Friday, June 14, 2013

Edwin Martin Currier - Part 2: Dismission to Lowell

In my posting of Part 1, The Letters, I explained the origins of my interest in Edwin Martin Currier.  My curiosity arose from two letters Edwin had written to a branch of the Currier family, apparently that of my mother's great grandfather, John Currier, of Langdon, New Hampshire, in which Edwin stated that he had "formed the plan of writing a genealogical record of the Curriers."  I have now  formed my own plan;  to research and construct a chronological record of Edwin Martin Currier's life as best I can and, hopefully, see whatever genealogical record Edwin was able to put together. This post,  Part 2, Dismission to Lowell, will attempt to do that.

Edwin's letters were written from his home in Lowell, Massachusetts where he resided with his parents. But since I live in Florida all of my research so far has been online.  I hope to find more source material to add to my research of Edwin's life this summer on a vacation trip to New England. But in the meantime my research has been confined to whatever I can find on the Internet.  My two primary sources of information have been the membership-only websites, and The New England Historic Genealogical Society.  Other resources will be cited to reference any other information I've been able to uncover.

                's huge database steered me right to an extracted record of Edwin's birth, transcribed from New Hampshire, Births and Christenings Index, 1714 - 1904. I always prefer to use the original record as a source but I could not find the original index online. The man who became identified as Edwin Martin Currier was born November 5, 1844 in Pelham, NH. It appears from this transcription that he was named Martin Edwin, with the given and middle names reversed from his later identity. The indexed father's name, James H. Currier,  duplicates Edwin's lineage info in the letters to John Currier. His mother's name, "Dorothy P." in subsequent research coincided with her given name of Dorothy Page Richardson.

The September 1850 Federal Census for Pelham, NH shows another interesting twist on Edwin Martin aka Martin Edwin's name by listing him as "Martha E." and designating his gender as female. He (she) is listed along with parents, James H. Currier and Dorothy Currier, and an older brother and sister, James W. and Dorothy E.  I can only guess, but I suspect the gender confusion was caused by the enumerator simply making a transcription error when posting data on the final census record.  The record (shown below) is neat and clear of corrections of any kind, which indicates to me that it was a final transcribed compilation of census data and not a "real time" work sheet. Thus, five year old Edwin is recorded in history as a female named, Martha E. Currier.


Ten years later the Pelham Federal Census for 1860 is more accurate but not completely. At least the gender is correct with the "m" identifying him as a male. However, the age of Edwin, identified as "Martin E." is listed as 14.  Born in November of 1844, this census recorded in July of 1860 should have shown the young man to be 15 years old. Edwin aka Martin still resides with his parents but his older siblings have apparently moved on to reside elsewhere.


The ten year gap between these first two Federal Census records was the longest duration of time between recorded events of  Edwin Martin Currier. In 1868 a transcription of "Dismissions" from the Congregational Church of Pelham records Edwin's relocation to Lowell, Massachusetts. My first thought when I located this list from the William Thomas Hayes Historical Collection, on the Pelham Historical Society website was, "Oh Oh, were there dire circumstances causing Edwin's dismissal from his church?"  But after review of the form all of the names listed along with Edwin are in a column labeled "dismissed to" along with destination cities. Thus, this "dismission" list appears to be a record of church members who have moved on to different locales away from Pelham and not for any sins or transgressions the church found unsavory.

