Lessons Learned from a Public History Project

October 17th, 2013 by Andover Historical Society

The following article was written by Kimberly Whitworth, J.D. for publication on the NEHGS e-newsletter. Ms. Whitworth has given permission for it to be shared with Andover Historical Society readers on our site.

During the past year, I have been working on creating an on-line map and database of the Old Burial Ground, located on Academy Road in North Andover, Massachusetts.  The Old Burial Ground was established around 1650 and the site holds the remains of the founding families of Andover, as well as their descendants.  This means the graves marking the burials—as well as the burials themselves—are of historic significance to early New England.

OldBurialGround Map-1

I developed the idea for this project from a graduate class I took last fall which considered the historical aspects of the New England landscape.  Burial grounds certainly do not come to mind immediately as a landscape, but all have been created by the human hand.

People often think of burial grounds as static, where nothing changes.  What I discovered at the end of my project is that the Map is only a 2013 “snapshot” of this particular landscape.  I was fortunate enough to have access to the work of prior efforts to collect and catalogue the burials and markers at the site.

When reviewing maps and data taken during the 1960s and the 1990s it became clear the site has changed over time due to a variety of factors, including environmental damage and weather, destruction wrought by tree roots and occasional vandalism.  Stones that were recorded in the 1960s or 1990s were occasionally found as “missing” in the 2013 database.

The technology I used to create the Map and locate each headstone is called “GIS” or Geographic Information Systems, “a collection of computer hardware, software, and geographic data for capturing, managing, analyzing, and displaying all forms of geographically referenced information.”

Each headstone on the map represents a point collected using satellite technology.  Now, each headstone has a latitude and longitude line associated with each point gathered.  The accuracy of each  point with the system used in this project is within a meter.

Today, the Burial Ground is owned by the Town of North Andover and it is under the care of the North Andover Historical Commission.  I was fortunate enough to have Town support for the project, along with assistance from many departments at Town Hall.

I also had the support of the North Andover Historical Society and the Andover Historical Society, along with a few dedicated volunteers who braved some of the hottest days of the summer to take “points” with me.  Without the creativity, generosity and teamwork offered by so many people in and around the Town of North Andover, this project would have never been completed and available for public research.

Link to website and database:  http://www.townofnorthandover.com/pages/nandoverma_bcomm/cemetery.pdf

*  Kimberly Whitworth is a practicing attorney North of Boston and she is completing her Master’s Degree in History at Salem State University.


Old Sporting Equipment Week 15

October 16th, 2013 by Janak Shah


This is one of the many sleds in the Andover Historical Society Barn. This specific sled is a child’s sled, and the most notable feature is its red color and flower print design in the center. These are marks that are commonly associated with  rosebud sled, which are vintage sleds that were made in the early 20th century.

For this specific sled, the runners are connected to the front, and the rope reins are tied to the front of the runners. Rosebud sleds became famous when they were portrayed in the movie Citizen Kane. The prototypes from the movie were sold by Steven Spielberg for over fifty thousand dollars. These sleds can be bought from collectors for several dollars today, and still possess an intriguing design.


Old Sporting Equipment Week 14

October 9th, 2013 by Janak Shah
photo 2


Last week, I wrote about two pairs of skis donated to the Andover Historical Society in the memory of John Jenkins and Alice Holt. This is one of a pair of ski poles that the donor of the skis, Burton Jenkins donated as well. This pole is made of bamboo, and has been reinforced with tape in several sections. The pole is great in length, and has an 11 centimeter metal collar attached at the end. A bamboo ring, which is visible at the left of the pole, is attached to the collar.

photo 4

Different from its counterpart, this other ski pole, which is the second of a pair in the barn, has no metal ring attached at the end. This pole is similar to normal ski poles, straight, with a metal spike inserted at the end of the pole. This pole is also made of bamboo, and is held together by tape in some locations. At the top of the ski pole, although not visible in this photograph, is a hole for a hand strap.

These ski poles are just another part of the collection of objects honoring John and Alice Jenkins. Therefore, despite the poor condition, they are important objects here in the historical society.


Andover In Flux

October 3rd, 2013 by Joshua Dallal
Josh Dallal

Josh Dallal

Hello reader, my name is Joshua E. Dallal.  I am the person who has been writing a weekly column about Andover’s agricultural history while the Farmer’s Market has been running.  To me, Andover‘s declining agricultural practice is the most intriguing part of the town’s agricultural history.

