Tales of My Home
Stories about the Lower Merrimack Valley region of Massachusetts
Below: Father James D. O'Donnell O.S.A., who brought the Augustinian order to Lawrence (O.S.A.= Order of St. Augustine)
The story of the Augustinian "friars" in the vicinity of Lawrence, Mass. is one of the more unlikely happenings in our history. It is also a tale of a small number of dedicated men bringing great benefit to the area.
Who are the Augustinians?
Since the dark ages, the Catholic church has had monastic orders such as the Benedictines, in which dedicated priests and non-ordained members live a monastic existence, praying constantly to God and contemplating his wonders. In the 1200s, a different kind of order sprang up: mendicants, meaning they wandered instead of becoming hermits, and lived off local charity rather than estates. Like the monastic orders, they had priests as well as monks (essentially). The main mendicant orders are the Franciscans, named after Saint Francis of Assisi, and the Dominicans, named after Saint Dominic de Guzmán. Regardless of whether members are ordained priests or not, they are generally called friars.
The Augustinian order was founded in 1256 by uniting four groups of hermits into a new order with a mendicant approach. It was never as prominent in size as some of the other orders, but nevertheless spread in missions to England, Ireland, the German speaking lands (Martin Luther was an Augustinian before he had his split with Catholicism) and elsewhere.
The Augustinians come to America
When Reverend Matthew Carr, a 41 year old Irishman, arrived in 1796 as the first Augustinian in America, “there was only one Catholic diocese in the whole immense territory, from Georgia to New Hampshire and from the Atlantic Coast to Mississippi." (quoting Ennis, No Easy Road: The Early Years of the Augustinians in the United States).
Catholics at that time numbered about 35,000 in a total population of nearly four million. They were concentrated chiefly in Maryland and Pennsylvania (Baltimore was the sole diocese), but small groups of Catholics could be found elsewhere.
Numbers of the Augustinian order in America increased slowly, to about 14 after a few decades. For the first forty years, all the Augustinians in America were Irish-born. Arthur Ennis, who wrote the preeminent early history of the order in America, surmises that their Irish background made them particularly suitable for lone efforts in their "mission":
They launched their mission in Phiadelphia and built a church, St. Augustine's, that later was burned in 1844 by a nativist mob. They nevertheless persevered. They founded Villanova College around that time in a Philadelphia suburb. It would quickly become a seminary to train priests in the Augustinian tradition, and ultimately one of the more prominent Catholic universities in the United States.
Below: Villanova College in 1849. Photo from Wikipedia.
The Mission to Lawrence: Father James D. O'Donnell O.S.A.
The Augustinian connection in Massachusetts came about through the work of James O’Donnell. The Irish-born immigrant was the first Augustinian priest ordained in the United States, in 1837, after entering as a novice in 1832 at St. Augustine's in Philadelphia. He was on the faculty of Villanova when the school opened in 1842.
According to Ennis, how the Augustinian ended up in Lawrence is something of a mystery.
“Father James had departed from Philadelphia early in 1848, apparently in a rebellious mood; his ambition went unsatisﬁed, he felt frustrated, bored with the small tasks assigned to him. He went off on a visit to Ireland, and before the end of the year he was back, hard at work now in Lawrence, assigned there by Bishop Fitzpatrick of Boston. How this came about is a puzzle. Although there is no record of permission given to him by his Augustinian superiors, he evidently received approval for his move to Lawrence, granted perhaps after the fact, for he would not otherwise have been acceptable in the diocese of Boston."
Lawrence at that time had just been established and was a boomtown. Roads were being laid out, institutions were being constructed, such as libraries and schools, and mill buildings were going up everywhere. Catholic immigrants were pouring in. Destitute Irish laborers fleeing the potato famine had taken up vacant land just south of the river and soon had built over a hundred shanties. They were put to work, digging the canals and constructing the great stone dam, the largest dam in the world, that provided water power to the mills. According to a census taken in 1848, the town had a population of nearly 6,000, up from a couple dozen Yankee farmers two years earlier. Of that number, 2,139 were natives of Ireland, and presumably the vast majority of them were Catholic.
Father James immediately embarked on a building spree to meet the needs of the burgeoning Catholic population. Although a small wooden church, Immaculate Conception, had been built in 1846 by a Father Charles Ffrench (not a typo), another mendicant friar (albeit a Dominican), Father James surmised the need for more houses of Catholic worship. He arrived in Fall of 1848 and promised that he would be saying Mass in a new church on New Year’s day. When the day came, the new church was barely walls and timbers, with snow falling through the open roof. However he said Mass as promised and a few months later the church was finished, being the first St. Mary’s.
He financed the construction efforts with a church bank, taking deposits from his parishioners at interest. A few pennies a month from each of the couple thousand members added up, and lucky for him there were no bank runs (although in 1882 there was a run on St. Mary’s bank when a large number of depositors sought to withdraw their savings during a labor strike)(Source: Ennis).
O'Donnell barely had time to rest before he set about building a larger church, this time of stone, on the same site. The construction took place all around the little wooden church, and then the new, larger church was completed, the wooden structure was torn down and its beams were used to construct a rectory for the priests. Then, in 1861, O'Donnell constructed a massive replacement church, also called St. Mary's, after buying up land on both sides of Haverhill Street. This structure, which burned down in 1967, became the St. Mary's school following the construction of the (still-standing) St. Mary's "cathedral" nearby on Haverhill Street in 1871.
Below: Photo from the Lawrence Public Library archives of the original St. Mary’s granite building, which became the second St. Mary’s school. This building was destroyed by fire in 1967, after which time the high school became solely a girl's school. St. Mary’s High School for girls began instruction in 1880 and closed in 1996, when nearby Central Catholic high school began admitting girls. St. Mary’s Elementary School closed 2011. Source: Louise Sandberg, library archivist, on her Queen City blog.
Father James also organized the parochial school system with the help of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and began ministering to some of the nearby Catholic communities.
He regularly visited Methuen and Ballardvale (the main mill section of Andover at that time). On November 22, 1853 he blessed the ﬁrst Catholic chapel in Andover. This church, St. Augustine's, survives and prospers to this day under the auspices of the Augustinian order, in a later-constructed building. O'Donnell's strenuous activity must have taken a toll on his health, for he died quite unexpectedly on April 7, 1861, only days before his ﬁfty-ﬁfth birthday. No cause of death is recorded, but his illness was sudden and brief for on the previous Sunday he had presided at Easter services.
The Augustinians in Lawrence after James O'Donnell's near one-man-show
Following the untimely death of Father James, a series of prominent Augustinian priests ran things in Lawrence, although for most of the following decades they were only two or three on the ground. These included Rev. Ambrose McMullen, O.S.A. (in Lawrence 1861-1865), Rev. Thomas Galberry, O.S.A (in Lawrence 1867-1872 I believe), Rev. John Gilmore (in Lawrence 1872-1875). I say prominent mainly because they later went on to do great things, such as serve as president of Villanova (Mullen and Galberry), or become a bishop of the diocese of Hartford (Galberry). Mullen returned to the area after his tenure as college president, serving as pastor of St. Augustine's in Andover, where he died on July 7, 1876 at age 49.
Photo below: Rev. Ambrose McMullen, O.S.A. Father Mullen was first stationed at St. Augustine's in Philadelphia and later in Lawrence, Massachusetts, where he continued the work of Father James O'Donnell. From 1865 to 1869, he was President of Villanova College. His next assignment was to St. Augustine's, Andover, Mass., until his death in 1876. He is buried in Saint Mary's Cemetery in Lawrence, Massachusetts.
The construction of St. Mary's was followed by the organization of numerous churches in Lawrence in addition to that church and Immaculate Conception. Six other Catholic churches in north Lawrence were ultimately under the care of the Augustinians, many serving immigrant communities: St. Francis (Lithuanian Catholic) on Bradford Street, dedicated 1905 closed 2002; Sts. Peter and Paul (Portuguese Catholic) on Chestnut Street, dedicated 1907 closed 2004; Church of Assumption of Mary (German Catholic) on Lawrence Street (where I was baptized as an infant in 1971), dedicated 1897 and closed 1994; Holy Trinity (Polish Catholic) on Avon Street, dedicated 1905 closed 2004; St. Laurence-O'Toole, dedicated 1903 closed 1980; and St. Augustine's on Ames Street, where I went to Mass as a child, merged with St. Theresa's of Methuen, 2010, with masses celebrated once weekly in the St. Augustine's building, now called a chapel. Here is the Boston archdiocese list of merged or suppressed churches. My great-grandfather's nephew, Rev. Daniel Driscoll O.S.A. (1886-1963), was educated at Villanova and finished up his priestly vocation at St. Mary's in Lawrence. The 1940 federal census lists him living in the St. Augustine's rectory on Ames Street as the head priest along with two other priests; he later was at St. Mary's.
Below: Photo of my great-grandfather's nephew, Father Daniel Webster Driscoll, O.S.A. (circa 1950?) of Lawrence, Mass. Served as priest at St. Augustine's, Lawrence, then St. Mary's.
Founding of Merrimack College, North Andover, in 1947
Merrimack College was founded in 1947 by the Order of St. Augustine at the invitation of then Archbishop of Boston, Richard Cushing. It was founded to address the needs of returning G.I.s who had served during World War II, and is the only other Augustinian college in the U.S. besides Villanova.
Rev. Vincent A McQuade, O.S.A., was a driving force behind the establishment of Merrimack and served as its first president. During his twenty two years in that position, he developed the college into a vital resource in the Merrimack Valley.
