A Tribute to Samuel Roads, Jr.1853 – 1904


Sam Roads edited 2 copy
Samuel Roads, Jr.    Photo from Massachusetts State Library

“History and Traditions of Marblehead” by Samuel Roads, Jr.  Who has read this great book written by my 1st cousin 3 times removed. I think I was in grammar school the first time I read it and it wasn’t even required reading, but it should have been.  I love the inscription in the center of the title page by Mrs. Mason; this is a stanza from one of her poems: 

A queer old place; but every stone that trips you in her streets

Is instinct with the loyal pulse that in its bosom beats.

This may be a metaphor; it is but true as gospel still;

For Marblehead is Marblehead, has been, and always will.

Mrs. Mason



Hon. Samuel Roads, Jr. known as “Sam” around town, was born October 22, 1853 in Marblehead, MA, the son of Samuel Roads and Emma Lewis Woodfin. My second great grandmother Mary Elizabeth Woodfin was Samuel’s Aunt. He wrote his famous book in 1879 while he was working for the Boston Post and it was published the next year by Houghton, Osgood and Company, Cambridge, MA. .  There were revised additions (numbers 2 and 3) in 1897 and also a special deluxe edition which was printed in limited supply.  I am lucky enough to have the original edition.

Samuel had 1 sister Anna Lewis Roads and two brothers, John L. Roads and Arthur Story Roads, who died at the age of 3 from throat distemper, now known as Scarlet Fever.   Samuel never married. He attended the Marblehead public schools as often as he could as he was ill as a child but he was always reading something. He was a shoe cutter in his early days but had always dreamed of writing about Marblehead, (maybe I inherited that gene).  He stated he learned a lot of the history of the town from his grandmother, Mrs. Eliza A. Roads.  

In 1872 he ventured into the printing business, associating himself with Mr. Frederic W. Leek, and they purchased the Marblehead Messenger which they owned until January 1, 1877. He was then employed by the old Boston Post as a journalist.

He followed in the footsteps of his father who represented Marblehead in the Legislature and entered politics. In 1883 Samuel was the Representative of the Democrats for the general court, a position he held for several years. In 1886 he was elected to the Senate. In 1891 he was invited by Gov. William E. Russell to become his private secretary which he did for two years. He was then appointed by President Cleveland to be Chief of the Stationary Division in the U.S. Treasury in Washington, D.C.

Sam died at his home on Elm Street in Marblehead, MA at 7 o’clock in the evening of January 29, 1904 at the age of 50 from Bright’s disease and valvular disease of the heart.  Although he had been ill for the year prior to his death the town was still shocked to hear of his passing.  He was honored with one of the largest funerals ever held at St. Michael’s Church. All of the businesses in town were closed during the two hour service from 2 PM to 4 PM and all the bells in town were tolled.  Many prominent people came by train to Marblehead to attend the services.   Not only was the church filled to capacity but hundreds of people lined the streets of town.  His mother was unable to attend her son’s funeral due to the shock of his death which took a toll on her health.  

There is an inscription on his tombstone in Harborview Cemetery which reads:

               “Until the day break, and the shadows flee away. He loved his native town with an unselfish and patriotic devotion. He was the author of its history, and the defender of its integrity in the general court.  He stood for its interests and honor before all men and was its foremost citizen in the days of his manhood.”

Sam Roads tombstone



Sixty Years Ago February 23, 1956

Trefry 2

“Mr. Marblehead”, Raymond Hale Trefry passed away on February 20, 1956 at the age of 64. He was my 3rd cousin twice removed. Just to give you some basic information on how he was related to me.  His sister was Helen Reynolds Trefry who was married to Henry Nelson Smith, my Grand Uncle.  Henry was the brother of “Aunt Sadie” Smith the fudge lady by Grace Oliver’s Beach, my grand aunt. Raymond was the great grandson of Thomas Trefry (1794-1845) and Sarah Proctor (1801-1879).  The first Trefry family I have record of in Marblehead is Thomas Trefry  who was born about 1640 in England and came to Marblehead about 1665.  He was married to Elizabeth Humphries.

