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 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 was available (as was 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
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: 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  

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:   


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.


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 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.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Maynard's Dance Ban

A tad over one hundred years ago the weekly local newspaper The Maynard News served the towns of Maynard, Hudson, South Acton, Stow and Concord Junction (West Concord). From the paper on November 14, 1913: “At the Selectmen’s meeting Wednesday evening, it was decided that the objectional dances which have been indulged in in the dance halls in this village must be stopped. All parties holding dances in the future will be notified that these objectionable and so-called animal dances are prohibited and must not be permitted in any dance hall in this municipality. This action is the opening of a vigorous campaign to suppress these objectionable forms of dance and Rev. Walter J. Browne, Father Sheehan, and other clergymen if the town, as well as a large percentage of the men and women are in sympathy with this movement and will sustain the Selectmen in this action for a cleaner and better Maynard.”

Sheet music for The Bunny Hug, circa 1911.
According to Wikipedia, the “Animal Dance” craze was directly related to the popularity of ragtime music, derived from African-American traditions, with a syncopated beat. To name but a few: Turkey Trot (and the more sedate Fox Trot), Chicken Scratch, Bunny Hug, Kangaroo Hop, Texas Tommy and the Grizzly Bear. Scott Joplin’s ragtime scores, especially his Maple Leaf Rag, were the archetype songs for these exuberant partner and solo dances. Silent movies (shown with live music accompaniment) spread the fad dances across the nation.

Maynard was not alone in prohibiting provocative dances. In 1912, New York City placed the Grizzly Bear under a "social ban", along with other "huggly-wiggly dances" like the Turkey Trot and the Boston Dip. Fears that partygoers might do the Bunny Hug or Turkey Trot may have even led to the cancellation of the official inaugural ball of newly elected President Woodrow Wilson in the spring of 1913. Catholic bishops in Nashville and Cincinnati told their flocks that dancers of the Turkey Trot would not be forgiven for their sins. Everywhere, people were ejected from dance halls, even arrested, for performing these lascivious dance moves.

A big problem with acceptance of these dances were that they called for close personal contact, a novelty at the time. There was belief that these were imitative of the lower animals in their sex life, sex desire, sex excitement and sex satisfaction; and these things are in the minds of the dancers who understand the meaning of the animal dances. Or as one critic put it “A wicked and scandalous, infamous and immoral, bawdy and obscene song and dance, or act, corrupting the morals of the public and youth, and too filthy, obscene and immoral to be in decency further described…”  Ragtime gave way to Roaring Twenties jazz and big band swing. People found other things to worry about (Prohibition, the Great Depression, World War II, Rock and Roll).

Footloose, the movie, addressed a ban on dancing of any type. In the rural Baptist town of Elmore City, Oklahoma, dancing has been strictly forbidden since 1898, on moral grounds. In 1980, students from Elmore City High School initiated a proposal to overturn the ban, for a prom. The community's religious leaders have major objections; one Reverend F.R. Johnson, from a church in a neighboring town, was quoted as saying "No good has ever come from a dance…. When boys and girls hold each other, they get sexually aroused. You can believe what you want, but one thing leads to another." At a town meeting to consider the question, a local citizen predicted that after the dance there would be a surge in pregnancies at the school “because when boys and girls breathe in each other’s ears, that’s the next step.” Despite these objections, the students won the case, and the prom took place. The events inspired the 1984 film, starring Kevin Bacon (and a 2011 remake).

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Maynard's Co-operative Associations (part 2)

Riverside Co-operative Association building, southwest corner of Summer
and Nason streets, Maynard, MA. Built 1882. Co-op was bottom floor. The
rest of the building was rented out to organizations and for events. Burned in
1936. Replaced be two-story brick building, long-time Knights of Columbus.
All images courtesy of Maynard Historical Society.
Riverside Co-operative Association was Maynard’s oldest. It was started by English and Scottish immigrants who worked at the woolen mill. Many of them may have been familiar with the co-operative movement in Great Britain, which by the 1870s numbered in the hundreds. Riverside began in 1875 as a chapter in an American movement, the “Order of the Sovereigns of Industry.” This was an urban workers organization modelled on the Grange – a farmers’ organization formally known as the “Order of Patrons of Husbandry.” ‘Sovereigns’ was in effect a buyers’ club with intention to secure high quality goods at lower prices. Locally, this meant buying wholesale in Boston, transported to Maynard by train, delivered in town by wheelbarrow. Nationally, the Sovereigns organization faltered under financial mismanagement, but in 1878 the local chapter reformed itself as the Riverside Co-Operative Association.

