I was sorting through the volumes
of Ashland Directions when I ran
across an article by Kay Powers from 1998. It was about a former Curator of the
Ashland Historical Society that was overlooked in a previous Stories of Ashland that listed all the
Leon Warren Davis was not born in
spent the majority of his life here. Born in Boston
on November 23, 1866, Leon
was the son of Joseph and Betsy Davis. Leon’s mother was the former Betsy
Warren who lived on Cordaville
Road in the old Bigelow Mill house that still
stands, near Oak Street.
family moved to Ashland from Boston
about the time Leon
was born. They bought the second Frankland mansion on Franklin Road that was built by Elias
Nason after the first house burned in 1850. We know this property as the former
home of Sir Harry Franklin. The building that exits today is actually the third
structure for that property, but we will cover that in a minute.
father later bought the Charles Alden house on Railroad Street (Homer Avenue today) and moved his family
along with Leon’s
brother Bertram and his new wife Anna. The house no longer exists, but was used
as the offices for the Telechron Company prior to the building of the Ashland Technology Center
that we see today.
The family moved again to a home
on Main Street
near Summer Street. On February 26, 1902, the second Franklin mansion burned to the ground. Leon was on the
Ashland Volunteer Fire Department at the time and they tried to save the house.
Within two hours the mansion was gone along with valuable furnishings and some
of Sir Harry Franklin’s clothing that was saved from the first fire. All was
not lost though. It was reported that they saved the barn and the foundation.
Moving forward, Leon was active
it town government. In 1911 he was elected to the School Committee where he
served in various capacities for the next 40 years. He also served as Fence
Viewer, Burial Agent, W.P.A. Supervisor, Measurer of Wood and Bark, Trustee of
Wildwood Cemetery, Planning Board, as well as a volunteer for the fire
department. He was twice elected as Selectman in 1918 and 1925. A pretty busy
Just before WWI, Leon married
Margaret Christine Houghton, daughter of Benjaman and Mary Valentine Jones
Houghton. Sadly, the couple had two children that died at birth, along with
Margaret with the second one. She was buried in late Novermber, 1916 in Wildwood
just two years after their marriage with their wedding ushers and groomsmen
serving as pall bearers.
After the war, Leon married
Bessy Dodge on March 22, 1919. They lived on the top of High Street. After Leon’s
passing she lived there with her niece, Charlotte Davis and her friend Betty
Dodge. During that time, Leon
owned Ashland Hardware which used to be located on the corner of Main and Front
Street. That building no longer exists, but the
Santander Bank is there today.
Leon’s interest in history brought
him to the Ashland Historical Society. By 1943, he was elected Clerk and
Curator. At the time, the Society was housed in the Ashland Library. Leon was
responsible for the collection that was displayed in a remodeled room that was
open to the public on Wednesdays and it was well viewed. Records show there
were 236 visitors from 1944 to 1945.
Leon followed in the footsteps of
Society members Frank and Fannie Metcalf. The Metcalfs had donated furniture
and all of Frank’s papers on the history of Ashland. Handling the enormity of the
collection was almost a full-time job. Leon survived though, and even
found time to research and pen his own collection. A lot of it was unsigned,
but his distinctive handwriting made it easier to recognize.
By 1950 Leon was 84
years old. He resigned as Curator, but still held a position on the Planning
Board. On April 3, 1953, he passed away. His father was once described as a “typical New Englander noted for his sterling
integrity, his word being as sufficient as his bond, and his geniality, ever
present.” The same could certainly
be said of Leon.
It was noted that there was no
obituary for Leon
in the files of the Historical Society.
Leon was the one that kept them.
Source: Kay Powers, “The Missing
Steve Leacu for Directions