Windham Life and Times – January 16, 2018

Avoiding the Civil War Draft


I grew up with the blood and guts of the Vietnam War playing in full color on our television during dinner time. Walter Cronkite solemnly intoning the body count: 10,132 North Vietnamese dead or wounded, 207 ARVN troops dead or wounded and 3 American dead or wounded. Of course, I exaggerate, but not by much. With numbers like these how could we possibly lose, but lose we did. This was my childhood Civil War, it was just fought half-way around the world, to make it safe for democracy.

The draft and draft dodging were a huge topic during the Vietnam War. Many young Americans burned their draft cards and went to Canada to avoid going to Southeast Asia. On a family vacation, to Ausable Chasm, I remember seeing  burned draft cards in the rocks. Of course, during Vietnam, the rich man’s sons procured college deferments, which kept them out of the fighting, until the end of the war. When these provisions changed, the war ended pretty quickly. I still remember my brother getting his number in the mail, and it was low and caused a lot of foreboding, because he was going, except for the luck of the war coming to an end.

Well it seems that draft dodging was a part of the Civil War, more than 100 years before Vietnam. Again, it was the son’s of the rich who could afford the loop-hole of buying a substitute. I came upon this subject when reading Morrison’s History of Windham. “In 1863, the quota of the towns not being filled as promptly as was desired, a draft was made; and at a meeting of the town, Sept. 5, 1863, it was voted ‘to pay a bounty to all of its citizens who are, or who may be drafted into the services of the United States, or who procure substitutes under the calls of the President to put down the rebellion,’ the sum of ‘two hundred and seventy-five dollars to each citizen so drafted, or who procures a substitute.’ The money was to be paid after the soldier was mustered into the service. The selectman were chosen as a committee to carry the vote into effect and to hire (borrow) money at a vote ‘not exceeding six percent,” to pay said men. Nine men were drafted, and seven of them sent substitutes.”

This seems, really incredible to me, of the nine men drafted in Windham in 1863, only two actually joined the troops to fight in the war.

The website,, explains the civil war draft and substitution nicely, in an article entitled, “Hired soldier, Substitutes During the Civil War.”

“When the Civil War began, there was no shortage of able bodied men who volunteered for service in both the U.S. Army and the Confederate Army. Eager to show their patriotism, convinced that their cause would be victorious in a matter of months at the most, men gathered in cities and towns throughout America to form volunteer regiments, clamoring to assist in the war effort.”

“However, by late 1862 and early 1863, the patriotic fervor that had characterized the war effort early on was wearing thin in both the Confederacy and the United States, and finding men to replenish the armies of both nations was becoming difficult. Those who wanted to serve were already engaged; those who did not had either refused to serve, or, having volunteered and found the experience to be much more arduous than it seemed at first, had deserted or refused to re-enlist. This necessitated instituting a draft to choose men for service, and, in both the North and the South, the practice of hiring substitutes to serve in the place of those who were called and did not want to serve.”

“Long before the United States began the draft process, the Confederate Congress had allowed men to forgo service in the Confederate Army if they met certain occupational criteria – criteria that mostly exempted owners of large plantations or other enterprises, leading to the phrase “rich man’s war, poor man’s fight” to describe the Confederate war effort. Southern men who did not meet exemption criteria but whom were otherwise able to fight often hired substitutes to serve for them. Yet by 1863, exemptions were outlawed in the Confederacy, where men willing to fight were becoming too scarce to exempt from service. This practice was just beginning, however, as it traveled north.”

“When the draft laws – known as the Enrollment Act – were first placed on the books in the United States in 1863, they allowed for two methods for avoiding the draft – substitution or commutation. A man who found his name called in the draft lotteries that chose men for mandatory service could either pay a commutation fee of $300, which exempted him from service during this draft lottery, but not necessarily for future draft lotteries, or he could provide a substitute, which would exempt him from service throughout the duration of the war.”

“With the Enrollment Act, the Civil War truly began to be known as a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight throughout the entire nation. The $300 commutation fee was an enormous sum of money for most city laborers or rural farmers, and the cost of hiring a substitute was even higher, often reaching $1000 or more.

In small towns where the potential loss of their entire population of able-bodied men became an imminent possibility, taxes and other means were raised in order to pay commutation fees, and, as commutation was outlawed, substitutes. These “bounties,” as the fees were called, would pay substitutes in lieu of townsmen.”