Shares were $5 each (equivalent to about $125 in today’s dollars), members limited to 60 shares. The total capital investment was $1,500. Per the by-laws, regardless of how many shares owned, each shareholder had one vote. The operation started in the basement of the Darling Block building (northeast corner of Summer and Nason streets), moved to the Riverside Block (later Gruber Bros Furniture), and then in 1882 built its own building at the southwest corner of Summer and Nason. The building was a four-story wooden edifice, with the store on the first floor, entrance on Nason Street. The other floors were rented out.

Riverside employees in front of store, circa 1920.
Click on photos to enlarge.
By 1909, Riverside had more than 600 members. In addition to quality of goods and competitive prices, members were twice a year paid a cash refund ranging from 2 to 10 percent based on how much shopping they had done and how good a year the co-op was having. Additionally, shares earned five percent interest. Decline started with recession of 1920, compounded by cost of repair after a fire, same year. In 1929 the store business was sold to George Morse (the store manager), while the co-op continued to own the building. A large fire in January 1936 led to dissolution of the Association later that year and sale of the site to Knights of Columbus, which had been a long-time tenant. Proceeds were divided amongst the remaining shareholders.

A document from the United Co-operative Society criticized Riverside as having emphasis on dividends to stockholders, but without an education program for members and their children, lost coherence as a social institution. Contributing factors were that the children of the founders of Riverside were moving up the socio-economic ladder at same time as England and Scotland were less of a source of immigrant labor. A front-page newspaper article from 1913 had noted that prior to 1900 the town was mostly English-speaking, but the expansion of the mill had doubled the town’s population by bringing in large numbers of immigrants from Finland, Poland, Lithuania and Italy.

Sign on building at site of what was
Riverside Co-operative (KOC sold
bldg., currently Celia T's)
The rise and fall of the United Co-operative Society – the largest and longest enduring co-op in Maynard – will be covered in a subsequent article. There were smaller and shorter-lived efforts.  Suomalainen Osuuskauppa, which translates as ‘Finnish Co-operative Store’, started 1899. Capitalized at only $800, it lasted a few years before dissolving and selling its store to a private owner. Maynard had a chapter of the Grange, started 1913, but unlike in rural situations, the Grange never operated a co-operative store. Gutteridge’s 1921 history mentions “Keefe’s Co-operative” without any details. The Historical Society has a share certificate for the Russian Co-operative Association dated 1917, but there is no other evidence in the collection that this effort reached its capitalization goal of $5,000 or became operative.

Map showing First National Co-operative Association at
corner of Main and River Streets (site now Thai Chilli).
The Maynard Co-operative Milk Association was formed in 1914. Three years later it split, with some of the dairy farmers becoming the diary operations of the United Co-operative Society. The other members, who did not want to affiliate with the Socialist/Communist atheist United, formed the First National Association, which existed to 1941. It owned and operated out of a building on the corner of Main and River streets that had been the Somerset Hotel, site now occupied by Thai Chilli. The International Co-operative Association was started in 1911 by immigrants from Poland. It lasted 20 years. It began in a building near the Methodist Church, later moved to space in the Masonic Building. Membership numbered 200 to 400 over the years. First National and International failed in part because of extending credit to members during the Great Depression.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Maynard's Co-operative Associations (part 1)

Share certificate for Kaleva Co-operative Association,
 dated 1915 (Click on photos to enlarge)
Maynard’s various histories name eight co-operative associations or societies; six of these co-existed in 1917. The oldest was Riverside Co-operative Association (1875-1936). The longest duration and largest was United Co-operative Society, initially named Kaleva Co-operative Association (1907-1973). A U.S. Department of Labor report for 1947 mentioned that United was one of the top ten co-ops in the country for oldest, membership and annual sales. More than half the households in Maynard were members. This column is the first of a three-part series on the history of co-operatives in general and specifically in Maynard.  

