Windham Life and Times – December 29, 2017

Edward Searles and Angelo

Camp Crane, Allenstown, PA Army Ambulance Training

In New York and the Army

“After I began to work for Mr. Searles he rented a suite at the Murray Hill Hotel, on Park Avenue. It was an old-fashioned hotel, and he liked it because it was just one block from Grand Central Terminal. It was a family hotel, and we had an apartment there. He could take a cab or the subway to his office down on Broadway, near Wall Street. Arthur Walker ran the office for him. Mr. Searles would meet there with businessmen who came to see him about his properties…”

“He liked to travel and visit his properties. I went on trips to those railroads and coal fields he owned in Pennsylvania. He would always arrange to travel in a private railroad car for those trips. He was treated like a dignitary because he owned a railroad himself; the Pittsburg and Shamut. We each had our own rooms, and a parlor; half the car in those days! On those business trips he would always call me ‘his boy’! He would introduce me to those officials, who ran the railroad and coal fields, with ‘I want you to meet my boy, Angy.’ After I was introduced I would go off to the side, so I wouldn’t interrupt their business, but I could hear him speak about me like I was his own son! One time we stayed in Philadelphia, and he was going to see the Rowlands. I asked him who they were, and he told me they were cousins; he said, ‘I try to help them.’ One time he took me to see the castle he owned in Great Barrington. I was only there once with him. But I knew he went there himself, from time to time. We stayed there, in the castle. There was furniture in it; but it was a big place! He told me he had built it for his wife. Some of the furniture in Pine Lodge, and the castle in Windham, came from there.

“While in New York we would go all over town. It was on one of those walks that he told me he was buying a place in upstate New York, for Arthur Walker; as a place for him to retire. One day the old gentleman and I were in front of one of his buildings and I said that maybe I could have an office in it! He said, ‘Don’t bother with that building; I’m getting rid of it! It’s too old-fashioned. Not up to date at all; besides, you’re going to have a lot of buildings some day!’ At that time New York was his legal residence, but at some time in the future he planned to make Massachusetts his legal residence again. He said he was selling off his New York property. It was at this time he told me that I would have the castle in Windham someday. I was surprised, and asked him how I would be able to afford to keep it up! He told me I would also be getting enough money to keep it up. I knew he was telling me the truth because I felt that he would do anything for me. He used to give me spending money, and he bought me a gold watch at Tiffany’s. Another time we stopped there and he bough me a gold ring, with a big green stone in it, for a thousand dollars; he picked it out for me… Mr. Searles would have me go to his tailor, and all my clothes were made special for me. On Sundays, in New York, we always went to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Mr. Searles gave money for some of the work there because his architect, Henry Vaughn, designed a few of the chapels. Inside you see those lanterns; he spoke to me about them. They are beautiful and I think he gave those to the cathedral. He built many churches and gave money to the National Cathedral. We went to Washington to see it, he and I, and they were building it at that time. His architect, Henry Vaughn, designed it, and after Vaughn died he was buried there, right at the cathedral.”

“In 1917 I went into the Army; I wasn’t drafted, I enlisted. Afterwards, I realized that Mr. Searles was pulling strings for me behind the scenes, to keep me from going to Europe. All my pals went over but the old gentleman had me transferred from camp in Allentown, Pennsylvania to New Jersey so he could see me more often. (Camp Crane) When my pals went over to Europe, and I stayed behind, I cried like a baby. I was in the Army for two and a half years. During the winter I was in Allentown, where there was a training camp for the ambulance corps. I knew how to drive; it wasn’t everybody who could drive at that time. Some of those boys had never been in a car before, let alone drive one! They had me teach the men how to drive ambulances and trucks. All the while I was in at Allentown, Mr. Searles used to come out to visit me every week. He gave me spending money so I could eat out anytime, because the Army food was poor; just beans and beef stew. Later when I was stationed in New Jersey I really ate good! I don’t think I ate regular Army food more than twenty times in all. That’s what I was doing when a truck backed into my arm and broke it. I couldn’t drive anymore, then, because you had to use a clutch and a big floor shift.  So I was transferred to Hoboken, New Jersey, where I was a dispatcher. It was right across the river from New York City and when I was not on duty I could go into the city and stay at the Murray Hill apartment. I’m sure Mr. Searles used his influence to get me transferred there.   When my arm was better I was assigned as driver for a General Shanks; later they named a camp for him. Camp Shanks, up in New York. He was a rough guy; he wanted me to run down people in the streets! People would be walking and I would have to just crawl. He said, ‘What are you doing? You’re crawling! Get going; they’ll get out of your way!’  Well I spoke with my officer there, he was a nice guy and he told me that he would get me another duty. So I became a driver for a Navy captain that planned ship movements from New York harbor; it was a security operation. Only he knew when they would sail; and I knew too because I was stationed in his office. I would drive him out to Staten island, or Long Island: all over!… I was still driving for him when the war ended in 1918. It was almost the middle of 1919 and I was still assigned, and the old gentleman was as mad as the devil! He wanted me out! I think he went to his friend, Major General Edwards, to get me out, and he did.”


