Photographs from Helen, Margaret, and Howard Swain’s Childhood, c.1905-1925

In an earlier post, we glimpsed the life of a boy, Rodgers Burgin, growing up in Quincy at the very start of the 20th century.

This is the life his future wife, Helen Swain, and her siblings were leading, more or less contemporaneously, in town at 226 Commonwealth Ave., at their grandfather’s house in Exeter, and on the beach in Cohasset.


HTS and children


In no particular order. Memory, I find, skips back and forth anyway…


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The Farrar Homestead, Lincoln, MA


There are only a few extant photographs of the house in which generations of Farrars were born, raised, lived, and died– and from which, lest we forget, Mercy Hoar Farrar fled the British.

(Note the span of time between these images, visible in the change in height of the white pines out back.)

Farrar Homestead from Beneath Od Roof Trees

The Farrar Homestead, from Beneath Old Roof Trees, Chapter 18.


The Farrar Homestead, from the Lincoln town archives


There is also this worthwhile account of the house’s history, written c. 1847:


from Beneath Old Roof Trees, Chapter 18, pp. 215-8

Online version available here and here.

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‘226 Commonwealth Ave.,’ Dr. Howard T. Swain’s office and home

I mentioned in a previous post that the physician and Harvard Medical School professor, Howard T. Swain, maintained – in the time-honored tradition of doctors everywhere prior to say, 1930 or 40 – a true home office.

The downstairs floor of the house at 226 Commonwealth Ave. in Boston’s Back Bay was the location for his large obstetrical, gynecological, and (I infer) pediatric practice. The upstairs floors were for his family, and, as such, held many of my grandmother’s – his daughter, Helen Swain Burgin’s – sweetest memories.

For several years after college, when my grandmother was “at home” (a 19th and early 20th century phrase connoting a sort of existential purgatory for talented but unmarried women), she would accompany her father on his home visits to see patients. Working as his assistant, she and the man she adored would go out from and return to this place each day.

In her elder years, probably the late ’80s,  I remember one car trip into Boston during which, at her request, we intentionally drove by the house and live parked in the street, flashers on and blocking traffic, while she looked up at it, one last time, saying nothing.


Howard Swain's office and home at 226 Commonwealth Ave

226 Comm. Ave. – Howard T. Swain, M.D.’s office and home



The Clarence Burgin House, Quincy, MA

When I was growing up, my older relatives just called this “Grampy and Grammy’s old house.” Today, it’s regarded as one of the nicer colonial revival houses in Quincy, and it’s been placed on the National Register.


Photo by James L. Woodward


Wikipedia entry:

The Clarence Burgin House is a historic house at 95 President’s Lane in Quincy, Massachusetts. The 2-1/2 story wood frame house was built c. 1900 by Clarence Burgin, a bank executive and father of Quincy Mayor Thomas S. Burgin. It is one of the city’s finest examples of a gambrel-roofed Colonial Revival house. Notable features include the gambrel-roof gable dormer above the main entry, and the wraparound porch with multi-columned Greek-style projection.[2]

The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.

Location 95 President’s Ln., Quincy, Massachusetts
Coordinates 42°15′11″N71°0′30″WCoordinates42°15′11″N 71°0′30″W
Area 0.5 acres (0.20 ha)
Built 1900
Architectural style Colonial Revival
MPS Quincy MRA
NRHP Reference # 89001364[1]
Added to NRHP September 20, 1989


If you’d like to visit, here it is on Google Maps:

The Zabriskie Mansion House, Once Washington’s Headquarters, Lost to Development

The house in which Judge Peter Zabriskie (Martina Elmendorf’s grandfather) lived with his family was said to be one of the most beautiful in Hackensack.

Built in 1751, and located on the north side of the Green at 50 Main Street, it was known by all as The Mansion House, and served as headquarters for George Washington from November 15-November 20, 1776. I have often wondered what Peggy Zabriskie Elmendorf might have remembered from that period in which her home was transformed into the general’s command post. It must have been something…



A view of Hackensack c.1831: the house was located in the cluster of buildings to the right of the church tower


Upon Peter Zabriskie’s death, the house was probably passed to his daughter and son-in-law, Peggy – Margaret – and John Elmendorf. In 1815, following their deaths, the house was sold to Dr. David Marvin, a physician.

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A Possible Location for the John Elmendorf Homestead in Raritan, NJ

I have often wondered if it would be possible to discover where in Raritan Martina Elmendorf grew up. Now, I think it may be just north of Duvall Park…


From the Somerset County Historical Quarterly, Volume 6, p.197, available online here

…“The New Jersey branch of the Elmendorfs runs to John, third child of  Petrus Edmund and “Molly.” He was bapt. at Kingston Mar. 24, 1749, and m. Margriet (dau. of Peter and Martina [Varick] Zabriskie, of Hackensack, N.  J.) Under the will of his uncle, Evert Bogardus, John received land on the  road from Kingston to the “Gran Kil.” Evert Bogardus m. Gertrude  Crook, and was captain of one, while John was captain of the other of two companies of  militia drawn up at the Kingston courthouse when George  Clinton was proclaimed Governor July 30, 1777. John  Elmendorf appears to have married and removed to New  Jersey after the close of the Revolution, residing for a  time at Hackensack and settling eventually at Somerville. He  inherited the estate which had formerly been owned by Lord Neil Campbell,  near the junction of the Raritan and the North Branch. He and his son Edmund were among the organizers of Somerville  Academy in 1801. He died July 4, 1812. His wife was b. Jan. 7, 1750,  and d. Nov. 24, 1809.”

