Thanks so much for the great response to this blog!
A special thank you to those who have passed it on to others. We are heading quickly to amazing page visits to this blog! Welcome to folks from all over the country and other countries as well, including Lisbon!!

The "Village", as it was called, is located in the northwest corner of the city of Taunton, Massachusetts U.S.A. It covers about 1 square mile with the center being School Street. A large portion of the Village population was Portuguese when I was growing up.

This blog covers a lot of the history of the Village, much to do with my years as a child there: 1940 through the late 1950's. I do have many wonderful photos and information prior to that that and will share those as well. Always looking for MORE PHOTOS AND MORE STORIES TO TELL.

If you would like to send photos or share a memory of growing up in the Village
e-mail me at
feel free to comment on the posts. Directions are on the right side of the blog posts. Jump in, the water is fine and it is easy!!!

I will be posting photographs but not identifying individuals unless I have permission or they are a matter of public record. It you wish to give me permission, please let me know.

I am looking for any and all photos of the Village...

Please note: the way blogs work is that the latest post is first. It you would like to start from the beginning of the blog, check out the post labels on the right of the blog and go from there. Thanks.

Thursday, July 31, 2014


Recently, on the I'm From Taunton Facebook page, Charles Crowley posted this photograph
of strollers on the Taunton Green circa 1889. He kindly agreed to share it with us.

It really struck me.  The calm, dignified people out for a Sunday stroll. Strolling, mind you, not rushing, not glued to an iPad or cell phone.  Interacting with friends, or making new ones.
Sharing with family.  The advantage of looking way back in the history of Taunton is to try to latch on to old/new ways of living, ways that have been lost. Note that there were many trees on the Green once upon a time, probably those wonderful elms that were devastated and lost. The City proper was noted for its beautiful shade trees. The Green had been common ground since 1774.

                  Believe it or not, here is a video of the time, just to bring it home a little more.

In 1889, Tauntonians were probably still recovering from the Civil War which had ended in 1865. Amazingly, today 2014 there is one Civil War pensioner still receiving benefits for her father's service.  She is 84 years old.  But back in 1889, it was still fresh. You can see that there are few statues in the photograph, those were still in planning stages.

 My grandfathers and grandmothers were not yet in Taunton, the first arriving in the early 1900's. Our Church, St. Anthony's, would not come along until 1906. For sure, those Portuguese immigrants already here had found their own spaces in which to worship and began saving for their own Church.

It is hard to believe what a successful era the late 1880's and early 1890's were for Taunton. Yet, when we read of the luminaries that flourished then...well, it really sinks in.  When I was growing up in Taunton and walked by so many beautiful and grand houses or downtown when it was still flourishing, I always felt that hint that Taunton once had been so much more.  This photo intrigued me enough to absorb myself into my city's history and learn about that era. It was a fascinating trip even though I only accessed the tip of the iceberg.

Greatness, full employment, healing from the Civil War wounds, gracious living.  It is no wonder that our grandparents were lured here from their home countries.  When I was a child in the 40's and 50's, Reed and Barton was still operating, though not as in the 1880's.  Back then there were churches everywhere, it was still a time of faith-centeredness, the reverse of what it is today in this country.  I knew only one classmate whose parents were divorced.  Radio and T.V.  consisted of wholesome, family entertainment in the 50's and 60's..

Going way back into the 1880 era we see the roots of what Taunton is today and the traces of it that were what I was feeling in my childhood.

Much of what I am quoting below is from this website
  Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer 1890. 
The article is  well worth a full read. The photos I found elsewhere on the net.

"In 1885 there were 182 farms in the area.  In the 1890's there were seven cotton mills in the city which employed 2,000 persons, foundries, machine-shops and boiler works employed 1,000, stove works employed 300, zinc, brass and copper works and jewelry factories, upwards of 300, 600 in brittania and silver plated factories, 500 in tack, nail and bolt, cutlery around 50, and brick, tile and stove linings from 200 to 300.  Railroad coaches, earthenware, rattan and willow and other furniture, yarn, boots and shoes, horse trappings, pencils and crucibles and on and on. The total number of establishments in 1885 were 301.

                                            Jewelry Shop in downtown Taunton circa 1885

Field, Track and Nail Works (established in 1827) was the largest in the country. Mason Works occupies 6 acres and made cotton and woolen machinery, car wheels, engines and locomotives.  Here is one made for the Union Pacific in 1860 in Taunton. Do not know which company made it (that is for another future blog).  But, could have been Taunton Locomotive Mfg. Company.

Of course, there was  Reed and Barton's Brittania Works (the oldest and largest on the Continent), and the Taunton Paper Mfg. Co.

Here is a photo of a sterling silver scent box created by Reed and Barton in 1890.
Note the engraved letter A surrounded by a heart.

There were fisheries of alewives, herring and shad.  The commercial marine embraced 
36 schooners and one steamboat.

