In 1929, Harry Ainsworth, chief of police in North Andover, just wanted to get away from the politics. He resigned, moved to Wilmington and went to work in Currier’s Market in Wilmington Square.
Two years later, Wilmington Chief Walter Hill died, and the Wilmington selectmen appointed Ainsworth to be chief.
The Wilmington Police Dept. was quite small. The station was in the Square in a house with two store fronts on the first floor.
The selectmen, as an economy move, cut the funds for cleaning the police station, but that didn’t faze Harry.
Every now and then, he would announce to his officers that next Saturday would be a “field day.”
That didn’t mean getting a basket full of goodies and heading to the country for a picnic — it meant instead the donning of dungarees and rubber boots for a good, old fashioned spring cleaning, with plenty of soap and water.
Maybe Harry’s boys didn’t think much of the idea, but they didn’t squawk. For right there, in dungarees and boots, was Harry himself, scrubbing away with the best of them. The U.S. at that time was still under Prohibition, and some of his early work involved liquor raids. There were a couple of bank robberies. And then in October 1934, there was a murder on Kelley Hill.
The victim, shot in the back, was still alive when Chief Ainsworth arrived on the scene, but he died before he reached the Tewksbury Hospital. He had no identification and the tags had been cut from his clothing.
Chief Ainsworth found a watch nearby, still running. It had been sold three months earlier to Louis Girgo, of Boston’s North End.
Two important clues came from Burt Froton, a rookie officer, and Louis Elfman, a gas station proprietor. Froton had seen a large car, an Auburn, come through the Square. He wrote down the license number.
The car, with five men in it, stopped at Louie’s gas station. After buying gas, the driver asked Louie to check the brakes. The men left the car and walked over the Shawsheen Avenue bridge. Louie also wrote down the license number.
The location of the watch and the body indicated the direction of travel. In a line going back up the hill, there was a boarded-up shack. Inside, there was a hangman’s noose suspended from a beam, and a table with five pairs of white gloves. This showed that it was a premeditated murder.
The newspapers played the story up as a “gangland slaying.” But it turned out to be a matter of jealousy. Girgo had taken up with the ex-girlfriend of another man.
Ainsworth went to East Boston, along with two state police lieutenants. At the address given, they found the Auburn. As the police crept up the stairs, voices came from the second floor, offering a toast in an Italian dialect, to the death of Luigi Girgo.
When the police crashed in the door, one of the men said, in the dialect, Don’t say anything. They’ll never be able to prove anything.
You’re under arrest, said one of the lieutenants, in the same dialect.
One noteworthy story involving Chief Ainsworth was a raid on the Pinemere Restaurant in North Wilmington. It was set in a large antebellum Italianate house built in the 1850s that was foreclosed in 1939. It was then bought at auction by two local women, who opened a restaurant. It was in a private, somewhat obscure location. Yet on a Wednesday night in April 1940, there were 75 patrons at the Pinemere.
There must have been an incredible menu or some other attraction to draw that many people.
The Boston Globe reported that police raided the restaurant, arresting eight persons, four men and four women, for participating in or allowing an indecent performance.
Chief Ainsworth had arrived at the restaurant about 9 p.m. with six state troopers, one local officer and a detective from Lawrence. But there was a doorman who would not allow them to enter.
So the police waited, attempting to peek inside despite the shades being drawn. Two and a half hours later, there was an intermission. The door was opened and the police went in.
They arrested the restaurant manager, the director of the show and six others. Wilmington did not have adequate lockup facilities, so the men were taken to Woburn and the women to Reading.
Not much is known of their fate in court, but the Globe reported that a 22-year-old man told the judge he had just been playing the harmonica.
Ainsworth served as Wilmington police chief for 16 years.
At the time he was appointed, Wilmington had four police officers. A decade later, there were a dozen, including several special officers. The 1946 Town Report lists the chief, deputy chief, one sergeant and two officers, plus 36 special police and two police women.
He resigned in 1947 after being appointed probation officer in Woburn District Court. He never moved from Wilmington, retiring at the end of 1959. He died in May 1961.
After his death, the selectmen voted to name a road after him. Ainsworth Road is the old railroad bed of the Salem and Lowell Railroad, off Andover Street. The town purchased it to provide access for an industrial plant. A town water main was installed. But then a snafu was discovered. The town manager had neglected to record the deed in the Registry of Deeds, and the ownership reverted to its previous owner.
60 years later, it remains a private road.