This "Bird's Eye View" of Acton Center was taken from behind Main Street. Fortunately, some landmarks are obvious: the town hall, the monument, and the Congregational Church after its steeple was rebuilt in 1898. Where today we would expect to see houses, the picture shows trees, fields, and numerous stone walls.
When one is trying to understand Acton's history, a large challenge is envisioning what the town looked like in different eras. Often, one is imagining a mill complex in a spot that has now reverted to nature. The challenge is different in Acton center. Today, it is almost entirely residential, but in the nineteenth century, it had a shoe factory, a hotel, a blacksmith, and a number of other businesses. It is tempting to picture the center “village” at that time as a commercial/residential center with businesses and houses close together. However, reading through land transactions for our blog post on John Fletcher, we discovered that until relatively recently, even in the "Centre village," there were farms, orchards, and pastures. We found a picture in our collection that, though not very sharp, shows how rural Acton Center was.
This "Bird's Eye View" of Acton Center was taken from behind Main Street. Fortunately, some landmarks are obvious: the town hall, the monument, and the Congregational Church after its steeple was rebuilt in 1898. Where today we would expect to see houses, the picture shows trees, fields, and numerous stone walls.
We have many photos and postcards of Acton Center landmarks, but pictures taken from the back, away from the usual sights, are few and far between. We're lucky that someone thought to record a different view.
Recently, the Society received the generous donation of a remarkably well-preserved pair of boots from the factory of John Fletcher and Sons. John Fletcher’s name was very well-known in Acton in the 1800s, and his “Boot and Shoe Manufactory” was a town-center landmark that employed a significant number of townspeople. He left many traces in the written records of the era, some of which gave contradictory impressions of who he was as a person. We set out to learn more about him.
John Fletcher was born in Acton to James (a young Revolutionary War soldier) and Lydia (White) Fletcher on July 21, 1790. In Acton’s vital records, we found siblings Betsy (b.1786), James (b. 1788), Daniel (1797-1799), Lydia (b. 1800), and several who died young and whose names were not recorded. James (the father) was involved in the business of Acton and donated a piece of his land in 1806 to be part of the Town Common. The family first lived on what is now Hammond Street but then moved to a farm near the first meeting house (off of Nagog Hill Road near what was then the Brooks Tavern). John’s son, (Rev. James), later wrote about their home site, “Here stood for many years, from 1794 on, the Fletcher homestead, where James Fletcher, the father of Deacon John Fletcher, and his brother James and Betsey, the sister, lived during childhood up to the years of maturity. A few feet from this ancient cellar hole to the west is the site of the first Fletcher russet apple-tree. Childhood’s memories easily recall the ancient unpainted cottage, the quaint old chimney with the brick-oven on the side, and the fire-place large enough for the burning of logs of size and length, and in front to the southeast a vegetable garden unmatched at the time for its culture and richness, and a large chestnut-tree to the south, planted by Deacon John, in early life.” (Acton in History, p. 247)
Though records of John Fletcher’s youth are hard to come by, we do have a physical description (from much later military pension records) that he had fair skin, black hair, and brown eyes. He no doubt attended the school nearby and would have helped on his father’s farm. As he got older, records show that he and his brother James Jr. served in the local militia. In April, 1808, John was already serving as a corporal in Capt. Simon Hosmer’s Company that became known as the Davis Blues. In 1810, John was chosen to be sergeant, and in 1813, he became the company clerk. By that time the country was at war. When the governor of Massachusetts called for troops to defend Boston in the fall of 1814, John Fletcher served as sergeant and clerk of what was by then Capt. Silas Jones’ Company. Brother James Fletcher was a corporal. According to Fletcher’s History, (p. 277-278) the company was first to report to headquarters and met with an enthusiastic reception as it marched through the streets of Boston. The British never attacked, however, and the company saw no action. The War of 1812 concluded soon thereafter. John continued to serve in the militia and eventually was made captain. Town meeting records refer to him as Captain John Fletcher in the years 1821 and 1822.
In June 1812, John’s brother James was initiated into the Masonic Lodge in Concord, and John followed in June 1813. Both men were proposed for membership by Simon Hosmer. In 1814, father James and James Jr. bought a farm from neighbor Paul Brooks, including a house, barn and cooper shop. Presumably, the intention was to expand the father’s farming operation and/or to establish James on a farm of his own. Unfortunately, James Sr. died on Dec. 9, 1815 by the falling of a tree (according to his tombstone and Fletcher’s History, p. 246), an event that must have shocked and greatly changed life for the family.
By 1814, we know that John Fletcher was already in the shoe business, as he listed his occupation as shoemaker when called up to serve in the War. In 1815, the town of Acton paid him $4.67 for providing shoes for the poor. We have not yet discovered details of the early years of his shoe enterprise, such as how he learned the trade, his sources of materials, and when he started hiring outside labor.
In March 1819, James Fletcher Jr. sold to his brother John for $250 a half of his share of the land he held, including his father’s two farms, a woodlot, and “all other lots of every kind which I am now in posion [possession] of”. The records of the brothers’ buying, borrowing, and selling of property are voluminous and hard to pin down completely, but the impression one gets is that John managed to pay off his debts but James may have had more trouble and needed cash infusions at times.
John and his brother James established a store together. Its exact beginnings are a little unclear from the records, but it was definitely operating before 1822 and probably by 1820 when James Fletcher’s census listing included two household members engaged in commerce. According to John’s son Rev. James Fletcher’s History (p. 272), the brothers’ first store was on the site of the present-day Memorial Library. We found from a deed dated Sept. 28, 1820 that James and John Fletcher, traders, bought a store near the meetinghouse from Francis Tuttle for $325. It was apparently quitclaimed by Widow Dorothy Jones on Dec. 7, 1821. (Land Records, Vol. 308, p. 232 & 233)
In January 1822, Worcester’s Massachusetts Spy ran an ad offering a reward to be paid by James and John Fletcher to help track down the criminal(s) who, on the morning of January 22, burned their store “after having been robbed (as is supposed) of its contents.” The brothers would pay $100 for “the detection of the Incendiary or Incendiaries, and the recovery of the Property -- or $50 for either.” (Jan. 30, 1822, p. 4) Surette’s History of Corinthian Lodge noted that on Feb. 4, 1822, “Bros. John & James Fletcher, of Acton, having met with a severe loss by fire, requested assistance from the Lodge, and a subscription paper was opened and signed by the members present.” (p. 128) Fletcher’s History says specifically that the store was on the library site when it “was burnt.”(p. 267)
Trying to identify a large portrait found in a South Acton barn (see blog post), we thought it might be Henry Barker, a self-made businessman whose his cider mill was well-known and a local employer for many years. We were surprised that little had been written about Henry himself and that we could not find a photograph of him. If anyone has any pictures of Henry, his family, and/or the business that could be scanned or otherwise shared, we would be grateful to add them to our collection.
