Journeying Home Again – Sudbury, Massachusetts

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A few weeks ago,  on one of those spectacular fall days, my husband and I drove to Massachusetts to see what mysteries were buried in the Sudbury historical files.

Sudbury, Massachusetts is where my mom, Marion Garfield (Paton) grew up. Following an email from Sally Purrington Hild, the Historical Society Director, I was excited to learn more:

“The Garfield family contributed so much to Sudbury. Yes, we have a great variety of information in the archives and Curt Garfield, who is still living… was our town historian for many years.”

Our first stop was the Ralph Cram House (Stop # 6 on the Town of Sudbury Tour map).  Sitting stately on a small hill, now over 200 years old, Cram called the house “Whitehall,” after the place of King Charles’s martyrdom.   Staring at this still beautiful home,  I imagined my mother staying here as a child and helping her Dad work in the many flower gardens which Cram loved − something she would grow to love too. I wonder if perhaps this is where her passion for flowers and gardening began.

During the Depression my grandfather, Sherrold Leroy Garfield,  worked for Ralph Adams Cram.

“But then again, she was quite lucky [Marion Garfield] because her father had a job as caretaker for an architect— Mr. Cram there in Sudbury. He was the chauffeur and caretaker of the grounds. They had a 22-room mansion. And they used to go there and take care of it in the winter because they went to Europe and didn’t want to leave the house alone.” –Wally Paton

“Fortunate to have a job during the Depression, my Grandfather Garfield found local work as a caretaker for a notable citizen of Sudbury, architect Ralph Adams Cram. Cram lived in Sudbury from 1900 to 1942. During his prolific career he and his firm, Cram, Goodhue and Ferguson designed many churches, perhaps the most notable being the  Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, which my grandfather helped build. Taking almost 50 years to open, the church was nicknamed “St John the Unfinished.” In 1907, Cram took over from the original architects, Christopher Grant LaFarge and George Lewis Heins, and put his own “Gothicized” style on the structure. He was a leading proponent of Gothic Revival Architecture. During the 1920’s, Cram’s career took off and he was frequently mentioned in the press including the cover of Time Magazine in December of 1926…Due in part to Mr. Cram’s success, my grandparents survived the Depression better than many in Sudbury.”– Excerpt from Journey Home: How a Simple Act of Kindness Led to the Creation of a Living Legacy by Bonnie Paton Moon

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Ralph Adams Cram house at 427 Concord Rd., Sudbury, MA

 In 1900 Cram bought the house at 427 Concord Road; he resided there for the next 42 years. During these years he designed hundreds of churches, academic buildings, libraries, even bridges. His works include the Post Headquarters and the Cadet Chapel at West Point, the Princeton University Chapel, Rice University Campus, Philips Exeter Academy Chapel and Davis Library and many others. Undoubtedly, his most notable work, is the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. Although less known, but none the less significant are his designs of the Bourne and Sagamore Bridges connecting the mainland to Cape Cod.

01-20 Ralph Cram

Ralph Cram on the cover of Time Magazine- 1926

Ralph Cram moved to Sudbury to escape the city. Living in a townhouse near his Boston office provided convenience, but he longed for the tranquility and open space that only the country could provide.

“For seven years, my wife and I had been seeking for that place in the country that should be a permanent home for us and, we hoped, for our descendants in generations to come…A city domicile could never take the place of land ─ land in the country, farm and garden land that should be our own and, if possible, with a really old house… Finally by an intervention of a kindly Providence, it was found; and in the old and gratefully isolated town of Sudbury. Excerpt from Ralph Adams Cram: An Architects Four Quests

In 1913, Cram decided to design a small chapel behind his house in Sudbury for worship with his family and friends. It is named after his wife and youngest daughter, Elizabeth. Local Sudbury craftsmen built the chapel from stones dug on Crams many acres of property. Everything was done by hand. One of those local craftsmen that helped build the chapel was my grandfather, Sherrold Leroy Garfield.

His years with Cram sparked in my grandfather a passion for building and he went on to become a master carpenter, building not only his own home in Sudbury, but many others as the suburbs spread from Boston to the surrounding areas.

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St. Elizabeth Chapel, 435 Concord Road, Sudbury MA

Next stop – the Chapel.  Up a small hill and along a wooded path it sits. It is striking in its simplicity, and seems the perfect setting to commune with nature and spirit. Here also are the grave sites of Ralph Adams Cram, his wife Elizabeth and two of their children. A break in the trees allows the morning sun to shine here, perhaps strategically planned also.

