The third day of August 1904 was a big day for Wilmington. It was the third day in a week which had been named Old Home Week.
Many former residents had returned to be in Wilmington that week. The churches had special services. On Wednesday there was a parade, starting at 10 a.m. Postmaster Milton Holt was the parade marshall.
That parade was probably the longest one ever held in Wilmington. It started at the Town Hall, went up to the Square and down Main Street to Middlesex Avenue. It then went the entire length of Middlesex Avenue, to Salem Street, where it turned right to the North School, at the corner of Ballardvale Street. From there it returned to the Town Hall.
The total distance was just under six miles. Most of the participants rode in buggies or wagons, there being very few cars in existence in 1904. Four policemen led the parade, marching the whole six miles. The 38 members of the Wilmington Fire Department also marched the entire distance, along with the North Reading Brass Band and the Chelsea Drum Corps.
Robert Gowing was the chairman of Old Home Week. John T. Wild, superintendent of the Union Ice houses at Silver Lake was the treasurer, and schoolteacher Carrie Swain was the secretary. Two other committee members were J. Howard Eames and Maria Carter, daughter of William H. Carter of High Street. Of course selectmen Herbert Buck, Edward A. Carter and Eugene Shaw, were also on the committee. The selectmen rode in a barouche, along with Town Clerk James E. Kelley, immediately behind the band.
Albert Butters was the marshall of the first division. Civil War and Spanish War veterans were in a barge, as it was called, as were a number of school children. Then came a fire wagon, with Chief Engineer Caleb Harriman and assistant Frank W. Kidder.
Harriman had founded the fire department a year earlier after a fire had wiped out part of Wilmington Square. He owned the tannery in North Wilmington.
Engine One, with a station near the site of the post office, had 16 men in the parade. The Captain was Daniel Boynton. The hose wagon for Engine One followed, a wagon built by Milton Holt.
Engine Two, the company stationed at the tannery in North Wilmington, followed. Joseph Hill was the captain and Almon Thompson was the lieutenant. The privates all wore “natty blue shirts and white duck trousers,” as they were described. The uniforms were donated by Harriman.
Thomas T. Sidelinker was the marshall of the second division, which consisted of 15 wagons. The Buck Bros. grocers had two teams. There was a team from the Union Ice Company and four teams from local butchers, Lewis Holt, C.E. Carter, M.F. Holt and A.C. Buck.
There were several other wagons, including one from Perry’s Blacksmith Shop. The town farm had three dump carts in the parade. Dinner followed in the Congregational Church vestry. There was such a turnout that it took two seatings to adequately serve the throng. That delayed the speaking program until 3 p.m.
The Hon. Levi S. Gould, chairman of the Middlesex County Commissioners, was the first speaker. He had been raised in Wilmington and told how father had paid 10 cents a week as his tuition in the East School on Woburn Street at the corner of Federal Street. The teacher was Mr. Robinson.
The second speaker was State Sen. Chester Clark, who lived in the big house at the corner of Clark Street and Middlesex Avenue. He told of Wilmington’s first representative in 1735, a man named Daniel Pierce, and gave an animated contrast between the town of 1735 and the present time.
Judge W.H.H. Emmons, the controversial police commissioner of Boston and a summer resident of Wilmington told of his first night in Wilmington in 1886. A maid had put “Rough on Rats” poison in the tea that was served at the Ford-Blanchard house. He said he was only present thanks to the ministrations of Dr. Daniel Buzzell.
Rev. John Nichols wondered if Judge Emmons’ “friends” in Boston might secretly wish that Dr. Buzzell had done his work less thoroughly in the “Rough on Rats” episode.
Arthur Thomas Bond was the final speaker, giving a patriotic history of the town and its record in all conflicts, starting with the French and Indian War, and up to the (then) recent Spanish-American War.