To get back to the origins of the co-operative concept, in 1844 a group of 28 weavers in Rochdale, England, organized the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers, “…and opened their first store, with a small stock of flour, oatmeal, butter and sugar.” Soon added tea, tobacco and candles. Their guidelines formed the basis for the principles on which co-operatives around the world continue to operate. The Rochdale Pioneers became highly successful, with 1,400 members by 1855 and 5,560 members by 1870, able to shop at many stores.

Share certificate for Russian Co-operative
Association (dated 1917)
There had been earlier attempts to establish co-operatives that were basically buyer’s clubs, which by pooling their purchases were able to buy at wholesale prices and sell to members at below retail prices. The Rochdale Pioneers were one the early co-operative efforts to add profit-sharing to members based on a percentage of the cost of the goods the members purchased, i.e., a patronage dividend. The seven Rochdale Principles:
   Open membership,
   Democratic control,
   Distribution of surplus,
   Limited interest on capital,
   Political and religious neutrality,
   Cash trading, and
   Promotion of education.
Open membership: Although co-operatives often started as groups of workers within one laborer profession (weavers, miners…) or group (Finns, Italians…) membership was not limited. Membership was also voluntary, meaning that members of a union could not be required to also join an affiliated co-operative. Non-members could shop at the stores at the same prices as members, but would not get the additional benefits. United’s start in Maynard was fomented by immigrants from Finland, working in the woolen mill, but non-Finns could join, and by 1947 outnumbered those of Finnish heritage.

Democratic control: All shareholders had one vote regardless of how many shares they owned. Typically, membership shares in the early twentieth century cost $5 (equivalent to $125 now), and members were limited to 20 or 40 shares. Shares could be sold back to the co-operative, but not to other people.

The Maynard Co-operative Milk Association merged into 
Kaleva,which in 1921 became the United Co-operative
Society (from collection of Maynard Historical Society)
Distribution of surplus: At the end of a fiscal year, profits were distributed to members based on the amounts of goods they had purchased during the year. In a pre-computer era, members saved their receipts, then brought all receipts to the co-operative. Staff checked their totals. For Maynard’s Riverside and United, depending on how well the year had gone, members got a cash payment equal to one percent to as high as ten percent of their year’s purchases. If the co-operative had operated at a loss for a year, no refund that year.

Interest on capital: In addition to reimbursements, shareholders got interest on their investment, typically five percent. Share value did not change. When a co-operative voted to dissolve, shareholders expected to get their original investment back.

Neutrality: Co-operatives were supposed to operate neutral to issues of religion, race or politics. The American reality was that co-ops were started by immigrant groups – in Maynard, English, Finnish, Polish, Russian – and often conducted business meetings in their native language.  

Cash only: Many early efforts at establishing co-operatives were under-capitalized, and foundered when members were allowed to purchase goods on credit. Two of Maynard’s co-ops failed in the Great Depression for this reason. Credit unions were separate entities, better capitalized, designed to serve as banks but return profits to members.

Kaleva (founded 1907) became the
United Co-operative Society in 1921
Education: Programs were conducted to educate members and non-members on co-operative principles. Maynard’s United Co-operative Association had adult classes, Young Co-operators’ Club, and Co-operative Day Camp.

United added an eighth principle, which was continuous expansion. Over the initial 50 years membership grew from 184 to 2,960 members as bakery and dairy delivery, coal, firewood and fuel oil, appliances and hardware, and a Gulf automobile gas/service station were added.

United's By-laws had an interesting clause: On the occasion of dissolution of the co-operative, 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. Any surplus would go to the  Co-operative League of the United States rather than to members. 

