited.
Section 2. Playing ball or throwing stones, or snow-balls, or any other missiles, in any of the public streets, is prohibited.
Section 3. No person shall throw or place the carcass, or any part thereof, of any dead animal into any pond, stream or water within the limits of said town, or leave the same or any part thereof, in any public street, or near any building or public street.
Section 4. No person shall place or cause to be placed any filth or rubbish in any pubic street.
Section 5. Bathing in any public or exposed place is prohibited.
Section 6. All profane, or immoral, or indecent, or gross or insulting language, or conversation in any public place or street, is prohibited.
Section 7. Every violation of the foregoing sections of article second or any part thereof shall be punished by a fine of no less than one dollar nor more than twenty dollars, to be recovered by complaint before any Trial Justice in the County of Middlesex.
Section 8. The foregoing By-Laws shall take effect from and after their passage, and their approval by the Superior Court.

At the annual town Meeting of said Maynard, holden on the 11th day of March in the year 1872, the foregoing By-Laws were adopted. [Approved by the Superior Court March 20, 1872.]

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Maynard's Co-operative Associations (part 3)

Kaleva Co-operative Association certificate. Note share
number 508 and dated 1915. (Historic Society collection).
From an earlier column, we learned that the Kaleva Co-operative Association, started 1907, morphed into the United Co-operative Society of Maynard in 1921. It continued to exist to 1973. “Kaleva” refers to an ancient, mythological, Finnish ruler known from a nineteenth century work of epic poetry and story-telling compiled by folklorist researcher Elias Lonnrot. The work, “The Kalevala,” is regarded as the national epic of Finland, instrumental in fostering a sense of Finnish national identity that culminated in the Finnish declaration of independence from Russian rule in 1917. Locally, immigrants had formed the Finnish Workingmen’s Socialist Society in 1903, from whom the 187 founders of the Kaleva co-operative were drawn.

According to a book, “The Finnish Imprint,” a delegation of Finnish immigrants had initially approached the large and prospering Riverside Co-operative Association with the idea of becoming members. Because many of the recent immigrants did not speak English, they asked that the co-operative hire Finnish store clerks. This suggestion was rebuffed, with a reply that if they did not like the service they received, they should start their own store. They did. The business was initially capitalized at $1,600 from sale of 320 shares at $5/share (equivalent to approximately $125 in 2019 dollars). The initial location was a rented storefront at 56 Main Street. By 1912 the co-operative had bought the entire two-story building, soon after added a bakery operation, a dairy with home delivery, and a restaurant on the second floor, serving meals to hundreds of workers living in neighboring boarding houses.

United Co-operative Society of Maynard certificate. Note
share number 11837 and dated 1947. Click to enlarge.
Maynard was not the only home to a Finnish-organized co-operative. Fitchburg has the Into Co-operative and Quincy the Turva Co-operative. In 1919, Maynard and these and others merged to create the United Co-operative Society of New England. This was short-lived due to financial and political disagreements, the end result being that the Maynard group reorganized as the United Co-operative Society of Maynard, and Fitchburg becoming the United Co-operative Society of Fitchburg. The latter was the last of the Finnish co-operative to close its doors, in 1977.     

United’s by-laws had added an eighth principle to the previously describe Rochdale seven – continuous expansion. Over the initial 50 years membership grew from 184 to 2,960 members as coal and firewood (1924), fuel oil (1933) and ice (1934) delivery were added. In addition to the Main Street store, a branch store was opened on the northeast corner of Waltham and Powdermill Roads (1926), superseded by moving the branch store operations to a new building at the northwest corner of the same intersection (1936). This remained active until it was sold to Murphy and Snyder printers in 1957. Next door, now the Seven-Eleven/Dunkin Donuts store, was an automobile gas and service station (1934). A credit union was added in 1948.

United's Main Street store, 1957. Now Look Optical and other businesses.
A report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor at that time stated that the United Co-operative Society of Maynard was one of the ten largest in the country, calculated either by number of members or annual sales, and was also one of the ten oldest. More than half the households in Maynard belonged to United. At its peak, the co-operative had more than 50 full-time employees, with medical benefits and life insurance – unusual for that era.  

United survived the competition from an A&P supermarket operating on Nason Street (in the building now housing The Outdoor Store), but the presence of Victory Supermarket on Powdermill Road, combined with the freedom to food shop elsewhere provided by increased car ownership, put pressure on the co-operative. In June 1973 that was a vote to dissolve. United's By-laws had an interesting clause: On the occasion of dissolution, which required a 3/4 majority of votes at a meeting, the assets would be used to pay the purchase value of the outstanding shares. As a disincentive to taking this action, any surplus would go to the Co-operative League of the United States rather than to members.

In 1981, a natural foods effort named the Carob Tree Co-op was started in Concord by Debra Stark. It later moved to Acton, then Maynard, where it occupied a small store on River Street, then back to Acton. In addition to paid staff, members took turns volunteering at the store. Several ex-members reminisced about being part of Carob Tree, but so far there is no paper trail to document its brief existence, or the date of its demise. Debra Stark went on to start Debra’s Natural Gourmet, in West Concord, in 1989. Perhaps the failure of Carob Tree was a catalyst for her marvelous success.

Assabet Village Co-op Market: "Join Today!" sign
And now, well into the 21st century, there is an effort underway to launch Assabet Village Co-op Market. See assabetvillagecoop.com for details. The beginnings date to February 2012, when a small group of people met to discuss forming a co-op. The cost of membership was set at $200. To date, 1,055 people have joined. The near-term goal is to find and commit to a retail space on the order of 7,500 square feet, with immediately adjacent parking. Once a site is identified there will be fund-raising effort to reach the capitalization goal of about $1.2 million, hopefully achieved via a combination of local and state grants, bank loans, and interesting-paying loans from members. This is expected to take 4-6 months. Once launched, Assabet Village intends to make a point of sourcing food from local farms. And if all goes as planned, Maynard will once again be a co-operative town, 145 years after the start of the first.