THE THREE FAMILIES OF 4 HIGH STREET, HINGHAM, MASSACHUSETTS
1901 – 2018
Located just 14 miles south of Boston, Massachusetts, Hingham is primarily a residential community with a proud history dating back to1633 when the first few settlers arrived and named their small community Bare Cove. The town was incorporated in 1635 as Hingham, the 12th town in the growing Massachusetts Bay Colony. Its first settlers were Puritans, who like the Pilgrims in 1620, were fleeing from religious persecution by the Anglican Church in England. The Rev. Peter Hobart, the founding minister of the First Parish Church, known today as the Old Ship Church, and his followers were from Hingham, Norfolk, England, as were many others who came in the first half of the 17th century. Thus, the name Hingham was chosen for the new town. While Hingham has grown and changed greatly over its 380 years, its people remain proud of the town’s past, preserving its rich history, including many architecturally significant public and private buildings, and protecting its many open spaces, such as World’s End and the Wompatuck State Park areas. Two significant histories of the town have been written and were tremendously helpful in researching the history of 4 High Street and the families who have called this place home:
History of the Town of Hingham, vol. 1,2,3, George Lincoln, et al., 1893, published by the Town of Hingham
Not All Has Changed: A Life History of Hingham, Lorena Laing Hart & Francis Russell Hart, 1993, published by the Hingham Historical Commission
This stately Edward F. Wilder home overlooks the intersection of Main, High, and Free Streets in South Hingham. It is located in the local Tower-Wilder Historic District in South Hingham as mapped in 1986. This District was added to the South Hingham National Register of Historic Places in 1998 and includes historic homes on Main Street between the Crooked Meadow River (which was historically crossed by the Wilder Bridge at the intersection of Main and Friend Streets) and Tower Brook (historically crossed by the Tower Bridge across Main Street near today’s Tower Brook Road). It is also part of Hingham’s “Comprehensive Community Inventory of Historic, Architectural and Archaeological Assets” list. The plaque located near the front entrance recognizing it as the Edward F. Wilder House, was obtained from the Hingham Historic Commission.
Three families have lived in this house during its 116 year history. It is the only Shingle Style house in the local historic district, although the shingle style was very popular along Coastal New England around the beginning of the 20th Century. The exterior of the house, with its continuous sheet of dark wooden shingles covering its full three stories, looks much as it did in 1901 when it was built by Edward for his second wife, Carrie (Newton) with three exceptions: on the front side of the house facing Main Street, there was once a deck under the beautiful Queen Anne stained glass window, between the bay window and north-facing porch; the north porch windows and columns were replaced in the late 1960’s; and the government built the surrounding granite retaining wall during WWII when High Street was lowered to enable ammunition trucks traveling between the Hingham Ammunition Depot and Cohasset Annex to negotiate the High Street hill. Looking west across the driveway, Mr. Wilder would recognize the outward appearance of his stable and carriage house, long since made into apartments as #8 and #10 High Street by Dr. Underwood. Inside, Mrs. Wilder would recognize the well-maintained hard wood floors and woodwork throughout the house, as well as her beautiful fireplace, French doors, pocket doors, large bedroom “chambers”, generous bedroom and front hall closets, and even her maid’s bedroom and closet in the attic. Dr. David Underwood, and his wife, Maude, the second owners, converted the dining room and front hall into his doctor’s office and waiting room, which later became the office and waiting room for Dr. Gerald Collins’ practice. Changes were made to the butler’s pantry to accommodate a “lab’ for their medical use, and updates were made to the kitchen, but the “bones” of the house remain the same as you see today. “If the walls could talk,” many family stories could be shared about the Wilder, Underwood, and Collins families who have lived here. The following is a short accounting of some of these stories about the building of this home and its families.
