Monday, December 27, 2021

Riboflavin, aka Vitamin B2

About the most exciting thing one can say about riboflavin is that if your take too much of it, your urine will take on a bright yellow/orange tint. Other than that, riboflavin is present in a lot of foods, more so in animal-sourced than plant-sourced, and that in the United States, deficiency is rare. Circa 1941, analysis of wheat flour confirmed that the process of making white flour destroyed approximately 85 percent of riboflavin so in the United States a fortification program was begun that added riboflavin – and other B vitamins – to white flour. As of 2021, 56 countries require food fortification of wheat flour or corn flour. An additional 16 countries have a voluntary fortification program. For example, the government of India recommends 4.0 mg/kg for "maida" (white flour) and for "atta" (whole wheat) flour.

As to what riboflavin does, it is a precursor to the creation of two coenzymes. Enzymes are proteins – strings of amino acids coded for by DNA and manufactured by RNA. In humans, there are some 70-80 enzymes that need the riboflavin coenzymes to function. Riboflavin is recycled in these processes, so the dietary amount needed to replace what is lost to daily urine output is remarkably small – on the order of 1.5 milligrams per day. One chicken egg provides about 0.2 mg, a glass of milk about 0.4 mg. There are no known adverse effects from consuming large quantities because absorption has an upper limit, and what is absorbed in excess of needs is quickly excreted in urine.

No known health benefits can be attributed to consuming amounts in excess of what is needed to prevent deficiency. In many countries, a chemical compound is either naturally occurring in food or a drug, with strict regulations concerning the latter. However, in the United States, passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA) allowed for the existence of a middle category, dietary supplements, that could be manufactured and marketed as long as there is clear evidence that these products are safe and some scientific evidence in support of a purported health benefit.

Basically, in the U.S., this means that a company cannot sell a drug until the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves, but can sell a dietary supplement until the FDA or Federal Trade Commission says to stop.

The FDA restricts label health claims to specific wording referred to as a Structure:Function claim. S:F wording is limited to phrasing such as “Supports…” or “Promotes…” or “Helps…” One example from a riboflavin product label reads “Promotes Healthier Blood, Nervous System and Helps Boost Energy and Metabolism.” Is this manner, riboflavin is sold in doses as high at 400 mg despite the fact that deficiency is avoided by consuming 1.5 mg/day. Dietary supplement labels are also required to include a black-line outlined statement concerning the S:F claims: “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.” Despite these restrictions, the supplement business in the United States exceeds $35 billion per year. The products range from the mundane (multi-vitamin/mineral complex) to the exotic (powdered deer antler velvet).

Riboflavin chemical structure, 
with the ribose portion in green
and the flacvin in yellow.
The name ‘riboflavin’ comes from being a ribose sugar attached to the part of the molecule which imparts the yellow color, “flavus” being Latin for yellow. The earliest reported identification, predating any concept of vitamins as essential nutrients, was in 1897. Alexander Wynter Blyth isolated a water-soluble component of cows' milk whey that fluoresced yellow-green when exposed to light.

In 1935, researchers reported that a yellow-fluorescing compound extracted from yeast restored normal growth when fed to rats. The compound was briefly referred to as "Vitamin G" before a consensus was reached for “riboflavin” and also “Vitamin B2.”  Richard Kuhn was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1938 for his work on riblflavin. A year later it was confirmed that riboflavin is essential for human health through a clinical trial in which women fed a diet low in riboflavin developed stomatitis and other signs of deficiency, all of which were reversed when treated with synthetic riboflavin. As confirmation, the symptoms returned when the supplements were stopped.

Mark’s day job, until he retired, was providing expert scientist advice to dietary supplement, sports nutrition and medical nutrition companies wanting to make health claims.


Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Maynard’s Many Food Co-operatives

Assabet CO-OP has
reached its funding goal
Maynard’s various histories/futures name nine co-operative associations or societies. The oldest was Riverside, the newest Assabet Co-op Market. The longest duration and largest was the United Co-operative Society. A Department of Labor report for 1947 mentioned that United was one of the top ten co-ops in the country for membership and annual sales. More than half the households in Maynard were members.

The backstory of co-operatives began in 1844 when 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.” They 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.

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 innovated by adding 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 money, Limited interest on capital, Political and religious neutrality, No buying on credit, and Promotion via education.

Here in Maynard, Riverside was started in 1875 by English and Scottish immigrants. Many of them may have been familiar with the co-operative movement in Great Britain. Riverside began 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. Nationally, the Sovereigns organization faltered under financial mismanagement, but in 1878 the local chapter reformed itself as the Riverside Co-Operative Association, incorporating Rochdale principles.

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, 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 entrance on Nason Street. The other floors were rented out.

By 1909, Riverside had more than 600 member families. In addition to quality of goods and competitive prices, members were paid a yearly cash refund ranging from 2 to 10 percent based on how good a year the co-op was having. Additionally, shares earned five percent interest. A decline started with the recession of 1920, compounded by cost of repair after a fire, same year. In 1929 the store business was sold to the store manager while the co-op continued to own the building. A large fire in January 1936 led to dissolution of the Association and sale of the site to Knights of Columbus, which had been a long-time tenant. Proceeds were divided amongst the remaining shareholders.

Riverside CO-OP 1920. Courtesy Maynard Historical Society
Contributing factors to the end of Riverside were that the children of the founders were moving up the socio-economic ladder at same time as immigration from England and Scotland was declining. A front-page newspaper article from 1913 had noted that prior to 1900 the town was mostly English origin, but expansion of the mill under new ownership had doubled the town’s population by bringing in large numbers of immigrants from Finland, Poland, Lithuania and Italy.

Of the smaller and shorter-lived efforts, Suomalainen Osuuskauppa was started 1899 by Finnish immigrants. Capitalized at only $800, it lasted a year before dissolving and selling its store to a private owner. The Maynard Co-operative Milk Association was formed in 1914. Three years later it become the diary operations of Kaleva Co-operative Association. Finnish members of the milk co-op who had not wanted to affiliate with the socialist/communist/atheist Kaleva had previously split off and formed the First National Association in late 1915. It owned and operated out of a building on the west corner of Main and River Streets until its demise in 1941. The International Co-operative Association was started in 1911 by immigrants from Poland, and lasted 20 years. It began in a building near the Methodist Church, later moved to space in the Masonic Building (100 Main Street). 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. The Historical Society has a share certificate for the proposed Russian Co-operative Association, dated 1917. The group did not reach its capitalization goal, instead operating briefly as a store co-owned by six Russian men.

As for the largest and longest lasting - “Kaleva” refers to an ancient, mythological, Finnish ruler known from a 19th 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 co-operative were drawn.

According to a book, “The Finnish Imprint,” a delegation of Finnish immigrants had initially approached the 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 per share. 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.