Our first step was to search out Henry Barker’s obituary for the story of his life. We found a notice of his death in the Concord Enterprise (Aug. 29, 1917, p. 8), but we were disappointed to read that “He was one of the best known business men in this section for nearly 60 years and needs no obituary.” That was an unusual statement in the local paper; perhaps the editor did not have a lot of column room that day. We set out to learn what we could from other records.
The Barker name is well-known in Acton. In fact, there are so many Barkers, it is a challenge to disentangle them. However, we do know that Henry Barker was an Acton native, born about 1835 to Isaac Barker and Olive Handley. (The birth was not recorded in Acton, but his death notice in the Enterprise mentioned that he had been born in “the old Gould house on the crossroad to West Acton.”) Henry had three brothers that we know of, Joseph Edwin b. c. 1831, Herman b. c. 1845, and Charles b. c. 1848. Henry’s mother Olive and sister Clara Sophia both died in September 1848. His father married again to Eliza A. G. Bragg on Nov. 8, 1854 in Roxbury.
Henry Barker married Louisa M. Atwood in Cornish, New Hampshire on Dec. 14, 1854. Children followed; Clara Louisa (probably born March 29, 1855; there was name confusion in the early records), Edson Henry (June 2, 1860- June 4, 1861), Addie Henrietta (b. Feb.4, 1863), Delmon Gustavus (Oct. 18, 1865-Oct. 18, 1869), Idella Josephine (b. May 10, 1869), Medora Carlotta (b. June 11, 1872), and Olive Genevra (b. Sept. 23, 1874). We do not know exactly where Henry lived in the first years of his marriage, but land records show that in 1860, Henry bought the house at 196 Main Street (on the outskirts of growing South Acton) from James and Susanna Graham.
Henry’s father Isaac was listed in the 1855 census as a Mast Hoop and Truss Hoop manufacturer. Henry, married and in a separate household, was listed as a Mast Hoop Maker. In his son’s 1860 birth record, Henry was listed as a “Hoop Shaver.” By June 1863, Henry was listed in a military service register as a “Market-man.” (He did not go off to fight in the Civil War; he was apparently deaf in his right ear.) The Society has H. Barker’s Internal Revenue Service 3rd Class Peddler’s License dated Sept. 1, 1863 that had been saved by Henry’s daughter Addie. Henry was still listed in the 1865 Massachusetts census as a Marketman.
Thanks to a note in an old scrapbook held in our library, we checked the probate record of farmer John Tenney (a neighbor of Henry’s father Isaac). We discovered in the November 1864 probate accounting that Henry Barker paid $25 to rent Tenney’s mill. As the only indications of mill products in Tenney’s estate were cider vinegar and barrels, it seems likely that Henry was already gaining experience operating a rented cider mill at that time.
In 1867, Henry Barker bought about a quarter of an acre of land at approximately 150 Main Street (bordered on the other side by today’s Central Street) and built his own cider mill. The 1870 census lists him as a cider manufacturer with real estate of $5000 and personal possessions worth $4000. His household included his wife Louise M., daughters Clara L., Addie H. and Idella J., and brothers Herman and Charles, both listed as cider makers. (The brothers later moved closer to Boston. Herman eventually went into other ventures, but Charles remained in the business.) The 1872 town valuation shows that Barker’s operation included a cider mill with presses, an apple house, a bottling house, and $4000 stock in trade.
Bill Klauer wrote about “Cider Production in Acton” in the Society’s Acton Revisited, Fall 2003. He noted that the Barker mill’s scales were located close to Main Street and their foundation can still be seen from the sidewalk. Farmers would have had their loads weighed, then apples were stored until they could be processed. The apples were sent to a grinding machine, and then the resulting pulp was squeezed in a strong press. The cider was collected in a large vat. The left-over pressed pulp was piled outside the mill, ready for farmers to haul away to be used as cattle feed.
In modern times, preservatives allow sweet cider to be bottled and kept for long periods. Without preservatives, cider fermented. Hard cider was a common beverage in Massachusetts’ early days, but by the time Henry Barker was in business, it was a target of the temperance movement and was beginning to lose ground to beer as the alcoholic beverage of choice. Another cider product, vinegar, required additional aging (with exposure to oxygen and bacteria) beyond the first stage of fermentation. The Boston Daily Advertiser, (Saturday June 26, 1875, p. 1) reported that “The cider mills of Mr. Henry Barker at South Acton are in successful operation. About 1000 barrels of rectified vinegar are on hand, and a large amount of cider has been bottled. The mills are run by steam.” In that year, Briggs & Co.’s Middlesex County Directory, ran an ad for Henry Barker, “Manufacturer, and Wholesale Dealer in Crude and Refined Cider and Cider Vinegar, South Acton, Mass.” (p. 92)
The business was clearly a success. Land purchases, a map dated 1889, and the 1890 Acton valuation show that Henry Barker enlarged his cider and vinegar operation over time, purchasing additional property on both sides of Central Street. In November, 1888, the Concord Enterprise reported that Henry Barker had put up the largest tank in the vicinity, 18 feet in diameter and 16 feet high. (Nov. 17, 1888, p. 2) Nearby, according to Mill Corner (Nylander and Forbes, p. 9), there was a spring (and a stone spring-house as early as 1875) on the opposite side of today’s Central Street from the mill that provided a water source. Next to the mill, the South Acton Universalist Church was built in 1878.
By 1887, Henry had built an impressive home on the hill at 167 Main Street from which he could overlook the cider mill. The family seems to have owned a camera by that time and documented local scenes and some people, including this photo of “Stella” (probably Stella Heath, whose mother was a Barker) with the newly-constructed Henry Barker house in the background.
In October 1888, daughter Addie married Frederick L. Burke whose occupation was “Traveling Agent.” Henry had a home built for them just down the hill at 177 Main Street (now the home of the Discovery Museum). Fred Burke worked in the cider business and eventually became the manager of the cider mill. The couple named their son Henry Barker Burke.