Deborah Louise (Collins) Voss
THE WILDER FAMILY
The first Edward Wilder in Hingham, emigrated probably from Shiplock, Oxfordshire County, England, with his brother Thomas and sister Elizabeth. According to the History of the Town of Hingham, Massachusetts , Volume II , he is “the ancestor of all who borne his surname in Hingham and vicinity”, (and) had his first grant of land here, containing ten acres, the 8th of Oct. 1687” (pg. 311). On December 12, 1677, he was #44 of the list of 78 land holders who drew lots for land next to Weymouth, “according to Hosea Sprague’s early nineteenth century copy of the town clerk’s records from 1635 to 1700.” As shown in the second history of Hingham, Not All Has Changed: A Life History of Hingham. (pg. 34). Over the years, he continued to receive a number of land grants from the town and further expanded his holdings by buying properties from other landholders in town. Edward1 eventually owned and farmed many acres in South Hingham, land which was passed down to his descendants through the generations. Edward1 built his home in 1650 (the Edward Wilder House next door to this house at 597 Main Street) for his wife Elizabeth (Eames) and their eleven children. That house became known as the “paternal Wilder homestead” as their son, Jabez, (b. in 1657/58) and successive Edwards for the next 200 years lived there with their families. This house at 4 High Street and the paternal home at 597 Main were built on Wilder land bought by Edward1 from Samuel Ward and consisted of land mostly between Tower Bridge and the Wilder Bridge. Within a half mile of this house, there still are at least five other Wilder homes, including the Rainbow Roof House at 557 Main, plus the Edward Wilder & Sons Grocery (now the Cracker Barrel) at 613 Main, and Wilder Memorial Hall at 666 Main).
Edward 7 Franklin Wilder (Edward6, Edward5, Edward4, Edward3, Jabez2, Edward1) was born in 1846 in South Hingham, probably at 597 Main Street, to Edward6and his first wife, Emily Cushing (1818-1853). Edward7 was a successful farmer and commercial salesman who built this home at 4 High Street, and married Mary Ellen W. Bartlett (1846-1891) in 1867, and they had three children – Edward Russell, born in 1868; Percival Bartlett, born in 1874 but died early in 1876; and Emily Cushing, born in 1876. Mary Ellen was the daughter of Daniel W. Bartlett (1801-1871) and his second wife, Lydia L. Wilder (1811-1889). Daniel was a cooper by trade, a maker of woodenware, which included Hingham buckets. Their home was located at 565 Main Street, and is listed as the Bartlett House (1835) in the historic Hingham Commission listings. Edward7 bought the Bartlett house from his mother-in-law around 1880 and made extensive renovations and additions to the property so that Lydia could continue to live there, along with his wife, their two children and a live-in servant. He also built a stable on the property, and ran his business, Favorite Line Coaches, there until he sold it in 1888. After Mary Ellen died in 1891, Edward married Carrie Arletta Newton (1861-1950) in 1892. Eventually, Edward’s sister, Emily, and her husband, Frank E. Moore, a brass candle manufacturer, bought the house in 1905 for their family and Edward and Carrie moved downtown to Lafayette Avenue.
Carrie A. Newton was the daughter of William Flagg and Ellen A. (Wheeler) Newton and was born in Hudson, Massachusetts. She was descended from Samuel Wheeler and Edward Wetherbee, Revolutionary War participants from Concord and Acton, respectively. Thus, she was a Daughter of the American Revolution (DAR #47195). (Lineage Books of the Charter Members of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Vol. I-CLII (152). According to the Massachusetts Historical Commission, “Carrie organized the Lt. Joseph Andrew Society of the Children of the American Revolution and was elected its first president” while living at 4 High Street. This event was also noted in the “Hingham Journal” weekly newspaper in its October 31, 1913 issue: after an impressive program, “invited guests all joined in singing ‘America’ and then all were invited to the dining room where a beautiful collation was served…… Mrs. Warren Jacobs presided at the tea table.”
