- Selectmen updated on funding for post employment benefits
- Speaking for tolerance
- Towns adapt to sea level rise
- Millbrook Motors in non-compliance
- Good Neighbors
- Selectmen approve National Boating Week, aquaculture licenses
- A community effort
- Arts and Crafts fair a success
- Battelle to leave Duxbury
- Whale sightings at Duxbury Beach
- Lacrosse stages one for the ages
- Successful sailing season
- Depleted Dragons escape the week
- Mixed bag for lacrosse
- Tennis upsets CCA
- Softball extends winning streak
- Lacrosse readies to defend crown
- Duxbury athletes named to Winter All-Scholastics
- Boosters planning Hall of Fame Dinner
- Lady Dragons take care of Cougars
- Duxbury Weathers Hurricane Sandy
- Parent Connection Panel Discusses Teen Alcohol and Drug Use
- Annual banding of the Osprey
- Hockey check denied
- Selectmen appoint special counsel
- Who knew? Town officials stood by when Troy made statements officials considered to be inaccurate
- Keno at Hall's Corner
- Sharpshooters at Duxbury Beach
- Duxbury man charged with rape of a child
- Board of Selectmen Support all Eight CPA articles
- Duxbury Weathers Hurricane Sandy
- Parent Connection Panel Discusses Teen Alcohol and Drug Use
- SPECIAL REPORT: State ethics board eyes transcripts
- UPDATED: Duxbury serviceman killled in Afghanistan
- Duxbury attorney named to Atlantic Symphony Board
- Millbrook Motors closed
- Cruise ship manager guilty of stealing $2.4 million
- Beacon Hill Roll Call
- Annual banding of the Osprey
- Former police chief sues town
Board of Health
Council on Aging
|John Alden, Part 3|
|By Lamont Healy|
|Wednesday, July 11, 2012 09:00 AM|
The second part of this story was published in a previous issue.
Amherst Alden, when he died in 1804, left what we now call the Alden House to his older brother, Major Judah Alden. Amherst probably felt that Judah, who had built a house on the west end of the farm, would not move into the house, thus allowing their mother and sister to live out their lives in the old house. Judah did exactly that, and never lived in the house.Judah served with honor in the Revolutionary War, beginning in 1773 as an ensign in the militia and rising to captain with the Continental Army, he served through 1783. He served with Washington in the New Jersey campaign. He knew both Lafayette and General Thaddeus Kosciusko who made a sketch of him at Valley Forge. He was given the rank of brevet major as a reward for his meritorious service. Other than pilgrim John Alden, Judah was possibly the most famous of the Duxbury Aldens. When the war was over he became a successful businessman, operating a store next to his home at what is now Alden and Tremont Streets.
He was a colorful character. In 1920, Judith Winsor Smith wrote (at the age of 100) in her “recollections” that “Duxbury was a gay place in my youth. Balls and parties in winter, and driving parties in the summer to picnics in the woods or at Marshfield, or going by boat to Duxbury beach where they made their own chowder on the shore. One time a Boston man, finely dressed, with patent leather shoes, was of the party. The boats were late on the tide and the men took off their shoes and stockings and carried the ladies ashore. All but the Boston man and Major Alden carried him, setting him down in the mud to take him up better.”Judah and his wife, Wealthea (Wadsworth), had 10 children when he inherited the old house from Amherst. At that time he owned his own 30 acres and the additional acreage that went with the house, an estimated 50 to 60 acres. All of his children were well educated and well cared for. He was proud of his sons: Briggs, a master mariner, and Samuel, a physician. He was especially fond of his youngest daughter, Mary Ann, whom he provided with pretty much anything she wanted. She wore brightly colored dresses, when black and grey were the “appropriate” colors. She wore furs, in some cases long after they had gone out of style. Mary Ann never married and lived alone in Judah’s house for some 35 years until 1881, after his death.
Judah’s oldest son, John Alden, “the second” as he preferred to be called (to differentiate himself from all the other John Aldens) or “John, the storekeeper” as most of the townspeople referred to him, worked in his father’s store from the time he was 16. He had been living in the old Alden house for 30 years when he inherited it and the 20 acres it sat on from his father in 1845. He was 61 at the time. John had been faithfully tending the store for Judah, freeing Judah to pursue interests, like dealing, buying and selling property and anything else that suited his fancy. Judah added a codicil to his will at the age of 94, three months before he died, leaving the house to John, otherwise his son would have been left with little or nothing. John continued to run the store for more than 25 years after his father’s death, more than 65 years in total. It is said that every day John walked across the field from the old house to his father’s store, wearing a plaid cloak and carrying a needlepoint purse for the day’s receipts (the purse is still on exhibit at the Alden House) to work all day in his father’s store. He seemed to be not a very enterprising man, but faithful to a fault.
John the Storekeeper married Mary Winsor, who was known in Duxbury as “Aunt Polly.” She was friendly and popular. John and Mary had three children: a daughter, Mary; and two sons, another John, who was later called Captain Jack, and Henry P. Alden. Daughter Mary was widowed when her first husband, Daniel Sampson, died of yellow fever on a voyage to the tropics. She took her infant son to live with her parents in the old house. Mary remarried later and moved across the fields to the edge of the millpond where Capt. David Cushman built a new house for her. This house and property was later to become Eagle’s Nest Inn, until recently owned by the Wildlands Trust.
John the Storekeeper died on August 6, 1871, leaving his entire estate to his wife, “Aunt Polly,” which was highly unusual for the day. However, he knew his sons and he knew her. He trusted her to “dispose of the property during her lifetime or upon her decease.” He had sold a strip of land to the railroad in January 1871 but he never did see a train cross his property before he died. “Aunt Polly,” was the only woman to own the old house and the only owner not an Alden by birth. She died in March of 1882 at age 93, leaving the easterly half of the house to her son John, Captain Jack, and the westerly half of the house, to her son Henry P. Alden. Both of her sons were widowers when their mother died.
