When Eastern Massachusetts was the Frontier, 1695

Maybe you've come through Billerica.  On the northern approach, near the North Billerica commuter rail station, lies the site of the John Rogers homestead, marked by a sign erected by the Massachusetts Tercentenary Commission in 1930.  The sign memorializes an event that happened even longer ago on today's Billerica Avenue.  Early in Billerica's history, during the…Read more When Eastern Massachusetts was the Frontier, 1695

Other People’s Ancestors – How House Histories Bring the Unrelated Together

When I started researching my family tree in 1988, the hobby was quite solitary.  I spent hours in the local history room of the Pollard Memorial Library in Lowell, Massachusetts, threading microfilm reels of the local papers through the microfilm readers and leafing through dusty, yellowed City Directories.  I remember the excitement of the first time…Read more Other People’s Ancestors – How House Histories Bring the Unrelated Together

The Town Farm – A Victorian-Era Solution to Poverty

Town farms were Victorian society’s equivalent to today’s homeless shelters, nursing homes, and mental hospitals.  Often relegated to a far corner of town, unseen, forgotten, and hopefully self-sufficient, the town farm was created to instill a sense of industriousness and self-sufficiency in paupers who would, in turn, provide what labor they could to help run…Read more The Town Farm – A Victorian-Era Solution to Poverty

The Boston Road Waiting Room, 1902

The Victorian era (and the years immediately following) is well-known today for controversies that seem antiquated, even quaint, from a 21st century perspective.  So, how does one set off said controversy in a small town of approximately 2,800 people in the first years of the twentieth century?  The answer is this:  propose the construction of…Read more The Boston Road Waiting Room, 1902

Yankee Doodle and its tie to Billerica, Massachusetts

Every September, Billerica, Massachusetts celebrates "Yankee Doodle" weekend.  But, what is Billerica's tie to the popular patriotic tune?  And how does Billerica claim to be the birthplace of Yankee Doodle?  The origin of the Yankee Doodle's tune is said to stretch back as far as 15th century Holland, where it may have been a harvesting…Read more Yankee Doodle and its tie to Billerica, Massachusetts

Listen to your wiseacres

Sparse.  That’s a good word to describe the population density of Eastern Massachusetts in the late 19th century.  In 1895, Eastern Massachusetts was empty, from an early 21st century perspective.  Compared to its 2010 population just north of 33,800, Chelmsford, Massachusetts had 3,162 people living within its borders in 1895.  Its neighbor to the south,…Read more Listen to your wiseacres

Midnight Murder in Billerica – September 1894

Under a full moon near midnight on September 11, 1894, Henry Cox, Charles Nichols, and Deroy Foster, all of Burlington, Massachusetts, roused Constable Everett Whitton Livingston at his home on Billerica's Pond Street.  Deroy Foster, a retired milkman, had been robbed of his week's pay ($7.50) by three men in a covered wagon on today's…Read more Midnight Murder in Billerica – September 1894