According to censuses and town records, Edward7 was not only a wealthy planter but also a “commercial traveler”, or travelling salesman. Beginning in the 17th century, many coopers moved to Hingham making buckets and pails for transport and storage of trade goods and “fish kits” for Hingham’s large and prosperous fishing fleet. These master coopers included Herseys, Lincolns, Spragues, Bates, Beals, Fearings, and Wilders, to name but a few of the old Hingham families. According to Darin T. Bray in his 2014 publication Bucket Town – Woodenware and Wooden Toys of Hingham, Massachusetts, 1635-1945 published by the Hingham Historical Commission in 2014, “The Hingham Bucket is perhaps Hingham’s most famous emblem from the 19th century. It gave Hingham national notoriety and the moniker “Bucket Town.’” (pg. 13) Edward6 was a superintendent of the Hingham Wooden Ware Company, and Crocker6 Wilder, a cousin, was a master cooper and built his first bucket factory, C. Wilder & Sons, on Wilder land near the intersection of Friend and Main Streets around 1830. In 1845, his sons, Crocker and Alden, bought an old saw and grist mill on Cushing Pond and moved this C. & A. Wilder Bucket Factory up Main Street to Mill Lane, on this site. This factory was the first in Hingham’s growing bucket industry to use steam powered saws and lathes to make its buckets, making for quicker production and greater uniformity in products. The factory made white oak buckets used for dairy products, red oak for heavy items, and pine for household items. Their buckets were of superior quality and were leak proof, using tongue and groove staves. With growing production and worldwide demand, the factory eventually produced nearly 1000 buckets a day and employed many salesmen to sell its products. With close family ties to this successful bucket industry, perhaps, for a time, Edward7 could have been a bucket travelling salesman, selling Hingham’s world famous buckets. Obviously Edward was financially successful and could afford that his new home and carriage house be built by talented craftsmen using the finest materials available.
On May 11, 1901, Edward7 bought from Ezra and Helen M. Wilder “in consideration of one dollar and other valuable considerations….. a parcel of land situated at the corner of Main and High Streets...containing one acre be the same more or less, with the barn thereon”. The purchasing of this land and subsequent building of this house is recorded as notable events in the Hingham Journal:
“May 10, 1901 – Mr. Edward F. Wilder has lately purchased a tract of land at the corners of High and Main Street and will erect thereon a permanent home. The land has frontage of about one hundred fifty feet on Main Street, and more than six hundred feet on High Street, running to Friend Street.
May 24, 1901 – Mr. William J. Nelson is furnishing a set of plans for the house to be built by Mr. E.F. Wilder at South Hingham.
July 19, 1901 – Work has been commenced in the erection of Mr. E.F. Wilder’s house at the corner of Main and High Streets by contractor Cushing.
August 30, 1901 – Mr. Edward F. Wilder’s new home, corner of High & Main Streets, is nearly completed externally and painters are engaged in priming.
November 1, 1901 – Mr. & Mrs. E.F. Wilder have moved from their Lafayette Avenue Residence into their new home on the corner of Main and High Streets.”
The “Specifications of a House for Edward F. Wilder at Hingham” specify that the house was to be “finished and ready for occupancy November 1901……The first story (8ft – 6ft high) is to be divided into Hall, Parlor, Den, Dining-room, Kitchen, China Closet and Pantry, Back Room, and W.C. The second story (8 ft. high) (is to be divided) into four Chambers, Sewing-room, Bathroom, and closets. Attic (is to be) unfinished.” The local architect was William J. Nelson, and the house was constructed by a “Contractor Cushing.” All materials were carefully detailed, were to be first quality, and were to be carefully built and installed. As this document outlines, “Each Contractor is to do all the work necessary to the perfect completion of his work, rectify any failure resulting from it and maintain, secure and firm the whole of it, including all alterations and additions, should such be made.”
Woodwork was to be of hard pine, cypress, and oak. Carefully detailed were such requirements for the foundation, chimney brickwork, drains, plastering, interior carpentry, and exterior finishes. Doors were “of first quality five cross panels from A. T. Stearns & Co.”, including the door on the servant’s room on the third floor. The floors are “quartered oak… in the Hall, Parlor, Den, Dining-room, all the rest of the first floor and the second floor, rift hard pine… all kiln dry.” Two pages of plumbing instructions were detailed. Even the number of electrical outlets, lights, and 3-way switches in each room in the house and carriage house were listed. Years later, his wife, Carrie, was a patient of Dr. Collins and she once told Mrs. Collins that “You won’t find any shavings behind those mop boards. I sat on a nail keg and watched as the workers swept out every one.”! This was to be a stately house built to withstand the elements and usage of time!
Carrie loved to entertain in her new home, which she called Rockledge, as the Hingham Journal noted on various occasions, such as:
August 29, 1902 – Mrs. F.E. Moore and her son Wilder Moore are visiting at Rockledge, the home of Mr. & Mrs. E.F. Wilder, corner of Main and High Streets. (This was Edward’s sister, Emily, and her family)
March 1, 1912 – Mr. & Mrs. Edward F. Wilder will observe the 20th Anniversary of their marriage at their home, High Street, South Hingham, this evening in a dinner party to several of their friends.
