Marlborough was caught up early in the fever for independence which eventually culminated in the American Revolution. Being only twenty-six miles from Boston, the Town was alive and alert to everything pertaining to the British oppression. When the British closed the Port of Boston, Marlborough rankled at the loss of its best market for its country produce. When two spies, Captain Brown and Ensign D’Bernicre of the Royal Army came to Marlborough disguised as farmers, they fooled no one. The Marlborough people quickly congregated
to show their spirit and anger so that the spies would be sure to report back their feeling of hostility. Frightened by the obvious unfriendliness of the people they encountered, the spies sought refuge with Henry Barnes, a merchant and distiller of apple brandy, whose place of business stood where the old Fire and Police Station stands. They waited for darkness and then made their escape in the middle of a raging snowstorm rather than risk meeting with the townspeople.
After hostilities had started by the Battle of Lexington and concord on April 19, 1775, Henry Barnes (“Tory Barnes”, as he was called) left Marlborough and took refuge in Boston, and in March of 1776 sailed for Halifax, Nova Scotia. His property at Marlborough was confiscated and was purchased by William Coggeswell of Boston, who then operated the former Barnes Store here. Coggeswell’s wife, Lydia, was a sister of William Dawes who rode on the night of April 18-19, 1775 to alarm “the Middlesex villages and farms”, he being associated with Paul Revere in this dramatic episode. Later, after the war, William Dawes came to Marlborough and died her in 1798. He also operated a Trading Store at Colleary Square and lived where the Telephone Exchange Building stands.
In 1774, three companies of “Minutemen” were organized in Marlborough under Captain Cyprian Howe, William Brigham and Daniel Barnes, representing (roughly) the east, west and central parts of the To9wn respectively, and each, seemingly, based on a separate tavern. At the first intelligence of bloodshed at Lexington and Concord as of the morning of April 19, 1775, these companies assembled and marched for the scene of action, probably to Watertown to prevent any of the English army moving out on the Post Road. According to the army payrolls some of these men were away but a few days and some for as long as forty days, in their original companies. They then were reorganized and many served throughout the siege of Boston which was lifted March 16, 1776, and which ended British occupation in
Massachusetts. The Continental Army at Boston was under command of General Artemus Ward of Shrewsbury, MA (and the some of Marlborough parents), until July 3, 1775 when he was succeeded, by order of the Continental Congress, by George Washington. On July 2nd, Washington stopped at the Williams Tavern in Marlborough, being escorted by an honor guard of prominent citizens of this and adjoining towns, and he then proceeded through Marlborough along the Post Road, accompanied by a military delegation from the Boston battle front to Cambridge where he took over Gen. Ward’s command.
During the eight years of this war a total of 375 Marlborough men were in service, amounting to 25% of the population of the Town. This is remarkable as the scenes of action shifted more and more to the south as the war progressed. These men, of course, were not in service all at the same time, but, when the war ended at least 75% of the male population were veterans. Fortunately, however, the casualties were small.
Marlborough’s position on the Post road brought continued evidence of the war to the Town. In the fall of 1775, cannon captured at Fort Ticonderoga were hauled through here under the direction of General Henry Knox, ox teams being requisitioned from the farmers all along the way to move this heavy equipment which was soon mounted in the fortifications around Boston, to counterbalance the cannon of the British Navy in Boston Harbor. After British General Burgoyne’s army surrendered at Saratoga, NY, his captured troops, both Hessian and English were marched to Boston and interned in the fall of 1777. A large part of this captured contingent encamped in Marlborough, nearing the end of their three-week march. Two of Burgoyne’s men died in Marlborough and were interred in
unmarked graves just off the post Road in the eastern part of the Town. Captain William Morse had left Marlborough with a company of 52 Marlborough men on October 5, 1777 to join the army at Saratoga, and arrived there October 17th the day Burgoyne surrendered.
The War of 1812 received little popular support in New England. Marlborough furnished no more than fifteen men as its quota to strengthen the coast defenses. In the same way the War with Mexico did not please New Englanders who regarded it as an excuse to extend the slave-holding areas of the south, at a time when New Englanders were becoming increasingly outspoken against slavery. However, one of the causes of the Mexican War, the annexation of Texas by the ?United States pointed up the dramatic part some Marlborough men played in the establishment of the Texas Republic after it won its independence from Mexico in 1836.