Raymond Trefry passed away suddenly at Salem Hospital after collapsing at the Registry of Deeds at the Court House in Salem, MA. “Damey” as he was known was considered Marblehead’s ” most prominent and influential citizen and indispensable Town counsel for 38 years.” He was an avid reader of history and historical novels and left no history about Marblehead unread.  It was noted that he had a brilliant and photographic memory, remembering all the facts of whatever he read.  He had a dry wit and keen sense of humor.

Raymond was born March 9, 1891 at 9 Darling Street in Marblehead, MA to Charles Mansfield Trefry and Annie Hooper Dixey. His father died in 1908. He attended the Story Grammar School graduating in 1904.  In 1908 he graduated from Lynn Classical High School and went on to study law at the Charles H. Innis Law School on State Street in Boston, MA. He was admitted to the bar September 3, 1915. His office was in the Gregory Building in Marblehead and later moved to the Masonic Building in Salem, MA.  He did his own secretarial work and never took a vacation.  He was also known for being able to mimic people he knew, entertaining his friends.

He became involved in town politics on the day he became eligible to vote in 1912 when he was appointed as Sealer of Weights and Measures in Marblehead, a position he held until 1915. He was appointed to the Town Counsel in 1917, serving until his death. 

Raymond enlisted in the Navy on June 5, 1917 as a yeoman 3rd class.  He served in Washington, DC , New York City and aboard the USS Triton before being honorably discharged on January 25, 1919.  According to his WW I draft registration card he was tall in stature, medium build, gray eyes and brown hair.   He was a charter member of the American Legion.   During World War II he was an air raid warden and served on the advisory committee of the selective service board for Marblehead and Swampscott.  He was also a member of the Marblehead Masons.

Raymond was married on October 17, 1923 to Elizabeth Johnson of Newburyport. They were married at the home of the bride’s parents at 33 Federal Street in Newburyport, MA with only the immediate family present. This was the fourth wedding in the direct line of decent that took place in her family home. The ceremony was performed by the Rev. Allan M. Patterson of the Old South Church in Newburyport. Elizabeth graduated from Middlebury College and for three years was head of the domestic science department at Amesbury High School. Following their wedding they went on an automobile trip for their honeymoon.  They made their home at 14 South Street in Marblehead, MA and had two children, Richard Greenleaf Trefry and Elizabeth Hale Trefry.

A few other noteworthy events for this week in 1956:

 Harry C. Christenson was appointed as patrolman on the Marblehead Police Force.

There was a disastrous fire at the Old Rose Farm House, one of the last old landmarks in the Clifton section of town. It was located at 4 Orchard Circle.

Corned Fish Dinner

It seems that there was nothing very noteworthy in the Marblehead Newspaper sixty years ago this week, so I guess I will forego the 60 years ago story until next week. Let’s talk about “Corned Fish Dinner.”  Anyone remember that delicious Marblehead meal and still make it? I think it may soon become a lost art.   My favorite birthday dinner and now it is becoming a Christmas tradition too.

Corned fish

Never heard of it? It used to be that you would go to the local fish market and ask for so many pounds of haddock and have them “corn” it.  For you non-fishing folks, “corning” means to “salt” the fish.  Now if you go to a fish market, I still do,( to this day I cannot buy my fish in a supermarket), and ask them to “corn” the fish they are clueless.  So you have to do it yourself when you get  home.  While you are at the fish market you can ask them for some “salt pork” also.  Good luck with that one.  I had a young clerk tell me “I was in a fish market and they did not sell meat”.  It used to be sold in the fish markets. Don’t people make rashers for their chowda’s anymore?  So you have to hunt around a grocery store for some nice salt pork, very lean with little meat on it.  I recently found some great salt pork at McKinnon’s Market in Danvers. It made the best rashers I have tasted in a long time.   While at the store buy some all purpose white potatoes, yellow onions and a few cans of beets.

