James Polk Derby

James P Derby

A dearest friend and I visited Lambertville, PA in March 2016 and I picked this photograph out of a bowl at The People’s Store. The photo depicts James Polk Derby in front of his drugstore at 375 Main Street, Fitchburg, MA. Records I found showed that Derby operated a drugstore at this address between 1890 and 1913.

Derby had drugstores at several addresses in Fitchburg over the years, and during 1883-1885 operated a drugstore at 44 Harrison Street in Boston. A significant part of Derby’s business was manufacturing and selling medicines such as “Derby’s Nerve Food.”

nerve food.png

Derby was born 8 January 1847 in Lowell, MA and lived most of his live in Fitchburgh. He died in Charlton, MA on 14 November 1927. He married Emma A. Procter (1853-1923) in October 1871 and they had three sons: James Harry Derby (1873-1897); Otis P. Derby (1875-??), and John Andrew Derby (1879-??). He later married Lucy P. Brown (1850-1923).

James Harry died young of a heart ailment while in Boston.

Otis was charged with embezzling $18 from his employer in 1897. In 1898 Otis enlisted in the Army for Spanish-American War. His occupation was “drug clerk” so he must have been working for his father. According to a letter he wrote to his grandfather, Captain John B. Procter, on 27 September 1899, which was published in the Fitchburg Sentinel on 10 November 1899, Otis saw heavy combat as a member of Battery L, 3d U.S. Heavy Artillery. He was discharged on 1 November 1899. I found no further information after that.

John Andrew was living in San Diego, CA when he registered for the draft in September 1918. In 1924 he was in Hawaii and renewed his passport for a trip to the Far East. I lost his trail at that point. The passport renewal application was the only document confirming that Polk was his father’s middle name, and it contained John Andrew’s photograph:

John Andrew Derby head shot

Derby’s brother, Gilbert H. Derby, was a hotelier and owned Derby House in Fitchburg, The Summit House atop Mount Wachusett, and Pine Cottage at Old Orchard Beach.

It turns out that newspapers.com makes available three newspapers covering Fitchburg, MA between 1829 and 1977. There is a newspaper story that recurred every few years concerning a Derby Family Heirloom: The family possessed a letter signed by George Washington discharging Amos Derby after service in the Revolutionary War. Amos was Derby’s great-grandfather

Ah, well . . . I could go on and on about this interesting family, and I could spend more time to tie up the many loose ends, but there are other projects (and housework) to do, so I’ll leave this saga to the next curious person who happens along.

Update as of 18 May 2016: Today I learned the following from a representative of the Fitchburg Historical Society: “The street numbers were changed since this photo was taken. The entire block from 349-375 is no longer there. It has been replaced by a new park, and by Boulder Drive, which was built in the 1960’s.” That’s not much information to go on, but comparing a googlemaps.com version to a circa 1890 version of Fitchburg gives one an approximate location. It would take some serious GEOINT to nail things down for certain. I’ll leave that for future historians, should any be interested. This all makes the following paragraph and photograph nil-val, as we used to say in the USAF. I’ll leave it on the page to remind me to check for such things.

BTW: Based primarily on the situation of the 2d floor windows, I think 375 Main Street looks like the below photograph these days, though the current address is 365 Main Street:

375 Main Street


James Polk Derby

Albert Lee Stone

Stone Family Front

The above 8×10 photograph has a small note taped to the back:

Stone back

Albert Lee Stone (1881-??) married Carrie S. Wade ( 1884-1942) in about 1905 and they had seven children, one of whom was Randolph L. Stone (1908-1964).

After weeks of not being able to find out who Albert’s parents were (the 1890 Census is lost to us and I cannot find him in the 1900 Census), it dawned on me that the unnamed Grandpap looked familiar. See the resemblance to Daniel and Ella who were subjects of an earlier post:

Daniel Stone

Daniel Louis Stone had only one daughter, Jessie E., so she was probably the author of the notes on the back of each of these photographs, but I have not been able to find her after the 1900 Census when she was about 15 years old.

Here is another, undated photograph of Albert Lee Stone:


This head shot appeared in the  The Baltimore Sun of 29 August 1935 accompanying an article entitled “Man Missing For Week Is Sought By Family.” According to that article and others, the police were called when customers at Albert Lee Stone’s meat market in the 1100 block of Light Street in Baltimore waited for over an hour without being served on the morning of 22 August 1935. “Occupants of nearby stores told the police that Stone had delivered an order to a nearby restaurant then dropped out of sight, leaving his automobile parked in front of the store.” On 24 August 1935 the Sun reported that “His wife, Mrs. Carrie Stone, was in a highly nervous condition at her home, in Glen Bernie, fearing that her husband, who was in good health, had met with foul play.”

Equity docket case 18523, which I read at the Maryland State Archives, informs that Carrie Stone received a divorce from her husband in 1941. Albert was declared “judicially dead” in 1969 when his children sold some land he had owned. In depositions it was said “he went to work and didn’t come home” that day and was never heard from again. (msa_cm96_000005)

Here is the kicker: According to the Social Security Applications and Claims Index, an Albert Lee Stone who was born in Maryland on 12 February 1882 died on 29 September 1944. According to Albert’s WWI draft registration card he was born on 12 February 1881, and it isn’t uncommon for there to be such a discrepancy in these dates.

Same man? I didn’t try all that hard to prove it one way or the other. Sometimes mysteries never get solved.








Albert Lee Stone

Rebecca Smith’s Book, 1846

Rebecca Smith Bible Front Page

In the late 1980’s my children’s mother and I went to Bucks County, PA to visit her grandparents, Bernard Woodrow Lawhon (1913-1988) and Ruth Virginia Davie (1913-2002), on a day when their sons were helping them clean out their garage in preparation for a move.

On that day I acquired a family Bible which was inscribed as you see above. I do not know how Ruth came to possess the Bible, but she was bookish and intellectual so it is no surprise that she saved it from ruin. There was no family connection that I have been able to detect. Between the pages of the Bible were several newspaper clippings, and there was a very nice “Family Record” page.

Today I drove up to Bucks County and donated the Bible to the Bucks County Genealogical Society.

Rebecca Smith Bible Family Record

Sarah S. Slack Obituary

Jane Linton Death Notice


Rebecca Smith’s Book, 1846