A Skeleton In The Yard
Miss Anne Thorp of Cambridge, granddaughter of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and daughter of Annie Allegra Longfellow Thorp–the “Laughing Allegra” of his poem, “The Children’s Hour“–came to Sudbury with a dream. She had acquired an old house in Lincoln in 1935 and planned to have it moved and rebuilt on some land she had purchased from the Haynes family on Water Row. When the remodeling was finished, the house, she hoped, would resemble Craigie House, the Cambridge mansion where she grew up.
But first a new cellar hole and foundation had to be dug and laborers were hired. They hadn’t been on the job very long when one man was shocked to discover a skull buried barely three feet below the surface of the earth. Chief of Police Seneca W. Hall was summoned along with officers Royal Haynes and Mike Fleming. They carefully exhumed a woman’s skeleton, buried face down with no coffin.
The Middlesex County Medical Examiner examined the remains and determined that the woman had died some 60 years previous. No cause of death was determined.
A letter from Clara Ferden, an elderly resident in town, written years later to Becky Fairbank, daughter of long-time Selectman Harvey Fairbank, shed some light on the mystery. Mrs. Ferden stated that the skeleton was probably that of Mary Haynes, daughter of Amos Haynes, janitor and deacon of the Sudbury Methodist Church for many years. She married a man named Turtlott and they had one son. The boy was five years old when Mary “went visiting,” and, according to her husband, never returned.
The boy was taken in by Mary’s sister, who had married a man named Maynard and resided in the town of the same name. According to Mrs. Ferden, all were still living when the old Haynes place on Water Row was sold to Mrs. Thorp. Turtlott died shortly before the skeleton was discovered.
“Mr. (Elisha) Smith knew Mary and was evidently in love with her when they were both young,” wrote Mrs. Ferden. “He would cry when he spoke of her. She married the wrong man and he never married. He died February 26, 1896, and was always a grand old man to us.“
Smith left an estate worth $10,995 and two parcels of meadowland on Water Row.
(Material for this chapter came from the 1935 Sudbury Police Log and Clara Ferden’s Letter to Becky Fairbank).
Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Sudbury, 1890-1989, 100 years in the life of a Town, a 256-page sequel to A.S. Hudson’s History of Sudbury. Autographed copies are available from Porcupine Enterprises, 106 Woodside Road, Sudbury, MA 01776. Hardbound presentation copies are $26.25 including tax plus $3.20 postage. Trade paperbacks are $12.60 including tax plus $3.20 postage.