Forgotten Finds ~ A Heart Box of Cinders

 

As the Lowell Historical Society’s newly appointed Curator – Ryan Owen – continues his work with the Collection, he will report on the oddities and curiosities that one finds in a collection as old and diverse as this Lowell collection. He’d welcome your comments! Here’s his latest find…

From the Curator’s Desk: Odd Old Things – The Box of Cinders

At the Lowell Historical Society, we sometimes get the question:  ”Hey, what’s the strangest thing you have in your collection?”

That’s a tough question to answer. The Lowell Historical Society has been around for a long time. I’m reminded of this each time I visit our archive. Just this morning, I found a book, one of those old official-looking volumes with the word ‘records’ embossed on its side, that contains minutes from a few decades of our board meetings, starting from 1943.  And then, just next to that, was a stack of correspondence with donors from 1973.  All of this is impeccably preserved.

But the Society’s collection is much older than that.  Its history dates back to its founding in 1868.

That’s a lot of time to collect odd things, that have since become old.

When I stumble upon these, I often think of the question: ‘If you didn’t know to ask for it, how would you ever find it? Or even know it exists?’

This is exactly the case with our Box of Cinders.

The Box of Ashes, from the Collection of the Lowell Historical Society.  Photo by Author

The Box of Cinders, from the Collection of the Lowell Historical Society. Photo by Author

Yes, the cinders, or ashes, are in a heart-shaped box.  As we’re currently in mid-February, I suppose that’s sort of seasonally appropriate.  The note attached to the top of the box, which probably accompanied the donation some ninety-ish years ago, identifies the remains within the box not as . . . some long-lost loved one, but as what one Charles C. Swan, a retired shoe dealer, found on his lawn one Friday morning on June 4, 1926.  The note actually provides a lot of information, which is great.  What’s sadly lacking is some explanation as to why the ashes were put, and kept, in a heart-shaped box, for these last 88 years.  This informational  gap is perhaps one of the greatest tragedies in our collection.  Some questions just don’t have a satisfying answer.

The Box of Ashes - Top, with Explanatory Note

The Box of Cinders – Top, with Explanatory Note, which reads:  ”CINDERS – Found on lawn on 452 East Merrimack St. Friday morning June 4th 1926.  Came from Pollard Fire June 3rd 1926.  Charles C. Swan

Most folks, after finding something on their lawn one morning, probably wouldn’t think of donating it to their local historical society, but Charles C. Swan must have been a bit of a visionary.  And he was the treasurer of the Lowell Historical Society at the time.  So, he understood the significance of historical events when he saw them unfold.

pollard 1944Charles C. Swan probably saw the flames consuming Pollard’s Department Store the afternoon before, maybe from his home a mile away, at 452 East Merrimack Street.  Or maybe he was downtown as the chaos unfolded late that afternoon.  Maybe he saw the firemen arrive, first from the Lowell Fire Department, then from the surrounding towns of Billerica, Chelmsford, and Dracut.  Firemen from as far away as Lawrence came to join in the fight to save one of Lowell’s largest department stores.  No one died, but several firemen were overcome by the billowing smoke or cut by flying glass.  Four hours later, the fire was history.  But, so was Pollard’s Department Store, which traced its roots in Lowell to 1836.  Only its walls remained.  In the eyes of many, including Charles C. Swan, it truly was a Lowell institution, whose loss would be keenly felt.  Mr. Swan probably couldn’t imagine Lowell without it.

Charles C. Swan must have been overcome at that moment, the next morning, when he found a piece of that history on his lawn.  When he picked it up, and held it – maybe even as the smell of the smoke that had consumed Pollard’s still hung in the air.  So, he found a box in his home on East Merrimack, the heart-shaped box, and saved that little bit of history for posterity by donating his find to the Lowell Historical Society.

Merrimack Street - Lowell - in Fall 2011. Pollard's was once housed in the brick building at the immediate right of the photograph.  Photo by Author

Merrimack Street – Lowell – in Fall 2011. Pollard’s was once housed in the brick building at the immediate right of the photograph. Photo by Author

And it worked too.  Those ashes, which otherwise would have likely blown away in the next spring breeze, or melted into his lawn with the next spring rain, way back in June 1926, are still carefully held and preserved by the Society today.  They’ve survived Charles C. Swan, who died a few years later in 1929, and even the great Pollard’s Department Store, which subsequently rebuilt and reopened, but then closed its doors for good in 1969.