"Vincent Augustine McQuade was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts on June 16, 1909, the son of Owen F. and Catherine McCarthy McQuade. The product of a Catholic home, Father McQuade was a son and a brother who attended St. Mary’s Grammar School, graduating in 1922. In August the same year, at age thirteen, he was received as a Novice in the Order of Saint Augustine. A graduate of Villanova University in Philadelphia, Father McQuade was ordained in 1934 and received his Master’s and Doctoral degrees from Catholic University in Washington, D.C.
Father McQuade was a member of the faculty at Villanova from 1938 through 1946 who served in a succession of administrative roles including Acting Dean and Assistant to the President. Father McQuade also held a number of positions that required him to minister and advocate for servicemen, befitting the future founder of a college conceived in part for returning veterans." (source: https://merrimack.smugmug.com/History/The-College-on-the-Hill/)
Below: Future site of Merrimack College, Wilson's Corner, North Andover, 1946. Source: same
Today, Merrimack College has:
Photo below: Merrimack College, North Andover, "a selective, independent college in the Catholic, Augustinian tradition whose mission is to enlighten minds, engage hearts and empower lives". Source: college website.
i have decided to take up Amy Johnson Crow on her challenge to blog about 52 ancestors in 2018, one per week.
My first entry is my sixth great grandfather Major Daniel Littlefield of the Maine Militia.
He was born in April 1749 in Wells and died July 26, 1779 with the rank of Major in the First Maine Militia. They were mustered for the ill-fated attack on a British fort in Castine, Maine in the so-called Penobscot Expedition. The event was also referred to as the Battle of Bagaduce.
Eleven ships were lost, making it the biggest American naval disaster until Pearl Harbor. Daniel Littlefield drowned and his body was not recovered. There is a monument on the corner of Routes 1 and 9-B Wells, Maine, which reads "Major Dan'lLittlefield who was drowned at Castine July 1779: Aged 30 ys." According to George Buker’s book The Penobscot Expedition, British shot overturned the leading boat, drowning Major Daniel Littlefield and two of his men.
Paul Revere, an artillery commander in this battle, faced a court martial investigation for allegedly abandoning his position and retreating prematurely back to Boston. I have done some research about this battle; it seems that only about half of the militiamen of York County who were mustered for this expedition actually showed up, because many were loyalist.
On the basis of proving my lineage back to Major Daniel Littlefield, I joined the Sons of the Revolution in the State of New York (not to be confused with the Sons of the American Revolution a different group). The process of proving my lineage from scratch, basically, took two years and taught me about rigorous genealogical research.
Below: Photo of the letter admitting me to the Sons of the Revolution genealogical society.
If you have read my biography, you’ll know my genealogical story. Some ancestors of mine showed up from England in the early 1630s, settled briefly at the mouth of the Merrimack River in Salisbury, Newbury and Ipswich, then quickly moved to the (then) frontier towns of Haverhill and Andover about twenty miles upriver. Then they stayed there…for centuries.
Later, those towns got divided into other towns: Andover into North Andover and the south part of Lawrence; Haverhill into Methuen and the north part of Lawrence as well as a bunch of New Hampshire border towns – Plaistow, Hempstead, Atkinson, Salem. Please see my chart about the division of Merrimack Valley towns.
Other ancestors of mine kept showing up over time – Irish, Scandinavians, Scots – and they also stayed and mixed with each other and the general population. Based on extensive genealogical research, the vast majority of ancestors of mine who were born in the United States or the colonies seem to have been born in Haverhill or Andover or in a town set off from them.
In genealogy there are always surprises. And I’m not even getting into the “surprises” made possibly by the very latest genealogical tools, DNA testing. (“What do you mean grandpa’s not really my grandpa??”)
Never in a million years did I expect to find that family members possibly owned a slave.
The setting for coming across this information is quite dramatic: the Indian raid on Haverhill on August 29, 1708, which was part of Queen Anne’s War between the English and the French and their respective Native American proxies. See Glossary for more on Queen Anne’s War.
I was researching Samuel Ayer, my eighth great grandfather, born 1654 in Haverhill. He was a yeoman, a man of property. He succeeded his father as a member of the committee for the control of the common lands of the town. He was killed while trying to free prisoners taken by Indians after the attack on Haverhill on August 27, 1708.
On that day, Haverhill, then a compact village of about thirty houses, was attacked and almost entirely destroyed by well over two hundred Algonquin, St. Francois and Penobscot Indians under the direction of the French forces from Arcadia (Arcadia was the French-controlled area that was renamed New Brunswick when the English took it).
Sixteen of Haverhill’s inhabitants were massacred with swords and tomahawks, including Rev. Benjamin Rolfe and family [being a puritan Reverend was a big deal in those days]. However, Rolfe’s female African slave, named Hagar, and two of Rolfe’s children survived by hiding under barrels in the cellar. When the Indians and French retreated, they were followed by Captain Samuel Ayer with a company of twenty men who, though out-numbered thirteen to one, attacked them, killing nine of their number and retaking several prisoners. The Captain was shot in the groin and died just as his son reached the scene with reinforcements.
Interesting story. Attacks on frontier towns by Indians and their French manipulators was common enough, though, although now mostly forgotten. The Maine frontier was particularly hard-hit in the late 1600s: Kennebunk in September of 1688, Salmon Falls – now Berwick Maine – in March 1690 (in which about 90 English villagers were killed or imprisoned for ransom), Wells in June 1691, and York in January 1692 (in which 200 English villagers were killed or imprisoned for ransom).
So: Indian raid, schmindian raid. The detail that jumped out at me was rather: the minister had an African slave??
I am not a relative of Rolfe’s, as far as I can tell. However, the slave detail got me focused on whether any of my Haverhill ancestors from this time also owned slaves.
It turns out that in 1705 there were about 550 African slaves in Massachusetts, mainly received in exchange for Indians sent into slavery in the West Indies after being captured in war by the English colonists starting at the time of King Philip’s War in 1675.
Slaves in Haverhill
Chase’s History of Haverhill (which should be required reading for all residents of Haverhill and its offspring-towns) says the following about slaves:
We believe that the earliest distinct allusion to “servants” we have met with in the records or traditions of this town, is the record of the death of “Hopewell, an Indian Servant of John Hutchins,” in 1668.
The next, is found in the account of the remarkable preservation of Rev. Mr. Rolfe's children, by his "negro woman," Hagar, in 1708. Hagar "owned the covenant, and was baptized," with her children (two sons and one daughter) by Rev. Mr. Gardner, in 1711.
In 1709, the house of Colonel Richard Saltonstall was blown up, by “his negro wench,” whom he had previously “corrected.”
In 1723, Rev. Mr. Brown had an Indian servant, as may be seen from the following entry in his book of church records: — “Baptized Phillis an Indian Girl, Servant of John & Joanna Brown.”
In 1728, Mr. Brown baptized “Mariah, negro servant of Richard Saltonstall.”
In 1738, Rev. Mr. Bachellor baptized “Celia, Negro child of John Corliss.”
In 1740, he baptized “Levi, Negro child of Samuel Parker.”
In 1757, he baptized “Dinah, negro child of Samuel Haseltine ;” and, also, “Lot & Candace, negroes belonging to Richard and Martha Ayer.”
In 1764, he baptized “Gin, negro Girl of Peter Carleton.”
Mr. Bachellor had himself a negro servant, as we find, in the church book of records of the West Parish, under date of March 24, 1785, the following entry among the deaths: — “Nero, servant to ye Revd Mr Bachellor.”
There is a tradition that he had a negro named “Pomp,” who is said to have dug the well near the old meeting-house. As the story goes, just before setting out for an exchange with a distant minister, Mr. Bachellor set Pomp at work to dig the well, and gave him positive instructions to have it done by the time he returned. Pomp labored diligently, and with good success, until he came to a solid ledge. This was too hard for his pick and spade, and poor Pomp was greatly perplexed. His “massa” [cringe] had directed him to have the well done when he returned, but how to get through the solid rock was more than Pomp could tell. While in this dilemma, a neighbor happened along, who advised that the ledge should be blasted with powder, and kindly instructed Pomp how to drill a hole for the blast. The latter, much pleased at the prospect of getting his job finished in season, worked vigorously at his drill, and soon had a hole nearly deep enough, when he suddenly struck through the ledge, and the water commenced rushing up through the hole with such force, that he was obliged to scramble out of the well as fast as possible, to escape drowning. It is said that the well has never been dry since. [Pomp seems to have been a popular name of African slaves – Pomp’s Pond in Andover was named after one…see below.]
From Rev. Mr. Parker's book of church records, in the East Parish, we find that, in 1750, he “baptized Jenny, the Servant child of Joseph & Mary Greelee;” in 1758, “Phillis, the negro child of Ezekiel and Sarah Davis;” and, in 1764, “Meroy, the negro child of Seth & Hannah Johnson.”
From the official census of 1754, wo find that there were then in this town sixteen slaves, “of sixteen years old and upwards.” In 1764, the number was twenty-five.
From a partial file of the town valuation lists, from 1750 to 1800, we learn that the following persons in this town owned slaves. It is worthy of note, that with the very few exceptions noted, but one negro was owned by each person: — 1753. John Cogswell, John Dimond, Benj Harrod, John Hazzen (2), Col Richd Saltonstall (2), Wm Swonten (2), John Sawyer, Saml White. These were all in the First Parish.
