Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Story of 213 Howard Street on Cushing Corner, Rockland, MA

Our house at 213 Howard Street was once part of the old Cushing Homestead, a property which included 213 and 214 Howard Street, as well as the main family house and barn at 131 East Water Street. “Cushing Corner”, as it is known, was designated as a Rockland Landmark in 1981, and is marked as such with a granite plaque, right near the intersection of Howard and East Water.

The Cushings were an industrious, prosperous and well-respected family in Rockland, having settled in the town in the early 19th Century. The family’s history on the South Shore of Massachusetts can be traced all the way back to 1639, when Matthew Cushing of Hingham England and his wife traversed the Atlantic to Boston, settling in, appropriately, Hingham, Mass. Matthew became a town father in Hingham, cutting the template for generations of Cushings to come. Over the next 150 years, the Cushings proliferated around the South Shore. From Hingham to Halifax they were town clerks, teachers, ministers and masons. One of those Cushings, Thomas, became the lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts, and is buried in the old Granary Burying Ground in Boston. The family history says that anyone with the surname Cushing in North America is a descendant of Matthew’s. To this day, there is much evidence of the Cushing name on the South Shore, in place names and street names. (It is doubtful that the well-known Richard Cardinal Cushing, one time Archbishop of Boston, is part of this same Cushing Clan, as the Hingham Cushings were English Methodists, not Irish Catholic as was the Cardinal).

One member of the original generation of Cushings to settle in East Abington, later re-named Rockland, was William S, born in 1827, who resided at the family homestead at East Water and Howard Street. He was one of nine Cushing siblings, and the oldest male. The main family business before the Civil War was trunk-making and wood-working. The youngest of the nine was Henry Jacob, born in 1843, who served in the Union Army in the Civil War. In later years, he often participated in Civil War memorial events, parading in Union Square in full uniform.

At some point after the war, the family business turned to meat and ice, two endeavors that went hand-in-hand in those days. There was an ice-house near the house on East Water, whose purpose was to both refrigerate meat and provide ice to Rockland residents. The Cushings operated a meat-wagon (lettered “Vermont Hams”), and an ice wagon; both horse-drawn, of course. They harvested the ice at Cushing’s Pond, now long gone. (What remains is Cushing’s Brook, which crosses East Water just a couple of blocks east of Cushing Corner). During the summer months, Henry Waldo Cushing (son of Henry J. and known as Waldo), sold home-made ice cream from a cart.

Having met his future bride, the lovely Julia Lane (the Lanes were another prominent Rockland family), Waldo set about to build a house for the young couple. He did so right on the Cushing property, just south of the barn, facing Howard Street. The address was 213. It is not clear exactly when construction began, but it had to be sometime in the early to mid 1880’s. (Documents dating the house to1850 are incorrect). On March 7, 1888, Waldo and Julia were married, and he carried his brand new bride across the threshold of their brand new home. A local news article from 1938 reports the Cushing’s Golden Wedding Anniversary celebration, which included an open-house reception at their 213 Howard Street residence.

Within three years, the Waldo Cushings of 213 Howard added two new residents to Rockland; sons Lester (b. 1889) and Burton (b. 1891). Lester went on to graduate from Harvard and became a professor at Lowell Technical Institute. The athletic fields at the college still bear his name.

After early years spent helping his father Waldo with the family business, Burton graduated from M.I.T. and became a teacher at East Boston High-school. He authored a text-book, “Fundamentals of Machines”, published in 1943. Burton built and lived his entire life in the house across the street, 214 Howard Street, and was a highly respected civic leader in Rockland. He was a life-long member of the Chamber of Commerce, The Kiwanis Club, and occasionally submitted op-ed views to the Rockland Standard newspaper. Not bad for a kid who started out selling ice-cream from a horse-drawn cart!


abp said...

I googled you because I (& family) will be in the Baltimore area for a quick couple of days soon and thought to catch up with you. This Beth from Springfield/Wittenberg days. So happy to read about the expansion of your family, so sad to read about the s*** hitting the fan. Hope things are better now. Email or post if interested (fast!). Sending up good wishes, B

Drewcifer Von Tone, aka Drew Townson said...

Hey B! Great to hear from you. Send me another comment with your EMail address and I won't publish it (the comments here get moderated by me and do not automatically publish). Then I'll email you directly. And yes, things are changing...and for the better.

Cindy Lane said...

This is a wonderful write-up of Cushing Corner. Burton Cushing is my paternal grandfather. As one grows older family history is a treasure.

Drew Townson said...

Wow Cindy - great that you found this! Is it a coincidence that your name is Lane, the same as your great grandmother? We still live in the house.

It's All About The Tone, Baby!