Major Asa Brigham was born in Marlborough in 1788, the son of Lewis and Mary (Rice) Brigham. He learned the tailor’s trade in Marlborough while attending District School. At the age of 21 he went to Framingham, MA and in 182 went to Jeffrey, NH where he was a tavern keeper, but the tavern burned in 1816, leaving him in a bad financial way, and he went south to try homesteading at what is now Austin, Texas. Major Asa’s father had been one of the Marlborough Minutemen of 1775 in Captain William Brigham’s Company, and was a descendent of Thomas Brigham whose widow Mercy had married Edmond Rice, one of the original settlers of Marlborough.
When the American settlers in Texas revolted against Santa Ana and his Mexican government in 1836, Asa Brigham served as commissary to the Texan Army, and when, after some bloody battles, Santa Ana’s army was defeated, Asa Brigham was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence that made Texas an independent republic. Elections were held for officers of the Republic and General Sam Houston became President, and Asa Brigham became the first Treasurer of the Republic, which office he held for several years until his death in 1844. Asa Brigham’s youngest son, Benjamin Rice Brigham, was killed at the Battle of San Jacinto on his 21st birthday, October 21, 1836. Asa Brigham’s sister Sukey (or Susanna) married in Marlborough in 1809 to Stephen Howe, and their son Elbridge
Howe, born in 1816, went to Texas to stay with his uncle Asa Brigham, and after a short stay there returned to Marlborough. In July of 1860 Elbridge Howe sent the following letter to the Editor of the Marlboro Mirror, -
“Sir: In your paper of some few weeks since, you mentioned that I built the first frame building erected in Austin, the Capital of Texas; you were right in saying so. When I arrived in that Place in May of 1839, there was then a log house about ten feet square, made of round logs, and occupied by Capt. Harrod, wife and children, protected by a company of rangers, the nearest house, the Hornesby’s about ten miles distant; the nearest town Bastrop, about 35 miles. Building in Austin under those circumstances and at that time was quite another business from building in Marlborough now (1860), with dry lumber, circular saws, jointing, planning and matching machines, and a good steam engine to drive them. In Austin 21 years ago we cut and felled the
timber, hewed the large floor joists, studs, braces, etc., sawed all the covering and floor boards, made the doors and sashes of hard pine, split and shaved the shingles, and in fact took everything of the lumber kind from the tree, and worked the same by hand into most of the work done with the rifle within reach of the hand, for at that time the Indians and Mexicans were very troublesome. “Signed Elbridge Howe”
Although Elbridge Howe was not so important as his uncle Asa Brigham in the founding of the Great State of Texas, yet it is evident through him that Texas was settled by the best men that the north could, offer. He was 23 years old when at Texas and his experience there, of building a fine house all the way from the living trees to finished building, stood him in good stead. At Marlborough he became one of the best builders in the vicinity, served on the Board of Selectmen for twenty years, and was for ten years the president of the Marlboro Savings Bank, and the first president of the Peoples National Bank. He died in 1886. Elbridge Howe was first cousin to Amory Maynard for whom the town of Maynard, Mass. was named; and, to supply Amory Maynard’s woolen mills with water, Fort Meadow Reservoir in
Marlborough was made in 1849. This reservoir area is now a beautiful residential district, and the Town of Maynard on the Assabet River is one of Marlborough’s pleasantest daughter-towns.
George A. Howe, a son of Elbridge served in the Civil War, and with his father started the Howe Lumber Co. which today (1960) is operated by the Diamond Match Co. on the original site on Florence Street.
Another son of Elbridge Howe was Stephen, who founded the dry goods business of Howe and Stetson, which now (1960) is the W.A. Allen co., still in business at the original stand in the Masonic Building. Stephen served in the Civil War as a member of the 5th Mass. Reg. Band.
