Laurence G. Hanscom

Laurence G. Hanscom (Courtesy photo)

If you mention the name Hanscom, many people would think you’re talking about a good looking guy. In this area, they would im­mediately think of the Bedford airport, formerly a U.S. Air Force base. But would they recognize the Wilmington connection?

Laurence G. Hanscom lived on Shawsheen Ave­nue and graduated from Wilmington High School with the class of 1923. His parents, Ford Anthony Hans­com and Mary Ma­guire were married in Med­ford in 1903. Larry was their third child, born in 1906. They moved to Wil­mington when he was quite young, to a house at the corner of Shawsheen and Nassau avenues.

Larry Hanscom became a reporter, working for the Worcester Telegram, the Boston Globe and the Wil­mington News. He eventually became a State House reporter for the Globe, in­teracting with members of the legislature.

His real love, though, was aviation, tinkering with aircraft engines and reading voraciously, staying up on the latest technology. He earned a pilot’s license in the pre-Lind­berg era when few people held such a license. He log­ged more than 3,000 hours of flight time. In the celebration of Wilming­ton’s 200th anniversary in 1930, he arranged to have greetings from the governor dropped to the common from a plane.

As the world tumbled toward World War II, he knew that aviation would be an important factor in the war. He lobbied heavily for the state to establish an airfield. This brought about the purchase of ex­tensive farmland, primarily in Bedford.

Hanscom sought to join the U.S. Army Air Corps, but was turned down be­cause of his age, 34, de­spite his being a pioneer in aviation. He then sent an application to the Ca­na­dian Air Force with letters of commendation from the Massachusetts governor and state Aeronautics Commission.

He was still awaiting an answer from Canada when he was killed in a plane crash in Saugus on Feb. 9, 1941.

In recognition of his contributions to aviation, the Massachusetts legislature voted to name the new airfield in his honor. As World War II continued, it became a U.S. Army Air Corps base, then an Air Force base. The airport is now run by MassPort, while the Air Force base has many operations on ad­joining property.

The Hanscom family came from Kittery. Thom­as Hanscombe had first arrived in Salem in 1629. Two decades later, his name appears in the records of Kittery as a defendant in a lawsuit brought for debt by William Hilton. In 1651, he was again sued by Hil­ton for trespass.

Then in 1654, the Town of Kittery warned Hans­combe not to live with Mrs. Mary Batchelder, the estranged wife of Rev. Stephen Batchelder. She had earlier been convicted of adultery was requir­ed to wear an “A” on her clothing.

Nearly two centuries la­ter, her story apparently became the basis for “The Scarlet Letter,” by Nathan­iel Hawthorne.

Since adultery is not a solitary undertaking, it is quite probable that her partner was Thomas Hans­com.

(1) comment


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