Edward died suddenly January 15, 1927 and is buried in High Street Cemetery. Carrie sold the property to Maude Underwood in June 1927 and moved soon to Main Street with Emily, and her son, Wilder Moore, his wife, Edith, and their son, Richard. On the 1940 Federal Census dated April 16th, she is listed as living at 537 Main Street with Emily Moore, also a widow, and a servant from Ireland, Emma Downey. Carrie passed away in 1950 and is buried in High Street Cemetery with Edward Franklin Wilder, his first wife, Mary Ellen (Bartlett), and their son who died at 2 years old, Percival Bartlett Wilder.
THE UNDERWOOD FAMILY
The second family to make 4 High Street their home was that of Dr. David Gleason Underwood, his wife Maude, and their children - son, Rodney Johnson Underwood, and daughter, Dorothy Sarah Underwood. Dr. Underwood was born in February 1870 in Westminster, Vermont to Sarah A (Gleason) and George Hubert Underwood. Dr. Underwood earned his medical degree at Baltimore Medical College in 1894 and was granted his Medical License on January 29, 1895 by the state of Vermont. Baltimore Medical College offered a three year curriculum, with practical experience at Maryland General Hospital and Maryland Lying-in Hospital (obstetrics). He married Maude Artene Johnson there on October 7, 1896 before moving to Bradford, New Hampshire where Rodney and Dorothy were born in 1899 and 1900. The US Census of May 1910 in Bradford shows David and Maude and their two children, together with Maude’s Mother, Anna (Phippen) Johnson, still living in Bradford. However, in 1911, the family, including his mother-in-law, soon moved to Main Street, Hingham, living in a home near the Tower Bridge, where Dr. Underwood began building his medical practice.
Edward7 Wilder passed away January 15, 1927. This house was then conveyed to Maude A. Underwood, by the First National Bank of Boston, executor of Edward’s will, by a deed dated June 1, 1927 (Book 1530 p. 395). Dr. Underwood was not only an obstetrician, but also a homeopathic doctor who prepared his own medications. Therefore, some changes were made to this property to accommodate his office: the front entrance on the porch was used by patients; the front hall became the waiting room, and the dining room became his doctor’s office. In addition, the pantry was closed off so that a “lab” was added to the office.
Besides seeing patients in his office, Dr. Underwood also made “house calls.” At first, he was what today would be called “an old-fashioned horse and buggy doctor”, keeping his horse in the carriage house (now #8 and #10 High Street). Next to a window in the office, is a switch which turned on a light outside, located to the left of the bulkhead. Mrs. Underwood used the light when the Doctor was out on house calls as a signal that he had another call to make before putting his horse away. She said the old horse got to know this signal, too, and would automatically stop near the back door, rather than proceeding to the stable when the light was on, even if the Doctor was asleep in his buggy!
The Weymouth Hospital was opened in Weymouth in May 1922, and Dr. Underwood soon became a member of its staff. When it opened its doors, the hospital, later to become the South Shore Hospital, offered a facility equipped with 20 beds, an operating room, a delivery room and nursery, and an X-ray machine. This was a huge step forward for the residents of the South Shore! Dr. Underwood remained a member of the Hospital staff until his retirement in 1946, when he was made an honorary staff member , thus honoring his many years of service. He also served on the School Committee and Board of Health in Hingham for many years.
When looking at the US Federal Census for Hingham in 1920, David, Maude, Rodney, Dorothy, and Maude’s Mother, still lived together at 4 High Street. By 1930, David and Maude lived here, along with their daughter Dorothy’s family consisting of her husband Herbert Crawford and their son Herbert Jr. However, in 1940, only the Doctor and Maude lived here at 4 High Street. At that time, Dr. Underwood was 70 years old and ready to retire. However, there was a shortage of young doctors and no one was available to assume the practice. WW II had begun and younger doctors were soon drafted to serve in the South Pacific and European fronts. Therefore, he continued his practice until 1946 when he sold his private medical practice and home to Dr. Gerald M. Collins and finally did retire - although his old horse had already been retired and had passed away. The garage had been built and housed a car, while the stable had been converted into the two apartments. Dr. and Mrs. Underwood lived in the upstairs apartment, #8, for a number of years after his retirement. Before retirement, for 35 years Dr. Underwood had cared for the citizens of Hingham and its surrounding towns, 19 of them while living in this home, during a time of many changes and advancements in the medical care of patients. Penicillin was developed in 1928, chemotherapy in 1946, and a vaccine for yellow fever in 1935, for example. Clearly, the days of homeopathic doctors were fast coming to an end. However, this house continued as a family home and medical practice for 17 more years.