Unusually for a man of such local success, Henry Barker did not show up much in the local newspaper except in the context of the cider mill. However, it was probably Henry who, as noted in our blog post on early Acton baseball, provided a field for the local team to play: “The Actons can boast of one of the finest ball grounds in the state, and all through the kindness of Mr. Barker who gives them the use of the ground and also keeps it in first-class shape. But it must be distinctly understood that his apples are not free, and the acts of last Saturday must not be repeated.” (Concord Enterprise, Aug. 18, 1888, p. 2) In town reports, we also found that Henry Barker was paid during the 1890s for maintaining two street lamps (a private duty in those days).
Henry Barker established a Boston store/office at 88 Commercial Street, a location not far from the waterfront, sometime between 1875 and 1878 when he was listed in Sampson, Davenport, and Company’s Boston Directory in the business of “vinegar, &c.”(p. 81). He was listed in 1883 as an agent for an industry newspaper at the same address (Geo. P. Rowell and Co.'s American Newspaper Directory, 1883, p. 610) and appeared there in Boston directories for the rest of his life. Brother Charles was listed in the 1880 Boston City Directory as a salesman at 88 Commercial St., living in South Acton. (p. 83) By 1882, the Malden directory showed him as a resident, working in “cider vinegar (88 Commercial, B.)” (p. 37) and Boston directories showed him in the business there in later years, including 1900 and 1915.
In the late 1880s, temperance agitation started to lead to legislative bans on the sale of “intoxicating liquors.” There was much uncertainty about whether cider, which was ”sweet” for only a short period before it fermented, would also be banned. The farmers of Acton, Boxborough and Stow were concerned about the effect of bans on their apple business, and confusion could not have been good for the Barker operation, either. Probably as a result, Henry Barker of South Acton was elected as a director of the Fruit Growers, Cider and Cider Vinegar Makers’ Association of Massachusetts. (Boston Journal, Jan. 8, 1890, p. 4)
Apple production and the cider vinegar industry made it through that period. 1896 saw a particularly large crop of apples. The Enterprise reported on October 1 that “Henry Barker received 1800 barrels of cider apples at his mill in three days last week. He is running his mill night and day.” (p. 8). On November 19, the Enterprise reported “Henry Barker is building another large tank for cider; he has already ground over 20,000 barrels and still they come.” (p. 8) During the autumn, the pressure to process all of the apples must have been intense. According to Phelan’s History of the Town of Acton, the Barker mill “ turned out thousands of barrels of cider which was stored in huge tanks and eventually shipped to the vinegar dispensing companies.... In a season when the fruitage was heavy, a combination of wind and rain could mean thousands of bushels arriving at the mill.... Wagons loaded to the limit would now and again form a queue a hundred yards long at the Barker mill.”(p. 263) Apples would also come in by rail from farmers farther afield. The Concord Enterprise of Oct. 21, 1897 mentioned apples being received by train from New Hampshire. (p.8)
The Society has one picture of the Barker Cider Mill, date unknown but probably before 1900; see blog post on photographer F. J. Taylor for an idea of the date.
The business had its share of troubles and tragedies. The Boston Daily Globe reported in 1887 that “an undersized boy of 14” expertly opened the cider mill’s safe (armed with a revolver). He was caught and fortunately no one was hurt. (Sept. 30, p. 13) In October, 1896, however, employee John Jackman was found expired in the large tank after having been at work all day. It was thought that he had been overcome by gasses. (Concord Enterprise, Oct. 15, 1896, p. 8, Acton death record) This may have been the reason the new tank was built in November 1896.
In the early morning hours of October 28, 1900, a fire started near the engine room of the Barker cider mill. A watchman alerted the village, and firemen came from the other Acton villages and Maynard, but their pumping soon overwhelmed the water supply from the spring-fed basin across the street. Barker’s storage tanks started leaking many gallons of cider, and someone had the idea to pump cider to douse the flames. It was an unsuccessful attempt, and two large buildings of the cider plant burned to the ground. The firemen were able to save a large storehouse, the large tank outside the building, and 55,000 gallons of vinegar. The thirty to forty men who had been working there at the time lost their source of employment, at least temporarily. (Concord Enterprise, Nov. 1, 1900, p. 8; Boston Herald, Oct. 29, 1900, p. 3) In the Enterprise, Henry Barker thanked all those who had come to assist in putting out the fire (Nov. 1, 1900, p. 8). After a period of uncertainty, on December 12, the Enterprise reported that Henry Barker would rebuild his mill on the old site. (p. 8) At the March 25, 1901 town meeting, Acton voted to upgrade its fire-fighting capacity immediately, to buy 800 more feet of rubber-lined hose for South Acton, and to purchase “the F. R. R. water supply basin located near the cider mill of Henry Barker [and to] excavate and properly fix said basin for a possible water supply in case of fire.” Also, the town voted to hire “a competent man at each part of the town where fire apparatus is located to properly care for it.”
One might have expected Henry Barker to slow down by the 1900s, but apparently, he did not. In 1908, the Enterprise reported that after a serious illness, “Henry Barker is able to attend to his business again and goes daily to Boston.” (Apr. 29, p8)
On January 22, 1914, Henry’s wife Louisa (Atwood) Barker passed away at the age of 81, after an illness of several months. Sometime in 1917, Henry moved to Dorchester to stay with his daughter. He remarried that summer; Acton’s records show that Henry Barker, merchant, age 82 (born in Acton, son of Isaac Barker and Olive Handley) married Emma C. (Sawyer) Gove of Boston, age 53 on July 28, 1917. Unfortunately, the marriage lasted only a few weeks.
On August 15, 1917, the Concord Enterprise reported that Henry Barker, who had been living in Dorchester for a few months, was suffering from gangrene of the foot. He had been operated on at the Forest Hills hospital, and there was at first hope for recovery. (p. 8) Unfortunately, he died in Boston on August 23, 1917. He was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery. His heirs were his daughters, listed in the Concord Enterprise as Clara L. Barker, Addie H. Burke, Della J. Tuttle, all of Acton, and Olive G. B. Hunt and Medora C. Robbins, both of Melrose. (Sept 12, p. 4)
The Barker mill in South Acton operated for many years after Henry’s death. Owned at first by Addie (Barker) Burke then her husband Fred, it was later bought by J. P. W. von Laer Company of Boston. Fred Burke became a partner in the enterprise and continued to manage the mill until his death in 1940. On October 27, 1951, the Barker Mill burned down again. It was the end of an era.
