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As you can see from this photo of Fayville Hall from the 1918, pandemics are nothing new. Southborough has been struck by waves of disease, from cholera to scarlet fever. (This last was thought to be born by dogs, and resulted in the strict licensing and fee structure still in place today.)
Today, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected all of us in Southborough in many different ways and each of us is an eyewitness to this important time in our history. The Southborough Historical Society hopes to accurately preserve this moment in time by launching “Coronavirus Pandemic: A Photographic Portrait of Southborough.”
The goal is to preserve images of our daily lives during this crisis and to provide future historians, researchers and students with information on life in our community during this pandemic and how it affected our daily lives.
And, we need everyone’s help. SHS is seeking photographs that demonstrate the impact of coronavirus and COVID-19 on Southborough and its residents.
Are you keeping a COVID-19 journal? Have you taken a porch portrait of your family? Do you work on the front lines of the pandemic response or are deemed an essential worker? In what ways have you seen our community unite? Have you been personally affected by the illness or repercussions of the economic fallout? How does homeschooling and social distancing affect your children and their lives? Have you seen empty store shelves and other images symbolic of how things have changed? We encourage you to share photographs of pandemic experiences in the context of your daily lives.
It is a time when face masks, closed business, and working from home has become our new normal. For many of us, this may be the most historical moment of our lives and we need to preserve and archive this for posterity. By recording how the virus has changed our daily life, we will ensure the stories are available to provide valuable insight for future generations. Each contribution will help ensure evidence of this time for future research, reference and exhibits.
Please provide as many photographs as you feel are important. If you would prefer to send images directly through email, or have any questions, concerns, or thoughts about the project, please send an email to email@example.com
The Southborough Historical Society is dedicated to discovering and safekeeping the stories of our community. Archived within our collections and entrusted to our care are stories of family, growth and perseverance. As we navigate through these difficult times, we must continue to collect and ensure that these experiences in our community are preserved for later generations.
Thank you for your contribution and your help in building history.
By submitting to the Southborough Historical Society collection, you are agreeing to the terms within this disclaimer document.
All submissions will be moderated before being made available publicly. The Southborough Historical Society reserves the right to not accept a submission should it not fit the theme and intent of the Coronavirus Pandemic: A Portrait of Southborough project, per the discretion of SHS staff.
Thanks to a two-year project spearheaded by SHS members Rebecca Dean-Rowe, Sally Watters, Molly Leavitt, and Jim Blaschke, you can now explore the Old Burial Ground virtually on our new interactive map.
Its sophisticated search mechanism lets you click on individual graves, read the inscriptions, and learn about the history of the people below. Best of all, the system is designed to be continually added to and expanded by both society members and outside contributors. This spring and summer, for example, we will be photographing and adding in pictures all the grave stones, and Sally Watters is busy researching the fascinating background stories of our founding residents to add to the collection. (Just click the image below to begin your explorations!)
If you have information you would like to share about any of the Old Burial Ground residents, please use the form below the map and we’ll add it to the database.
And finally, a shout out to Aidan Campbell, who designed the interactive and endured a thousand rounds of edits and changes!
It is with a very real sadness that I share the news of the death of Eleanor Hamel, a long-time best friend to the Southborough Historical Society, at age 98. I’ll let you read her obituary here, but I just wanted to share a few personal memories with you.
I met Eleanor back in the early 90s during my first stint on the Historical Commission. I had gotten involved because one of our dismal cast of local developers, always ready to demolish, was planning to tear down the hugely historic Greek Revival house of Mary Finn on Route 9 to build a Wendy’s. (That’s Mary Finn of Mary Finn School, btw, and the current Wendy’s speaks to the result.) As usual, I was full of (then youthful) outraged indignation, and as usual, wise and calm Eleanor, who was an 11th generation Soutborough resident, saw the bigger picture. As she pointed out to me, while we’d lost the skirmish, we could still win the war, and with her guidance we raised enough public awareness to make sure there would be no more fast food restaurants blighting the Southborough streetscape. When I would get discouraged, and not attend meetings for a while, she would call me up with the gentle voice and say, “Now Michael, I know you are busy, but we need your energy and enthusiasm. Please try to come.” And I did, and working together we got the Town to spend 25K to do the 2001 Historical Properties Survey. That was the watershed. Many years later it led to the Demolition Delay By-Law, the preservation of 85 Main Street, and the Historic Adaptive Reuse By-law (which saved Fayville Hall, among others). By then Eleanor had long retired from the Historical Commission, but her imprint echoes through all these achievements.