Windham Life and Times – December 15, 2017

Edward Searles and Angelo

Searles and Junior


“I started to work for Mr. Searles in 1915, and Stanton Harcourt was the first place he brought me. We came to Methuen, Mr. Searles and I, and we stayed at the Red Tavern. We didn’t go to Pine Lodge because it was too late, and he didn’t want to bother Miss Littlefield. There were no rooms for guests at Pine Lodge, there were only two bedrooms; the rest was his museum. Carrie Barnes was the manager at the Red Tavern. She ran the place for him, and he sent her a telegram to let her know we would be arriving on a late train and to get rooms ready for us. The next day she fixed breakfast for us, and after that we went up to see the castle.  At that time people were working inside; they still had some woodwork to fix, and the kitchen was not finished yet.  Everything there had to be made in Boston; Vaughan was his architect. After the kitchen was finished he brought in a nice couple to take care of the place for him. He arranged for me to live with the Seavey family. Seavey was in charge of the estate. The place in Windham was called ‘Searles Castle’ or ‘Searles Folly’. I always called it ‘the castle’ myself. We had over two thousand acres there, and at Stillwater we had about one thousand acres! We had our own sheep, and cows, hogs, chickens, and horses; everything we used there. I had a room in the farm house; that was on the road before you go up the hill to the castle. Seavey’s wife would take care of my room and I would have my meals there. I became friends with her daughter, Emma Richter. She was Seavey’s step-daughter, and her husband worked there on the farm. Emma liked me, and she named her daughter after me; ‘Angie’. I’m the girl’s godfather! Whenever I was up there, in Windham, Mr. Searles would come to visit every day to watch them finish the work inside. Later, when the rooms in the castle were ready, he would sometimes stay overnight and go back to Pine Lodge in the morning, but he would come up again later in the day, to see me. Most of the time though he would go back to Pine Lodge for the night. My room in the castle was on the second floor overlooking the lakes; the old gentleman had his room upstairs.

“One of the towers of the castle was unfinished and I had my workshop there. I asked Mr. Searles if I could have a flagpole made for that tower, and he wanted to know why. I said that every English castle has a flagpole on the tower, so I put one up there! I had a crew move a small house from Rockingham Park up to the estate. Mr. Searles owned land at Rockingham Park at that time, so he had the house moved to Windham and I had my shop there. (It’s still there at the base  of the driveway to the castle.) He bought me a boat to use on Canobie Lake. The motor that came with it was not that good so I asked Mr. Searles if he could get me a better one. I heard him tell Arthur Walker to order one. When it came, I went all over the lake in that boat; I had a lot of fun there, and I learned to skate on Canobie Lake. In the winter they used to cut ice on the lakes for the icehouse on the estate. I remember blocks were fourteen inches thick! We put them in the icehouse, and covered them with some kind of straw, to keep it cool; the icehouse was in the shade anyways. In the summer we used the ice up to the castle, and on the farm. We had dogs there; I had three dogs myself! Mr. Searles had a dog named ‘Junior’, that would follow him around Pine Lodge without a leash.”


