Lost History in the Woods

George F. Church advertisement.

George F. Church advertisement. Resident and Business Directory of Rochester, Wareham, Marion and Mattapoisett, Massachusetts, 1903-04

Hiking along the Rochester Land Trust’s Church’s Field will lead you down to the Mattapoisett River. It is very scenic with benches provided to sit down and enjoy the view. Do a little more exploring and you can find the remnants of a sawmill. There is a large iron water wheel sitting in what appears to be the foundation of no longer existing structure. A beam or two lies next to it. Evidence of human life and industry in a now quiet and seemingly natural setting.

It isn’t clear how long the mill has been rotting along the river or how long it had been there. Saw and grist mills were pretty common in the area and could be found up and down the Mattapoisett River.

A sawmill and gristmill were built sometime before 1732 on Pine Island. In Rochester, in 1815, there were thirteen or 14  sawmills with several more grist mills. At that time Rochester included Mattapoisett and Marion as well. By 1875 there were 13 sawmills in use in just Rochester.

This particular mill on the land trust property appears on maps in 1856 and 1879 on property owned by the Church family. A history of Old Rochester from the early 1900s says that around 1725, Richard Church came from Scituate and bought a large tract of land in Rochester. A few years later he would build a sawmill on the Mattapoisett River on Wolf Island. A mid 19th century map notes two sawmills on Wolf Island. It isn’t clear if the sawmill further south was a Church sawmill. A road leading to it would suggest that it may have belonged to the Ellis family which could place the Church sawmill site as old as the 1720s.

Church Family Sawmill 1856

Map showing location of Church family sawmill on Mattapoisett Road (upper right), 1856.

Richard Church, the old history says, was a cousin of Benjamin Church. Benjamin had fought during King Philip’s War and had led a militia that tracked down and killed Metacomet. A more recent news article says that Benjamin was given the land in Rochester in 1676 by the King of England for his service in the war. However, the earlier mentioned history book notes that land was given to solders after the war through a colonial act but the history says Rochester land wasn’t included. In any case the land has been in the Church family for a long time.

Back to the ruins in the woods. It’s likely this sawmill site has been around since the mid-1720s. By the 1870s many sawmills in Rochester had begun manufacturing box board which is what George F. Church was doing with the site by the turn of the century.

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Church family sawmill in 1879. Map of Rochester, Mass. Geo. H. Walker & Co.,1879

Church Sawmill Map 1903

G.F.C Sawmill in 1903.

George, who was born in 1875, most likely took over this mill from his father, Joseph Earl Church, who had died in 1892. George ran the box board business until sometime before 1916 when he seemed to have taken on a partner, George Bumpus who lived on Cross Road in Rochester. It’s not clear how long the partnership lasted. By 1928 the business wasn’t being listed in the directory and George F. Church was not listed as having an occupation but evidently he was still running the business. He was noted as running a sawmill and farm in the 1940 census. He passed away in 1958. His son, George E. Church, ran the sawmill for a time.

Decades later the memory of the sawmill remains and baffles hikers as they make their way along the Rochester Land Trust’s trail gazing out at almost 300 years of family history.

Remains of the Church family sawmill. Church's Field, Rochester Land Trust. June, 2017.

Remains of the Church family sawmill. Church’s Field, Rochester Land Trust. June, 2017.


A.E. Foss & Co. Resident and Business Directory of Wareham, Rochester, Marion and Mattapoisett, Massachusetts, 1907. Hopkinton, Mass., 1907.

A.E. Foss & Co. Resident and Business Directory of Wareham, Rochester, Marion and Mattapoisett, Massachusetts, 1910-11. Hopkinton, Mass., 1911.

Bodge, George Mason. Soldiers in King Philip’s War Being an Account of That War with a Concise History of the Indian Wars of New England from 1620-1677. Boston, 1906.

Dunham, Charles H. Dunham’s Wareham, Mattapoisett, Marion and Rochester Massachusetts Directory, 1916. Salem, Mass., 1916.

Dunham, Charles H. Dunham’s Wareham, Mattapoisett, Marion and Rochester Massachusetts Directory, 1919. Salem, Mass., 1919.

Dunham, Charles H. Dunham’s Wareham, Mattapoisett, Marion and Rochester Massachusetts Directory, 1924-25. Salem, Mass., 1925.

Dunham, Charles H. Dunham’s Wareham, Mattapoisett, Marion and Rochester Massachusetts Directory, 1928-29. Salem, Mass., 1929.

“George E. Church, July 31, 2014. Obituary.” Current Obituary. n.d., http://www.currentobituary.com/obit/143815. Accessed 7 June 2017.

“George Frederick Church.” Find A Grave. 10 March 2013, https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=106471032. Accessed 5 June 2017.

George H. Walker and Company. Town of Rochester, Mass. [map], 1879.

Heshion, Jennifer. “Slideshow. Rochester Land Trust Revisits History with Church’s Field Tour.” 29 January 2012. Sippican Week [Marion, Mass.], http://sippican.villagesoup.com/p/slideshow-rochester-lands-trust-revisits-history-with-church-s-field-tour/202695. Accessed 7 June 2017.

Leonard, Mary Hall. Mattapoisett and Old Rochester Massachusetts Being a History of These Towns and Also in Marion and a Portion of Wareham. New York, 1907.

Massachusetts Historical Commission. MHC Reconnaissance Survey Town Report Rochester. June 1981.

Richards, L. J. Map of Rochester, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, 1903.

Rochester Open Space Action Committee. Explore Rochester. Town of Rochester, Massachusetts. Revised Second Edition, 2016.

United States of America. Bureau of the Census. Rochester Plymouth, Massachusetts. 1840-1940.

Walling, Henry Francis. Map of the Town of Rochester, Plymouth County, Massachusetts. [map], 1856.


Memorial Day in Mattapoisett, 1869

[Originally printed in the New Bedford Mercury. June 4, 1869]

Messrs. Editors: — Doubtless your columns are overtaxed with reports of the doings of Saturday, &c., nevertheless, we of Mattapoisett, would much like to see ourselves in print. I therefore venture to send you a sketch of


A tribute to the memory of our twenty-four worthies (including all who have died since the war closed,) was paid by a general gathering of citizens, at Remington Hall, on Saturday afternoon, where Mr. Noah Shearman and a few able assistants, organized a procession under escort of our own band.

Our two clergymen preceded the men who had served in the army or navy during the rebellion; these were followed by a carriage neatly draped with flags containing children who had a neat banner on which was the motto “Our Fathers died that our country might live.”

