Note: This exhibit was on display in the Westborough Center for History and Culture in November, 2018.
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Welcome Home Celebration, WWI
Westborough, May 14, 1919
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Every year, we celebrate Veteran’s Day on November 11, the anniversary of the end of World War I. This year’s commemoration is special, because it marks the 100th anniversary of the end of The Great War, as it was commonly known back then. World War I started on July 28, 1914, and given the war’s monumental impact on western society, I am surprised how few anniversary observances have taken place over the past several years.
Many historians look to World War I as the moment when western society broke from a naïve Victorianism and moved into Modernity. The advancements in military technology and the tactics used on the battlefields led to a scale of death that was unprecedented, with over 17 million people dying during the war. The horrific reports that came from the trenches created an existential crisis that impacted all levels of society and culture. Politics, international relations, economics, gender dynamics, even artistic and cultural production all went through radical changes as they were forced to reevaluate their relationship to a new world order that could lead to and carry out such destruction. These fears were not unfounded: in many ways, World War II was a continuation of the conflict that emerged in World War I.
The following photographs of Westborough soldiers who served in World War I are from a newly acquired collection of records from the American Legion Stowell-Parker Post 163. They present a unique opportunity to connect a few of the names listed on the monuments dedicated to those who served in the armed services during times of war that sit in front of the Forbes Municipal Building with their faces.
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Oliver Lloyd Cooper, 16 Myrtle St., Leather Worker
Cooper joined the Medical Reserve Corps on June 30, 1917 at the age of 22 and was stationed at Ft. Ethan Allen, VT. He was discharged by reason of flat feet on October 25, 1917.
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Curtis Forbush Banks, Lyman St., Mechanic
Banks served in the 102nd Ambulance Company in the American Expeditionary Force of the U.S. Army. He enlisted in Hartford on May 23, 1917 at the age of 19 and was slightly wounded on April 20, 1918. He was cited for bravery for his part in the second battle of the Marne on July 18-25, 1918.
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Harry Hubbard Metcalf, 9 Charles St.
Metcalf was a graduate of Harvard University and enlisted in the Army on April 3, 1917 at the age of 23. At the time was married to Helen Williams Metcalf. He served in the Aviation unit of the Signal Corps and reached the rank of 2nd Lieutenant, R.M.A. (Reserve Military Aviator). He died on October 13, 1918 in Memphis, TN.
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Leon Cantor, Hopkinton Road
Cantor was inducted into the U.S. Service on October 5, 1918 at the age of 18 and died in Westborough on October 14, 1918.
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Timothy M. Downey, Milk St.
Downey enlisted in the U.S. Army at the age of 23 on May 12, 1917. He died on October 25, 1918 from wounds he received during action on October 23.
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Errol D. Marsh, West Main St.
Marsh joined the U.S. Army on August 29, 1917 at the age of 28 and at the time was married to Jane Marsh. He served as a Second Lieutenant and was killed in action in France on November 2, 1918, nine days before the armistice was signed to end the war.
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Clarence Leland, Milk St., Publisher
Leland joined the army on June 3, 1918 at the age of 26 and served as a musician by playing clarinet in the 63rd Infantry Band. His father, Dexter Leland, was the Business Manager of the Westborough Chronotype, and the two of them eventually took over ownership of the newspaper.
Note: This exhibit is currently on display in the Westborough Center for History and Culture through the months of September and October, 2018.
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Dr. Charles H. Reed was a Westborough veterinarian and devotee of local history. His collection of papers consists of correspondence, deeds, diaries, letters, maps, wills and other government documents pertaining to the early history of the Town of Westborough. Reed began gathering information on the Town’s history, land and people as a hobby, starting with the Town’s first 27 founding families. The collection grew to contain several hundred original documents, and a portion of journals and lists that were transcribed by Dr. Reed. All items contained in this collection describe the early culture, history and life of folks living and doing business in Westborough.
After Reed died, his daughter Rachel Deering carried on his work of collecting items relating to Westborough history. In 1985, she donated the collection to the Westborough Public Library for preservation and safekeeping.
Receipt from William Brinsmead to Thomas Beman [Beeman], December 18, 1690
This receipt is the oldest known document in the library’s archives.
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Appointment of Nathan Fisher, Esq, as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Second Regiment, signed by Governor John Hancock, 1787
Nathan Fisher eventually became Westborough’s first postmaster on March 6, 1811 and was the original owner of the “Nathan Fisher House,” which is now occupied by the Release Well-Being Center. The document is signed by John Hancock with the same flourish he used to sign the Declaration of Independence.
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A love letter from Joseph Woods to his wife while serving in the French and Indian War, 1757
Kenterhook May ye 14th 1757
Loving wife these Lines are to Inform you that I am got to Kenterhook and am In good helth and I Can give No account when or where I Shall march Next there is a [T reant[?] story that we are to go to the Lake But nothing sartain and I would acquaint you that all that Came from Westborough are in helth give my love to the children No more at present So I Remain Effectionate Husband hopeing that we Shall Live So whilst apart that if we Never meet here on Earth that at Last we Shall meet In heaven
Brother Tuller these may give you account of my Afairs So I give my Love to you and my Sister and Remain your Loving friend
Note: Joseph was killed in action shortly after writing this letter during the Battle of Lake George in the French and Indian War.
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Letter to Mrs. Mary Aldrich, December 26, 1861
Thank you letter to members of the Ladies Benevolent Society for sending sleeping caps to men during the American Civil War.
Camp Jackson, Md. Dec. 26/61
Mrs. Mary M. Aldrich
Sec. Ladies Benevolent Society of the
Unitarian Parish, Westboro. Mass.
The package directed to my care for the distribution of its contents among our company arrived here last evening, and the Sleeping Caps contributed by the ladies of your Society formed a large and most useful part of it. A portion of this fore-noon has been devoted to fitting the various heads with caps of a proper size, and could you have seen the smiling faces that passed out from my tent under your gifts, you would not have doubted they were fully appreciated.
Your request regarding the disposal of any caps not needed by the Company, I shall take pleasure in fulfilling.
Captain Hovey & Lieut. Bacon desire to join with the company and [back of letter not shown:] myself in expressing our thanks for the continued interest taken in us by the ladies of Westboro’ and in conveying to them through you, this sincere regards and the best wishes of the New Year.
Trusting that the confidences now reposed in our company and the officers may never be disappointed I remain Respectfully