Westborough Spotlight: Horace Abbott By Paul Bebchick

Editor’s Note: “Westborough Spotlight” is a series of profiles of Westborough residents, new and old. Have an idea for a “Westborough Spotlight”? Let us know by e-mailing avaver@town.westborough.ma.us.

Horace Abbott, 1880

Did you know a Westborough resident played an important part in the American Civil War by building the iron clad war ship, the Monitor, for the U.S. Navy?

Horace Abbott (1806-1887) started his career in a small blacksmith shop on South Street in 1829. There he learned the trade of forging and before long took over the business. In 1834, Abbott was offered a position in Baltimore as foreman of a large iron forging plant that manufactured forgings for steamboats, locomotives, and car axles. By 1861 he owned the largest iron plate mill in the United States.

During the Civil War, the U.S. Government commissioned Capt. John Ericsson, a Swedish scientist, to draw up plans to build a war vessel with a revolving turret and armored construction. After Congress accepted Ericsson’s plans, a request went out for interested parties to offer bids to build the ship. The plans called for a vessel that was armored with five layers of one-inch iron plate, floated at the water line, and was powered by a steam engine driving screw. On her deck would be a single revolving turret with a canon. Abbott had the largest forging plant in the country at the time, and his company was the only one that could handle the forging and plating requirements within the designated timeframe of one year. In the end, this new design concept helped end the Civil War by preventing the South from destroying the comparatively helpless wooden ships of the North.

The Victorious Union Gunboat ‘Monitor’ (U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)

After the war, Abbott helped establish the First and Second National Bank of Baltimore. For the skill and energy he displayed in producing plating for the Monitor and many other ships, he received high commendations from the Navy Department.

Recently Discovered Items from the Historical Papers of Dr. Charles H. Reed

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.

Click here to learn more about the Historical Papers of Dr. Charles H. Reed and to start exploring the collection.

 

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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

Joseph Woods

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.

Madam,

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

Chas. B. Fox

2d Lieut. Co. K