1754. In the East Parish, Joseph Greelee, Wm Morse, Amos Peaslee, Timothy Hardey.
1755. In the First Parish, John Cogswell. In the West Parish, John Corlis.
1759. In the First Parish, Moses Clements, Samuel White, Samuel White Esq, Thos West. In the West Parish, Joseph Haynes.
1761. In the West Parish, Samuel Bacheller, Joseph Haynes,
1766. In the First Parish, Moses Clements, Nathl Cogswell, James Methard, Samuel White, Samuel White jun (2), John White. jun
1769. In the East Parish, Dudley Tyler.
1770. In the First Parish, Moses Clements, James Methard, Samuel Souther, Saml White, Saml White jun (2), John White.
1771. In the First Parish, Jona Webster, Saml Souther, John White, Saml White Esq.f James Methard, Moses Clement, Enoch Bartlett. In the East Parish, Dudley Tyler.
1776. In the East Parish, Wm Moors, Dudley Tyler.
This is the latest date we find "negroes," or "servants," entered in the valuation lists in the town. In one list, the date of which is lost, but which was apparently somewhere between 1750 and 1760, we find the following : — Robert Hutching, Moses Hazzen (2), Robert Peaslee (2), John Sanders, John Sweat, Saml White, Saml White jun, Christ; Bartlett, John Clements, Joseph Harimin, Joshua Harimin, Eadmun Hale, Daniel Johnson, Jona Roberds, Wm Whitiker.
We are informed by Mr. James Davis, that his father, Amos Davis, of the East Parish, owned two negroes named Prince and Judith, whom he purchased when young, in Newburyport. The bill of sale of them is still preserved in the family. Prince married to white woman, and, after securing his freedom, removed to Sanbornton, N.H., where he has descendants still living. Judith remained in the family until her death.
Deacon Chase, who lived in the edge of Amesbury, not far from the Rocks' Village, also owned a negro, named Peter, who is remembered by many persons now living [Chase’s History was published in 1861].
After the death of his master, he passed into the possession of a Mr. Pilsbury, with whom he lived until his death. William Morse, of the East Parish, had a negro servant, named Jenny. We also learn of one in the family of Job Tyler in the same Parish.
So ends Chase’s summary of the slaveholdings in Haverhill over the years.
Slaves in Andover
There were also slaves in Andover at the same time, although I can’t presently find such a comprehensive investigation as the one above for Haverhill.
According to Bill Dalton in an article for the Andover Townsman in 2013,
“The often repeated tale of Andover slaves Pompey Lovejoy and Rose Foster is a relatively pleasant one, as slave histories go. So, let’s start the story of slaves in Andover by visiting their legend.
Pompey, shortened to “Pomp,” was born a slave in 1724, and he was owned by Captain William Lovejoy, who gave Pomp his freedom upon his death in 1765. Pomp married Rose Foster, a freed slave, and the two of them were granted land near a pond, which today is named after him. Well into middle age, Pomp served on the Colonialist side in the Revolutionary War, and he was granted a pension for that service. Pomp and Rose were well-liked in town. Rose’s served election day cakes and other refreshments during town meetings and any other elections, and Pomp played the fiddle while white folks danced.
Neither Pomp nor Rose were allowed to vote as they were Negroes.
When Pomp died at age 102, it was said he was the oldest man in Essex County. His epitaph in the South Parish Burial Ground reads: “Born in Boston a slave/ Died in Andover a Free Man/ February 23, 1826/ Much respected and a sensible amiable upright man.” Rose died not long after at age 98. By all evidence, they lived the good life and were well-loved by townspeople and Phillips students who frequently visited them.
Another slave named Pompey didn’t fare so well. In 1795 he was hanged for murdering his master, Capt. Charles Furbush. This Pomp is said to have suffered from insanity that occasionally required him to be kept under guard. Historian Sarah Loring Bailey said of Furbush’s murder, “...the community was [so] shocked at the act and its circumstances of horror [that] the negro was sentenced to the extreme penalty of the law.”
Dalton also writes that Reverend Samuel Phillips, founder of Phillips Acadamy, owned slaves. He and his wife each had a personal attendant (this last detail is from Sarah Loring Bailey’s history of Andover).
Here are some other details from his article:
In the Old Burying Ground near North Andover Commons, there is a headstone that reads: In Memory of Primus/ Who was a faithful servant of Mr. Benjamin Stevens Jr/ Who died July 25, 1792/ Aged 72 years, 5 months, 16 days.
In the South Parish Burying Ground is the grave of the last slave born in Andover, Rose Coburn, wife of Titus Coburn. The stone says she died at age 92 in 1859. Historian Bailey, who must have known Rose, says of her, “She was a slave born in Andover and the last survivor of all born here in that condition. A pension was paid to her as the widow of a soldier of the Revolution. She was a person of great honesty, veracity, and intelligence and retained all her facilities in a singular degree to the last.”
Sometimes a passing sentence in a book reveals a lot, and leaves more questions unanswered.
In Sarah Loring Bailey’s history of Andover, she says about the South Parish Church, “In 1766 it was voted that ‘All the English women in the Parish who marry or associate with Negro or Melatto-men be seated in the Meeting-House with the Negro-women.’
Fascinating for so many reasons: (1) the meetinghouse/church still maintained the puritan practice of separating men and women for worship almost on the eve of the American Revolution; (2) seating was also segregated based on race; and (3) there were mixed race marriages.
So What About my Ancestors?
Now that the stage is set, what about my ancestors? I’m afraid that the record is still ambiguous. A website called olddeadrelatives.com has an entry for Captain Samuel Ayer, slaveowner. However, it has as parents for this Samuel Ayer “Coronet Peter Ayer” and “Hannah Allen” whereas I have the following people as the parents of the Samuel Ayer who was killed in the 1708 raid: Robert Ayer and Elizabeth Palmer. So it might not be the same Samuel Ayer, although perhaps a cousin. More investigation is needed. The sole citation given by olddeadrelatives.com is A Genealogical Dictionary of The First Settlers of New England Before 1692; Savage, James (Little, Brown and Co, Boston, MA. 1862). I will have to track down this book, which apparently does have a description of slave ownership in Massachusetts at this time.
I also note the name Peaslee among the list of Haverhill slaveholders in the Chase book, as well as other Ayer slaveholders (Richard and Martha). Then there is the surname Lovejoy attached to the slave for whom Pomp's Pond is named. I am descended from a Peaslee of Haverhill and a Lovejoy of Andover, so these slaveowners might be relatives of mine. Something else to investigate...
That’s the thing about genealogical research: you can never finish, there is always another question to answer.
Native American History and Poetic License
(a long read)
Once upon a time, so the story goes, about 1628 – right when the English puritans were beginning to arrive to claim their promised land around Massachusetts Bay – there was a wedding of a native princess.
She was the daughter of Passaconaway, the great Bashaba of the Pennacooks. The Pennacooks were the natives of the Merrimack Valley. Their domains extended from present day Haverhill all the way up to its headwaters along the Pemigewasset. The Bashaba made his home at a curve in the river, called Pennacook, site of present day Concord N.H.
The tribe and affiliated bands of natives – Wachusetts, Agawams, Wamesits, Pequawkets, Pawtuckets, Nashuas, Namaoskeags, Coosaukes, Winnepesaukes, Piscataquas, Winnecowetts, Amariscoggins, Newichewannocks, Sacos, Squamscotts, and Saugusaukes – also met at prescribed times at various sites along the river, usually to fish: for example, at the falls at Amoskeag, later the source of waterpower for the mills at Manchester, N.H.; Pawtucket, later the source of waterpower for the mills at Lowell; and at Pentucket, later called Haverhill.
According to a 1981 book on the Forgotten Salmon of the Merrimack, there were fourteen sets of falls on the mainstream of the Merrimack River, including on the Pemigewasset, where natives could have fished for salmon. The natives also met each year at the Weirs, fish traps designed to catch a bountiful harvest flowing out of swollen Lake Winnipesauke.
This is where she met her groom, known as Ahquedaukenash (meaning "dams" or "stopping-places"). In the present day it’s called Weirs Beach.
The groom was Montowampate, son of the “Squaw Satchem”, the female leader of the coastal Saugus Indians who took over when her husband Nanepashemet was killed battling their rivals, the Tarrantines, on August 8, 1619 in present day Ipswich, Massachusetts.
How do we know any of this? From written records of English settlers mainly, and retellings of the story.
The English settlers tell the stories of the Indians
Passaconnaway and Sagamore James, as he was known to the English, were undoubtedly historical figures who signed deeds and, in the case of the latter, sought redress from English authorities to protect his interests and who is described as wearing English clothes.
“Sagamore James went to Governor Winthrop on March 26, 1631, in order to recover twenty beaver skins of which he had been defrauded by an Englishman named Watts.” I hope to write more on the historical record left by natives in English colonial society, particularly the descendants of Nanepashemet who regularly tried to use the English courts to protect their land rights, in another blog entry.
The first telling of the wedding story of this (yet unnamed) princess, daughter of Passaconaway, was by Thomas Morton, founder of the ill-fated Merrymount Colony.
“The Sachem or Sagamore of Saugus made choice, when he came to man's estate, of a lady of noble descent, daughter to Papasiquineo [another name for Passaconnaway], the Sachem or Sagamore of the territories near Merrimack river, a man of the best note and estimation in all those parts, and (as my countryman Mr. Wood declares in his prospect) a great Necromancer; this lady the young Sachem with the consent and good liking of her father marries, and takes for his wife. Great entertainment he and his received in those parts at her father's hands, where they were feasted in the best manner that might be expected, according to the customs of their nation, with reveling and such other solemnities as is usual amongst them. The solemnity being ended, Papasiquineo causes a selected number of his men to wait upon his daughter home into those parts that did properly belong to her Lord and husband; where the attendants had entertainment by the Sachem of Saugus and his countrymen: the solemnity being ended, the attendants were gratified.
