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This Was Then: The Boys Who Fled

Philip Higgins of Westfield was 13 years old when he was arrested for robbing $forty dollars from an area retailer in 1879. One in every of six kids in a family of Irish immigrants, his mother was a cotton mill worker and an alcoholic, and his father was in jail when Philip was sentenced to the State Primary Faculty in Monson, a public orphanage which was increasingly getting used as a dumping floor for young juvenile delinquents. “A very poor home,” read his intake report; “the boy lacked schooling and isn’t properly fed.” Disease or harm in his hip had left him lame, along with his left leg shorter than his right.

Little Tommy Myers of Boston didn’t even know his parents’ names; they were long useless when the woman in whose home he had been living declared she couldn’t keep him any longer. He was 14 when the courts despatched him to Monson.

John Henry Lynes of Northampton was 13 years outdated and working in a paper mill when he was arrested for assault and battery. He and two pals had thrown a snake, an apple, stones, and clay at an previous man driving a staff, startling the horses and throwing the old man into the road. “The agent thinks him not a nasty boy, but headstrong and impulsive.” He, too, was despatched to Monson.

Fourteen-year-outdated John Rome of Pittsfield had lost each of his mother and father and was working in a woolen mill when he ran away from his uncle’s residence. “Has been wandering about since,” wrote the agent. He was sent to Monson in 1881.

The 4 boys didn’t stay long at Monson. They had been quickly each “placed out” to harnessmaker Rodolphus Crocker of Vineyard Haven, in a relatively new program to deinstitutionalize the state’s wards. Crocker housed and fed them in change for long hours of labor in his large manufacturing facility on Essential Road, where at present stands the stone financial institution building. After their first 12 months, some had been offered a contract, which supplied an annual wage of $10 beginning their second yr.

At first, Higgins did very nicely in his new Island dwelling, although his lameness restricted his physical work. He was effectively-preferred, a tough worker, and grew to become adept at using Crocker’s stitching machine. Lynes did Okay, too, although he lodged a formal complaint about Crocker’s “hard therapy,” and Crocker reported in return that Lynes was “hard to handle.”

Myers was less lucky. Tasked with one other boy to pare apples, they stole a pair. When Crocker discovered what happened, he whipped their backs till they bled, and broke two horsewhips doing it. Myers “is a really unreliable boy certainly, the worst in the store for deviltry,” reported a visiting state agent. In the fall of 1882, Myers and another boy stole Shubael Vincent’s dory in the harbor, boarded a vessel headed to New York, and stowed themselves away. Stone Island Jacket The ship left, however was pressured to return on account of the weather. Tiring of their confinement, Myers and his pal made themselves identified, and were soon returned to Crocker.

By early 1883, the scenario had deteriorated additional. Crocker thrashed Higgins repeatedly with both a stick and a whip. He mailed a letter to his parents, however the boys later found it in Crocker’s coat. Higgins had developed a “quick temper,” it was reported, and he as soon as tried to assault Crocker with an awl and a knife. A report concluded that Higgins “is so crippled that his future shouldn’t be promising.”

On August eleven, 1883, the most destructive fireplace in the historical past of the Island struck Vineyard Haven. The town had no water system, no fireplace division, and nearly no fire-combating equipment — just wells and buckets. Few had hearth insurance coverage. The new Bedford Evening Normal reported, “People didn’t get insured. And why ought to they It was eighty years since a dwelling house within the village had been burned, and no person expected that any extra would ever be burned.“

The fire evidently started near the boiler of Crocker’s manufacturing facility, but varied theories as to its actual cause had been all ultimately discredited. The brand new Bedford Evening Customary wrote, “The trigger of the fire just isn’t known. A person was in Mr. Crocker’s shop at eight o’clock, and not using a light, and noticed no fireplace … [Crocker] says there could have been no burning chimney, for no gasoline however coal was ever used within the chimney; and the story about sizzling ashes and leather-based chips thrown collectively is also incorrect, the ash heap being 30 toes from the chip heap. There was a cement ground for three toes round the boiler.” “The origin of the fire remains a mystery,” concluded the standard reporter. Some regarded with suspicion upon Crocker’s Monson boys, though no allegations have been made public, nor did proof ever come to light which may implicate them.