 Since this list is a transcription from the church's original records I'm reluctant to make assumptions about why Edwin is the only Currier listed.  Subsequent research shows that Edwin's parents also "transferred to" Lowell by 1868, proof of which I will get to shortly.  I've chosen not to guess how involved Edwin and his other family members may have been in the Congregational Church in Pelham. The transcribed records from the Pelham Historical Society website list five categories of church history including, marriages, baptisms, deaths, admissions, and dismissions. But the only other posting for the Currier family besides this one citing Edwin's move to Lowell is a record of his parent's marriage listing James H. Currier and Dorothy P. Richardson with a wedding date of 14 October 1830.  Whether omissions of additional family information is an indication of lackluster participation in church activities by the Currier family or information lost in transcription, I can't really say without being able to review the original records.  One thing is sure...Edwin and his parents (and probably his sister) relocated to Lowell, Massachusetts no later than the year 1868. Evidence of their 1868 residency in Lowell is provided by the LOWELL DIRECTORY, a city record of names of citizens and business enterprises published annually by Sampson, Davenport, & Co., of Boston, Ma.  These U.S. City Directories for Lowell and surrounding communities have provided me with a view of Edwin's life and career that generously supplement Federal Census Records that were only compiled every ten years. The City Directories providing a record of Edwin and, to a lesser degree his family, compiled thirty one years of data in the span of years from 1868 to 1919. Although not as detailed in data as the census records, the directories still provide some clues as to what Edwin's life in Lowell was about. Where he lived, in some cases where he worked, and almost always his occupation were posted in the directories. Significantly, this data was recorded in the twelve consecutive years from 1888 through 1899 which eliminates the common twenty year record gap genealogists face when researching the years between 1880 and 1900. The gap was created by the destruction of most 1890 Federal Census Records destroyed in a Washington, DC fire in 1921.  The 1868 LOWELL DIRECTORY is pictured below with Edwin and his father, James listed on page 77.


Edwin is listed as "boards" at 85 Willow Street with his occupation described as "wire worker."  His father is listed as "house" at the same address which indicates James was the primary resident while his son paid a boarding fee. I don't believe that James owned the residence because in the 1870 Federal Census there was no entry made for value of real estate. It's possible that Edwin paid his boarding fee to his father while his father paid rent to a landlord.  Females were not listed in the directories unless they were the primary resident, boarders, or widows of deceased primary residents. The next Lowell Directory available listing Edwin was the 1872 edition. Combining that information with data recorded on the 1870 Federal Census tells us a few more things about the Currier family residing in Lowell.

The census shows James H. Currier, age 68 listed first (and therefore head of household) with an occupation of "farm laborer."  His wife Dorothy R. is shown as 56 years old and listed with the occupation "keeping house." Their daughter, Emeline D., (like her brother, it appears she reversed her middle name with the first name recorded on the 1850 census record) is shown as 25 years old and has a job description "works in printing office." Edwin M. completes the family section in 1870, still working as a "wire worker" and is recorded as age 25.  Emeline's age is off by eight years; she should have been recorded as 34 years old. But she's not the only one listed with bogus age info because James was 62 in 1870, not 68 as recorded.  And Dorothy was actually 60 years old, not 56!   Two years later the city directory shows Edwin with what may be a promotion from wire worker to clerk. I'm assuming that could be a promotion. Moreover, the 1872 Lowell Directory lists the name of the company where Edwin works...he is a clerk at Woods, Sherwood, & Co.'s."  Edwin is still shown as a boarder (abbreviated as "bds.") at 35 Willow Street and his father, James H. still the primary house resident while continuing to work as a laborer.  The 35 Willow Street address is corroborated with Edwin's 1871 letters to John Currier of Langdon, NH wherein he closed with the same Willow Street address information.

The 1872 directory's listing of Edwin's employer was an unexpected but welcome gift to my research. According to the University of Massachusetts Lowell Center for Lowell History, city directories for Lowell residents were "arranged by name, work address, occupation, and home address." On most subsequent directories I located on Edwin, this was the content format. The name of his employer was never listed again, just the employer's address. I was curious about Edwin's work as a "wire worker" with Woods, Sherwood & Co so I tried to Google the company name. I found no listing to indicate they were still in business but Google did provide me with a good idea of the company's products with a listing of "Patents for Woods, Sherwood, & Co." that included illustrations of, what else?...wire work devices patented in the 1860's!


These illustrations of their patented wire products provides a much clearer picture of the work Edwin might have performed as a wire worker for Woods, Sherwood, & Co.  Some of the products almost appear to be woven. Whether or not Edwin's wire working was performed by hand or aided by machinery is unknown. Nevertheless, with the designation of clerk as his occupation in 1872 it seems safe to say that Edwin's work has been modified from working with wire to working with pen, pencil, and paper.

The next city directory I found listing Edwin was the 1875 edition.  This directory indicated some changes in Edwin's life. This listing conformed to the standard format:   "Currier Edwin M. clerk, 150 Bridge, b.4, rear 41 willow, Belvidere."  Edwin's father, James, is recorded as: "Currier James H. laborer, house 4, rear 41 Willow. Bel." So evidently the Curriers have moved to a different address on Willow Street and Edwin's job description continues to be that of a clerk.  The employer address for Edwin's clerk job is 150 Bridge. I wasn't sure what the "Belvidere" listing was until I found an 1879 City Atlas Map (from UMass Lowell Center) that showed Belvidere as a neighborhood within Lowell that included Willow Street.