Next followed 24 young ladies, each bearing a wreath or other device in leaf and flower and a small flag, attached to the staff of which was a label bearing the name, initial of company and number of regiment, or name of vessel, and the place and date of death of the fallen brave. Then came about 150 children of the schools laden with flowers in baskets, wreaths &c.; and many citizens, nearly all bearing flowers.

This formed, the procession marched to the cemetery, where after the placing of a flag, wreath and bouquet up the grave or family lot of a soldier or sailor, and the reading of a sketch of his records in the war, by the Miss who carried the flag, and appropriate selection of poetry was read by Mr. Shearman. Five flags, wreaths, &c., were placed in the front aisle of the cemetery, in memory of as many gallant boys who had no lot upon which to place them. The children and citizens followed scattering flowers in abundance at each flag station.

Remarks were made by Rev. B. F. Manwell and Rev. William Faunce, fitting selections from the poets were read, Pleyel’s Hymn was sweetly played by the band, the benediction pronounced by Rev. Mr. Fraunce and the procession moved to the hall again and were dismissed at about 6 o’clock.


Mattapoisett Civil War Monument

Portion of the Mattapoisett Civil War Monument erected in 1904

Memorial Day, 1869. Excerpts from the New Bedford Mercury.

New-Bedford Mercury (New Bedford, Massachusetts) • 06-04-1869 • Page 2


“Whatever evils threaten our country are not found in the old soldiery… It is the corruption which is eating out honor in public affairs; the shameless venality, in which members of legislatures are bought and sold, or, now and then, a whole legislature at once; the “rings” which dictate statutes and purchase officials; the laws which are framed to make the rich manufacturer richer and the poor buyer poorer…” Rev. Dr. Quint Grand Chaplain of the Army of the Republic, 1869.

In accordance with order issued by the Grand Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic… William Logan Rodman Encampment, Post No. 1, of this city, decorated, on Saturday last… the graves of our deceased heroes, in the cemeteries of New Bedford and vicinity.

The day was by no means a propitious one, the rain of the evening previous having so muddied our streets, as to make them disagreeable to pedestrians, and deter many from marching in the column as they intended; and at the hour of forming the procession, the darkened sky gave every evidence of a wet and uncomfortable day.

At the hour designated at 8 ½ A. M. the veterans and citizens taking part in the ceremonies of the day, reported to Lieut. W. T. Soule, at the City Hall, and shortly after 9 o’clock, at a signal of three guns fired from the roof the Custom House by Mr. John B. Smith, the column moved…

The post had on parade about 80 men in all departments, the color-guard being under arms, and the colors borne by two mutilated men, Edward T. Chapman and Samuel P. Winegar. The number of veterans, not members of the Grand Army, was small; the clergy of our city was fully represented, as well as our various civil offices.

The procession moved through the Rural Cemetery, which was quite abundantly decorated with the national colors, the bright hues of which mingled pleasantly with the beautiful green shrubbery around.

The column halted in about the centre of the cemetery, the guest alighted from their carriages, and perfect quiet being obtained, an earnest and fervent prayer was offered by Rev. Daniel D. Winn, and the list of those known to be buried in the cemetery was read by comrade Isaac H. Coe, in a remarkably clear and distinct voice. The beautiful and appropriate air “Leaf by leaf the roses fall,” was played by the band, while the disabled veterans performed the solemn task of decorating the graves of those who lost their lives in the defence of the old Flag, placing wreaths and bouquets of beautiful flowers upon the graves, while many tearful eyes around gave testimony to the tender reverence and affection for the dead soldiers.

From the cemetery, the procession passed through Parker street gate, up Parker street to the Common, which place it reached at 12 ½ o’clock, a salute of thirty-seven guns being fired upon its approach under the direction of Sergt. Joseph Wing, formerly of the Third Rhode Island Battery, and who served through the entire war…

Capt. Cobb then introduced Rev. Dr. Quint Grand Chaplain of the Army of the Republic, who spoke as follows… Comrades: — Two great events in the history of the present generation are unexampled.

Portrait of Reverend Alonzo H. Quint. catalog 2000.100.2323

Portrait of Reverend Alonzo H. Quint. Catalog #2000.100.2323. Courtesy of the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

The first is the alacrity with which a million of citizens, unused to war, voluntarily sprang to arms in defence of their national flag against treason… The second is, that contrary to all predictions and all historical precedents, the soldiers of that great army, at the close of the war, peacefully, quietly, settled down in their homes, returned to their business and to their trades, melted back into the ranks of citizens, and gave one grand example to the world that disbanded soldiers can be as loyal to law in peace as they were true to the sword in war…

War was not the trade of the men of 1861. It had no fascination. It required many a sacrifice. It was not to be the business of life It was chosen freely, out of love of country…It was equally as great a spectacle when these men, altogether transformed by four years of the camp, the march, and the line of battle, into a different race, laid aside their banners, stacked arms, and calmly went to their work.

Where are the scenes of riot and disorder which were predicted? Where are the lawless plunderers which were prophesied? Where are the insecure villages, the dismayed towns, the alarmed cities, that were foreshadowed? In other countries, the disbanded armies have been terrors. Who fears now? Or, in the opposite danger, where is the military dictator riding at the head of his merciless columns to supreme rule? Our leader sits in the chair of government; but it is by the voice of a free people, chosen in the lawful way, and obedient himself to every law of the land.

Whatever evils threaten our country are not found in the old soldiery… It is the corruption which is eating out honor in public affairs; the shameless venality, in which members of legislatures are bought and sold, or, now and then, a whole legislature at once; the “rings” which dictate statutes and purchase officials; the laws which are framed to make the rich manufacturer richer and the poor buyer poorer and the spirit of greed and covetousness which sanctions such laws… The men who knew the inspiration of a great cause cannot well descend to the depths of the politician… Let them never forget the manly life of past days, the honor of their victory, the glory of their country, the graves of their dead.

…Go said the President, your work is done, you are free. No, we were not free… No power can free us from the duties which we owe to the disabled soldiers, the widow, the orphan. No power can absolve us from the eternal reverence to the Flag, and fidelity to the country over which it now waves in glorious supremacy… We have embodied three principles, Fraternity, Charity, Loyalty. We tell all the world, that to maintain these, 400,000 veterans are still united…We question no man’s religious faith. We ask not what his rank once was or now is.

Fraternity… High or low; rich or poor, an old comrade is a brother. He shall not feel that, how the need of his arm is ended, he has no friends. He shall find a friend wherever those live who can say, “I was at Manassas, and I was at Antietam, and I was at Gettysburg, and I was at Goldsboro’, and I was at Shiloh, and I was at Kenesaw, and I was at Mobile, and I was with Farragut.