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 Maynard’s Kaleva group reorganized as the United Co-operative Society of Maynard.

United CO-OP fuel oil tanks
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 store, was an automobile gas and service station (1934). A credit union was added in 1948.

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 Powder Mill Road, combined with the freedom to shop elsewhere provided by increasing car ownership, put pressure on the co-operative. In June 1973 that was a near-unanimous vote to dissolve. United's By-laws had an interesting clause: On the occasion of dissolution, 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.

And now, there is an effort underway to launch Assabet Co-op Market: “Our mission is to support the regional food system; strengthen the local economy; promote the well-being of our members, our community, and the environment; and be a center of community activity.”

The planned location of the Assabet CO-OP Market
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, more than 1,700 people have joined. The co-op has achieved its capitalization goal of $2,000,000 in the form of interest-paying owner investment, which in combination with traditional bank financing will be sufficient to lease space at Victory Plaza, 86 Powder Mill Road, Maynard, and then convert it into a store with approximately 6,000-square-feet of retail space (with free parking).  Once launched, Assabet Co-op Market 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.

UPDATE: More funding needed and opening delayed untii 2023. Problems are increase construction costs and delays in getting crucial equipment.

On December 14, at 7:00 p.m., the Maynard Public Library will present a Zoomed talk titled: “Maynard’s Many Co-operatives.” Register at

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Maynard's Bridges Revisited

Florida Road bridge closed for replacement construction on December 13, 2021.

The Maynard Historical Society had in its collection a photograph of a wooden bridge across the Assabet River at Florida Road. The road was barely more than a cart path, and the caption with the photograph mentioned that wooden bridges at that site were repeatedly washed away by floods. A decision was made in 1914 to construct a rebar-reinforced concrete bridge, the first of its type in Maynard. The Town approved a budget of $6,500. The bridge was completed in 1915 for $6,011.  It is state bridge #M-10-006.

Even taking into account dollar inflation, that was a remarkable reasonable price. The current project to replace that bridge is budgeted at $3,362,437. Time-to-completion is estimated at two years, during which time the road will be closed to through traffic. As to why the bridge needs to be replaced, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has deemed it “Structurally Deficient” for years. Rebar-reinforced concrete was an extremely popular bridge construction material at the beginnings of the twentieth century. Concrete bridges have an expected safe lifespan of 50-70 years, depending on traffic burden and exposure to the elements (weather and road salt). This bridge is 106 years old. At the time the Florida Road bridge was constructed, there was no expectation for truck traffic, as immediately south, the road passed through a narrow, one-lane-wide underpass under the railroad. Hence, the bridge’s narrow lanes and poor sightlines were not considered unsafe, as bridge traffic speeds were expected to be slow and limited to horse-drawn vehicles and the automobiles of that era, but now make the bridge tagged as Functionally Obsolete in addition to Structurally Deficient.

Crumbling concrete an exposed rebar at base
of the 106-year-old Florida Road bridge
Florida Road is not the only bridge in the United States that is overdue for replacement. From a 2017 report, the U.S. has more then 600,000 bridges, of which 40 percent were more than 50 years old and 9.1 percent were Structurally Deficient (improved to 7.5 percent as of 2021). The estimated cost of remedying the nation’s backlog of bridge rehabilitation exceeds $100 billion.   

The MassDOT project to replace bridge #M-10-006 began in 2017 with a notice to proceed, traffic counts and confirmation of the state of deterioration. In places above and below the road surface, concrete had broken away, exposing steel rebar, which was rusting. Surveying was conducted in 2018. A preliminary design was presented to the town in February 2020. The existing bridge has 9-foot lanes, low curbs and 5.5-foot wide sidewalks; full width 30 feet. The new bridge will have a full width of 41 feet to accommodate 10-foot lanes, 4-foot paved shoulders to serve as bicycles lanes and 5.5-foot wide sidewalks. Much like the Waltham bridge replacement, this will be a concrete deck resting on steel beams. The additional width will all be on the downstream side. A recent walk through the site saw that about 40 trees on both sides marked for removal, some exceeding a foot in diameter, one-third of all the trees appearing to be dead.   

Sewer pipe under the existing Florida Road bridge (Click to enlarge)
One question of interest only to a few adventuresome people is the extent of vertical space under the bridge. With just the right river depth, it has been possible in the past to put kayaks and canoes into the river just downstream of the Ben Smith Dam, to pass through Maynard, crossing under six bridges. One of the proposal diagrams shows a 9-foot clearance between normal low water and the bottom of the steel beams. However, the diagram also shows water and sewer pipes suspended below the bridge, same as those exist at present. Successful passage would require water levels deep enough to float a boat, yet not so high as to make those pipes into head bangers.      

Foot-depth markers on wall
below John's Cleaners
Are any other of Maynard’s bridges deemed Structurally Deficient? Three reinforced concrete bridges date to 1922: Route 117/Great Road (also known as the Ben Smith bridge), Main Street and Walnut Street. These spans over the Assabet River were originally bridged in 1816, 1849 and 1865, respectively. The original bridge at Route 117 appears to have been a two-arch stone and mortar bridge that stood until the 1922 replacement. Main and Walnut were replaced by steel bridges in 1872 and then concrete fifty years later. Of the three bridges that are nearing their 100th anniversary, the Main Street bridge is officially Structurally Deficient, marking it as Maynard’s next bridge project. The other two still pass annual inspections. Maynard’s six other bridges range in age from 4 years (Rail Trail) to 84 years (Mill Street).    

Mark painted the foot-depth markers on the riverwall below John’s Cleaners.


Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Maynard's Transportation History - Part 2

The early years of the twentieth century were a watershed for local transportation. Electricity provided power for a trolley system (later replaced by a bus line). The advent of automobiles would in time end the golden age of bicycling (and passenger trains, and that bus line). Trucks would make obsolete the need for local freight trains.  

The trolley power station, now
the Indian Orthodox Church
There was an electric trolley system going by the name Concord, Maynard & Hudson Street Railway. It operated October 1901 to January 1923. In addition to the named towns, there was a spur north to South Acton and beyond, to West Acton. Trolleys ran every 30 minutes from 6 AM to 11 PM. From Maynard to the other towns cost a nickel. In addition to the standard passenger cars, CM&H operated custom-built luxury cars, for rented use. Think of these as the party limousines of the day. Each of the three cars, the “Concord, Maynard” and “Hudson” had carpeting, wicker chairs, electric lights and curtained windows. These private cars could be hired for trips, and were not limited to CM&H rails. There is a record of a day trip to Woonsocket, Rhode Island!

Worth a historical mention that in Boston and other cities, trolleys predated electric power. In 1890, the City of Boston had a horse-drawn trolley system, known then as the West End Street Railway Company. West End had 2,000 cars in service, and employed as many as 9,000 horses. Conversion to electric motors started in 1891. By 1897 the last horse was retired.