I've highlighted Willow Street in yellow on the map to the left. The top right center portion of the map has an indicator showing the direction for North. The various "plates" of maps available on the UMass Lowell Center website, produced by a G.M. Hopkins Co. are oriented for street and name labeling as opposed to true North at the top of the page. Thus, according to the North indicator on this map, Willow Street is oriented slightly Northwest/Southeast.  

I zoomed in on this map to see if I could get a better idea of what the Currier family's move from 35 Willow Street to 4, rear 41 Willow entailed. These maps are quite good, expertly constructed even, and when compared to current satellite images I found them to be extraordinarily detailed and accurate. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the dwellings even included street address numbers! However, my own expertise in producing zoomed images was lacking and resulted in fuzzy blurred maps. So I took the liberty of making my own "improved" versions by darkening the dwelling outlines and street address numbers as well as property lines . And I color highlighted the two Willow Street addresses to show the relocation the Currier family underwent from 1872 (yellow) to 1875 (pink).  

I'm still amazed at how much detail the map maker was able to reconstruct. It appears that the property owner for both Currier residences was a woman named Ellen Smith. Ms Smith evidently owned a number of dwellings on the Northeast corner of a city block at the intersection of Willow Street and Chestnut Street in the Belvidere neighborhood of Lowell. With the dwelling structures pictured it appears the Currier's residence at 35 Willow Street was one of five apartments within one structure. When they moved three addresses south to "4, rear 41" their next dwelling contained two apartments with addresses of 39 and 41 Willow Street.  The map clearly depicts a second and separate structure behind the apartments fronting on Willow Street and a line on the map shows this structure also separated in two. Thus, I've concluded the rear structure cited on the directory as address "4, rear, 41" is where Edwin Currier and his family resided.

Lowell City Directories for the next nearly two decades show Edwin residing at the same address from 1875 to 1893. He was listed as a boarder in all the directories through 1888 but in 1890 was designated a "house" resident. Edwin's father, James H. didn't pass away until 1893 and was always listed with the designated "house" in the directory. Perhaps when Edwin was listed as a boarder he was paying room and board to his father. And when his own designation changed from boarder to house he was paying rent directly to the landlord?  Just one possible answer to one of many puzzles that I encountered during my research on Edwin.  From 1875 through 1893 the directories consistently (a few years omitted work address)  listed Edwin's place of work as 150 Bridge Street.  This address created  another puzzle for me. To show why, I have to jump forward to 1894 where the Lowell City Directory lists Edwin's work address as 572 Bridge Street. Starting in 1894 Edwin's work address was listed as 572 Bridge Street.  Did Edwin change employers?  Did his employer relocate the business?


A business notice from 1875 (from Historicmapworks website) lists Woods, Sherwood & Co, "Manufacturers of fine White Wire Household Goods" located at Bridge Street,  "near 7th Street."

                                                                        The 1906 map on the right (from Historicmapworks, again) shows the Woods, Sherwood Co. factory in the center of the map and just to the left of the intersection of Seventh Street and Bridge Street (the name "Bridge" not visible in this cropped image). When I viewed the 572 Bridge Street address on current Internet maps of Lowell, the facility location pictured here coincides with that address. As a matter of fact, the current satellite view even shows a rectangular structure similar in shape and size to the 1906 rendition.

I could find no correlation between the Woods, Sherwood Co. location as depicted on the maps with the 150 Bridge Street address. Current Internet map searches for the 150 Bridge Street address point to a manufacturing complex adjacent to the Merrimack River and a set of canals supporting a textile mill called "Boott Cotton Mills."  Boot was one of many textile mills that began production in Lowell in the early 1800's and continued manufacturing on into the 20th Century. I found nothing to suggest that Woods, Sherwood Co. was ever located in Boott's mill complex area.  The 1879 map below (from UMass Lowell Center website) shows the Boott Cotton Mills complex with Bridge Street forming the right side margin border. There are other businesses located inside the complex but no listing of Woods, Sherwood & Co. that I could see.