I first learned to drive in 1915, up in Windham. Mr. Searles had two Studebaker trucks, and I was shown how to drive; up and down the hill. After I learned the old gentleman bought a Studebaker car for me to use, and later his chauffeur gave me a few lessons on the big Pierce-Arrow. When we came back from trips to New York the driver would meet us in Boston, at the train, and take us to Methuen. I was with Mr. Searles, and the driver, when they went down to the Boston showroom to buy another one; in those days Pierce-Arrows were the best cars made in America, those and Packards. The big Pierce-Arrow  was a limousine, with a glass between the driver and the passengers; you could slide the glass to talk to the driver. The newer one he bought that day was a passenger car. He would use that car sometimes, but he never drove himself; he had his chauffeur. I think he bought that smaller car for me because it was the one that I used in Methuen. One day I asked him if I could use it to go visit a friend in Lewiston, Maine, and he said it was all right. On the way I had an accident. In those days they had big water wagons to use on the roads to keep the dust down, and I hit one and damaged the fender on the car. There weren’t body shops back then, so I went to a blacksmith and he did a good job repairing it. When I got back to Methuen, I spoke with Mr. Searles about the accident, and the only thing he was interested to know about was if I had been hurt! All he asked me was, ‘Are you hurt?’ ‘No?’ ‘All right don’t worry about it, as long as your were not hurt.’ That was the way he was. He didn’t care about the car or the money, as long as I was all right”


Windham Life and Times – November 24, 2017

Over the River and Through the Woods…

I don’t know why I started singing this song in my head the other day. Over the River and Through the Woods… Maybe it was because Thanksgiving was approaching. It’s funny how things from childhood get stuck, never to be dislodged. Wikipedia say that The poem was originally published in 1844 as “The New-England Boy’s Song about Thanksgiving Day” in Child’s Flowers for Children. Although many people sing “to grandmother’s house we go”, the author’s original words were “to grandfather’s house we go” It celebrates the author’s childhood memories of visiting her grandfather’s house (said to be the Paul Curtis House). Lydia Maria Child was a novelist, journalist, teacher, and poet who wrote extensively about the need to eliminate slavery.

     The poem was eventually set to a tune by an unknown composer. The song version is sometimes presented with lines about Christmas, rather than Thanksgiving. For instance, the line “Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!” becomes “Hurrah for Christmas Day!”. As a Christmas song, it has been recorded as “A Merry Christmas at Grandmother’s”. Although the modern Thanksgiving holiday is not always associated with snow (snow in late November occasionally occurs in the northern states and is rare at best elsewhere in the United States), New England in the early 19th century was enduring the Little Ice Age, a colder era with earlier winters.

Old Bridge over Mystic River in Medford

Over the river and through the woods
To Grandfather’s house we go.
The horse knows the way
To carry the sleigh
Through white and drifted snow.

Over the river and through the wood —
Oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes
And bites the nose,
As over the ground we go.

Over the river and through the wood
To have a first-rate play.
Hear the bells ring,
Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!

Over the river and through the wood,
Trot fast, my dapple gray!
Spring over the ground
Like a hunting hound,
For this is Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river and through the wood,
And straight through the barnyard gate.
We seem to go
Extremely slow —
It is so hard to wait!

Over the river and through the wood —
Now Grandmother’s cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun!
Is the pudding done?
Hurray for the pumpkin pie!

Grandfather’s House Medford MA

One of my readers, Pat Heenan, wrote to say that, “That song Over the River….was written in Medford, Mass. The river is the Mystic River. There is actually a bridge there, now a walking bridge.
The home is still there, has many long pillars on the front…
Also Jingle Bells was written in Medford or Arlington, have forgotten… One of the first songs we learned in first grade!!!.
Just to add to the history…”

Windham Life and Times – November 17, 2018

100 Years Ago in Windham


WINDHAM, October 16,—Mrs. Elizabeth Ellen (Smith) Nesmith, widow of Jacob Alpheus Nesmith, died Tuesday, the 9th, of old age and after many months of gradual decline. She was born in Woburn, Mass., September 3, 1831, the daughter of Horatio A. Smith, and had consequently just completed her eighty-sixth year. She had lived in town since her marriage to Mr. Nesmith April 28, 1859, assuming the position of stepmother to his two small children. She became the mother of one son, Jacob Arthur Nesmith. Now residing on the homestead. Mrs. Nesmith was a genial, kind-hearted woman, well fulfilling all the duties of a good home-maker and good neighbor. She was interested in the welfare of the community and a constant attendant at church as long as circumstances permitted. She was a member of the Unitarian Church of Medford Mass. The funeral was largely attended at the home  on Friday afternoon, Rev. E.J. Palisoul of Manchester, conducting the service. There was singing by Mrs. Nichols of Derry, and Mrs. Davenport, of Londonderry. The bearers were J.W.M. Worledge, John E. Cochran, Eugene W. Armstrong, and George H. Clark. Thus with sadness we record the passing of one of the few to remain to the present time, of those who made up the active community fifty years ago. The Nesmith Homestead still stands on North Lowell Road.