Charles H. Persons (center) being driven in his 1904
Ford Model A, on Main Street. Note trolley tracks. Photo
courtesy of Maynard Historical Society. Click to enlarge.
The first car owned in Maynard, a Stanley Steamer, was purchased by Dr. Frank U. Rich in 1899. The Harriman brothers, of Harriman Laundry also went in for steam-powered vehicles, but gas engines were a coming thing. Charles H. Persons purchased the first Ford in town in 1904. From a photo, this was likely a Model A: 8 horsepower, top speed 28 mph. Newspaper ads in 1914 offered Ford Model T cars for $500. By 1910, there were two car dealers in town, repair shops, gas stations, car rental businesses, attempts to control speeding, and the first reported accident (small boy hit, bruised but otherwise unharmed). By 1925 the town’s annual report numbered 879 motor vehicles in Maynard. The horse count had dropped from to 70. As of 2021, there are two used car dealerships, two rental businesses, four gas stations and a dozen or so repair and parts establishments. 

Steamboats operated on the Assabet River from 1906 to 1914, offering transportation from a dock at the rear of the trolley headquarters to Whitman’s crossing, at Lake Boon. The company started with one boat, named “Queen,” but in time added “Gertrude” and “Teddy.” Weekdays, boats departed every 30 minutes, 8 AM to 8 PM. At Whitman’s Crossing, a short walk to Lake Boon brought people to a dock where the “Princess” would take them to docks scattered around to lake, providing access to summer cottages, club houses, restaurants and drinking establishments.

The trolley barn, located on the west side of where Routes 62 and 117 merge, became the base for the Lovell Bus Lines (1923-1954). John Lovell started bus service from Maynard to the South Acton train station one month after the trolley stopped. In time, he added bus service to Concord and Hudson. Eventually the line was extended west to Clinton and Leominster, and east to Waltham and Revere Beach (summers only, round-trip $1.25). Lovell Bus Lines was sold to Middlesex & Boston Street Railway – which operated trolleys and buses – later merged with MBTA. Bus service for Maynard dwindled over time, ended in 1972.

As for airplanes, Sidney H. Mason created an airstrip in 1948, behind his house on Summer Street. Sid was 28 at the time, and an Army veteran. He and three friends bought a used Luscombe 1946 8A in 1947 for $1000. Sid bought out his partners soon after. The airstrip was carved out of what had been an extensive Mason family farm that dated back to at least 1875. In fact, back in the farm days, the family had two runways, and many of the pilots in Maynard and nearby towns kept their planes there. Sid was still flying as late as 1997, age 79. In the meantime, Sid's son - Jack Mason - had taken up his father's hobby while still in his teens, earned his pilot's license, and was flying a Vector Ultralight in and out of the backyard. This meant that “Sid’s Airport” continued to be an active, FAA-numbered airstrip (MA52). Sid Mason passed on to the big airport in the sky in 2005. His life-long love affair with the air is memorialized by his tombstone, as it portrays his Luscombe in flight, with the plane's registration number N72025 on the side. Jack sold the property in 2016.

The blimp pictured flying over the
company's corporate headquarters, in Maynard.
The latest air experience for Maynard did not actually land here, but there was a valid connection. For many years, Maynard was the headquarters for, a once vastly successful jobs search company. Circa 2002, Monster leased two blimps from Virgin Atlantic for promotional flyovers at sports events, etc. One of the blimps did a flyover of Maynard, captured in a photograph that includes the blimp, mill buildings and the clocktower. Not occurring anywhere near here, but in response to an “I dare you” from Richard Branson (the CEO of Virgin Atlantic), Jeff Taylor, CEO of Monster, water skied 3.3 miles being towed by his blimp, setting a world record. The previous record holder was Branson.

On November 23, at 7:00 p.m., the Maynard Public Library will present a Zoomed talk titled: “Transportation from Horses to Airplanes.” Register at

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Maynard's Transportation History - Part 1

Kerosene street lamp, circa 1900. Courtesy of
Maynard Historical Society. Click to enlarge.
For people afoot, starting 1878, the Town of Maynard decided to providing lights for the thoroughfares of this new town. Amory Maynard was on the committee. The result was 25, six-foot tall, kerosene-fueled street lamps installed on downtown streets. By 1891, railing against darkness encompassed 74 lamps, lit sunset to midnight. (Anyone out past midnight was expected to have their own kerosene lamp.) A few businesses supplemented street lights with their own far more luminous gaslights.

In 1902, the Town of Maynard signed a contract with the American Woolen Company to provide power for 92 electric lights. Circa 1931, the Edison Electric Illuminating Company of Boston began supplying power, there having been contentious debate that the woolen company was charging more than market rates for its monopoly. Today, Maynard’s several thousand street lights are light emitting diodes, with the exception of early 20th century style ‘historic’ fixtures in downtown locations.

Horse count by year (light tint line)
Maynard’s Annual Town Reports included Assessors’ Reports which until 1933 included a horse tally. The maximum was reached in 1899 at 256 horses. Businesses moved goods about town by horse-drawn wagons. A wealthy family of this pre-car era might have a carriage house on the property and keep a horse on site, or board a horse at a livery stable in town. The site of the Fine Arts Theatre was once a livery stable. Larger operations such as Parmenter Farm on the north edge of town were caring for dozens of horses for various businesses. Maynard was also home to a number of urban barns. These were not remnants of working farms, but rather one-horse barns for people who carted goods about town or to and from the railroad.

Unlike cars, horses are not inert until needed. Horses consume 15-20 pounds of pasture grass or hay daily, and 10-20 gallons of water. What goes in comes out, so stalls needed to be mucked out daily, and new hay added for bedding. Grooming took time, as did ensuring horses got some exercise. Getting a horse into harness was much more time consuming than pushing the start button on a modern-day vehicle. The horse population gradually declined. By 1919 there were only 123 horses, then fewer than 20 when the count stopped in 1933. A few remained. Peter Grigas reminisced about how well into the 1950s he and his friends rode their family-owned horses from Maynard to Lake Boon on summer days, stopping at Erikson’s Ice Cream on the way back.

Steam engine trains, initially wood-fueled, then coal, reached Assabet Village in 1850. According to the centennial history book, Amory Maynard was a prime mover in getting the right-of-way secured, and as a reward, was given a lifetime pass. The first train ran July 1850. At that time the tracks extended only as far as north Marlborough – which became Hudson in 1866 – but were later extended to the center of Marlborough, a distance of 12.4 miles from South Acton, in 1855. Most of the traffic was freight, but it was possible to take a passenger train from the center of Assabet Village all the way to Boston, or detrain at South Acton to board a train heading west.