The population in 1885 was 23, 674, of whom 5, 232 were legal voters. 
There were four newspapers: The Daily Gazette, the weekly Household Gazette, the Bristol County Republican and the Taunton Courier. The city proper was noted for its beautiful shade trees abounding on all streets."

                                                       (photos from Pinterest and Internet)

"Mass media" consisted of newspapers back then.  Here is the type of item that interested folks, far from the bottom-feeding items we so often see today.  Far from the endless chatter on social media and talk shows never leaving our minds at peace.

That 1890 quote by the Taunton Courier story was carried in 34 New England papers and one in London, England.   Tame by our standards, wouldn't you say?

My city back in those days was beautiful   The echoes of that can be seen in the graceful historic homes in Taunton still standing, many of them on the Historic Registor of National Places.  Here are just a few of them with bits of their history. Many are lovingly cared for and grace our city streets.

Below is the J.C. Bartlett House built in 1889 at 12 Walnut ST.
Mr. Bartlett was a prosperous mining engineer.

The W.C.Beattie House built in 1882 at 229 W. Brittania St. 
He was a designer at Reed and Barton.

           Below: The Henry Morse House, 32 Cedar ST. 
 Henry Morse acquired his father's estate.

Finally,  here is the McInistry House at 115 High St.  Built in 1779 by William McInistry, a minister. In 1763 it was the site of a grisly murder in which one of the family daughters was murdered by a servant.  It is now the parsonage for St. Thomas Episcopal Church.
 Who knew this history?
I never did. 

The times were busy in that era, even nationally.  Here are some events that those Tauntonians lived through in the year 1889/

*Benjamin Harrison was inaugurated as 23rd President.

*President  Harrison opened Oklahoma for colonization.

*Montana was admitted as the 41st state of the Union.

*Washington admitted as the 42nd.

*The Coca -Cola Company, then known as the Pemberton Medicine Co.
is originally incorporated in Atlanta, Georgia.

Any one know when this sign was put up?

*The first National holiday was set for the centennial of Washington's Inaugeration.
We sure have come a long way since then on national holidays.  
If you wait a minute another comes along!

*The brassiere was invented....hmmm

*For the first time, George Easmen places Kodak camera on sale. 
This same year Thomas Edison showed his first motion picture.
Talkies would not come along for a good while.
In 1927 my maternal grandmother saw the first which starred Al Jolson. 
She also called called her radio a "talking box" (this from an interview she gave).

*Wall Street Journal began publishing,  all that time ago.

*Bayer aspirin was introduced in powder form in Germany 
changing headaches and fevers forever.

*The screw top was about changing the world!


*the first dishwasher was invented!   

Young men rowed their sweethearts on the Taunton River, probably by moonlight.
Have you looked at the I'm From Taunton Facebook page today?

It was not all roses, of course.  In his history of Taunton until 1893,  Samuel Emery Hopkins tells us that there was a smallpox hospital on the Raynham-Taunton line off the Boston turnpike. Such wonders and antibiotics were not yet on the scene.  Infant mortality would have been higher and the life span lower.  But, here we are looking at the quality of life as it was lived by so many.  There are always lessons to be learned from history....and keys to a 
gracious way of living is surely one of them.

                                                          Some of my sources.  
 Increasingly there are more Pinterest photos of Taunton, 
check them out or add your own. 

History of Taunton from Its Settlement to Present Time (that was 1893) 
by Samuel Emery Hopkins.

Sunday, July 20, 2014


Wordsmiths, word artists, fabricators of the beauty of the written word touching our hearts.  That is what I believe to be the definition of a poet, cousin to writers and songsters.  One such came forth from our Village, after my time and too soon gone in his own time, but making
himself live on through his art.

I introduce you to the late, Jose "Joe Gouveia", poet laureate of Cape Cod
and a son of the School Street Village.

Joe Gouveia

Once again, threads of the Village wind themselves around our hearts, 
no matter how far we wander.  It is unusual to have so much current information on someone I write about. T his time, we can read Joe's poems and actually see and hear him on You Tube.

Initially, some time back, I received information about Joe from Arlene Gouveia, one was his obituary and the other a listing of famous people from Taunton in which he was included.  I filed it ,as I often I do, until the time is ripe to research it at greater length .  I also had received an e-mail from a reader,  Elizabeth Gouveia Miner.  She wrote to tell me of her father, Joe Gouveia Sr.,who owned and operated Joe's Superette located on the corner of Wilbur and Purchase Streets in the Village.  Before Joe Senior had owned it, it had been owned by his in-laws, the Jardin family. A daughter of that family, Caroline, was a close early childhood friend and classmate before she and her family moved to California.  We lost touch with each other... until the daughter of Joe Gouveia Sr. and  sister of our poet, Elizabeth  Gouveia, connected us all over again. 
 Elizabeth gifted us once more by introducing us to her late brother and his achievements
culminating in his last book, 

Too soon, Joe left us.  He passed on at the age of 49 years. He died of cancer.  But, not before he created his poems about his journey and that of the Portuguese American experience. He graced the Village, the family and people who shaped him, leaving an heirloom 
for each of us who shared that experience with him.

