Showing posts with label Fitchburg. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fitchburg. Show all posts

Monday, November 7, 2016

Charlie - A Family Hobby Begins....

Not long ago there was speculation on the family Facebook group about this photo. Mark and Launa came across the picture in her attic. The consensus was that this is Charles Earnest Tapply, who I knew as Uncle Charlie. Charlie had a history with horses, so I wasn't surprised to find a photo and article in the December 14, 1950 edition of the Fitchburg Sentinel.
The picture isn't too clear, but this is the story I remember being told. Charles Tapply was a harness race driver at the Saratoga Springs track in New York. The article also mentions that Charles had being training colts "since he was 15 years old".   By the time he appeared in the first picture, he was already an experienced horseman.
Of course by 1950, Charlie was already 63 years old. There is a theme running through the family though....Charlie was into horses, Bob's boys Warren and Norm are into horsepower of another kind -classic cars. Kevin collects old cars and a beaut of an old fire engine.  Buzz's son, Todd, raced cars in Las Vegas. The Tapply boys must have a need for speed. The apple never falls too far from the tree.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Memorial Day and the Spanish American War


For my Memorial Day post this year, I'm looking at one of my relatives who fought in the Spanish-American war.  My great grandmother's younger brother William Frederick Smith served in old Sixth Massachusetts infantry, Company D.  This company's campaign was in Puerto Rico, as you can see from the map I found.
The red line shows the area marched as my great uncle mentions in a letter home. I went back to my old standby, The Fitchburg Sentinel, and sure enough they published a portion of his letter home to my great grandfather George. I feel so lucky to have this resource!
His complaints don't sound too different from many soldiers: poor food, hard marching, mud, bad weather and disease...oh, and equipment that doesn't work properly. Puerto Rico in August must have been a shock to a New England boy. I love the line "It rains about every five minutes."
     In one of the online archives, I found a whole book just on the Sixth Massachusetts. There in the roll for Company D was my great uncle. He served well, returned home safely and lived out his life in Fitchburg and Leominster working for a shipping company. So this Memorial Day I salute Frederick Smith, 1876-1931. Thank you for your service.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mother's Day

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In honor of Mother's Day, I give you my mom. This is Primrose Rogers (Fitzgerald) in about
1928.  What a sweet picture!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

A Snowy Winter Day.....

Garfield Street, Fitchburg, Massachusetts
Not too much snow in my forecast today in Houston, Texas. It's supposed to be a balmy 70 today. I left winter snow far behind many years ago. Not too many pictures of snow in the family collections either. I guess people could barely stand to look at the stuff after a while, much less take family photos. This first picture is dated 1948 and is the Rogers family home on Garfield Street where my mother grew up. Plows hadn't made it there yet, I guess.
Garfield Street
This next one is the back yard with a path already cut to my great grandparents back porch next door. I think this was at the time my great-grandmother had died and my great-grandfather, Edward, was in the house alone.
These were the only snow pictures I could find from that generation or the previous one.
Amesbury, Massachusetts
This next picture is yours truly in 1956 standing in front of our house on Main Street in Amesbury. Why I'm in a raincoat and not a sensible snowsuit, I have no idea. I'm smiling so I guess I wasn't too cold, but this picture makes the grown-up me shiver.
Houston, Texas
And just to show the cousins that it DOES happen, this is 1410 Neptune Lane in 1973. We had a freak snowstorm over Christmas break. The snow actually stuck for a few days. We were all delighted.

Count the number of snow pictures in your family collection. I'll bet even if you live in Minnesota or far east Maine there aren't that many.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

A Holiday Dinner Mishap

Fitchburg Sentinel, December 23, 1924
I love trolling the pages of old newspapers and especially the hometown newspaper of my Tapply and Rogers family members, The Fitchburg Sentinel. You never know when a curious article involving a family member will turn up. This is one from December 1924 starring Harry Tapply. Harry worked for the Fitchburg police force for many years and his name turned up frequently in the paper.