Not long after the new married lady had a great desire to see her father and her native country, from whence she came; her Lord willing to please her, and not deny her request, amongst them thought to be reasonable, commanded a selected number of his own men to conduct his lady to her father, where, with great respect, they brought her, and, having feasted there a while, returned to their own country again, leaving the lady to continue there at her own pleasure, amongst her friends and old acquaintance, where she passed away the time for a while, and in the end desired to return to her Lord again.
Her father, the old Papasiquineo, having notice of her intent, sent some of his men on embassy to the young Sachem, his son-in-law, to let him understand that his daughter was not willing to absent herself from his company any longer, and therefore, as the messengers had in charge, desired the young Lord to send a convoy for her, but he, standing, upon terms of honor, and the maintaining of his reputation, returned to his father-in-law this answer, that, when she departed from him, he caused his men to wait upon her to her father's territories, as it did become him; but, now she had an intent to return, it did become her father to send her back with a convoy of his own people, and that it stood not with his reputation to make himself or his men too servile, to fetch her again.
The old Sachem, Papasiquineo, having this message returned, was enraged to think that his young son-in-law did not esteem him at a higher rate than to capitulate with him about the matter, and returned him this sharp reply; that his daughter's blood and birth deserved more respect than to be so slighted, and, therefore, if he would have her company, he were best to send or come for her.
The young Sachem, not willing to undervalue himself and being a man of a stout spirit, did not stick to say that he should either send her by his own convey, or keep her; for he was determined not to stoop so low. So much these two Sachems stood upon terms of reputation with each other, the one would not send her, and the other would not send for her, lest it should be any diminishing of honor on his part that should seem to comply, that the lady (when I came out of the country) remained still with her father; which is a thing worth the noting, that savage people should seek to maintain their reputation so much as they do.”
So when Thomas Morton “came out of the country” in 1629 (a euphemism for “getting expelled by puritans”), the bride apparently was still stuck up the Merrimack away from her groom, because nobody would escort her back down to Saugus.
Later tellings of the story give her a definitive identity, Wenunchus. Alonzo Lewis, in his 1829 history of the town of Lynn (including Lynnfield, Saugus, Swampscott and Nahant, all of which were set off from Lynn), gives her this name… and also completes the story, sort of:
“My lady readers will undoubtedly be anxious to know if the separation was final. I am happy to inform them that it was not; as we find the Princess of Penacook enjoying the luxuries of the shores and the sea breezes at Lynn, the next summer. How they met without compromising the dignity of the proud sagamore, history does not inform us; but probably, as ladies are fertile in expedients, she met him half way. In 1631 she was taken prisoner by the Taratines, as will hereafter be related. Montowampate died in 1633. Wenuchus returned to her father; and in 1686, we find mention made of her grand-daughter Pahpocksit.”
Parts of the historical record of the English are very clear. According to the diary of John Winthrop, Montowampate and “almost all of his people” died of smallpox in September 1633.
Below: Montowampate on the seal of the Town of Saugus, Massachusetts
However, other historians have Wenunchus married to the younger brother of Montowampate, named Wenepoykin, a.k.a. Winnepurkett, called Sagamore George, who lived for many years, dying in 1684. Yet, even though he outlived his brother by half a century, his life was probably even more tragic. He was sold by the Puritans into slavery in Barbados in 1676 after being deemed a belligerent in King Phillips War...only to miraculously return like some lost prophet.
After his return, he retired to Wamesit, the Praying Town for settled Indians, where he lived out his days, dying in 1684. As the recognized leader of the Saugus Indians and thus owner of the land from Salem to Saugus, immediately after his death the townspeople of Marblehead descended upon his “heirs”, including his elderly wife (not Wenunchus), obtaining a deed for their town on September 14, 1684. The deed was signed by Ahawayet, and many others, her relatives. She is called "Joane Ahawayet, Squawe, relict, widow of George Saggamore, alias Wenepawweekin." (Essex Reg. Deeds, 11, 132.) I suppose you can still go down to the land records office in Salem and look at her signature!
The townspeople of Lynn and Salem soon followed suit, obtaining deeds from the heirs of Wenepoykin on September 4, 1686 an October 11, 1686 respectively. (Source: History of Essex County Massachusetts, 1888, by Duane Hamilton Hurd)
But what if Wenunchus married Wenepoykin, not Montowampate, but also didn’t survive the shuttling between husband and father?
This is the narrative tack taken, with some apparent poetic license, by one of the most famous poets of the mid-nineteenth century, and certainly the most famous poet until Robert Frost to be claimed by the lower Merrimack Valley region. (Robert Frost being claimed, rather surprisingly, by Lawrence because he graduated from Lawrence High School.)
I am talking about John Greenleaf Whittier.
The Story of Wenunchus in the Hands of John Greenleaf Whittier
John Greenleaf Whitter was born on an ancient farm in Haverhill in 1807. It was built by his first Whittier ancestor in Haverhill almost a 150 years earlier. Although Whittier was self-educated, by the time he died in 1892, he was the author of one of the most famous poems of the day, Snowbound. This long piece, published in 1866, describes being stuck in the farmhouse on a snowy day, and it made him well-off financially. He ran in literary circles, mainly on account of being mentored in his younger days by an earlier publisher of his works, William Lloyd Garrison, in Garrison’s Newburyport newspaper. Garrison introduced him to the abolitionist cause, and to many literary lights of his day. Through these connections and the recognition he received for Snowbound, the self-educated Whittier received an honorary degree from Harvard in 1877.
For his entire life, except for a spell of about three years working in New York and Philadelphia, he barely left the Haverhill-Amesbury-Newbury area. When Whittier did finally manage to see a bit of the world, it was mainly just places like the White Mountains and the Isles of Shoals. Whittier’s extreme provincialness, despite his involvement in the abolitionist movement and his honorary Harvard degree, is to me what gives his poems their authenticity. He is, to me, the voice of the historic lower Merrimack Valley. Snowbound is not just about being stuck indoors on a snowy day, it is about Haverhill and its history and setting. And one of his earlier epic tales, the Bridal of Pennacook, which tells the tale of Wenunchus and her marriage to [in Whittier’s version] Wenepoykin, whom he calls Winnepurkit, the poem is a vehicle for glorifying the entire Merrimack River, from the coastal sand dunes right up to the river’s highest headwaters.
About his poem, “The Bridal of Pennacook”
The poem was apparently written in 1844 but not included in any book of poetry for many decades. It is long – twenty five pages. It employs a conceit that the poem is composed spontaneously for entertainment by five hikers staying in a lodge near Mount Washington while the youngest of them recovers from her cold.
The five characters who together compose the poem for their entertainment are the narrator, a writer and a poet; a city lawyer, “Briefless as yet, but with an eye to see /Life's sunniest side, and with a heart to take/Its chances all as godsends”; his brother a student training to be a minister, “as yet undimmed/By dust of theologic strife, or breath/Of sect”; a shrewd sagacious merchant, “To whom the soiled sheet found in Crawford's inn, /Giving the latest news of city stocks/And sales of cotton, had a deeper meaning/Than the great presence of the awful mountains/Glorified by the sunset”; and the merchant’s lovely young daughter, “A delicate flower on whom had blown too long/Those evil winds, which, sweeping from the ice/And winnowing the fogs of Labrador.”
Whittier thus sets the scene:
So, in that quiet inn
Which looks from Conway on the mountains piled
Heavily against the horizon of the north,
Like summer thunder-clouds, we made our home
And while the mist hung over dripping hills,
And the cold wind-driven rain-drops all day long
Beat their sad music upon roof and pane,
We strove to cheer our gentle invalid
After the lawyer tells her stories of his (mis)adventures fishing in the Saco River, and the divinity student, “forsaking his sermons”, recites poems to her from memory, the narrator rummages through the musty book collection at the inn, where he finds “an old chronicle of border wars and Indian history.”
From this book the narrator reads aloud a summary of the story of Wenunchus and Montowampate, except in this version she is called Weetamoo (actually the name of a wife of a prominent native chief in Rhode Island) and, instead of marrying Montowampate, she marries that man’s brother Wenepoykin, whom he calls Winnepurkit.
Our fair one [i.e. the girl], in the playful exercise
Of her prerogative,—the right divine
Of youth and beauty,—bade us versify
The legend, and with ready pencil sketched
Its plan and outlines…
The self-taught Whittier tries to show his knowledge of classical Greek poetical forms, which I suppose was de rigeur for professional poets of the era. He does not say which character “versifies” which part of the Wenunchus story, but it might be possible to hazard a guess based on their supposed personalities.
In the first section, the poem sets the scene, describing the pre-contact Merrimack River itself, “ere [before] the sound of an axe in the forest had rung, Or the mower his scythe in the meadows had swung.” This section is in so-called Alexandrine meter, twelve syllables per line with a stress on the sixth and last, in simple A-A B-B rhyme.
Among other things, it takes the listener through the geographic features of the river: “Amoskeag's fall”, the “twin Uncanoonucs” stately and tall, the Nashua meadows green and unshorn, etc., all before “the dull jar of the loom and the wheel,/The gliding of shuttles, the ringing of steel” had invaded the river in the form of mills and waterworks.
In the next section, the poem describes the stern character of The Bashaba, i.e. the great chief Passaconaway, in a more complex format: paired quatrains, rhyming aaab cccb, with 7-7-7-5 syllables, while the first stanzas are longer, nine lines for the first, ababbaddd.