“The practice of hiring substitutes for military service took hold quickly in the North, becoming much more widespread than it had ever been in the South. For one thing, there was a much larger pool of men to draw from; immigrants that flowed into the ports of the North, even in a time of war, provided a large number of the substitutes hired by those who did not wish to serve. As the duration of the war lengthened, African-American soldiers, who’d thus far been only nominally accepted by the U.S. Army as viable soldiers, also became part of the pool of potential substitutes; many of the recruitment posters from the time explicitly solicit African-Americans for substitution.”

“Although the hiring of substitutes seems mercenary, and in many cases, resulted in the desertion of the substitute, many who went to war as hired men went because they were unable to enlist through the regular channels. This included the recent immigrants who were anxious to fight for their new country, and, importantly, the African-Americans who found going to war as substitutes the only way to fight for their freedom. For these men, the war was indeed a “rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight,” but from the perspective that poor men were more willing to fight for the possibilities they saw in their country.”


Windham Life and Times – December 8, 2017

Edward Searles and Angelo

Angelo Ellison in his elevator operators uniform.


Ray Fremmer says of Searles that, “with age came loneliness and even the frequent change of surroundings he effected by going to New York periodically became of little use to enliven his spirits. In 1914, when he was seventy-three, he was in the habit of busying himself as best he could around Methuen for several months by visiting his different property holdings, and then he would go to New York for a week or two. He had an office at 71 Broadway, in the firm of Thomas Hubbard who managed Searles millions. After a few hours at the office he would go to his hotel, the Biltmore, and begin to wonder what was going on in Methuen right about that time. It was obvious, even to the elevator operator at the Biltmore, that Searles was a very lonely man. His name was Angelo M. Ellison, and he remembers to this day that the white-mustached old gentleman never tipped as did some of his other passengers. The lad, Angy as he was called, was somewhat of a loner himself. He had just recently arrived from Greece and although it was easy to adopt a name more easy to pronounce than his real one, it was not so easy to master the English language. This difficulty, together with the necessity of earning a living, made it very hard for him to associate with boys his own age.”

“Usually, Searles greeted the elevator boy with a polite ‘good morning’ or ‘good evening’ each time he entered the elevator. Gradually, however, he began to take a kindly interest in the seventeen year-old boy’s home country, his parents, and his difficulties in mastering a new language. Shortly, in Angy’s own words, ‘He started to tell me a few things about himself’, and asked Angy if he would like to work as his personal companion. Naturally, tired of travelling up and down the Biltmore Hotel all day, every day, Angy accepted the new job at once. In the moths that followed, each time Searles came to New York, he and Angy would go for long walks along Fifth Avenue and occasionally go the Metropolitan Opera House. When Searles went on inspection trips of his holdings, such as the Pittsburg & Shawmut Railroad coal pits, he was always accompanied by Angy. In Philadelphia they stopped to visit Searles’ aunts, the Smith sisters. And back in New York on Sundays they usually went to the Cathedral of Saint John the Devine, the organ of which Searles was quite fond. By this time Searles legal address was the Murray Hill Hotel— rooms 646 and 647; his legal residence as a citizen of the state of New York. He made New York his legal residence to protest the heavy taxes imposed on him by Massachusetts.”

Murray Hill Hotel where Searles had two suites

Angy tells the story of his meeting with Searles this way, “My name was Angelo, and my family name was Eliopoulos. After I came to America I wanted to become part of this country, so I changed my name to Ellison, because I was told that that was the American version. ‘Eli’ comes from the Greek word for the sun god, ‘Helios’, and ‘opoulos’ means son of’; son of the sun! I changed my name to Andrew after the will trial because reporters were trying to take advantage of me, and I was so disappointed in the way it ended that I didn’t want to be bothered anymore. I just wanted to get on with my life.”

“Before I met Mr. Searles, I was working at the Biltmore Hotel. It was across the street from Grand Central Terminal. That hotel and the other one they built on the other side of Grand Central, the Commodore Hotel, all belonged to the New York Central Railroad. All that was built about the same time and was new when I worked there. It was like a city underneath the station; there were all kinds of shops there, and you could enter the hotel from the passenger station underneath. I started as a bellboy, and they advanced me to operate the elevators. The manager told me that I would have a good future there; working for the organization. He was going to give me a better job but I left to work for Mr. Searles; but it wasn’t like work at all. He got to know me and asked if I wanted to work for him as his assistant; to help him when he went on his business trips, or just around town. We would go walking all over town; he liked to look at buildings and talk about architecture. He would like to go to the opera, or the theater; never a movie! We would have dinners at one of the big restaurants, or at a big hotel; The Plaza, or the old Waldorf Astoria on Fifth Avenue or someplace else. He would stop at Tiffany’s, and that is where he bought me a gold watch and later a beautiful ring with a green stone in it!

