September 26, 2013

I like that ancient Saxon phrase, which calls The burial ground God’s acre! It is just;
it consecrates each grave within its walls, And breaths a benison o’er the sleeping dust.

                                                                                                                                 —Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


                                                                                          Quincy Adams Shaw

Forest Hills Cemetery has embraced people of all walks of life since its founding in 1848, but in some cases those interred here had achieved great accomplishments in their lives. Among the governors of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts interred here are Channing Cox, Alexander Rice, Curtis Guild, Eugene Foss, and William Gaston. Those who served as mayors of Boston are Benjamin Seaver, Samuel C. Cobb, Andrew Peters, Edwin Upton Curtis, and Thomas N. Hart, and mayors of Roxbury John J. Clarke, Henry Dearborn, Linus B. Comins, William Gaston, and George Lewis. Among the aristocrats of Boston, the self styled “Boston Brahmins,” are Quincy Adams Shaw and his wife Pauline Agassiz Shaw, whose unfailingly generous contributions to every worthy cause made Boston a haven for social reform and education. The shipping magnates William Fletcher Weld, Robert Bennet Forbes, and Charles Brewer connected the port of Boston to all parts of the world, and brought renown and wealth to those involved. Henry A. Dearborn laid out Forest Hills and served as the first president of the horticultural society, and William Hyslop Sumner developed both East Boston and his estate on Sumner Hill in Jamaica Plan and is remembered today by the Sumner Tunnel. Doctors Joseph Warren, and his nephew John Collins Warren extolled the highest virtues of medicine. Each of these people represents the benevolent and political aspects of Boston and of their myriad accomplishments. 

Eugene Gladstone O’Neill (1888–1953) was an American playwright and Nobel laureate in literature. His numerous plays are among the first to introduce into American drama the techniques of realism associated with playwrights Aton Chekov, Henrik Ibsen, and August Strindberg. His plays were among the first to include speeches in the American vernacular and were embraced with alacrity by the public. His plays often involved characters who inhabit the fringes of society, engaging in depraved behavior, where they struggle to maintain their hopes and aspirations but ultimately slide into disillusionment and despair. 

The Gateway to Forest Hills Cemetery

Charles W. Panter of Brookline designed the monumentally impressive gateway, which was completed in July 1865. Built of Roxbury puddingstone and buff sandstone with two conical spires and a central stone pediment, it has flanking square gatehouses with steeply pitched sandstone roofs. Above the central gate is the biblical inscription, “He that keepeth thee will not slumber.”