Charity. We see the maimed men, shattered in health, without employment, and often without power to work, often discouraged, their old business gone, their lives weary; and we have pledged ourselves that so far as in our power lies, they shall have the cheering word, the hearty hand, the open purse. We see widows and children who had comfortable support before the head of the home was laid under the sod, now troubled for their daily food; and we have solemnly said… no widow or orphan of a dead soldier shall lack bread for their hunger or shows for their feet or fire for their homes… We say it for this community, which stands ready to give freely whenever we show them the hungry and the cold.

Loyalty. By the flag which waves over us we have pledged ourselves to an undying loyalty to our country… We pledge ourselves to obey the laws of the land. We promise to uphold purity and honesty in public affairs. We are all united against treason… Thank God there is one place where a rebel can never come! Whether against insidious treachery at home, or against foreign foes, these 400,000 are pledged to defend the flag, whenever the national authority calls us… If in our day that time comes, which is sure some time to come, when the pride of England is to be humbled, the country will find these veterans ready for the bugle. And in the spirit of unswerving loyalty we shall educate our children to take our places when we too lie in the ground.

Comrades, we have adopted a sacred public duty. It is this day performed. Every year when the grass is green and the winds grow mild, we take flowers – spring flowers, fresh and delicate—and reverently place them on the graves of the honored dead… Their work is done. The country is safe… But in memory of the past and faithfulness to the living, we leave the flowers and go our way to do our duty in the land which the dead and living made glorious.

Not we alone. These flowers were gathered by other hands for us to use. Women gathered them and made them into wreaths and crosses. Men looked reverently on. This is not our day: it is the people’s day, in which every loyal man has his own right… Aching hearts own these graves. Fathers and mothers, widows and children won the sacred spots where the dead are laid. Their dead! This people’s dead!…

In the late session of soldiers at Cincinnati there was presented a memorial that we petition Congress to make the 30th day of May a legal holiday. I venture to tell that I was the only one who spoke upon the subject. And I said only this:

“I do not like this proposition. The beauty of our ‘Decoration day’ is in its being spontaneous. We do not want the merest shadow of law to constrain its celebration. Of the sweetest flowers, you cannot extract the perfume by law or art. Such is a people’s gratitude to our dead. That they voluntarily lay aside their day’s work, and crown the graves with flowers, in inexpressibly beautiful. But if the dedication of that day ever ceases to be the farewell offering of a grateful people, let the graves be left to the covering of God’s green grass alone.”

This feeling was universal. It is ours now. Our hearts are grateful to those who honor the dead, because it is their free offering… But while you cherish such memories as you do now, you and your children, and your children’s children will preserve the grand old nation and guard its great Flag, for which the soldiers fought and the women prayed in the days of trouble, — preserving the immortal principles which live when the graves are level with the ground, and the stones are covered with the moss of years.”

A benediction was then pronounced by Rev. Mr. Walker, of Fairhaven, at the close of which the Soldier’s Monument was decorated with flowers.

A salute of two guns was fired, and the procession took up its line of march for Fairhaven, reaching the bridge at 2 ½ o’clock. As the column passed Pope’s Island, the artillery, which had gone there in advance, fired a salute of four guns.

At nearly 3 o’clock the procession reached Fairhaven whose streets were thronged with people… There was a halt made at the residence of Capt. John A. Hawes, and beautiful crosses, wreaths and bouquets of fresh flowers placed in the wagons.

Upon reaching Riverside Cemetery a large number of people were found assembled, relatives and friends of the noble dead there interred.

The procession halted, and grouped themselves around the fine Soldiers’ Monument, which marks the last resting place of most of Fairhaven’s citizens who laid down their lives for their country.

Rev. A. S. Walker, of Fairhaven, then delivered a most eloquent and impressive address… All things appeared to be in sympathy with the solemn ceremonies of the day. In the morning, the clouds wept and even now the heavens were draped in mourning. They had assembled here to-day, not only to decorate the graves of those who had fallen… but of those who had been brought back from the front, with their frames shattered by disease and exposure, to die in the arms of their families and friends…

… The decoration of these graves was not a token of remembrance, it was an act of love…



Henry Gibbs Ellis, 1851-1865

Everyone has a story though it is often forgotten over time. Sometimes there are only fragments left to wonder about and those fragments are often found in cemeteries.

Henry Gibbs Ellis lies buried at the Ellis Cemetery on Wolf Island Road in Mattapoisett. The fragments of his life are left in the names of his parents, John and Rebecca along with his death date and age; 14 years, 1 month and 21 days. Etched on his stone beneath his age are the words “Don’t cry Father. Don’t cry Mother” as if he is reassuring his now long gone parents that he is fine. No one is around to cry for him now. No one remembers him today.


Grave of Henry Gibbs Ellis on Wolf Island Road in Mattapoisett.

At 14 years old not much is left in the historic record about him.

He was born April 24, 1851 in Fairhaven:


He only appears in one census. It seems he had three brothers: John, William and George and a sister, Sarah.

How did he die at such a young age?


His death record is vague… an accident. However, a small item about Henry appeared in the Boston Evening Traveller on June 6, 1865:


Henry lived for 10 days after his tragic accident. His white marble stone is the cemetery is all that is left of his short life.

The Phoebe Cushings

Interesting stories can be found in the cemetery. This stone is located at Cushing Cemetery in Mattapoisett.

_dsc0133Dedicated to the memory of Mr. Cushing’s two wives, both named Phoebe. It would seem Mr. Cushing married again within days of his first wife dying before he passed away days later. Are the dates possibly wrong on the stone? I was able to verify the dates in the book Vital Records of Rochester, Mass. However, those dates were taken from the stone probably around the time of publication in 1914. The inscription on the stone is hard to read from the photo as well as in person. There is a transcript below. Sadly, it will not be long before it will not be able to be read at all.


“Erected to the memory of two wives of Mr. Nathaniel Cushing. Mrs. Phoebe 1st wife Died Nov. 8, 1788 in her 32d year & Mrs. Phoebe 2d wife. Died Oct. 8, 1806 [illegible] 51 year. In the memory of Mr. Cushing who died November 13, 1788 in the 56th year of his age.”



Help Find Out Who I Am

Anne Nerbonne West

Anne Nerbonne West?


I picked up this photograph a year or two ago at a yard sale in Mattapoisett. I see old photographs now and then at antique malls and sales. Many are forgotten faces that nobody knows or remembers. This is mostly because nobody took the time to write the name of the person on the photo or kept the photo in the family.

This photo, however, has a name written on the back:

Anne Nerbonne West 1

So, for a few dollars I bought the photograph and I thought I would find out who she was. I’ve done this before and it usually doesn’t take long to locate an identity through a little research.

