Holland Street


Part 2: The Death of Holland Bennett

Holland St., the road joining Davis and Teele Squares in Somerville, Mass. was named for Silas Harvey Holland, a carriage maker, farmer and politician who spent a large part of his life in Somerville. Silas was born in Boston in 1814 to Samuel Holland and Martha Rogers Holland. Born in Liverpool, England, Samuel made his living in America as a sailor. Only a few months after the birth of his son, Samuel captained a ship out of Boston and was lost at sea. Silas and his older brother James, two years old at the time, were left fatherless. Martha remarried in 1819 to Ephraim Trowbridge, a wool merchant from Marlborough, Mass. The Hollands moved to Ephraim’s hometown, where he and Martha had four children of their own.

The family relocated to Northborough, Mass. While there, Silas learned the carriage maker’s trade. In 1835, his new career took him to Cambridge, where he found employment with the railroad car manufacturers Davenport and Bridges. The firm was one of the most successful railroad car companies of its time and owned factories in Cambridgeport and Kendall Square. Silas remained with the business until 1853, when health problems caused him to retire. His working days behind him, Silas and his family moved to West Somerville, purchasing a farm on Broadway from Thomas Teele in 1856.

In Somerville, Silas raised fruits and vegetables for sale in a small market-garden operation. In his 35 years on the farm, he became well-ingrained in the community, rising to several civic positions. In the local government, Silas spent several years as an Assessor and was elected to the Board of Selectmen from 1866 to 1869. He lent his reputation and talents to the Somerville Savings Bank where he served as a Trustee and Vice President and to the Somerville Hospital where he was a founding board member. Silas took an active role in the city’s religious life – he was a board member of the Park Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church, which was organized by a group of Methodist families in West Somerville seeking a larger meeting place for their religious services. He was also a Vestry member of the St. James Episcopal Church, a Cambridge church located at the corner of Massachusetts Ave. and Beech St. The church organized a mission chapel near Teele Square in 1876, where Silas also served. He may have felt compelled to give back to Somerville on account of being one of the city’s wealthiest residents. An 1888 article in The Boston Globe lists him as one of a small number of rich men living in the city, with “something like $200,000” (comparable to about $40,000,000 today).

Silas Holland

Silas married Sarah Shattuck Locke of Lancaster, Mass. on May 13th, 1844. Sarah, the daughter of Major Jonathan Locke of Charlestown and Mary Tufts Locke, had worked as a school teacher before marriage. The couple was married for 54 years until Silas’ death on September 23rd, 1898. He lived long enough to see his namesake road laid out in the late 1860s. Sarah would follow him ten years later in November 1908. Both she and Silas are buried in Cambridge Cemetery.

The Hollands had three children – Harriet “Hattie” Reed Holland, who never married; James Franklin Holland, who died in infancy and Sarah Jane “Jennie” Holland, who married Josiah Quincy Bennett in 1879 and who had five children of her own: Holland, Harold, Ruth, Edward and Clark. Like his great-grandfather, Holland Bennett met his untimely end at sea. While on his honeymoon in Italy, Holland disappeared aboard a steamship to Naples. His mysterious and shocking death became international news with rampant speculation concerning his final moments appearing in papers across the country. Was it suicide? Murder? Was he still alive? Read more in Part 2: The Death of Holland Bennett.


Magoun Square


Though not a native Somervillian, John C. Magoun was joined through marriage with one of the city’s most influential and historically prominent families. The house he lived in, which was continuously occupied by his wife’s ancestors and descendants for over 175 years, remains one of the oldest structures in Somerville and, of its era, the best preserved. He enjoyed longevity too as a civil servant, holding several positions in the local government, and left his name in the Magoun Square neighborhood of his adoptive home.