Apparently there was a bit of confusion over the groceries. I can understand why. When you look at a picture of a 1924 Ford Model T, you can see that one black car might look more or less like another parked on Fitchburg's main street.

a 1924 Model T
So this unfortunate gentleman went home without the holiday roast and I'm sure there was hell to pay....or was there? Could this be an early example of the the gold coin in the red kettle? We will never know. Officer Tapply to the rescue.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Sibling Saturday

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On the top row with the headband, my grandmother Primrose Tapply. Just below her also
in a headband, her sister Beatrice Tapply. I'm guessing this is pre-1920 when each of them
got married. No idea who the two friends are, but from the other pictures in the group I think
this is a trip to the beach.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Rascal

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This is my grandfather Harry Winslow Rogers pictured during the time he was courting my grandmother Primrose Victoria Tapply.  Sadly I never knew him. But I had heard stories. Here's another, more innocent photo from a slightly younger age.
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He had vivid red hair and blue eyes. The family called him "Rusty" to distinguish him from Harry Tapply. He was very musical, he had some artistic talent, he was "handy" and also...just a bit naughty. Well I heard stories anyway.

The first hint that the stories might be true came as more records came online at Ancestry and I found
a marriage record for one Harry W. Tapply marrying a Grace Elizabeth Carroll in Bellows Falls, Vermont. " Ah, a youthful marriage, " I thought. So I turned to the Fitchburg Sentinel to see if I could find anything else. And what I found made me chuckle. We always cluck over the things that young people get themselves into: the alcohol, drugs, partying, bad behavior. We forget that young people have always sown their wild oats. Apparently my grandfather was no exception.
So he went to a house party that seems to have gone on for several days, there was drinking and carousing and girls. Someone made a bet and he ended up in Bellows Falls marrying this girl. Then he went home as if nothing happened and moved back in with his parents...except now the girl was pregnant.  Sadly the records confirm  that the baby was stillborn. And to top things off, Harry expected to straighten himself out by enrolling in the military, but was rejected due to a case of the clap.  I can just imagine how that went over at home. (not to mention being in the Sentinel for all to see) Doesn't this sound like something you could read in the paper today?

"Spoiled" was my mother's pronouncement. I'm sure that came directly from the mouths of the two aunties, Lotta and Clara. They doted on him as well. Luckily, as most kids do, he learned from his mistakes. He got his divorce, moved on. Became a soloist at the Rollstone Congregational Church, met my grandmother and settled down. He struggled a bit during the Great Depression,  but eventually became head of a crew that built and repaired roads around Fitchburg. He also was responsible for a lot of the signage. For those who live in Fitchburg, some of those early orange and black street signs in the slightly script-style font were my grandfather's handywork.

In January of 1952 he went out on a stepladder to clear an ice or snow from the roof. He came back inside, had a heart attack and died. I was born 11 months later....on his birthday, which is today.  I like to believe that was no accident.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

James Henry "Harry" Tapply

James Henry "Harry"
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When I was doing a bit of research for my last post,  I came across some interesting material about my grandmother's brother "Harry" Tapply. Of course I've told the story of his wife and his child during this World War I period. This photo is courtesy of my cousin Holly Jones, who reports that this is Harry in 1915 atop General Pershing's horse. Well, maybe. You know by now how those family stories go.
Harry did, in fact, serve in the military police of the 26th Division during World War I. What I came across that amazed me was an account, in his own words, of his experience.

