This is a cross-post from LowellIrish researched by the Lowell Historical Society’s Genealogist Walter Hickey and Karen Hickey. More of Walter’s sleuthing will be presented on Saturday March 29, 2014 with his program on “Crime and Punishment in 19th Century Lowell”. More details coming.
This is a cross-post from Forgotten New England – written by Lowell Historical Society board member Ryan Owen. He is the newly appointed Curator of Art and Artifacts. He’ll be combing through LHS collection in the coming months, researching then reporting on the unknown stories on these forgotten finds.
Forgotten New England
Exploring New England As It Was
Forgotten Stories behind the Artifacts of the Lowell Historical Society
Lowell Police Badge – William G Lee (Photo Credit: Tony Sampas, LHS Archivist) From the Collection of the Lowell Historical Society
Check out this badge. I came across it in the Lowell Historical Society’s vast archive, located in the city’s Boott Mills complex. As the society’s newly-appointed Curator of Art and Artifacts, I got to spend some time with the badge, recently, and other items that came with it.
The badge, it turns out, comes from William G. Lee, a patrolman with the Lowell Police Department who retired from the force in 1948, after 37 years of service. The Society also has Lee’s billy club and his policemans’ rule book in its collection.
Like all old stuff, the badge, club, and book all have a kind of magic to them. I mean, face it. Old stuff like this invokes a certain fascination within all of us. It’s one of the reasons societies like the Lowell Historical Society exist, and why they have an archive in the first place. Maybe that sense of wonder carries forward from our first years, when we escaped into our grandparents’ attics as children and found Victorian punch bowl sets wrapped in yellowed newspapers, or a stack of colorful magazines from the decade before we were born. Most of those things are gone now, disappeared into landfills, into firepits, into oblivion. Unless we saved them, or donated them to an archive.
That’s just how the badge, the club, and the rulebook made it to the Lowell Historical Society’s archive. Almost 20 years ago, Officer Lee’s daughter donated them so that they could be maintained, and shared with future visitors to the Society’s archive.
24 Canton Street as it appears today (Photo Credit: Google Maps)
Touching history is a pretty cool thing. Sure, you can read about history, watch it on TV, or even apply your imagination to it. But touching history brings it to life. And that’s the great thing about archives. You can touch history. As the Lowell Historical Society’s Curator, one of my duties is to publicize the collection, and share some of the stories I encounter as I research its items, and help bring the society’s vast holdings to life. When you first set about researching an artifact, there’s that initial wave of information you instantly find, the low-hanging fruit, so to speak. Sometimes, it’s the most interesting. Often, it’s not. A quick search on William G Lee shows that he lived at 24 Canton Street in Lowell in June 1948, when he retired from the force.
From the note that came with the badge, I also learned that he was appointed to the department’s probationary force in May 1911, and was promoted to the rank of patrolman about five years later in September 1916.
What’s really interesting, though, is the next few waves of discovery that you come across as you research a piece. And it turns out that Patrolman Lee received some commendations during his 37 years on the force. A quick glance through Lee’s rulebook reveals that patrolmen, while making their rounds, weren’t allowed to walk together, or even talk with one another. They were advised not to stay in one spot, or converse with anyone, unless it was in the line of duty. But, a little more research into Lee’s career proves that it’s good that he didn’t always follow his rulebook to the letter.
Officers Lee and Liston Save Lives of Dummer Street Tenants (Credit: Lowell Sun – 2/8/1922, Pg. 1)
While he was wearing that very badge pictured above, Lee stood at the top of Dummer Street early one day on February 13, 1922, talking with fellow patrolman William Liston. It wasn’t even four in the morning, when he and Liston first saw the flames and smoke bursting from the windows of a dry goods store on the ground floor of a building housing eight tenements. Lee ran at once and pulled the alarm on a nearby fire box, while Liston ran to the burning tenement at 67 Dummer Street and started to rouse its residents. Lee soon joined. They, with the firemen who soon arrived, entered the building and awakened the tenants who lived on its three floors. Everyone escaped unharmed, and the men carried three children out of the fire to safety.