More spectacular though than Asa Brigham and Elbridge Howe in the early history of Marlborough was Marlborough’s Sidney Sherman who was born here in 1805 and attended district school here. After working in Boston and New York mercantile establishments, he went into business in Ohio. Then in Kentucky he established a plant to make bagging material for the baling of cotton and also had a sheet lead plant. At the age of 30 he had accumulated quite a fortune and was commissioned a captain in the Kentucky militia. He furnished the equipment for his company of 50 men, an don the last day of 1835 set forth with his Kentuckians down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and up the Red River to join General Sam Houston to help wrest Texas from Mexican control, and son he was placed in command of a regiment
which marched to meet General Santa Ana’s Mexicans at San Jacinto Bay near Galveston, where on April 21, 1836 Sherman was the first to sound the famous battle-cry “Remember the Alamo”. The whole Texan Army was only 800 men, but on that day they defeated the Mexicans who numbered 4,000.
Colonel Sidney Sherman led the charge of the Texan army’s left wing that was the turning point of the battle, and the state of Texas has erected on the battlefield a lofty monument to Sherman and his men.
Sherman purchased 2,000 acres near Galveston and built a home there. He served in the Texan Congress, and introduced a bill for the creation of the Texan Militia to patrol the Republic’s borders, and thus was the father of the “Texas Rangers”, a world-famed organization. Another bill created the office of Major General of all Militia, and by election Sherman filled this office of commander of the Texan Army, which post he held until Texas was annexed to the United States in 1845.
During the war between the U.S. and Mexico in 1848 and 1849, Sherman was not actively engaged in military plans, but was developing industrial projects, and in 1849 visited Boston to arrange financing for a railroad to the west which was commenced in 1850. That same year the U.S. Government paid the state of Texas ten million dollars to relinquish its claims to what is now New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma, and Sherman had an important part in carrying out this business. The railroad which he started was the nucleus of the Southern Pacific and because the Civil War came before this railroad was operative, the Boston investors were greatly concerned, and lost the money they had advanced.
The Marlboro Mirror of March 30, 1861 ran a story derogatory of Sidney Sherman, calling him a pirate because he had, just previous thereto, acted as leader of a group of Texans who seized a New Bedford whaling ship laden with oil in Galveston Harbor. This act, the paper said, was not unprecedented, as similar occurrences had taken place in other ports of the secessionist states, and in the pro-slavery states he was being hailed as one of the great heroes of the times. The newspaper recalls the losses sustained by those who had invested in the Texas railroad who would now never get returns on their money. It speaks of his parents who sleep in the Spring Hill Cemetery of Marlborough, and as a devastating slur on the Texan hero the paper says, “Sidney is described as a dull boy when at school by those
who were his associates”
He died on August 1, 1873 at Galveston, Texas, and his descendants still live in that state. Sidney Sherman has been highly honored in Texas, and by some factions is esteemed to have done more to establish that great part of our country that General Sam Houston. In Marlborough Sherman’s name is scarcely known and is nearly lost in oblivion. His case truly represents the biblical saying, “A prophet is not without honor, save in his own Country.” Matthew X111, 57.
At the time of the Civil War, 1861-1865, Marlborough’s area included what is now the Town of Hudson (which was incorporated in 1866) and over those years the average population was about 6,200 people. The total number who saw war service was, according to a prominent veteran, 831. This would be 13 ½% of the population, and of those, 91, or more than one in eleven died in the service. Marlborough men served in seventy different army organizations in the Civil War besides those who served in the navy.
Continually since the Revolutionary War, there had been at least one militia company in Marlborough, and district regimental musters were held in Marlborough or some nearby town every year. In the 1840s there were three Marlborough companies, and in the 1850s one company, and in 1860 there were two riffle companies. When the call came from President Lincoln to furnish troops in the spring of 1861, both of these companies were recruited to full strength, and eager to go into action. They were Companies F and I of the 13th Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia. They were fully equipped, even gaudily; their high-crowned hats had a big black feather ornament on one side and a bronze American Eagle on the other. While they impatiently awaited orders in Marlborough, some of
their members resigned to join other regiments that were assembled at Boston and ready to leave for the front. Resignations were permissible for the volunteer companies of that date were unofficial enterprises of patriotic civilians, and were not subject to government regulations until mustered into the United States Army.