                                            I wager not many villages have their own poet.


Above photograph: Joe Gouveia Sr. and his family.
From left to right: Ann Gouveia Frias.  paternal grandmother Isabel Gouveia, Lori Gouveia Fyfe, Joe's mother Mary Gouveia standing next to her husband Joe Sr.  who is and holding their son and our late poet: Joseph Gouveia.

            I recognize the house and the grapevine right next to it.
            Shared by Elizabeth this was taken 8 years before her arrival.

               Fellow poet, Martin Espada , describes that home beautifully as Joe growing up as:
                      " ...the lone brother in a sweet sea of sisters, a cherished son..."

In a poem by Joe himself entitled Fala Portuguese.he speaks of bigotry overcome by toughness, communal feasting, the pilgrimage to the old country and the return to the Americas when. "they always came back plus one.'  I can identify with this description of growing up in the Village as the culture of being fully Portuguese seeded itself in our hearts.

Our future poet (yes, he is ours) would have run about the Village as he grew getting into the mischief Village boys did in those days, attended St. Anthony's Church and heard the humming lullaby of the Portuguese language all around him.  He would have taken in  the culture just as he absorbed the air all around him. It would have been engraved on his soul.
                                                He would have breathed in Saudade.

His greatest poetic achievement, the book Saudades, was his first fully published work, and he tasted that achievement before sickness overpowered him. Besides his work, he was a presence that made him his adopted Cape Cod's Poet Laureate. It was written that he imbued 
the Cape and beyond with poetry.

We of Portuguese descent know what Saudade is.  Difficult to translate fully into English, its meaning goes beyond nostalgia to more of a yearning, a longing for something you can never have again.   "JoeGo", as he was sometimes called, captured that yearning in Saudade for us and all those who are descendants of those intrepid folk who came to America with courage and dignity. He wrote of growing up in Taunton, and right there he is ours! I do not speak Portuguese, to my dismay, I also do not read it.  Therefore, I cannot read the great poets of the Portuguese language.  But, Joe tells us, that we who grew up in the Village, descendants of immigrants, indeed have our own language, even if it dwells deep in our beings.  I so regret never having met Joe Gouveia, poet and person of great distinction.  I am honored to be able to use his sister's words and those of his friends and colleagues to speak of him here. The more I read and researched the more I found to admire and cherish.

Joe did not want to go to college, but his mother, the daughter of immigrants, and his father, also an immigrant, insisted. At Bridgewater State University he was asked to write a poem in one of his classes.  He did not want to, his professor insisted.  He wrote it in ten minutes in the men's room and the rest is the history we are reading about here.  He graduated with a Master of Fine Arts in Poetry and went on for further studies as he honed his own work.

His accomplishments are so many, no doubt I will forget some.  He wrote the "Meter Man" column for the Barnstable Patriot newspaper, he was Poet-In-Residence at Cape Cod Community College, Cape Cod. Poet Laureate Massachusetts Poet of the Year 2001 (awarded by Cambridge Poetry Awards no less), Poetry Curator at the Cultural Center of Cape Cod, hosted a weekly radio show on WOMR called The Poet's Corner as well as Poet's Corner Open Mik for 18 years.  He started the Cape Cod Poet's Theatre. He was a guest on numerous Television shows, including PBS, KDVS-FM University of California Davies, Radio Soulspeak and more. His poetry was published in six countries and four continents. He edited  numerous anthologies and opened for readings for Robert Pinksy, one time Poet for the United States who often was heard on PBS, among other noted poets.

He took poetry to nursing homes and loved open miks (microphones), he mentored many aspiring poets and became beloved because of his generosity. He spoke of his poetry in the rough as "lumps of clay.  Maybe a half page from a journal or five pages, some from here and some from there, ..forming a poem; I take the best of it, reshape it."  These words in an article ,authored by Lee Roscoe, further said hat Joe had worked as a construction worker and "there is somehow a good deal of hand hewn-heft, hammered rhythmically into his words, spoken or on the page. Joe's poems "carried secrets and layer upon  layer of experience and language you cannot absorb in one reading."

Joe taught  bringing "Keep the Rage on the Page" to juvenile delinquents. He mentored and encouraged burgeoning poet after poet.  This is the true sign of a real artist, this confidence, this love of the art and all those who follow it.

Joe and Maya Angelou

There are You Tubes of Joe reading. You can find them easily as they have his name.  Joe shared his experience with cancer with courage and you can see and hear his poem about the last of his treatments in  Joe Gouveia: In Place Live  on You Tube. He married the love of his life, Josy,  from Brazil.  They married on the beach after he had been told he had two months to live.
Two years were their gift after he had been given that dire diagnosis.
Those years were filled with love and creativity.