April 8, 2011

Andrew Carney of Carney Hospital

The Caritas Christi~ Carney Hospital in Dorchester Lower Mills is a vitally important hospital that provides medical services to residents of the metropolitan Boston area. Spanning a large tract of land, the hospital is today one of the largest in Boston, however it began in 1863 with a modest gift from Andrew Carney. Andrew Carney (1794-1864) was born in Ireland of humble, God fearing people. He was apprenticed as a youth to learn the tailoring trade, and after his immigration to this country in 1814, he secured a position with the firm of Kelley and Hudson, tailors on State Street in Boston. Laboring long hours, he later joined with Jacob Sleeper and opened their own tailoring business, which not only succeeded, but prospered. For over two decades, Carney and Sleeper provided not just “ready made” suits, which were a novelty at the time, but expert tailoring. The partners had opened their shop on North Street in Boston’s North End, and Carney’s industrious and economical nature contributed to its success. After the business partnership was dissolved in 1845, Andrew Carney held positions of honor and trust in Boston. With no further business concerns to occupy his time, he took great interest in banking and assisted in the founding of the Bank of the Republic and the Safety Fund Bank (now Bank of America.) He was a director of the John Hancock Life Insurance Company and assisted in the founding and in the funding of Boston College, which was then located on Harrison Avenue in Boston’s South End, adjacent to the Church of the Immaculate Conception. Carney was considered a responsible and respected man in Boston and contributed liberally to numerous charities. One business associate said that Carney was “one of Boston’s many great Irishmen” and another said that he was “one of God’s best noblemen.” With such glowing accolades during his lifetime, one might consider his success, after such humble beginnings in Ballanagh, County Caven, Ireland as the impetus for his sincere interest in the less fortunate. In 1863, during the height of the Civil War, the Carney Hospital was founded “to afford relief to the sick poor; and, though it is in the charge of the Sisters of Charity, it receives patients of all religious denominations. Chronic, acute, and other cases are received, contagious diseases alone excepted.” The hospital, located in the once elegant Howe Mansion on Dorchester Heights in South Boston, had not just an elevated site with cooling breezes and magnificent panoramic views of Boston and the Boston Harbor islands, but convenience to downtown Boston. The hospital was founded upon the premise that it should be “a hospital where the sick without distinction of creed, color or nation shall be received and cared for.” Carney’s gift of $13,500.00 enabled the purchase of the property, and the conversions necessary top provide medical services for the poor and immigrant classes of Boston. The Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, after the request of Bishop John Williams, were presented with the hospital and began their care for the medically needs on June 9, 1863. Its director was Sister Ann Alexis, who was superior of the Orphan Asylum on Camden Street in Boston, and is said to have been “very quiet, but most active, energetic, and skillful [as a] manager.” With an addition to the former Howe Mansion in 1868, the Sisters of Charity commenced a hospital that supplied a much needed service in Boston. After his initial donation had allowed for the purchase of the Howe Estate and the supplies necessary top convert it to a hospital, Andrew Carney continued to donate large sums of capital to ensure that the hospital provided medical care to those who could not afford it elsewhere. His total donations amounted to $75,000.00 by the time of his death in 1864, an enormous sum in the mid nineteenth century when a family might expect $1,000.00 annually. Carney’s intention to endow Carney Hospital did not materialize, for he died prior to signing the codicil of his will bequeathing further monies. However, though his involvement with Carney Hospital was for only a short period of time, his commitment and interest in a hospital that would provide medical services and convalescence for those who needed it “without distinction of creed, color or nation” was to ensure its continued efforts. Today, the Caritas Christi~ Carney Hospital, which had moved in 1957 to a new hospital designed by Carney, Carney, Carney & Keefe in Dorchester, attracts a diverse staff who serve an equally diverse patient base. It’s mission statement says that the “Cariras Christi Health Care, rooted in the healing ministry of Jesus Christ, is committed to serving the physical and spiritual needs of our community by delivering the highest quality care with compassion and respect.” It clearly seems that Andrew Carney’s vision of the Carney Hospital still holds true to this day. We salute not just Caritas Christi~ Carney Hospital, but the man who was “a kind-hearted, whole-souled, generous friend and protector” to all.

The Carney Lot at Forest Hills Cemetery is one of the most prominent, sited near Like Hibiscus.

April 7, 2011

Elida Rumsey Fowle

Elida Rumsey Fowle (1843-1919) was known during the Civil War as the “Songbird of the North,” as she entertained Union soldiers with rousing patriotic songs, and is reputed to have been the first to sing in public Julia Ward Howe’s anthem “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” The Rumseys had moved to Washington, DC from Tarrytown, New York in 1861, and Miss Rumsey gave informal concerts at her family’s home on Judiciary Square. Popular, she was one of a quartet asked to sing for Sunday services at the House of Representatives. It was here that she met her future husband, John Allan Fowle of Boston. After services, the two began to visit hospitals in the vicinity, giving religious tracts from the American Tract Society, and homemade jellies and cakes to recuperating Union soldiers. Many times, Elida was induced to sing such songs as “The Rebel Flags” and “The Dying Soldier Boy,” songs written by Fowle expressly for Elida Rumsey. After a short courtship, the two were married in the House of Representatives by Chaplain Alonzo Quint, the minister that held services there on Sunday mornings. They were married in 1863 with almost four thousand people attending their wedding. With members of Congress, the Senate and numerous Union soldiers who were recipients of their largess, it is still the only wedding to have taken place in the Congressional chambers. With a request from the gallery, Elida Rumsey Fowle stood on the desk of the Speaker of the House and sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Just after receiving their wedding guests, the Fowles went to the library they had worked so diligently to open in Washington, DC for the benefit of Union soldiers and known as the Soldiers Free Library. The Fowles had collected funds and books from numerous benefactors in the North. Among their friends was Eleanor Baker of Dorchester, who purchased fifty books herself, and enlisted the aid of her friends in Dorchester. The Fowles provided a place for soldiers on leave to find a quiet place, with stationary, pens and stamps to write letters to loved ones at home. Books, tracts and scrapbooks were among the literature available, and occasionally an impromptu concert filled the library with song. They built the library from a small collection into one of renown, and asked each soldier using the collection to sign a pledge to abstain from “profane language, from alcoholic drink, as a beverage, and from all other vices in the Army and Camp.” Their departure from Washington, DC in 1863 prompted a resolution to thank the couple for their work in Washington, with a Bible and photograph album being presented to them by their friends. After the Civil War, the Fowles went to Brooklyn, New York where John A. Fowle was in the wool brokerage trade. They remained there until 1877, when they moved to Dorchester, Massachusetts. They purchased a brick row house on Boston Street (now Columbia Road) across from the firehouse. In retirement, the Fowles remained active, with Mrs. Fowle founding the Wintergreen Club, a reading room in Upham’s Corner for children. She founded the “Grandchildren of the Veterans of the Civil War,” and became active in the Dorchester Historical Society, which was founded in 1891. Her husband wrote a short history of the Old North Burying Ground in Upham’s Corner, across from their home, in 1912 and the couple received greetings on the 50th wedding anniversary, which was celebrated in the Hall of Flags at the Massachusetts State House with over two thousand people in attendance. Their activities also included the raising of two daughters of Aunt Sally, a slave of Colonel Robert E. Lee. It was Aunt Sally that gave Mrs. Fowle a silver salver and a few pieces of china from Arlington House, the Lee home in Virginia, to keep for protection. A bond was developed between the two, and after the war the Fowles raised two of her children in the North, educating them in the north. Their stories and experiences of the Civil War and their own participation in the events of that time attracted a plethora of friends. Their vast collection of Civil War relics was deposited at the Blake House in Dorchester. Upon her death in 1919 she was buried at Forest Hills Cemetery; Mrs. Fowle was the last remaining member of the Nurses of the Civil War. With her went many of the firsthand memories of a full and active life that revolved around the Civil War. The Fowles are buried on Larch Avenue at Forest Hills Cemetery.