Railroad bridge over the Assabet River (1850-1979). There was
a smaller bridge underneath for carting coal. Location
is the site of the current Rail Trail bridge (2018)
Over the decades, there were a few minor accidents and two major ones. November 26, 1905, the local-stop passenger train from Boston to Marlborough left Boston at 7:16 p.m. The Montreal Express left the station 30 minutes later. There was fog. In Lincoln, near the bridge over the Sudbury River, the Express smashed into the rear of the local, killing 17 (9 from Maynard) and seriously injuring 25-30 others. Fault was attributed to the engineer of the Express, who had only recently been promoted from fireman. The flagman at the rear of the local, knowing it was running late, had dropped flares on the tracks so as to warn the following train, but the engineer had not sufficiently slowed the Express. The other accident was a derailment in Maynard, on Easter Sunday, 1911. Several people suffered minor injuries.

Train service declined in the twentieth century. Passenger service west of Maynard ceased in 1939; for Maynard the last passenger train was May 16, 1958. Freight service ceased about ten years later, bringing nearly 120 years of railroad to an end. In 1979, Mass Transit turned the right-of-way over to the towns, which in turn sold pieces to individuals and businesses. A vision of converting the abandoned tracks to a paved rail trail began in 1992. The five towns voted to approve the trail in 1998. The southwest end – Marlborough and of Hudson, 5.6 miles – was paved circa 2006. The north end – Acton and Maynard, 3.4 miles – was paved in 2018. The middle may never be completed, as some owners refuse to sell the land or permit passage.

Maynard bicycle club 1896
The “Golden Age” for bicycles was the 1890s – after invention of the air-filled tire and before cars and motorcycles. John Dunlop, a veterinary surgeon, experimented with putting air-pressurized rubber tubing inside a rubber tire. He patented the concept in 1888. By 1892, he was a millionaire, and the people of the United States were on their way to having ten million bicycles – for only 75 million people. Women took to wearing bloomers. There were demands for asphalt-paved roads. Bicycle racing and bicycle clubs were everywhere. Circa 1896, Maynard had a cycling club that favored the high-wheeler design – a large wheel directly powered by pedals, with a frame arching back to a small trailing wheel – over what came to be known as the ‘safety’ design, with its wheels the same size, a chain-drive to the rear wheel; and better brakes. A 1900 photo in the Maynard Historical Society collection is a group photo featuring the Priest brothers and their three-seater ‘safety’ bicycle.

Today, the fastest growing market segment is electronic/hybrid, i.e., combining battery power and pedaling. Usages are commuting, urban delivery (food and other), and recreational. Upsides include low operational cost. Downsides include safety and weather. Maynard and neighboring towns have implemented plans to promote safer sharing of roads. The towns also have miles of woodland trails suitable for mountain bike exploration.  

This is Transportation, Part 1. Trolleys to airplanes will be in Part 2. Some content in this column is in Maynard’s newest history book: MAYNARD MASSACHUSETTS – A Brief History (2020), which can be purchased at 6 Bridges Gallery, 77 Main Street, for $21.99.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

The Polish Immigrant Experience

From L to R, brothers Tony Sebastyn and
John Sebastynowicz, and Chet Leach, at
the Firestone/Acme Supply store
John Sebastynowicz, born in Maynard in 1926, was co-owner of Firestone/Acme Supply with his older brother Anthony “Tony” Sebastyn. During World War II, Tony had served in the Coast Guard, John in the Army. They bought the Nason Street business in 1951, and operated it at that site for 35 years. In an extended interview with John about his and his parents’ life in Maynard, and about the Polish immigrant experience in general, a depth of color was added to the somewhat sparse accounting of the Polish community as it exists in Maynard’s history books.

For background, the first great wave of Polish immigration spanned 1870 to 1914. Estimates are that 1.5-2.0 million people arrived during that period. In addition to Maynard, Clinton, Worcester and Boston had significant Polish populations. The exodus was catalyzed by oppression and poverty in Europe, while at the other end, what was seen as job opportunities and freedom in the United States. The jobs were hard jobs. Poles took up physical labor in steel mills, coal mines, slaughterhouses and textile mills. Work was often seven days a week, 12-hour days. At the textile mills, parents falsified child birth records to bypass laws prohibiting work for children under 14 years old.

Poland had ceased to exist as a country in the late 1700s, partitioned to the Russian, Austrian and Prussian (German) empires.  Russian-occupied Poles experienced increasingly abusive Russification in the mid-19th century. From 1864 onward, all education was mandated to be in Russian, and private education in Polish was illegal. Polish newspapers, periodicals, books, and theater plays were permitted, but were frequently censored by the authorities. All high school students were required to pass national exams in Russian; young men who failed these exams were drafted into the Russian Army. Similar oppression took place in the Prussian and Austrian partitions.

Meanwhile, a study conducted in 1911 found that close to 100 percent of Polish immigrants to the United States said that they would be joining relatives or friends, leading to conclusions that letters (and money) sent back home played a major role. That matched John’s description of his family history. His parents came to Maynard because cousins were already here. They met and married here, in 1918. John grew up in what was then called the West End of Maynard. His parents worked at the mill, his mother in the burling department, his father as a department head for napping. “Burling” referred to hand-repairing slight imperfections – knots and loose thread ends – on the woven cloth. “Napping” was a mechanized process wherein fabric passed over revolving cylinders covered with short wire bristles, to increase the thickness and softness of the fabric.

Picnic poster
(courtesy Maynard
Historical Society)
John mentioned that Polish was spoken at home, by his childhood friends, and at the grocery stores in their neighborhood. He remembers that his older brother started public school – at the Bancroft (later Coolidge) School – not knowing any English. The same applied to the children of Finnish immigrants who were living in the Presidential neighborhood. John reminisced that as a child, winters everyone went ice skating on the mill pond. Summers, they swam in the Assabet River, either near the ice house or at Russell’s Bridge (White Pond Road; the Maynard/Stow border). He also mentioned that when a bit older, he and friends would walk the railroad tracks west, to swim in Lake Boon, or sometime canoe that far, then carry their canoes the short distance from river to lake, so they could paddle around on Lake Boon.

St. Casimir's Roman Catholic
Church, Maynard, MA
St. Casimir’s Roman Catholic Church was central to the Polish community. By 1910 there were about 600 Polish-speaking people in Maynard. On December 8, 1912, Reverend Francis Jablonski said his first Mass, at St. Bridget’s Church. In 1926, St. Casimir’s parish bought what had been the power station for the trolley company (extant 1901-23). The church was blessed on November 12, 1928.

John and his wife Lena – married at St. Casimir’s in 1952 – both described the annual Polish Picnic, held in August of each year, with money raised helping fund the church. The day’s events began with an outdoor Mass, followed by food, games and entertainment provide by polka bands. There was a large dance floor laid out atop the grass lawn. John reminisced about how people had admired he and his sister Helen doing the fast-stepping Polish ‘Hop’ Polka. The picnic drew thousands of people, in time becoming so large that it was held at the Maynard Rod & Gun Club rather than on church property. [See comment, added June 2022.]     