I’m unclear if Eleanor was one of the founding members of the Historical Society, but if not, she was close. She worked assiduously at the Museum for decades, cataloguing the collections, urging people to contribute, sharing her vast personal knowledge of Southborough, or helping out in any way she could. I wasn’t active in the Society during this period, but it’s not hard to see hints of Eleanor around every corner. Just pick up a record, look at an object, read the caption on a photo. Her distinctive handwriting, which I came to know so well on the Commission, was, and still is, everywhere. Every time I see it, I smile. It’s like meeting a trusted old friend. If that blocky script states: “This the Brewer farm and the girls on ladders are picking cherries after school,” then you can rest assured that’s exactly what you’re looking at, for she was there, or knew someone who was.
Across from my desk at the museum there is a wonderful mid-19th century wooden box with original paper labels advertising Boston Baked Beans. The shipping address is the now long-destroyed Wright’s Store in Fayville. Inside on the cover there is a taped note that simply reads; “This box has been in our home as long as I can remember. E.H.”
Thank you, dear friend, for sharing your memories with us, and for becoming a huge part of ours. You will be sorely missed.
I thought perhaps you would like a bit of good news for a change.
Just before the COVID crisis hit, the Board of the Southborough Historical Society purchased and donated to the town a 12′ tall Princeton elm. It was planted in the field beside the museum (with the kind assistance of DPW head Karen Galligan) to replace one of the huge sugar maples that recently failed. This new variety has been field tested over the last few decades and has proven resistant to the Dutch elm disease. With any luck, this tree will shortly grow into a sizable specimen, giving shade to grateful future generations. To our knowledge, it is the first new elm planted along the roadways of Southborough in half a century.
And also, we are delighted to announce that the first crop of our new Lyscom apple trees will be available for sale shortly. (You’ll perhaps remember that the Lyscom originated here in the 1730s) Again, thanks to Karen, grafts from the sole surviving tree were taken several years ago, and 15 or so are now ready to find new homes. More on that soon.
Continuing our publication of Col. Francis Fay’s letters, I thought any of you with the experience of young charges might delight in knowing that things haven’t changed much in 170 years. Here, our hero writes to his two sons, Frank and Henry, explaining why he’ll never buy an I-Phone 11 (or the 1850s equivalent)—for himself, or for them.
To Frank and Henry
You think me absurd in my views of what I call unnecessary expenditure, that is, for that which is to gratify the taste [or] inclination of fancy, but affords no actual comfort, and is, when carefully examined, of no real benefit or utility.
Let us see how much you are indebted to this supposed absurdity.
Had I indulged in those things “very pleasant” “agreeable” or “convenient” etc. but not necessary to actual comfort, I should have “spent as I went” and been always poor, and been unable to give you an education, to furnish you with a comfortable home, with decent food and clothing, and to aid you, if necessary, with funds and credit to start in life. But for myeconomy, YOU would have been like myself—without education, without credit, or means to commence life, and like me at 21, been refused (by your own uncle, perhaps) a credit of fifty dollars, and had to struggle with hardships, privations, discouragements, embarrassments for 20 years before you got the wheels fairly moving. Why were you not obliged at 21 (and even before) to work upon a farm by the month, or in a stable, or drive a truck, and now a hand cart? If you’ll examine minutely cause and effect, you will find my habits of economy through life had much to do with it.
Let me illustrate.
Major Chase and Mr McFarland were much better off at 21, both for means of family influence, than myself. But they wanted things “convenient” and “comfortable” “customary” “gratifying” etc. They wished to “live while they did live” “to enjoy themselves” “to do as others do”, etc. And where are they? What have they been able to do for their families, what character, credit or aid can they afford them? What is their own condition for comfort and happiness in their old age? Now seeing, knowing these effects, these results, is it not my duty to warn my family against such evil consequences, to caution them not to be wrecked upon the same rocky shore— even though they laugh at my economy, are annoyed at my admonition and think they can take care of themselves?