I urge you to listen to this next video of an interview with Joe...listen to the whole interview!  Take the time and hear how he laces his Portuguese heritage throughout.  Privileged am I to write this and share him with others around the world, for this where this blog reaches.  Privileged in that I knew Joe's father and his mother.  H wrote what is my heritage, too.

 Godspeed to you, Joe, I deeply regret never having met you. Your brief spell here was too short.  But, what a legacy, what a footprint you have left!  For that we thank you and we will remember, for your poetry is living on in our hearts.

Joe's friend, and a poet himself said:
"If Walt Whitman were alive today to hear America singing, he'd hear the voice of Joe Gouveia."

I end this post with this
 excerpt from the poem
The Distraction in Saudades
 by Joe Gouveia.  

All this work in retirement.  All those dreams of afterlife.
If there is a secret to this life, let it be flowers and grass,
because when He said that the world would end
not by flood but by fire, it was because
on God's green earth growth is stronger
and colors brighter after the first burn.
Must be why there is so much war, all those firebombs,
and all that blood soacking the earth with the stud of creation.

Perhaps that is why some settle down - to find sanity
in an insane world.  Let us embrace our joys now,
impatient for an end that comes as slowly
as a single bare footstep amongst the wild fields.
Take my hand, let us rest here, looking to Heaven
for answers, and each other for distraction.

Joe Gouveia


There are many sources for this post and I thank them all
for introducing us to this incredible man.  I apologize for omitting a source,
please let me know if I did and I will rectify the fact.  There is so much written about
Joe Gouveia that I may have lost my way.

As always, Arlene Gouveia for starting me on this search.
Joe's younger sister Elizabeth Gouveia Miner for inspiring it and for the photographs.
Thank you for letting this post come about.  It is each of us, children on the
Village, that keep our history alive.

For the photo of Joe and Josy and the accompanying article.
,,,,,,,, :
a poem written by Martin Espada for his friend and fellow poet, Joe Gouveia.

Joe's website


Saudades, by Joe Gouveia (you can order your copy at Amazon
Do yourself a favor and read the reviews.


Friday, July 4, 2014


Recalling the sparklers of past childhood Fourth of July's is not hard.
They were simple times and included some very minor fireworks, a lot of running around with sparklers which was quite exciting for us. In the Village, of course, the annual unofficial
bonfire on Braga Square on School Street.

Below, in a photo thanks to Stephen Kosta from I'm From Taunton Facebook page,
a peek into the yesteryear of 1939.  In front of Dickerman's Bookstore the Fourth of July buntings are proudly displayed either in anticipation or just after the celebration.

But, we were just kids or our parents were when we did things like this. We really did not yet know what the Fourth of July really celebrated...nor the cost.

An unspecified city in 1918 with American troops celebrating the Fourth, and perhaps readying for war themselves.

In the Village, we always were reminded of the cost walking through Braga Square
 commemorating one of our courageous boys whose courage 
and sacrifice took place in the Korean war. 
Rest in Peace, Anthony Braga.

The square was dedicated in 1953.

Taunton vets remind us the rest of the way, near the beautiful and moving
Memorial Fountain just behind the Congregational Church in Taunton.

So much is owed s to our veterans of all wars....they must never be forgotten.

Some of the photos are from this fascinating site

Others are from I'm from Taunton Facebook photos.

Happy and safe Fourth of July to all!!!

Thursday, June 26, 2014


This blog owes so much to our revered storytellers.  To those who kept. and still keep, our roots and memories alive.  Every time we dip into the stories of our past we ensure once more that they keep going forward for our children and their children.

So, let's hear it for storytellers…shall we?

Just remembering stories in my own life:

Once we had a home with a partially opened staircase going up to the second floor.  We had amassed many family photos, old and new, and displayed them all down the wall section of the stairs. The stairs were comfortably carpeted. Adults and children could be found there looking at the photographs and asking for the stories that went with them.  

Every time we walked up those stairs we could touch the photos and remember.
I miss those stairs and that memory gallery. It was in reality a storyboard .

I live in a smaller home now.  There is a short hall outside the studio where two large collaged framed pieces tell my story and my husband's story. Every day when I pass them, especialy early in the morning as I start my day, I remember those loved faces…known and unknown.  Unlike an album or digital disc it is always there, speaking tour hearts. 

Who does not love listening to a story? We never outgrow that sense of delight.

Pinterest photo from 1920

My husband and oldest grandson taken back in the 90's sharing a story.

  A child in the womb gets used to its mother's voice as early as 30 weeks:
her inflections, her emotional tones.  Later, as soon as a child can scoot 
into your lap, cuddle close under your arm and come close to to your heart, 
storytelling becomesa ritual carried out over and over and over.
Another of our grandson's created a ritual of his own, carefully thinking over 
which book would be read that bedtime and solemnly presenting it .  
We embraced the ritual each time we had the honor to preside.
This is he being read to by my mother
 (note the under the arm and close to the heart position).