Windham Life and Times – December 1, 2017

Edward Searles and Angelo


The photograph above of Angelo “Angy” Ellison and Edward Searles sometime around 1917. On the back of the photograph is written the following: International Newsreel Photo. Former elevator boy contests Millionaires will. New York. Photo shows Edward F. Searles, millionaire, seated and Angelo M. Ellison, former elevator boy for whom he is alleged to have shown great regard. The latter is contesting Searles’s will.

Over the next few weeks, I will be presenting information about Edward Searles and his relationship with a young Greek immigrant, Angelo “Angy” Ellison. Ellison changed his name from Eliopoulos soon after arriving in America. In those days, immigrants wanted to assimilate into American culture as soon as possible. The story of young Ellison is a very interesting one and offers rare insight into the life of Edward Searles himself, as well as a glimpse of the goings on at the Castle in Windham. The relationship between Searles and Ellison lasted for over six years. Searles met Ellison when he was seventeen years old and working as an elevator operator at the Biltmore Hotel in New York City. At the time of their chance meeting, Edward Searles would have been seventy-three years old.

The typed manuscripts, from where I have obtained much of the information to be presented, were given to me by Sister Josette, of the Sisters of Mercy. They are The Reminiscences of Andrew “Angy” Ellison transcribed by his friend Robert DeLage in the 1970’s and 80’s. Much of what has previously been known about Ellison, was contained in the sensational accounts of him and his relationship with Searles that can be found in the local and New York newspapers. These reports were written during the battle over the estate with its large real estate holdings, stocks and thirty something million dollars. The people fighting over the estate had various agendas in their portrayal of Searles at the time, just prior to his death, when he abruptly changed his will. Much of the sensational portrayal in the newspapers, was being manipulated by the would-be heirs to influence the outcome of their lawsuits. The real story, while it will never truly be ascertained, appears to be much more benign, especially when explained by Angy Ellison in his own words.

As you will see, it appears that despite his millions, in 1914, Searles was a lonely old man, when he had the chance meeting with the seventeen year old Ellison. His wife, Mary Hopkins Searles, who was the heiress to the vast Mark Hopkins railroad fortune, and twenty-one years older than Searles, had died July 25, 1891. So from his wife’s death until his own in 1920, Edward Searles lived alone, managing his money and indulging his love and fascination with art and architecture.

This vast fortune was tinged with really bad karma. It seems that both Mark Hopkins and Edward Searles intended to leave their millions to their “adopted” sons. Mr. Hopkins intended his money to go to his adopted son Timothy Hopkins and Mr. Searles intended the money to go to Angelo Ellison. In a case of what goes around comes around, it appears that after Searles married Mrs. Hopkins, he used his influence over her to see that Timothy was cut out of the will.  In the case of Timothy Hopkins, there was a court fight over the estate of Mrs. Hopkins Searles. She conveniently changed her will leaving everything to Edward Searles. The will also clearly stated that the omission of her adopted son, Timothy Hopkins, was intentional.  This all created a national sensation and public opinion was on the side of Timothy Hopkins. During the court hearing, Searles was questioned about his life with his wife. He admitted that “he admired her very much from the start and when he married her it was for both her love and money.” At the hearing Attorney Burley pressed the question, “which motive was stronger?” to which Mr. Searles made the intelligent reply of “love.” In the end, the estate was settled by giving Timothy Hopkins over three million dollars of the thirty million dollar estate.

It seems that Searles’s intentions for his adopted “son” Angy were also thwarted. Searles’s will was also changed very close to his death when many thought him  mentally incapable of making such a decision. Arthur T. Walker, Searles’s personal secretary, used his influence to have the will changed, and he inherited the vast Searles fortune. Walker died a few months after the estate trial ended, of a stroke, in front of the grand fireplace at the Windham Castle and the fortune passed to his elderly sisters. One can only imagine Mr. Walker’s last thoughts as he lay dying in grandeur.


“The Searles Saga”, Sister Martina Flinton, P.M. 1976

“Andrew “Angy” Ellison – The Unheard Witness”, Reminiscences gathered on visits to his home in Bronxville, New York. As told to his friend Robert DeLage. 1979-1987.

“The Life Story of Edward F. Searles” Compiled by Ray Fremmer From the Unabridged Handwritten Manuscript of 1948.

Correspondence from Ray Fremmer, November 28, 1977 to December 31, 1982. Edited and Complied by the recipient. Robert DeLage.


