Elizabeth Mary Boehm of Fitchburg, MA

E M Boehm front

According to the inscription on its back, the subject of the above photograph is Elizabeth Mary Boehm (1867-?1947?) of 15 Rollstone Street, Fitchburg, MA. In the 1880 Census, Ferdinand Adam Boehm (1821-1883) and his wife Mary Jane Dooley Boehm (1842-1880) lived on Rollstone Street with children Ida Frances Boehm (1860-1945), Louis Henry Boehm (1862-1931), Amy Louis Boehm (1877-1947), and Elizabeth who was enumerated as “Lizzie”. Ferdinand owned several properties in the vicinity of Rollstone and Baker Streets in Fitchburg. Ferdinand was an expert dyer and ran the Fitchburg Dye House until he died. Ferdinand was born probably in Wartenburg, Germany, and Mary Jane was born in England.

Elizabeth was born on 9 June 1867. She graduated from Westfield Normal School and became a teacher. She first appears as a teacher at a Fitchburg primary school on Rollstone Street in the 1895-96 school year. She continued there in the 1898-99 school year at a salary of $560. In 1901 she moved to Malden, MA to teach first grade at the Converse School on Main Street, at “about the same grade” and to “financial advantage.” Over the years she taught at several schools in the Malden district.

Elizabeth traveled to Haiti in 1931, apparently in the company of Mary Elizabeth Lyman (1862-1949) who resided at the same address, 52 Summer Street, Malden, MA. Lyman had been a teacher at Fitchburg High School prior to 1892, and after that she was a teacher at Malden High School. It turned out that Elizabeth and Lyman lived together at 52 Summer Street between 1906 and 1934 except for one brief period. Between 1935 and 1947 they lived at 88 Maple Street. The Malden City Directory and the 1940 Census indicate that Lyman held the lease on their apartment. Now both probably retired, they were enumerated as a household with Lyman as head of household and Elizabeth as “partner” in the 1940 Census:

1940 Census Lyman-Boehm detail

The following were instructions for the 1940 Census: 451. If two or more persons who are not related by blood or marriage share a common dwelling unit as partners, write head for one and partner for the other or others. There are online discussions about the meaning of “partner” in the 1940 Census.

I was unable to discover Elizabeth’s date of death or where she was buried. Her sister, Amy Louise Boehm, who resided in Washington, DC, died in Malden in July 1947. Amy’s obituary informed that she was the last surviving member of her family and that she and her husband were in Malden “in connection with an estate of which she was administratrix.” I think it is a safe bet that the estate was that of her sister, Elizabeth.

Speaking of Amy, she married John Davis (1877-1970) who, at the time of his death, was the last surviving Spanish-American War veteran to be awarded the Medal of Honor. Davis was awarded the medal for his role in “cutting the cable” during the Battle of Cienfuegos, Cuba in 1898. Now, more than a century later, warriors still debate if, when, and how to disrupt the enemy’s communications.

I tried, but was unable to find information about the jewelry which Elizabeth wears in the photograph.

I purchased this photograph for $4.00 from The Antique Shops in Westmoreland, NH while on vacation in the area in October 2017.

E M Boehm back

Elizabeth Mary Boehm of Fitchburg, MA

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