Andover has gone from being primarily a farming town, to there being only one farm left in the whole town.  This is not strange to me, it is perfectly natural.  Things change; this is a basic fact of life, and it holds true for countries, towns and cities as well as for people.  In 1646 most European settlers on the continent were farmers, as were most people in the new town of Andover.

During the 17th and 18th centuries there were some industrial facilities in Andover, but they existed to support the farmers.  There was a grain mill to make flour from the wheat the farmers planted, and there was an iron works to make the metal that the town blacksmith needed to make metal tools for the farmers.  I find it interesting that farming needs still determined what non-farming businesses and professions existed in Andover.

I see the beginning of the 19th century as the beginning of the US capitalism in Andover.  The first generation of children born after the start of the Revolutionary War became adults.  Children born and raised to think of themselves as Americans began to make their views known and their decisions felt.  The regional economic system that factored heavily in the success of a farm would be determined by the farmers.  Just as importantly, people raised under the rule of the British king were dying off.

In my mind, 1802 is one of the most important years in Andover’s history.  James Scholfield built the third water-powered woolen carding mill in the United States and the first woolen mill in Andover.  More importantly it was the first major industrial facility built in Andover that wasn’t influenced by local agricultural needs.  He built it in what is now part of North Andover.  It was sold to the Abbott family in 1812. They lived in the southern part of town which is still called Andover.

Andover became very developed in the 19th century.  The Marland Mills, the Bradford Mills, Smith & Dove clothing factories, and the Sutton mills were all built in that century.  Andover was a major crossroads for regional highways even before the 19th century.  In 1836, a railroad was built in Andover and by 1840 it was a major train stop.  Phillips Academy, the Andover Seminary, and the Abbot Academy were all very prestigious schools with National Reputations.  They all had students from everywhere in the country.  Andover was too developed by the end of the 19th century for me to think of it as truly rural.

There was a brief increase in the number of Andover farmers during the early 20th century.  Many European immigrants (the largest group being Armenian) came to Andover in the early 1920s to make new lives for themselves as farmers.  All the farming families knew each other too.  I have interviewed the descendant of some those immigrants.  They told me that those immigrants didn’t want their children to stay in farming; they wanted better lives for their kids. Farming was no longer the average profession of Andover residents by the late 1930s.  Farming only declined in Andover as the century continued.

At the dawn of the new millennium there were less than 10 farms left in Andover.  All of those farms were family farms. Now there is only a single farm left, and that is OK.  Nothing stays the same forever.  Andover is still prosperous. I find it interesting that Andover has moved away from the profession that once defined most of its economy.


Old Sporting Equipment Week 13

October 2nd, 2013 by Janak Shah


This  ski, and its identical counterpart, are one of two pairs of skis in the West Loft of the Andover Historical Society Barn. These skis are long with a length of 180 centimeters and are pointed in the front. The leather toe strap is 2.5 cm by 45 cm and is centered at the middle of the ski. The toe strap has a metal buckle as well. DSC_0209

This is one of the other pair of skis in the barn. Unlike its predecessor, this ski is shorter and in poorer condition. There is either no toe strap in the middle of the ski, or the toe strap has been torn off. Both skis have their own set of ski poles, and were donated by the same individual. Burton Jenkins donated these skis in the memory of Andover residents John Jenkins and Alice Holt. Both the Jenkins and Holt families were prominent in Andover history, John Jenkins being a farmer who fought in the Civil War. These skis, although in poor condition are interesting objects donated in the memories of prominent individuals.


From Farmland to Public Park

September 26th, 2013 by Joshua Dallal

Tower and Solstice at Holt Hill  Ward Reservation 1999.544.2

Tower and Solstice at Holt Hill
Ward Reservation

The Ward Reservation is a well-known recreational hiking spot in Andover.  It was originally a farm, as can be seen by one its biggest landmarks, the Holt farmhouse.  The Ward Reservation is also one of Andover’s links to its beginning and a symbol of how much the town has changed.

Nicholas Holt started the Holt Farm in 1646.  He was one of the original freeholders who settled in Andover when it was created.  Nicholas was one the few settlers who built his farm in southern part of Andover.  Holt Hill, the highest point in Essex County, is named after him.  Most of the other settlers had their farms in the northern part of town, now part of North Andover.

The farm continued to play an important role in Andover’s history.  In 1708, the Holt family built a farm house on top of Holt Hill.  The land around the farmhouse offered the best view of the surrounding area and a clear view of Boston.  The people of Andover gathered there to watch the burning of Charlestown in 1775 and the Battle of Bunker Hill that same year.