Probably the last is true, but how will it be for their children? Shall they have parents who, by the practiced economy, are able to educate, bring them up comfortably, and start them in life with reasonable prospects, or shall through their parents’ indulgence, like Chase and McFarland, be obliged to start struggling with ignorance, poverty and destitution? These are questions for you to answer, and knowing their importance from actual experience and observation, I cannot allow myself to neglect to call your attention to them, though that warning voice may not always be received with satisfaction at the time.
All of us in youth need restraint; my restraint came from necessity. You have not that salutary, though disagreeable, check, and therefore it is more important [that] yours should come from some other source.
By what I have said I would not want to indicate that either of you are practically extravagant, and yet I think both to a certain extent are inclined or have a disposition to be so, but not to so great extent as myself when I was young. Had I been able, I should have gone ahead of either of you. I was compelled to economy and its effect, both in character and property, has proved to me it was the best policy, and that my former notions that I must conform to custom and keep up with the times were all imaginings, all moonshine.
I have said you are inclined, that is you have a pride be as good as others. Well, this desiring is highly praiseworthy, but to be as good, as popular, as much respected as others does not depend on fine clothes, fashionable furniture or ape-ing your neighbors, and if you believe what you often say to me, you have living proof of that constantly before you.
When you get to be forty years old, you will probably need no monitor but your own experience, observation and reflection—until then, one occasionally may do you know harm, and probably no one is more suitable, or will discharge that duty with more fidelity , and with a single eye to your benefit, than your own parents.
With these remarks I close this lecture.
Editors Aside: For anyone contemplating a phone upgrade, amusingly “that which is to gratify the taste [or] inclination of fancy, but affords no actual comfort, and is, when carefully examined, of no real benefit or utility” does in fact pretty much sum up the I-Phone 11 vs 10!
In this third and final installment, the illustrious Colonel Fay leaves St. Louis and heads back to Boston, though not without further misadventures and having witnessed a dreadful accident. As we join this episode, our hero is still hugely weakened but slowly recovering from a bout of something akin to rheumatic fever…
November 3rd on the Ohio River at anchor near Beaver 32 miles from Pittsburgh.
I resume my story as we are now unable to run owing to the darkness of the night and the narrow and crooked river here. And I come now to write without the continual shake I was subjected to when the boat was underway. I left St. Louis October 26th 10 AM perhaps before my health would justify it but one gains strength so slow in this country and I was so anxious to get home and have a New England diet and New England nursing that I ventured although I was just able to set up through the day.
I left in the steamboat Swift Boy and paid $25 for passage to Pittsburgh. They brought us to Cincinnati Ohio 750 miles out of 1300 and refused to carry us any farther or make any provision for us and insisted in taking $18 out of the 25 which we had paid although the regular price from St. Louis to Cincinnati was $15.
We quarreled awhile and I took the lead. I finally told the captain that I did not wish to quarrel, that he had undertook to carry us to Pittsburgh and we had paid him his price; he had not fulfilled his engagement and he was bound to carry us there or refund sufficient to carry us there, and that for one I should take no less, but should seek my [recourse] in some other way. He said we need not think to “scare him.” I answered that we had no idea of scaring; that I should not resort to a legal remedy although I supposed I had one. But that I should not spend 10 dollars to get 3; but that I had the right and should exercise that right of publishing the imposition to the world as a caution to the public not to travel on his boat. I then left him. In a few moments, the captain called us into the office and paid us back $10 each for the price of passage to Pittsburgh.
We then went immediately on board the Dayton where we have every accommodation [illegible]. We live like lords. My health is very much improved, my appetite good and I feel comfortable except that I want exercise. Being bound up 10 or 12 days in the cabin of a steamboat with 50 passengers is no pleasant affair. We shall probably arrive at Pittsburgh about noon tomorrow and and at 9 PM take the canal boat for Philadelphia.
Canal Boat Chesapeake on the Pennsylvania Canal near Mifflin, Juniata County Pennsylvania November 7th 1836
We arrived at Pittsburgh as I expected and found it one the most [illegible] unpleasant smoking towns I ever saw. It contains in its immediate suburbs about 40,000 inhabitants. It is situated at the junction of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers which here unite and form the Ohio. It is built on the spot where the French Fort Duquesne and afterward the English Fort Pitt was erected. It is surrounded by high mountains which almost completely enclose it on all sides.