Three years later, Lee received a commendation again, when he made an arrest in the early morning hours of January 26, 1925. While likely carrying the very billy club that now rests within the Society’s collection, Lee arrested Edward Cole, a 32-year-old Lowell man who was wanted for breaking and entering into a Londonderry, NH hen house some two months earlier. How did Lee find Cole? He happened upon him while Cole was trying to crack a safe at the Colonial Filling Station on the Pawtucket Boulevard.
Police Billy Club that once belonged to Lowell Police Officer William G Lee (Photo Credit: Tony Sampas, LHS Archivist) From the Collection of the Lowell Historical Society
How did Lee treat his prisoners? Luckily, we have his rulebook to shed some light on this. The book advised that prisoners “shall be made as comfortable as possible,” and reminded officers that they were entitled to clear water. The water could be purchased using the prisoners’ own money, the book continued, but only if that money hadn’t come from the offense for which they had been arrested. Even if it turned out that the prisoner was broke, the police officer could purchase the refreshment from his own money, get a receipt, and get reimbursed for these expenses once monthly. Officers were required to check on their prisoners once every half hour, but were strictly forbidden to “bandy words with prisoners” or to speak to them unnecessarily. The book also stressed that the use of obscene or profane language was prohibited.
Lee’s guidebook also provides a glimpse into the daily life of patrolmen. The book specifically reminded policemen that they were to look for anyone of ‘known bad character’ and that it was their duty to seek out disturbances and to restore quiet. They were also encouraged to evaluate anyone who he saw walking Lowell’s streets after 10 PM. In making his rounds, we also learn that Lee ensured that Lowell’s sidewalks remained unobstructed, and that he was to gauge the purpose of anyone he saw selling door-to-door. Lee was also responsible for checking the doors of all dwellings upon his route to make sure that they were properly locked.
While Lee was fulfilling these same duties, in March 1933, he found Mrs. Sofie Boumilla, 37, on the floor of her unheated Cady Street home, weak and nonresponsive. She had spent the night before on her floor, suffering with a broken leg. She had fallen on the sidewalk on Chapel Street at 6:30 PM the prior evening and had dragged herself home, nearly half a mile away. A neighbor who heard the woman’s weak moaning summoned Patrolman Lee who entered the home and rescued her.
Lowell Sun, Front Page, March 16, 1933
The badge, billy club, and police rulebook are just a few of the many historical treasures that form the holdings of the Lowell Historical Society’s archive. The LHS has been in existence for years, and traces its roots to 1868 when it was founded as the Old Residents’ Historical Association. In the coming months, I’ll be writing regular posts researching some of the many interesting items held by the Society and trying to find some of the forgotten history behind the Society’s art and artifacts.
Source: Lowell Sun, Front Page, June 22, 1948
The array of crackers available to today’s consumers from Market Basket to Trader Joe’s and beyond is stunning. I’m a cracker lover who enjoys eating them plain or with butter, “spread” or hard cheese, peanut butter (sometime with a touch of Fluff), jelly, a dip or crumbled in soup. Ritz crackers with melted butter make a elegant dressing/stuffing for scallops or lobster. But if you have a stomach that needs settling a plain saltine does the trick. This cross-post from Dave McKeon at LowellIrish reminds us of the wonderful, tasty, versatile Lowell Bradt’s Soda cracker – once a staple in so many homes. Take a trip down Memory Lane ~
|City Directory – 1890|
I just posted this on my own Facebook page. Please read the latest entry of the Solon Perkins saga as discovered by our own Lowell Historical Society board member and history researcher Eileen Loucraft.
Remember the recently found Civil War flag? The discovery in the Lowell Memorial Auditorium gave rise to a “crowdsourcing” approach to more discovery led by Lowell Historical Society board member Eileen Loucraft. Peeling back the cover of the Solon Perkins saga reveals some strange bedfellows of the family kind… http://www.richardhowe.com/2014/01/28/more-revelations-solon-perkins-ancestors-and-progeny/
Thanks to Eileen Loucraft here is a likeness of Lowell soldier Solon Perkins killed during the Civil War:
Here’s another chapter in the Solon Perkins saga in a cross-post of my post on Dick Howe’s blog. LHS board member Eileen Loucraft continues her research with more to come as there are still some unanswered questions.