Once home, salt the fish by sprinkling kosher salt on it, covering it and placing it in the refrigerator for a few hours. Begin to make your rashers.   Cut the salt pork into small cubes and put it in a fry pan, not too hot because the fat will burn and smoke.  When they are nice and brown take them out and set aside.  Save the grease you will need that later.

Peel your potatoes and onions and put in a large pot to boil until tender.  When almost done, lay your fish on top and cook until it is flaky.  Also heat up the beets in a separate pan.   Now, when done put it all on a platter. Heat up the grease and put in a gravy bowl and don’t forget the rashers, they are the best part.

Have everyone sit down at the table and let the fun being. Put some potatoes, onions, fish and beets on your plate and chop and mash it up until all blended together, the pinker the better. It is a competition to see who can get theirs looking the best.  Top with  a little grease and some rashers and enjoy.  Best dinner ever.  Don’t try to have a dinner conversation while mashing this on your plate because it can get very loud with the clanging of the knife and fork. Remember to save some to heat up in a skillet the next day, it is even better as a leftover.

Now if you are like some relatives of mine, the non ‘Header ones, you will keep everything separate on your plate and won’t mix it, very boring and you may be asked to  leave the table.  If anyone makes this delicious meal this week let me know and I will come sample it.

mcclains fish market


Marblehead Sixty Years Ago – February 9, 1956



Anyone related to Edward Walter Farrell?  He is the second from the left in this World War I glass negative from my collection. Does anyone know the other people in the photo?  It just so happens that in February 1956 he was selected to be the recipient of the Swampscott-Marblehead Brotherhood Scroll as he was an outstanding citizen.  He was born March 16, 1892 to William and Mary K. Sweet Farrell.  He married Mabel Louise Odiorne on June 13, 1925 in Marblehead. They had two sons Edward Jr. and Richard.  Both of these men were serving their country in 1956; Edward in the Navy in Japan and Richard in the Army on European duty.  The family lived at 291 Washington Street.

This award was given annually to a resident of Swampscott or Marblehead for unselfish and outstanding contributions to the welfare and brotherhood of his fellow townsmen.  During World War I, Eddie served in the Navy under Commander Harry Chapman, also from Marblehead.  He was the Adjutant for more than 18 years for the Marblehead American Legion.  In 1956 he held the longest paid membership in the Y.M.C.A. He served on the Board of Welfare and was a member of the Housing Commission.  He was director and former Vice President of the Marblehead Savings Bank; Treasurer and Manager of the Charles A. Slee Insurance Agency and in World War II he was head of the Civil Defense for Marblehead.

Eddie died on September 10, 1961 at the age of 69 in the Mary Alley Hospital.  According to his obituary “he had a marvelous collection of Old Time Marblehead pictures” and there was a rumor back then that he was writing a History of Marblehead.  Anyone know?


Who remembers lining up in school to drink the polio drink?  I know I did around 1959/1960 at the Gerry School. Can remember lining up in the hall on the first floor and receiving our little white cup of juice.

The name Walt Dropo familiar to anyone?  On February 3, 1956 he left Marblehead for Miami, FL and spring training with the Chicago White Sox.  It was said that Walt “was one of the greatest players for the Boston Red Sox in the Post World War II era.”

Seems like history may repeat itself.  I believe I read in the current day police logs (2016) that there was an accident at the Lead Mills, (don’t quote me on that one.) On February 8, 1956 there was a snow storm (think there is going to be one this February 8 also) causing icy roads and an accident at the Lead Mills.  There was a young former Marblehead girl, Miss Judith Parker who skidded and  crashed her car through the temporary barriers and plunged ten feet into the icy water. She was rescued.  Two weeks before that at the same spot, however, due to icy roads a car went over the bridge, plunged into the water and claimed the life of a Lynn man.

Finally, don’t forget your Valentine

Abby Mays