[The town sits] upon a flat [and] is tolerably laid out and has many good buildings, but the numerous manufacturing establishments which are there erected and which burn coal, which is found in great abundance in the mountains within a half a mile of the town, means the town is covered with such a perpetual smoke that it completely prevents the atmosphere from being clean and all the buildings and inhabitants to carry the appearance of a smoke house. It is however a place of great business and considerable wealth and is fast increasing.
We left Pittsburgh at 9 PM on the 4th in the canal boat Niagara on the canal and on the 5th passed through a tunnel cut under the mountain through a solid rock nearly 1000 feet [long], sufficiently wide and deep for the canal boat—and the mountain some 200 feet over our heads.
Soon after passing through the tunnel we came to the end of this canal, 106 miles, and to the Portage Railroad at Johnstown and in the course of the 16 miles ascended 5 incline planes of about ½ mile each in length and a rise of about 15 degrees to the top of the Allegheny Mountain and through another tunnel under a mountain equal with the one encountered before on the canal. We there commenced descending and in the same distance descended 5 more times of about the same descent but somewhat longer, and there were carried 4 miles without any power down such a gentle plain that the cars were propelled by their own weight to Hollidaysburg. We were then towed up and down these plains by stationary engines on each.
At Hollidaysburg we again took the canal in the boat which I now am and shall go down the banks of the Juniata River and Susquehanna to Columbia, 172 miles passing through Harrisburg the capital of Pennsylvania. At Columbia, we shall again take the railroad for Philadelphia, 82 miles.
We arrived at Columbia at 9 Am and stayed until 2 PM and took the cars for Philadelphia. When about half way a passenger was standing on top of the car in which I was seated and being careless came in contact with a bridge across the railroad when we were going about 20 miles an hour which struck his head and he fell upon the car dreadfully mangled.
We carried him about three miles to a public house and laid him upon a settee, and let him down and carried him into the home alive but perfectly insensible where we left him and he probably lived but a few hours if he did so long.
We came the rest of the way in the night and arrived in Philadelphia about 9 PM after being let down another long inclined plane of 5/8 of a mile to the Schuylkill River. I left Philadelphia the next day at 10 AM and arrived at New York at 6 PM by steamboat to Bordentown; railroad to South Amboy; and then by boat from there to New York. I left New York at 4 PM the next day in the steamboat Massachusetts, arrived at Providence a quarter before eight the next morning and took cars for Boston where I arrived.
Remember: History like this doesn’t save itself. Please consider donating to the Southborough Historical Society. It’s quick, secure and easy.
This is the second installment of the account of Colonel Francis B. Fay’s journey from Boston to St. Louis in the autumn of 1836. As we rejoin the story, our hero has already survived various and sundry vicissitudes, including being shipwrecked on Lake Erie….
We left Logansport in the afternoon and went 6 miles to a small tavern on the banks of the Wabash and here my scene of troubles began. I rose in the morning with one of my most severe turns of headache. That house was no place for comfort [and with] my friends urging me on I consented to start and rode 20 miles in the most excruciating torture before I came to any house where we could get entertainment. Before we arrived it seemed I should be obliged to get down from my horse and sit down by the roadside. I however arrived at Delphi and put up at a miserable hotel; staid till next morning and although no better and having a high fever I again mounted my horse and rode 20 miles to Lafayette in search of better quarters. I staid their until the next morning but found no better entertainment and being unable to ride horseback my companions led on my horse and I to the stage to go 50 miles. I road 40 miles and was obliged to stop, unable to go any farther and stopped at Covington. I there stayed three days, had a physician to be X and other medicine. I sold my horse and took the stage for Terre Haute—50 miles. My companions had left a half a day before me in order that they might arrive at Terre Haute at the same time I did. They went 35 miles to Clinton and learning that they could save a few miles by not going to Terre Haute they very cooly left a line for me that they had taken a different route and presumed I should arrive at St. Louis now 200 miles distant before them.