One of our members recently brought to the Society a huge portrait that had no identification. It had been used as a backing for a framed map. At first, it seemed to be a normal photograph, but looking more carefully revealed that someone had enhanced its details by adding black and white highlights. The size of the portrait and the artist’s additions make us think that the man had some wealth and social standing.
We thought that there was hope of identifying this man; his clothes might make the picture easy to date and Acton's wealthy people were relatively few. Prominent businessmen were more likely than others to have their photographs published, so we searched local histories and our own photograph collection. So far, we have not succeeded. It has been suggested to us that the era of the portrait was the 1880s, but research in guides to men’s fashion has not given us definitive confirmation of the time period.
Our only clue is that the picture was found in a barn at what is now 184 Main Street. The Society has been the recipient of other items from that barn, most related to the South Acton cider vinegar business and family of Henry Barker (1835-1917). The barn was across the street from the house of cider mill manager Frederick Burke and his wife (Henry’s daughter) Addie Barker. We know that the Burkes gave memorabilia to Harriet Cobleigh, owner of the barn. It is possible that this picture, perhaps behind a map, was part of the Barker/Burke gifts.
Could this portrait have been of Henry Barker? He was the owner of a successful cider mill and old enough to have gray in his beard by the 1880s. He would best fit our guess that it was someone of local prominence. (See blog post about Henry Barker.) Unfortunately, and surprisingly, we have not been able to find an identified picture of Henry Barker for comparison. At this point, he is only one possibility for the subject of the portrait.
Identifying unlabeled photographs is almost always a struggle. Can you help us to identify this man or to confirm the time period in which the portrait would have been done? Please contact us.
Recently, we came across a collection of pictures that were found in the attic of a house on Kinsley Road, evidently once the home of members of the Beach family. Thumbtack holes in the mats show that they had been displayed on a wall, indicating that they were all of family members or close friends.
Among the pictures were several of men in a work setting. Two were labelled “Hall Bros,” a West Acton manufacturer of wooden ware that was an important employer in the village for many years. Two were duplicates of photos already in our collection for which some Hall Brothers employees had been identified:
Our duplicate copy of this picture says on the back: "Back Row / 4th from Right Ernie Banks / First man Ben Coolige / fifth from right Archie Beach".
This duplicate of a Hall Brothers photo had no identification, but our other copy did:
Our duplicate gave the following identifications:
Back Row, standing:
Given this identification, Ben Coolidge must the man standing in the back right of the previous picture, where he would be the "first man" from the right.
The next photo featured tubs, pails, churns and other wooden products, so we easily accepted the Hall Brothers identification written on its back. However, after we scanned and enlarged the photo, we were surprised to see that a large churn was painted with the slogan “Get the Best The Blanchard Churn”, and a box said “The Blanchard Print Butter Carrier.” Now we were confused. Was our picture labelled incorrectly? Did someone assume that wooden ware must have been Hall Brothers’? Was this perhaps another company associated with West Acton’s Blanchard family?
Fortunately, knowledgeable members of the Society often can save us a lot of research time. One told us that Hall Brothers bought the Blanchard churn patent. Blanchard churns were actually a well-known New Hampshire product. A Biennial Report from New Hampshire’s Bureau of Labor (dated 1902) reported that “In December, 1900, Nashua lost the Blanchard Churn company, whose entire plant was purchased by parties from West Acton, Mass., and removed to that town.” The Boston Herald (Dec. 28, 1900, p. 10) reported that Blanchard’s stock and machinery had been purchased by Hall Brothers to enlarge their business. Searching our collection of items related to Hall Brothers’ operation, we found a piece of Hall Brothers letterhead; their logo by that time featured a list of products sold by the company including “Improved Cylinder, Blanchard and Lightning Churns,” butter molds, carriers, tubs and pails. Our picture seems to have been a good representation of the company’s business. One mystery solved. But who are the men in the picture? Given the identifications above, we believe that Ben Coolidge is on the left and Archie Beach is on the right. Can anyone help us with our identification?
Our next picture had no identification, but at least two of the young men are also in the churn and pail picture. Were they all Hall Brothers employees? Were they relatives? Is the one on the left Archie J. Beach or someone else?
The photo collection also included a wonderful interior picture of workers at a mill, many of them barefoot. We think it may be the upstairs level of the South Acton Woolen Mill. We do not know the identities of the men in the photo. We would appreciate any clues.
Finally, there were family photos. The first two appear to be nearly the same group of women:
We have no clues about the women in white blouses below:
For reference, at different times and from different descendants, we have received two copies of the following photo of the Beach family around 1905. The woman in the chair is apparently Georgiana (Munroe) Beach who was born c. 1823, in Granville, Nova Scotia, married George William Beach, lived at the end of her life in West Acton with her daughter Estella (Mrs. Ernest) Morse, and died in Acton in December, 1909. According to an unsourced/undated obituary, she had sixteen children, eighty-seven grandchildren, seventy-two great-grandchildren, and five great-great grandchildren at the time of her death, leaving plenty of room for confusion about identification of family members. Based on the pictures’ donors’ information and suggestions from other family members, we have some identifications for this picture and a number of remaining questions. Can you confirm/correct these identifications or identify others?
Back Row, from Left to Right:
We would be grateful for any help that you can give us in identifying these pictures. Please contact us.
Researching the life of Sarah (Faulkner) Skinner for a recent blog post, we discovered that all of her sons left Acton to build businesses elsewhere. Abraham, the eldest, moved to Brookfield, Massachusetts and became a trader. By the census of 1870, he had amassed personal possessions worth $30,000, an unusually large amount in those days. Second son Henry moved to Andover and opened a store with a partner. Henry died young, and his probate file contained an extensive inventory. Francis, the youngest son, reportedly went to Boston and became a successful merchant. Fletcher’s Acton in History noted that he was generous to Henry’s widow, and probate records show that Francis became guardian to Henry’s son.
We set out to find Acton’s Francis Skinner, merchant of Boston. We had a surprising amount of difficulty at first. We did find a Francis Skinner who was fabulously wealthy for the time. His son and grandson were mentioned in Boston newspapers as members of a “prominent” family in the top tier of Boston society. Acton’s Francis Skinner grew up relatively secure, but not rich, the son of a doctor and descendant of a respected family in a small country town. He was only thirteen when his father died and would have started out with almost nothing. We were convinced that the Francis we found in Boston could not possibly be “our” Francis. But we were wrong.