On January 18, 1919 as the war had drawn to a close, The Fitchburg Sentinel published an article with war accounts from three soldiers. One was Harry Tapply excerpted from a letter to his sister (named only as 'Miss Tapply') The newspaper scan was in very poor condition, so I will give you an abbreviated version here:

"I am still in Montigny-le-Roi and I hope when we move it will be toward the coast but I read in the paper that all the veteran divisions will remain here until peace is signed. If that is true we will be here for some time yet.
The other day I went hunting wild boar with the town mayor of Montigny. We has no luck though, but the experience was wonderful. In all there were nine dogs. We have had much better food after the signing of the armistice and have had it more regular. For dinner yesterday we had hamburger steak, creamed carrots, mashed potatoes, bread pudding, coffee and bread with butter. We never got such food as that at the front. Very often after marching all day we got nothing but bread and coffee and sometimes we had nothing to eat for two days.
While we were on these marches we slept whenever we stopped. Sometimes in gutters or fields and to make things more pleasant the Boche would send over whiz-bang and black Marias and many other things too numerous to mention. A fellow thinks of home when he sees a chum blown to bits and has to pick him up in a blanket.
At Chateau (unreadable)    I went through a wheat field........in size and counted 36 mothers’ sons who would never return. Some of them mere boys with innocent faces and all were volunteers from our own division.
At Verdun it was even worse. Everywhere a Yankee fell a rifle was placed on end by running the bayonet into the ground. You could look out across most any part and see hundreds of such rifles denoting that many hundred would never return.
I went through Belleu woods and the sights I saw cannot be imagined by any human being. The woods themselves were demolished and men were buried half covered up and with hands and feet sticking out of the ground the and the odor was ...... You can see why the volunteers are  ..... These were ……. of the sights and horrors of war.
I wonder how many of the men back home running things would say ‘ go on ‘ if they had to do the going and ………..
All I can say is we are all thankful it is over and that we are ……..pushing………No Man’s Land."

I don't think any words could make his experience plainer. Harry Tapply came home with this loss and others to join the Fitchburg police force. He remarried, had four more children, and served with honor until his death in 1942.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Sweethearts


Primrose Tapply and Harry Rogers
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A visit to my grandmother's house was never complete until we went through the box of old photos. These  two photos were from an old album documenting my grandparents courtship. Many years later, my mom had two of them framed and presented them to me for the "family wall" in my house. The house in the background was the Tapply family home on Pearl Hill Road. My grandmother isn't quite a flapper, but still quite fashionable for the time. My grandfather looks like a bit of a scoundrel. (and it turns out he WAS- but more about that later) My grandmother always said that they met while performing in a musical revue. The account of their marriage makes reference to this
Primrose Victoria Tapply married Harry Winslow Rogers on January 30, 1920.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Sign of the Times


Here's something you wouldn't see in a local paper these days. Despite all the kerfluffle over private gun ownership, the police departments have de-emphasized marksmanship in favor of "community policing". The idea of a police revolver team posing with guns drawn seems quaint. In the 1930's, however, The Fitchburg Sentinel was full of the exploits of the local police department. I suppose this was as close to tabloid reporting as the public was likely to get at the time. Third from the right in this picture is my great uncle Harry J Tapply. He was my grandmother's older brother. He must have been a good shot to make the revolver team. Stories about his career as a policeman were a regular item in the Sentinel. Sometimes he got to save a life:
Dec 26 1929
Harry Tapply walked a beat, saved a life or two, kept good order for the city of Fitchburg AND was a crack shot for the revolver team.  I think I'd still call that "community policing".

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas Traditions

Chris in 1954- Amesbury, Massachusetts
Every family passes along those Christmas traditions- open the gifts on Christmas Eve, open the gifts on Christmas Day, white elephants, gift swaps, name pulls.... and it goes on and on. But Christmas food traditions are pretty interesting. In my mother's family it was always hot oyster stew on Christmas Eve. This came from her father's side of the family and I began to wonder why.