Storytelling teaches but most importantly, the person listening is the center of attention.
Listening to a favorite book being read a child will sail off to an imaginary land. But, also, the reader changes.  Do you recall reading to your children and grandchildren? You became animated, you laugh or tear up.  Reader and child read become enclosed
 in a cocoon that wakes up in a new place just waiting to be explored.

That is what it has been like for me writing this blog, and it appears for our many readers all over the world listening to the story of the School Street Village. To go beyond my years growing up there to times that came before is such an experience that I often lose track of time.  
The tales weave themselves around our hearts, our very souls reconnecting us to
 generations long gone, or those just past.

Often that journey is facilitated by the voice of a very special historian.
It is my honor to introduce our


Storytellers and memory keepers are very special people.
In this post I wish to acknowledge the Village Storyteller and
 Memory Keeper extraordinaire:
Arlene Rose Gouveia.

I mention and thank her so often in this blog, that it is time
to introduce this remarkable woman.
Listening to her tell a story of the Village, or of greater Taunton, is a gift I wish for everyone.
She herself enjoys the telling which is the mark of a great storyteller. 
 She brings it all to life, and it is as if you were there.   

Many readers share with this blog, but Arlene I consider the lead contributor.

Arlene has storytelling in her DNA thanks to her parents: Joseph Rose and Mary Perry Rose
pictured above on their wedding day in 1929 at St. Anthony's (you may remember them from the posts on vintage Village weddings).

Joseph Rose told Village stories to his children.  
His daughter remembered them and wrote them down.
Her mother Mary Rose took photographs and more photographs
 The family had a sense of the history they were living and whence they came. 
They keep the flames lit in the hearts of their children,
especially their daughter Arlene
 who let them grow and remain safe.

In due time, their daughter wrote her stories down and created, in her own handwriting, memoirs her father and others of his time had shared with her. Then she in turn shared them, beautiful handwritten pages ascribing each story to its teller.

Growing up in the Village when it was at it's greatest, she became a teacher and taught for 50 years in Taunton schools as well as long years of tutoring at home.  Her students still speak of her enthusiasm for learning and love of history, how she inspired them to be the same way. How she  believed  who they could and would become and made them believe it, too. 

Arlene reached out with those memories and photographs in such projects as the book for
St. Anthony's Church Centennial Celebration in 2003 and Olde Tyme Taunton.

I knew Arlene when I was growing up on School Street.  I knew her parents. I never appreciated how precious they all were and are.  They are part of the Village legacy and have done it proud.

When I began this blog, it was, I believe, a calling. A calling  to keep this, our Village history, 
safe in a format that would reach out to as many as possible.  Once I began it took on a 
life all its own.It did reach out and eventually it reached out to Arlene Gouveia. 

 Arlene's desire to keep that same history safe and mine merged. 
A collaboration started and still continues.
  What I have learned and shared has been amazing! Hearing her 
 enthusiastically narrating these stories is an experience I treasure. 
We mentioned early in this post that a storyteller changes as the story is told.
That is so the case with Arlene Gouveia.  Arlene has learned the lesson of passionate living.

All the wonderful photographs of so long ago one day spilled from my inbox thanks to her son, John.  Each one sent me back to the Village.  I have made copies, digital and otherwise, 
so incredible are each of them.  Such a treasure, such stories to savor and share, to remember.

Arlene jumped in wholeheartedly into this Blog project. She has shared so many photographs, 
helped with so many posts, actually been the impetus for many of them. 
 Her enthusiasm and encouragement has kept me going, kept me researching. 
 Her laughter as we talk and share is a tonic for this blogger.

It seems also that our work together has wrought something incredible. 
Look at these statistics:

The blog is up to over 35,500 page views. This is since its inception in September of 2012.
Look what Mrs. Gouveia has  inspired just as she inspired her students:
This is a ClustrMap, part of the blog which tells us much about where and who,,,,

Each time the blog is viewed a small red dot pops up, if the dot is bigger it means 100 views, if it is yellow it denotes a new viewer.  Blogspot statistics tell me how many viewed each post.

There are readers from 50 states and 73 countries! Highest rate of views from the U.S. are
Massachusetts, Florida, California, New Jersey, New York, Washington state and Rhode Island.

The countries are fascinating: top after the U.S. is  RUSSIA: there is someone, or more than one, who checks in every new post from that far away place.  After that comes Canada ( I know who), United Kingdom, Portugal, Australia, India, France, Italy and Spain. 
Did you know there is a translator function on this blog?

People intrigued about the history of our little School Street Village in New England, and the city of Taunton.  Perhaps it is the Sister City Taunton, England that checks in?  The need to go back and sink again into a simpler time seems universal.

So what can I say, Arlene Rose Gouveia? 

It is my pleasure and my honor
to work with you, to be inspired by you and to call you my friend.
May many, many years lie ahead for this collaboration of love.

