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 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.
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