After a thorough search of the internet I had no clear answers and apparently lots of people wondered the same thing. I found the question asked and answered in a million different ways. Some said it comes from the Feast of Seven Fishes where Catholics avoided meat on certain feast days. Somehow in Anglo-Protestant America this origin became quietly obscured. Some say the Irish brought it with them substituting oysters for the traditional ling fish. Others had the origins in Germany. My mother's family was not Catholic or Irish or German. They were Yankee, Protestant and went back in New England to coastal Maine and Cape Cod. Chances are good it was a practical decision. Oysters were cheap and plentiful. Christmas, the next day, was an occasion for a big holiday meal. It would make sense to have the somewhat lighter meal of stew the night before. My family was in good company. In the December 23, 1931 edition of the Fitchburg Sentinel I found this:
Brockelmans was a popular Fitchburg grocery vendor of the time and this was a thinly disguised advertisement. 39¢ a pint is a great price for New England oysters. I paid considerably more for mine.
One thing I did find in my search is that while oyster stew was a tradition in many families all over the country, the commenters were evenly divided between the oyster lovers and the oyster haters. After years of oyster stew, the tradition quietly died among the haters and new food traditions were born. My brother is one of the haters. I however, will make my stew, thinking of my mom as I do and upholding the family tradition for just a little bit longer.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Edward Winslow Rogers-The Story of the Railroad Men

On the left you have Eugene Harrington Rogers. At the time this story begins, he had lived in Fitchburg, Massachusetts for some years, was working as a sign and artistic painter and living on Chestnut Street. On the right is my great grandfather Edward Winslow Rogers. I made a surprising discovery, which has lead to what I think is a romantic tale and the merging of two old families.

 I have relished a great resource on Ancestry in the local and city directories. Some of these go back a long way, some list occupation and some will list a death date. That was how I tracked down a date for my grandfather Fitzgerald. But I was looking at the Fitchburg Directory for 1891. Most unexpectedly I found this
So this is the first listing of Edward in Fitchburg, where he had moved from Holden to be near his brother. I knew OCRR meant railroad....but which one? That lead me to the story of the Old Colony railroad. The Old Colony Railroad served lower Massachusetts, the Cape and parts of Rhode Island. They ran large steam trains and I found a good example.
Old Colony did very well for a time, carrying people to the shore at a time when few people might have had an automobile. As the line prospered, they added a northern spur which ran to Fitchburg.
Courtesy of the OCRR museum
Edward became a railroad fireman, boarded on Day Street which was walking distance to the wonderful old Union Depot in downtown Fitchburg.
Sadly that station was torn down in the sixties. Several rail lines ran out of the station including the Fitchburg Railroad. I knew that my great grandfather Smith had worked for the Fitchburg Railroad, but I never knew that "Ned" had been a railroad man as well. So I went back to the directories to be sure.
And there was George F Smith, a railroad engineer for the Fitchburg Railroad, living on Goodrich Street with his grown daughter boarding in his home. My imagination began to work. George had contact with the other engineers and firemen who came through the station. Here is this newcomer to town, Ned Rogers, a lonely boarder and George invites him home to Sunday dinner. At the dinner table are his three lovely daughters, including his eldest, Cora. Now maybe it didn't happen quite that way, but I'd like to think that I've discovered the story of the meeting of Cora Elizabeth Smith  and Edward Winslow Rogers, my great grandparents. They were married in 1893.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Another Mappy Monday- Finding the Tapplys in 1915

I enlarged this map as far as Blogger would allow, but this reproduction of the panoramic view of Fitchburg, Massachusetts in 1915 hardly does the full map justice. I found this gem in the map collection site for the Library of Congress. You can go here and see if there is a panoramic view of the place your ancestor lived.  It is a wonderful collection.

I spent a long time zooming in on various parts of this map to see what I could recognize. Of course
I spotted the top of Main Street and the familiar church building right away.
The drawing of the buildings is really charming and it appears that there was a streetcar running up and down Main Street in those days. The little vignettes around the border of the map are of various important buildings and businesses in Fitchburg. Of course the reason I picked the map from 1915 was that Charles Tapply and his family were living in Fitchburg having moved there from Newton. A look at an old city directory gave me a listing for the family.
My aunt Bea was working as a stenographer, my great grandfather was a grocer and Aunt Mabel was living at home. This is the 88 Winter Street house that my grandmother recalled from her girlhood. A quick zoom on the map shows about where that would be.
The red arrow points to the corner of Winter and Boutelle Streets, right about where number 88 would be. Uncle Charlie was working as a teamster and living nearby on Pacific Street.