Thus I was left alone among strangers scarcely able to sit up or walk. I however proceeded to Terre Haute and there found myself more feeble than ever with a high fever, my tongue coated to its very tip, my pulse up to 90, no appetite and parched with thirst. Add to this I was staying in a tavern with building, plastering, whitewashing and sawing going on, a horse race about to commence and the house filled with gamblers, [illegible] who appeared ready to rob me at every step and who occupied the next chamber to mine with a only a board partition and were gambling through the night. And added to all these the landlady an unaffecting brute with no disposition to contribute to or afford me any comfort or attention. The first night I took a severe sweat—rolling and tumbling and almost dying with thirst without anything to quench it but the water from my washbowl. I lay till 9 in the morning and no one appeared to see whether I was dead or alive. I got up, the sweat then rolling off my face, running down my bosom, my shirt wet with sweat. I stepped into the entry to go down, found them whitewashing one part and scouring up the other with soap and sand. I went down one flight of stairs out on a piazza, down another into another with a room with two Negroes plastering, clambering over the staging. I went out of doors round the corner of the house in a good northeast storm through the bar room into the sitting room which was also the eating room for some 40 or 50 each meal, which kept it in constant commotion through the day setting tables, eating, and clearing off—here I was obliged to stay through the day… [illegible]
I stayed here in this situation 4 days, had two Physicians, had [eaten] nothing for 10 days except once or twice a day a little sip of coffee or gruel. I got so reduced that I was scarcely able to sit in my chair or walk across the room with the greatest effort and no one to do anything for me. I made up my mind under all these circumstances that in all probability I should never again set my foot in Massachusetts, never again embrace my family and friends but that I must deposit my earthly remains in Indiana. Still my courage or resolution did not forsake me. I resolved to overcome all if possible. I was my own nurse while I stayed and after 4 days although very little better I resolved to leave that place and take the stage for St. Louis—180 miles—live or die, as I felt I must die where I was and could do no more on the road. I took the stage at 12 at noon and made 20 miles, stayed at a log house and was called at 4 in the morning, but I bribed the driver to keep his eyes shut till 6… The 3rd night I stopped in Vandalia, the seat of government for Illinois and fared well.
(The stage goes here about 35 or 40 miles per day, one half before morning, the next in the fore noon and the last leg in the afternoon. The 4th night we stayed at a farm house upon the prairie (Log house of course with 11 of us stowed into a small room with a roaring fire all night) I (illegible) which routed me at 2 o’clock. The rain pouring down in torrents, I obliged to leave that afternoon and expose myself to the storm—exposure was inevitable although it seemed to me if it did not prove fatal it would be a miracle.
I however escaped [death] and the next day riding all day in the storm in a poor [open] carriage (they have no other in that country) I arrived at sunset at St Louis and put up at the same house where Lyman and his wife board—[about] as well as I left Terre Haute, but unable to sit up all day or walk a quarter mile without being completely exhausted, my tongue still coated all over, my neck stiff, my limbs paining me and no appetite. But I felt in a new world. I had got among civilized people and among some of my friends. My companions came to congratulate me on my arrival but they met with a cold reception and I gave them to understand that I considered their conduct in leaving me barbarous, little better than savage and an act which I could never overlook or forget. Their own conscience smote them and I think they did not feel very comfortable.
I stayed at St. Louis 11 days before I so far recovered as to dare to start home and even then, was unable to walk more than for a mile without exhaustion, so reduced was I on my arrival and so slow in my recovery. St. Louis is a beautiful location and a place of great business and fine advantages and when they root out the old French houses will be a charming place….
Among the Fay correspondence the Society is publishing for the first time ever this winter, we found a remarkable letter that chronicles the almost superhuman effort it took to travel by land before the railroad system linked the continent in the 1860s and 70s. Although not stated in the account, it seems fairly clear that Fay took on this arduous 1836 journey from Boston to St. Louis to act as a business agent, looking for profitable investment opportunities for wealthy Boston clients.
In this first installment, our hero Colonel Francis B. Fay, late of Southborough, finds himself ill-housed, ill-used, battered about, and eventually, submerged in Lake Erie….
