Needham History Center & Museum Needham History Center & Museum, Needham Massachusetts 02492

The Gazette – Nov./Dec. 2012

“Hiftorically Speaking”


Needham’s Last Surviving Civil War Veteran

If, a few years ago, you had seen the Needham Historical Society’s exhibit of works by Needham artist Bob Larsen, you may remember the above portrait of Ye Olde Editor displayed in the exhibit. Regrettably (for some art aficionados) when I left Needham for the wilds of Western Massachusetts, I did not leave behind the “serious” portrait (as Dickens would say) that Bob painted of me in my replica Civil War uniform – or it could now have  been included in the Society’s current exhibit, Free Soil – Free Men: Needham and the Civil War.

A few readers may remember that when I lived in Needham, my auto registration plate was Mass. Veteran #1.  Frequently, I was asked, “How did you get that number?”  Rather than telling the long, involved story of how I actually got it, my stock reply was to tell the inquirer that I got it because I was “Massachusetts’ last surviving Civil War veteran” … and many believed me!

My interest in the Civil War was awakened when I was 11 years old back in 1938, and I was fortunate enough to have a Civil War veteran visit my school that year and talk to my class about his experiences in the war.  In turn, that Union veteran shook the hands of every student in my class…including me…a handshake I will never forget! And, then he told us that we could boast that, “we had shaken the hand of a man who had shaken the hand of Abraham Lincoln.”

For your consideration, in this year 2012, the age of the average WW2 veteran is estimated to be 89…and in 1939 the average age of a Civil War veteran was thought to be about 89. The last Massachusetts Civil War veteran died in 1947 at the age of 98.  Needham’s last survivor was George A. Bailey who died in 1938 in Glover Memorial Hospital also at the age of 98.

George was originally from Brookline, where he enlisted in the First Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment and served as a Private during the two Battles of Bull Run, in the Battle of the Wilderness, and at Fredericksburg, before transferring and becoming an officer in the famous 54th Massachusetts Colored Regiment. After the war, George settled in Needham where I had the privilege of meeting with his granddaughter at the Bailey home on Webster Street in the early 1960’s. She told me all about her grandfather and that all of his Civil War relics had been passed on to her son who was then living in California. So, I doubt that the Needham Historical Society has any relics belonging to Needham’s genuine last surviving Civil War veteran, although they do have a few items from this counterfeit  “last survivor’s” personal Civil War collection as part of the current exhibit.

For the record, America’s last surviving Civil War veteran was a Union soldier named Albert Woolson, who died in 1956 at the age of 109.

Using the same yardstick of years as applied to the last surviving Civil War veterans, the last WW2 veteran should be active until about the years 2025-2030.  As a WW2 veteran who hopes to be among the last survivors, I spoke last year at my great-granddaughter’s 6th grade class and when I finished, I invited the students “to shake the hand of a WW2 veteran who had shaken the hand of a Civil War veteran who had shaken the hand of Abraham Lincoln.”  And, every member of the class shook my hand.

I wonder if my gesture will have as great an impact on those students in 2012, as that made by the old Civil War veteran had on me 75 years earlier?

~ Bob Hall, Ye Olde Editor



by Susan Welby

It has been a very busy fall here at the Society.  We are very fortunate to have the backing of so many businesses in town that support our events and programs.  I would like to extend a special Thank You to The Needham Bank and the Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital – Needham for being the main sponsors for our Needham’s Walk Through History event in October.  The weather was not the cool sunny day we hoped for, but many people braved the rain and drizzle to participate again this year and we had a lot of positive feedback.  There were many sponsors for The Walk and we truly appreciate the generosity of so many people, without each of you many of our programs would not be possible.  Gloria’s remarks include a complete list of Sponsors.