H. Eugene Bolles

No trip to New York City is complete for me without a trip to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the Upper East Side. Its collection of paintings, sculpture and decorative arts are superb, and its gift shop a boon to my lack of time for shopping, but what interests me most is the collection of American Decorative Arts, which have a strong connection to Dorchester. In 1909 the MET hosted an exhibit of American Decorative Arts in recognition of the 300th anniversary of the founding of New York, and it was known as the Hudson-Fulton Exhibit. The exhibit included furniture, paintings, pottery, glass and textiles in one of the most important retrospective exhibits ever held in the United States up to that time. Among the numerous lenders to the exhibit, which attracted a record 300,000 people, was H. Eugene Bolles, a resident of Dorchester. Hezekiah Eugene Bolles (1853-1910,) a graduate of Boston University Law School and a noted attorney in Boston, lived in a grand house at 401 Quincy Street in Dorchester. The son of William and Cornelia Congdon Palmer Bolles, he was born on Bolles Hill in New London, Connecticut, and moved to Dorchester in 1882 when he married Elizabeth Clapp Howe (1853-1920,) a daughter of James and Martha Neal Jenkins Howe of Dorchester. After their marriage, Elizabeth and H. Eugene Bolles commissioned local architect John A. Fox (1835-1920) to design a large house in 1885 at the crest of Quincy and Bellevue Streets, just up the hill from Columbia Street (now Columbia Road.) They lived like other affluent Dorchester families in the post annexation years, except that they added to their family heirlooms inherited by Mrs. Bolles from her Dorchester ancestors with fine examples of furniture, glass, china and textiles from the early 17th century to the Federal period. Bolles, who had begun collecting fine antiques in the early 1880’s, was so serious a collector that he was a founder of The Walpole Society, along with Henry Knight and Luke Vincent Lockwood, a scholarly group of museum curators, professionals and above average collectors who met at fellow members’ homes, museums and historic houses for private and in-depth tours and lectures. The Bolles House was literally crammed with furniture ranging in style from Pilgrim chests and chairs, Court cupboards to Chippendale highboys, lowboys and chairs to high style Federal card tables, chairs and sofas; not just was the house furnished with museum quality antiques, but they were stored in the attic and in an off site storeroom. Interestingly, the Bolleses not only had a deep appreciation and increasing awareness of their collection, they actually used it on a daily basis, which is a remarkably healthy attitude for someone who collects antiques. During the year leading up to the New York exhibit, the Bolleses were often visited by Henry W. Kent, a friend who was also an assistant to Robert de Forest, secretary to the museum and chairman of the celebration committee on art exhibits. Kent was on friendly terms with many early art and antique collectors who had amassed important collections, such as George S. Palmer, R.T.H. Halsey, Alphonse Clearwater and H. Eugene Bolles, who was induced buy his friend to loan forty one objects to the exhibit. H. Eugene Bolles and his wife came to the realization that their collection of American Decorative Arts, which spanned the period from 1630 to 1815, was not only an important collection with a wide spectrum of styles and objects, but that it should be preserved intact. Following the exhibit, he was induced by Henry Kent to sell the collection, which encompassed four hundred and thirty four pieces of furniture and included “miscellaneous objects ranging from cooking utensils to fire buckets and helmets,” to the MET, where it was displayed in period room settings and like-object exhibitions. Unfortunately, even though the Bolles’ collection was preserved intact, he sold it to the museum rather than donating it and the collection was actually purchased by the museum with funds donated by Mrs. Russell Sage (1828-1918,) a wealthy benefactor of the museum and is known today as the Sage Collection, rather than the Bolles Collection. To Kent, who must have been ecstatic in having secured the Bolles Collection for the museum, H. Eugene Bolles wrote in a letter “We hope… that before long we shall have the pleasure of another visit from you. If we have no chairs for you to sit in, you will understand the reason why, and I am sure under the circumstances will not object to sitting on the front stairs.” Well, with such a vast amount of antique furniture shipped from Dorchester to New York, one can imagine how empty the house on Quincy Street actually was. So, the next time you are in New York, plan to stop by the MET and visit their impressive decorative arts collection. While admiring these premier pieces of American craftsmanship, remember that it was through the discerning eye, diligent collecting skills and tenacity of a fellow Dorchesterite that ensured that they were enjoyed by the public after his death.