Acton’s records and histories did not help us to connect the Boston merchant Francis Skinner to Acton, but fortunately, Boston’s newspapers provided a great deal of information. Commerce, wealth, connections, gossip, and a touch of “scandal” gave reporters plenty to work with, and we were able to put together a story of three generations of Francis Skinners who were unknown to us.
The Society recently was given an 1834 letter that had been sold as a postage collector’s item, a “cover” that pre-dated the use of stamps. Folded, it was addressed to Abraham Skinner, Esq. of Brookfield, Massachusetts.
Inside, the letter was preserved:
Acton Feb. 8, 1834,
I have neglected, longer than I intended to do, to inform you of your mother’s health. She is pretty comfortable this winter, would be very, were it not for the continued pain in her eyes. She has not had the least perception of light for several months. Her situation is in many respects less uncomfortable since she has become more accustomed to perfect darkness. She grows familiar with the house, and walks with much less confusion, is some part of the time, able to busy herself with knitting, which she considers quite a privilege.
She wishes to be affectionately remembered to you.
I am much oblidged to you for the papers, which you had the goodness to send me.
Respectfully yr Cousin,
One cannnot help being touched by the letter and feeling admiration for Mrs. Skinner who, while dealing with pain and disruption, felt privileged to be able to knit. We set out to learn more about Mrs. Skinner, her son Abraham, and the writer of the letter.
Mrs. Skinner and Her Family
Abraham Skinner, Esq. of Brookfield, Mass. was born in Acton on July 25, 1789 to Dr. Abraham and Sarah (Faulkner) Skinner. According to Phalen’s History of the town of Acton (page 98), the father, Dr. Abraham Skinner, was Acton’s third physician. He had come from Woodstock, CT, for reasons we have not yet been able to discover, and started his Acton practice in 1781. He married Sarah Faulkner in March 1788.
Sarah (or Sally) Faulkner was the daughter of Francis Faulkner and Rebecca Keyes whose large family lived in the landmark Faulkner House in South Acton. Francis was prominent in Acton. He ran the Faulkner mills, represented the people in the Provincial Congress of 1774 and the Committee of Safety, attained the rank of Lt. Colonel in the Revolutionary War, and served the town in numerous roles, including a 35-year stint as town clerk. According to Shattuck’s history of Concord and surrounding towns (pages 292-293), Francis and Rebecca Faulkner had eleven children. (We were able to confirm ten of the births through Acton vital records; one is harder to pin down.) Sarah was the third child.
Dr. Abraham and Sarah Skinner had four children, Abraham (born 1789), Henry (born 1792), Maria (born 1794), and Francis (born 1797). Fletcher’s Acton in History gives two different identities for Dr. Abraham’s wife, an odd mistake given that Fletcher seems to have known Henry’s aged widow. Perhaps the doctor was married earlier elsewhere, but we found no record of it. All Acton records show that the wife and mother of Dr. Abraham’s family was Sarah Faulkner.
We did not find any documentary evidence of Sarah’s life while she was raising her children during the 1790s and earliest years of the 1800s. Her husband does show up in local records. He received payments periodically for “doctering” the town’s poor, and in September 1792, the town voted upon temporarily opening a quarantine “house” for inoculating residents against smallpox under the direction of Dr. Skinner, provided that it could be done ”with Safty” for the townspeople.
Dr. Abraham Skinner was apparently one of the contributors to the cost of a winning ticket from the Harvard College lottery in 1794. His share of the prize money has been said to have gone into building or improving a house for the Skinners’ growing family at what is now 140 Nagog Hill Road. Land records show that Abraham paid David Barnard on Sept. 5, 1786 for a 60 acre farm and the east half of the existing house on the property, plus a half interest in the barn, garden, yard, wells, and a “cyder mill” behind the house. On Sept 27, 1788, Dr. Skinner paid Reuben Brown for 18 acres of land and the other half of the house, barn and barnyard. Specifically excluded from the sale was a school house standing on the premises.
Dr. Abraham Skinner became a charter member of Concord’s Corinthian Masonic Lodge in 1797 along with Sarah’s brother Winthrop Faulkner. [See Surette’s history of the Lodge.] Abraham was appointed to Acton’s school committee in 1799 and 1809 and to the large committee formed in 1805 to deal with the contentious issue of where to locate the new meeting house. He died in 1810. Records of the time did not mention the cause.
Dr. Abraham’s estate inventory gives us an idea of the life of the household. The home farm was valued at $2,500, and there were fifteen additional acres of pasture land in Littleton and a pew in the Acton meeting house. The Skinners owned clothing, furniture, (a variety of beds, tables, chairs, and a bookcase), bedding and table linens, a woolen carpet, several looking glasses, a day clock worth about $30, spinning wheels, dishes, utensils, towels, table cloths, tools, chaises, a sleigh, a horse, harnesses, a saddle, cows, sheep, a cart and a plow. There is little evidence of a medical practice, not surprising given the state of medicine at the time. Dr Skinner did own a medical library. In addition, there were numerous debts to Dr. Skinner from townspeople. The estate was originally administered by Sarah’s brother Winthrop, but Henry took over by September 1814.
Sarah Skinner was listed as the head of household in the 1810 census with two males between 10 and 25, one female between 16 and 25, and one other “free white person”. In May, 1811, children Henry and Maria (minors above the age of fourteen) petitioned the probate court to allow “Widow Sarah Skinner” to be their guardian. Son Francis made the same petition in April, 1812. Son Abraham had already left his parents’ household by 1810.
According to Fletcher’s History (Biographical Sketches, page 1), Sarah’s sons Henry and Francis helped to run the farm for a while. Henry appears in Acton militia lists in the 1810-15 period, and Francis appears in 1815. In Feb. 1816, the town paid Henry Skinner for boarding John Faulkner for 8 weeks. During that year, Francis left to work in Boston. Henry eventually moved to Andover and opened a store there. No Skinner is listed as head of household in the 1820 Acton census, so we have to assume that Sarah was living with relatives by then. The actual sale of the Skinner farm to Charles Tuttle was not completed until 1827. Acton’s history books made no more mention of Sarah (Faulkner) Skinner.