Deaths of first-generation immigrants, assimilation of their descendants and dearth of new immigrants tolled on all of Greater Boston's Polish parishes. In 1995, Cardinal Bernard Law announced that 10 of 14 would stop celebrating Mass in Polish. Four years later the Beacon-Villager ran an article about the pending closure of St. Casimir’s. A locally circulated petition could not reverse the decision. The parish was merged back into St. Bridget Parish, although the St. Casimir building remained a consecrated space, used by the Polish community for baptisms, weddings and funerals.

Names of donors of the stained glass windows.
Click on photos to enlarge.
In 2003 the building was sold to St. Mary's Indian Orthodox Church of Boston. Interestingly, St. Mary’s decided that removing St. Casimir’s altar would not be appropriate, so a curtain is drawn across the alcove during services. At the entrance to the church, the four stained glass windows donated by John’s parents and another couple – Jan and Nadia Lojka – still grace the building.

John mentioned in passing that back in the day, Maynard was infamous for having 27 licensed liquor-serving establishments. That would include restaurants, bars, saloons, dance halls, pool halls, bowling alleys and social clubs.


Wednesday, October 27, 2021

William Knight - Amory's Original Partner

William Knight, courtesy of 
 Framingham Historical Soc.
William H. Knight (1793-1870) put more money into the partnership with Amory Maynard back in 1846, so why aren’t we living in Knightsville? One town wit quipped that when William Knight and Amory Maynard met, Knight had the money and Maynard had the experience, but by the time their partnership ended, Maynard had the money and Knight had had an experience. The truth was more complex.

In the late 18th century, Calvin Maynard constructed a grist (grain) mill on Fort Meadow Brook, in Marlborough. The mill was soon converted to a sawmill and its operation was eventually passed on to a relative – Isaac Maynard – whose death in 1820 left his 16-year-old son Amory in charge. Amory, in addition to operating the mill, expanded into the construction business. He employed as many as 50 men. One of Amory's clients was mill owner William H. Knight, for whom he helped expand the New England Carpet Mill in the Saxonville section of Framingham.

Knight had arrived on these shores from England in 1824, age 32. He was an experienced mechanic with skills in waterpower and textile machines. He started as a mill superintendent in Framingham, moved to Tariffville, Connecticut to partner in a carpet mill, but soon relocated back to Framingham where he married Elizabeth Stone and started his own mill in 1829. The location was Saxonville, on the Sudbury River, where John Stone, Elizabeth’s ancestor, had built the first mill on that site in 1650.

Knight's original successes were modest. He and Elizabeth lived in rooms in the upper story of the factory, overlooking the millpond. Accounts had it that Elizabeth would sometimes fish from their windows to catch fish for their dinner. But by 1845, Knight's operations had expanded to three mill buildings and 232 employees.

Sometime around 1846 the City of Boston purchased the land, dam and water rights to Fort Meadow Pond from Amory Maynard. The amount paid is disputed – various website-posted accounts say as little as $21,000 to as much as $60,000. Even at the low end of that range, Maynard, at age 42, was a wealthy man. At the same time, Boston also purchased Knight's mills and water rights to Lake Cochituate (Long Pond). Knight received $150,000; the largest sum that had ever been paid by the City of Boston for water rights up to that time. Boston also bought water rights to Boon Pond and added a small dam.

In 1846 the two men, builder and mill owner/operator, ages 46 and 54, agreed to partner in a new mill operation on the Assabet River. They started buying land and water rights, including Asa Smith's mill on Mill Street and riverfront land from Ben Smith as a site for the dam. In 1847, Maynard completed construction of a wood-framed, three-story tall, 50x100 foot building which they named Assabet Mills. The new yarn and carpet making operation prospered. By 1852 two more wood-framed buildings had been added. Maynard later bought land around Boon Pond and had a taller dam built in 1864, to form the larger body of water renamed Lake Boon. He repurchased Fort Meadow Reservoir from the city of Boston for $8,000 in 1858. These upstream assets help to guarantee a year-round water supply to power the woolen mill.  

Although he had bought acres and acres of land, Knight was never in residence in the crude hamlet on a rocky river that was Assabet Village in those early years. He and his wife had moved to Boston in 1848. It can be guessed that he managed the marketing and sales of the mill’s carpet and cloth output from a Boston office. By 1950 the Fitchburg Railroad had reached Assabet, so in-person visits were possible, and daily mail served. Telegraph service reached Assabet in 1852.

In 1950, Knight sold his share of the business to Maynard for $50,000, of which 80 percent was a mortgage. Knight retired in 1852, at age 60, just six years after co-founding Assabet Mills. It is possible he had lost interest in the day-to-day operations after the death of his wife in September of that year. He still had a financial interest in the mill, and owned land. The mill went into foreclosure in 1861, during a national recession. Maynard was bought out for cash and assumption of what remained on his mortgage to Knight, while at the same time another investor bought Knight’s remaining in-town land holdings at below-market value. The mill was reincorporated in 1862 with new partners, including the buyer of Knight’s land. Amory Maynard became 20 percent owner and “Agent” (Chief Operating Officer). Knight no longer connected.  

Interestingly, in 1858, six years a widower, Knight had an impressive, five-story, brick town house constructed at 7 Walnut Street, Beacon Hill, Boston. It was designed by famous Boston architect Nathaniel J.Bradlee. The building still exists. He lived there until he died in 1870, age 77 years. Knight and his wife had no children. History makes no mention of heirs. Elizabeth (Stone) Knight (1794-1852) was initially buried in Framingham, with a simple headstone. Before he died, Knight purchased a plot and paid for a more impressive monument at Mt. Auburn Cemetery, Elm Avenue, Lot #1979, Cambridge, and had Elizabeth reinterred there.

The aqueduct from Lake Cochituate to Boston was completed in 1848. On October 25th of that year a great celebration was held in Boston Common, with an estimated 100,000 people attending. The great day began with a 100-gun salute and an immense parade through the city, ending near Frog Pond, in the Common. Mayor Quincy gave a speech, at the end of which he asked if the people of Boston were ready for Cochituate water. "The crowd roared, the gates opened, and a fountain of water 80 feet high burst into the air." Cochituate was in service until 1951, supplemented and finally superseded by Wachusett (1908) and Quabbin (1946) reservoirs.

A version of this column was published in 2012 and incorporated into the 2014 book “Hidden History of Maynard.”


Saturday, October 9, 2021

The Maynard Family

On October 19, at 7:00 p.m., the Maynard Public Library will present a Zoomed talk titled: “Meet the Maynard Family.” It is produced by the Sesquicentennial Steering Committee as part of Maynard’s celebration of the 150th anniversary. Register at 

Given the town was named after Amory Maynard in 1871, there is remarkably little presence of the man today. There is a street – Amory Ave – but no statue, no school, no park. There is a family crypt, and a clock tower built by his son. No descendants live in their namesake town.