The Bolleses are buried on Daffodil Path at Forest Hills Cemetery.

Maria Susanna Cummins

The concept of social reform and responsibility was a great factor in the behavior of many 19th century Dorchesterites, and no person was more aware of this than Miss Cummins. Maria Susanna Cummins (1827-1866) was born in Salem, Massachusetts, the daughter of The Honorable David and Maria Franklin Kittredge Cummins; her father was the judge of Common Pleas of Norfolk County. She was educated at the exclusive Mrs. Sedgwick’s School in Lenox, returning to her father’s home in Dorchester after her “finishing.” The Cumminses were a well-to-do family of education and wealth, who had moved to Dorchester’s Meeting House Hill in the 1840’s. The Cummins Family had purchased the former Turks Head Tavern, on Bowdoin Street, an 18th century tavern that had been built by Reverend John Danforth, minister of the Dorchester Meetinghouse, in 1712. Once the family had settled, they began to attend the First Parish Church on Meeting House Hill and Maria Cummins began to teach Sunday School at the church, where interestingly the first Sunday School class had been formed in 1822, one of the first Unitarian classes in the area. Under the direction of William Taylor Adams (known by his nom de plume Oliver Optic,) Miss Cummins led a defined and religious life, devoting herself to her students. Reverend Theodore Clapp said of her in 1854 that “No lady of my acquaintance is more richly endowed with those mild, social, refined and gentle qualities which, in view of our sex, generally, constitute the principal beauty of the female character…. [and that] simplicity is the crowning ornament to her manners, as well as he writings” It was in 1850 that she undertook the writing of a novel to please her nieces, the daughters of her sister Helen and Edmund Pitt Tileston. Helen Cummins had married Edmund Pitt Tileston, co-owner of the Tileston & Hollingsworth Paper Mill on the Neponset River. He was a founder in 1843, the year of his marriage, of the Dorchester Historical & Antiquarian Society, and active in numerous charities. Their daughters, Florence, Grace and Katherine Tileston, were doted upon by their aunt, and with the publication in 1853 of her book The Lamplighter, were flattered by the attention. The book, a tribute and gift from their aunt, was to bring Maria Cummins a great deal of attention. Published anonymously, it was to sell over 65,000 copies within five months. The novel went through numerous editions, and was placed in many Unitarian Sunday School classes throughout New England. In the period between 1850 and her death in 1866, Miss Cummins wrote Mabel Vaughan, El Fureidis, Little Gerty and Haunted Hearts. She also contributed numerous articles for the prestigious Atlantic Monthly. The books were all of a semi-religious type, and well received by her readers. Of a deeply religious nature herself, Maria Cummins joined the First Parish Church in 1864, and died after a lengthy illness. She was to be buried from the church on Meeting House Hill on October 1, 1866, and interred in her family lot at Forest Hills Cemetery.