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
As they aged right along with the Mistress, James and Lillian (Fitzpatrick) were down to one horse in 1930 and living in the house much the same way people lived a century earlier, by confining themselves in two rooms during the winter and keeping themselves warm with a wood-burning kitchen stove. James Jr. had a stroke early in January and was taken to the Crocker Hospital in Pepperell where he died on January 18, 1938, at the age of eighty-five.
Lillian continued to live with the Mistress, but in time found she was unable to manage on her own. She asked to live at the Crocker Hospital in Pepperell where she remained until her death on May 25, 1943, at the age of eighty. Prior to moving to the Crocker Hospital, Lillian wintered in East Pepperell with Timothy Lorden and his wife. Shortages of fuel oil, coal, and labor for cutting cord wood due to the Second World War most likely contributed to her being unable to winter with the Mistress.
After Lillian's death, the Mistress stood vacant over the next five years. No one wanted her, not even James Jr.'s eight grandchildren. The Mistress had become the victim of advanced decay and exposure to the elements. A hole in the roof, a severe sag on one end, no electricity and no running water contributed to her abandonment. A bulldozer could have easily been the cure. They existed in the 1940s. Rescuing antique structures wouldn't be in vogue for many more years.
Fortunately, a recently married couple fell in love with the Mistress and all of her domain. That couple was Elmer Carlson and Esther Silveus. They were looking for a farm that was within fifty miles of Boston and cost no more than ten thousand dollars. The Mistress was perfect and she was purchased by Esther and Elmer in 1948.
Chapter 6: THE SILVEUS CONNECTION
Elmer Carlson was a native of Brockton, Massachusetts, and the son of Swedish immigrants. He epitomized Cleveland Amory's, "Proper Bostonian." After Elmer moved to Boston, he made his living as a buyer for department stores and as an importer and exporter. His office was on Atlantic Avenue in Boston.
Esther Silveus was born in Swissvale, Pennsylvania, to prominent parents with a lineage dating back to the mid-Colonial era. In 1926, she graduated from Bryn Mawr College, the college her mother wanted her to attend. After graduation, Esther taught biology for two years before going on to medical school at the University of Pittsburgh. She belonged to Zeta Phi and was one of five women in a class of 69 students.
Esther graduated from medical school in 1933, at a time when being a physician was considered a man's job. Esther and Elmer were married in 1948; however, Esther kept her maiden name, which was Silveus, for professional reasons.
Before Esther was allowed to begin her internship, she had to ride an ambulance to prove herself capable of being a physician. This was not a requirement for male physicians. One experience she recalled to me was the time when an ambulance she was on was called to a Pittsburgh tenement building. A woman was in advanced labor in a room filled with the stench of intoxicated, cigar-smoking men. None of them would allow Esther to touch the woman. So she had to tell one of the inebriated men what to do, and that's what he did. That kind of discrimination pushed Esther away from internal medicine and into radiology, where the patient seldom saw the diagnostic physician.
Following Esther's internship, she agreed to take over a doctor's practice in Mercer, Pennsylvania. The doctor had been drafted into the service for a two-year stint. Esther agreed to keep the drafted doctor's practice going, but had to promise she wouldn't open a practice of her own within a 50-mile radius of Mercer. When the two-year draft turned into four years, Esther was asked to continue the practice until the doctor was out of the service. Esther declined the request.
Instead, she began her residency at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. When Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941, Esther volunteered to join the Army as a physician, but was found to be unfit; however, the Army invited her to join the army as a nurse. She declined. She became one of a group of four female physicians hired by Dr. Frank Lahey to come to his Lahey Clinic in Boston in 1942 to replace drafted male doctors.
Esther remained at the Lahey Clinic until her retirement in 1967. As a radiology physician, she was board certified, a diplomat and fellow in her specialty, belonged to a number of medical associations and was elected president of the Boston branch of the American Women's Medical Association. She was listed in Who's Who of American Women, with staff privileges at several Boston hospitals and published articles in her field. During her retirement, Esther visited several high schools in the Boston area to encourage female seniors to follow a college curriculum that would lead to acceptance into a medical school. While she never practiced medicine in Groton, she was the second female physician to live in Groton. Dr. Elizabeth Lewis was the first.
Esther had always wanted a farm. Elmer on the other hand, didn't seem to enjoy the farm environment as much as his wife. Nonetheless, the couple restored much of the Mistress. Victor Geiger from Pepperell, Bill Simmons in Dunstable and Willard Smith from Groton did the majority of the work. My father, Carl Sr., also put in a lot of time on the Mistress. During the first year or two my Aunt Esther and Uncle Elmer had an acre of land cleared for a sizable garden. We all spent a great deal of time weeding and harvesting the various kinds vegetables that were growing. Esther gave away most of the produce to doctors and nurses at the Lahey Clinic.