Amory Maynard
In 1846, at the age of 42, Amory Maynard moved his wife and three sons from Marlborough to a house in the sparsely settled Assabet River valley, so that he and his partner, William H. Knight, could dam the Assabet River and build a woolen mill. They started with carpets—in time switching to blankets and wool cloth. Part of their good luck was already being in wool goods when the Civil War cut off northern cotton mills from access to southern cotton.

Looking in the ancestral direction, Amory was six generations away from John Maynard who had decided to leave England for the colonies. John transited the Atlantic, year and ship unknown, but by 1638 he was among the initial settlers of Sudbury. One branch of the family moved to Marlborough. The September 1850 census listed Amory and his wife Mary as heads of a two-unit household of 24 people that included his family, the Adams family, servants and mill workers. Lorenzo, the oldest son, was 21; Lucy Ann Davidson (a house servant) was 16. They married in October, she having just turned 17, and they had their first child thirteen months later. William married Mary Adams, the girl next door, in July 1853. Both marriages lasted more than 50 years and together produced twelve children. Harlan Maynard, the third son, died at age 18; one source specified typhoid fever.

William Maynard
William had a lesser role in the mill's business affairs than older brother Lorenzo. In the 1860s he lived in Boston for a while and worked for the Fitchburg Railroad. Tax records from 1871 find him back in Maynard, and show Amory, Lorenzo and William with incomes of $9,000, $4,000 and $800, respectively. The combined land ownership of the Mill, the A&L Maynard Company (a real estate and construction business) and Amory's personal holdings came to 270 acres. Ten years later, Amory owned a mansion on Beechmont Avenue (now Dartmouth Street), extensive land holdings and cash assets of $65,000; Lorenzo also owned a mansion, also on Beechmont and cash assets of $35,000. William at age 49, married and with seven children, was living in a house owned by his father.

Amory Maynard stepped down as mill Agent in 1885, shortly after having suffered a stroke. Lorenzo was promoted from Superintendent to Agent. Lorenzo's son William H. Maynard became Superintendent. "Agent" was equivalent to today's title of Chief Operating Officer. Although Amory was the largest shareholder, the post-bankruptcy financial reorganization of the Assabet Manufacturing Company in 1862 had resulted in T. A. Goddard becoming President of the Company.

At about the time of Amory's retirement, his son William moved himself, wife and five youngest of his seven children first to Pasadena and then to Los Angeles—at the time a smallish city of 25,000 people. Historical accounts state the move was for William's health—nature of illness unstated. It is plausible he had tuberculosis, as moving to a hot, dry climate was that era's treatment of choice. But it is also a bit interesting that he moved the year his brother took over the Mill. Regardless, three years later, William was well enough to relocate east, but chose Worcester over Maynard.

Amory Maynard's death in1891 left Lorenzo and William wealthy men. Lorenzo continued as Agent of the mill and Maynard resident. He personally paid for construction of the clock tower in 1892. William continued to live in Worcester until his death in 1906. At about the same time as the clock tower construction Lorenzo also paid for the chapel addition and installation of over a dozen stained glass windows in the Union Congregational Church, a place of worship which his father had been instrumental in getting started in 1852. Six of the windows were dedicated to Lorenzo's parents and to his four deceased daughters. For complex reasons, including an end of federal protective tariffs in the 1890s, the Mill failed in late 1898. It was purchased in 1899 by the American Woolen Company.

Only known photo of
Lorenzo Maynard
Lorenzo moved to Winchester, where he died in March 1904, a millionaire at a time when an average worker's wages were $500 per year. His son William H. Maynard was his sole surviving heir. An October 1904 newspaper article noted that Lorenzo and five other deceased family members were relocated from burial in Maynard to a new mausoleum in the Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge—a place where all the "best" people were being buried. Correspondence on file at Mount Auburn confirms that Lorenzo bought the plot, #6111, on Crystal Avenue, in April 1903 and immediately ordered the construction of an impressive structure made of granite, twenty-four feet tall, with five stained glass windows. Contributing causes for the post-mortem move were bad feelings left over from being displaced at the Mill, plus the 1902 effort to change the town's name to Assabet.

William’s oldest daughter, Mary Susan, had remained in Maynard when the family decamped to California. Her granddaughter, Mary Sanderson (1874-1947), was the last descendant to live in Maynard. Between deaths and daughters, the family name vanished. There are differently surnamed living descendants via Lessie Louise and Harlan James, but none here.

Inside the crypt, looking
up at the skylight
The family crypt, located on the north side of Glenwood Cemetery, is an imposing earth-covered mound with a granite facade facing the road. The mound is 90 feet across and about 12 feet tall. The stonework facade is 30 feet across. The ceiling of the crypt has a glass skylight surmounted by an exterior cone of iron grillwork. "MAYNARD" graces a granite lintel above the entrance. The six-foot tall double doors are intricately carved Italian marble. One door had been cracked across and repaired.

Inside, there are eight vaults, three each on the left and right sides and two across the back. Each vault was designed to hold three caskets. Above the three on the left is "W. MAYNARD." Above the two at the back is "A. MAYNARD." Above the three on the right is "L. MAYNARD." Some of the vault doors have names and dates incised. In the center of the room is a large marble-topped table. The crypt was constructed in 1880, while Mary (1805-1886) and Amory (1804-1890) were still alive. They are both interred there, along with their third son, Harlan, who had died in 1861 and was first buried in the cemetery, later relocated to the crypt.

As mentioned, Lorenzo and his family are interred at Mount Auburn Cemetery. William and his wife are buried in Hope Cemetery, Worcester. They had moved to Worcester in 1888. Of their seven children, Mary S. Peters is the only Amory grandchild buried in Maynard.

Maynard family descendants visit family crypt (2018) 
Click on photos to enlarge
Because no descendants live in Maynard, there has been a bit of misconception that there were none. Not true. William had seven children. William’s daughter Lessie Louise Maynard married Paul Beagary Morgan of the wealthy and well-known Morgan family of Worcester. Lessie and Paul had five children, who begat children of their own. Another line descends from William's son, Harlan, to his son John, to three daughters. Hence, none of the descendants have Maynard as their last name. In 2018, one great-great-granddaughter of Amory and Mary, and six great-great-great grandchildren visited Maynard to see the family crypt and peruse parts of the town familiar to their ancestors.


Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Tools Named After Inventors

Mattock/axe combo, COLLINS AXE brand
I had reason recently to use my trusty Collins Axe axe/mattock to break ground for daylily plantings along the Assabet River Rail Trail. This is a handsome tool, what with a 36-inch-long fiberglass handle in black and yellow, capped by a five-pound, high carbon steel head. Perfect for breaking up tough turf and chopping through small roots. There is also a five-pound version with a pick/mattock head. I was disappointed to learn that “Collins Axe” was not the name of this specific tool, but rather, a brand name for many handtools.