I’m assuming she was local since the photographer is marked on the front of the photograph, “Sherman New Bedford, Mass.” The photographer is Francis P. Sherman, a Fairhaven resident who opened up a studio in October of 1886 at 174 Union Street in New Bedford. At that time the address was located at the corner of Union Street and 4th Street.

I haven’t had any luck tracking down Anne Nerbonne or Anne West. I found an Anne West living in New Bedford at 146 Union Street but that was in the 1830s, much too early for this woman.

Around 1910 I started seeing  Nerbonne appearing in the census records. But no record of Anne Nerbonne.

I’ve also searched marriage records up to 1915 for a West/Nerbonne union in Massachusetts but no luck.

The closest match I found was a woman named Anne Paull Nerbonne who was born in 1897 and died in Fairhaven in May of 1995. I’ve ruled her out for a couple of reasons. The first being her birth year. I think she would be too young to be the woman in the photograph. I’m also going on the assumption that the woman I’m looking for had a married of West with her maiden name being Nerbonne.

I’ve come to a dead end trying to locate this dead person. It is possible that the name isn’t Nerbonne. I’ve tried variations of the name including Merboune, Nerbourne, Nerbone and others without luck. It is also possible that the name on the back isn’t the name of the woman in the photo. I could be a previous owner of the photograph.

I thought I would share this photo in the hopes that maybe a reader will have some thoughts on her identity or a descendent may happen to come across it and recognize her.

History of the Mattapoisett Halloween Parade

This Halloween children and adults of all ages will gather in front of Center School in Mattapoisett to take part in what has become a tradition that goes back quite some time. Just when it all started has been anyone’s guess. In 1983, Selectman John DeCosta thought the parade had started in 1965 under the direction of Police Chief Alden Kinney. In 1992, the Wanderer noted that the parade had been going on for the last 30 years placing the origin of the parade at about 1962.Devil and Mattapoisett

In 1996, Police Chief James Moran noted that the parade had been going on for “over 35 years.” In 2003, the Board of Selectmen asked that if anyone knew how the parade tradition started to share the information. A couple of the board members knew it had been going on for over 50 years. In 2014, the “over 50 years” mark was again noted by Police Chief Mary Lyons in a letter to the editor reminding people of the upcoming event.

In fact, the Mattapoisett Halloween Parade tradition goes back much further than 50 years and seems to have been started by one man who gathered and led costumed children through the streets of Mattapoisett with a drum.

Abraham Skidmore was born in 1878 in Oxford, North Carolina to Ferry Skidmore and Jinny Nelson, who may have been former slaves. Not much is known about his early life other than he left North Carolina for Somerville, New Jersey before coming to New Bedford and then settling in Mattapoisett by 1899. 

Skidmore worked as a barber in New Bedford where he may have met Anna Calhoun. Anna was from Newport, Rhode Island where she once worked as a servant at the U.S. Naval War College. In 1903, Abraham and Anna married in New Bedford. By this time Abraham was now cutting hair in Mattapoisett and was becoming popular with children in town. At some point he picked up playing drums and organized several bands over the years. In addition to playing in bands, he took his drum to the streets and was known for organizing and leading parades.

It was in October 1949 that about 125 children along with their parents, gathered outside of Abraham’s barber shop near Center School. The children were “dressed as witches, ghosts and all the other usual characters”. Abraham began banging on his drum and led the children on a march.

The parents lined the streets and the children marched alone with the exception of the children who “were too small to go unattended.” Those children’s parents would join them in the march. Abraham, led the children down Church Street toward Main Street. Once the parade got to Main Street, Abraham took a left turn down Water Street and march the children on Water Street to North Street back to Church Street leading them back to his barber shop. The children were then dispersed to attend Halloween parties. Abraham Skidmore and the 125 children and their parents had just taken part in a tradition that is still going on in Mattapoisett nearly 70 years later.

The next year the parade had grown to about 300 children and followed the same route as the previous year with parents carrying red flares at the head and rear of the parade. At the lead of the parade was once again, Abraham Skidmore. After the parade a party was held for the children at the Congregation Church where they played games and had refreshments. The older children, presumably junior high and high school kids, had a party at Town Hall where they took part in square dancing and games. Twelve children received prizes in a costume judging contest.

Abraham Skidmore with his drum. Photo courtesy of Jodi Bauer

Abraham Skidmore with his drum. Photo courtesy of Jodi Bauer

By 1954 the parade was considered a tradition and Skidmore once again lead cowboys, Dutch girls, black cats, Mickey Mouse and many other costumed children through the streets on Halloween. Later that fall, Skidmore became sick with pneumonia. In December he was admitted to Tobey Hospital in Wareham. He never recovered. Abraham Skidmore passed away at age 76 leaving behind a tradition that would continue to thrill children for generations to come.

If there were any questions about the fate of the parade they were answered quickly. In 1955 the parade was sponsored by the Mattapoisett Lions Club and was escorted by the auxiliary police. Taking over the drumming at the lead of the parade was Al Morgado, also a barber that now worked out of Abraham’s old shop.

The parade went on throughout the 1950s in much the same manner with Al Morgado drumming at the lead of the parade and the children taking part in parties at various locations. Preschoolers and first graders usually partied at the Congregational Church, second and third graders went to St. Anthony’s Church, the fourth and fifth graders had their party at Center School while the junior and senior high school students went to Town Hall.

Al Morgado standing in his shop. The man seated may be Joe Mello. Photo courtesy of Jodi Bauer

Al Morgado standing in his shop. The man seated may be Joe Mello. Photo courtesy of Jodi Bauer

Costume contests were held and were sometimes judged for prettiest, handsomest boy, handsomest girl, funniest, most original and most horrible. Typical costumes worn by the children during that time were ghosts, hob goblins, rabbits, Dutch girls, devils, ballerinas and Mickey Mouse.

The 1960s began to show slight changes to the parade. Early in the decade there was a modification to the parade route which started in the usual spot near Center School on Church Street and then headed north on Pearl Street. At Tobey Lane the parade headed west and dropped off preschoolers at a youth center for their party. The parade would continue on to Main Street and then to Depot Street where the first graders were left off at the American Legion Hall. The second and third graders went to Town Hall while the parade continued along Church Street where the 4th, 5th and 6th graders went to Center School and the 7th through 12th graders went to the Congregational Church for their respective community parties.

Costume contests were typically held at these community parties and 1962 was the first time it was noted that the parade was cancelled due to rain. Costumes also began to change from the traditional Halloween costumes of the 1950s with costumes such as the Great Pumpkin, Phyllis Diller, Lobsters in a Trap, hippies, Ned’s Point Lighthouse, the Town Dump and now and then, a pack of cigarettes.