Needham’s involvement in the Civil War is highlighted in our exhibit, Free Soil, Free Men.  At a recent program we heard from Claire Fusaro, one of the main authors of the exhibit, and Janet and David Drake who took us on a pictorial tour of the Civil War battlegrounds they recently visited.  Jan’s distant cousin served for three years in the Civil War as a Union soldier, and the presentation included readings from letters he sent home during his service.  The period covered was only the first leg of their journey to each battleground where he fought and Jan and David hope to visit the other battlegrounds over the next two years.  The team work and format of the presentations was as good as a Ken Burns production, we are very grateful for their efforts and look forward to possible future updates after the next phase of their travels.  We also appreciate the wonderful selection of baked good provided by North Hill for this and many of our other Society Programs.

As the holiday season approaches, please keep the Society in mind for those unusual or hard to think of gifts for those special people on your list.  A Society Membership is a unique option for that special someone who seems to have everything!  Our collection of Needham books and ornaments, especially our new pansy ornament, can be inexpensive but interesting items for those hostess gifts or stocking stuffers.  The Heirloom Shoppe has a wide variety of one of a kind items at reasonable prices.  So stop by and check out what we have or visit us on-line at

Best Wishes to all for a happy, healthy holiday season and a prosperous New Year.

Also, please save the date – February 2, 2013, because Champagne and Chocolate is going Country this year, and it is going to be a unique fun time that you will not want to miss!



by Gloria Greis



Many thanks to everyone who contributed to our Annual Fund this year!  The Annual Fund is a major source of our annual revenue.  It is totally thanks to your generosity that we can offer our programs, events, and exhibits.  The Needham Historical Society is an independent museum, and we do not receive funding from the town or state.  We truly appreciate the support that you have given us over the years!

Contributors to the 2012 Annual Fund:  Jeanette Anderson, Alison and Peter Atallah, Connie and Joe Barr, George Belzer, Seymour Bigman, Beth Mason and Jason Botelho, Elaine Beilin and Robert Brown, Joe and Moy Burns, Michael Caine and Kiyoko Morita, Edwin Cameron, Steve and Jeanne Carey, the Caulfield Family, Robert and Gratia Chase, Linda and Barry Coffman, Jack and Pat Cogswell, Helen and Mel Colman, Frank and Louise Condon, Lois Camberg and Roy Cramer, Kathryn D’Addesio, Rick and Gail Davis, Carolin and Samuel Davis, Carol and Ed de Lemos, Monique Roth and Paul Dellaripa, Marie and David Devine, John Dewey Sr, Joan Dimond, Rodney Johnson and Alicia Downey, Molly Drake, Janet and David Drake, Lois Duffy, Susan Duncan, Janis Soma and Bruce Eisenhut, Adrienne Smith and Mark Gluesing, Amy and Howard Goldman, Carl Gordon, Mark and Martha Gowetski, Fredie Kay and Tom Green, Stephen Hamburger, Maurice and Elizabeth Handel, Martha Healy, Gail and Tom Hedges, Michael and Betty Heffernan, James and Katherine Hennessey, Helen Hicks, George and Christine Hoffmeister, Brian and Cerredwyn Horrigan, Jack and Elizabeth Hurley, Deb and Tom Jacob, Scott and Barbara Jones, Florence and Bob Kelley, Elaine Kile, Marion Lebourveau, Jeanne and Robert Leeber, Theresa Lemaire, Ann MacFate, Ruth MacIntosh, David and Ann MacQueen, James and Sarah Ann Mahoney, Burton and Heide Mandel, Roger Markhus, Mr and Mrs John Mason, Susan Anderson and Joseph McCabe, Gina McClellan, Carolyn McIver, Mr and Mrs John McQuillan, Ruth and Joseph Nadol, Marcia Nizzari, George Noyes, Carleen and John O’Brien, Greg Petrini, James Hugh Powers, Robert and Shirley Pratt, Jim Reulbach, Mabel Richardson, Eleanor and Jay Rosellini, Claudette and Jack Shea, Miles and Eleanor Shore, Stanley Simon, Richard and Roseanne Smith, Ron and Lois Sockol, Rachel and Manny Spector, Eliot Sterling, Cathy Stetson, Bill and Betsy Tedoldi, Bill and Kathleen Tilburg, Dick and Sally Toran, Alice Ungethuem, Susan Welby, Warren Wells, Kathy Whitney, Pat Wiggin, Cary and Terry Young.