On board the steamboat Dayton, on the Ohio River between Mariette Ohio and Pittsburgh
November 2nd 1836
The time passing rather tedious—being penned up in a steamboat for 8 or 10 days without any relief, I made up my mind to give you a little history of my journey and adventures, although it is not very easy to write on a steamboat constantly shaking and trembling under the tremendous power of the engine and you may find some difficulty in deciphering all the [illegible} of the scroll.
I left Boston, as you know, September 12 at 1 PM and arrived at Providence at 4. [Presumably by the brand-new Boston and Providence Railroad, just finished the year before]. Went on board steamboat Massachusetts, had fog all the way through the [Long Island] sound which retarded out passage, arrived at New York the 13th at 7 AM, too late for the morning boat up the North [Hudson] River. Stayed in New York till five PM, took a boat for Albany and arrived there 6 AM; left there and arrived at Utica at 1 PM. 482 miles in 48 hours from home, having stopped 8 hours in Utica and 2 in Albany.
[This was breath-taking speed for 1836 and would have been a thing of wonder. Compare this to daily sums later in the letter.]
I there took a canal boat for Syracuse—61 miles where we arrived at 6 AM on the 15th. We there left the canal and took stage for Canandaigua passing through Auburn, Waterloo, and Geneva, and other beautiful towns to arrive at Canandaigua. Quarreled the stage agent for imposition, [unclear what this means, though presumably a disagreement about the fare] left that route and took the stage for Rochester and from there took stage for Buffalo through Lenox and Batavia, the last notorious for the scene of the Morgan abduction.
[Fay’s reference to the “Morgan abduction” refers to one William Morgan, a resident of Batavia, New York, whose disappearance and presumed murder in 1826 ignited a powerful movement against the Freemasons, a fraternal society that had become influential in the United States. After Morgan announced his intention to publish a book exposing Freemasonry’s secrets, he was arrested on trumped-up charges. He disappeared soon after, and was believed to have been kidnapped and killed by Masons from western New York. The allegations surrounding Morgan’s disappearance and presumed death sparked a public outcry.]
Arrived at Buffalo on Saturday noon Sept 17th and remained there over Sunday and Monday. At 10 AM started in the steamboat General Porter up Lake Erie. Went for 45 miles, [before we] struck a rock near Dunkirk and stove a hole through her bottom, ran her into the harbor where she sank a few feet from the wharf with 3 feet of water in her cabin, and 700 passengers on board, men, women and children of all sorts of sizes, ages, conditions making one little world by ourselves. What may seem incredible too is that boats leave daily from Buffalo with an average of 700 or 800 passengers, mostly immigrants moving to the west. Here we were—700 of us—shipwrecked in a little village of some 30 to 50 houses. Our company consisted of 7 men on shore while the others got out our baggage near up the wharf. [We] chartered a wagon to carry us 3 miles to the stage road at Fredonia. We got there and chartered the only stage there for $20 to take us to Erie PA—50 miles. Before our stage was ready, swarms of passengers arrived from the boat wanting conveyance but they arrived “just in season to be too late.” We went on to Erie and from there by stage to Cleveland Ohio, about 110 miles. We there got on board the steamboat Thomas Jefferson and arrived at Detroit Michigan in about 24 hours. We there breakfasted and took another boat, came back down the Detroit River across the westerly shore of Lake Erie to Toledo at the mouth of the Maumee River. Again took a steamboat and went 8 miles up the Maumee to Perrysburg, the head of navigation on that river. This was Friday evening.
On Saturday we purchased horses, saddles, bridles, portmanteaus, leggings etc and on Sunday at 2 PM commenced our tour up the Maumee River through the woods on horseback to Fort Defiance at the conjunction of the St. Josephs River and the Auglaize River, whose junction forms the Maumee. We made 18 miles and put up at a house (a tavern it could not be called) kept by a man, half-French, half-Indian. We had a comical supper and were put to bed in a chamber— 8 beds, or more properly, substitutes for beds, where we stowed away, 18 of us men women and children, windows with more than half the glass out, and we had to put in our hats and coats to fill in the gaps. The next day we reached Ft. Defiance after a 38 miles ride through mud & ravines almost perpendicular—down and up through mud sloughs, fording rivers, etc. etc.