The 1960s also saw the addition of the drum and bugle corps from New Bedford Post 1 or Fairhaven Post 166 leading the parade replacing Al Morgado. The American Legion Post bands were sometimes accompanied by the Plymouth Voiture 40 and 8 Locomotive. It isn’t known how long the American Legion posts led the parade but at some point in the 1970s the Old Rochester Regional High School Band led the parade and may have done so throughout much of the 1970s and 1980s.

By 1964, the parade began taking on its modern shape. The parade route reverted back to its original route. The community parties were cancelled that year and instead the parade ended at Center School where kids were treated with apples, ice cream and candy bars. There is no indication there was a costume contest that year.

The 1965 parade was much the same as the 1964 parade. However, that year’s parade had an upsetting moment when “teenage drivers from Fairhaven” sped through the village throwing lit firecrackers from their cars. It was noted that “malicious damage… can be attributed to this Fairhaven group whose behavior was very objectionable.”

If the costume contest didn’t take place for a couple of years it was back by 1966 with prizes of bicycles and tricycles awarded. There was even a $2.00 consolation prize. There were treats of candy, apples and ice cream served in the Center School cafeteria.

Bicycles and tricycles continued to be awarded to costume contest winners in the 1970s with costumes such as Ivory Soap bubbles, Land-O-Lakes butter, Mama Leone and the Mattapoisett Theater.

Though there were no known incidents that had occurred, there were concerns in 1976 for children “stumbling around town in a hard to see out of store bought mask”. This prompted third grade teacher, Pat Sylvia to organize a crew of face painters to paint masks on children at Center School before the parade.

Also, 1976 marked possibly the only year that the parade did not take place on Halloween. Due to inclement weather the parade took place on November 1st.

Through much of the 1970s, the parade route continued unchanged, leaving Center School on Church Street toward Main Street and then heading down Water Street to North Street where it finished at Center School. In 1977, a modification was made to the parade. Instead of heading up North Street the parade would go from Water Street to Barstow Street and back to Center School which is the present day route.

The end of the 1970s brought more modern prizes to the costume contents. In addition to the popular bicycle prizes, AM/FM radios were awarded to some winners.

The crowd gathers in front of Center School for the start of the Halloween parade, 2009

The crowd gathers in front of Center School for the start of the Halloween parade, 2009

The 1980s saw more signs of changing times. In 1982 it was noted that Halloween “had been much quieter as parents exercised caution and confined children’s activity mainly to the parade and police party.”

The Police Department also began publishing safety tips such as wearing light colored costumes, taking masks off before crossing streets, traveling in groups with older siblings or parents, walking facing traffic when sidewalks are not available and not eating candy until inspecting it at home.

While there had been no known incidents involving the safety of local children or reports of tampered candy, there had been high profile news stories of product tampering such as the Tylenol incident in 1982 that may have led to a heightened concern for candy tampering as well.

In 1986, a live Dixie Land music band performed while the parade was gathering. That year it was announced that an adult prize of a dinner for two would be given out at the costume contest in an effort to make the Halloween event “more of a family affair.” Since 1971, prizes had only been given out to preschool through sixth graders. Junior high and high school students would not make a return to the costume contest until 1995.

Costumes would continue to evolve during the 1980s such as Holly Hobbie, Pink Panther and toothpaste in the early ‘80s and the Bride of Death Valley, Freddie from Nightmare on Elm Street and the Dancing Raisins later in the decade.

Prizes continued to change as well. The bicycles were still awarded and stereos, video games and boom boxes were added.

In the 1990s costumes continued to reflect pop culture such as Edward Scissorhands, baseball cards, Julia Child and the Simpsons. The bicycle still remained one of the top prizes of the ‘90s and other prizes included Walkmans, cassette/CD boomboxes, inline skates as well as small black and white and color televisions.

In 1995, the junior high and high school students returned to the costume parade for the first time since 1970 as noted earlier. A year later glow sticks were handed out to children before the parade began and police officer Ken Pacheco entertained the crowd while judges decided on the winning costumes by doing the Macarena dance.

Children at the Halloween parade with glow sticks in 2008. Glow sticks may have first been given out at the parade in 1995.

Children at the Halloween parade with glow sticks in 2008. Glow sticks may have first been given out at the parade in 1995.

The start of the 2000s saw the parade cancelled due to the weather but the costume contest went on. In 2001, with the events of 9/11 still on the minds of everyone, the National Anthem was performed by Carly Suzan. In 2003, with construction going on to update Center School, the parade route was completely altered for the only time in the parade’s history.

The parade would began at the Town Wharf and head east past the Harbormaster’s building. It would then take a right on Water Street to Barstow Street where it would pick up the traditional route along Church Street past the growing Center School. It would continue on to Main Street and to Water Street where it would end back at the wharf. The costume contest took place at Shipyard Park that year.

The 2000’s also saw the return of the drummer to the Halloween parade. Mike Bauer and his son Garrett took the parade lead in 2001 at the urging of Mike’s wife, Jodi. When Garrett left for college, Jodi took over the drumming duties. Jodi Bauer runs the same barber shop that Abraham Skidmore worked in when he started the parade and now she leads the parade as barbers Skidmore and Morgado did in the parade’s early years. Coincidently, Jodi also lives in the same house that Skidmore lived.

In 2004, the parade route was restored back to its current form and the costume

Renovations to Center School forced the parade route to be altered and the costume contest moved to Shipyard Park in 2003

Renovations to Center School forced the parade route to be altered and the costume contest moved to Shipyard Park in 2003

contest returned to Center School. This year will mark the 66th year of the Mattapoisett Halloween Parade.

Since the parade began in 1949 over 1,200 children and adults have won prizes in the costume contest following the parade and thousands more have marched in the parade and participated in the costume contest.  

Some of the children that won prizes over the years include the current master of ceremonies, Captain Anthony Days of the Mattapoisett Police Department who won a prize as Grog during the 1970 costume contest. A year later, Jodi Ennis would win a prize as a cup of hot chocolate. She would be pictured in the Presto Press standing next to an old radio costume which also won a prize. The child wearing the costume of the old radio was Mike Bauer. Later in life the two would marry and as noted earlier, lead the parade. (Below are links to historic lists of the names of the costume winners, judges and parade leaders).

On Halloween night in 1950, just after the parade, a trophy was presented to Abraham Skidmore. In just the parade’s second year the children wanted to show their appreciation for what Abraham had done for them. The trophy was inscribed “To Skid, from all the youngsters of Mattapoisett, Halloween, 1950”. Today, the whereabouts of the trophy are not known. He had been honored over the years for his community involvement including a medal he received from the American Legion for his civic accomplishments. He had touched the lives of children during the early to mid 2oth century and he continues to do so in the 21st century as his spirit carries on with the parade.