Skinner Voices, from Indiana
Because Sarah Skinner disappears from Acton’s history books in the 1810s, the letter describing her later life is a wonderful addition to our Society’s archives. However, it turns out that ours was not the only letter from the Skinner family that survived. The University of Notre Dame Special Collections’ Manuscripts of Early National And Antebellum America contains a collection of letters to and from Abraham Skinner of Brookfield. A few of the letters were written by his mother Sarah. Given how seldom women's thoughts and actions were recorded in our histories, finding this collection was a wonderful surprise. Sarah's letters start in about 1806 and continue after she lost her husband. Sarah mentioned some news of family members, but what stands out most from her letters is how much she missed her son and wanted him to write and to visit more often. Her letters are a reminder of how difficult separation was for families of the time and how completely cut-off they must have felt when letters failed to arrive, sometimes for very long periods.
We also learned from the Skinner correspondence that Henry was in Brookfield for a while in 1811 but then returned to Acton by early 1812. His letters show that he was trying to find work in a store in either location, clearly ready to move on from the farm. The Skinner collection also includes a March 1817 letter from daughter Maria Skinner, the only record that we have seen of her beyond the mention of her birth and death in Acton's vital records. Maria echoed her mother's yearning to hear from the men of the family, including Francis who had not been in Acton since the summer before. Maria, left at home, was feeling "allmost forsaken." She also mentioned that Sarah had provided lodging for "Mr. Potter" followed by another family, so we now know that Sarah had others in her household during the years after losing her husband.
Who wrote the 1834 letter about Sarah Skinner?
After researching Sarah's life, our next question was who, exactly, wrote the letter donated to our Society. “M. Faulkner” signed the letter to Sarah’s son Abraham as “yr Cousin.” On the reverse of the letter, in a very different hand, there is a notation: “Mary Faulkners Letter Feby 8, 1834”. Allowing for the possibility that the term “cousin” might have been used somewhat loosely, we could still narrow down the potential writers.
We searched Acton’s Vital Records for “M” Faulkner births. Of the six births we found, five were Marys. Omitting details of our research here, we concluded that the most likely candidate was Mary, born Sept. 11, 1801 to Winthrop (Sarah’s brother) and Mary (Wright) Faulkner. This Mary actually would have been Abraham Skinner, Esq.’s first cousin. She lived to 1871 and never married, so she still would have had her Faulkner surname in 1834. We thought that our research would stop there, but our theory received a boost from a rich source that we did not expect to find.
Sarah Skinner, a Woman of Note
Researching Acton in the early years of the nineteenth century is made more difficult by a lack of available newspapers and very few surviving letters and diaries. However, sometimes one gets lucky. Not only did we come across the Skinner Family Correspondence at Notre Dame, but we found Sarah mentioned in two Boston newspapers after she died in 1846. Her death was briefly noted in Boston’s Emancipator and Republican (March 25, 1846), and the Boston Recorder (March 26, 1846) published a memorial tribute. Signed “W,” it was dated Acton, Mass., March 19th, 1846 and included a request that it be reprinted in other religiously-oriented newspapers in the Northeast. The writer felt compelled to write about Mrs. Sarah Skinner, described as “always polite, well informed, kind, lovely,” interesting, unwavering in her faith, and happy. When younger, she had liked to read, but having suffered greatly during the "complete destruction of her eyes," at the end of her life she was “stone blind.” Her hearing, fortunately, continued to be acute. She still enjoyed conversing, and her interest in life and her friends was undiminished. As we surmised from the 1834 letter, she did not complain about her life but found much to be grateful for. “Her only daughter was long since dead, but she had left grandsons, able loving and true; and she had a pious unmarried niece, who was altogether a daughter unto her, to the last.” The cousin of Abraham Skinner who wrote our letter, Mary Faulkner, was presumably this unmarried niece, daughter of Sarah’s brother Winthrop.
We thought, when we started this research, that Sarah (Faulkner) Skinner had been neglected by history. We were delighted to discover that it was possible to learn something about her, a woman clearly remarkable for her fortitude. We also know from her own letters that she was human, sometimes lonely and sometimes anxious about her absent children.
Many of Acton’s stories have been lost, but we are grateful to have found this one. As we begin the new year, we take this opportunity to express appreciation for people who donate items to archives and for organizations that work to preserve and share them so that others can learn about the past. In the context of Sarah Skinner’s story, we especially would like to thank the University of Notre Dame’s Rare Books and Special Collections for their assistance with our research.
The Society is lucky to have a collection of dance cards that were obviously kept as mementos. They give us a glimpse of Acton's community life in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Despite the fact that people lacked today's conveniences, they clearly were able to enjoy social occasions.
As far back as we have newspaper records, we find that dances were held in town. Venues included the Town Hall in Acton “Centre”, Exchange Hall in South Acton (both built in the 1860s), and Littlefield’s Hall in West Acton (built about 1893 and burned down in 1904; see our blog post for further information). Our earliest dance card was created for the "Eighth Annual Bal Masque" held at Exchange Hall on January 21, 1875, confirming that dances were being held as far back as the 1860s. Holidays were favorite occasions for formal balls, but dances seem to have been held quite often. Some were fundraisers for local groups, some were either public or private celebrations, and others may have been private profit-making ventures.
Dance cards were printed in advance with the details of the event, usually including the committee in charge and the group who would provide the music. The inside of the card listed the dances that would be performed. Blank lines were provided for filling in the name of the partner to whom each dance was promised. The card would have a decorative cover, making it an attractive souvenir of the evening. Held together by a string or ribbon, the card sometimes had a pencil attached for convenience.
One of our earliest dance cards was created for the Royal Arcanum Grand Ball held in Exchange Hall on January 13, 1885. The dances and musical selections were specified, mostly quadrilles, (danced in squares of four couples), with a few partner dances interspersed. In the middle of the Ball, there was an intermission and a supper.
According to newspaper reports, the local baseball club held fundraising dances as far back as 1884. Several of our dance cards made it very clear that patrons were supporting the team.
Researching the use of dance cards, we found that many sources indicate that dance cards were carried by women and were filled in by male dance partners. In our collection, however, we find dance cards used by a man.
In keeping with the customs of the time, the owner of this 1892 card danced with more than one partner, but he blocked out his time carefully with “M.I.S.,” including the Grand March and the first and final dances. We also note that a wide variety of dances were offered, with a mix of group dances such as the Quadrille and the Contra and partner dances such as the Waltz, Polka, Schottische, Galop and the relatively uncommon Newport.