Windham Life and Times – May 4, 2017

Eastern Illustrating Company


The photograph above was probably taken in the 1930’s. At that time, it was Gurry’s Store with a lunch counter and is also housed the Canobie Lake Post Office. I don’t know why the post office moved from Mason’s Store across the railroad tracks?  This place looked a heck of a lot different when I went there with my father in the 1960’s. It had been modernized with that mid-century modern, 1950’s look. I still remember sitting at the counter with my Dad as he talked with people like George Armstrong and George Merrill; Windham people and the Salem Contractors contingent. Breakfast cooked right in front of you in a compact space. Gurry’s used to be located at the corner of Route 28 and Shadow Lake Road.


Windham Life and Times – April 13, 2017

Eastern Illustrating Company

Clif’s Place, Windham NH Courtesy Penobscot Marine Museum


Clif’s Place is a store and gas station that sprang up on Route 28 to serve the growing number of “auto tourists.” In another photograph of this location, Charles A. Dow Sr. was the proprietor and he offered camping grounds for auto tourists, overlooking Seavey Pond. This building is now a church. Courtesy of Penobscot Marine Museum.

Another photograph of the same spot by a different postcard publisher.

Windham Life and Times – March 31, 2017

Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Company

Herman Cassens and one of his Eastern Illustrating “real photo” postcards of Cobbett’s Pond in Windham.

Historic Glass Plate Images of Windham

You will remember this image that was in last week’s column. In looking at the postcard, I noticed that the name of the publishing company was imprinted on the back. Eastern Illustrating Company of Belfast, Maine. A little research online lead me to the Penobscot Marine Museum, where the Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Company collection is housed. There are literally tens of thousands of historic images in the collection. You can imagine my excitement as I viewed the forty or so photographs of Windham.

I spoke to Kevin Johnson, photographic archivist at the museum who told me the history of Eastern Illustrating and his involvement with the collection. The glass plates were almost lost in a flood! The museum gave me permission to present the Windham photographs to you in my Windham News column and in my blog. I am sure you’ll enjoy seeing these photographs as much as I did.

The history of the Eastern Illustrating is very interesting and what is presented here is from the Penobscot Marine Museum’s web-site. “In 1909, R. Herman Cassens, a young entrepreneur, started a postcard company, the Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Company, in the mid-coast town of Belfast, Maine. Postcards have always been a popular item, especially for travelers, but at the turn of the century they were the absolute rage.”

“At a time when the telephone was not an integral part of the American household and email was still nearly a century away, postcards provided both a visual and written link, whether from across town or across the country. Cassens saw a niche between personal/amateur postcards and the mass-produced postcards available in the bigger cities. He had a dream of “Photographing the Transcontinental Trail–Maine to California,” focusing on small rural towns and villages. He and his small crew of photographers traveled through rural New England and New York focusing their lenses on locally known landmarks, street scenes, country stores and businesses, events and people. The exposed glass plate negatives were sent back to the ‘factory’ in Belfast where they were processed, printed and sent back to the general stores for sale at ‘2 for 5 cents.’ ”

“Cassens sold his business in 1947 and died in 1948. Though his dream of photographing all 48 states was not realized, his company did manage to make over 40,000 glass plate negatives of New England and New York between 1909 and 1947. The images are fascinating on many levels. They take their viewers back in time to when the roads were still dirt, horse drawn carriages outnumbered cars, coastlines were still undeveloped and elms lined the streets.” You can learn more about how the collection ended up at the Penobscot Marine Museum by following this link: The museum is looking for donations for its efforts in restoring and publishing these and other photographs.

The good news is that for anybody who might be interested, the Penobscot Marine Museum will make high resolution prints on Fine Art paper, with archival pigment inks. So in the coming weeks, if you see a Windham scene that you might want to enjoy hanging on your wall, you can purchase it at the Their collection also features historic photographs of towns throughout New England and New York. I saw beautiful views of Big Island Pond in Derry, Arlington Pond Reservoir and of the town of Salem while doing my research. Print sizes range from 8” x 10” to 24” x 30.”

I can’t wait to share these photographs with you, my loyal readers. In the coming weeks, you’ll see  many fascinating scenes of Windham past.

You can learn more about the Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Company and its photographic archive at:

Purchase the North by Northeastern DVD featuring the photographs of the Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Company.

Donate to help preserve the photograph collections of the Penobscot Marine Museum.

Browse the Penobscot Marine Museum Photograph Collection.

Purchase Maine On Glass: The Early Twentieth Century in Glass Plate Photography by author Kevin Johnson