Tales of My Home
Stories about the Lower Merrimack Valley region of Massachusetts
In 1878, the sleepy town of Methuen, population three thousand, had a scandal. The Town Clerk and Treasurer, Charles Whittier, absconded with all the town's funds, over $12,000. He was a veteran of the Civil War, and had been a businessman in Chicago before being burned out in the great Chicago fire. A year before his crime was discovered, he transferred his home into his wife's name. She was deemed to be innocent of the whole affair. After fleeing town toward Canada, he confessed the crime in a letter to his wife, saying he could not remain, being a disgrace to his family.
Here is the article in the Boston Evening Herald reporting his theft. (A high resolution pdf is available below if you want to read it).
A month and a half later, Whittier returned to Methuen and was arrested in his wife's home. The follow-on article in the Boston Evening Post said "He appears to have broken down mentally and presents a pitiable appearance."
Edward Searles was born in Methuen in 1841. He became an interior decorator to billionaires. In 1887, he married his client, the widow Mary Frances Hopkins, who was 22 years older than he was. She also owned 25% of the Pacific Union railroad, one of the most valuable companies in the world at the time.
From 1885 to 1887, he built them a castle in his native Methuen. She died in 1891, leaving much of her wealth to him. For the next 29 years, he pursued his love of architecture, building the Methuen Memorial Music Hall and other structures.
When he died in 1920, newspapers gave his death extensive coverage. The article below is from the Boston Sunday Post. A higher resolution pdf is available at the bottom if you want to read it. Just zoom in.