There is a little village at Defiance and a tolerable tavern where we fared comfortably. Fort Defiance is well named, it’s situation is most commanding being directly up the point where the two rivers meet, with the guns so arranged as to point down the Maumee and up the St. Joseph and Auglaize, with a high embankement and a deep ditch in the rear from river to river. I think troops stationed there might well defy an enemy. The village is situated directly in the rear of the fort and is very pleasant.
In leaving Ft. Defiance we commenced a journey of 50 miles through the forest where there was no road but for a path for man and horse through swamps [and] deep ravines. We would descend 50-75 feet almost perpendicular, the horses sometimes sliding from top to bottom unable to keep a foothold. At the bottom there were mud sloughs and water up to our horses bellies and immediately afterwards we would ascend almost perpendicular, obliged to hold onto the horses’ manes and let our horse keep prone step to step and with the greatest effort reach the top. The first night we put up at a log cabin of two rooms (about half a dozen of which were all the inhabitants there were between Ft Defiance and Ft Wayne—50 miles)
We had a supper I believe such as never before ate—meat that had been cooked some 8 or 10 times and fish which was not cooked without salt or butter. We were sent to bed under the roof (if roof it might be called) by a flight of stairs outside with no door and the logs so far apart that it appeared more of a cob house than a dwelling, stowed in with corn, oats, boxes, herbs, etc with 4 (what were called) beds. We stayed there till morning during a raging[?] night and had the same provision for breakfast and it was again set before 5 others travelers who came up just as we left.
The next day we passed Fort Wayne, a small little town, and commenced descending the Wabash River on a tow path of the Wabash Canal. That night we put up at a log house and had a splendid entertainment [the word here means “food and lodging”] as good as could be had in Boston. The next night we put up at another log house and fared comfortably. The owner was formerly from Massachusetts.
The next day we came to Logansport, a fine town in Indiana at the junction of the Wabash and Eel Rivers. In the meantime, I saw plenty of Indians and among them the head chief of the Miami Tribe who dresses and appears like a gentleman. He is said to be the richest man in Indiana, supposed to be worth $400,000. There was a collection of 11,000 Indians near Logansport to receive their pensions from government. But a quarrel ensued between them, and the whites and the militia [were] call out and two or three [Indians] killed before order was restored. We saw the troops just returning as we entered Logansport.
We left Logansport in the afternoon and went 6 miles to a small tavern on the banks of the Wabash and here my scene of troubles began….
This winter we will be researching and digitizing the unpublished papers of Francis B. Fay in our collection, another SHS first.
This name may be familiar to you as the founder of our library (the second oldest public library in the nation, btw) but the industrious Col. Fay did more than that single good deed. Born at Southborough in 1793, this remarkable self-made man with little formal education was Southborough Postmaster, Colonel of the Militia, a drover, and a successful merchant, roughly in that order. Seeing an opportunity in what was then the entirely undeveloped area of Chelsea, he acquired the ferry rights from Boston, and was one of the earlier settlers of that area. There he founded a bank, became Chelsea’s first mayor, served in both the state legislature and Congress, and late in life became interested in education for women, helping found one of the first modern reform schools in Lancaster as an alternative to prison, all the while keeping an eye on events of his beloved Southborough.
“Harrington was a lawyer, a former Worcester postmaster, a former state representative and a dedicated foe of the prohibition – temperance movement. He also had a newspaper career. He wrote for Liberty of the Press, a strongly anti-temperance sheet, and edited a weekly, The Worcester Republican, for a while. It was a supporter of Andrew Jackson.
During his term as postmaster, he was embroiled in a counterfeiting scheme, and disappeared from Worcester for a few years. Harrington also was opposed to the anti-slavery, Abolitionist movement that was centered in Worcester, where Eli Thayer was organizing the New England Emigrant Aid Society. It enlisted free men to go to the newly opened territory of Kansas and settle it as a free state in opposition to the slaveholders pouring in from the South.”
So given Harrington’s predilections and subsequent actions, it’s pretty safe to assume that Harrington had probably sent a fiery letter to Fay, trying to rally his fellow postmaster to the Jacksonian cause. Here is Fay’s reply:
Southborough January 30th 1830
Your esteemed favor the 22nd inst. came safe to hand and contents noticed.
(This is 19th-century speak for “your letter of the 22nd of this month duly received and read; “inst.” is an abbreviation for the Latin instante mense, meaning a date of the current month.)
It may be somewhat difficult for me in a few words to communicate to you my views upon the subject of your letter without being liable to be misunderstood or supposed to be laid under obligations express or implied which were not intended. But as I am at all times ready to give my opinion upon any subject within my comprehension freely and undisguised, I will endeavor to communicate to you my views and feelings upon the subject before us.
First, I am no partisan. I never have, nor do I yet think it my duty to attach myself to any party, religious, political, Masonic, anti-Masonic, so far as to approve measures because they belong to my party. I know no party but the nation, or any policy but national policy which I am bound to support. Thus if I belong to any party that must be named, that name must be American. Again, I am no “Fence Man.” My opinion upon any measure I am free to express. But one virtuous act of a man does not satisfy me that he cannot do wrong; neither does one error induce me to reject him altogether. Upon this principle I believe Adams and Jackson both have many virtues and both some vices, but either [is] qualified to discharge the duties of the office of the President of the United States.
(The election of 1828 had pitted Andrew Jackson against John Quincy Adams—essentially a repeat of the election of 1824, in which no candidate had received a majority of the electoral votes. Therefore the election was decided for Adams by the House of Representatives, according to the 12th Amendment. In 1828, after a bitterly fought rematch, Jackson clearly won the popular and electoral vote, to the disgust of the Federalists.)
In short, both are “more sinned against than sinner” and I am decidedly opposed to the violent measures frequently adopted to subserve the interests of men rather than the good of the nation. I understand that the remark of the illustrious Jefferson is yet good that “we are all Federalists, all Republicans.”
As an officer of the government (Fay was at the time the Soutborough Postmaster) I consider it my duty to support that government in all its “Republican Measures” tending to the welfare and happiness of the nation. With the policy of the present Administration (so far as I understand it) I am disposed generally (though not interminably) to cooperate.
The message of the President is the best I have seen—and the views and principles therein expressed are my own—with some few exceptions—and so long as the government is administered conformably to the principles there developed, I shall be “Friendly to the present Administration,” but whenever I may have occasion to disapprove any act of this or any other Administration, I reserve the right to express my disapprobation openly and decidedly though at all times respectfully and dispassionately.
I have thus hastily endeavored to give you some idea of my political creed— the polar star of which is: “measures are not men.”
In haste, I am respectfully your obedient servant
Francis B Fay
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all be inspired by Colonel Fay’s advice, and do what’s best for the country regardless of party in this election year?
Who knows—miracles can happen.
Happy New Year Everyone, and please don’t forget to contribute to our annual appeal if you haven’t already.
After the flood at the museum in 2014, things seemed quite dire at the Southborough Historical Society. The building was soaked and moldy; the collections were damaged and scattered; and much of the electronic cataloging effort done in the early 2000s was lost. The easiest thing to do might have been to lock the door and throw away the key. But instead, a dedicated group of volunteers decided on rebirth. The building was gutted. The collections were stored offsite for a year, and then arduously rehoused in a completely rebuilt interior. And, to bring the museum into the 21st century, an entirely new visitor experience was put into place, along with state-of-the-art cataloging and museum practice. While founded in 1965, the Society was effectively re-founded in 2015, and is now a youngster barely four years old.
And boy, how that baby has grown!
Membership is up 350%. Volunteerism up 500%. Cataloged inventory has increased by 2000 items. After a year-long $25K conservation effort provided by CPA funds, our Civil-War burial flag will be returned and displayed for the first time. Items donated to the Society have risen by a spectacular 3000%, thanks largely to a huge gift of Deerfoot Farm material from the late Paul Doucette. And perhaps most heartening of all, our Winter Speaker’s Series, Heritage Day Fancy Flea, and our Holiday House Ideas Tour have all proven to be hugely successful, and will become annual events. (To that end, please remember to save your unwanted antique and collectible items for us—we can even pick them up and store them for you until the October sale. Or, if you might consider opening your home for next year’s tour, let us know!)
But just like any child, our Society requires expensive, loving care, and that’s where you come in. I hope you’ll consider helping this extraordinary youngster grow and mature through a generous donation. The Society does, after all, hold the key to our Town’s precious past, and with your help, shows the promise of many wonderful things to come as we enter the new decade.