This is a serialization of the new book written by Carl Flowers, owner of Silveus Plantation, the subject of "Groton's Anonymous Mistress." The 300-year-old home is accessed by Kemp Street near the boundary of Groton and Dunstable.
By Carl Flowers
To run a large farm, extra help was always needed and James (Fitzpatrick) Sr.'s brother Martin was one of the early helping hands. At other times Irish workers were brought in, with room and board being a part of their pay.
Depending on the age of the help, school and church were required, but as James Sr.'s seven children grew, they were fitted with tasks appropriate to their age, thereby reducing the need for paid labor. There was only a two-year period when James Sr. and Elizabeth lived alone; however, all of their children lived nearby and were always available when needed.
At the age of twenty-one, James Jr. moved out of the house to live in Pepperell. His younger brother John remained at home. While James Jr. was in Pepperell, he met Margaret O'Toule and married her on May 21, 1874.
Elizabeth was their only child. She was born on February 13, 1876, but then, on April 24, 1877, Margaret died of tuberculosis. James Jr. and his baby daughter came back home to live with his parents. He returned to Pepperell in 1882, taking up quarters at the Ideal Boarding House in Pepperell, directly across the street from the Prescott Hotel. Presumably, James' six year old daughter stayed at the Mistress and was taken care of by her grandparents. Nevertheless, she left the Mistress at the rather tender age of 17 when she married 23 year old Henry Williams on May 10, 1893.
While staying at the Ideal and working at the shoe factory in Pepperell, James Jr. developed a relationship with Lillian Johnson. Their union went beyond what was acceptable when they married on December 27, 1887 in Pepperell at the Community Church, where the Reverend Charles Babbidge, minister of the Gospel, presided. Marrying Lillian Johnson wasn't a terribly bad thing to do, but James, Jr. was Catholic and Lillian was a Yankee Protestant. Between 1887 when they were married and 1910, only forty-two mixed marriages took place at St. Mary's Church in Ayer, Massachusetts, so it's easy to imagine the stir James Jr. and Lillian created in their respective families. It appears as though James Jr. became a non-practicing Catholic, and maybe a non-practicing Protestant as he is buried in the Groton Cemetery, and not in a Catholic Cemetery where his parents and all of his brothers and sisters rest. Maryjane Dunn from Pepperell said as a young child, she remembered hearing aunts and uncles talk about James Jr.'s scandal, but never knew any of the details.
After James Jr.'s mother and father died on September 12, 1894, and March 24, 1895, he became the new master of the Mistress, but on a reduced scale. Approximately half the Mistress's acreage had to be sold in 1900 to Everett Tarbell, a Pepperell attorney, to raise money so that James Jr. could settle up with his two brothers and three sisters. The rest of the land, house, barn and shed were mortgaged in 1900 to Moses P. Palmer in the amount of eleven hundred dollars. If James Jr. had a male child by the time of his death in 1938, the Mistress and her domain would have gone to that male child.
Unfortunately, James Jr. had one child, and it was a girl. Because of this, according to James Sr.'s will, James, Jr. was compelled to divide his father's estate into six equal parts. If James Jr. didn't have to settle up with his brothers and sisters, half of the Mistress's domain wouldn't have been sold and there would have been no need for a 36 year mortgage. What his brothers and sisters would have received, would have been negligible.
By 1900, James Jr. at the age of 47 and Lillian at 37 had to realize a male child wasn't going to happen. This certainly has to make one wonder why James Jr. wanted to hang onto the Mistress and her reduced domain. You have to wonder what his three sisters and brother Edward might have felt. They all had male children. What was wrong with them? Maybe it all had to do with James Jr.'. similar passion for farming that his father had. Perhaps it was about James Jr. living at home and looking after his elderly parents. James Sr. was 78 at the time of his death and suffered from emphysema. James, Jr.'s. mother was 80 when she died.
In time, James Jr. and Lillian were living subsistently, but nonetheless, managed to pay off their mortgage on August 17, 1936. James Jr. at the age of 67 and Lillian at 57 in 1920, were taking care of three cows, two horses, a colt, and a hog. The livestock, house, buildings, and the land were valued at $1,500 requiring an annual tax payment of $63.62. This included the poll tax James and Lillian had to pay in order to vote.
That same year presented an entrepreneurial opportunity called Prohibition. Lillian subsequently delivered home brew to the Prescott Hotel in Pepperell. Her brother George Johnson owned the hotel. Katherine McDermott, who lived on Tarbell Street directly across from Teresa Fitzpatrick Flynn, remembers how embarrassing it was for Teresa to see Lillian teaming by the house.
Teresa was James Jr.'s sister and Lillian always whipped the horses up a bit to be sure Teresa knew a delivery of moonshine was on its way to the Prescott Hotel. Teresa was the formal and proper type person who didn't approve of Lillian, especially her involvement in the moonshine business. Lillian could drive a team as well as any man and hold her own among the roughest of men. Most of the time she wore men's clothing instead of a dress.
As for supplying Lowell, James Jr. took care of that when runners came to the Mistress. She was in the perfect spot because of her isolation and remoteness from other human activity.