from The Webster Evening Times, October 19, 1931(Volume 9 #15),
| CAPT. AMOS BARTLETT PORTRAIT PRESENTED AT THE HIGH SCHOOL
Spaulding Bartlett, Son Of Noted Citizen, Tells of Early History of Town and Incidents
In Fathers Life. Exercises Held in Auditorium this forenoon.
The beautiful Tarbell portrait of Capt. Amos Bartlett one time principal of Webster High School was presented to Bartlett High School at appropriate exercises this morning, by his son, Spaulding Bartlett, in behalf of himself, his brother and sister, carrying out the wish of their mother, Mrs. Amos Bartlett.
Capt. Bartlett was one of Webster’s most distinguished citizens, who, in addition to being principal of the high school here enlisted from Webster in the Civil War where he won the rank of Captain. On his return to town after being wounded in battle he engaged in the mill business.
Highlights of his life and ancestry were related in the talk given by Capt. Bartlett’s son at the presentation this morning. The exercises took place at 11:15 at the Assembly of the High School. On the stage was exhibited the striking portrait, which will be hung in the Principal’s office of Bartlett High School. The presentation was made to Atty J. C. Genereux accepting for the school committee in the absence of Chairman Herbert C. Branch.
The exercises opened with an introduction of Spaulding Bartlett by Principal Cyril C. Smith of the high school. Mr. Bartlett’s talk and presentation were followed by the acceptance of Atty J. C. Genereux who expressed the appreciation of the school committee and the belief that the picture of so noble a citizen of our town would inspire all the youth of the high school, now and in the future to attain to the high ideas and character of Capt. Bartlett.
Superintendent of Schools James A. Lobban then made a few remarks of personal appreciation for the magnificent gift, and told of knowing four generations which holds so representative a position in the life of the community. Mr. Lobban also told of the portrait being made by the distinguished artist and portrait painter, Edmund Tarbell who attained such heights in his profession because unlike the ordinary artist he could see and reproduce the soul and character of his subjects on the canvass. He expressed the thought that it was peculiarly fitting that this portrait should be placed in the principal’s office of Bartlett High school over which Captain Bartlett once presided.
In a brief talk Principal Smith told of the pleasure which the portrait hanging in his office would give him, and like the previous speakers believed that the constant reminder of such a brilliant character would leave his influence on the youth of today and tomorrow who are students of the high school. A selection by the orchestra as the students filed out concluded the program.
In his talk, dealing with the ancestry and life of captain Bartlett, and his association with the town of Webster, his son Spaulding Bartlett said: “Mr. Lobban has asked me to give you some idea of the man whose portrait is before you. To that end I have prepared a short sketch telling some of the things about him that might be interesting to you, but before reading it, I would like to conjure up a little of the background for the tale and then set the stage as it were for the drama in which Capt. Bartlett's played his part for more than four score years.
Imagine the countryside before the white man came; let us take for example the year 1066, one of the few historical dates that I remember, and consider what this terrain was like.
First the river is the central feature unobstructed by the dams of man, a gentle rivulet in dry times, a rushing torrent during the spring freshlets. If you walk along Prospect St. and look between the houses across the valley to the Dudley hills to the west and then imagine all the buildings and works of man removed you can readily understand what a beautiful area it was.
The forest was primeval, that means almost impenetrable by reason of the wind falls and brush so that the wild things kept to their runs, or paths which connected the different water supplies, those indespensible for any kind of animal life anywhere.
One of those game trails came over the hills from the Blackstone River Valley around the ponds in Douglas, down past what is now Brown’s Harness Shop, across Killdeer and the ford at the narrows, down Lake St. and Main streets, across the river and on into the Dudley ponds. Then there was another run that came down from the north East, past the north end of the lake and across the river just north of the Prescott Foundry. There were also runs along the river banks on either side. These game runs or paths were also used by the Indians as being easier than the cutting through the brush and tangle of the forest.
This same year William of Normandy landed at Hastings, and met the Saxon hosts in battle and defeated them, consolidated his position, confiscating the Saxon lands and parceled them out to his followers. Among these followers was a lesser chieftain named Berthellot; also a Norman, and he settled on his lands and today his descendants live there and going to a little village at Stopham in the South of England may see the graves of the descendants in the crypt of the little church.
The eldest son inherited the property and the younger sons are spread out over the wide world. So much for 1066. Now we move ahead, six hundred years. The white men have established footholds on the Atlantic seaboard and the more adventuresome are moving westward, following the game runs or Indian trails.
Settlements have been made at Oxford and at Dudley. Among other English pioneers is a family of Kingsbury’s whose original farmstead was on the site of the present Town Infirmary and in the fullness of time the sons and grandsons built, at what is known as Kingsbury’s Mills in the Gore, at the bulk head gates in the East Villages, at Mt. Zion across the road from Zion cemetery and on the back road from the North Village to the Worcester road. Two of these houses still stand, two were burned and one has been rebuilt.
Now we move forward again to 1620, and we find settlements and scattered farms all about. One of the youngest sons of Berthelot had come to the Plymouth colony, had finally settled in Weymouth, then the following generation had worked out to Rehobeth, then Cumberland, Rhode Island, and finally to Wilsonville. The named had now been modified to Bartlett and Zephania Bartlett dug a precarious living our of a pile of rocks called a farm in Wilsonville for his wife and thirteen children, at the same time plying his trade as a blacksmith.
Samuel Slater had established his cotton spinning mill in Pawtucket and later in 1812 had started a mill at the East Village. John Howard another Englishman, had equipped a mill in Dudley for the making of woolen broadcloths, using fine wools of Spanish origin called Merino wools and to this day the village is still referred to as the Merino. Howard also started some machinery at the South Village but became discouraged and financially embarrassed and Samuel Slater came to his assistance and the new firm was called Slater and Howard.
