Sketch of Holyoke|
by George H. Allyn, page 15
He raised the municipal morale to a fine pitch, and when N.P. Avery succeeded as mayor his work was cut out for him, and he entered upon it with the spirit of a crusader.
The first fine office buildings, the Senior and Ball blocks, were built in 1898.
It would be idle to enumerate the legal, medical, and mercantile fraternity who have come in with Holyoke's growth during the last twenty years Sufficient it is that in William H. Brooks we have had for years the leader of the Hampden County bar, and when he retires C.T. Callahan will be a worthy successor, while A.L. Green will still be able to wring luscious verdicts from reluctant juries by honeyed speech and cherubic candor. We recall his once disqualifying John Tilley as a real estate expert, because the opposing counsel had forgotten to qualify him save as a furniture dealer.
Some years ago, at a papermakers' dinner at the Hamilton, Squire Brooks was a guest, and in a droll speech said his acquaintance with the difficult and ingenious process of papermaking was comprised in the manufacture of promissory notes, and, though he thoroughly understood the process, he sometimes found great difficulty in "marketing his product." But wealth as well as fame has come to him, though he never seems to have stopped to accumulate or hoard.
Our police court justices have been Buckland, Underwood, Pearsons, Sherman, the present, old-time, and honorable (in every sense of the word) E.W. Chapin, John Hildreth, and Robert A. Allyn. William Slattery also held an appointment, but ill-health prevented actual service. A.A. Tyler for over a quarter of a century, was the city's most expert title-searcher and conveyancer.
No Holyoker ever had a higher place in the esteem of our citizens than Judge Pearsons. He was an admirable character, but though temperate, not a total abstainer. One day a fellow came before him for drunkenness (so the story goes), who had seen the judge himself indulge once or twice the day before.
"Your honor, I plead not guilty; I was sober as a judge yesterday?"
'Tis said the old judge looked gravely over his glasses at him for a full minute. "Sober as a judge ought to be, you mean," and then let him off easily. We don't vouch for this, however.
'Twas in 1894 that Dr. Mitivier attempted to pot Joseph N. Prew with a revolver, though we doubt if he real}y meant to shoot. No doubt remained in Joe's mind, however, and to this day he believes the "Doc." would have "got" him had he not used rim fire cartridges in a center fire pistol.
The advent of Dr. Frank Holyoke in the early 80's may be noted as that of a lineal descendant of Elizur Holyoke, the pioneer of 1650.
In 1899 the American Writing Paper Company was organized, centralizing a lot of mills, and, while the consolidation may have had some merits, we can't believe as a whole it advantaged Holyoke. The Holyoke trade mark is seemingly submerged and individuality lost.
The Water Power Company, in the decade from 1888 to 1898, changed radically from the old liberal policy of the Bartholomew-Chase regime, and this, coupled with various municipal hitches, slowed up the steam roller of progress to some extent. In 1898 the new board of public works asked the Water Power Company for more favorable terms on a new electric lighting contract, as the old one was about to expire. Agent Waters' reply probably cost his company the ownership of the electric and gas plants. He curtly informed the board that the contract would be renewed at the old rates if at all.
This was practically a threat to throw the city in darkness if it didn't pay the price, and was keenly resented by the mass of the people. A bill was introduced to the Legislature for the taking over of the plants, and, though the company, the manufacturers, and the local press bitterly fought it, the majority of the voters twice endorsed it, and it became a law, though litigation caused the actual taking over of the plants to delay till 1902.
The city had to pay a most exorbitant price for a down-at-the-heels plant, but never was municipal ownership more signally vindicated than by the logic of events.
Holyoke has phenomenally low electric rates, and eighty-cent gas is in sight. This, with the new venture handicapped by tremendous expenditures in renewing and modernizing the plants and system.
How many New England cities are there that own a railroad and an electric and gas plant in successful operation, aside from the best equipped and lowest water works system imaginable? There have been some blue days, though.
South High street realty phenomenally increased, and north High street correspondingly decreased, till the increase of our Polish population and their thrift brought north High street property to its own again, while lower High street marches on.
