BROOKLINE HISTORICAL SOCIETY
ANNUAL MEETING, JANUARY 19, 1910
PUBLISHED BY THE SOCIETY
BROOKLINE HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Members of the Brookline Historical Society and Friends
NINTH ANNUAL MEETING.
Ladies and Gentlemen,-In beginning this, my first annual address as its President, it is meet that we should accord to my predecessor in office our thanks and praise for all he has done in the past, to promote the welfare of this Society and to endeavor to make it a success. It is well to remember all we owe to Captain Candage. Indeed, but for him, this Society would not have been, and in his old age and retirement, let us give him a hearty good word and earnest wishes for a happy year.
In looking back over the past twelve months, I think we may reasonably congratulate ourselves; and with the renewed good attendance and interest since the beginning of another active season, we certainly have reason to believe that there is warrant for our continued existence.
The following have been the Papers presented during the year:-
January 26. Address of the President, R. G. F. Candage. As this was his retiring address, he made it the occasion of a resume of some of the many changes, inventions and almost revolutions that have happened during his long life, and especially as it has affected this, our beloved town.
February 12. This was a special meeting and called at this date to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the birthday of Abraham Lincoln. It is one of the regrets in the life of your president that he was unable to be present at this meeting, but his place was most ably filled by your vice-president, and you who had the good fortune to be present will, I am sure, bear witness to his eloquent words, and to the interesting reminiscences of our fellow-member, William J. Seaver. The other addresses, the readings and musical solos and the singing by the whole meeting were of a high order and were a most fitting commemoration of the noble man. The gathering was a large one.
March 24. "The Royal House and Some of its People," by Bliss Helen Wild of Medford. This was an interesting description and history of this fine old house and of some of its occupants, and was prepared and read by one who has been enthusiastic in its preservation and partial restoration.
April 21. "Personal Experiences in Confederate Prisons, 1861-62," by William Carver Bates of Newton. This was not a formal paper, but an exceedingly interesting talk about his experiences in the Rebellion, in Rebel prisons in and about New Orleans.
May 19. "Diary of John Howe, a British Spy in 1776." Prepared by Miss Ellen Chase, and read by Mr. Charles F. White. This was an account of the trials and perplexities and narrow escapes of a spy who went over the roads between Boston and the towns of Worcester county in the early year of the Revolution.
October 20. The first paper after the summer vacation. "From the Stage Coach to the Parlor Car," by Charles E. Mann of Maiden. Mr. Mann is secretary of the Board of Railroad Commissioners of Massachusetts, and he was most familiar with the great changes and improvements in railroad travel. His talk was informal and very entertaining.
November 17. "The Evolution of a New England Home," by Frank Smith of Dedham. This paper had originally been prepared for the Dedham Historical Society, and some of his allusions were of a local character, but the paper was historically very happy with old associations, and might well have applied to Brookline as well as Dedham.
December 15. "Memories of Forty Years of Teaching," by Miss Mary P. Frye of Brookline. Beginning with her first school in Boston in 1869, Miss Frye came to Brookline in 1870, and has taught here continuously until 1909. Her talk, for it was informal, was most amusing and entertaining, and her allusions to events and persons so well known to most of us, brought the past condition of things most vividly to her hearers. We shall hope to again hear from Miss Frye.
And here I want to emphasize the fact that this is a Brookline institution, and though we most cordially welcome speakers and friends from other towns, we should mainly depend upon ourselves for the instruction and benefits to be derived at our monthly meetings. We certainly have the talent and ability in our ranks to make these meetings profitable; and your president would strongly urge the members to come forward and proffer their services in the preparation of papers, in which they may feel interested and which may interest others.
The total membership in this Society January 26, 1909 was 173. There has been one resignation because of removal from the town, and four other resignations for various causes; and one new member has joined. Death has removed four from our ranks during the year, leaving the whole number of members December 31, 1909, 165. The deaths were:-
James Rooney, died April 5. Aged 46 yrs.
Dr. Tappan Eustis Francis, died April 20. Aged 85 yrs, 6 mos. 20 dys.
Frederick Beck, died October 2. Aged 91 yrs. 4 mos. 22dys.
George Sumner Mann, died October 27. Aged 74yrs. 11 mos. 2 dys.
Mr. Rooney was born in Brookline, and had always lived here. He attended the public schools, and succeeded his father in business. He was not an active member in this Society, and for several years had been in poor health. He will be remembered for his polite and cheerful presence.