Eileen Loucraft offers more insight into the Solon Perkins – Civil War soldier saga. But questions remain: Why did Mrs. Perkins give the flag to the Middlesex Bank? Were there Perkins-Knapp connections? More research coming…
From E. Loucraft: His mother, Mrs. Wealthy Perkins received the gideon from the estate of Benjamin Butler. The General had been holding the sash of Solon A. Perkins and his Captain Henry A. Durivage, of 3nd Calvery Massachusetts. Captain Durivage drowned in the Mississippi River in April of 1862 and Lieut. Perkins commanded the 3rd until his own death. Captain Durivage was the son of 19th century author Francis Alexander Durivage of Boston and later New York City. So instead of the sash ending up at Memorial Hall it ended up at the bank.
My note: What is now known as Memorial Hall is located on the second floor of the now Pollard Memorial Library. Since the library was built as a memorial to veterans and with expectations that surviving Civil War veterans would have a place to occasionally meet – the expansive upper hall was the site of the meetings of the B. F. Butler Post 42, G.A.R. organization. The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was a fraternal organization composed of veterans of the Union Army, US Navy, Marines and Revenue Cutter Service who served in the American Civil War. The Lowell Post 42 was established in 1868. The furniture and accoutrements of the GAR were in the hall for many years. BTW – the LMA has the sash!
From the Lowell Daily Sun, December 15, 1894:
“A Valuable Memento
Mrs. Wealthy Perkins, mother of Capt. Solon A. Perkins, who enlisted in this city when 27 years of age for the war, has the sash worn by her son when he was killed in the engagement with the rebels in Louisana. The sash, with another, was formerly in possession of Gen. Butler, and was enclosed by him in a receptacle for safe keeping, with the following memoranda. The sash and letter are to be put in Memorial hall.”
“The two sashes in this box belonged to two of the bravest cavalry officers I ever knew. The smaller one was worn by Henry A. Durivage, 1st lieutenant of the second company, Mass. unattached cavalry, who was lost overboard from the steamer North America on the Mississippi river at the head of the Passes, April 21, 1862. The larger one belonged to Capt. Solon Perkins of the same company, who was killed near Port Hudson, La., in June 1863. Both were dear friends, and better or braver men never lived.
Check out this web page with a gideon in excellent shape – http://jeffbridgman.com/
Here’s another cross-post from Dick Howe’s blog. My post is based on information found by fellow LHS board member Eileen Loucraft. This overall story has had input from many people/sources – all interested in the history of Lowell.
Fellow blogger, history researcher and Lowell Historical Society BOD member Eileen Loucraft has discovered more background on the Civil War flag found at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium.
The flag was donated to the Lowell Memorial Auditorium by a Mrs. Charles (Mary Sawyer) Knapp of Fort Hill Avenue in November of 1929. The particulars were found in a Lowell Sun story ( 11.29.1929)recounting that Mrs. Knapp – who had a large collection of war relics – felt that the “guidon under which a Lowell boy, Solon A. Perkins, was killed in action, and the flag was given by his mother to my husband… carefully preserved by mounting under glass in a beautifully hand-carved frame…” deserved the honor of a place in the Auditorium. For years – it seemed – prior to just coming into her hands – the flag was kept in the banking room of the Middlesex National Bank (also identified as the Middlesex Trust).
At her invitation the LMA trustees visited her home, observed the flag and unanimously agreed to add the flag to the collection. It was installed at the Auditorium on November 12, 1929.
My research shows her husband Charles L. Knapp as treasurer Middlesex Trust Company, a Trustee of the Lowell Cemetery and Clerk of the City of Lowell water board.
Eileen also found a January 1919 Sun “Man About Town” column – describing the flag as a wall decoration hanging over the chair of the bank President – F. P. Gilly. The bank president shared the Solon Perkins story with the Sun writer. Thanks to Eileen Loucraft for her research and this information.
This is a cross-post from Dick Howe’s blog. He tells us the story of the Civil War flag discovery and more about Solon A. Perkins.
Solon Perkins: 1836-1863
Workers at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium recently discovered a large, ornate wooden frame which enclosed a faded and tattered flag from the American Civil War. The Auditorium workers quickly contacted the Greater Lowell Veterans Council which sprung into action and is already planning for the refurbishment and eventual public display of this Lowell relic. Tory Germann has already documented the case and its contents with her camera and has made those pictures available on her website.