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The Lewis Condict House in Morristown, NJ

The Lewis Condict House still stands at 51 South Street, Morristown, NJ 07960. White, with a large and spacious interior, it is home to The Women’s Club of Morristown.


A reddish plaque outside reads: “Dr. Lewis Condict House—1797—Dr. Condict, outstanding public servant, was first president of the Morris County Medical Society, congressman, and first president of the Morris & Essex railroad.” A letter on the wall of the main downstairs hallway  is from General Lafayette to Lewis Condict, thanking him for a speech given in his honor.

The website for The Women’s Club is here.

There is also a Facebook page, here.

or get in touch at…

The Woman’s Club of Morristown
51 South Street,
Morristown, NJ 07960, USA

Tel (973) 539-0467
Fax (973) 539-1505

GPS Coordinates and driving directions:


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A Love Letter to Islesboro by Elizabeth Prescott Lawrence

Just before her marriage, likely mid-1907, Libby Lawrence published this piece on the island – and the community – off the Maine coast that she had known so well during her childhood.

Yes, this was, in one sense, the same timeless H&G fare. But scattered amongst the references to society bigwigs and grandes dames, and their Ozymandias-like desire to leave behind at least a trace, there are little pieces of poetry.

Taken together, they actually reveal something… not so much about Islesboro, rather, about the heart of the author.

An excerpt:

“At night the water is here very smooth and still, like a black mirror studded with diamonds; for the stars are clearly reflected in its glassy surface, and around it the fir trees rise in a thick wall as if to protect their jewels.” –p.21

Have a read…

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Groton, MA c. 1888: The Caroline Estelle Mudge Lawrence Photo Album

Somewhere around 1887 or so, possibly earlier, Caroline Estelle Mudge Lawrence familiarized herself with the then-still-arcane process of photography and, to my reckoning, did something which for the time was quite unusual: she took pictures. Of her land. Her neighbors’ land. Animals she and others owned. Her husband, her children, her friends. Domestic life, well before the turn of the last century. It was, in a phrase, a thoroughly modern thing to do, and it was way, way ahead of its time.

Here, for the sake of preservation, and for the fun of seeing the daily reality of a family approximately 130 years ago, is the album…

(A brief editorial note: these are going up un-captioned. I’ll try to get names, places, etc. attached ASAP.–LSL)


A Visit to Gettysburg

Provoked by the foregoing research, I went to Gettysburg to look for the place, the actual place, where Colonel Mudge was killed: Spangler’s Spring, located near the foot of Culp’s Hill, at the tip of the Union “fish hook. ”

Google Map (GPS coordinates: 39.813324° N, 77.215871° W):


If you are reading this at Gettysburg, and currently searching a paper map, it is stop number 13 on the auto tour.]


Coming out of the woods on to a straight part of the road, with a large meadow on the right and a smaller one farther down on the left, your eye moves up across a long hill to a wall of woods. Just off to the left, and easy to miss, is a smallish rectangular stone monument fitted with a bronze plaque. It rests on a large slab of granite that was probably dumped as glacial till.


This is the memorial to the 2nd Mass. Volunteers, and, dedicated in 1879 by the survivors, it was the first such memorial to be placed on the battlefield at Gettysburg. The two faces of the plaque appear as follows:


“From the hill behind this monument on the morning of July Third 1863 the Second Massachusetts Infantry made an assault upon the Confederate troops in the works at the base of Culp’s Hill opposite. The regiment carried to the charge 22 officers and 294 enlisted men. It lost 4 officers and 41 enlisted  men killed and mortally wounded and 6  officers and 84 enlisted men wounded. To perpetuate the honored memories of  that hour the survivors of the Regiment  have raised this stone. 1879.”


“Lieut. Col. Charles R. Mudge                    Captain Thomas B. Robeson
Captain Thomas B. Fox                         Lieut. Henry V.D. Stone
Color bearers – Leavitt C. Durgin, Rupert J. Sadler, Stephen Cody
First Sergeant Alonzo J. Babcock, Sergeant William H. Blunt.
Charles Burdett, Theodore S. Butters, Jeremiah S. Hall, Patrick Heoy, Ruel Whittier, Gordon S. Wilson.
Samuel T. Alton  James T. Edmunds  Charles Kiernan
George M. Baily  William H. Ela  William Marshall
Henry C. Ball  John E. Farrington  Frederick Maynard
Wallace Bascom  Silas P. Foster  Andrew Nelson
John Briggs, Jr.  Willard Foster  Rufus A. Parker
David B. Brown  Joseph Furber  Philo H. Peck
William T. Bullard  Fritz Goetz  Sidney S. Prouty
James A. Chase  Daniel A. Hatch  Richard Seavers
Peter Conlan  John J. Jewett  Charles Trayner
John Derr  John Joy  David L. Wade”

Above: the front and back of the monument to the 2nd. Mass Volunteers, and their respective inscriptions.

Just in front of the stone, you see a gray, withered tree stump, maybe a foot-and-a-half across and coated in dust from the road. It stands up from the base of the huge boulder, almost pointing towards the hill. Its brush with the saw occurred long ago, but somehow it has held on.
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