John Calvin Magoun was born on December 11th, 1797 in New Hampton, N. H. to Rev. Josiah Magoun (1759-1841), whose family descended from Scottish immigrants, and Anne Sleeper Magoun, whose father Stephen was a church Deacon in her native Acton, Maine. Josiah was a veteran of the Revolutionary War – he joined the continental soldiers at the Battle of Bunker Hill and served for three years at Plattsburgh, Ticonderoga and Crown Point before returning to civilian life. Josiah settled first in Acton, Maine before moving his family to New Hampton where the Magouns raised eight children (seven boys, including John, and a daughter). John was educated in New Hampton and at Atkinson Academy in southern New Hampshire before migrating to Somerville at age eighteen.

John C. Magoun

In Somerville, John met his wife Sarah Ann Adams Magoun, a relative of the Presidents Adams and the Tufts family. Sarah was born in 1802 to Joseph and Sarah Tufts Adams and married John on Dec. 30th, 1824. She lived nearly her entire life in the same home and was born and died in the same room. Her father, like John’s, was a military veteran, having aided in the fortification of Dorchester Heights and having stood guard at the Winter Hill encampment where British and Hessian troops were held prisoner. Through her mother, Sarah was a member of the Tufts family, for which Tufts University and Nathan Tufts Park were named. Sarah’s grandmother, Anne Adams Tufts, also joined in the war effort, first nursing wounded soldiers in her home after the Battle of Bunker Hill and later offering comfort to the dying wife of an enemy soldier imprisoned at the Winter Hill camp. Long after her death, Anne Adams Tufts’ name was given to the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Their founding charter was framed in the wood of an apple tree grown on the Adams-Magoun estate, which was also used to make the chapter’s presiding gavel. John and Sarah Magoun’s daughter Helen Magoun Heald served as the chapter’s founding Regent.

Medford St., Feb. 1961

John and Sarah lived in the Adams-Magoun House, located at 438 Broadway. It was built in 1783 by Joseph Adams and is one of the oldest extant buildings in Somerville. Colonial American history is imbued in the fabric of the house – timbers taken from the fort at Winter Hill were reused in its construction. Much of what is now the Magoun Square neighborhood was then part of the family farm – their 71 acres stretched from Broadway to the southern slope of Winter Hill, along the Boston and Maine Railroad, and from Hinckley St. to Central St. On this land, John ran a dairy farm as well as the Winter Hill Nursery, where he raised a wide variety of fruit and ornamental trees for sale.

The Adams-Magoun House; 438 Broadway

John held several esteemed civic positions. He was a founding member of the First Unitarian Society of Somerville. He also captained a local militia and was present for the reception of Gen. Lafayette on the Boston Common during the general’s tour of the United States in 1825. John and his men were also in attendance for the laying of the cornerstone of the Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown, over which Gen. Lafayette presided and where Representative (later Senator) Daniel Webster gave an oration. John served Somerville for 34 years as town Assessor and for 22 years as an Overseer of the Poor, collecting poor taxes from the city’s more fortunate and administering relief money to the poor. In addition, he was a member of the School Committee and Sealer of Weights and Measures.

John and Sarah had nine children, at least one of which died in infancy. Of the seven which survived their father, sons John A. Magoun and Charles Magoun moved away to Sioux City, IA and Chicago, IL respectively. Two more daughters, Amelia and Lucy relocated within Massachusetts. After Sarah’s death on March 6th, 1876 and John’s on Jan. 8th, 1882, their children continued to occupy the Adams-Magoun house. In 1943, John’s granddaughter Cora Butman died, leaving the house to her daughter Helen. Helen Butman, an artist, continued to own the house until her death in 1960.

Sketch of Magoun Square. The Adams-Magoun House is above Central Street on the map.

The intersection of Broadway and Medford St. has not always been known as Magoun Square. For a while, it was called simply “The Corner,” as the bars and water troughs made it a popular crossroads for thirsty travellers. While his name is largely forgotten today, Darius W. Pollard was nearly immortalized in “Pollard Square.” Pollard was a druggist and operated the Pollard Square Pharmacy. John Magoun’s legacy won out, however, after his son-in-law Henry Woods, an official with the West End Street Railway Company, had the Magoun name placed on streetcar signs.