Thursday, June 19, 2014


The post on Taunton State Hospital met with an incredible response.  If you go to I'm From Taunton Facebook page where I announce each post, you will see 33 comments and 23 links so far. That does not count the comments made on the post itself here on the blog. Many of those who grew up in Taunton, including the Village, were familiar with the hospital, even if passing by or hearing the stories.
They or their parents may have worked there.

These photos have been taken from Keep Taunton State Hospital Open! a Facebook page.  There is much information there if you want to read more, especially about legislative efforts.

One of the I'm From Taunton Facebook a reader informed us that today there are 45 beds at the hospital and there will perhaps be more.  A sure reflection of the need for mental health inpatient care.  I am including here articles from 2013 and this year which tells us about the status of the hospital today.

This post has been a learning experience for me and it appears for readers.  Your willingness to share is very much appreciated.

Thursday, June 5, 2014


As a child growing up in the Village in Taunton, we often heard such taunts as," you will end up at Hodges Ave.!"  We did not have to guess what that meant…we knew.  It referred to the Taunton State Hospital on Hodges Avenue where mentally ill patients were placed.  The hospital was not far from the Whittenton part of Taunton, a hop, skip and jump from the Village.  It was also not far from the old Mill River mills and Reed and Barton factories.  Interestingly, the haunting movie, Shutter Island, was filmed at those old mills.  The movie was about a mental institution back in the 1940's from the book of the same name by Dennis LeHane.

                                                  Taunton State Hospital in the Snow

My favorite authors as a teen were Edgar Allen Poe and the Bronte Sisters.  I had grown beyond The childhood Bobsey Twins and was in my dramatic gothic period.  Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Nevermore…bring them on!  Maybe the spectacle of those Victorian buildings silhouetted against the sky at the State Hospital that I passed so often, imprinted itself on my young mind.

It was after creating the last two posts that I decided researching this hospital seemed a logical direction to take.  As we know, many of those resting beneath the metal markers at the Pauper's cemetery were from Taunton State Hospital.  This post taught me much I did not know about the hospital. As with the rocking chair gravestone memorial there is a good bit of psychic interest and legend abounding on the Internet about Taunton State.  I will not be dealing with that, except to say one must take it with a ton of salt.  Many places of concentrated suffering and abandonment retain that sense which can often be felt, especially in active imaginations.

A student nurse there in the late 1950's, I had personal experience within those walls and will share it among and between the lines I write. Taunton State Hospital is a vital part of Village and Taunton history and cannot be ignored.  It is also part and parcel of state and national history.

                                       Here we go….beyond those stern foreboding walls.

Taunton State Hospital (or Lunatic Asylum as it was first called) opened its doors to patients in 1854. It's location in Taunton was not welcomed by Taunton residents to begin with, as can be imagined. However, it soon became a place at which many folks from Taunton found employment.  At one point in its history, the hospital contained forty buildings.  Not only physicians, nurses and attendants but all types of employment opportunities were available.  There were kitchens, a chapel, bakery, laundry, pharmacy, greenhouses, to name just a few. There would have been a massive grounds and maintenance department and residences for nurses and many physicians and staff.

It was only the second state hospital for the mentally ill to be built in Massachusetts. Its initial purpose was to handle the overflow from Worcestor State Hospital, seen in the photo below.

The Taunton institution, too, became full to capacity in a short time. Remember, the care of the mentally ill prior to the advent of psychotropic medications was of a totally different kind. It relied on incarcatation and restraint for those patients many of whom far beyond reach of the help then available. Often it was the poor that were treated in such institutions,  but not exclusively.  One of of the hospital's famous and infamous patients was Jane Toppan an unlicensed nurse who from1860 to 1901 murdered 31 people under her care at such hospitals as Massachusetts General. She is  buried among others from Taunton State in the Pauper's cemetery on E. Brittania St.  She was also the inspiration for many novels, plays and even movies.  A famous patient was Thomas Hubbard Summer, 
a sea captain who developed a celestial navigation tool known as the Sumner Line.  
 The legend that Lizzie Borden was a patient there proved to be untrue.

Wikopedia has a lengthy section regarding Taunton State and provided me with 
significant information.Many of the photographs however, come from groups which specialize in gaining access to and photographing abandoned sites in the U.S. 
 Their photographs are invaluable, especially in this case, as so much of the institution is now gone.  This group entered over a 15 ft fence at four in the morning.

                     Here we see in one of their photographs that silhouette so
 familiar to us who grew up in Taunton.

Below is a photograph from the past of a lovely curved staircase at Taunton State.  The treatment of the mentally ill in those early years when the hospital was built was thought to be progressive and labeled the "Moral Treatment".   The groups that under cover of darkness enter the grounds of places like Taunton State may be compared to archeologists as they search the ruins with their cameras for the debris of lost memories.  Declared a National Historic Site, eventually the State sold off architectural features to people and companies all over the country, leaving nothing at the site of the hospital's ruins.  I imagine this photo  below contains just such valuable collectables.