Sometimes the most fragile relics are those which survive the longest.

 

St Peter’s Cemetery Part 2: The Little Black Book

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.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

St Peter’s Cemetery Part 2: The Little Black Book

This concludes the story of St. Peter’s Cemetery as researched by Walter and Karen Hickey.

There is such a book entitled “St. Peter’s Cemetery”, and we thought this would provide the answer to the locations of the graves. That expectation was relatively short-lived. The book is a record of lot owners.  In addition to the name of the purchaser, it provides the date of purchase, location of the lot, price paid, and sometimes the name or relation of the deceased.  All too often, the name of the decedent is not listed.  Instead, there is simply a notation “Opening grave” and the charge for that.  We are not told for whom the grave was opened.
 In the spreadsheet compiled from this book, there are 365 entries.  Of these only 165 have any notation of who is buried in that grave.  The remaining 200 have no decedent listed.
 Another problem is that the book seems to have been compiled after the fact as the purchases are not in chronological order.  The first burial was that of Edward Connor on 11 Dec 1900.  One would expect that this purchase would be the first listed in the book.  Instead it is listed on page 147 (of 176)
 From his obituary we know that the lot was purchased by his brother-in-law, Charles S. Little, and that this was the first plot sold.
FIRST INTERMENT
Edward C. Connor at rest in St. Peter’s Cemetery
 The first man to buy a lot in the new St. Peter’s Cemetery was Charles S. Little of 59 Boynton street.  The lot he bought was one of the most desirable in the cemetery, 10 feet square, with room for eight graves, and the price was $25.  The first body interred in the new cemetery was buried in this lot on Tuesday.” 11 Dec.]  (SUNDAY TELEGRAM, 12 December 1900; 5:2)
 If it were not for that obituary providing the name of his brother-in-law, Charles S. Little, we would have no way of knowing where Mr. Connor was buried.  The purchase record indicates the lot was purchased on 10 December and opened for Edward C. Connor, the lot being at Section “D”.  #1.
 
 The first purchaser listed is Mrs. Bridget Murphy. Who bought the lot on 20 October 1902.  The first, and only, interment was on 5 March 1907.  There is no name of the decedent.  A check of all Lowell deaths, 1-10 March 1907, showed no one by the name of Murphy.  There were interments in St. Peter’s cemetery but there was nothing in the obituary or funeral notices to indicate any relation to Mrs. Murphy.  It is also quite possible that the person did not die in Lowell.
 
 Also on Page 2, listed below Mrs., Bridget Murphy:
 
James Devaney purchased Lot 24, Sec “B” on St. Cecelia’s Walk on 25 April 1903.
 Like the Murphy record, the record does not tell us for whom the grave was opened.  In this case, however, by looking at the record deaths in Lowell ca. 25 April 1903, we learn that the deceased was Bridget Devaney, nee Morris, daughter of Lawrence Morris and Margaret Carey, who died 24 April and was buried by undertaker Rogers in St. Peter’s Cemetery.
 The next challenge in the tale of this little cemetery will be to determine if we can match those coordinates with existing graves and locations in the present yards.  We can wait for the snow to melt!
 The information contained in the purchase book has been entered into a spreadsheet.  There are two printings.  The first is in alphabetical order and the send in page order.  These, as well as the burial spreadsheets are in the office of St. Patrick’s Cemetery.