Attendees were not all dancers. According to newspaper reports, spectators could buy tickets for the platform or the gallery. The Society has an invitation to a 1904 South Acton dance which cost $1 for a “subscription” and only 25 cents for an orchestra or balcony chair. In the Town Hall, in 1896, non-dancers at the Christmas dance were given an adjoining room at which to play whist (Concord Enterprise, Dec. 24, page 8).
The events, at least for the more formal occasions, would include a meal. An advertisement in the November 23, 1899 Concord Enterprise (page 8) told dancers what they could expect at the Thanksgiving Ball at Littlefield’s Hall; a “hostler” to take care of horses at the door of the Hall, a coat check and convenient toilet rooms, an excellent dance floor, good music, and a supper for 35 cents consisting of various oyster dishes, pickles, olives, ice creams, cakes, fruit, and coffee. The ad made the claim that “No where in this vicinity is offered so many advantages for comfort and facilities for enjoyment at a ball, as at West Acton.”
The competition for dancers evidently was becoming fierce. Organizers of a Concord Junction dance advertised in the South Acton and West Acton locals on November 16. South Acton’s Thanksgiving Ball organizers offered anyone who bought Ball tickets free admission to a dance the week before. A report on the complimentary dance mentioned that “best of all there was no dust in the hall." (Nov. 30, 1899, page 8). The December 7 issue of the Enterprise (page 8) reported that the South Acton Thanksgiving Ball was “great success” with 80 couples who had “tripped the light fantastic toe” and every spectator seat filled. In contrast, the West Acton news included a letter from H. A. Littlefield denouncing “as false the malicious story started Thanksgiving day or the day before that my family was sick with diphtheria and that I was not allowed to be out” so that “it would be imprudent to attend the ball in Littlefield’s hall. The story had its effect; there was no time to refute it and it spread with a rapidity that leads to the conclusion that it was pre-arranged.” Stories, true or not, spread quickly in a small town.
One other item of note struck us as we looked at the old dance cards; the affairs could be long. Starting around 8 pm and including a dinner, they went as late as 2:30 am. Getting home, for those who lived beyond easy walking distance, would have involved using and then caring for horses after a long night. One has to be a bit awed by former Actonians’ energy.
One of the almost-forgotten aspects of warfare in World War I was the dependence of the military on wood supplies. The Allies’ war effort required a tremendous amount of lumber for their operations. It was used for shoring up trenches and mines, lining roads to make them passable after destruction by shelling and overuse, building structures such as hospitals, ordnance depots and bridges, supporting barbed wire barriers, and manufacturing smaller but necessary items such as boxes for shells.
There were still forests in Britain, many on private lands, but the manpower needs of the war had created a shortage of labor to cut them down. In April 1917, a colonel attached to the British War Office sent a cable to an American colonel in Boston mentioning this critical need. Lumbering was something at which Americans had experience to offer. Government and industry leaders in New England decided to recruit and equip ten units of skilled men and send them to the Allies’ aid. Getting approval from both sides of the Atlantic took a month, so the practical work started in mid-May.
Part of the committee that got the process going was Arthur F. Blanchard of West Acton. Each New England state pledged to equip a sawmill unit at an estimated cost of $12,000-$14,000 each, including the cost of food, lodging, medical care, and the issue of “hat, shoes, mackinaw and oilskins” (Boston Daily Globe, May 23, 1917, page 10). Private lumbering companies, including Blanchard’s, pledged money to pay for four additional companies. The British government would provide transportation to and from England and would pay the men’s salaries from the time of sailing, for a term of up to a year’s service.
According to the Boston Daily Globe (June 12, 1917, page 4), some people predicted that the venture would fail because of scarce labor in lumbering in the United States. This concern was unfounded. The committee advertised and within two days had enough men for three units. Many applications were reviewed and eventually whittled down to about 35 men per unit plus support staff. One of the units was composed mostly of men from Acton and surrounding towns under the leadership of Arthur Blanchard’s son Webster. Locally, it was thought of as the Blanchard & Gould company, but its title was New England Sawmill Unit No. 3.
The logistics were daunting. Each unit was to have a portable sawmill and everything it needed to function independently for a year, including an engine and boiler, wagons, axes, saws, blacksmiths’ and carpenters’ tools, harnesses, lamps, cooking utensils, bedding, and other camp equipment. Over two thousand different items were procured, carefully accounted for so that each would go to the proper unit, and delivered to Boston. One-hundred and twenty work-ready horses were bought and kept in Watertown until it was time to ship out. On the personnel side, men had to be found who were experienced, “of good character,” and willing to sail on two days’ notice. Each man needed to be approved for a passport and to sign an individual contract with the British government. Not only were men needed to deal with cutting, transporting and milling the lumber, (in roles such as the interestingly named “head chopper” and “swamper”), but there was also need of cooks, bookkeepers, blacksmiths and veterinary support. In an amazing feat of cooperation and organization, the ten units were created, equipped, and ready to go in a month. America’s military was just gearing up at the time, and New Englanders were proud of getting help to their allies so quickly. A self-congratulatory note appeared in an industry publication: “There was not an amateur or an epaulette connected with the affair. It was worked out practically – hence its success.” (Lumber World Review, Nov. 10, 1917, p. 54)
When organized, the lumbermen convened in Boston where they stayed at the South Armory. The committee had organized a welcome for them, arranging for them to see a baseball game and be eligible for free motion picture and vaudeville performances. At least some of the men also participated in the Elks’ Flag Day parade, accompanied by their mascot, a black bear cub. The Saw Mill Unit’s send-off seems surprisingly generous, but they were in the vanguard. There may also have been a less generous motivation; the organizers seem to have been nervous about lumberjacks running amok. “The Ten Mill Units are a civilian, not a military organization, so it was impossible to impose military discipline on the men, many of them loose in a large city for the first time in their lives. However, it must be said, that the men behaved a lot better than anticipated.” (Lumber World Review, November 10, 1917 p. 54) On the evening of June 14, they were feted at a banquet at the Boston City Club. The Christian Science Monitor noted the next day the unusual nature of the dinner as members of the club and the Public Safety Committee in dress suits mingled with lumberjacks, “some in overalls, moccasins, flannel shirts and bared arms, the type of men who fought in the American Revolution.” (June 15, 1917, p 7) Despite concerns over attire, it was reported to have been a successful event.