The character telling this section – the lawyer, perhaps? – weaves a tale of the awe inspired by Passaconaway:
Here the mighty Bashaba
Held his long-unquestioned sway,
From the White Hills, far away,
To the great sea's sounding shore;
Chief of chiefs, his regal word
All the river Sachems heard,
At his call the war-dance stirred,
Or was still once more.
In the third section, the poem describes The Daughter, Weetamoo. The description focuses on her mother’s death giving birth to her (a detail certainly conjured up with poetic license), and the joy she ultimately brings to her stern old father, who decides not to take another wife. The meter and rhyme for this section is rather simple, likely the work of the merchant character; for the rest of this blog piece I’ll refrain from detailing the rhyming scheme of each section.
The fourth section describes The Wedding itself:
The trapper that night on Turee's brook,
And the weary fisher on Contoocook,
Saw over the marshes, and through the pine,
And down on the river, the dance-lights shine.
For the Saugus Sachem had come to woo
The Bashaba's daughter Weetamoo,
The fifth section describes Weetamoo’s New Home with her new husband, in the coastal marshes of Saugus far from her mountain homeland. Whoever tells this part of the tale is rather uncharitable about the coastal terrain of Essex County:
A wild and broken landscape, spiked with firs,
Roughening the bleak horizon's northern edge;
And later, an equally dreary scene, it is contrasted with the mountain home of Weetamoo:
And eastward cold, wide marshes stretched away,
Dull, dreary flats without a bush or tree,
O'er-crossed by icy creeks, where twice a day
Gurgled the waters of the moon-struck sea;
And faint with distance came the stifled roar,
The melancholy lapse of waves on that low shore.
No cheerful village with its mingling smokes,
No laugh of children wrestling in the snow,
No camp-fire blazing through the hillside oaks,
No fishers kneeling on the ice below;
Yet midst all desolate things of sound and view,
Through the long winter moons smiled dark-eyed Weetamoo.
There is an oblique reference to Weetamoo's sexual awakening as a wife ("o'er some granite wall/Soft vine-leaves open to the moistening dew"). However section ends with her husband sending her back home to assuage her homesickness, escorted by soldiers:
Young children peering through the wigwam doors,
Saw with delight, surrounded by her train
Of painted Saugus braves, their Weetamoo again.
The sixth section describes her time back at Pennacook, at first enjoyable but then fraught with anxiety when her husband does not summon her back:
The long, bright days of summer swiftly passed,
The dry leaves whirled in autumn's rising blast,
And evening cloud and whitening sunrise rime
Told of the coming of the winter-time.
But vainly looked, the while, young Weetamoo,
Down the dark river for her chief's canoe;
No dusky messenger from Saugus brought
The grateful tidings which the young wife sought.
The clash of egos between her father and her husband overtakes the situation and she is forced to spend the winter up in Pennacook. The section ends with her fixing to leave as soon as the river thaws, by herself, down the Merrimack.
The seventh section, the Departure, describes her planning then and her actual flight. The river is swollen with rain and snowmelt, full of iceflows.
At first, she appears to be managing despite the danger:
Down the vexed centre of that rushing tide,
The thick huge ice-blocks threatening either side,
The foam-white rocks of Amoskeag in view,
With arrowy swiftness sped that light canoe.
However, things start to go wrong:
The small hand clenching on the useless oar,
The bead-wrought blanket trailing o'er the water…
It ends dramatically:
Sick and aweary of her lonely life,
Heedless of peril, the still faithful wife
Had left her mother's grave, her father's door,
To seek the wigwam of her chief once more.
Down the white rapids like a sear leaf whirled,
On the sharp rocks and piled-up ices hurled,
Empty and broken, circled the canoe
In the vexed pool below—but where was Weetamoo?
The final section of the poem, the Song of Indian Women, is a coda of sorts, sang by “the Children of the Leaves beside the broad, dark river's coldly flowing tide.”
The Dark eye has left us,
The Spring-bird has flown;
On the pathway of spirits
She wanders alone.
The song of the wood-dove has died on our shore
Mat wonck kunna-monee! We hear it no more!
You can read all of The Bridal of Pennacook by John Greenleaf Whittier online.
The poem should be read out loud for its full impact. I tried to do just that. You can watch my efforts reading the entire poem (which takes about an hour) at these videos below. Someday I’d like to replace the awkward video images of my contorted mug reading, with a slide show of the New Hampshire landscape to accompany the poetry.
Poetic license and appropriation of “other people’s stories”
John Greenleaf Whittier applied poetic license to the story handed down by Morton and others. He embellished it and added details for dramatic effect.
Should he be telling the story of Wenunchus at all?
Current cultural sensitivities caution against “cultural appropriation.” Because Whittier was not a Pennacook Indian, should he be writing poetry about Pennecooks? How about the fact that he sets up the poem around discovery of “an old chronicle of border wars and Indian history”? Does this make the poem about something likely to be found in old New England of the 1840s, when the memory of French and Indian wars was fresher, and the sight of actual Native Americans along the Merrimack could still be something of living memory?
And what if there are no Pennacooks left to tell the story? Can someone else tell the story? Should only native Americans tell the story? Some natives were enemies of the Pennacooks. For example, the Mohawks were fierce warriors who would raid Pennacook lands periodically from beyond the Hudson River and steal their grain stores. A huge battle between Mohawks and Pennacooks apparently occurred in 1615, when the Mohawks attacked Pennacook itself. Other tribes with which the Pennacooks sometimes battled included the Abenaki and the Taratines. I would argue that the inheritors of these tribes, some of which still exist, have no direct claim to the stories of the Pennacooks.
Do the current inhabitants of the Merrimack Valley region have a right to appropriate the stories of the Pennacooks? It is probably true that the settlement by the English starting in 1620, and the diseases they brought, followed by war and appropriation of land, led to the extinction of the Pennacooks. Does that mean the descendants of actors in the 1600 and 1700s are barred from telling these stories? How about the fact that many “tribes” arrived in the Merrimack Valley only after the Pennacooks were long-extinct: the Irish, the Italians, the French-Canadians, the Dominicans, the Puerto Ricans…do they have less or more of a right to tell these stories about the history of their present-day land?
My own belief is that artists can interpret any story, and whether it is offensive or not depends on specific presentation. It is never categorical based on some construct of the artists “tribe” versus that of his subject matter.
The poetry of John Greenleaf Whittier is largely forgotten, even among people who read poetry. A lot of it is sentimental and cliched, and comes across as long-winded and maudlin to me. But within his oeuvre, there are nuggets everywhere about the Merrimack Valley and his home. People can get reacquainted with the old stories of their home, simply by reading his works. The Bridal of Pennacook is one story that is worth retelling.
Maybe someday it will be turned into a musical?
“The Indians tell us of a beautiful River lying far to the south, which they call Merrimack."
^Sieur de Monts^, Relations of the jesuits, 1604.”
A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers
By Henry David Thoreau
Singing “Michael Row the Boat Ashore” at the Christian Formation Center, St. Francis Seminary, Andover, Mass. 1976-1980
A statue of a saint stood benevolently on the widow-shelf surrounded by plants basking in the sunlight. He was about ten inches high and composed of a dark brown, heavy, rough-cast metal.
“Who is that?” I remember asking my mother, when I was about five years old.
We learn so much about our world at our mother’s knee. I was a big beneficiary of having a teacher for a mother.
“St. Francis of Assisi,” she told me.
“My favorite saint,” she added, “along with Teresa the Little Flower.”
Who was this St. Francis, hand raised, looking down upon us from the shelf?
The impression I got of him, from my social-justice pursuing, liberation theology-espousing, National Catholic Worker-subscribing parents, was of a barefoot, soft-talking, sentimental, free-thinking, anti-authoritarian, tree and animal hugger and social activist.
“He loved the animals, and the children, and most of all the poor,” she told me.
Soon we were supplementing our Sunday worship with journeys with men and women who strove to live like St. Francis.
The Christian Formation Center was founded in the late 1960s next to the St. Francis Seminary on River Road, West Andover, near the Tewksbury town line amid expansive fields and lawns that had once been a dairy farm. Down the slope, the Merrimack River ambled in the distance. The seminary there trained Franciscan priests from 1930 until 1977. The grand, colonial-looking building of the seminary was finally torn down last year to make way for high-end senior housing.
Across the street stood the monastery of the sisters of Poor Clare, a female monastic order named after St. Clare of Assisi (1194-1253), the first follower of St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226). The female Franciscans, nuns, and the male Franciscans, monks and priests, pursued their “formation” into the Franciscan way, alongside “secular” Franciscans, laity who were neither monastic nor clergy.
And this is where the Christian Formation Center came in. Formation took many decades, and they worked together at attempting to achieve perfection into the ways of St. Francis. In contrast to the seminary and the monastery, the formation center was a modern structure, set way back from the road among the fields. It was supposed to offer alternative forms of religious expression, albeit within the teachings of St. Francis.
Remember, this was the golden period after the reforms of the second Vatican Council, when modernization and making the Church more relevant to the times was the order of the day. Pope John XXIII, who had ushered in Vatican II, had himself been a Secular Franciscan before he became a priest, living an idealized life of poverty and holy contemplation as worked for the poor.
Unlike our local church, St. Augustine’s on Ames Street in Lawrence, the Christian Formation Center had no pews for Mass. Seating was auditorium-style, with individual seats arranged in a curvature around an altar that was more like a central performance stage. I think kids sat cross-legged on the floor in front, where the priest and assembled clergy fawned over them. Fully-robed Franciscan priests and brothers walked the outdoor gardens and breezeways, and, when it was time for Mass, they mounted performances of tambourines, acoustic guitars and folk melodies, along with the nuns.
