Charlestown Neck

From Old Charlestown Hisotrical Biographical Reminiscent

By: Timothy T. Sawyer, Published by James H. West Company 1902

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A Busy Part of the Old Town - Before the Days of Railroads - Archibald Babcock - The Wymans, Hoveys, Johnsons, Phippses, and Lamsons.

IN the old days Charlestown Neck was something of a business place and many of the residents there were among the most thrifty and enterprising citizens of the town. Their homes would bear comparison with those of any other locality and their families vied with the most intelligent and ambitious in the social circles of the place. Among these were the Wymans, Hoveys, and Johnsons. The Wyman ancestry dates back to 1642, although they soon located in Woburn, which was originally a part of Charlestown. They were afterwards scattered around in other towns in Middlesex County and elsewhere. Some of them returned to Charlestown, and among these the family here referred to.

Nehcmiah Wyman, whose homestead was the house and land at the junction of Main and Bunker Hill streets, - the lot having since been covered with a brick block, - came here, I think, from Medford, Massachusetts. His father, whose Christian name, according to Wyman's "Genealogies," was also Nehemiah, lived in Waltham, but the son had resided in Bedford and Charlestown Neck Medford before coming to Charlestown. His sons were men of note in the town. Colonel Nehemiah, junior, was perhaps most widely known as the popular commander of the old Warren Phalanx in its days of eminent prosperity, and William was an able and well-known figure of the past. Three of his daughters were the wives of Benjamin Adams, Honorable Charles Thompson, and Archibald Babcock. Gerald Wyman, a graduate of Harvard College in 1869, a son of William, is one of the leading expert accountants and auditors of to-day in Boston.

The Hoveys - Solomon and Abijah - came to Charlestown from Boxford or Lunenburg, Massachusetts. The Solomon Hovey homestead was a fine, large wooden building on the north side of Main Street, nearly up to Charles Street. Abijah Hovey's house was on the other side of the street. His eldest son, Abijah Wyman Hovey, a popular young man in the town, married the daughter of Archibald Babcock.

Solomon Hovey was a tall, dignified, fine-looking man. Mrs. Hovey's maiden name was Sarah Johnson. The personal appearance of all the members of the family was noticeable and attractive. The eldest daughter became the wife of John Doane, junior, in the days of his activity and prosperity. I have before referred to him as one of the first occupants of the Harvard Row block. The other daughters were wives of Putnam Skilton, of Union Street, and Richard Saville, of Chelsea. The eldest son, Solomon, junior, was for some years of the firm of Stover & Hovey, tanners, and afterwards, up to the time of the great Boston fire, president of the Mechanics Insurance Co., of Boston. James, another son, a graduate of Amherst College, was a teacher, for many years the popular master of the Phillips School, in Boston. Joseph F. was widely known as the head of Hovey & Fenno's insurance-agency, in Boston. His wife was Elizabeth Frothingham. We have spoken of him before, in connection with the Frothingham family.

Solomon Hovey, senior, was very early a believer in the value of the Mystic shore between Chelsea and Maiden bridges for business purposes, and from time to time was a purchaser of lots of land there, but he lived hardly long enough to see even the beginning of its development.

The large brick building No. 465 Main Street, still standing, but put to a very different use from that of its earlier days, was built by Jotham Johnson and was his home for many years, until his death in 1845. His wife was Susan Tufts. His son, Charles Barkeley Johnson, was a partner in the old firm of E. A. & W. Winchester & Co., extensive soap and candle manufacturers and packers and dealers in provisions. George, the second son, was a grocer and West India goods dealer in the stone building on Main Street, and afterwards a lumbermerchant at the Neck. Jotham, junior, kept a store on Chelsea Street for a long period. Other sons were lumber-dealers in town.

Jotham Johnson was one of the first board of directors of the Bunker Hill Bank, elected July 27, 1825, and continued to October, 1845, and he was also one of the original proprietors of the Harvard Unitarian Church, as was also Nehemiah Wyman, junior. The Hoveys were active and prominent members of the First Church. The Wymans, Hoveys, and Johnsons were all dealers in cattle and provisions. They carried on an active business on the margin of the Mystic and Charles rivers, in the slaughter of neat cattle and sheep for retail dealing in summer, and in beef and pork packing for shipment in the winter.