Even though Boott Cotton Mills was situated alongside Bridge Street and current Internet maps pinpoint the address of 150 Bridge Street at the eastern side of the complex, Boot's office address was listed on a 1894 city directory advertisement as being located inside the complex at "Amory Street, foot of John Street."      

The Boott Cotton Mills advertisement in the 1894 Lowell City Directory served me as a reminder that ads usually contained addresses. Since Edwin's employer address in the 1893 directory was 150 Bridge Street and then changed to 572 Bridge Street the following year, I searched through directories for both years to see what address Woods, Sherwood & Co listed on their advertisements.  I thought that cross check would shed light on if Edwin's revised work address was accurate or not. Sure enough, their ads showed that the company's  address number in 1893 was, indeed, 150 Bridge Street while in 1894 it changed to 572 Bridge Street. Moreover, the directory editors included a "Preface" notice in the 1894 edition that explained the mystery. "Since the last Directory was issued, nearly all the Streets in the City have been renumbered."  Thus, endeth the mystery of Edwin's employer's address changes.


Edwin's workplace address is not the only change of address recorded in the 1894 issue of the directory. The renumbering adjustment also applied to Edwin's residence on Willow Street. Starting with the 1875 directory his address on Willow had been recorded as "4 rear, 41 Willow." In 1894 this was changed to "4 rear, 57 Willow. A map of Lowell from 1896 (another map from Historicalmaps website) shows the very same dwelling that used to be side by side addresses of 39 and 41 Willow has been changed to 55 and 57 Willow.  Mrs Ellen R. Smith is still displayed on the map as the property owner but her real estate ownings look to have shrunk to just one main structure plus the building situated behind the 55 and 57 Willow Street address.


The notation "4 rear" on all of the Willow Street addresses is consistently listed in the directories from 1875 to 1894, even with Lowell's house renumbering adjustment.  The delineation  of separate numbered residences located at the rear of the property facing Willow Street is made more clear by the Federal Census record of 1880.  The enumerator that  year correctly listed the numbers "2" and "4" on the census form's "Home Address" column and  clarified these entries in the "Name of Street" column by the notation, "rear of 39 & 41 Willow St."  So the structure behind the main dwelling on Willow Street has even numbers, 2 and 4 (rear) correlating to the odd numbers 39 and 41 (and, later,  55 and 57) facing Willow Street. There were four families listed as residing in 39 and 41 Willow Street, presumably (my assumption) accommodating one family on the ground floors at each address and the other families on the second floors. I know from my own history growing up in Massachusetts that many cities and towns had double and triple deck homes constructed and this was especially common in industrial areas. The Boott Cotton Mills advertisement boasted of having over 2000 employees (majority female) working in their mill,  all of whom would have needed places to live. Single factory workers typically lived in boarding houses close to the mills. But farther out from the factories multiple family homes became the norm for families to lodge with a sprinkling of individual boarders sharing living space.  Walking distance for 25 year old Charlotte Duff, for instance, who resided at 39 Willow Street with her mother and sister in 1880,  and who listed her occupation as a "milliner" would have had to walk about six tenths of a mile if she made or sold hats anywhere near the Boott Cotton Mill complex.

39 and 41 Willow Street residents in 1880

   The next page of the 1880 Federal Census record (shown below) accounts for residents in the "rear' dwellings on Willow Street. There are three families listed as residing within the enumerator's "2 rear" and "4 rear" designation. It's possible the dwelling structure behind the multiple story building at the front also had multiple levels that would accommodate three families.  I would also note that the 1896 map had a line drawn at the back of but still part of the 55 Willow Street apartment that could possibly have been considered "rear" for census purposes. But one way or the other, Mrs. Ellen R. Smith seems to have been quite successful, at least in 1880, in renting out the residential property she owned on Willow Street. And it also implies the Curriers were satisfied with their housing arrangement because they resided in Mrs. Smith's properties for over 25 years. Or maybe Mrs Smith just made them a deal they couldn't refuse. By the way, current Google satellite pictures of the 57 Willow Street address confirm it is now a three floor dwelling. Unfortunately for this report, the "4 rear" dwelling so intricately depicted in the maps above, no longer exists. There is now a parking lot located where the apartments behind the main structure were once located.