We have just received several large donations of articles for the Heirloom Shop – come in to check us out!  Right now our shelves are full, with a fine selection that includes English silver and plate, china, pewter, Thistleware, curios, spatterware and other handmade stoneware, and an interesting collection of Toby jugs.

For the fine inventory currently on our shelves, we owe a debt of thanks to several local homeowners working with It’s Your Move, Inc. Co-owners Lynn Falwell and Janice Armour kindly put us in touch with their clients, who donated to us the goods they no longer needed in return for a charitable tax deduction.  It’s Your Move is a Move Management company that specializes in planning, orchestrating and executing a move.  Most of their clients are seniors who are downsizing, and Lynn and Janice understand that these are complex emotional transitions as well as logistical ones.  They can be found at



We were very grateful to receive a generous bequest from our friend, Elizabeth May.  Betty passed away last December at the age of 96. She was a graduate of the Needham High School Class of 1932 and of the Wellesley College Class of 1936. Betty worked as an  administrative assistant at White Weld (now Merrill Lynch) until her retirement in 1986. She was an active member of the First Parish in Needham, a founder of the Parish Choir, and a member of its Archives Committee. She was also a long-time member of the Needham Historical Society.  Betty  played the violin with the former Needham Philharmonic, and acted with the theatrical club Wig and Whiskers.

Betty May was a life-long Needham resident – and at 96 years old, she saw nearly one-third of Needham’s 300 years.  Her roots went even deeper, however – she was descended from the Chickering, Kingsbury, and May families, arriving in this area in the 1600s.

Betty was a generous donor to the Historical Society for over many years.  Her support helped us to create the Mills House headquarters, as well as strengthened our long-term financial planning.



The History Walk stepped out on October 14th. Despite the cold and rainy start, the weather did finally clear up, bringing out Walkers to enjoy a stroll through town while learning about its history.  The event continues to grow – we added a Needham Heights loop this year, to go along with our new book, The Knitters of Needham, and even snuck in some QR codes for smartphone users.

Next year, it will be warm and sunny all day – we promise!

No event like this happens without the help and labor of numerous people.  I am very grateful for all the effort and support.  I would like to start by thanking the Walk Committee – Mark Gluesing, Alison Borrelli, David Drake, Moe Handel, Bob Heald, Deb Jacob, Jim Mahoney, Maryruth The Docents were available at the Hubs to answer questions and tell stories – Joan Wasserman, Michael Greis, Deb Jacob, Susan Welby, Mike Rosenberg, Maryruth Perras and  Moe Handel.

Generous local businesses and individuals sponsored this event.  We thank our Event Sponsors, The Needham Bank (celebrating 120 years in Needham!) and the Beth-Israel Deaconess Hospital Needham (celebrating 100 years!) Both are celebrating important milestones this year – just another indication of how well they have served and supported this town.

The Hub Sponsors were The Rotary Club, The Needham Women’s Club, Heald Hoffmeister, The Exchange Club.  Individual Site Sponsors were The First Parish in Needham, Sally and Dick Toran, Maryruth Perras, Barbara and Scott Jones, the Petrini Corporation, Deb Jacob, Marcy Busch, the Congregational Church of Needham, Alison and Matt Borrelli, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Jim Mahoney, the Nathanson family, the Needham Police Union, David Drake, Janet Drake, Louise Condon Realty, Coldwell-Banker Residential Brokerage, Carol Boulris, the Handel family, Sam and Florence Graves.

Finally, our walkers were refreshed with apples from Volante Farms and water from the Coca-Cola Company.



Chocolate and Champagne Goes Country!

February 2nd, from 7:00 to 10:30 pm

Something different this year – adding some live music and a little Country twist, including live music by Catie Offerman, and food from Blue Ribbon BBQ.  More information coming, so stay tuned!