Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

December 27, 2012

Dalton column: Faux pas and other bits of history

Bill Dalton
The Andover Townsman

---- — Andover voted against adoption of the U.S. Constitution. When the proposed Constitution was presented to the states for ratification Massachusetts allowed each town to elect representatives who’d vote on whether the state should approve the Constitution. Andover recommended that their representatives vote against it by a count of 124 to 115 but neutered the vote by allowing its representatives to vote as they wanted.

The Constitution of Massachusetts, already in place, provided the framework for the U.S. Constitution but differed in important ways; for example, the Mass. version required towns to financially support the Congregational Church, and that wasn’t changed until 1820. According to the first United States census, taken in 1790, Andover (including what is now North Andover) had more women than men -- 1,414 to 1,355. This meant there was a fair number of “spinsters,” pleasantly called “unplucked blossoms” by some.

Andover never held a centennial event but that was understandable as most residents were still in a food, clothing, and shelter mode. However, by 1846 Andover was doing pretty well; yet, there is no record of a bicentennial event. One possible reason is that Andover and North Andover were in their last decade of being one town, and folks understood the break-up was inevitable, except that a few in North Andover were fighting it.

By the time of the 250th Anniversary in 1896, the town celebrated in a big way, and the tercentennial celebration in 1946 may have been the grandest event ever held in Andover, but there was a major gaffe. As told by Claude Fuess, who was chairman of the tercentennial committee, the honored guests were the mayor and “mayoress” of Andover, England. The committee assumed the mayor and mayoress were married and booked the honeymoon suite at the Andover Inn for them. The committee was right about the mayoress; she was happily married but not to the bachelor mayor. In many places, including Andover, England, an unmarried mayor chose someone in his town to serve as his social co-host for events such as visiting our town. It was, of course, an honor to be chosen. When word of the mistake became public, newspapers around the country wisecracked about it, much to the chagrin of all involved from both Andovers.

As it turned out, the mayor had made a wise choice as the mayoress was the best speaker at the tercentennial banquet.

Ballardvale is named for Timothy Ballard, who acquired land and water rights on the Shawsheen River in the later 18th Century at the current site of the mill building that exist in the ‘Vale. In 1836, his land and rights were purchased by John Marland and others, who created the Ballardvale Manufacturing Company and constructed the first of the mill buildings.

Marcus Morton Jr. (1819-1891), for whom Morton Street was named, was the most important judge in Mass. He was one of the 10 original judges of the Massachusetts Superior Court, appointed in 1859, and 10 years later he was appointed to the state’s highest court, the Supreme Judicial Court. Finally, he became chief justice in 1882 and held that post until he retired in 1890. He lived on the corner of Morton and School streets.

There has never been a commons in what is now Andover. Andover’s Commons has been located in North Andover since the towns legally split up in 1855. The Park has always been a park and was birthed in the late 19th Century, long after commons were being created. However, Andover had a small village green in front of the Elm House, a hotel with a livery stable that was replaced by the Musgrove Building in 1894. Historian Bessie Goldsmith wrote that, as a 5-year-old in 1887, she walked unaided across Elm Square to school and back. Now, during rush hour, it takes a lot longer to drive a car across the square than it took little Bessie to walk it.

Bill Dalton writes a weekly column for the Andover Townsman. He welcomes emails at