The building up of the business in this locality very likely induced Oliver Brown to establish his neatsfoot-oil manufactory in the rear of his house near Frothingham Avenue, and Benjamin Brown to establish his business of cleansing and preparing tripe, and so forth, farther up on Main Street; and perhaps the Tufts tannery, afterwards Stover & Hovey's, on Main Street, was started here where green hides could be easily obtained. Morocco-dressing was an important industry at the Neck, the Meads, James Kimball, and Joseph Phipps owning land for this purpose. In the spring of the year alewife and shad fishing at the locks of the Middlesex Canal was made profitable and helped to keep the coopershop of Jotham Barry going. Nathan Tufts had made a mill-pond by the side of Malden Bridge, and the mills were grinding, slowly perhaps, but surely. Here also were Magoun's ship-yard and Absalom Rand's soapmanufactory and the headquarters of Studley's hourly coaches to and from Boston. The brewery, established here in 1821, was active under the ownership and use of Elias Phinney and John Kent, although but a small affair in comparison with the wide-awake and enterprising Van Nostrand management of to-day. Archibald Babcock's store was a busy place, and there were other stores where a good deal was going on. In Nathaniel Lamson's blacksmith-shop the sledge was incessantly swinging, and the neighborhood was enlivened by the ring and music of the hammers on the anvil. The coming and going of the boats over the Middlesex Canal, through the locks, to their landing-places near the Old Mills at the foot of Mill Street, and the activity in the mills where Hamilton Davidson was grinding up corn and Samuel Cutter was sawing up mahogany and other timber - these added to the activity of the district; and altogether, as we said at the outset, Charlestown Neck was rather a busy place.

Archibald Babcock came to Charlestown from Mansfield, Connecticut, about 1815. He located at the Neck and lived there until his death, August 19, 1862. He built a fine residence and store for himself on the main road, not far from Alford Street. These buildings were purchased by the Middlesex Railroad Company and taken down to make room for stables and car-sheds. The Elevated Railway Terminal now covers the ground, and all traces of the Babcock estate are obliterated. Mr. Babcock was an enterprising business man and the store referred to was a lively place for many years. He was something of an operator in real-estate, and had, I think, more or less connection with the old tavern which was on the site of the park at Sullivan Square and which was the putting-up place of the drivers of the baggage-wagons from New Hampshire and Vermont, in which the product of the farms of those States was brought to Boston before the days of railroads. He was a public-spirited man and will be remembered by a bequest in his will of $3000, the income to be expended annually for music or open-air concerts at the Neck for the benefit of all the citizens of Charlestown.

The Phipps family is an old one in the town, and much of interest might be written about it. The name appears in several instances among the founders and original members of the Harvard Church, and Joseph Phipps, junior, who lived well up on the south side of Main Street, was one of its first deacons.

Benjamin Phipps, whose residence was in Eden Street and his place of business near to it on Main Street, was also a constant attendant at that church. His family, after his death, April 7, 1878, continued to live in their old home until recently, and still keep up their love and loyalty to the old church. Mr. Phipps held many offices under the old town government, and for the three years during which the writer filled the office of mayor he was an alderman of the city. It is a pleasure to bear witness to his ability and faithfulness. Prudence, good judgment, and excellence of spirit were always assured in his action, and he commanded the respectful consideration and courtesy of his associates by his own uniform remembrance of the value of these qualities. Mr. Phipps was the treasurer of the Old Ladies' Home for twelve years. His daughters have been interested in many charitable and other associations.

His son, Benjamin Phipps, junior, has been for many years a member of the long-established and widelyknown domestic-goods house of Parker, Wilder & Co., Boston.

The Lamsons, a family of long standing in the town, were also residents at the Neck. The wife of the late James Hunnewell was the daughter of Joseph and Susan (Frothingham) Lamson. The mother of the late Linus Pearson was a daughter of Caleb Lamson. Nathaniel Lamson built and lived in the brick house removed a short time ago by the Park Department. After giving up the shop at the Neck he became an iron-dealer, for a while succeeding Thompson & Lapham in their store on Main Street.
APRIL 26, 1902.

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