Dr. Francis (who did not know Dr. Francis?) came to Brookline as a very young man, and has always been a large part of the town. During his active years he was probably the best known person in Brookline. He was a blessed exemplification of the Good Physician, and by his kind heart, his genial nature and proverbial flow of wit and humor, had endeared himself to all who knew him. His presence here will be well remembered by those who attended our earlier meetings, and he always had a pleasant word of comment on the paper of the evening. He was a faithful friend of the old soldiers, and his memory will always be blessed by them as well as ourselves.
Mr. Frederick Beck was formerly connected with the Boston banking house of Dupee, Beck and Sayles, but had lived in retirement for several years. He had lived for a long time in his pleasant home on Davis avenue, his grounds joining those of his old friend, Dr. Francis. It was a blessed Providence that these two neighbors for so many years here should be so soon re-united in the beyond. The fine old house so long occupied by Mr. Beck was built about 1840 by Mr. Isaac Thayer, and on what was then known as Washington place, and the garden extended to Washington street. Mr. Beck was a great reader, was for many years a member of the Thursday Club and had contributed many papers to that organization.
Mr. Mann was a native of Petersham in this state. He had lived in Brookline for the past sixteen years, and was an early member of this Society. He was very much interested, and until his last sickness, a most punctual attendant at its meetings. He had contributed several papers, the last one on Gouverneur Morris a little more than a year ago.
The recent destructive fire in what is now known as the David Hall Rice house, has brought this historic house into prominence. It was built in 1821 by Joseph Sewall a descendant of Chief Justice Sewall, and the grandfather of Mrs. Edward C. Cabot, who has recently deceased. Mr. Sewall was a partner in the firm of Sewall and Tappan, merchants of Boston, and Mr. John Tappan built what is now known as the Philbrick house about the same time, probably in the same year. Mr. Sewall lived in his house for ten or twelve years. This must have been a very retired, secluded spot. There was no house on what is now Walnut street, then known as the Sherburn road, between these two partners' homes, and the Sewall property took in all of what is now called the Sewall district, extending to Jamaica Pond. There was a narrow lane extending from the public road to the back end of the estate, and years after, during the occupancy of Mr. Hugh R. Kendall, this was the scene of many May-day parties and picnics. That part of Mr. Edward C. Cabot's land which has been suggested as a possible park by the town was known as Fairyland, and a most beautiful spot it was. The next occupant of the house was a family named Tilson, and one of the sons was a colonel in the Civil War. Deacon Lambert next lived here. He was quite prominent in one of the Boston churches and quite an interesting anecdote in connection with the deacon's occupancy was recently related to me. It seems that at one time during the preaching of that celebrated divine, Dr. William Ellery Channing, a Unitarian, Dr. Lyman Beecher, was sent to Boston from his home in Litchfield, Conn., to try to combat the effect of Dr. Channing's preaching, and he stayed for a while with his friend, Deacon Lambert. Now, as has been said, this house and Mr. Philbrick's were the only ones on that side of Walnut street. Each had quite a long approach from the road, and each had a great resemblance to the other. It happened that Deacon Lambert called one day on Mr. Philbrick on some business, and while they were talking in walked Dr. Beecher without the formality of knocking. The deacon looked surprised, but introduced Mr. Philbrick to the doctor, who nodded rather coolly to his host, and then took up a book and sat down to read. After the deacon had finished his business, he went to Dr. Beecher and said, "Doctor, do you know where you are?" The reply was, "Why in your house, of course," Imagine his surprise when he learned he was in the house of an entire stranger.
Mr. Hugh R. Kendall was the next owner and occupant, and it was he who cleared the land and allowed the public to enjoy it. He was a retired Boston merchant, and quite wealthy in the estimation of those days. In the tax book of 1843, Mr. Kendall was taxed on 22 ½ acres of land, and on $80,000 personal estate. Since his day there have been a number of occupants, the house being used at one time as a home for orphans of naval officers.
The Philbrick house, after a few years' occupancy of Mr. Tappan, was next owned by a Mr. Ropes. He was a zealous orthodox, and there being no church of that faith in Brookline he opened his parlors for services, which probably was the beginning of what is now the Harvard Church. Mr. Samuel Philbrick bought the place in 1829, and it has since been in that family. Mr. Philbrick was a good citizen, and withal an ardent member of the Anti-Slavery Society, and his house was well known in the days before the war as one of the stations of the "Underground Railroad."