                                           Taunton State Hospital- Interior photograph

The hospital was built in a rare and unique neoclassical style. It is also a "Kirkbride" hospital.
Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride advocated a hilly location which would allow fresh air and sunlight to permeate the institution. None of the Kirkbride hospitals exist today. The Taunton hospital sits on a former 154 acre farm along the Mill River.  The architect, Eldridge Boyden,  built spectacular architecture including Holy Cross College, whose buildings still stand today. The hospital was noted for its beautiful Dome. The construction cost $151,742.48.

 One could certainly say, as does the creator of online Abandonded Places, that what happened to Taunton State Hospital
could be called "demolition by neglect."

Here is another spectacular stairwell at the hospital.

 One of its most wonderful features were its beautiful  breezeways connecting the wards to the infirmary.  The distinct cupolas and cast iron characters gave it a unique personality.Below is the
ruin of one of the breezeways.

In 1975, the main patient care portion of the hospital was closed.  In the early 1990's a $12 million grant was set up to provide renovations.  In 1994, the site had been added to the National Registry of Historic Places…imagine.  But, this architectural beauty was destined for abandonment and collapse.  In 2006, a huge fire caused massive damage, the famous and well known Dome collapsed in 1999.

The Dome in its Day

                                          In 2009, the rest was nearly all demolished.

This was the nurse's residence at Taunton State.
Although my family was in the Village in Taunton 
I spent many a night here
while on my three month rotation.  I was 18 years old and 
this experience was a great big dose of fast maturing.

Below is a photograph of an abandoned common room at the Hospital.  I remember we students worked on a woman's ward with just such an open, sunny room. Benches and chairs circled the room. It was here, on my first day, that I found the mother 
of a friend in the Village sitting quietly in a chair against the wall.  
She never said a word, only sat deep within her own thoughts.  
This was not one of the most difficult wards, it was quiet except 
for the shuffling gait of patients going to and fro.

                             Another aspect of such a ruin holds its own musical memories.

This was all in another era of medical care, the years I was there.  We student nurses were given a large ring of keys that were threaded on a belt worn under our all-encompassing starched aprons. It is amazing the sense of power that those keys gave to a person. We were under stern orders to lock each door after us which we unlocked. Who knows but my keys
 unlocked this old rusted hospital lock below.

  We never went to the "back wards".  For some reason I did go once and it was a disturbing place, with much noise and suffering. That trip required much unlocking and locking.  I felt I was a matron in some novel by Dickens. Perhaps this photo is of one of those "back wards."

Perhaps, though, my most dramatic experience took place in a tunnel like 
this one under the buildings. We students were shepherding a large group of patients
 over to an auditorium to see a movie. 

 It was night and suddenly all of the lights went out!  
It most likely took place at one of these tunnels. 
The lights came back on after a few very long minutes…
I am sure the patients were as afraid as we were!

Today those state hospitals no longer exist in the same way.
Many people lived whole lives at these
Institutions until such time as the fabled de-institutionalization
process began in the state and then across the country.
 Some had been there so long there was no place for them 
to go when released back into a frightening and lonely world..

                                               South wing at Taunton State Hospital

There was a great move to save the hospital, but neglect allowed precious architectural pieces and buildings to fall to powder and disappear.  We can thank those photographers who at least saved pictures of what once was.  At one time, this hospital was state of the art, and Harvard medical staff were part of it all.  Young student nurses provided a glimpse of another life for patients.  Like so much of the Taunton landscape it lives only in memory.  

There was despair here and loneliness and anguish, but there would have been caring, shelter, and a sense of family for so many.  I salute those who cared for so many over the decades.

People are storytellers, but places are, too.  Taunton is a treasure of architectural and historic homes and buildings. Once Taunton State Hospital was among them.  Many, such as the Taunton Public Library which is fast fading, are also being lost to the practice of "demolition by neglect." Never to be replaced. There must be a way of truly recycling these places and keeping their histories sharp and present.

                           Meanwhile, in closing this post I invite you to watch this poignant film.
                            You Tube: Abandoned History: Taunton State Mental Hospital

There are so many sources for this post. If you are interested, go on any of them or just use your search engine for others.  Wikipedia, as mentioned is one, and also is a source for the story of Jane Toppan.
Here are a few others.


On Pinterest and Tumblir there are many photographs of Taunton State, some of which I have included in this post.  Some of the photographs are from the archives of The Library of Congress.

Friday, May 30, 2014


Growing up in Taunton, and later as an adult living there for about five years, I often visited the cemetery in remembrance of lost loved ones.   When doing research on my family genealogy, the Taunton Catholic Cemetery office was most helpful with information.  All those times, in my peripheral sight, was the little Pauper's Cemetery between St. Joseph's and the Mayflower cemeteries.  A small, insignificant looking piece of land raising no questions in my mind.
 It certainly calls to me now.