For those not tool-savvy, an axe has a sharp blade parallel to the handle. Axes can be single- or double-headed. An adze is single-headed, with a sharp blade perpendicular to the handle. Adzes are carpenters’ tools, for shaping wood. A mattock has dull blades, suitable for breaking through turf and roots. A double-headed mattock can have blades parallel and perpendicular (axe and adze) or be a pick and mattock combination. For both of these, the mattock is the larger blade.  A “Pulaski” is a forest firefighter’s version of a double-headed tool, with a sharp axe blade and a smaller adze blade.  

Samuel Watkinson Collins founded the Collins Company with his brother and their cousin in 1826. They started with making axes – a tool that every pioneer, logger, and builder needed at that time. By 1859, Collins employed 350 people and produced 2,000 tools daily, having added picks, sledge-hammers, sugarcane cutting knives, machetes and more. At one time, the company produced 80 percent of the world’s machetes. Collins died in 1871. The company of his name continued at the same site until 1966, sold, moved, moved again. “Collins Axe” is now a brand for Truper, a Mexico-headquartered international manufacturer of tools, including shovels and wheelbarrows.

The Allen wrench, fitting snugly into the indentation on a screw or bolt, was the trademarked invention of William G. Allen in 1910. He also had a U.S, patent awarded to a method of manufacturing the screwhead. Much like Collins, this was originally a Connecticut company named after the founder. He moved on, the company was sold/acquired several times, and is now a brand name, with manufacture in Asia. Headless screws were promoted as a safety feature in factories because a when the tops of the screws were flush with moving machine parts those were much less likely to catch the clothing of workers and pull them into injurious contact.

As to why the Allen screwhead has a six-sided indentation, Peter Robertson of Ontario, Canada, had earlier patented and put into production a means of making a screw head with a square indentation circa 1909, after having badly cut his hand on a “flat-blade” screwdriver. Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company found this design so time-saving that he proposed paying for an exclusive license. Robertson refused. Allen went six-sided to avoid infringing the Robertson patents.    

Next, we turn our attention to the Phillips screwdriver. John P. Thompson invented and patented a cross-headed screw and screwdriver combination, the major improvement over the flat-blade type that it would not slip out to one side or the other of the screwhead. After failing to interest manufacturers, Thompson sold his self-centering design to Henry Frank Phillips. Phillips improved the manufacturing process of the screwhead, which was technically much more difficult than machining the screwdriver. One of the first customers for a non-exclusive license was General Motors. By 1940, 85 percent of U.S. screw manufacturers had a license for the design. Robertson’s desire to have a patent-protected monopoly had cost him the major market share of screws and drivers to the Allen and Phillips designs.

Jules Leotard (1838-70) was
a French acrobat who developed
tight-fitting clothes
There is worldwide agreement that screws and bolts tighten when turned to the right, i.e., clockwise, and loosen when turned to the left. There are rare instances where left-threading is needed. For bicycle pedals, if there were right-threading on the left pedal, the friction of the pedal while it revolves around the shaft would gradually loosen the pedal. For this reason, right pedals are right-threaded to tighten and left pedals are left-threaded.

Wikipedia has a long list of objects named after their inventors. A selection: Bloomers, Bowie knife, Bunsen burner, Derrick, Diesel engine, Ferris wheel, Franklin stove, Gattling gun, Graham crackers, Jacuzzi, Leotard, Macadam (asphalt), Mason Jar, Murphy bed, Otis elevator, Pilates, Pulaski axe/adze, Tupperware, Yale lock, Zamboni and Zeppelin.

Inventions are also named after places: Adirondack chair, Bikini bathing suit, Damascus steel swords, Duffel bag, Denver Boot, Jersey barrier, Panama hat, Rugby football, and so on.


Thursday, September 16, 2021

More about Maynard's School System

On September 30, at 7:00 p.m., the Maynard Public Library will present a Zoomed talk titled: “Maynard’s Schools Through the Centuries.” This is the eighth in a monthly series of history lectures produced by the Sesquicentennial Steering Committee as part of Maynard’s celebration of the 150th anniversary of its creation. Register at The October talk will be “The Maynard Family.” A new history book “MAYNARD MASSACHUSETTS: A Brief History”, is for sale for $21.99 at 6 Bridges Gallery, 77 Main Street, WED-SAT, 12-5. 

Last week’s column about school buildings down the centuries had little to say about the people in those schools. As resources, the Maynard Public Library has copies of the town’s annual reports back to 1871, each with a subsection on the school system. Also useful, the Maynard Historical Society has a sizeable collection of the high school yearbooks, all of which have been scanned and can be read in their entirety on-line.

At the time of the incorporation of Maynard in 1871, town population 1800, the new town was served by ten teachers working in four small school buildings. Salaries were in the range of $9-15/week. The high school was a two-room wooden building on Nason Street, now site of the library. High school enrollment was 35 students.

Twenty-one years later. the high school graduating class of 1892 chose orange and black as the school colors. (The Town of Maynard decided on official town colors of blue and white in 1917. Who knew?)  Mr. E. Elmer Galger, principal and acting superintendent, was paid a salary of $1,061. At that time, state law required that a child shall go to school twenty weeks in each year until 14 years old (changed to 16 years old in 1913). Not until 1898 did state law prohibit children under 14 year of age doing factory work. Farm work had no age limit. Few students completed 12 years of schooling. Often, their parents encouraged them to leave school and get a job in order to supplement the family income. Circa 1910-20, the graduating class numbered in the teens.

Graduating class of 1917, Maynard High School, 
Maynard, MA (courtesy historical society)
The 1918-19 school year saw schools suspended for five weeks as part of the national effort to contain the influenza pandemic. In Maynard, deaths attributed to influenza/pneumonia amounted to a bit under one percent of the population. Nationwide, deaths were estimated at 0.6 to 0.8 percent of the population of 105 million.   

School annual reports provide information on peaks and valleys in school enrollment, and also on the quality of education. There had been a huge spike in births 1900-1920, reflecting a tripling in the town’s population after the American Woolen Company bought and expanded the woolen mill, and also built and rented houses in the “Presidential District.” There was a peak in school enrollment 1923-30, reaching 1,750 students. This was less than might have been expected considering births, but childhood mortality was high, and as noted, many students left school at the earliest possible age. Births were low 1930-45, not a surprise given the Great Depression and World War II. Enrollment had dropped to under 1,000 around 1943-47. Post-war, new housing on the north side of town in combination with the “Baby Boom” reaching a peak 1960-75, led to school enrollment cresting at 2,100 around 1968-75. Once the “Boom” children were past school years, enrollment dropped to around 1250 for 1986-93, and then recovered to the mid-teens, where it remains.