The area where my grandmother lived when I knew her is on the far left of the big map and is just shown as woods. Fitchburg was still a growing city in 1915.

Friday, September 27, 2013

First Cousin Friday

This picture from my collection was dated 1964. I think this must have been a combined birthday party; my brother and my cousin Jim were July/August birthdays. It was taken in Grandma's back yard. You can see her in the background. My father was an only child. No immediate cousins there. Mom had one brother. So these are my closest relatives. From the left Lynn Rogers(Kamrath), Jim Rogers, Lee Ellen Fitzgerald, Jill Rogers (Pratzon) and Mark Fitzgerald. I'm missing for some reason. Cuties for sure.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Lotta May Smith

Lotta May Smith
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Isn't this a sweet picture? This is Lotta May Smith, my great grandmother's younger sister.  Lotta lived her adult life with her sister Clara, a schoolteacher, and neither ever married. My mother once included her and Clara in a short story which gives a pretty accurate picture of the aunts she knew as a child.
"Lotta, as tall and erect as her sister Cora, but already quite gray, looked out at the world through large, dark, anxious eyes. They (Lotta and Clara) seemed to live in a perpetual state of apprehension, nursing imagined slights and disappearing into their room or going off on walks to whisper..."

As a child, all I knew was that Lotta had had a promising musical career cut short and that she had to be institutionalized with some mental illness.  My mom's writing reveals the family story or perhaps my mother's version of it, "She had a magnificent singing voice...She was auditioning for the Metropolitan Opera. When Mama died, Lotta made a vow she'd never sing again - and she never has."

The truth is both sad and perhaps a little different. At the turn of the century she was singing with the Orpheus Quartet and shows up regularly in reviews in the Fitchburg Sentinel. By the 1920 census she was living with her sister and her mother in Worcester, Massachusetts and working as a clerk. By 1930 she was a hairdresser. What turned her from her singing career we'll never know, but by 1920 she was already 30 years old. Had signs of mental illness already begun?  She shows up one more time in the 1940 census living with Clara and doing hair, but by the time I was born in the fifties she was in an nursing home or institution.

Lotta's father George F Smith was from Litchfield, Maine. Her mother, Letitia Ellen Johnson, was from Spencer in Owen County, Indiana. It was researching her mother's line that gave me the first clue to Lotta's real story...or at least part of it. The 1860 census reveals this
1860 Census-Spencer, Owen, Indiana













Elizabeth would be Margaret Elizabeth, Lotta's grandmother. The note on the right gave me pause.
Letitia, Lotta's mother, was only 4 years old. Margaret was only 29. A quick email to a family member revealed that early onset Alzheimers ran in that side of the family.  At only 29 she seems pretty young for Alzheimers, but in those days they wouldn't have know what it was anyway.
The 1880 Census shows that by this time the family couldn't manage.
1880 Census- Indiana State Hospital for the Insane

What a terrible choice her husband would have had to make! I did a little online research on the Indiana State Hospital and found it horrifying. Now I understood what probably happened to Aunt Lotta. Luckily, Lotta's care was more benign and her sister Clara was devoted to her for her entire life.

No one goes into genealogy looking for medical ailments, but this story gives information that might be useful to me or to family members.  It also filled out my picture of Aunt Lotta. It's nice to know a little more about the charming young girl in the photo.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Eugene Harrington Rogers


Eugene Harrington Rogers
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This is Eugene Harrington Rogers, son of Cassandria and brother of my great grandfather. I'm not really sure where this was taken, but perhaps this was his studio. I love the large artist's palette and his generous muttonchops. His life is not a great mystery; he was born in Holden, Massachusetts and lived most of his adult life in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. We're not sure when or if he had much formal training, but he married Mary Clark, opened a sign painting and advertising business at 304 1/2 Main Street in Fitchburg and lived on Arlington Street. They never had children and he died of a heart ailment at only 45 years old.