The "rear" residences accounted for in 1880

Along with the Currier family's housing arrangements, the 1880 Federal Census recorded some interesting changes in family members' occupations. James, no longer a "farm laborer" is now listed with the job of "gardener." His wife is still shown "keeping house." Edwin's sister, Emeline, presumably in the same printing office she reported in 1870 is now a "type setter." And Edwin is listed with the occupation of "Insurance Agent." There's no way to know if this title was bestowed in error by the enumerator or, if accurate, suggests a major career change for Edwin. Perhaps it was an experiment or a "middle-age crisis" leap for the 35 year old Edwin but it doesn't appear to have been a long lived career. The 1878 city directory had shown he was a clerk. The next available directory (1881) described him as a "packer" back at Woods, Sherwood & Co. So if the insurance agent title was accurate it apparently didn't work out and Edwin was back in the wire business, and moved on to the position of "packing" instead of "clerking." 

Whether his home address was 4 rear behind 41 Willow or 57 Willow, Edwin had a distance of just over 1 mile to travel to his work place at 150 Bridge Street.  Probably Edwin walked from home to work and back. From his home the most direct route to travel to work was to follow Willow Street north for 2 blocks and turn left onto East Merrimack Street heading west for just shy of half a mile. Adjacent to the Boott Cotton Mills complex, East Merrimack Street intersects with Bridge Street. Once on Bridge Street Edwin would have proceeded north for a half mile to reach Woods, Sherwood & Co's facility.  He would have crossed three bridges on the route, first over the Concord River, second a small bridge over the "Eastern Canal" and, finally the largest of all three that spanned the Merrimack River and in doing so lent its function to its name, Bridge Street.  The 1891 State Atlas Map below (from is highlighted in pink to display his assumed travel  pattern between home and work. According to the National Streetcar Museum website, early 19th-century Lowell was a "walking city." This website relates that in 1864 the Lowell Horse Railroad Company established the city's first horse-powered streetcar on a line extended from Belvidere  (Willow Street's neighborhood) into downtown Lowell.  If this was transportation Edwin utilized he might have saved himself about half a mile of walking distance because this mode of transportation went west from Belvidere toward downtown Lowell where the mills were located. And later, according to the streetcar website, "the first electric streetcar began operating in 1889 on a line running from downtown across the Merrimack River into Dracut." Bridge Street, where Edwin worked runs generally north from the Boott Cotton complex across the Merrimack River and on into Dracut, a town on the northern city line of Lowell. There's no way to know if Edwin took advantage of streetcar transportation or not.  It may well be that Edwin walked or rode a bike to work. But it's interesting to trace his steps, so to speak, and imagine how he got to work.


I recognize I have bounced around rather haphazardly describing Edwin's residence and work locations during the years 1878 to 1894. I apologize but I'm sort of a sucker for visual aids in my research and the maps of Lowell, I think, provide tremendous insight into where, and to some degree, how Edwin lived and worked in the first fifty years of his life. Only maps from the few years that I posted in this piece were available online.  That said, I will try to resume describing  my research of Edwin in a more chronological sequence of his life events. The city directories continued throughout the 1880's to list Edwin at the same address on Willow Street and with the same occupation as a packer with Woods, Sherwood & Co.  The first indication I found that Edwin was still on board with his plan of  "writing a genealogical record of the Curriers" was an entry published in his name in the Notes and Queries section of the January 1877 edition of The NEW ENGLAND Historical & Genealogical Register. Edwin's note and query is the second comment on page 114 of the January 1877 Register and is pictured below.


Edwin's note lists information regarding his 4th great grandfather, Samuel Currier (1636 - 1713) and describes Samuel's gravestone located in Haverhill, Ma. He also cites the stone inscription and laments the condition of the stone having partially sunk into the ground. I don't know if Edwin expected an answer or assistance with his plea, "It is a pity this old relic could not be set upon a granite foundation...Who will assist in the undertaking?"  Perhaps someone heeded Edwin's plea because a photo of Samuel Currier's gravestone in Pentucket Cemetery (I obtained from does not depict any leaning that I can see. I don't know when this photo was taken but it was posted to Ancestry's website in 2011.
 But the interesting part for me was that this entry was my first evidence since Edwin's 1871 letters to my great great grandfather that he was still pursuing his family history research. Also interesting is to wonder how Edwin got to Pentucket Cemetery in Haverhill as it was located 25 to 30 miles northeast of Lowell.  There was railroad service between Lowell and Boston as well as Lowell and Andover in the mid nineteenth century but I have not researched if it might have been feasible for Edwin to reach Haverhill by train. How he arranged to travel to his ancestor's burial place will remain a mystery but I suspect he might have ridden by rail because train travel had proliferated throughout this area of the country and especially so during Edwin's adult life.

