Friday, January 31, 2014

Finally! Successful Searches in "Poland, Select Tarnow Roman Catholic Diocese Church Books 1612 - 1900"

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Helen Paige Shackley - Librarian, 1st Woman to Become W. Brookfield Town Treasurer

Helen Paige Shackley Bandstand
Dedicated May 20, 1972
Located on the Town Common in West Brookfield, MA

Helen Paige Shackley was born in West Brookfield on April 14, 1883 to John Gardner Shackley, a local boot and shoe manufacturer, and his wife Ella Georgiana Luther.  She attended local schools, graduated from Warren High School in 1900, and entered Radcliffe College.  She graduated from Radcliffe in 1906, and went on to teach school in Connecticut, first in Thomaston and later Windsor. 

Sometime between 1912 and 1917, Helen returned to West Brookfield where she became active in church and town affairs.  She became the town librarian about 1916 and served in that capacity until 1948, and again briefly in 1951.  She was  a member of the Congregational church and a charter member of the Martha Club (later the Martha Guild) which was formed in 1919.  Miss Shackley also served on the town's Burial Ground Commission.
Springfield Daily Republican
Feb. 10, 1931, page 2
 Helen was elected treasurer for the Town of West Brookfield in February of 1931 having defeated eight year incumbent John Webb by thirty-three votes (240-207).  She was the first woman elected to that position, and continued to serve as Town Treasure for 32 years until her death.

Signature from a copy of a document found at
 Helen died in Ware, Massachusetts on March 3, 1963, and was buried in the family plot in Pine Grove Cemetery in West Brookfield.  She left a sum of $60,000 to the Town of West Brookfield to be used to build a bandstand on the town common.  The necessary permissions and acceptable plan revisions took a number of years, but the bandstand was finally constructed, and was dedicated in a ceremony in May of 1972.  Free concerts are held there each summer for the enjoyment of the community.

Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841-1910,
Various articles - Springfield Daily Republican,
A History of West Brookfield, Jeffrey H. Fiske, West Brookfield Historical Commission, 2009

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

J. Irving England - Businessman, Philathropist,

Joseph I. England was born in Worcester, MA on  June 20, 1912, to Earl Gay and Arona Edythe (Quilliam) England. He attended Worcester schools and graduated from Worcester Boy's Trade High School.  Irving furthered his education at Fitchburg State College's Industrial Arts Program, and went on to work as an engineer for American Steel & Wire, in Worcester, and Simonds Machine Co. in Southbridge.  He also taught at Cole Trade High School in Southbridge for a time.

 Brookfield Machine, Inc. was founded by Irving in 1948.  Located at the end of Central St. in West Brookfield, the company designed and manufactured precision tools. Irving, a licensed  mechanical engineer continued to manage this company until a short time before his death on April 15, 1988.

Irving, not only founded and managed Brookfield Machine, Inc., but also enjoyed  many other interests and hobbies including photography, outdoor sports, and flying his own plane.  He was a federally licensed firearms dealer and collector.  Mr. England was involved in many professional, and community organizations, including the American Society of Tool Engineers, the Rotary Club of the Brookfields, the Baypath Lodge of  Masons, and the Melha Temple Shrine of Springfield.  He served for many years as a scouting coordinator for the Mohegan Council of Boy Scouts.  Generous with his wealth, he publicly supported many local causes in West Brookfield, including historical preservation, and the West Brookfield Volunteer Fire Department, and Rescue Squad.  He also privately helped fellow citizens and local organizations in need., seeing to it that Boy Scouts had uniforms, and that the local Rescue Squad met its annual fund raising goal. Today the J. Irving & Jane L. England Charitable Trust continues to contribute to worthy causes locally.

The photo below, courtesy of William Jankins, was most likely taken in Boston, in 1986 when Mr. England received a Massachusetts Historical Commission Preservation Award for his involvement in the restoration of the Rice Memorial Fountain located on the town common in West Brookfield.
Sen. Edward Kennedy and J. Irving England

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Lucy Stone - Abolitionist and Suffragette

Lucy Stone, daughter of Francis and Hannah (Mathews) Stone was born Aug. 13, 1818 on Coy Hill, in what is now West Brookfield, MA.  Her parents were staunch Congregationalists who also shared abolitionist views.  Francis Stone also believed in advanced education for his sons, but did not support higher education for Lucy. 

Lucy, after graduating from local schools, earned money teaching school, and doing housework in order to further her own education.  She eventually graduated from Oberlin Collegiate Institute in Ohio, and at the age of thirty, was the first woman from Massachusetts to earn a bachelor's degree.  Dedicated to the causes of anti-slavery and the advancement of women's rights, Lucy began speaking out publicly.  Women in those times, were discouraged and sometimes prevented from speaking in public, but Lucy found work speaking for the American Anti-Slavery Society and made many important speeches throughout the United States. 

In 1855 Lucy married Henry Brown Blackwell after a two year courtship.  A statement was read at their marriage ceremony announcing that Lucy would keep her maiden name.  This was unheard of at the time, and later, women who retained their maiden names were referred to as "Lucy Stoners."

Later, Lucy and Henry co-edited a suffrage newspaper called, "The Woman's Journal."

Lucy died in Boston, Oct. 18, 1893 and was the first person to be cremated in Massachusetts.

[This post really does not due justice to Lucy's many accomplisments.  I hope to have time to write a more thoughtful and thorough post in the future.]

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Austin Wellington Pratt -AKA Hobo Kelly

One of the six known children of James M. and Ruth (Chickering) Pratt was Austin Wellington Pratt, a tramp known as "Hobo Kelly." He traveled across the county by rail and was arrested many times for vagrancy and/or intoxication.  He was sometimes considered to be insane and was committed to state hospitals in Northampton and Bridgewater a number of times. He claimed to have traveled in other countries throughout the world, and to have made the acquaintance of many powerful political figures, An article published on page 4 of the Springfield Daily Republican of December 2 , 1925  after an arrest at Union Station,  describes this character as possessing a "colorful flow of oratory" and an adeptness at clog dancing.

Austin Wellington Pratt, was born May 4, 1861 in West Brookfield, MA.  He married Elizabeth McArdell in Ware, MA in 1881 and the couple had a son James who died before his fifth birthday, and a daughter Mary Elizabeth, who grew up to marry Walter Potter.  Records also show that a second wife Lizzie Hickie died in 1889 on the same day she gave birth to a stillborn daughter. It is likely that Austin is the Austin W. Pratt who died in Bridgewater in 1934 according to the Massachusetts Death Index, 1901-1980 found on