The 1909 annual report mentioned that among 14 neighboring towns, Maynard had by far the lowest school budget at $22,000. Come 1937, the budget was $98,000, and of a state survey of 83 towns, Maynard was 73rd in expenditure per student. Year after year after year, the school superintendents’ annual reports mentioned that Maynard lost teachers to other towns that paid more   

Alumni Field became the school's sports site long before the high school moved to the south side of town. In 1928, while Maynard High School was still at the Summer Street location, the town transferred the land that had been the Town Poor Farm meadow to the school department. The football team started using the new playing field for the 1928 season. Within a handful of years Alumni Field gained a cinder track around the playing field, bleachers, a field house and tennis courts.

Click on photos to enlarge
Until the mid-1960s, elementary and middle schools had morning and afternoon sessions, with children going home for lunch. Presumably their mother or another adult family member would be home days. Not until 1971 did schools start providing lunch. Also, until mid-1960s, high school hours were 8-1, with no afternoon session. Driver education started in 1949. Special Education, per new state law, started in 1955, with students initially being bused to Concord. WAVM went on the air in 1973, at 60 hours of radio broadcasting per week, with 75 licensed student broadcasters.   

Massachusetts voters endorsed the tax-increase-limiting Proposition 2-1/2 in 1980. A large impact to school operations was foreseen. In Maynard, this, in combination with a fast-declining enrollment, led to a massive disruption. In 1981, 51 positions eliminated (25 professionals and 26 non-teaching positions). Teacher:student ratios were increased. Coolidge School closed after 75 years of service.

AND THERE IS SO MUCH MORE INFORMATION, which may have to wait for a third article, after the September 30 talk.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Maynard's Schools Through the Centuries

A chair from the "Brick
School", in the Maynard
Historical Society collection. 
Surprisingly, the two oldest school buildings – predating the creation of Maynard – are still with us. In the spelling of the era, the goals were to "teach children to rede and wright and cast accounts". Sudbury appears to have voted in 1779 to build a one-room schoolhouse for the northwest district, in 1871 moving that building farther north to what is now the intersection of Routes 27 and 117, where it served as Maynard’s “Turnpike School” until 1881. No longer a school, moved again in 1884 to corner of Concord and Acton streets – a distance of one mile – where it abides as a private home. On the Stow side of the Assabet River, District No. 5 had a school constructed in 1766: the “Brick School.” This was on Summer Street, hence became a Maynard school in 1871. It was closed the following year. It remains in place as part of the home at 101 Summer Street. Two other schools also pre-dated Maynard. One two-room building at the site of present-day Town Hall served until the town decided to replace it with its first multi-room brick school at the same site. The other, the first school on Nason Street, was lower grades, then first high school, then lower grades again.

At the time of the incorporation of Maynard in 1871, the new town was served by ten teachers working in four small school buildings. Salaries were in the range of $9-15/week. The high school was a two-room wooden building on Nason Street. Enrollment was 35 students. Six years later the high school classes relocated to a new two-room school on Acton Street, across from the east end of Main Street, leaving the Nason building to revert to elementary school.

Nason Street School (1892-2016)
The year 1892 saw a consolidation of Main, Nason, Acton and Sudbury schools into a two-story, twelve-room, wooden building at the Nason Street site, on the same stone foundation that is now the first floor of the Maynard Public Library. For a time, this was Maynard’s only school building, serving all grades.

The mill went bankrupt in 1898, then purchased and reopened in 1899 by the American Woolen Company. Expansion added the very large Building No. 5 on the south side of the millpond in 1902. The workforce grew, as did the town’s population: from 3,142 in 1900 to 6,390 in 1910. The population explosion of school-age children, especially in the Presidential Village housing development of 1901-03, led to the construction of new, brick-constructed schools at the Main Street site (1903) and on Bancroft Street (1906). The first was renamed Woodrow Wilson School in 1932. The second had a second floor of four more classrooms added in 1910 and was renamed Calvin Coolidge School in 1932.        

Remains of the Nason Street School fire
September 20, 1916, a nighttime fire brought an end to the Nason Street School. This was attributed to arson, as there had been a less damaging fire at the school just a week earlier. All that was left standing were the two brick chimneys. For a disaster, the timing was good. Three years earlier the town had voted to build a new high school, the site later chosen on Summer Street. The two-story brick building – currently the east wing of ArtSpace, was built at a cost of $61,500 and occupied October 2, 1916. This was the high school through 1964. A new, brick, elementary school was constructed at Nason Street, atop the foundation of the fire site. It opened fall of 1918, named Roosevelt School 1919. It served as a school through 1988, stood empty almost 20 years, resurrected as the Maynard Public Library, July 2006.

Meanwhile, back on Summer Street, the Town of Maynard, in its wisdom, decide to redirect a stream that flowed next to the high school into an underground storm sewer and build a junior high school, auditorium and gymnasium atop it (probably contributes to why ArtSpace is flood prone). The junior high opened January 1926, named Emerson Junior High School in 1932. After the high school moved to its new south-side campus in 1964, half the building became Fowler Elementary School and the whole complex became known as Emerson-Fowler School. In time, the junior high school took over the entire building as Fowler Middle School, remaining as such until the end of 2000.

Coolidge School originally built as one story
Back on Main Street, Wilson School was closed in 1942 because the school population had decreased dramatically, reopened in 1948 when the post-war baby boom started to arrive, and then was destroyed when a pre-dawn fire on December 17, 1952 left only the scorched brick exterior standing. This left Coolidge and Roosevelt as elementary schools.

The next phase for the Maynard school system was to create three schools adjacent to each other, on the south side of Route 117, each to have adequate parking and adjacent fields for physical education classes. Green Meadow School was first. Land was taken from Crowe Park. The school opened for the 1956-57 school year. Coolidge was kept on until 1981. A major addition to Green Meadow was approved in 1986, completed for the beginning of the 1988-89 year, which led to the closing of Roosevelt in 1988. “Maynard High School” was completed in 1964 at a cost of $1,700,000. Fowler Middle School (leave the old building, keep the name) opened in 2000. And then, in 2013, the fifth Maynard High School was replaced by the sixth Maynard High School, at a cost of $42,500,000. Note that over the years, two schools were completely destroyed by fire (Nason 1916, Wilson 1952) and three were significantly damaged (Nason 1879, Emerson-Fowler 1978, Maynard High School 1992).

Separate from the public school system: Mrs. Smith's School for Girls (1848-1857) was run by Mrs. Susan Smith at the Levi Smith place on Great Road. In 1965, Saint Bridget’s Parish opened Saint Bridget’s Parochial School in a brick building on Percival Street, on a filled-in section of the mill pond. The school was staffed by Sisters of Notre Dame, who had a modest convent near-by. The building is now home to The Imago School, a private school offering a Christian faith-based education for grades pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.


Yes, correct spelling "current"