Two years later Edwin posted another query in the New England publication again, this time soliciting information about a "Henchman" or "Hinksman" surname that I'm not familiar with. I did plug the names into my tree to see what I could find but nothing came up.  I could have tried the same thing on other websites but at this point I'm putting the subject to the side and perhaps will come back to it some future time. But for the time being I was gratified to see that my 2nd cousin 3 times removed was still in the research business. Without tracking down his "Hench/Hinksman" pursuit I could also relate to the possibility that Edwin's research had taken him down a path not immediately recognizable as connected to the Currier family.  But you never know until you follow a lead as far as you can if you're going to end up in a dead end.  I'm sure Edwin found this to be true because I have been there so many times I've lost count. I get interested in someone who gets married to someone whose relatives have more children and the branches just go on and on like a spider's web. Whether or not this 1889 query by Edwin was one of those endless branch searches or if he latched onto something solid I may never know. But I definitely feel a sense of brotherhood with Edwin for his family history research.

Another event in the year 1889 was not so great for the Curriers of Lowell.  Edwin's sister, Emeline died on October 20th.  The record of her passing was listed on a city record called "Deaths in the city of Lowell in 1889." Listed as "Emma" D. Currier, age 53 years, 7 months, and 23 days, address "rear 41 Willow" and born in Pelham, NH, Emeline's cause of death is recorded as "cancer."

I imagine the name Emma could have been a nickname of sorts for Emeline. Whatever she preferred to be called there's no doubt this was Edwin's sister, born to the same parents, James H. and Dorothy R. Currier.  Her work description on this record reads "compositor" which is simply another name for typesetter, the occupation listed on the 1880 Federal Census. Her burial is recorded as being in Edson Cemetery, lot # 1803.

Edwin's job title of "packer" had been consistently recorded as his occupation in the city directories from 1881 through 1889. In 1890 the directories changed from "packer" to describe his work as "shipping clerk." The progression of Edwin's career at Woods, Sherwood & Co. shows a trend of what appears to be increasing responsibility as he moved from wire worker to clerk, followed by packer to shipping clerk. I could be wrong but my own personal experience in transportation, albeit a century later, would classify Edwin's career progress as evidence of climbing the corporate ladder. In a very modest way perhaps, certainly a blue collar way but, nonetheless, his was an American success story.

 Even without the missing 1890 Federal Census, the next few years' City Directories showed few changes in Edwin's life as he approached his fiftieth birthday. He lived in the same house but was listed as a primary resident as the directories noted his address"house" from 1890 and on.  He worked at the same company and was listed as a shipping clerk each subsequent year. One change that did affect the Currier family was the death of Edwin's father, James Hale Currier on May 11, 1893.  Cause of death listed on "Deaths in the City of Lowell" record was "heart disease."  Dead a few months shy of his 85th birthday, James H. Currier's burial information shows he was interred with his daughter, Emeline, in lot # 1803 in Edson Cemetery in Lowell.


The following year in the 1894 edition of the Lowell City Directory we see the address change from 41 to 57 Willow Street along with a listing of Edwin and directly above his name, his mother, listed as widow of James H. Currier.  Below them and listed in alphabetical order in the Currier surname section is an entry for James H with the notation, "died May 11, 1893."  


This, then, is what we have established about the life of Edwin Martin Currier.  In 1894 Edwin will reach fifty years of age in November.  He has established himself as a working citizen of Lowell, Massachusetts. He has worked for the same employer for twenty six years, possibly uninterrupted except for a brief excursion into the world of insurance agency.  He has displayed evidence of a concern for and a curiosity about his family's genealogical history.  His family has diminished with the loss of two members, first his sister in 1889 and more recently, his father in 1893. Along with his mother he now resides in the same dwelling the Curriers have rented since 1875. And we still don't know the success, if any, of Edwin's stated goal "of writing a genealogical record of the Curriers. To this end my search goes on.