Forgotten Finds from the Collection of the Lowell Historical Society ~ the Badge

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

February 7, 2014

Forgotten Stories behind the Artifacts of the Lowell Historical Society

Lowell Police Badge - William G Lee (Photo Credit:  Tony Sampas, LHS Archivist)

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, Lowell, as it appears today (Photo Credit:  Google Maps)

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)

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

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

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

Source: Lowell Sun, Front Page, June 22, 1948

A Lowell Cracker Remembered

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 ~

Bradt’s Crackers- a Lowell original

 
 
Thursday nights were food shopping nights when I was growing up in the Acre.  We’d get in our 55 Ford and head down Broadway to the Giant Store.  It had a big ramp that led up to the food store, or you could take the stairs and go down to look at the toys.  When you were done grocery shopping, they’d put your brown paper bags in a metal bin and send it down a long set of rollers, which led outside in order to load at your car.  I always wanted to take a ride along that conveyor, but I digress. 
One of the items that was on our weekly shopping list was a box of Bradt’s crackers.  They came in a long, white rectangular box with blue lettering that said “Bradt’s Soda Crackers.”  The crackers were snow white with little air pockets that made them “crispy, but not brittle” as was advertised on the box.  I remember they were on a shelf near the ice cream, and I’d have to climb up on the freezer to reach them to put in the shopping cart.  There was always the warning of not dropping the box and breaking them before we got them home.  There was always a little anxiety to pull out that perfect cracker without breaking it, and then snapping it along the little perforations that would divide the square into quarters. 
The company was a Lowell original being manufactured on Whiting Street (between Fletcher and Salem Streets).  Today the parking lot for the new UMass buildings completely covers where the small wood and stone factory once stood.  My friend, David, lived just steps away from the factory.  You could smell the crackers baking in the oven as we played in back of his house.  The white-aproned men would often keep the doors and windows open to escape the heat or sneak outside for a smoke.  From time to time they’d give us a few of the broken crackers.   The wooden floors of the factory were almost snow white with crackers that didn’t meet quality control.  Occasionally, farmers would pull up to haul away the sacks of broken pieces to feed their hogs.
 
 City Directory – 1890
Since my dad had ulcers they were a staple of his diet whenever they flared up.  My Mother used them in her stuffing, as I think every Lowell mother did.  They were great on meatless Fridays with butter or peanut butter.  Probably every family in the area had a box of Bradt’s in their pantry. 
The company had deep Lowell roots.  It was started by David, Gerrit J(Garrett), and David Bradt in 1833.  The Bradts originally worked for Mr. Pierce’s bakery.  In just a couple of years the brothers opened their own bakery on Whiting Street and built a home.  They acquired tracts of land that make up parts of Bowers Street.  Through the years the company took on several names; Bradt’s Soda Crackers, Bradt’s Soda Biscuits, and Bradt’s Common Crackers.  The family did well enough that they became involved in real estate and banking.  The founder, David Bradt died in 1892, leaving the company to various relatives and slowly declining over the years.  He was buried in the family plot in the Lowell Cemetery.

The company was sold off to Oswald Turcotte in the 1930s who tried to re-energize it by broadening the selling area to outside of Lowell and a new advertising campaign.  Ads appeared in the papers using the theme “crispness without brittleness.”  Mr. Turcotte assured his patrons that they were keeping the original recipe and quality of the 100 year old product, while expanding the line to include oyster crackers  and saltines.  As November rolled around the ad campaigns showed up in the Lowell Sun.  One was a “telegram” by grandchildren reminding Grandma they were coming home for the holiday and her stuffing made with Bradt’s crackers.  Another was a personal endorsement by a Mrs. Edna Riggs Crabtree who used them at her cooking school.  The company even had a quite successful bowling league in the 1940s and 50s competing against the likes of Laurin Morticians and Turcotte Wines. They were still advertising for employees in the Lowell Sun up to 1970.  The actual date of closing is unclear. 
Today we buy water biscuits at outrageous prices at specialty stores.  Yet nothing today could compare to a Bradt’s!

 

 

 

More on the Solon Perkins Saga

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/

Another Chapter in the Solon Perkins Saga

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.

Civil War Solon Perkins Saga Continues

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.

B.F. Butler”

Check out this web page with a gideon in excellent shape – http://jeffbridgman.com/inventory/index.php?page=out&id=1625

More on the Civil War Flag Story

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.

More on the Civil War Flag Mystery

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.

The Story ~ Solon A. Perkins and the Civil War Flag at the LMA

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

Photo by Tory Germann

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.

Civil War Flag Found at LMA

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:

http://torygermann.smugmug.com/Civil-War-Flag-at-LMA