Halloween Costume Contest Winners, 1950-2016

Halloween Costume Contest Judges, 1950-2016

Halloween Parade Leaders, 1949-2016

Abraham Skidmore is buried with his wife, Anna at Pine Island Cemetery in Mattapoisett.

Abraham Skidmore is buried with his wife, Anna at Pine Island Cemetery in Mattapoisett.

Click on the map below to explore the early route of the parade and click on the map markers for additional parade information.

The Marion Tar and Feather Mob

James McDonald sat in the wagon with his hands and feet bound and his eyes blindfolded. He could hear the jeers of the 40 or 50 hooded men yelling, “kill him” and “lynch him”. Moments earlier, he had been forced from the house in which he was boarding and stripped of his clothing while someone slathered him with tar and then dumped feathers on him. To an observer, it seemed to be an old fashioned form of public humiliation that one had heard took place in Salem and Boston in the 1760s and 1770s but rarely in the early 20th century.

James McDonald, 1902

James McDonald, 1902

They were now in the darkness on the side of the road at the Marion-Mattapoisett border when McDonald felt a rope drop around his neck. Someone pulled him up and kicked him off the cart. He felt the rope suddenly grow tight around his neck. He gasped for air as he tried in vain to feel the ground with his feet. It was that moment when Charles Potter, a man that took the most pleasure in witnessing the mob’s work, would later describe as “the best joke of the evening”.

McDonald came to Marion around 1901. At that time Marion was known as “ultra exclusive” and a place that had “prided itself on its quiet refinement and culture”. It was a summer resort to famous notables such as writer Richard Harding Davis, actress Ethel Barrymore and politicians such as President Grover Cleveland and Massachusetts Attorney General Hosea Knowlton.

James McDonald was considered to be attractive with an imperial beard and moustache, which gave him “a certain air of good breeding”. He was about 54 years old and from Scituate where he was the proprietor of the Scituate House, a summer resort he ran for eight years. He was married and had fathered five children, two of which were stillborn.

In September 1900, he left Scituate to become a watchman at the Castle Square Hotel in Boston. It isn’t known why he gave up his proprietorship and left town to work leaving his family behind. He may have had issues with local authorities that led to his leaving. In 1887, McDonald was charged and found guilty in district court of “keeping a liquor nuisance”. He appealed the verdict but it is not known what the outcome of his appeal was. In June 1900, he was listed in the census as a “hotel keeper”, still in Situate.

After a short stay in Boston, he came to Marion. It seemed a likely place to go, as at a summer resort he was sure to find work. He found employment at Joe Collins’ place in East Marion on Wareham Road selling lunch and beer. Before long, McDonald became familiar with the locals that dined at the Collins place. In July 1901, he came to know Charles Potter who was a regular at the Collins place. Potter often came in with his wife Clara who happened to draw McDonald’s attention.

Clara Gilbert Chloe Fiske Mendel and Charles H. Potter married on December 19, 1886. By 1901, they had three children; Emma, Edith and Elmer ages 10, 8 and 4 respectively. Charles had been described as a “small” man who worked as a foreman of a section gang on the railroad. Clara, with her chestnut hair and dark eyes was known locally for her beauty and who, according to one resident, “everybody in Marion has knowed… since she was a little girl”.

Clara Potter, circa 1902

Clara Potter, circa 1902

The Potters lived on Mill Street at the corner of present day Ryder Lane. The house was given to Clara and her sister by their grandmother. Clara would later convince her husband to buy out her sister’s share of the house and sign it over to her making her the legal owner. She was often left home with the children when Charles was working at the Tremont Station in Wareham for periods of time. While Charles was away, Clara made visits to comfort her friend, Jennie McAllister, who lived next to the Collins place and had lost her 17 year old daughter to suicide in February of 1902.

During these visits Clara became friendly with James McDonald. Their familiarity grew and went beyond casual chats at the Collins place. Soon they were going to the theater together and McDonald took her for afternoon drives. In February 1902, McDonald left the Collins place after having “trouble” with Joe Collins. McDonald seems to have accepted an offer from Clara to rent out a room in her house.

Charles Potter did not seem to be aware of his wife’s relationship with McDonald and he agreed with the idea of taking in a boarder, at first. McDonald, not having employment, offered to pay his board as soon as he got a job. Once he got a job McDonald said, he promised to pay for his board and move out.

There weren’t many opportunities for employment over the winter, but as spring came, McDonald began to explore job options. He liked the idea of being a skipper of a yacht. But when he was offered a job as a yacht skipper, he turned it down, citing his lack of knowledge of the local coast line. He also though he could rent a shack near Joe Collins’ place and run a “road barroom”, but decided against it. He had other job opportunities, but passed them up as well.

McDonald claimed he was only a boarder from February to July of 1902. After that, he and Clara entered into a partnership in running a boarding house in which they mostly had transients and no long term boarders. Charles claimed his wife and McDonald were planning on opening an eatery, but questioned the type of customers they would attract noting “the people of Marion are not going to a lunchroom on the outskirts of the village”.

Charles and Clara’s relationship was strained. They got in arguments over McDonald living at the house and his lack of finding work. Charles ate dinner with the kids while Clara and McDonald ate alone together.

Rumors began to circulate that McDonald was selling liquor at the Potter house. Marion at the time was a “no license town”. Other rumors that circulated around town was that McDonald was often seen in the company of girls “not yet out of their teens” and being “unduly familiar” with the young ladies. Tensions were running high in town with some complaining to town officials, but selectmen claimed there was not much they could do. Clara was the legal owner of the house and there was no proof of the illegal selling of liquor out of the house.

In early August, Charles came home from work to find beer and booze in the house. He had enough. He told McDonald to get out. McDonald refused.

“Who’s running this place”? Charles demanded.

McDonald said he was. Charles’ wife sided with McDonald.

“I would have grappled with him then but he is a good deal larger than I…” Charles recalled. He let the matter drop for the moment.

Not long after his argument with McDonald, Charles came home from New Bedford late one evening and found a horse hitched at his house. He walked in the door to find several men in his home “carousing”. Charles announced that who ever owned the horse to get it out of the yard since it was awaking the neighbors. He then began arguing with McDonald and told him once again to leave. Charles decided size no longer mattered and began to “grapple” with McDonald. The fight didn’t last long. Clara opened the front door and McDonald threw him out.

