It was voted at the 1932 Marblehead Town Meeting to rename Green Street Playground to the Joel W. Reynolds Playground. It was also decided at the same town meeting to make this the playground where the high school athletic teams would play their games. Joel was a great athlete in Marblehead who passed away in 1931. He was also my third cousin 3 times removed in my Smith line. My fifth great grandfather, Joel Smith was the 2nd great grandfather of Joel W. Reynolds.
He was born in Marblehead on February 22, 1876 to the Hon. William Reynolds and Elizabeth Allen Magoun. He attended Marblehead High School but did not graduate from there; instead he passed the entrance exams and went straight to school at Bridgewater Normal School. (Normal Schools were schools created to train teachers.) He was the fastest runner at Bridgewater and also pitched on the school baseball team. After graduating from Bridgewater he was employed as a teacher in the State Normal School at Castine, ME where he taught successfully for six years, at the end of each year he was promoted and given a pay increase. In 1901 after receiving great recommendations from both the principal and the superintendent in Castine, he was appointed principal of the Marblehead High School.
Joel was married on October 21, 1897 in Marblehead to Carrie Gertrude Shepard, known as Gertrude. She was the daughter of William H. Shepard and Carrie Goodwin, born on March 13, 1878 and she passed away on June 26, 1958. She graduated from Wheaton College and was the first female graduate student at MIT. They had 5 children born in Marblehead:
- Morrill Shepard Reynolds May 15, 1898 – 1984. He married Theresa Gill in 1925.
- Joel Warren Reynolds, Jr. July 22, 1901 – 1979. He married Marion Newhall.
- William Hooper Reynolds July 22, 1901 – 1973. He was single and an English professor.
- Carolyn Edith Reynolds February 21, 1905 – 1997. She married Ralph H. Morse in 1934.
- Margaret R. Reynolds March 8, 1907 – 2004. She married Arba Swain Taylor in 1942.
Joel continued to play baseball for various teams in the North Shore Baseball League. In the Marblehead Messenger of August 26, 1904 there was an article about his athletic career:
“Joel W. Reynolds, now playing right field for the Lynn Association Nine, was born in Marblehead and is the principal of the high school there. Everybody recommends Joe as being a perfect gentleman; he is popular and a favorite on the team. In Marblehead he was known as the town’s fastest baseball product. He was also an excellent runner. At a State track meet held in Taunton he won two trophies for running, one for the 100 yard dash which he did in 10. 2-5 seconds and the 50 yard dash in 5. 3-4 seconds. His first real baseball work was the North Shore teams of several years ago, where he pitched some fine ball. At that time the North Shore Athletic Club had the strongest semi-professional team in the area. Joe had retired from the diamond to devote his time to his school work, but his friends in Marblehead insisted he play and that he did in the Young Men’s Temperance Team of Marblehead. The Lynn team scouted him and asked him to play short stop and then right field for their team.”
Joel also learned to play tennis, playing at the Outing Park which was located next to Seaside Park. This park was run by the YMCA and there were four tennis courts. Joel was one of the star players of the Robinson Farm tennis club, of which he was one of the founders.
It seems that sports and teaching were not his only talents. In an article in the Boston Herald on March 27, 1921 there was an article about his fad and hobby of raising tomatoes. At that time he was the sub-master at the George W. Putnam School in Roxbury. At his home on Prospect Street in Marblehead he raised 30 varieties of tomatoes. He raised some tomatoes that grew in clusters like grapes, some shaped like pears and others like peaches. He obtained the seeds from a chef of a large hotel in the area. It was said that his wife “had to purchase green tomatoes if she wanted them for pickling as her husband produces nothing but ripe ones and so early that the supply is exhausted by the time the pickling season starts.” In 1925 he was elected Janitor of the Tomato Club in town and was served a luncheon on his birthday at the club by Dick Phillips
Joel W. Reynolds passed away October 16, 1931 at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston. He was the sub-master of the Theodore Roosevelt School in Boston at the time. Few of the boys at the school knew he was a famous baseball player in the early 1900’s in Lynn and Marblehead in the New England League. According to the columnist Tom McCabe “he was a pioneer in playground work and did much to build up the spirit that now prevails in this work. Boston was the first municipality to recognize the value of a playground for its school children. The way boys looked up to him and followed his advice did much good, and many successful business men today in Greater Boston owes his sane view of things to the way he was taught to play by ‘Jo’, as the boys loved to call him.”
Along with being the Principal in Marblehead he was also a Selectman in 1914 and was on the School Committee in Marblehead from 1912 to 1920 and was voted Chairman. He was also a member of the Abbot Public Library trustees from 1906 – 1921. He also served on the Green Street Playground Committee and was on the committee to design the town seal. His funeral was held at the Unitarian Church and he is buried in Waterside Cemetery. There was a fine tribute in the Marblehead Messenger on Friday, October 23, 1931 about his great accomplishments:
“He was not only a teacher but also a companion.” When he first went to Boston to teach at the Wendell Phillips School in the West End he taught young boys raised in the city where they had taught to be suspicious of newcomers. All their barriers went down when they met Mr. Reynolds and they organized “The Joel W. Reynolds Boys Club” in the West End Settlement House and a banquet was held in his honor. He also served as principal of the Eliot Evening Program, and as Supervisor of Playgrounds.
When World War I broke out he was 42 years old, but he took the examination for the United States Marines, passed and was ready to join the army, but decided to continue his teaching and family duties.
I will leave you with this letter that was printed in the Marblehead Messenger October 23, 1931 which was sent to him from a former student, while Joel was in the hospital.
“Hurry up and get well. Marblehead needs you, with your kindly smile, warm and friendly way, and big heart. There aren’t enough folks like you in this world. What an infinitely more pleasant place this world would be to live in if more of us had the blessed gift of your sunny, sympathetic personality! You were my first school teacher and I shall never forget the charm and brotherliness of the atmosphere which surrounded you in old Marblehead High School. Everyone in the school looked on you as a big brother and friend – not as just a high school principal. I envy you the rich treasures of deep and abiding friendship that you have accumulated for yourself during your useful, self-sacrificing, cheery life. As I get older, the more strongly I am convinced that, after all, what really counts in this world is happiness, contentment and friends. The one who possess these is rich and successful no matter what his financial or social status. And all these things you have in glorious measure.”
I want to thank Jennifer Wach Hickey, Joel’s great granddaughter for letting me use these photos of her great grandparents in this blog.