This is the story of a family that had a lot of money. It had grown, like so many small industries around the turn of the 20th century, from a small factory with maybe 20 workers into a gigantic industry with a huge building and a great deal of people who worked in and around the region of Lawrence, MA. This is a story of the loss of that money, those jobs, and those livelihood because of a major change in the way industry was managed and run. It is a story of slow decline, of standards being upheld in a world that no longer valued them, and of the eventual decline of the people who were part of it. It is the story of my family.
I came into this story well into the process of the decline, long after the business had moved to southern cities, and about six years after the time of the sixteen room house, the one my grandfather had commissioned to be built, had been sold. I knew nothing about the history for most of my life, catching only peripheral pieces of information such as mentions of the May Street well, the well that never went dry even in the most severe drought and which had the purest, cleanest water, or that my grandfather was in the mill industry. Very little was said about that time, and I wasn’t overly interested since my own life seemed to be chaotic enough with babies and divorce, going to grad school – twice – and then dealing with the death of my mother.
The was when everything began to change, and it was only about three months ago that it really did. I had done some research before, mainly out of curiosity, but nothing overly taxing. When I found the photographs, however, everything changed. This blog will be a series of events, chronicling the search for who my family really was. The photos are a mystery as is my whole history. My mother never talked, and according to my cousins, neither did my uncle. Something happened at some point.
My search for meaning has always been wrapped in fragments of a bygone era. Hints of great wealth abounded in my Nana and Grampy’s house – the Limoges dishes, the Waterford crystal goblets, the silver in the drawers wrapped with cellophane – that did not jive with the rest of the house. The enormous rocking horse, General, who lived down in the cellar. These are the things I knew, but which I could not place. Such was my heritage.
So this is a the story of a family whose lives were defined by a society that is well beyond our kenning. We, my cousins and I, are the beneficiaries of this mystery and none of us have escaped the oddity of the whole situation. It is a story that will take a great deal of defining. I think, however, that it is a story worth telling. There are at least two people who were affected in ways that made them odd and awkward in regular society. Neither of them are with us any longer, but both of them have stories yet to tell.
Photo of my mother, Barbara, and her dog Rusty. Photo of my uncle, Thomas, and his friend Steven. Both of these were taken at the house at 53 School St, in Andover MA.