Sketch of Holyoke
by George H. Allyn, page 10

      Mr. Chase is said to have answered: "Merrick, I wouldn't call you a thief, but you have a very comprehensive and acquiring disposition." But both men worked in unison for Holyoke.
      George C. Ewing and Levi Perkins were also frequently at swords points. Levi Perkins was, as has been said, a diamond in the rough, big-hearted, generous to a fault. He would express himself strongly under provocation. So that when, in later years, he was elected state senator, some trouble-maker hastened to carry the news to Mr. Ewing.
      That dry old Yankee expressed himself as delighted, to the great chagrin of the newsmonger. "What," he sputtered, "you're glad!"
      "Certainly," replied Mr. Ewing, "and I think he should be elected president of the Senate. He'd sit up there in the chair and say: You blankety blank, blank, blank ------ senators, come to order; why in h--l don't you take your seats?'"
      The writer well recalls the presidential campaign of 1872, and the marching ranks of "boys in blue," largely recruited from the Union veterans, many of whom were then but little more than boys. W.H. Abbott for instance, could have been but about twenty-five years of age. Charles Ely was a specially big gun in the organization, and told more big stories than even the politicians could swallow without gasping.
      In 1873, on April 7th, Governor Washburn signed the bill incorporating Holyoke as a city, and the first city government was elected the following fall.
      Some of the early policemen that we personally recall were W.H.H. Marsh, who afterwards officiated as lamplighter; "Let" Atwood, G.E. Atchinson, Henry Duhaime, Alamado Davis, and last but not least, William G. Ham, commonly and affectionately known as "Bill" Ham. "Bill" was chief of police for many years, and gained considerable notoriety at the time of the celebrated E.H. Ball robbery, in 1869. One of the robbers was captured and turned state's evidence, and a lot of "joshing" was inflicted upon Mr. Ham because of his supposed lying in wait in New York, disguised. Considering that "Bill" weighed about 280 pounds, and was rather short, disguise would have been difficult, but when the boys wanted to get him going they would ask him seriously if it was a fact that he put on corsets in New York to perfect his disguise.
      A.M. Shepardson, stove and tin man, and afterwards truant officer, was a boon companion of Mr. Ham, both big-hearted, kindly men. "Shep" (as he was commonly called) was about six feet four inches tall and very slim, and it was a sight for the gods to see him streaking it through the fields after the fleet truants.
      During this period George C. Ewing was building quite a few houses in the Dwight street Ewingville section, and Asa Willard had built the flat-roofed houses on the east side of Elm street, from Suffolk street south. R.P. Crafts also built his fine residence in 1872, and along this period E.C. Taft, Joel Russell, J.S. Webber, C.A. Corser, and William Grover built, the latter on the site now occupied by the Holyoke Street Railway. Anderson, Samuel, and James F. Allyn also built at or before this date. The Samosett House, built in the 50's, had a varying career, sometimes being quite a fine hostelry, and at other times regarded as a den of iniquity.
      We can only recall a few of the proprietors personally: Myron Green, C. H. Hatfield, and S. J. Hobbs, but there were a number of others. A Mr. Dickinson, who ran the place and kept a livery stable in the 60's, relates that the old dam used to rumble with the volume of water so that it would seriously annoy strangers, though Holyokers were so accustomed to the sound that they were not aware of it.
      One fellow stopped there and, by chance, hash was served at supper and breakfast. He remarked in the morning that they must have chopped up enough hash during the night to run the hotel for a month, as all he could hear all night was the thum-thud of the chopper on the bowl. The booming roar of the dam was what had deceived him.
      Doody's block and a number of the wooden structures still standing on Maple street, were built long before this period.

1912 Group of Holyoke Civic Leaders
Top row, left to right:—William Ruddy, Thomas Pierce, William Grover, George Goldthwait, Horace Wheeler.
Bottom row, left to right:—Andrew Nye, A.H. Dawley, L.F. Heywood, James Ruddy, Simeon Fairbanks.

      In 1870 the building of a city hall was first agitated, and the land bought of the Newtons in 1871, with an additional strip of 12 feet on the southerly end later. The contract was let to Richard Ponosby for, it is stated, $167,000, but, as the writer remembers it, this was exclusive of the foundation, costing $25,000, so that the original estimated cost was $192,000.
      But Ponosby was "dead slow" with a losing contract, and the newly organized city government threw up the contract and finished the building with Watson Ely as superintendent, and anything that Mr. Ely constructed was bound to be iron ribbed and rock bottom.
      We recall a line of Miss Emma Wilson's valedictory poem at the high school graduation of 1874: "One ornate and costly building slowly rears its towers of stone," and indeed the building was not finished till the centennial year of 1876 at a cost of nearly $400,000.
      But, as the old Yankee farmers used to say, it was "wuth it," and only the big-brained, far-seeing pioneers of Holyoke would have been broad enough to build a city hall befitting a city of 100,000 people for one of then 12,000. In the Ponosby failure a number of local contractors lost, and enmities were engendered that lasted for a score of years after.
      During the next ten years Holyoke went ahead with leaps and bounds. Lynch Brothers, L.P. Bosworth, and John Deaney had all they could do supplying brick and stone, and "Bill" Barrett and Daniel O'Connell were busy excavators. A part of Pleasant street and the north end of Taylor street, as far as Lincoln, was built up, and with the advent of L.B. White, in 1877, the Highland district grew like a mushroom. Mr. White became wealthy, and then in the early 80's undertook the building of Fairmount Square, which broke him about 1886-87.
      He retained the Fairfield avenue property, which the creditors didn't think worth while taking over, and became well-to-do again in the early 90's, going broke again on the building of' the Empire Theater, and leaving the city in 1896-97.
      Until the City hall was started there was nothing on Dwight street, from the Congregational Church down to Front street, worthy of the name of a building. But in 1875 Metcalf & Luther bought a tract of land of Whiting & Brown, and soon after erected the Holyoke Furniture Company's building, now owned by Livermore-Martin. For several years this concern, with Tilley & Kellogg on Main street, did the furniture business of the city.
      H.C. Merwin had a crockery store on Dwight street, in the rear of High street, and Miller & Ordway, and, a little later, C.H. Woodsum, were the clothing dealers, with C.A. Corser, Boyce & Warner (succeeded by P.J. Gilligan), and later on D.E. Sullivan, and E.F. Osborn were the shoe men. Judson Strong, who afterwards became wealthy in Springfield real estate, also kept a shoe store for a time, being succeeded by C.S. (not T.S.) Childs.
      Dipping into municipal politics for a moment, the writer recalls the first city election in the fall of 1873. The recriminations of the present day are weak and feeble compared with what passed between the advocates of W.B.C. Pearsons and R.P. Crafts. When Pearsons was elected by a majority of sixty-two the Transcript came out with a cut of the most exultant, arrogant, loud-throated rooster that it was ever our fortune to gaze upon.
      He was re-elected, and then R.P. Crafts was given a turn, to be succeeded by William Whiting, in 1878.

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