We would regularly sing Michael Row the Boat Ashore when we attended Mass there. (In case you don’t know this song, is is a Negro Spiritual that was popular in the civil rights movement and among left wing activists.)
These were no crusty parish priests, giving tired homilies and leading the traditional choir. Apparently, the Christian Formation Center sought to attract non-Catholic Christians to its worship, either in an ecumenical outreach that was in the spirit of the times, or as part of some kind of subtle Catholic proselytizing, I don’t know. The whole zeitgeist of the service was quite different from the other Catholic churches where I had attended worship. For one thing, there was speaking in tongues, and a lot of Catholic Pentecostals. Are there Catholic Pentecostals anymore?
Other mounting was also going on. As my mother tells it, the Seminary closed in 1977 shortly after we started going, “because a bunch of the nuns got pregnant by a bunch of the seminarians and they all left the religious orders to get married.”
I have no idea if it’s true, but we did stop going to the Christian Formation Center by about 1980 if memory serves me. As a secular formation center not tied to the clergy, it could in theory continue despite the closing of the seminary…and the nuns are still there, although they have a small, modern monastery now. Their old facility was torn down to make way for luxury housing, although the Christian Formation Center building survives to this day as a private school for autistic children.
Anyway, within a few years, the entire tone of the Church changed. Although there was no return to the Latin Mass, within the Church the social justice trends of the 1970s gave way to the sexual politics of the 1980s, as Pope John Paul II led a traditionalist backlash. The last time my mother set foot in a church for Mass, other than for funerals or weddings, was when my younger sister had the sacrament of penance (first confession) at St. Augustine’s in 1984.
After the CCD teacher repeatedly gave lessons on the place of women (in the home, subservient to men), my mother walked up to him after class to give him a piece of her mind. Things in her church had been changing for some years, and this must have been the last straw. She never went back to Mass, although she still has her statue of St. Francis looking over her in the kitchen.
Above: Photo of the Melmark School, River Road, Andover, Mass., the former Christian Formation Center. Photo source: Melmark School website.
Below: A more expansive view of the facility when it was built.
The rise and fall of the American Woolen Co. Or: how the automobile led to the 1920s "flapper", who killed the worsted woolen business
For many decades in Lawrence, from the 1920s through the 1960s, apparently nobody gave any historical significance to the 1912 strike, called the Bread and Roses Strike by some historians.
However, by the time I was growing up in Lawrence in the 1970s and 1980s, and textile manufacturing was long dead and gone in the area, the following narrative became popular, not only to explain the strike but to explain the textile industry:
Once upon a time, there were some greedy mill owners, who made a lot of profit by exploiting textile workers. The workers had a strike in 1912. They won. Wages increased, and inferior living standards were exposed, making living standards better for everyone.
Everything was hunki-dori until after World War 2, when the greedy mill owners decided to move production to the American South where there were no unions. The mills disappeared. The end.
A rousing story for sure.
But I can't help but be a skeptic and a cynic. I investigated. I questioned the prevailing narrative.
It turns out there are potentially a bazillion things wrong with this narrative. The problems have to do with all sorts of things: the misunderstanding of who the "mill owners" were (answer: blue-haired ladies on Beacon Hill with trust funds); the numerous strikes of the time, of which the 1912 Lawrence strike was but one (and a largely insignificant one except for its excellent immigrant participation); massive immigration from Southern Europe in the preceding fifteen years and the subsequent backlash that led to the closing of America's borders in 1920; etc.
I'll save my numerous specific critiques of the Bread and Roses narrative for later blog posts. The key point I would like to make here is more basic: nobody these days who pays attention to the history of textile manufacturing in the Merrimack Valley seems to see the story right before their eyes. It is a story that explains the whole arc of the American Woolen Company, from its founding in 1899 to its ultimate demise in 1954.
The lost story is this: the company basically only produced one thing, worsted woolen fabric.
Miles and miles of it.
For example, in 1912, the year of the strike, it produced 2 million square feet of worsted woolen cloth in Lawrence alone. And the company had production in numerous other New England cities.
Fine. However, success does not come from production, it comes from sales.
No matter how much production a company has, it is successful only if it can sell its goods.
And who was buying most of the cloth by the early 1900s?
By the time the American Woolen Company was founded, the epicenter of fashion and clothing was the so-called Garment District of New York City, also known as the Fashion District, where fabric was turned into fashion.
Textile companies lived and died by what they could sell there.
From its inception, the American Woolen Company had its biggest sales office in New York City. In 1909, a few years after constructing the gigantic Wood Mill and Ayer Mill in Lawrence, the company constructed an impressive office in New York on the corner of Park Avenue South and 18th Street, dedicated to selling its product to the fashion houses and sweatshops of New York.
Below: The American Woolen Company sales office near the Garment District, built 1909. At 19 stories, it would have been among the tallest buildings in New York at that time.
Things were indeed hunki dori for a while. The strike occurred when confused immigrant workers spontaneously walked out on January 11, 1912 after their pay packets were short 3.57%. The pay was short, however, because the previous week they had worked 54 hours instead of 56 hours due to a progressive piece of Massachusetts legislation that reduced worker hours. At the end of the day, when the company acquiesced, the workers got a 15% raise and profits weren't affected. So good for them.
The problem occurred later, in 1926, when fashion changed dramatically and demand for worsted wool plummeted for good.
Rather than explain what happened in words, I'll illustrate:
Before the decline of the Company:
Women got around in this kind of transportation (a drafty open-air trolley):
And they wore this kind of fashion: (warm woolen dresses that covered head to toe)
Worsted wool cloth was essential.
However, throughout the 1920s, the automobile was replacing the streetcar as the primary means of transportation. And automobiles had heaters, especially after the mid 1920s. Clothes could now be made of stylish light fabrics such as rayon, instead of stodgy worsted wool.
So by 1926, women wore this kind of fashion instead (made of synthetics such as rayon):
It would not be possible to wear such an outfit in a drafty open-air streetcar! Luckily, there was a new form of transportation, the motorcar. The automobile is ineffably linked to 1920s women's fashion, because it made the fashion possible.
This is why when you see a photo of a woman in the late 1920s, wearing a skimpy synthetic dress, she is standing next to or riding in a car: without the car and its heater, she simply would not be able to get around dressed like this!
Above: advertisement for aftermarket automobile heater, 1922. By 1929 with the advent of the Model A Ford, heaters were standard, along with that newfangled invention that changed mass culture, the radio.
Below: typical flapper attire, made of synthetic fabrics.
The monthly publication of the National Women's Trade Union League of America, an offshoot of the American Federation of Labor, noted in 1927:
"Because the American woman isn't wearing those voluminous woolen garments any more, the woolen industry is suffering a hardship. An abnormally poor demand for woolen goods, coupled with a decline in raw wool prices, last year caused an operating loss of over two million dollars to the American Woolen Company, according to its 1926 annual report."
In response to the massive changes in the textile market wrought by the motorcar, did the executives of the American Woolen Company respond by developing their own polyester and rayon production sites?
Instead, they continued to produce miles and miles of worsted woolen cloth, even though demand (and prices) had dropped for good.
A company can make a profit two ways: by making something that's better, newer fresher thus commanding a high profit; or making something that's cheaper, by squeezing production costs.
After the loss of 1926, which put the American Woolen Company on the front of Time Magazine and arguably contributed to the suicide of William Wood, the founding president, the company henceforth pursued low costs rather than high value.
Thus began the long slow demise of the American Woolen Company. It is no coincidence that the highpoint of Lawrence's population was the mid 1920s, when it was over 90,000. As jobs were reduced as a result of slowing production, workers moved away. The depression was a tough time, and the company was arguably only saved by the massive governmental orders from World War II and the Korean War for woolen cloth for military uniforms and blankets. However, demand had decreased so much and the prices for worsted wool had dropped so much, that if they wanted to stay in business at all making woolens instead of more exciting stuff, they had no choice but to chase low prouction costs for their low-value product. Hence the moves in the 1940s and 1950s to the South, followed by moves overseas.
Imagine if the executives had innovated instead? However, that would have meant reinvesting the profits into new machinery, new technology, instead of paying high dividends every year on the preferred shares. Unfortunately innovation did not have the support of the trustees of the various Massachusetts trusts that owned the preferred shares on behalf of various old money families. Typically for such families, a great grandfather had originally locked up his capital - vast amounts of wealth made in the days of the clipper ship and the spice trade - into manufacturing companies that then got combined into the American Woolen Company. Rather than entrust his wealth directly to his heirs, who might squander it, it had been placed in trust. Boston is the original home of “asset management”, as it is called now, thanks to the widespread practice of locking family wealth into trusts where it would then be managed conservatively. The trustees did not see it as permissible to cut off the steady flow of dividends to their fiduciaries.
(Which gets me to a tangent: in the 1970s, a small Lawrence-based textile manufacturer, Marlin Mills, that struggled on, did innovate, by inventing a warm, highly insulating, water-resistant cloth made out of recycled plastic fiber, called fleece. They marketed it under the brand Polartec, and it became the standard athletic wear used by high-end manufacturers of athletic clothing such as Patagonia, especially for cold-weather sports. Unfortunately, Marlin Mills did not bother to patent this great stuff they had invented so they could lock in long-term gain for their innovation. Instead, copycat fleece manufacturers quickly emerged, and the polartec cloth quickly became a commodity just like worsted wool had become a commodity. The company went bankrupt twice after trying to maintain production in Lawrence and now has moved production to Asia).