The International Co-operative Alliance (ICA), founded in 1895, adapted the Rochdale Principles of Consumer Co-operation in 1937, then amended the list in 1966. A major addition was the concept of cooperation among cooperatives but without crossing lines into price-fixing or monopolizing markets. A subsequent revision in 1995 added autonomy from governments and concern for community. The ICA represents millions of co-operatives worldwide, and through that, more than one billion people who are co-operative members. Its purpose, in part, is to work with global and regional governments and organizations to create the legislative environments that allow cooperatives to form and grow.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Short Stories

In Oak Park, Illinois, a car stops at a traffic light, an older and a younger man in the front seats, a young woman in the back. She opens the door, steps out, tosses a keychain into a storm drain and gets back into the car. The light turns green.

Great Blue Heron with catfish
(Click on photos to enlarge)
In Boca Raton, Florida, a Great Blue Heron caught a catfish as large as its head. Standing in the water, it spent minute upon minute upon minute repositioning the fish in its beak, at times shaking the fish, placing the fish on the shore to start over, or dipping it in the water.

A bicyclist is riding the wrong way on a one-way street, next to the line-up of parked cars. A pedestrian steps out…

A bicyclist is riding the wrong way on a one-way street, next to the line-up of parked cars. A car door opens…

A bicyclist is riding the right way (with traffic) on a two-way street, next to the line-up of parked cars. A door opens…

Griffith Park, entirely within the City of Los Angeles, has signs at every entrance warning visitors that the Park contains rattlesnakes. One LA newbie exclaimed “Why did they put rattlesnakes in the Park!?” The answer was that the snakes were there long before it was designated a park. Snakes can strike to a distance of 1/3 to 1/2 body length. More to the point, snake strikes occur in one-twentieth to one-tenth of a second, whereas human reaction time is about one-fifth of a second. Snake beats human every time.

In addition to rattlesnakes (and coyotes), Griffith Park is home to one male mountain lion known as “P22.” The lion has a GPS tracking collar, so park staff know its location at all times. This did not prevent P-22 from entering the Griffith Park Zoo in March 2016, scaling a fence, then killing and carrying off a koala. P22 has TWO Facebook accounts.

The Assabet River rises after every rainstorm, after every snow-melting day. During winter weeks the water level can slowly drop while the air temperature is below freezing. Along the branches of trees that have fallen into the river, icicles form. Rather than tapering to a sharp point, the bottoms are blunt-ended, terminating just about the water’s surface. In sunlight, a long row of these, each several inches long, look like the pendant glass of a chandelier, shimmering white.

Great Blue Heron preparing
to swallow fish
The same river, summer, observed from a bridge: there are fish down there, swimming just fast enough to counter the flow of the sluggish low-water river. The fish are doubly camouflaged. From above, the dark upper surface blends into the dark tones of the river bottom. From below, silvery scales blend into the brightly refractive surface of the water above. One way to spot fish is to look for shadows on the bottom, then find the fish above.

Get in the habit of throwing food scraps out the back door and there will be visitors. Footprints from cats, skunks, raccoons and opossums can be differentiated in a night’s dusting of snow. The morning after tossing out some lamb shanks a murder of crows was working over the remains, scattering when a pair of ravens dropped in.  

Great Blue Heron
swallowing fish
One sunny late August day, gusting cold front blowing in, water temperature in the 70s but air temperature in the low 60s – the result for one small-boat sailor tacking into the wind was gradually progressive hypothermia. Each splash of water felt warm on a cotton T-shirt. Between splashes, evaporative cooling chilled. Physical clumsiness set in, and a touch of mental fog. A gust tipped the boat over. Swimming to the overturned hull, flipping the boat back upright and climbing in was more wearying than it should have been. Same the second time. The sailor turned toward home, miles away.       

Roadside, rural Pennsylvania: A fawn was thrashing about in the ditch next to the road, unable to stand, legs broken from being hit by a car, but otherwise apparently not seriously hurt. A doe stood in the wooded edge of the road. Cars drove by, occupants observing or oblivious. A bicyclist rode by. Stopped. Laid down the bike. Picked up a rock. Walked back…

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Birds of a Feather...