THE COLLINS FAMILY
There would be many changes and discoveries in the medical field during the 72 years the Collins Family occupied this home, also. By the start of the 21st century, the days of private, home, and general medical practices in most cities and towns had come to an end. The field of medicine has become specialized and centralized. Every day there are new advancements in medical treatments. Even the world of the internet can’t keep up with advancements in heart, lung, and cancer treatments, organ transplants, cloning, and DNA research. Dr. Collins began his care of local patients in his private medical practice here at 4 High Street, but ended it by treating his patients in an expanding group practice as part of the South Shore Medical Center in Norwell, which he and four other doctors founded in March, 1962.
When World War II came to a close in the fall of 1945, young doctors eventually were discharged from active service and began to establish private medical practices. Amongst the doctors who came to Hingham, were three who had interned together at Quincy City Hospital before the War - Dr. Burton Elder, Dr. Donald Garland, and Dr. Gerald M. Collins. Doctors Elder and Garland came to Hingham first and soon learned that after 33 years of practice, Dr. Underwood once again wanted to retire. It was his practice which Dr. Collins purchased in late January 1946. Since the practice was located in this house, he also had to buy it, while, Dr. and Mrs. Underwood moved to their new apartment, upstairs at #8 High Street. On a cold day in February, Dr. Collins, his wife, Louise, their 2 ½ year old daughter, Deborah, and their black cocker spaniel, Lady Blitz, along with two suitcases, a steamer trunk, and a few pots and pans, moved in. What a huge undertaking this was for such a new and small family! A medical practice to build and a huge house to keep! But, the family was finally together, and Louise accepted living in this house as it had a window over her kitchen sink and was close to where she had grown up in Weymouth. The family grew in 1948 when Pamela was born on August 1st at Quincy City Hospital. Although I was only five, as the older sister, I remember I had been expecting an immediate playmate, but Pam was so small that this didn’t happen for a few years!
Dr. Collins was born in Medford, Massachusetts, and had grown up in Melrose, graduated from Tufts College in 1937 and then Boston University Medical School in 1941. While interning at Quincy City Hospital, he met Margaret Louise Rich, who was just graduating from Quincy City Hospital School of Nursing. They were married in June of 1942, before Dr. Collins enlisted in the Navy, and was called to active duty in November 1942. Lieutenant Collins spent most of the next four years in the South Pacific as a medical officer on a class attack cargo ship, the USS Fomalhaut. This ship not only made supply runs to New Zealand, Australia, and Hawaii, but also saw action in major battles such as Saipan, Okinawa, and Layette. At the end of 1945, Lieut. Collins had returned to the Naval Receiving Station in Norfolk, Virginia, to await his discharge. Louise, Deborah, and Lady soon joined him there. While there, they received the news of Dr. Underwood’s eminent retirement from Dr. Elder, and Dr. Collins took the train to Hingham to meet with Dr. Underwood and visit with his former colleagues. Before he left Norfolk, Louise had told him that she had to have a window over her kitchen sink or she wouldn’t move in, so he had to check the kitchen out, too! Dr. Collins realized he needed a car for his family and business. He bought a car from a fellow sailor who was discharged in Norfolk before him. A funny story our parents told us was about this car. It needed a muffler, badly, but the budget had to cover gas, not a new muffler. A patient would call, saying he or she needed to speak to the Doctor. Mother would say he wasn’t in, but she could take a message for him, to which the patient would reply, “That’s ok, he just went past my house, so I’ll hang on!”