Jonas Holt, a sixth generation descendant from Nicholas, was a member of the Essex Agricultural Society from its beginning in 1818 and was even on the Board of Trustees for a few years.  He conducted farming research at the Holt Farm.  In 1845, Jonas won a cash award from the Essex Agricultural Society for land cultivation research.  The Holt Farm was a symbol of Andover’s dedication to improving agriculture.

Dean Holt was the last person in the Holt family to own the Holt Farm.  His heirs sold the farmhouse to Sarah Sawyer after his death in 1876.  The Holt farmland ceased to be used for farming.  Sarah Sawyer sold the house and the land to William Higgins in 1902.  Charles W. Ward, a distant descendant of Nicholas Holt, bought the land from William Higgins in 1917.  Charles used the house as summer home.  The land had come back to Nicholas’ descendants after 41 years, even if that descendant didn’t bear the name Holt.

The Holt Farm became the Ward reservation in 1940.  Charles W. Ward died in 1933.  Seven years later, his widow Mabel donated the Holt Farm to a nonprofit organization known as The Trustees of Reservations.  She wanted the entire donation to be a lasting memorial to the man she loved.

Mabel got her wish; the Ward Reservation started as 153 acres of land and has grown to 700 acres.  There are signs along the trails in the Ward Reservation that include historic information about the sites travelers are passing by and acknowledge  the Wards’ role in creating the reservation.  The solstice stones were added in 1949, at the suggestion Mabel Ward and are now one of the main attractions to the Reservation

Today the Ward Reservation is well kept and many improvements have been made to it.  The original Holt Farmhouse has been moved from the top of the hill to just below the crest, but it is still in a prominent location.  People can still see the land that links present day Andover to its past.   The Ward Reservation is a modern symbol of historic Andover.


Old Sporting Equipment Week 12

September 25th, 2013 by Janak Shah


These skates above might look familiar, as they were produced by Barney and Barry in the late 1800s, the same company that produced the skates I wrote about several weeks ago. These skates are almost identical to those, except for the heel plate, which is more oval-shaped than the previous model. The heel plate is also smaller, despite the the runners being the same size. Aside from this however, the toe plates are exactly the same, and there are clamps underneath the toe plates in both skates. However, these skates, unlike the previous ones, are not attached together with leather straps.

These came to be known as Barney and Barry’s second model of skates, which were meant to be more advanced than the first model. Recall that Barney and Barry was formed by Everett H. Barney during the Civil War and revolutionized ice skating. These skates were just another example of the improvements that took place with skates in the late 19th century.


Andover Dairyman

September 19th, 2013 by Joshua Dallal
At the Wild Rose Farm

At the Wild Rose Farm

The biggest dairy farm run and owned by an Andover family in the 20th century was the Wild Rose Farm.  Its owner, Sidney P. White, could be considered the Dairy Lord of Andover during the 20th century.  His success in dairy affected the everyday lives of Andover residents for over half a century.

Sidney P. White was born in 1899, in Andover.  His parents raised him on the family farm located at the Baker Family Homestead at 5 Argilla Road.  He went to the Essex Agricultural School in Hawthorne, MA after attending Andover Public Schools.[1]  The time spent milking cows on the family farm and studying dairy production at school must have made a firm impression on Sidney; he became an active member of the Essex Agricultural Society with a focus on dairy research.

The family farm was renamed the Wild Rose Farm in 1929, when Sidney took over running the family business at the age of 30.  Dairy farming changed from just one of many of the farm’s products to its main product in less than a decade.  The size of his herd was maintained at 93 cows.  Sidney was skilled at breeding cows in addition to being skilled at business.  His pure- bred Holstein cows and their milk were winning prizes at state fairs by the mid 1930s and continued to do so until 1965.

World War II brought a surge of prosperity to the Wild Rose Farm.  The increased price of gas combined with rationing resulted in an increase in the price of dairy products.  This came at time when the government wanted to increase the supply of dairy products to meet the dietary needs of both soldiers and civilians.

Sidney struck upon the idea of once again using horse-drawn vehicles to transport the milk he couldn’t transport by truck.[2]  This actually saved him money because his farm was easily adapted to care for horses in addition to cows. As a direct result, he was able to keep his prices down and even increase his supply of dairy products.  Many Andover residents continued to buy Wild Rose Farm milk after the war ended.  Sidney’s home delivery milk service grew by leaps and bounds after the gas shortage ended in 1945.