So even if a company innovates to stay profitable, which is what the American Woolen Company should have done, it also has to take steps to protect its innovation, or it will suffer the fate of Polartec.
PS: I didn't come up with this theory about the link between automobiles and their heaters, women's fashion, synthetic fabrics and the decline of the American Woolen Company. I got it from Frederick Zappalla, "A Financial History of the American Woolen Company," unpublished M.B.A. thesis, University of Pennsylvania, 1947. I have never seen this piece cited anywhere, so am not sure many other people have read it.
”Complexity, ambiguity and paradox may be sweet nectar for historians, but not necessarily for a broad public that tends to prefer grand generalizations, sound bites and contemporary categories into which to shoehorn historical figures. “ - Carlos Eire, New York Times Book Review, December 24, 2017
Book Review of H.P. Lovecraft in the Merrimack Valley (Hippocampus Press, New York, 2013) by David Goudsward
Photo below: Howard Phillips Lovecraft, 1934. Source: Wikipedia
“Now that time has given us some perspective on his work,” says Stephen King, “I think it is beyond doubt that H. P. Lovecraft has yet to be surpassed as the twentieth century’s greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale.” (quoting a 1995 article on H.P. Lovecraft in American Heritage Magazine)
Who was H.P. Lovecraft? From Providence, R.I., he was a weirdly eccentric amateur author of outlandish horror tales. In 1936, Lovecraft died of cancer at age forty-six, barely known outside of the fans of the United Amateur Press Association, of which he was president. A few of his stories were published in Weird Tales and other pulp publications of supernatural horror tales, but he died basically penniless and unknown.
“Lovecraft explored [his] sense of cosmic alienation in the loosely connected stories composing what would later be called the Cthulhu Mythos. ‘All my tales,’ he wrote in 1927, ‘are based on the fundamental premise that common human laws and emotions have no validity or significance in the cosmos-at-large.’ The universe as revealed by modern science had no place for ghosts and vampires, the stuff of pagan legends and traditional supernatural fiction. But Lovecraft saw room enough for other horrors in the great gulfs of time and space.”
“‘The Call of Cthulhu’ and the other stories in the mythos deal with races of beings from other worlds and other dimensions who once ruled the earth, warred with one another, and now bide their time until they can regain ascendancy. Lovecraft created an elaborate fictional New England for the Cthulhu stories, including the eerie coastal town of Innsmouth [based on Newburyport], the accursed village of Dunwich [based on the western Massachusetts town of Athol], and “crumbling, whisper-haunted Arkham,” [based on Haverhill] home to the unwholesomely curious scholars of Miskatonic University [supposedly Haverhill’s Bradford College, founded 1803 closed 1999].
(From the American Heritage Article)
Since the time of his death, H.P. Lovecraft has developed a huge following of fans, called Lovecraftians. They obsessively comb over Lovecraft’s stories, manuscripts, memorabilia and any other document or place that can link them to the object of their obsession, Mr. Lovecraft himself.
Lovecraft was a prolific letter writer. In his lifetime, he wrote 100,000 letters totaling around ten million words!! His correspondence, which survives as a collection at Brown University in Providence, R.I., allows his fans to trace his every step.
His travels often took him to the Haverhill area, because one of his first editors lived there. This was a colorful character named Charles William Smith, publisher of an amateur fiction magazine called Tryout. A number of Lovecraft’s first published stories appeared in Tryout, which unfortunately had a minuscule circulation. Whenever Lovecraft was Haverhill in the 1920s, he made trips to the surrounding towns, including Amesbury, Newburyport, Salem, Marblehead, Ipswich and Portsmouth, N.H., among others.
Because of Lovecraft’s significant travels in the Lower Merrimack Valley, and the propensity of fans to want to retrace his steps, the librarian of the special collections at the Haverhill Public Library sought a guide to the local Lovecraft sites. David Goudsward, Haverhill-born historian and genealogist who is apparently most famous for a book about mysterious Neolithic stones in North Salem, New Hampshire, stepped in and wrote this book.
“[W]e were originally envisioning a 6- to 8-page booklet” says Goudsward in his preface, but “we both underestimated the number of locations in the Merrimack Valley that merit mention.”
His 192-page [!] book provides a blow-by-blow account of Lovecraft’s travels in the region along with significant contextual explanation about developments in Lovecraft’s personal life and writing career, as well as a number of helpful appendices. I learned for example that Lovecraft made exactly one trip to my hometown of Lawrence, on August 24, 1934, when he left his valise on the Haverhill trolley and had to go to the lost-and-found office in Lawrence.
Rather than summarize Lovecraft’s ramblings over the area, however, I will instead try to convey to vision and understanding of the region propounded by his stories and his correspondence.
He is completely enamored by anything related to colonial America, and resolutely hates urban areas (although he lived in New York for much of his adult life) and immigrants, including Jews (even though his wife for six years, Sonia Haft Greene, a department store manager who supported him financially, was Jewish).
He also apparently was highly squeamish about sexual intercourse, which might explain his numerous stories involving frightened men descending into cold rocky caverns and crypts, the walls teeming with slime.
He also had a low estimation of the residents of many of the economically depressed areas he visited, from rural Athol to inner-city port Newburyport.
For his story The Shadow Over Innsmouth, Lovecraft bifurcated the things he liked about the place from the things he detested, collecting the latter in a made-up town called Innsmouth that exists next to Newburyport. In his story, “Newburyport is epitomized by the library, the historical society and High Street,” explains Goudsward. “Innsmouth is represented by abandoned shipyards and rotted docks along the Merrimack and ramshackle clam digger huts of Joppa Flats.”[Now Plum Island]
The plot synopsis of Shadow over Innsmouth in Wikipedia is this: The narrator has a hard time getting any information about Innsmouth from the Newburyport residents, or even getting to Innsmouth. Finally, the narrator finds Innsmouth to be a mostly deserted fishing town, full of dilapidated buildings and people who walk with a distinct shambling gait and have queer narrow heads with flat noses and bulgy, starry eyes.
The narrator meets Zadok, who explains that an Innsmouth merchant named Obed Marsh discovered a race of fish-like humanoids known as the Deep Ones. When hard times fell on the town, Obed established a cult called the Esoteric Order of Dagon, which offered human sacrifices to the Deep Ones in exchange for wealth in the form of large fish hauls and unique jewelry. When Obed and his followers were arrested, the Deep Ones attacked the town and killed more than half of its population, leaving the survivors with no other choice than to continue Obed's practices. Male and female inhabitants were forced to breed with the Deep Ones, producing hybrid offspring which have the appearance of normal humans in early life but, in adulthood, slowly transform into Deep Ones themselves and leave the surface to live in ancient undersea cities for eternity.
He is told to leave immediately and is warned that government investigators who pry too deeply disappear. He dismisses the story. However, he is then told that his bus is experiencing engine trouble, and he has no choice but to spend the night in a musty hotel. While attempting to sleep, he hears noises at his door as if someone is trying to enter. Wasting no time, he escapes out a window and through the streets while a town-wide hunt for him occurs, forcing him at times to imitate the peculiar walk of the Innsmouth locals as he walks past search parties in the darkness. Eventually, he makes his way towards railroad tracks and hears a procession of Deep Ones passing in the road before him. Against his judgment, he opens his eyes to see the creatures and faints at his hiding spot. He wakes up unharmed. Over the years that pass, he researches his family tree and discovers that he is a descendant of Obed Marsh, and realizes that he is changing into one of the Deep Ones. As the story ends, the narrator is accepting his fate and feels he will be happy living with the Deep Ones. He plans to break out his cousin, even further transformed than he, and take him to the Deep Ones' city beneath the sea.
This short synopsis gives you a pretty good idea of how weird Lovecraft’s stories were! His later story, The Shadow Out Of Time, based in Haverhill, is equally weird and ominous. The narrator is possessed by ancient, powerful beings and witnesses marvels of the distant past.
Lovecraft fills his correspondence about the Lower Merrimack Valley with references to local authors. For example, although poet John Greenleaf Whittier of Haverhill is best known for his nostalgic poetry about rural New England and his abolitionist works, Lovecraft looks to him for his collections of supernatural New England ghost stories and tales. Lovecraft is also enamored with the highly eccentric wealthy Newburyport resident “Lord” Timothy Dexter, who died in 1806.
“You might have heard of Dexter & his lucky speculations,” writes Lovecraft, “attempts to enter society, freakish extravagance, grotesque house & grounds [Dexter’s mansion, which was still standing when Lovecraft visited, was lined with wooden figurines depicting historical personages such as John Jay and Napoleon Bonaparte], ridiculous escapades, hilarious pretensions to titled aristocracy…”
According to Lovecraft, one of Dexter’s statues was “of himself, labelled ‘I am first in the East, first in the West & the greatest philosopher of the Western World.’”
Lovecraft also references Dexter’s “absurd book called a Pickle for the Knowing Ones” which is the best name I have heard for a book in a long time.
Lovecraft writes to a friend: “That book was misspelled & unpunctuated & when people objected to the latter feature, ‘Lord’ Dexter published a second edition (1796) still unpunctuated, but with a page of assorted punctuation at the end of the book, plus the note:
'master printer the Nowing Ones complane of my book the first edition has no stops I put in A Nuf here & they may peper & solt it as they please’
Goudsward’s book is a fascinating tour of the region’s forgotten history, of which Lovecraft was enamored, visiting ancient puritan graveyards all over the region and getting inspiration from the headstones and the names. He makes a passing reference to the Peaslee Garrison House, for example, which I mentioned in another blog post, and other garrison houses such as the Hazen one built in 1720. He is also into other things that interest me, such as Henry David Thoreau’s A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers.