Captain Jack had spent most of his life at sea as a mate. He acquired the Captain Jack title when he sailed packets from Duxbury to Boston. He had said that “the railroads knocked the packeting business all to pieces.” Captain Jack was a colorful man. He enjoyed company, liked to talk and liked to “color” his stories. Helen Philbrick once said, “I never heard a man swear so prettily.” Both he and his brother Henry P. were veterans of the Civil War and served in Company E of the 18th Massachusetts Regiment. They were living on their military pensions when their mother died. Almost immediately the brothers erected a partition to define the limits of their ownership. This is evidence of the lack of brotherly love between the two. Probably John the Storekeeper knew what his sons were like, which is why he left “Aunt Polly” to take care of the estate. The brothers were strange indeed, a fact that their mother, “Aunt Polly” probably recognized. In her will she was specific about where each son could go, in and around the house. My impression is that she favored Captain Jack a little. She had been living in his side of the house, left him the furniture in that side, and gave most of the furniture and housewares in Henry’s side to her daughter, Mary.
In 1883 Charles L. Alden, a Massachusetts businessman, after seeing photographs of the Alden house, went to Duxbury to see if he could acquire the property. He offered the brothers $1,200 but once Henry discovered that Captain Jack might be getting a slightly larger share, he balked. The two brothers were at swords’ point, which apparently was typical of the relationship. Charles saw that an agreement was hopeless and gave up.
Captain Jack’s sons were John W. Alden and Frank R. Alden. In 1887 Captain Jack deeded the easterly half of the house to his younger son, Frank R. Alden. Why he bypassed his older son, John W., we don’t know. Frank was living and working in Rockland and his brother John W. was living in the Alden house with most of his nine children. Strange indeed!
Henry P. Alden had three daughters and a son, Henry B. Alden. Henry P. deeded the westerly half of the house to Henry B. Alden. Cousin John W. Alden rented the easterly half of the house from his brother Frank and in 1896 bought the westerly half from his cousin Henry B. for $700.
Frank R. Alden eventually deeded his half of the house to John W. Alden, so that John W. owned the entire house. There was a note in this deed which read “having been absent and not heard from for seven years Eva M. Alden (Frank’s wife) is believed to be dead.” This was probably an attempt to validate the sale and eliminate any rights of dower. John W. lived in the Alden house with his wife and nine children. He was the last of the original bloodline to own the house and he seems to be the only one interested in preserving it.
During this time John W. had mortgaged the westerly half of the house for $100 and there was still an outstanding mortgage that Frank had made on the easterly half. John Tolman Alden, an Alden descendent from St. Louis, Mo., who was interested in preserving the house as a museum, obtained both of these mortgages. He was a wealthy manufacturer of fruit vinegar. Shortly after John W. purchased Frank’s easterly half, John Tolman Alden foreclosed and the title passed to him. He apparently had made a verbal agreement with John W. that he and his family could continue to live in the old house.
John Tolman Alden lost much of his fortune and his health, and was unable to do anything with the house. Through the efforts of Ms. A. Ellen Alden of Middleborough a campaign to organize the Alden kindred was started. Organized in 1901 and incorporated in 1906, the Alden Kindred of America acquired the property in November 1907 for $300 from John Tolman Alden’s representative and guardian, Gordon Southworth. John W. did continue to live in the house until 1921 and served as a gate tender for the railroad for many years at the stop near his house. The aforementioned Charles L. Alden, treasurer and founding member of the Alden Kindred, never lost his interest in the house and it was he who arranged the purchase from John Tolman Alden’s guardian. He was given a 20 year lease on the property. John W. and his family had to move out. Charles L. Alden spent approximately $20,000 of his own money on the house and he was given a second 20 year lease but near the end of that lease the Alden Kindred took direct charge of the house in 1955.
Gershom Bradford Weston, son of King Caesar, Jr., built a house on St. George Street on the site of the present-day high school. The elegant mansion was built in 1840 at a cost of $60,000, but was destroyed by fire in 1850. Gershom had it rebuilt and because the house was not insured, he went heavily into debt to his brother Alden Weston, who held the mortgage. After living in the new house for about 12 years until 1867, Gershom lost ownership through business neglect, pressure of creditors, and his brother Alden foreclosing on the house.
Alden Weston sold the house to George W. and Georgianna B. Wright in 1868. There is also a deed from Deborah B. Weston, Gershom’s widow in 1869, to the Wrights, so at least Gershom did not die penniless. We will cover more on the Wrights when we do the Philip Delano grant on the north side of St. George Street. You also may want to attend Tony Kelso’s lecture, which will include the Wrights, on August 2 in the 375th Anniversary of Duxbury lecture series.
The Wrights demonstrated opulence on a grand scale. They hosted a celebration of the establishment of the Atlantic cable in their home. They provided books and money to establish the library that was housed in the Wright building, named in honor of their son George Buckham Wright who died in an accident in 1888 at the age of 21.
After George W. Wright died in 1897, Georgianna married his nephew and executor, William James (given name Todd) Wright in January of 1900. Unusual, yes; illegal, no. Consolidating the estate? She and her estate continued her benevolence; in 1920 her executor deeded the tract of land that now is the library property to the town. Property was also deeded to Charles L. Alden with the proviso that the pond would be kept at the same level to provide ice for the estate now called “Pine Hill” for the benefit of Ms. John S. Wright, her son’s widow. This pond at various times has been called mill pond, Eagles Nest Pond, Aunt Polly’s pond and in later years, the Wright Dike. All of these properties were on the Alden Grant.