Some birds flock. Some birds don’t. Several hummingbirds may appear at a feeder, but they are definitely not a flock. Robins flock in winter, but in breeding season form territorial pairs. Ditto swans. Starlings, however, are rarely seen singly, and the same applies to flamingos. Other species gather in large groups to roost at night (crows) or only when migrating (sandhill cranes).

Geese in "V" formation
In flight, being in groups has several benefits. Geese form lines diagonal to flight direction, sometimes a “V” formation with one bird in the lead and lines trailing on both sides, because the air disturbance coming off the lead bird’s wings enables the trailing bird to expend less energy.

When feeding in groups, one or more birds are always pausing to watch for predators, either the fox on the ground or the diving hawk. Warning sounds and sudden movement by these observers triggers mass evasion by the rest of the flock. In the air or on the ground, being in a group can also hinder a predator from targeting and pursuing one individual bird out of the flock.

Group behavior is seen in species other than birds. Fish school. Mammals form herds. There is a saying about being on a hike in bear country: “You don’t have to run faster than the bear to get away. You just have to run faster than the guy next to you.” Generalized to herd behavior, the best strategy against a predator is to put another individual between you and the predator. A grouping may be somewhat scattered to feed, but cluster inward when predators approach, as each individual tries to move to the center. If the grouping has a familial relationship, vulnerable young may be moved to the center while adults form a protective barrier. Think musk ox or elephants.  

A different reason for forming large groups is referred to as “predator satiation.” When prey appear suddenly and in large numbers, the probability of any one individual being killed by predators is reduced, the reason being that the predator population is low before the prey arrive and cannot increase fast enough to take advantage of the sudden influx of food. The sudden appearance of prey in great numbers can be from migration by massive numbers, or by near-synchronization of birth of young, or even skipping years. An extreme example of the last is the 17-year cicada

Painting of passenger pigeons, male on left (internet download)
Back to birds. We are some 120 years from one of the greatest species extinctions caused by Man – the end of passenger pigeons. This native North American species – larger and with a much longer tail than the non-native pigeons we now know disparagingly as ‘rats with wings’, numbered in the billions before the arrival of Europeans, and actually well into post-colonial times. Their food of choice was acorns and other tree nuts, but seeds of any plant were also consumed, as was fruit, berries and insects. Individual flocks of migrating birds numbered in the millions, and were described as darkening the sky when passing overhead. From an 1855 description, Columbus Ohio: “As the watchers stared, the hum increased to a mighty throbbing…Children screamed and ran for home. Women gathered their long skirts and hurried for the shelter of stores. Horses bolted. A few people mumbled frightened words…and several dropped on their knees and prayed.”

Roosting at night, the birds were so densely gathered as to break the limbs off trees, and in areas where they nested, droppings piled up a foot thick, poisoning ground plants, and in time, the nesting trees. The birds moved on.

Passenger pigeons, more than other flocking bird species, depended on predator satiation, and so were not able to adapt to human harvesting. The end came quickly. Circa mid-1800s, market hunters used shotguns, nets, whiskey-soaked corn and so on to bring birds to ground. Birds were plucked, gutted, cooked, salted and packed into barrels, to be shipped by railroad to the fast-growing cities of the Industrial Age. Their meat ended up in pigeon pie (think today’s meat pies). At the nesting sites, ground fires would be lit when the nestling squabs were nearing adult weight but not yet able to fly. The squabs would fall to the ground, stunned, to be picked up by hand. As flocks vanished from the usual places, telegraph messages would go out about newly found locations. Market hunters followed.

Locally, Henry David Thoreau’s journal from 1851 recounts a visit to a ‘pigeon-place’ where birds were lured in by trees for perching (live decoy birds tied to the branches), then netted. The last birds seen in the east were early 1890s, the last wild bird shot anywhere 1902, the last surviving bird died in a Cincinnati zoo, September 1, 1914. From billions to zero in fifty years.