Howard, however was left dependent and finally Slater bought him out and continued alone. In 1820 he wished to enlarge and as the masons who were to build the foundations for a larger mill needed a blacksmith to repair and sharpen their stone cutting tools, Zephania Bartlett was engaged to do the work.. He came into the South Village with his boy Asa who helped him with his work.
When the mill was built Zephania settled here, and acquired land from the Indian woods down to the river including that on which his building now stands. His blacksmith shop was just in front of the gas station of the junction of Lake and East Main streets. Asa his son went to work in the card room of the new mill and married Matilda Kingsbury whose family had lived in South Oxford just above our North Village for more than 100 years. Asa Bartlett was the father of Amos Bartlett and Martha Kingsbury his mother.
I have dwelt upon this background because from his Norman ancestry he inherited the very black hair, very black eyes, and very white skin, together with his impetuous generosity, fine mental perceptions and sensitiveness, and from his Saxon Kingsbury forbearers his great strength of body and mind, capacity for work, and to see through a problem to its underlying principle, and “to keep” as it were “his eye on the ball.”
In the South Village four houses North of the Ford service station is a low one and a half story building the architecture of which is of the early eighteen hundreds. On the 9th day of May, 1836 a boy was born in that house in a family both sides of which had lived within sixty miles of Webster for seven generations, and who was later baptized Amos after a custom in the family of naming at least some of the boys after the prophets of the Old Testament.
The boys chief inheritance from his parents was a thoroughly sound body which later became a fit housing for a very remarkable and interesting mind. This mind began to function quite early as is shown in a legend in the family to the effect that little Amos who at the age of three had developed a strong liking for baked apple, was taken sick, and old Doctor Negus, for whom the street on which this school faces was named, and who lived about where the Post Office now stands, prescribed some very exhilarating powder to which the boy objected.
His mother asked him if he would like a baked apple and when he admitted that he would his mother skillfully took off the skin and distributed the powder about inside the apple. The boy ate the apple without a word when the time arrived to take another powder, upon being asked by his mother if he would like another baked apple replied “Yes, but only if I am allowed to smell it first.”
Neighbors were few and far between in those days, only three of four houses in the whole village. In one of those houses lived the Callahan's, a family of three, Big Tim the father, Mrs. Callahan, and Little Tim who was about the age of Amos. One Sunday when the boys were about nine years old Big Tim took them for a walk and in the woods dug up a small elm seedling, brought it home in a handkerchief and planted it if front of the house where the Callahan's lived.
More than fifty years later Amos Bartlett caused to be built around the base of the elm a stone wall to protect it from the march of progress and to preserve it in memory of his childhood friend Little Tim Callahan. Anyone interested May see the tree and the wall at the junction of North, South, and East Main streets.
Just at this time at the age of nine the boy went to work in the mill at the South Village where he worked off and on until he was twelve with brief periods of schooling distributed through the three years. He developed at a very early age a fondness for reading, although books were very rare, in fact about the only book to be found in every household was the bible and with the contents of that book he became familiar. In fact he kept to the end of his life copies of the scriptures in each of his several desks and was frequently seen in times when he had a few moments to spare reading the Bible, not always perhaps in a religious frame of mind, but because of the beautiful English, and as worth while literature. ??? ever saw him reading Shakespeare although he was very fond of seeing Shakespeare's plays on the stage.
He went to Wilbraham Academy at the age of sixteen and later walked to Dudley and attended the Nichols Academy there, walking back every afternoon, a stunt in the winter snows not always easy. He wanted very much to go to college and studied outside of working hours with that end in view so that the spring of 1861 found him principal of the High School which at that time was near the junction of Slater street, and East Main and the old cellar hole may still be found.
In April of that year came the call of the President of the United States for seventy-five thousand volunteers and Amos Bartlett was one of them. He served for thirteen months during the worst period of hardship due to inexperience and unprepairedness of the troops, was slightly wounded at Antietam and finally was invalided home weighing ninety seven pounds, and before he recovered sufficiently to go back the war was over.
He worked a while in Oxford at the South Village Mill, at Mapleville, R. I., Rockville, Conn., and Warehouse Point, Conn., and then came back to the East Village Mill and began work that continued until his death.
During his employment at Warehouse Point, Charles dickens made his visit to the United states and among other things he lectured in Hartford. The late Dr. George McClellan Fiske once told me that one of the vivid recollections of his youth was listening in his fathers sitting room in Warehouse Point to Capt. Bartlett’s description of his trip to Hartford to hear Dickens lecture.
Capt. Bartlett's library was a good one, begun before and circulating or Carnagie libraries, he never read a library book, but bought and borrowed freely and in later years developed a fondness for rebinding's which as a young man he could not afford. After his death the headmaster of a boys school was asked if his school could use any of the books in Capt. Bartlett’s library. He sent one of his members to examine it and sent word that there was nothing in it he could not use. When the so called New High School was built he gave a clock and set of chimes for the tower in memory of his father.
During the latter half of his life was very busily engaged in the conduct of a great industry and while terribly harassed by death, litigation, business depressions, ect., consented to sit for this portrait, which shows in the figure the strength and the character of the man and the face shows the fatigue caused by the conditions through which he was passing.
At one of the regimental reunions at which it was the custom for each of those present he tell of what he had accomplished since the last meeting, Captain Bartlett stated that he had devoted his time to providing steady work at full pay for about two thousand hands.
He died November 20, 1912, a devoted parent, an almost recklessly generous and intense lover of his Town, his State and his country.