Another house, built by a brother of John Tappan, and probably about the same time, is the fine stone mansion occupied for many years by the Blake family. Mr. Lewis Tappan, soon after building, removed to New York, and there followed several occupants of the house. Mr. George Baty Blake bought the place about 1845, and it has since been in possession of the Blake family. Mr. Blake was the senior partner in the banking house of Blake Bros., and he had a large family, four sons and two daughters, all of whom have passed away, the widow of the youngest son now owning the place. The property has been added to and greatly improved of late years, making it one of the most beautiful country seats in the town, and situated as it is in the very centre of population, with its fine old trees and beautiful lawns and gardens, it is indeed a most restful spot. May it be many years before its lovely slopes are invaded by the ever increasing apartment houses. Another brother, Charles Tappan, lived in and owned at one time the John L. Gardner estate on Warren street, a pleasant description of which was given several years ago in Miss Julia Goddard's delightful paper. This family of Tappans were well-known wealthy Boston merchants, and were men of sterling character. A sister was the second wife of Dr. John Pierce, the beloved pastor of the First Parish.
These three stone houses are types of a beautiful style of architecture, and give one the sense of largeness and hospitality, simple yet dignified, so different from the heterogeneous appearance of many of the newer houses.
The Devotion house has had a year's experience under the control of the Devotion House Association. By subscriptions from this Society, from the D. A. R. and D. R. Chapters, and from individuals and memberships, the house has been maintained and cared for by the Association. Put in admirable order by the town, and the interior finish planned and carried out by Mr. Walter H. Kilham, the well-known architect, it is a fine example of old-time architecture, and with the contributions and loans of furniture, books, pictures and relics of the olden time, it is well worthy of a visit. The house is open on two days of the week. The attendance has not been as large as was hoped for, but the visitors' register shows that they have come from a wide range of country. Recently several meetings of patriotic societies have been held there, and it is hoped that the advertisement thus given it will prompt a larger attendance during the coming summer. An old-fashioned garden, suggested and laid out by the lady members of the Committee of the Association, adds much to the appearance of the place. Situated as it is, with its beautiful front lawn and the noble maple on either side, it presents with its simplicity a notable contrast with the large modern schoolhouses, making with them a fine quadrangle.
In some portions of our town the increase of buildings is most notable, particularly so in the growth of apartment houses. Much as we older residents may lament this, these houses evidently fill a want, though it is hard to imagine one of these suites a home.
The new Public Library, so long talked of, is rapidly becoming a reality. The moving of the old building, while the business of the Library was in constant use, was one of the novelties of the past summer.
During the past year the settlement of the long vexed question of transfers from the street cars in Village Square, has been settled and a shelter on either side of the tracks have been finished. The station has not been established long enough as yet to venture an opinion as to its desirability.
The town has made a fine roadway of the village street with a brick pavement from the town line to the junction of Washington and Boylston street, and it is now to be hoped
that the owners of the dilapidated buildings below Pearl street may see their way to replace them with something that will be more attractive to people entering this, the beautiful town of Brookline.
Your Society was represented at the winter meeting of the Bay State League at Roxbury by five of its members. Coming as it did on Saturday last, in the midst of the snow storm and blizzard, there was rather a small attendance, but the meeting made up in enthusiasm what it lacked in numbers. The subject was, "How a Local Society can Best Commemorate Noted Persons, Places or Events." Mr. James P. Monroe of the Lexington Historical Society told of what that town had done in the way of commemoration, and all who have visited that beautiful town and its venerated and venerable Clark Hancock House will bear witness to what has been accomplished. Mr. John P. Reynolds, treasurer of the Paul Revere House Memorial Association, gave an exceedingly interesting account of the trials and tribulations attending the purchase and renovation of the Paul Revere House. They did not have the treasury of the town to draw from as we in our Devotion House, and it was a long, dragging persistency which finally conquered and preserved the old house. Mr. John E. Oilman of the Roxbury Historical Society, and at the same time a member of the Grand Army, laid special emphasis on the desirability, nay, the necessity, of a cordial understanding between the historical societies and the Grand Army Posts, whereby the former should eventually be the heir to the collections and relics of the latter, whenever, as it surely must be sooner or later, that in the course of nature, the Posts must cease to be.
In this connection this Society may well congratulate itself on its pleasant meeting place. This ample, nay spacious room with the many relics of the Grand Army Post, its pictures and portraits are indeed inspiring to our meetings and make it, as I trust, for the mutual benefit to us and to the old soldiers.
And now, fellow members, I wish you a happy and a prosperous year, a wish which can only be fulfilled by a determination on the part of all of us that we will make it so.