For the next couple of nights, Charles and two of his children stayed across the street at the home of David and Mary Faunce while he pondered his next move. He decided that he would place the children in the care of Jennie McAllister while he stayed with George Gifford. He wasn’t sure what to do next. Charles felt he was over powered and outnumbered in his own home.

He didn’t know that the next move was being planned on his behalf. On the night of August 7, Charles just sat down for dinner when there was a knock on the door. A man that Charles may or may not have known was there to inform him that a group of men were meeting at town hall at 8:00 PM to run McDonald out of town. As Charles later explained it, “I went to see the fun”.

At town hall Charles saw about 50 men had gathered, all wearing hooded masks or handkerchiefs covering their faces. The men made their way through the woods to the Potter house with additional men joining the party along the way. At the house, Charles counted perhaps 100 men who had joined the mob. Five of them walked up to the front door and knocked. One of the men asked for a beer. McDonald opened the door just slightly and the men kick in the door and forced their way inside.

McDonald grabbed a chair and held it up in defense. He yelled for Clara to get his revolver. It was too late. Some of the men grabbed Clara while the others wrestled the chair from McDonald. The men dragged McDonald and Clara into the yard. Clara screamed “Murder!” She begged them to let her stay with her child that was still in the house. One of the men told her not to worry. He would stay with the child.

McDonald and Clara were taken to a nearby sandpit. McDonald was thrown to the ground and his clothing was torn off. He was blindfolded and his hands bound. Using whisk brushes they painted pine tar all over him and then brought out a feather tick bed. They opened the tick bed and dumped the feathers on him.

While the tarring and feathering was taking place a man carrying a lantern told the two men that were holding Clara to take her back home. One of the men grabbed her by her by her collar and led her back home. Outside the house one of the men tore open Clara’s clothing at the waist. The other man tore the hooks off her skirt and let it fall to the ground. The string of her underskirt was broken and her underclothing removed.

All the while Clara pleaded with them not to take her clothing off. They slapped her and said “Shut up”.

“I won’t shut up. Don’t you take off my clothes”, she pleaded.

She tried to scream out. One of the men placed his hand over her mouth. The other placed his hand on her. “If you say anything about this we will hang you”.

She pleaded with them to let her go in the house.

“Will you behave yourself after this?” one of them asked.

She answered that she always did. They hit her again and told her to shut up.

At that point another man came up to them and called for the lantern one of them had been carrying. The man with the lantern left. The other man led Clara up to the house. “If I hear anything from you I’ll hang you. Don’t you dare open your mouth about this.”

He gave her clothing back to her and led her in to the kitchen. Standing there waiting for her was a masked man, a man she would later refer to as Mr. Turner and her husband.

Back at the sandpit the mob tried to place McDonald on a rail post so they could parade him out of town but he could not balance on it. Some of the men went to the house of Selectman Henry Ryder. They asked to borrow his democrat wagon. He let them borrow it. He was pleased to see the matter of Charles Potter’s home affairs being handled though he thought it “was a little rash”.

McDonald was placed on the wagon and several of the men took hold of the shafts and let the cart out to Front Street. They passed Hossea Knowlton’s house and headed for Hiller’s stable. There they attached a horse to the cart and headed back out to Mill Street toward Mattapoisett.

Throughout the ordeal McDonald swore at the mob and planned his revenge. Every once in a while his blindfold would slip or angle at such a way he could see a face. He made mental notes of who he saw.

Once the mob reached Mattapoisett many of the men in the mob took switches and hit McDonald. A rope was thrown over a tree branch. At one end a couple of the men held on while the other end of the rope was placed over McDonald’s neck. The plan was to scare him in to thinking he was to be hanged. But someone had miscalculated the length of the rope. When the men holding the rope realized McDonald was suspended in air they let go and McDonald crashed to the ground.

Charles Potter who had rejoined the mob watched as McDonald ran in to the woods as people yelled at the naked, feathered man to never come back. Charles headed back home thinking it was all over and justice had been served.

The news of what had happened spread quickly. The next day newspaper reporters were in town asking questions. Selectman Ryder said the trouble was behind them. There would be no investigation. “Nobody has complained to the selectman about it”, the reporters were told.

Though local authorities appeared to be turning a blind eye to justice, several sheriff county officers arrived in Marion and arrested five men that McDonald had apparently identified. A week later two more men were arrested in Marion.

District Attorney, Asa P. French who would later be appointed to United States Attorney for the district of Massachusetts by President Theodore Roosevelt, called the act against McDonald “mob punishment” in a town that had always been known to “maintain such a high standard of peace and order, and…always been a law abiding community”.

The men were charged with riotous assault. A fund of $5000 was raised in Marion in defense of the accused. A grand jury indicted the seven men and the case went to trial.

The trial, which began on November 24 was sometimes referred to as the “White Cap” case in reference to a lawless movement called whitecapping that took place in the late 19th and early 20th century in which members of a community formed secret societies that enforced community morals. The movement occurred throughout the US taking on an anti-black theme in the rural south.

Charles Potter on the witness stand, 1902

Charles Potter on the witness stand, 1902

The trial contained as much drama as the actual events that led to the trial. A witness for the prosecution went missing but was later found and brought in to court drunk. It was thought he had been enticed away by persons supporting the defense and hidden at a hotel in Duxbury. He spent the night in jail to sober up for his testimony.

A witness for the defense was arrested for perjury. The witness, Robert Hiller, testified that he did not see any feathers in the sand pit other than the feathers the chickens were wearing. Deputy Sheriff Hurley and four other witnesses testified they did see feathers and tar at the site.

To add to the drama Charles and Clara Potter and James McDonald were spotted walking “arm in arm to the Potter house” one night and then arriving in the courtroom together. Charles even identified in court several of the accused as taking part in the tar and feathering.

On December 1, both the prosecution and defense made their final arguments. At 4:15 in the afternoon the judge instructed the jury on finding the verdict and adjourned until the jury came back with a verdict. Because of the time it took to hear the case and the charges on each man would have to be discussed by the jury separately nearly all of the court officials and spectators of the trial went home. Though the judge and attorney French stayed in Plymouth, the attorney for the defense, John Cummings, traveled back home to Fall River. There was a lot to discuss and no one expected a verdict for each of the men to be announced anytime soon.

However, just before 1:00 in the morning, the judge was summoned out of bed. The jury had reached a verdict. In a nearly empty court room the jury announced that all of the accused were not guilty. The judge ordered all seven men released, thanked the jury and went back to bed.

The drama with the Potters apparently did not end with the trial. In January, Charles Potter was found unconscious on the side of the road, his faced bruised and bloody. It was believed that Potter had been attacked due to his testimony against the accused and siding with McDonald. Potter claimed that while working that day cutting wood, a limb struck him across the face. While walking home later he said he fainted.