The eye opener for me was learning of the work of photographer Karen Callan and her interest in this place.  One day her husband drove by the little cemetery and suggested she get her camera and check it out.  She might find it interesting, he said.  
That would prove to be an understatement…

"Anonymous Among Us: Images from a New England Potter's Field"
 is the title of Karen's opus.
(You can also find it online at the end of this post.)

Karen presented her photographs in exhibits at the Taunton Public Library and the Raynham Public Library in 2012.  A grant from the Taunton Cultural Council helped her to produce two large books,one of which she donated to each library.  Smaller issues are available for purchase at the Bristol County Historical Society. She has graciously shared her photographs and words.

I am so pleased that Karen agreed to a telephone interview and to sharing her work and insights. Consider this Karen's post and do look into her website or see her work at one of the libraries. I include her words and photographs alongside memories from my own family archives.
What of the "unremembered" in this cemetery…who were they, what happened to them?  This hit home because of my own family's stories of "lost ones".  For example, an 18 month old maternal Uncle lies in someone else's grave in St. Joseph's Cemetery.  If we had not looked, he would have gone unnoticed.  He lies in the grave of a navy military veteran. Fortunately for little Charles, he is remembered by his family since my mother
spoke of him and one small photograph of him survives.

photograph from my own files

There are countless stillborn infants and children buried in this cemetery, some of them from influenza as well as other diseases of the time. 

"silence is growing deeper
oblivion softly creeps 
over the graves of angels
the wind of silence sweeps."

                                                Excerpt from poem Silence by Martin Stein


All of these scarred markers have undergone countless and pitiless New England winters.  Karen notes that these markers, as their memories, are slowly fading away.

The Taunton Cemetery office labels the Pauper's cemetery as the "free ground". 
 It was in use from 1862 until 1962.

"…the final resting place for many of the region's less fortunate of all ages and backgrounds,city residents and immigrants, stillborn babies, 
young children and the elderly:domestics, 
laborers and transients as well as a large number from 
Taunton State Hospital."

"According to the cemetery department's…record books, 
the number of markers…is 1, 015, 
but. the number of deceased is actually higher. 
 Many plots hold multiple bodies, 
often young babies and children.
                                                                    Karen Callan

                                               Here are some of Karen's haunting photographs.

Karen followed the seasons in the cemetery.The result

are these stunning and stirring photographs.

I attach a story to this photograph below.  Arlene Gouveia's husband, John, worked at the
Taunton Cemetery.  He noticed that the metal markers were being stolen.
So, he filled coffee cans with cement and attached the markers. One of those showed
up in Karen's photography exhibit and here it is.  As we always say…small world.

There are extensive records for this cemetery, Karen tells us, and the
records tell a sad story. Her photographs tell the rest.

Now, I add a personal note regarding such cemeteries.  Our own maternal grandmother is buried in such a place at Tewksbury State Hospital in Massachusetts.  We sought her out and found her marker.  What we found lends even more poignancy to this post. We know that there is a movement here and abroad to restore and respect such silent and sad places of the lost and forgotten.  This is a photograph from the No Name Cemetery in the Tewksbury Hospital grounds where my grandmother lies.  It is estimated the there are around 10,000 people buried here. Many markers lie broken and
buried in leaves and underbrush.

Groups as Eagle Scouts have helped clean up these sites and now many of them are fenced and protected. The Tewksbury Cemetery project has attempted to
categorize and match relatives to such
grave sites.  Their web site is listed at the end of this post.

 A few years ago we had a graveside family reunion for my lost Grandmother with an uncle whom we miraculously found and had her grave blessed.  She is unknown no longer.

Below: No Name Cemetery
Tewksbury Hospital Grounds
A place of silent solitude.

Here is the Pine Cemetery at Tewksbury after Eagle Scout work at the  Hospital grounds 

I applaud the work of Karen Callan in bringing to our attention to such long forgotten places. There are stories here and sometimes they can be found, brought to light and remembrance.  It is our remembering that blesses them, that speaks their names.
My grandmother was one of those stories.  Her story, as are those who are identified
 only by numbers is a tragic one. 

It is said that the women patients at Taunton State Hospital sewed the burial gowns for those who are buried here.  We know that at Tewksbury my grandmother often worked in the sewing room.

Connections…. connections.

Sources for this Post
This is the online post for Karen Callan's photographs and accompanying article at the second site

The Tewksbury Hospital Cemetery Project.  It you
click on the Patient Biographies you will find a synopsis of my Grandmother's Story;
Isobel Motta.  If you do read it, please remember her in your prayers.

For any cemetery research I highly recommend the Taunton Cemetery Department and
also the Taunton Catholic Cemeteries.  There is invaluable information there for anyone researching their families.  Many times grave sites are unmarked and the information is available.
I will be writing a post regarding Taunton State Hospital in the future and including
the story of one of their infamous patients who is buried in the Taunton Pauper's Cemetery/
That is why I did not include it here.