Together, for 17 years, Gerry and Louise worked hard to build a successful medical practice in their home. A typical day would have Dr. Collins making house calls and visiting patients in South Shore Hospital during the morning, holding office hours early afternoons, followed by making more house calls and visits to patients in nursing homes, and then two more hours of office visits in the evening. The only variation of this routine was that there were no Sunday or Thursday office hours. Thursday was the Doctor’s day off, as long as there were no emergencies or babies demanding to be born! With this busy schedule, Gerry learned to make good use of “power naps” long before they were popular! Meanwhile, Louise took care of the business end of the practice. She answered the phone, made appointments, assisted with patients in the office, and did the bookkeeping, all while raising us two children and multiple family pets, and taking care of the house.
Keeping the medical business separate from the family’s “goings on”, especially with young children, often was a challenge. Patients arrived with broken bones, cuts, and sickness at all hours of the day. Many a supper was interrupted by someone ringing the front doorbell with a cut or scrapped knee from football or field hockey practice. Babies demanded to be born during the night or family celebrations. Therefore, life here was an adventure for us kids. There were rooms that could be played in and areas of the yard which were for play because noise wasn’t allowed near the office during office hours. When it rained, we played in the attic, usually in the maid’s former room. We played with our dolls and paper dolls, and the doll house made for us by a patient. We even spent hours playing school – all quiet activities so we wouldn’t disturb the patients during office hours. However, there were at least two occasions I remember where we were severely remanded for making too much noise! We loved to roller skate on the back walk, but it was raining, so we had a great time skating around the huge open attic! Not for long, however! The Doctor was not pleased! Another time, the twins next door, Steve and Phillip, and I got drums for Christmas! Oh the fun we had marching around the attic! That didn’t last long either! I’m not sure which twin used the drum sticks to poke holes in his drum rather than beating on it, but that started a huge twin fight, which added to the commotion when parents arrived upstairs to quiet the noise. Time outs with no drums allowed were soon handed out to all of us!
The twins, Pam, and I also learned to ski here on the property’s two hills. We started skiing on the back hill. We had to learn to climb the hill, ski down without falling (much), get up, and stop - all necessary skills before we were allowed to ski on the front lawn. No one was allowed to go over the front wall. Even Peter, our collie, knew that! What fun we had with Peter running next to us during those snowy days and evenings! We came to love the outdoors and skiing. Eventually, family winter vacations were spent at the Woodbound Inn in Jaffrey, NH, then Sunapee, and finally Stowe and Waterville Valley. Although our Father came with us at first, after breaking his ankle skiing at the Woodbound Inn, he usually retired with a good book by a fireplace. My last ski trips with Mother had us spring skiing at Stowe or Waterville Valley during my college breaks. Mother, who had returned to her beloved nursing career while I was in high school, was the head nurse in the Nursey at Quincy City Hospital. She’d take the week off, and we’d be on the “milk run” at 8am, and on the last run of the day at 4pm, most every day for the whole week!
During this time, the future of providing medical services for patients was changing dramatically. Up until the 1960’s, if patients needed to see a doctor, they visited the doctor’s home office and examining room, or went to the hospital. Doctors were general practitioners who “did a little of everything for everybody.” Here on the South Shore in 1961, five doctors changed this model to that of a group practice. Drs. Gerald Collins, Donald Garland, Frederick Freidman, Arthur Garceau, and Wallace Kemp, who all were affiliated with South Shore Hospital, felt that pooling their resources would benefit all their patients. According to Dr. Garceau, when land on Washington Street in Norwell became available, “we sprang for it. We offered them $12,000 and, with a handshake, it was a done deal.” Plans for the South Shore Medical Center were made, and The Clinic, as it was called, opened in March 1962. The Clinic was a success right away, and kept growing as new additions were built to accommodate new physicians, nurses, support staff, and new services, including a pharmacy and accident room, were added. Dr. Collins would have agreed with Dr. Kemp when he said, “We worked our tails off and covered the practice. We all did what we had to do.” A new site in Kingston was also added. However, finally, there was no more room to expand on the Washington Street property, and the business moved to its present location on Longwater Drive in Norwell. The five “founding fathers” of SSMC have either passed on, or retired, but their foresight has provided the families of the South Shore with an excellent facility and staff that provides the best of medical care.
As for this home at 4 High Street, its walls have sheltered and watched over three families, their businesses, and multiple children and pets over its 116 years. It’s weathered many New England blizzards and multiple hurricanes, but still honors those who built it in its solid and stately Shingle Style. As it continues to preside over the intersections of Main, High, and Free Streets, it awaits its new family who will add to its proud history and character.