Meanwhile a band of musicians made up of twenty Marlborough men had volunteered and been accepted to accompany the 5th Massachusetts Regiment, and plans to recruit a regiment in Boston to be comprised entirely of Irish immigrants had matured and the Ninth Regiment including Company G made up of 65 Marlborough men under Capt. John Carey of Marlborough had been mustered into the U.S. Army on June 11, 1861, for a 3-years service. Finally after what seemed to be never-ending delays, the call came for the 13th Massachusetts Regiment, and Marlborough’s companies F and I, left by train at the Main Street depot for Boston, and were mustered into the U.S. Army for three years on July 16, 1861.
The Marlboro Journal and Mirror of July 16, 1864 notes in two brief paragraphs that Co. I of the 5th Mass. Reg. Left Marlborough on July 13th under Capt. A.A. Powers for the camp at Readville near Boston, numbering 130 men. And on July 15th another company entrained for the same camp under Capt. David L. Brown, who was the lieutenant of Co. I of the 13th when the John Brown Bell was taken from Harper’s Ferry in 1861.
Another company was furnished from Marlborough to serve a term of nine months, so that in all, six companies were recruited in Marlborough, the three later ones including many who re-enlisted after being discharged from earlier service. With so many men in so many different branches of the Military Services, Marlborough was represented in campaigns throughout the whole southland. The Irish Volunteers who were the first to leave Marlborough suffered the most casualties, including 18 men and Capt. John Carey. The two companies in the 13th Regiment lost in all 21 men, including John L. Spencer who was the first to die of all the Marlborough men and who succumbed at Harper’s Ferry. The whole Town of Marlborough turned out for his funeral, even though he had no family in Marlborough, as
this was the first instance of the tragedy of the war. Many Marlborough men lost an arm or leg, and Postmaster John. S. Fay suffered the loss of both an arm and leg, after which he was confined in Libby prison. Others suffered at Andersonville Prison.
At the start of the war Marlborough appropriated large sums of money for equipping her men, and for the support of soldiers’ families and after the war for many years for pensions and family relief of service men, before such matters were taken over by the Federal Government.
In 1868 the Civil War veterans formed their local part of the Grand Army of the Republic, naming the post for John Aaron Rawlins who had been a pre-ward friend of Gen. U.S. Grant in Galena, Ill. and an adjutant on Grant’s staff, and in 1865 Chief-of-Staff with the rank of general. When Grant was President in 1869 he named John A. Rawlins as Secretary of War in March of that year but Rawlins died the following September. The Marlborough veterans had at first chosen the name “Lincoln” for their post, but as another post had priority on this name, they adopted the name “Rawlins” shortly after that general’s death.
The Spanish-American War in 1898 was a brief conflict that began officially April 25, 1898, and treaties of peace were signed August 12, 1898. On May 7, the Marlborough Militia, Company F of the 6th Massachusetts Infantry regiment entrained for camp at the South Framingham Muster Field, which had been named “Camp Dewey” in recognition of U.S. Admiral George Dewey’s sinking of the Spanish fleet at Manila Bay on May 1.
The 1890s – “The Gay Nineties” – was an era of sophistication and the people were tossing about smart phrases with abandon – “Go way back and sit down”, “Where the chicken got the ax”, “Ta-ra-r-a-Boom-de-ay”, and other happy verbal shots.
But in Marlborough when Co. F marched down Main Street, carrying full equipment, to enter the Pullman coaches at the loading platform of the Wheeler Dart Express Company’s siding, smart quips gave place to solemnity, to tears and to inspired patriotic declarations. Capt. Thomas E. Jackson led his khaki clad company of well drilled soldiers, following the Marlborough Brass Band and a cordon of police. The street was packed with thousands of citizens, and the school children waving small flags were massed on the High School common. Buildings were decorated with bunting; factory and locomotive engine whistles kept up a continual blast; bells rang and cannon boomed. On May 20th the 6th Regiment left Framingham for Camp Alger in Virginia, where company F was joined later by
Marlborough recruits to bring its enrollment to 109 men.
While the company was at Framingham for two weeks, it was visited daily by hundreds of Marlborough well wishers who brought food in quantity so that the field training there was interspersed with elaborate picnics.