Little is known what happened to James McDonald after the trial. He died sometime in 1905 and he is buried at Union Cemetery in Sciuate. His son, James Henry, never spoke of his father out of the shame he brought to the family.

Clara Potter received a letter from Alabama in 1903 filled with racist comments. The letter writer, W. F. Spurlin, described how southerners “hang and burn” black people and warned her she was not safe in her community and invited her to move south which she seemed to consider. But she did not sell the house and she lived there with Charles until they died. The house is no longer there. The property eventually became part of the Old Landing Cemetery where the Potters lie side by side within sight of where they once lived.

Grave site of Charles and Clara Potter at Old Landing Cemetery, Marion, Mass.

Grave site of Charles and Clara Potter at Old Landing Cemetery, Marion, Mass.

Annie Paine’s Body

Priscilla Richmond was widowed and living alone. Her home, which was located on present day Foster Street, was described as being on “the fringe of the woods” in 1905.  Priscilla called her house “The Shelter”. Her husband, William, a Civil War veteran had died in 1898. Her only child, Annie Paine, had married in 1888 and lived in Mattapoisett.

Priscilla finally had Annie back home after she had unexpectedly left to go to Paris. It was around Memorial Day when she left but it wasn’t clear why. It wasn’t until late July Annie’s family found out she was attending a wedding.

Annie’s niece and close friend, Anna Barstow, asked her to be the matron of honor in the ceremony. Anna had lived in Mattapoisett for about 20 years. Her father had been in the whaling business and retired to take over a sizable estate in Mattapoisett. After finishing school, Anna went to work in a hotel on Nantasket beach and later went to Boston and then Philadelphia to become a housekeeper.

While in Philadelphia she worked for a wealthy bachelor. When he passed away he left her a large sum of money which she supposedly invested in a mine company which she more than tripled her money. She returned to Massachusetts and lived in “a fashionable quarter of the city” with her own housekeeper, Teresa McKenna. Anna held lavish parties at her home in Boston but still came down to Mattapoisett to visit her widowed mother who lived with the Shaw family on North Street.

It may have been one of these parties that she met Paul Butler. Butler was the son of former Governor and Civil War Major General Benjamin Butler who famously declared escaped slaves as “contraband of war” and once hanged a man in New Orleans during the war for tearing down the US flag.

Paul Butler was a wealthy businessman and a member of several prominent yacht clubs. Despite Anna’s declaration that she would never marry, the couple had other plans. Around Memorial Day, Paul, Anna, Anna’s friend Annie Paine and several other close friends left for France. Paul or Anna did not tell their families they were going to marry.

Anna’s uncle and Annie husband, Abraham Paine reacted to the news of the marriage; “Surprised? Yes I am… Last I heard from them they were in Paris… where Mrs. Paine was ill”.

In Paris, the wedding party ran in to problems. When they arrived they discovered that as foreigners, it would be impossible for them to marry according to French law. So they quickly changed plans and headed for Switzerland where they were married on July 21.

However, Annie became very ill and stayed behind in Paris. Annie had suffered a series of heart attacks and never recovered. She died on July 22. At home, Annie’s mother, Priscilla was grief stricken. Annie was so far away and she wanted her back.

After the wedding Anna Butler made arrangements to return Annie’s body was home. She prepared and placed in a coffin dressed in the clothing she was to wear at the wedding; a white silk dress and slippers.

Annie’s body arrived in New York on August 7 and ten days later she was delivered to The Shelter where her grieving mother awaited her. Her mother did not want to let go of her dear Annie so she kept her body, still dressed in her wedding party clothing lying in the coffin, in a parlor just off of the bedroom.


Priscilla K. Richmond’s house. Interior showing coffin (catalog # 1981.61.183). Photo Courtesy of the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

At one time it was common to have the deceased laid out in the home in the days before a funeral with funeral services taking place in the home. It is most likely that many homes in the tri town, if they are old enough, housed a deceased loved one until the body could be buried.

However, Priscilla did not want to bury her daughter anytime soon. She spoke of having Annie there for her long, final visit. The room was decorated with flowers and she kept chairs near the coffin so she could sit with Annie and visitors that came to pay their respects. And many people came over the weeks to visit.

Though it was late August, the French undertaker that had prepared Annie’s body for her trip home had taken great care to preserve her. She was embalmed and her body placed in a metallic casket which was hermetically sealed. In the area of the casket that covered the face of Annie was a sheet of glass so one could see her eternal rest. The metallic casket was then placed in a polished oak coffin which had a unique feature; a hinged door over the glass of the casket. Priscilla often kept this door open so she could gaze at the face of her dead daughter.

Going in to September people began to wonder when or even if Priscilla would bury her daughter. It was thought she was waiting for Anna Butler to return home from Europe so she could attend her burial. Anna was just as distraught over the loss. She wrote home to Priscilla, “What shall I do, Mother Priscilla with my beautiful sister gone?”

Local folklore tells that Priscilla kept the body in the house for six months before being ordered by the Board of Health to bury her daughter. But in late August the Board of Health discussed the matter and since they had received no complaints and the body was well sealed they let the mother continue to grieve.

According to Annie’s death record she wasn’t buried six months later. In fact, the date of burial is noted as September 27, 1905; about five and half weeks after her body returned home and two months after she died. Weather she was buried by a Board of Health order or unable to wait any longer for the return of Anna Butler, Priscilla finally had to let go and say goodbye forever at Cushing Cemetery.

Burial site of Annie Paine at Cushing Cemetery, Mattapoisett, Mass. “None Knew Her But To Love Her”.

The tragedy did not end here. Annie’s husband, Abraham, had become withdrawn. He stayed in his “Oakland Heights” home in Mattapoisett and became known as a hermit. In July 1906, he traveled to New Bedford where he made a visit to James Ebenezer Norton Shaw, a young Mattapoisett attorney to draw up his will. He left Mr. Shaw’s office and disappeared. He was last seen asking for car fare at a saloon located at the New Bedford end of the Fairhaven Bridge.

Early in 1907, a gruesome discovery was made. The skeleton of Abraham was found near a road in Mattapoisett. He had no clothing on except for two “flimsy” shirts which were identified by friends as belonging to Abraham. It was believed that he had wandered through the woods half clothed, perhaps intoxicated. At some point he became exhausted, passed out and later died.

In the early 2000s the home of Priscilla Richmond, once known as The Shelter, was falling apart. The home was torn down along with all of the grief it witnessed and a new house was built in its place.

*This story also appeared in the October 17, 2013 edition of The Wanderer.