Holyoke's First Opera House.
In 1895, ex-Mayor and Chief of Police Whitcomb, one of the strongest and most forceful personalities in Holyoke's history, got a bill for a local police commission through the Legislature, only to have it vetoed by Governor Greenhalge on the broad and fine ground that Holyoke had shown herself capable of reform and regeneration, and should be allowed to work herself out of her political slough, which she immediately proceeded to do.
Mr. Whitcomb was a bosom friend of Judge Pearsons and, naturally, was a bitter opponent of R.P. Crafts. The latter was an infinite wag, and one day when a Whately farmer called to sell him a horse, told him to go down to the police court and see Mr. Whitcomb, and when the latter told him he didn't want a horse to finally inform him that he had a private tip from R.P. Crafts that he (Whitcomb) wanted to buy "a good, fast horse to go out of town with."
The farmer obeyed implicitly; was courteously received by Mr. Whitcomb, who disclaimed desire to buy, but upon the farmer's persisting, Mr. W.'s strong temper began to rise, and the farmer then delivered Mr. Craft's message. Mr. Whitcomb's wrath was boundless, and no man ever surpassed him in force and fluency of expression.
Later on Mr. Whitcomb and Judge Pearsons bought and opened Highland Park. which failed to develop till the marvelous genius of Sam Hoyt began to enthrall the buyers by means of flying machine exhibitions and other insidious arts.
Elmwood continued to develop in a manner well-nigh miraculous, the Hitchcock tract, Merrick tract, Horace Bown-Moody-Warren Company tract, and Cleary tracts having all been developed in the last ten or twelve years.
The Highland district was very sluggish till within a few years back, though the beautiful Highland school soon filled up when built, in 1899-1900.
The splendid new High school was built in 1897-1898, and a couple of years later Albert Steiger had begun to electrify the town with a Napoleonic dry goods and real estate campaign.
The city had attained a population of over 45,000 in 1900, and from 1890 to the present time it would be difficult to particularize all noteworthy individuals and buildings.
In teachers we might mention David Stratton and John A. Callahan by reason of length of faithful service and strong individuality. Mr. Callahan has become an almost integral part of the Highland school, and has always exemplified fine literary research and high educational ideals. David Stratton taught the old North Chestnut street school for many years, our present mayor attending under him.
He was an enthusiastic teacher, and a supreme master of wit and dry sarcasm. Back before the war he was a fearless abolitionist in a copperhead town in New Jersey, and came near being mobbed. One scurrilous verse circulated after he had fearlessly told his assailants that the negroes in Massachusetts were more intelligent than they were, appealed to his sense of humor:
"If the negroes of Massachusetts are so bright,
Why in blazes don't they send us a better specimen of the white!"
W.E. Judd commenced teaching in 1874, though his service has not been continuous.
The writer will not attempt to comment upon the clergymen of the last twenty years, save that the Rev. P.J. Harkins was a personality requiring a column to adequately characterize. The term "Father Harkins" revealed much. He had the sternness of a father, but he loved Holyoke, and harmonized with its rugged, old-time spirit, a trifle out of touch with the more modern ideas and fads. The title Monsignor never fitted him for a moment, and most of us refuse to recall him save by the familiar, rough-and-ready name, which fitted him like a glove.
Under Mayor Avery the city's spirit became more idealistic. The city had few parks worthy of the name save Hampden, acquired in the early town days, largely through the work and munificence of Jones S. Davis, and Prospect Park, laid out in the early 80's, till Elmwood Park was projected, and gradually became a place of surpassing natural beauty. But still the South Holyoke section lacked a public breathing space till Springdale Park was acquired, in 1905. Later, in 1909, the Jones' farm was taken over, and large tracts of land purchased for public playgrounds.
W.J. Howes and C.E. Mackintosh were enthusiastic park men, giving their best efforts without money and without price, and though their ideals (especially those of Mr. Howes) sometimes ran ahead faster than the city's pocketbook would warrant, they yet builded well for the grand Holyoke that the future generations shall know.
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