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We’ve come a long way, Arthur Nichols

Butters home in 1959 Burlington MA

The Daily Times and Chronicle, Tuesday, August 7, 1979

Burlington Past and Present, by John E. Fogelberg
(Article # 007)

We’ve come a long way, Arthur Nichols

If someone like Arthur Nichols were to come back to life now, so much of the town has changed since his death that he would have the feelings of a stranger — although he was born and brought up here, and was the local postman for the greater part of his life.

Places he knew on Cambridge Street for instance, only from the center north to Almy’s: The Wood Tavern is gone; Charlie Dearborn’s Pool Parlor is gone; Aunt Nettie Foster’s little house is gone; the Trading Post is gone; Ned Bennett’s farm is gone; the MacKenzie family no longer lives at the foot of the hill; Hardy’s gasoline station has been replaced several times; the Kimball Ice Cream Parlor has disappeared, and where the old Butters farm stood and prospered is now Terry Avenue and a group of office buildings. At the time of the Revolution, the farm later known as the Butters Place was owned by a John Kendall. There were two Kendalls in Capt. John Wood’s Co. in 1775: Benjamin and Oliver. Since Wood’s company consisted principally of men from this Second Parish, it may be that they were living at the Kendall farm here.

The Kendalls were an old Woburn family, for the first marriage of a Kendall mentioned in the Woburn Records is of one Francis, alias Miles, and is dated 1644. Edward F. Johnson, who did so much good genealogical work for the Woburn Records around 1890, states in a footnote that there is a well-authenticated tradition in the Kendall family that this Francis Kendall was stolen from a Ralph Miles in England and brought to this country. Whether the Second Parish John was a descendant of that Francis is only a possibility.

A William Butters, who was in Woburn prior to 1666, was of a good Scots family and may have been one of the Scots sent to the Colonies by Cromwell after his victories against the king. William settled in what is now Wilmington or in that part of Woburn called Boggy Meadow End. His son William was one of the first selectmen in Wilmington, which was set off from Woburn in 1730. He married a Carter in 1812 and bought the Kendall farm here of some seventy acres at that time. He tore down the old buildings and built a large house and a barn on a slight knoll facing the highway, now Cambridge Street or Route 3A. By 1844, four generations of the family were living in his new house, his mother who lived to the age of 93, his brother Samuel, his son Charles and his grandson Charles Sumner.

Charles married Olive Susan Brown of Billerica in 1843 and by 1907 another four generations of the Butters family occupied the old place: Olive Susan, her son Charles S., her grandson Charles M. and a grandchild also named Olive. Susan died shortly after her 91st birthday in 1913. At that time she was the oldest member of the Burlington Church of Christ, which she had joined with her sister and her sister’s husband, Samuel Sewall, in 1838.

During Susan’s lifetime, “husking parties” were held at her farm each fall, and on other big farms as well, such as those of the Winn, Walker and Simonds families. Not only local people came, but out-of-towners as well, for many times parties were organized in Cambridge or Somerville for an afternoon and night out in Burlington. The big event was always held in the barn, where everyone shelled corn, looking for a cob with red kernels, which entitled the finder to a forfeit. The center of the barn floor was always kept clear and swept clean for dancing. And there was always plenty of food and apple cider.

The Baldwin apple originated on the old Butters homestead in Wilmington, and there is a stone marker there to show where. It was first known as the Butters apple, then as the Pecker or Woodpecker apple and finally as the Baldwin apple simply because Loammi Baldwin propagated many grafts from the Butters trees.

One of the earliest roads in this town, Wood Hill Road, now Locust Street and upper Mill Street, led past Butters or Clapp’s Mill on Saw Mill Brook at the Wilmington line to the extensive Butters settlement in Wilmington. This road, which connected the Butters farms with Woburn, was a road as early as 1665 or about the time the Wymans were building their houses here on Francis Wyman Road.

The Butters farm here was sold to Dr. Agnes G. Israelian in 1920. Her parents came to live there and she came on weekends. She had graduated from Tufts Medical the year before and had set up her practice in Boston where she specialized in skin diseases. One Sunday in March 1923, while visiting with her parents, she was called upon to minister to a man suffering from a gunshot wound in the abdomen. Because of the heavy snow of the night before, she had to cover the distance from the Butters place to a backwoods area of Van Norden Road on snow shoes. Ralph MacDonald, then a selectman, with Dr. Israelian’s help, strapped the wounded man to an old sled and pulled it to Cambridge Street, about the only street open to traffic. From there an ambulance took the wounded man with Dr. Israelian aboard to the Choate Memorial Hospital in Woburn. The man survived.

In the ’30s, the farm was assessed to Gregory K. Sulujian. He was taxed for a house, barn, henhouse and 23 acres of land. Later it was sold to a Mrs. Goldman and finally to Mr. Theodore Murray. He rented out the house, fixed up the barn and installed four large plate glass windows to turn that old barn into an auction gallery.

However, in 1959 the old house and barn were torn down, and the ground leveled to make way for an industrial development. A block of stores on the corner of Terry Ave., and Fanny Farmer Candies now occupy the land upon which the farmhouse once stood; Terry Ave. would bisect the barn; Heiland Electronics occupies a cornfield and where the cows of Kendalls and Butters once grazed now people play the hours away in the Bowl-A-Way lanes.