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Ralph & Elizabeth Cram and two of their children are buried here

“People of many creeds, as well as parishioners, continue to worship at the chapel as well as use the grounds and churchyard for quiet contemplation and reflection. Mr. Cram would have been pleased, for he wrote that any true church ‘should express the great idea of unity’ in the worship of the Almighty God. Strangers climb the winding paths under the towering pines to the door of the little chapel, and the sense of worship is so strong within its great stone walls that many kneel to pray. Young and old, of many diverse nationalities…. all these elements of beauty and worship blend.” – St. Elizabeth Chapel History

I would have loved to spend more time here, but time was running short.  I needed to head over to the Historical Society to perhaps unravel a mystery.

About a week after I had written to the Historical Society, I received an email that was a complete surprise. One doesn’t expect to hear from a cousin they never knew existed.

“Hi Bonnie,

I am Elizabeth Forsberg (Lisa). My mother Grace Ella Garfield was the daughter of Elmond Flagg Garfield (Babe) & Grace Anna Miller – he was Sherrold’s brother. I have the Garfield family tree which I will share a copy with you. Many of our people are buried in the Concord Sleepy Hollow cemetery. I live in Northborough, MA and would love to meet you.”

Wow, someone at the historical society knew I had a long lost cousin living close by and gave them my contact information. Lisa and I decided to meet at the Historical Society to see the files together.

The Historical Society is in the middle of a new building project. Meanwhile they are housed at the very top of Sudbury Town Hall. Up a steep staircase to what appears to be the attic, they carry out their mission with few paid staff and a lot of volunteers. Space is at a premium here. Sally greets us and introduces us to one of the volunteers, Beth, who will help guide us and hopefully have answers to our questions.

When Lisa enters the room, my first words were: “Wow, you so remind me of my Aunt Bess.” Aunt Bess was my mother’s big sister. They were very close, so we saw a lot of Aunt Bess growing up. Even into their eighties my mom and she took vacations together. Lisa and I sat down to chat and share photos and look over the Garfield family tree that Lisa had brought. As it turned out Lisa grew up in the town next to mine −Northborough. She went to the same high school as I did − Algonquin Regional and she lived next door to one of my classmates for decades. Lisa worked at her grandmother’s restaurant. Called “Svensk Kaffestuga,” a Swedish coffeehouse with the slogan “A Little Bit of Sweden” painted on its front entryway, it was a popular restaurant in Sudbury for many years − replaced now by The Lotus Blossom.

How could I not know of Lisa or her grandfather – my grandfather’s brother? No one knows why Sherrold and his two brothers, Elmond (Babe) and Fordis Garfield were not close in their later years. Perhaps a family dispute was responsible. It seems that this will remain a mystery − for now.

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Lisa and I share memories at the Sudbury Historical Society – October 2018

I also learned of another, more distant cousin – Curtis Garfield. A copy of his book is part of the  Historical Society’s collection. It is filled with historical facts, stories and photos − what one would expect from someone who was the head of the Sudbury Historical Society for many years.

Curtis Garfield Sudbury book

Our final stop for the day was across the Town Green to Grinnell Park to see the WWI Memorial. Among those honored here is Sherrold L. Garfield. He joined the Navy in 1917 and was assigned to the Submarine Division as a Machinist Mate First Class.

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In Honor of the Men of Sudbury Who Served in the World War

When I arrived home I wrote to another of my cousins, the son of my Aunt Bess Garfield, to tell him about Lisa and ask if he had ever heard of our Uncle Elmond or Fordis. His wife wrote back:

“Dick does know that grandpa had two brothers. He thinks one name was Fortis and the other was Babe. Thinks Gramps was the oldest, then Babe, then Fordis. We never met them so do not know when they died. I remember that restaurant (Little Bit of Sweden) very well. I had an uncle who was Swedish. He lived in Worcester and would come out to the restaurant on Sunday’s for dinner. Small world!!” – Barbara Coppinger

And getting smaller all the time.

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Sherrold Garfield

01-27 Garfield's home 2016 - 332 Goodmans Hill Road, Sudbury MA

Marion Garfield’s Childhood Home – 332 Goodman’s Hill Rd., Sudbury, MA

01-25 The Garfield Family

Jessie, Bess, Bill, Marion and Sherrold Garfield

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