At Camp Alger the food was scandalously poor, and the climate worse. Many were seriously sick, but were able to proceed by boat to join General Shafter’s army near Santiago de Cuba, but they did not have a part in the battles of San Juan Hill or El Cavez. Soon after they were transported to Ponce on the island of Puerto Rico under General Miles, and thence marched north along the mountainous roads to San Juan, having a few minor skirmishes along the way. Ernest D. Marshall of company F dies in Puerto Rico, and so for him the Marlborough Spanish War Veterans Camp is called the Ernest D. Marshall Post No. 17. William H. Page died on ship board enroute to Cuba, and these seem to be the only deaths while in uniform. Many contracted fevers which later had fatal consequences.
Besides the glory achieved by Marlborough soldiers participating in a war for early victory, Marlborough civilians were continually animated by evidences of the war in little trophies sent home – red and yellow rosettes from Spanish uniforms, brass buttons with Spanish insignia, and small Spanish flags with red and yellow stripes. Captain Jackson brought home a diminutive Puerto Rican lad who had been his servant.
The war had its music – John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever”, and Marlborough quartets on summer nights for many years after sang “Good-bye Dolly Grey”, “Just Break the News to Mother”, and “The Banks of the Wabash”.
As a sort of reward for work well done the State erected the Armory Building on Lincoln Street in 1905. The City erected the “Hiker” monument on Bates Avenue, facing the G.A.R. monument.
Since the turn of the century Marlborough citizens along with their fellow Americans have been involved in three serious wars and lived to witness the entirely modern phenomena known as the “Cold War”. From 1914 onward the storm clouds gathered until the entrance of the United States into the First World War in 1917. Previous to the declaration of war, several local men joined foreign armies. Ralph Charleton joined the “Harvard Unit” for ambulance drivers for the French army. Many of the Americans who enlisted in foreign armies transferred later to the United States Forces.
Unlike the Spanish American War in which the majority of casualties came from the fevers contracted in a tropical climate, in this war, hand to hand combat, heavy artillery, gas warfare and more advanced weapons cost many lives. The leisurely holiday atmosphere of the soldiers drilling at Camp Dewey and picnicking with their families seems idyllic by comparison.
When the war began the 26th Yankee Division under General Clarence R. Edwards left from New England. Included was Marlborough’s company M of the 6th Regiment which had been to some extent reorganized to form a military police company. They left Marlborough on April 17, 1917.
The effects of the war were to be seen in the City as it observed Heatless and Meatless days, joined supporting Liberty Bond Drives, knit innumerable sweaters and believed religiously that the war was being fought to end all wars.
No sooner had Marlborough extricated herself from the dark days of the depression than the nation was plunged again into the horrors of the Second World War. Approximately 2000 young men and women were drafted or volunteered to serve in almost every corner of the globe. At home citizens bought War Bonds. Practice air raids and blackouts became part of the way of life. There were shortages in most vital commodities and the housewife patiently stood in line waiting to buy with money and handfuls of ration stamps. Civil Air Patrol groups and the Ground Observe Corps served in a civilian defense capacity. Factories worked around the clock and housewives diligently saved fats and flattened tin cans. Victory gardens flourished and just about everyone learned how to apply a splint or
extinguish an incendiary bomb. Fortunately our land was spared the ravages of war but the sense of possibility of attack united all in a sense of the urgency and necessity of community action.
The Korean conflict demonstrated the horrors of even limited warfare and although there was not the same fear of invasion which had encouraged activity during the previous war it is interesting to note that of the 800 Marlborough men who served in this conflict, the majority were enlisted rather than drafted personnel.
Each of these wars in terms of lives lost have been terribly costly. There are few living in Marlborough today who have not been touched personally in the loss of either a relative or friend.
Today we are involved in what has been termed a cold war. Its victories and defeats usually involve events which can be interpreted for good or evil in the realm of propaganda. The U-2 incident, spy satellites orbiting our globe, and the inter-continental missile which at best might provide a twenty minute warning system before complete annihilation have removed the concept of war far from the parade ground and musket drill.
The future in unknown. Man by use of his wisdom might yet prove master of his fate. It is the fervent prayer of all who observe this tercentennial that the historian of a hundred years from now will find himself devoid of subject matter on the matter of war.