Sydney retired from dairy farming in 1966, when he sold his herd of Holsteins and closed the Wild Rose Farm.  The Merrimack Valley region, as a whole, was moving away from farming, and Sidney had a hard time finding people who met his standards of skill at handling cows.

The closure of the Wild Rose Farm was not Sidney’s exit from the dairy business.  He started the Rose Glen Dairy Bar on Andover Street in 1960.  It was the most popular ice cream place in town, and sold the best priced milk in town. Sidney inspired his employees at the Rose Glen Dairy Bar by working alongside them, performing many of the same tasks.  He worked there until his death in 1983, at the age of 84.

Sydney P. White worked with dairy his entire life.  He was so devoted to the profession of dairy farming that he quit farming rather than lowering the standards of the farm he ran.  All dairy businesses in Andover were compared to his dairy business during the 20th century.  He was the Andover Dairyman.

[1] Sidney P. White Obituary, 1983, Andover Historical Society Archives, White Family Folder

[2] Barbara Loomer, Sidney P. White’s Farms tape transcription, Andover Historical Society Archives, White Family Folder.


Old Sporting Equipment Week 11

September 18th, 2013 by Janak Shah


Yet another sled in the barn, this one is slightly different from its predecessor last week. The base of this sled is a flat, rectangular, board. The sled is mostly brown, but traces of worn down green paint are found at the edges. The runners are the hallmark of the sled, as they extend above the base and giving the sled a greater length. The runners are also flat at the top, and hole is drilled at the tip of each runner. Knotted through these holes is a thin rope used as the reins of the sled.

This sled was made in Boston in an unknown year. It was donated by Lucile White to the Andover Historical Society in 1968. Although the original date of creation is unknown, the sled was owned by Marcus M. Hill, who was born in 1862. He most probably used it as a child, which results in the sled existing in the 1860s-70s. Hill lived on High Street here in Andover, so this sled originated and still is in Andover.


Food in Motion

September 12th, 2013 by Joshua Dallal

A farming town needs to be able to transport the food it grows in order to prosper.  Andover’s location played a major role in the way food was transported to and from town.  The efficiency of Andover’s food transportation played a role in its growth as farming town and continued prosperity as farming became less of a priority.

The primary method of overland transportation in New England during the 17th and 18th centuries was muscle based.  If someone wanted to get somewhere in a hurry, they would ride a horse.  People moved their goods long distances with animal drawn carts.  Water-based transport of large amounts of goods was limited by the size and location of rivers.  Andover’s farmers made little use of sailing. Andover’s only large river, the Merrimack River, only ran along the town’s northern border and didn’t flow to where the local farmers wanted to move most of their goods.

Andover was centrally located among the towns of northwestern Essex County during the 17th century; as a result the regional road to Salem, the location of the Essex County Court and country market town, began in Andover.  Andover quickly became the crossroads of northwestern Essex County.  In 1693, Andover became the second market town of Essex County.  As the closest market town in the region, people came to Andover to buy food.  The reduction in transportation costs contributed a great deal to the prosperity of local farmers.

Even after the American Revolution, Andover remained the crossroads of half of Essex County.  Thus people from nearby towns still found it convenient to come to Andover, even though they could hold markets of their own.  More food passed through Andover in the 1770s and 1780s than was grown in the town.

Muscle-powered carts continued to be the primary method Andover farmers used to transport their goods until 1836.  Hobart Clark started building the Andover and Wilmington Rail Road in 1833.  Andover saw the railroad in operation for the first time in 1836.  The train was so successful that it would extend to Boston, MA and Portland, ME by 1840.  That year the rail line was renamed the Boston and Maine Rail Road.

Andover farmers moved most of their food by train after 1840.  They still used muscle- powered carts to get their food to the train, but the food moved most its distance by train.  The growth of the railroads in America and especially in New England contributed to this trend throughout the 19th century and into the 20th century.  When Ford Motors began to sell trucks in the 1910s, Andover farmers used them to get their crops to the train station.

Farming in Andover was in decline by 1925 when the first factory produced the Model T Ford Pickup.  Andover would no longer be primarily a farming town by the late 1930s.  Thus there were relatively few Andover farmers by the time most people transported their goods by trucks.

Andover’s location has enabled its residents to benefit from relatively easy transportation throughout its history.  It began as regional crossroads, and survived as one until the 19th century when it became a major railroad stop.  As Andover became less of a farming town, it became less of a transportation hub.  Even though Andover is no longer a major transportation hub, no less than four state highways and two interstate highways pass through it.

Andover Train Depot 1860s 1980.733.1

Andover Train Depot 1860s