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.