Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Sturbridge Mystery

A few years ago,  I was spending too much time on Ebay.  Too much time.  I was finding a whole lot of items related to Sturbridge history that were forgotten pieces of our history.  They were, more or less, affordable so I bought them.  

I was able to pick up a so many great historic items that would have been lost forever to some "collectors" closet, and never return to Sturbridge.  Now, since the town does not have a place to display the items, such as a museum, or a room for historic collections, they sit in another closet, a bank vault.  Someday I feel there will be either grant money, or other money to pay for the restoration and preservation of the old documents and maps, and they will be available to the town at that time.  In the meantime, I will display a few of them here.

One of the items I purchased is an old framed photograph.  Can you help to identify the people in the photo?

The photograph is a collage of many old photographs.

The photo at the lower right is "The Elms", now called the Publick House.
To the upper left of the Publick House is the photo of the Upper Bridge.  This old bridge was immediately to the north of Route 131 at the intersection of Hall Road.  The dog on the tufted chair is simply labeled as "Brownie".
The girl on the lower left center is "Edna", and to her right is "Hattie Richardson" 
The photo at the top right is of the troops drilling on the Town Common.
The building directly below the common photo is the Center School located across from the town hall and recently restored.
The house at the bottom left is "Our Cottage".  The little boy in the oval photo is "Will"
To Will's left is "Edna" with "Henry", and "Anna" in the lower left.

The gentleman at the upper left is identified as "Rev. Mr. Richardson",  the man in the middle is "Grandfather"
and the woman at the r]far right is "Miss Hyde".  The church on the left is the "Congregational Church in Sturbridge", and directly underneath the church is "Father", and "Mother".  The house in the center of the photograph is labeled as "Edna's Birthplace Born 1863".  There is a typed newspaper article below the photo:
"The house burned last week was built in 1753 by Col. Hiram Wheelock..."
The house was also the home to Cyrus Merrick, Elisha Southwick, A.C. Morse, and William Whittmore, the chairman of the Board of Selectmen at various times.

Now, comes the fun part, your mission at CSI: Sturbridge.   Your mission is to help identify the people in the photographs, and where were these old photographs taken in Sturbridge.  If you have an idea, or would just like to offer up a guess, either email me at, or leave at comment.


  1. Wally,can you send a clearer image of the house they called "our cottage" at the bottom left? What I can see of the shape of the front of it reminds me a little of a house just beyond the common (headed towards Southbridge). If I say "Sam Sheard's" house, old-timers will know which one I mean.

  2. Stephen Morse HollisterTuesday, May 10, 2011

    Rev. Martin Luther Richardson was my great-great grandfather on my mother's side (Richardson), via William Shedd and Stephen Morse. My mother still refers to them as "the doctor" and "the minister". We think of them in terms of Montague MA rather than Sturbridge. I was looking up something about MLR (who graduated from Amherst College) and came across this thread. Isn't Google great!

    We know about William and Harriet, but have no information about Gilbert. Harriet married an Ayer, but we don't know the first name. I believe they lived in Sturbridge. They had a daughter named Harriet who married Ralph D. Whitmore and lived in Sunderland, MA, next door to Montague. William was a doctor in Marlborough, MA, but when he died relatively young, my grandfather and his sister Martha went to live with MLR in Montague. The interesting part (for me, I guess) is that Martha married Phillip Whitmore, brother of Ralph, who married Harriet (the daughter of Harriet in your picture). The common connection, I guess, is MLR living in Montague, MA.

    My grandfather married a Wyman (daughter of a very successful market gardening family in Arlington, MA), but went into the market gardening business with Philip Whitmore, who owned land on the Connecticut River in North Sunderland, MA. It was called Richmore Farms. My mother has very fond memories of growing up on the farm by the river with all of the relatives nearby. My aunt still lives in a cottage on the river there. Also interesting, is that MLR’s wife Angeletta’s mother was also a Richardson who goes back to the another of the Richardson brothers who first settled Woburn, MA.

    We have some pictures of MLR and William, but I don't recall anything about Sturbridge. When my uncle died a few years ago, we got 16 (!) boxes and chests of family history. I tried to catalogue it, although there are many pictures and documents I can't place. Unfortunately, many of the things are mixed together so that we can't really guess to which family they belonged. It could be that many of the MLR documents went to Harriet's side of the family. I will ask my mother and her sister what they know of the four children of Harriet Ayer and Ralph Whitmore.

    I grew up in Rockville, CT, but, perhaps ironically, have never been to Sturbridge. I do remember the billboard for the Publick House on Rte 84.

    Stephen Morse Hollister
    Jamestown, RI

  3. Hello-
    I had read your blog post about finding those pictures of people from Sturbidge. You were looking for some information on some of the people in the pictures.

    "The girl on the lower left center" (Edna) is Edna S Morse. She is my great great grandmother and was born in Sturbridge in 1863. She stayed in Massachusetts her whole life, marrying the artist George S Payne (my great great grandfather) in 1884, and dying in Springfield, Massachusetts, although there is no clear date on this.

    Hopes this helps!

    PS: Elisha Southwick, whom you also metioned in your blog post, was Edna's maternal grandfather and A.C. Morse, or Amasa Morse, was her father.

    Joe Sullivan
    Southwick, MA


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