For the organizers, there was some stress as departure-time approached, because some of the expected men did not show up. According to the Lumber World Review article, as late as the morning of the day of departure, they were missing three cooks and a couple of blacksmiths. Somehow they were able to fill the slots, “although the last cook got over the gang plank just as it was being raised.” (p. 54)
The Sawmill Unit sailed to New York, arriving on June 16th. On the 18th, they sailed on the troopship Justicia to Halifax, staying in port until June 25th, when they were joined by 4,000-5,000 Canadian troops and headed across the Atlantic. A letter written at sea by Whitney Bent described the trip. (Concord Enterprise, July 25, 1917, p. 7) Two ships accompanied them at a distance of about ¾ of a mile, one with the horses and wheat and one that carried nitroglycerine. The Justicia apparently also carried wheat and lumber. The letter did not mention where all the equipment was, perhaps with the horses. It was, fortunately, a relatively smooth sail. The men were required to wear life preservers at all times. They slept in tightly-arranged hammocks, alternating in direction of head and feet. For most of the journey, there was not much to see except the other ships and occasional whales, although the men kept busy with “church, boxing, cards and reading” and received news and baseball scores by wireless. A dog fight between different groups’ pets interrupted the monotony. On July 3, Bent added to his letter that they had been joined by “submarine chasers” and there were possible submarine sightings that day and the night before. The Boston Daily Globe, (Aug. 19, 1917, p. 36), printed a letter from Hugh Connors of Maynard who also described the trip. “We arrived, as you probably know, July 5, [in Scotland], after a long tiresome trip. The last two days we were in the war zone. We had been on the boat so long that some of the boys didn’t care whether we were torpedoed or not.” According to Mr. Connors, at the end of the trip, the boat was fired upon by two German submarines. Two torpedoes were fired, but missed by 12 feet or less. A contrasting letter, written to the head of the organizing committee back in Massachusetts by Downing P. Brown, general manager of the ten mill units, said that “For a time there was considerable conjecture about the possibility of submarines, etc., but as soon as the fleet of destroyers arrived, the tension relaxed and everyone felt safe.” (Lumber World Review, Nov. 10, 1917, p. 56) The different tone may have been because of censors. The Boston Sunday Globe (Aug. 26, 1917, a.m. edition, p. 10) quoted a letter from Hap Reed to his parents that the Atlantic crossing was “a most bitter experience – more than I can write about” and that British censors were keeping the men from revealing details of the trip. Whatever actually happened, it was a dangerous time to cross the Atlantic.
After landing in Liverpool, the “lumberjack unit” took a train to northern Scotland where they were to work in forests on private estates, including that of Andrew Carnegie. Unit No. 3 worked at Ardgay. They had to wait for their equipment to arrive by boat. The Concord Enterprise (Aug. 22, 1917, p. 3) reported that the “Blanchard & Gould mill known officially as Unit No. 3. had the distinction of cutting and sawing the first lumber on foreign soil for the cause of the Allies, by an organized body of men and complete equipment from the United States.” The first work was done by Burpee Steele of Boxboro and G. Howard Reed of Acton. Three officers from the general staff were present and inscribed a piece of wood with “First Lumber Sawed by American Lumbermen in this Country, July 28, 1917 at 3:20 p m.” A portion was inscribed by Reed and Steele and given as a gift to Arthur Blanchard for Christmas, 1917. The Society has a picture of the inscription.
Once the mills were up and running, the men worked hard. Friendly rivalry seems to have boosted their productivity; letters home periodically mentioned units’ records relative to the others. An unsourced newspaper clipping in the Society’s collection (from sometime after March 23, 1918) reported that Unit No. 3 was proud to have been the first to reach the million-foot mark. They were also pleased that they increased their productivity enough in December, 1917 to maintain their weekly average output despite Scotland’s low sunlight at that time of year and a week off at the end of the month.
The men of the whole Sawmill Unit were treated well by the local inhabitants of the region and seem to have caused little trouble, though a retrospective article in the Northern Times mentioned occasional rowdiness, attributed to the locals being a bit too generous in supplying alcohol. (It also mentioned one serious accident that we did not find in our local newspapers.) Published reports of the time generally focused on lumber production, not leisure activities, but we do know Unit 3’s clerk Glenn Gould was considered the unit’s musician and seems somehow to have had access to a phonograph. We also know that about half of the sawmill men took the train to London for their December break to see the sights. There must have been some time for mingling, because according to the Boston Sunday Herald, “more than a dozen Scotch wives” would head to America when the Sawmill Unit returned (June 30, 1918, p. B2)
By all reports, the Sawmill Unit was a success. The men produced more than 20,000,000 feet of lumber for the Allies. Though they were exempt from the draft during the term of their contract with the British government, they worked long hours and completed the job early. According to a Boston Globe article, the New England Sawmill Unit was commended by the British government for doing “twice the work at half the cost of any organization producing lumber for war service.” (Dec. 1, 1918, p. 16) Their efforts were also noticed by soldiers in the trenches. The same article quoted a soldier’s letter that having boards lining the trenches “was particularly appreciated in wet weather, when we were protected from the mud and water which otherwise would have been around on all sides.”
Though the Sawmill Unit fulfilled their contract, the war continued. Most of the men of the unit, as soon as their work was completed, enlisted in the military. Apparently, their status had been subject to much “diplomatic correspondence” between the British and American authorities. “Many of the young men resented the fact that they were published in their districts as delinquents [from registering for the draft], though their records were ultimately cleared.” (Boston Globe, June 16, 1918, page 7) Over a hundred of them joined the U.S. Army’s 20th Engineers who dealt with overseas forestry activities. Six Acton men from Sawmill Unit No. 3 were among them. A large number of the sawmill men, including Webster Blanchard, went into the Navy. That sounds surprising, but there were significant naval operations near northern Scotland.
We did not find any mention in newspapers on this side of the Atlantic of what happened to the animals and equipment after the sawmill unit disbanded. However, we did find a June, 1919 ad in the Aberdeen Press and Journal stating that the Timber Supply Department of Scotland was selling ten portable New England Sawmills, complete with spare parts. That September, the first reunion of the New England Saw Mill Unit was held in Boston. Twelve local men attended, and “Webb” Blanchard presided.
The Society is lucky to have a collection of Webster Blanchard’s photographs showing Unit 3’s and other sawmills in operation, the Unit 3 crew, the horses, and even the pets that they brought over with them. You can view the photographs at Jenks Library during our open hours. We would like to add to our collection; if anyone has photographs with members of Unit No. 3 identified, letters written by them from Scotland, or any other Acton-related World War 1 pictures and materials, we would be grateful for donations, copies, or scans.