This book would be worth the read just for introducing me to Lord Timothy Dexter and his saltbox and pepper grinder of punctuation [!], for readers to liberally spread over the words in his book as they see fit. I will have to look into Dexter and give him his own blog entry. I also intend to do a piece on John Greenleaf Whittier, to whom I am related and whose epic poem about Pennacook Princess “Weetamoo” is one of my favorites.
Goudsward has done a good job, via his exploration of Lovecraft’s travels, of conveying the richness of the history of the region that lies right before our eyes and that was very visible to an eccentric observer like Lovecraft.
Ms. Llana Barber has written the first academic book about Lawrence's postwar transition, from declining milltown to outer-suburban Latino-majority hub.
She comprehensively tells the story of Puerto Rican and Dominican migration to Lawrence starting in the late 1960s. Prior to 1980 or so, most Latino immigrants were Puerto Ricans from New York who were attracted by the perceived safety of Lawrence compared to their New York City neighborhoods, plus the availability of jobs in non-durable goods manufacturing, mainly shoes – Lawrence Maid, Jo-Gal, etc.
“In 1970, 83 percent of Lawrence’s employed Latinos worked in manufacturing, compared with only 34 percent in New York City.” Also, Lawrence was perceived as relatively immigrant friendly in light of its history.
After the 1982 recession and foreign competition killed off these businesses, and there were few low-skill manufacturing jobs in Lawrence, migration continued because of a cultural choice: it was already a Hispanic area. Dominican migration skyrocketed, and during the 1980s the Latino population of Lawrence tripled.
This is a very important book in understanding the recent history and potential future of Lawrence. She has all the pieces needed to tell the story:
She also has some interesting details about recent events that might interest locals. For example:
Anyone who is interested in the recent history of Lawrence, or the significance of a sizable Latino-majority city, should read this book.
Her Analysis of the 1984 Riot
I actually came across her book while checking my research on the 1984 Lawrence Riot. She has the first published analysis of the riot by an academic that I can find. (There was an unpublished Master's thesis, which is available at the Resources page.)
She has an in depth description of the events of August 1984. In my view, the riot was not a very big disturbance, albeit one that local police could not get under control on the first night. It happened less than half a mile from my house with no immediate impact beyond a narrow zone running between Broadway and Margin Street along the base of Tower Hill, across an area of probably less than ten acres. I have suggested that it was more like a large-scale rumble, and not a "riot" in the same sense as the gigantic Detroit riots or Watts Riots which ranged over hundreds of acres destroying a lot of those cities. Even locally, compare the 1964 Hampton Beach riot, which involved up to 10,000 youth battling state police from New Hampshire and Maine and many neighboring towns.
She has some interesting little details that I had not heard before: “At 11:00 PM rioters broke into Pettoruto’s liquor store. The Eagle-Tribune reported that at first the two groups [presumably whites and hispanics] fought over the liquor, but then they cooperated to divided it up and share it, after which a ‘lull followed with a lot of public drinking.” She notes dryly, “This odd reprieve could not have been long lived, because by 12:15 AM, the liquor store was on fire.”
She also has a graphic description of police action on the second night. “At 10:30 that night, the head of the Northeast Middlesex County [i.e. Lowell area] Tactical Police Force ‘arrived to find Lawrence police pinned down – lying on the ground to avoid gunshots, rocks, bottles and Molotov cocktails.’ An early contingent of forty Lawrence police officers and the regional SWAT team had been no match for the hundreds of rioters who claimed the streets. By 12:30, however, the reinforced police from the surrounding towns and state police from six barracks, marched in cadence down the streets, pushing the Latino rioters in front of them, herding them into the Merrimack Courts (Essex Street) projects, where virtually very newspaper account assumed all the Latino rioters lived.”
“Latinos lived throughout the neighborhood, however, and it is highly unlikely that all the Latinos at the riot site lived in the Essex Street projects.” She does point out that “it seems that many more white rioters were arrested than Latinos on the second night,” and that at least a handful of them were from neighboring towns who had come into Lawrence to get in on the action.
She also has a very interesting reference to an editorial by Eugene Declercq in the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune (soon to be just the Eagle-Tribune, based in North Andover). “Declercq was one of very few commentators to take a metropolitan view of the riots, one that drew attention to the reality of the region's political economy. He challenged the suburban exemption from responsibility for the region’s poor, an exemption premised on politics of local control that enabled people living in the suburbs to exclude low-income residents as a way of protecting their property values and public services. ‘The cherished property values of the wealthy communities that surround Lawrence are secure because of a system that isolates its poor in cities like mine.’” He added “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free – but make sure they live in Lawrence and not near us.”
Quibbles with the Book
My biggest quibble is that she often falls back on a stark suburban-urban dichotomy to tell the tale of Lawrence versus its neighbors. While it is true that suburbanization (the building of federally funded highways, Freddie Mac financed suburban subdivisions and automobile infrastructure) led to the decline of Lawrence and other small cities in many ways, it does not follow that Lawrence's suburbs were somehow just Levittowns of single family homes built on farmland and shopping centers, and that Lawrence was just a teeming pit of abandoned factories and squalid tenements.
As I tried to suggest in my blog entry about the separation of North Andover from Andover, there were industrialized, higher density areas of Lawrence's neighbors that blended almost seamlessly into abutting Lawrence areas. When I was a young child, my grandparents lived on Harold Street in North Andover in a duplex, on a street that almost entirely mirrored my street in Lawrence, Saunders Street, in terms of housing stock and residential demographics. And in the section of north Lawrence near where I grew up, the neighborhood blended seamlessly into the abutting parts of Methuen. (The construction of Interstate 495 in the early-1970s probably exacerbated the distinction, as it cuts North Andover off from the Lawrence side of the former neighborhood, and provides a very clear frontier area between Lawrence and Andover).
Although she tries to emphasize the urban-suburban dichotomy by regularly comparing Lawrence to Andover, this is somewhat misleading, as Andover was the most rural of Lawrence's suburbs and therefore in the best position for postwar greenfield suburban housing developments, especially because of the fortuitous location of highways and an existing commuter train station into Boston. Because of North Andover's industrial heritage, in contrast, it still had huge manufacturing employers into the 1990s. She does talk about the numerous Hispanics who lived in Lawrence and worked at Western Electric in North Andover in the 1970s and 1980s, thus undercutting her simple urban-suburban narrative.
My own theory, which I suggested in my post on the Riot, was that the increasing dichotomy between Lawrence and its immediate neighbors was exacerbated by the 1982 desegregation of schools in Lawrence's peripheral "nice" neighborhoods. It had the effect of pushing existing residents of those neighborhoods over town lines and destroying the previous integration of those neighborhoods with the abutting neighborhoods of Lawrence's suburbs.
She does describe with a lot of good detail how it is impossible to mandate desegregation or mixing of students across town lines. "Thanks to Milikken [a court case], the suburbs were not compelled to participate in any meaningful metropolitan desegregation plan, and none of Lawrence’s suburbs chose to participate voluntarily in such a plan with their nearest urban neighbor. An effort to create a voluntary ‘collaborative school’ in the late 1980s for students from Andover and Lawrence failed after it encountered intense opposition from Andover residents." The project would have been jointly run (and largely state-funded) elementary school designed to admit students from both municipalities.
However, except for a passing reference to an early-eighties desegregation plan in Lawrence that "was on the verge of being implemented," she does not talk about the actually internal Lawrence desegregation process and its effects.
Her analysis of the flaws of the former alderman system of government in Lawrence is well-done. This governmental structure persisted into the 1990s. "“Most critics focused on Lawrence’s alderman style of city governance. Unlike most cities, Lawrence had no professional administrators to head police, fire, street, or other departments." Its patronage based system meant an overwhelming exclusion of Latinos from city employment, although a voluntary quota system was implemented, targeting 16% in 1977 and going up from there.
However, I would argue that the alderman system also had a structural benefit. It led to the existence of "crown jewel" neighborhoods in Lawrence, where most to the resources were concentrated and most of the voters lived who then benefited from patronage jobs. These neighborhoods were the upper part of Tower Hill, of Prospect Hill and Mount Vernon. Between the removal of the alderman system of government and internal desegregation, the crown jewel neighborhoods of Lawrence were basically equalized downward to the level of their poorer, less resourced neighborhoods in the flatlands. Thus, Lawrence lost a significant tax base [something that Barber continuously laments along with Lawrence's increasing dependence on state aid].
As a result of these forces, Lawrence's neighborhoods that previously could compete with similar neighborhoods in North Andover and Methuen were slowly turned into ghettos, starkly cut off from historically similar neighborhoods next door in neighboring towns. The fact that such crown jewel neighborhoods were mainly white (remember that until Hispanic migration, Lawrence was 95% white) misses the point. The point is that these neighborhoods were also of a different socioeconomic status and probably could have been a first stepping point up the socioeconomic ladder for recent Hispanic immigrants. Instead, as a result of the trends I just described, Lawrence effectively became one big self-contained Hispanic ghetto starting in the early 1990s, increasingly bifurcated from its historic neighbors.
Yet...maybe my quibbles with the emphasis of the story are wrong.
Yes, Lawrence effectively became its own little Hispanic ghetto for a couple decades (I am using the term ghetto in the classic sense, as a place separated and walled off where a minority group is enclosed, such as the original ghettos for Jews in medieval Europe). However, Lawrence is arguably now turning a corner, as a completely Hispanic city.
As Barber says “In a most basic sense, Latinos saved a dying city.” I agree.