A “brisk northeaster” blew the night time of the fire, and the gale-pressure winds gusted to close to hurricane strength by midnight. The fire was clearly seen in the sky from Edgartown to New Bedford to towns on the Cape. More than 60 buildings had been destroyed, together with 26 stores and 32 homes, over some 50 acres throughout the guts of downtown Vineyard Haven. Looting was rampant. Tons of were left homeless. The Boston Herald described the town the following morning as “a mass of smouldering ruins, out of which arose scores of blackened chimneys, standing as silent monuments of desolated homes.”

Higgins disappeared the night time of the fire. “Philip is missing,” stone island royal blue hoodie wrote Crocker to the state authorities lower than 48 hours after the hearth. Three days later he was taken into custody by the Brockton metropolis marshal and returned to Monson.

The future of Vineyard Haven appeared very grim in the days instantly after the hearth. The Boston Globe wrote, “The village will never recuperate from the blow, for there isn’t any enterprise carried on to warrant a whole rebuilding.” The brand new York Times added, “The hearth strikes nearly a deathblow at this ancient village.”

Per week after the fireplace, Rome, Lynes, and Myers disappeared as properly.
Crocker’s manufacturing unit, the two tenements which housed his workers, and the equipment and inventory inside the manufacturing unit have been valued at $23,000, the biggest single monetary loss from the hearth. Crocker’s property was insured for less than half its value. The Boston Herald wrote, “There had been 75 people thrown out of employment from R.W. Crocker’s harness manufacturing facility, nearly all of whom, with their households, had been in a destitute condition.”

However Crocker was not defeated. Charles Banks wrote in his e book, “The History of Martha’s Vineyard,” “With characteristic vitality [Crocker] started work on a new construction whereas the unburnt timbers had been but smouldering, and others adopted in quick order. The quaint road had vanished, however a new line of buildings quickly arose on the previous thoroughfare.” Two weeks after the fireplace, Crocker wrote one other letter to the state authorities: “I shall be at work in my new manufacturing unit, a week from in the present day + would like two new boys. If those who ran away turn up, send them additionally for those who think greatest. Please see to the matter without delay + oblige.”

In 1884 Crocker was charged, as reported by the Boston Globe, with “extreme cruelty in his remedy of the reform school boys sure out to him.” Thomas Talbot, the ex-governor of Massachusetts, oversaw the high-profile investigation, but the Board of Well being, Lunacy and Charity, even after hearing shocking testimony from many of Crocker’s former expenses, soon declared Crocker’s therapy to be “not brutal, nor unnecessarily severe.” Six years later Crocker retired comfortably, and the company was formally dissolved in 1896. (The newspapers lamented, “All that can stay of this organization would be the bitter regrets of the sincere stockholders.”)

What became of the boys Myers joined the Navy in Boston three months after the fire, and Higgins quickly discovered work at a shoe manufacturing unit in Brockton, but their whereabouts afterward are unknown. Lynes received a job at one other harness shop off-Island, however was found to be “unsteady and a wild boy.” He returned to Vineyard Haven the following summer time to work for Crocker again. A yr later he married a sixteen-yr-outdated Island lady and fathered a daughter, but their marriage shortly dissolved, and Lynes disappeared for good.

Rome returned to his native Pittsfield, where he married and had a family, in the end opening an upholstery and cabinetmaking store. I tracked down his granddaughter, Martha Rash of Harrisburg, Pa. She writes, “He had handed away before I used to be born, and my mom informed us nothing about him. As far as I do know, he was a superb father and supplier, and didn’t have any hassle with the regulation.”

“It is unhappy to think of all that my grandfather went via,” she wrote after learning about his Vineyard misadventures. stone island royal blue hoodie “It was reminding me of Charles Dickens.”

Chris Baer teaches pictures and graphic design at Martha’s Vineyard Regional Highschool. He’s been collecting vintage pictures for many years.

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