Even a quick glance at this artifact makes clear it is dedicated to Solon Perkins, one of nearly 500 men from Lowell who died in the Civil War. Perkins died from wounds sustained in battle near Port Hudson, Louisiana on June 3, 1863 while serving as an officer in the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry Regiment. Perkins was one of many from Lowell who served in Louisiana, recruited by General Benjamin Butler who had been appointed military governor of New Orleans in 1862.
Solon Perkins was born in Lancaster, New Hampshire on December 6, 1836. His family moved to Lowell in 1840. Solon graduated from Lowell High School and immediately became engaged in the world of international business, working for several years in Buenos Aires and for several more in Valparaiso, Mexico. In these places, he became fluent in both Spanish and French, skills that became invaluable during his military service in Louisiana.
In late June of 1863, the Reverend Owen Street, minister at Lowell’s High Street Church, delivered some remarks about the circumstances of Perkins’ death that were based on information that had been provided to the deceased soldier’s mother. The following is some of what Street had to say:
When the army of General Banks moved upon Port Hudson, [Perkins] was ordered there and wrote his last letter from that place. The booming of the enemy’s cannon, only 400 yards distant forbade his sleep, and he arose in the night and continued his letter . . . until an order came for him to support a battery; he stated the fact, recorded his farewell, and there his pen rested forever. The same day that this letter was received, there came another, from another hand, saying that his earthly career was closed.
[Perkins and the Union cavalry encountered] the enemy’s force at Clinton at about 2 p.m. In the course of fifteen minutes the action became general. Lt. Perkins . . . was ordered to dismount his men and deploy as skirmishers . . . The fire became so galling, however, that he was ordered to fall back . . . It was found that the Federal force was in great danger of being outflanked, as the enemy had two or three times their number . . . Perkins fought the rebels at every step. They reached a bridge over a ravine which the enemy were making every exertion to gain. While skirmishing in front of this, Perkins received a ball through his arm which disabled it. He did not however, stop fighting, but rode up to Colonel Grierson on a mule – his horse having been killed in the fight – and said that he could hold that bridge till the infantry had got out of range. . .
Perkins rejoined his corps, with one arm disabled and bleeding, and resumed the contest, exclaiming with the energy and impassioned tone of the battlefield, “Now boys, let us show these scoundrels that we can fight.” A few minutes afterwards he received his mortal wound. . . Perkins was soon placed in a carriage and conveyed off from the field. He survived about two hours, suffering little or no pain, and calmly passed away. . .
Thus has fallen as brave, as earnest, and as dutiful a soldier, and as faithful an officer, as the service can boast. If all our officers, high and low, had fulfilled their part as well as he, this war would have many months since have been brought to an end.
Besides the recently discovered flag, a monument to the memory of Solon Perkins sits in Lowell Cemetery at his family’s burial plot. The spring tours of the cemetery pass by this place. This spring, we will stop there and talk of Solon Perkins, of his service, and of the flag display created in his memory.
Our friend Jack Mitchell just posted this link to photos of a recently discovered Civil War flag. The framed, tattered flag was located at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium. Looking forward to the story and more photos.
Citation: “Under this flag at Clinton, L.A. (?) June 3rd, 1863 Solon A. Perkins was killed.”
Check out Tory Germann’s site and photos:
It’s been a while since we linked with our friends at LowellIrish. This post recounting our Lowell Historical Society’s genealogist’s recent research brings us more about that fateful day in Baltimore – April 19, 1861. Walter Hickey is a gem of a researcher – especially when it involves a mystery. Early in 2014, Walter will be presenting as part of the Lowell Historical Society’s Programs and Events series. Details coming soon.
Here is the cross-post from LowellIrish:
Friday, November 29, 2013
Where’s Walter? Since his becoming a man of leisure, one might assume Walter has been sitting on some recliner watching reruns of Hogan’s Heroes. Not so. Walter has collected a lifetime of stories and leads. Instead of resting on his laurels, he has been out and about following up on tips that only someone of his caliber could follow. After years working in Special Collection at the Pollard Library and even more years at the National Archives, Walter is one of the most well versed Lowell historians around today.
Moments later the archivist informed me that the musket of Charles Taylor was also held by the Archives and asked if I would like to see the donation record sheet. Of course I said yes!
ere’s is the cross-post from LowellIrish: