Published by the Middlesex Canal Association
Vol. 1, No. 1 October, 1963
Floating tow-path across Concord River millpond at North Billerica.
(Original color print by Barton in 1825 in collection of Billerica Historical Society.)
This is the first issue of a bulletin devoted to news, historical data and literature of the Middlesex Canal. We hope to publish it regularly in the future - probably quarterly. We hope you will find it of interest.
For future issues, we would like to have articles and pictures relating to the Middlesex Canal, canals in general and related matters. Any contributions will be greatly appreciated and should be addressed to: Middlesex Canal Association, 36 Concord Road, Billerica, Mass.
Reminiscences of Middlesex Village
by Susan Richardson Pevey
When I was a little girl, I grew up in Middlesex Village - a quiet, little country place about three miles from the heart of the city of Lowell, Mass. Great, tall elms bordered Middlesex Street on both sides, which made it wonderfully shady to walk along leisurely for miles, past the many stately homes.
Some very distinguished people lived in Middlesex Village in the Eighties and Nineties. One of these people was Henry Ferrin, who had a carriage shop, and oh! what fun we children all had in those handsome, shiny buggies, playing hide-and-seek in the huge barn. Mr. Ferrin's horses were known far and wide for their beauty and training. My brother played with Mr. Ferrin's grandsons, so we all knew the place inside and out.
Further up the street lived James T. Smith whose home was a beautiful red brick colonial. It is still standing, but the old street will never again be the same. Mr. Smith, I believe, was one of the Founders of the Lowell Textile School. We used to have "afternoon tea" there, being seriously admonished beforehand by our mother, to be on our dignity and best behavior.
One of Lowell's leading druggists of that time, Charles Carter, married Julia Tyler, daughter of Mrs. Sam Tyler who will be remembered as the benefactor who gave land to the city of Lowell for what is now Tyler Park. Henry Clough was a neighbor and owned a granite quarry. Like Mr. Ferrin, he had a lovely white house and barn with many horses.
I recall that there were several Pratt families who owned land where the Old Middlesex Canal ran through. Judge Hadley and his family lived on the corner of the street which is named after him. His neighbor to the right was George L. Fowler, Wood Dealer. We always thought he had the oddest-shaped house.
Then there was the Old Middlesex Tavern; in front of it stood a large watering-trough where all the Middlesex Village horses knew they could get a refreshing drink. In back of the Tavern, the canal ran down to the railroad tracks where the Village Depot was located. The Village children went to meet the five o'clock train from Boston every day, a highlight then which could not even be imagined in these days. We also made daily trips to the Village Post Office where Mr. Simpson was Postmaster. Mr. Simpson's sister kept house for her brother.
Baldwin Street ran from Middlesex Street to Westford Street and was named for Loammi Baldwin, who was reputed to be the first major Civil Engineer in America.
The Middlesex Canal made its meandering way through land owned by several of these village people, but one little stream in particular was called "Black Brook" and to me, it signified a delightful haven, because I remember all of the neighbor children wading in its cool, clear water, rippling down through the meadows which bordered all of my father's land and finally emptied into the Merrimack River, at the junction of Middlesex Street and Pawtucket Street. My father had ice-houses there.
We skated on Black Brook from Thanksgiving Day all the winter long, and in summer we did a lot of fishing there. I can see my father fishing for long silver trout in all the brooks around where we lived. All these things make fascinating recollections in my later life.
Herbert Pickering built a hosiery mill along the railroad tracks across the street from our house in the 1890's. I do not think there are many people still alive today who lived in the Village in those days.
I remember, too, that all we Village children walked three miles to Lowell High School and back every day and it did not seem too much of a hardship then. With all the cars and busses at their disposal these days, I suppose it would be difficult for the present students at Lowell High School to believe such a story.
These days have all gone into the past but the memories of those happy times will be cherished in the re-telling of the many tales to our children, grandchildren and great, grandchildren.
Annual dues for 1963-4 are now due and payable. You can help the Association by making prompt payment by mail to 36 Concord Road, Billerica, Mass., or in person at the annual meeting. This will save the cost of billing and mailing.
Remember that there are two classes of membership: regular Members pay $2.00 a year, and Proprietors pay $10.00 a year. Both classes of membership enjoy all the benefits of membership in the Association, including participating in and receiving notice of all activities, but only Proprietors have the right to vote and hold office.
The second annual meeting of the Middlesex Canal Association will be held on Saturday, October 5, 1963 at 2:00 P.M. The business meeting will take place at the Parish Hall (first floor of the Unitarian Church, Concord Road, Billerica Center. (Take Concord Road exit from Route 3.)
In addition to the election of officers, the meeting will consider two amendments to the by-laws, notice of which has already been given to members, and will discuss the question of incorporating the association to permit it to own real estate and to receive tax-deductible gifts. This is recommended by a committee appointed following the last meeting.
After the business meeting, the new Canal Museum will be open for inspection. A bus trip will be made to a section of the Canal previously unexplored . This trip will not involve much walking, and we hope all will plan to make it.
Finally, we will enjoy the traditional refreshments.
On the day of the annual meeting, the Canal Museum will be formally opened in quarters in the rear of the Historical House at 36 Concord Road, generously donated by the Billerica Historical Society. The result of a great deal of hard work, the room makes an attractive place to display maps, prints, photographs, books, scale models and other Canal material.
We have been fortunate in receiving several gifts of prints, old newspaper clippings, photographs, pamphlets, books and other items; several other persons have made "permanent loans" of things of interest pertaining to the Canal. To these kind people we are very grateful; their contributions will be acknowledged in a future issue. But in the meantime, we solicit donations or loans of any interesting items for display in the Museum.
Help name this magazine!
The editorial staff cannot agree on a suitable name and therefore has decided to offer a prize for the best suggestion for a permanent name. All entries should be sent to the MCA, 36 Concord Road, Billerica, Mass. The decision of the judges will be final and all entries shall remain the property of the Association.
Perhaps the most frequent inquiry the Directors receive is about maps of the Canal. We can now refer anyone inquiring to the Museum, where there is not only the original of the map published in the Christian Science Monitor last year, but also a Geodetic Survey map of the entire area, with the route of the Canal traced on it by our infallible historian. For the historicallyminded, we have a photographic copy of the original Baldwin map of the Canal, from the original in the Massachusetts Archives.
The past year has been one of rapid growth for the Association. At the present time, we have over 150 members and Proprietors. The interest and enthusiasm of so many people is very encouraging to all those interested in preserving the old Canal. No one who has walked the towpath in one of the sections which still carry water can doubt that this unspoiled relic of the Nineteenth Century should be set aside for the enjoyment and education of the public.
The experience of the past year gives great hope that our objective of acquiring a part of the Canal and establishing an historic site will be realized. As reported last year, the North Billerica Company has given the Association a piece of land at the junction of the Canal and the Concord River. Several other land-owners have expressed an interest in the project and, at the moment, negotiations are in progress with the Boston & Maine Railroad for the purchase of a long section of the Canal in East Billerica. In connection with these negotiations, the Directors have voted to have the land appraised. The outcome of these negotiations should be known soon.
In addition to these real estate matters, we have occupied our time during the past year in presenting a winter lecture and several Canal walks. Consequently, there has been little time for correspondence. I hope that all our members will understand the silence and apparent inactivity. This magazine will help them keep informed in the future - and there will, I hope, be more news to report.
Your membership dues are the only source of funds for land acquisition, rental of busses, postage and printing. This issue of the Canal News is being sent to all interested persons on our mailing list, but subsequent issues will necessarily be limited to members. We appeal to all to join the Association or to renew their membership.
Arthur L. Eno, Jr.
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