I was going thru some family papers and came across an envelope addressed to my grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. C. E. Smith, 24 Orne Street, Marblehead, MA. The return address was from W. C. Sills, 31 St. James Avenue, Boston. Inside was a typed letter from October 4, 1927 telling my grandparents he had enclosed a bank book showing a $100.00 deposit for Miss Barbara Ann Smith. He wrote “please accept this gift from Mrs. Sills and myself along with our congratulations on the arrival of the new baby. We sincerely hope that Mrs. Smith and the baby continuing to get along nicely.” This money was for the birth of my mother.
I had heard my mother and aunt mention Mr. Sills as the man whose yacht my grandfather sailed to Florida for him. We have some photos of my grandfather and the yacht “Charlotte” and I had also heard mention of the Alfalfa Farm in Topsfield. I decided to investigate who this Mr. Sills was. His name was William Clarence Sills and he was born either May 31, 1878 or June 1, 1878 in Belleville, Canada (depending on which document you use.) He arrived in the US by train via the Suspension Bridge in New York on September 12, 1908. His declaration of immigration was dated September 25, 1908. According to his Mason card he died on October 9, 1935 and is buried in Belleville, Ontario. . He married a woman by the name of Charlotte Martin about 1899. They had one child who died young.
Mr. Sills worked for the Chevrolet Motor Company beginning in 1912. He moved to New York in 1914 and took the position of general direction of sales for Chevrolet. In 1921 he returned to Boston and resumed the distribution of Chevrolet cars in New England.
I think he had a summer home in Marblehead which is how he met my grandfather. At some point he purchased the Alfalfa Farm in Topsfield for his summer home. He won many prizes at the Topsfield Fair for his farm animals. My aunt remembers his summer home in Marblehead was near Riverhead Beach and the lawn sloped down to the water.
In 1926 he retired from W. C. Sills Inc. and in 1930 he lived at 130 Franklin Street in Newton, MA with his wife Charlotte E. and 3 servants. His occupation was that executive of an automobile business.
The Boston Herald of October 11, 1935 printed the obituary of William C. Sills. “ He was 57 years old and died at his summer home, the Alfalfa Farm apparently of a heart attack. He had been in excellent health during the day enjoying horseback and automobile rides. Early in his life he was involved in the express business in Canada and came to the US as an employee of the National Express Company. Believing that the automobile business would expand he got a position with the Alvan T. Fuller company, which he held for several years. He then went to the Noyes Buick Organization and finally became the general sales manager of the Chevrolet Company. He became the eastern regional manager with headquarters in New York and then returned to Boston to organize the Sills Chevrolet Corporation taking over the Chevrolet distribution in New England.” When he died his estate was worth $1,050,000. His wife Charlotte died in 1961 and had an estate worth $8,500,000 and she bequeathed it to many charities and to her brother and sister.
Charles Emery Smith, also called “Jake”, my grandfather was born September 28. 1900 in Marblehead, the son of Charles Henry Smith and Ruth Ann Standley. Charles married my grandmother, Emma Woodfin Foss on October 27, 1923 in Marblehead, MA. He died August 6, 1942 in the Old Mary Alley Hospital. He was a fisherman and spent his life on the water and boating. In the 1930 census his occupation was that of a marine engineer on a private yacht. Mr. Sills’s I presume. He worked for Mr. Sills until the depression when Mr. Sills could no longer employ him. I don’t know how many journey’s he made but I found mention in the Marblehead Messenger November 5, 1925 that “Charles E. Smith left Lawley’s Shipyard, Boston on the Charlotte II, a yacht belonging to W. C. Sills of Florida.
Perhaps Charles practiced his yachting skills on Black Joe’s Pond because I found an article in the Marblehead Messenger in January 1929 that the Barnegat Ice Boat Club was organized. “ A group of local fellows organized a club and the following officers were elected, “ Capt. Benjamin Stevens, Jr. Commodore; Capt. Emerson Goodwin, Vice Commander and Capt. Dan Peach, Rear Commodore. At present two boats are nearing completion, one owned by Clifford Homan and the other by Jake Smith. It is the intention of the club to race at their camp on Crystal Lake, Henniker, NH.”
From the Marblehead Messenger February 1, 1929 there was an article entitled “Ice Boats to Compete on Black Joe’s” “Two Craft Made in Secret make their appearance for the first time. With the advent of ice-boating on Black Joe’s Pond, in Barnegat a new and thrilling sport makes it first bow to sport fans in town. Secretly the skippers of the two speedy craft have been hard at work for several weeks, making their ice boats and only recently have completed their difficult tasks and given them a trial spin on the pond. The two skippers are Clifford Homan and Jake Smith, who last held races together on the pond, but they had only small boats which were crudely built compared with their present craft. Homan’s ice boat carries a mast 14 feet high and a huge sail. Smith’s boat was even larger, its mast towered 20 feet and the boom swung 16 feet in length. The boat met with an accident on her trial trip around the pond and the mast was broken.
I never met my grandfather as he died when his two daughters were young, however they shared some memories of him with me. My mother remembers him putting her in their wheelbarrow and pushing her from their home on Pond Street down to the beach across from Aunt Sadie’s and taking her out lobstering in his boat “ MarBra.” She describes him as a gentle, thoughtful and caring man. My Aunt remembers the workshop he had in the back yard of their home. She used to love to go out there to help him make lobster pots and knit nets. The shop had a potbelly stove and the room was always cozy. (Must be in the genes because I have the same memory with my step father, going to his shop and banging nails into the traps and treating them with creosote.
Would love to see any photos of the ice boats on Black Joes’ pond if anyone runs across any please share.