You may have noticed the large painting and recognized the "White Rock fairy". This is actually a very
good copy of a painting called "Psyche" by Paul Thumann.  Thumann's original was exhibited to some great attention at the Chicago World Exhibition and I would assume White Rock bought the rights after that. Being an artist myself, I always wanted to know about Eugene. A small oil still life hung in our house all my childhood and larger pastel of a Newfoundland dog hung in my grandmother's house. These were the only existing works the family knew of. My cousin, an illustrator and art restorer in Manhatten, looked around on the internet from time to time and discovered that some of his work was registered. Tracing backwards she found that it was in the collection of the Fitchburg Historical Society. Sure enough, when I visited I found an enormous charcoal drawing called "Overlook Reservoir and Mt. Wachusett". It was a lovely landscape with which our family was quite familiar as it's a popular hiking spot in Fitchburg. A little more research by my cousin, my aunt and myself found a mural at the local Baptist church and another large charcoal landscape at the Westminster Historical Society. My cousin says they are all quite good. Now all three of us were intrigued....

One of the best sources of small town information for genealogists is digitized newspapers. Luckily the
Fitchburg Sentinel has digitized much of its collection and Eugene showed up regularly between 1870 and 1900. The accounts of his sales are complementary and lively as is the story of his rivalry with another sign painter.  At this time he was doing landscapes, small still-lifes and animal portraits of hunting dogs in oil, pastel and charcoal. The Sentinel described his success this way "The sale increased so rapidly that the demand was far ahead of the supply within 10 days....Mr. Rogers' work went to the shores of the Pacific and throughout the West and South." Queries in the historical society newsletters have turned up no further clues. The signature on the work would be E.H. Rogers.
If you live in the West or South or even in New England and have a work with this signature, the family would love to hear from you.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Tapplys of Wittersham

Charles and Ellen Tapply-Whitehorse Beach, Cape Cod abt 1931
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Family myths and family stories are a funny thing. They tend to take on a life of their own. My mother wrote a letter to England during the Blitz of WWII because her grandfather's brother George Tapply
was living in Kent, in the path of the bombers. He wrote back from a little village called Whitstable,
which is right on the coast on the Thames estuary. Apparently it's known for oyster farming. Ever
after that my mother reported to various family members that the Tapplys came from Whitstable. Or
at least by the time she was grown and people became curious that was the family story. When I began
looking into the Tapply family I had this reported to me as absolute fact by various members of the Tapply family. Courtesy of mom as I soon discovered.....

I began by looking for census records for Charles and Ellen somewhere in Kent. When I found them and their various family members a family myth fell to pieces. As it turned out, the family of Charles'
generation and his father James Henry lived in the tiny village of Wittersham near Tenterden. I found them there on multiple census records along with James Henry and various brothers and sisters. Later, when the family was almost grown, they moved to the small city of Maidstone. This is where the story of Charles and Ellen really begins, just before their emmigration to America.

The picture above shows Ellen and Charles on what I am told was a yearly trip to stay at the beach. I love the "driving" duster on Ellen and the bathing costume hanging behind them. To compound the  family story, my mother reported that the Tapply clan made this yearly trip to the area around Hampton Beach and Rye Beach, New Hampshire. When mom finally made it to England and to Whitstable she reported that she now understood why they liked Hampton Beach. Whitstable looked like Hampton Beach and it must have "reminded them of home". Perhaps it did. In it's way... The truth is that Charles' brother George worked for the British postal service for many years and when he retired he lived in Whitstable. For George, this little seaside town was a slice of "home". His job for the postal service had been in Brighton- another somewhat larger and more touristy beach spot. I'm sure he found Whitstable restful.

All of this reminds me to keep in mind the first advice for every amateur genealogist. Use the family stories as clues, but don't become wedded to them as fact. I still like the story of the whole Tapply clan decamping from Fitchburg for a vacation at the shore. I like to think at least that part is true....