The Squares of Ashland

Ever drive though cities and towns and wonder about the people that the squares were named after? Ashland has three squares honoring citizens who made a major contribution to our town. They are located in a close proximity to each other, and are used for memorial services and local events.

The first one, Gordon A. Green Square, is located at the corner of Main and Front streets. On Veterans Day and Memorial Day this is usually the site for numerous speakers honoring those who fought and died defending our country. Inscribed on the monument are the names of soldiers from World War I. The square itself is named after Gordon Alcott Green whose name also appears in the granite.

Gordon Alcott Green was born April 30, 1897 in Cambridge. After the death of his father, his mother remarried and moved to Ashland. Gordon was 20 years old when enlisted in Company E, 6th Regiment of Framingham on March 27, 1917. This was World War I, or the “war to end all wars” as it was known. Unfortunately we all know that was a bit optimistic as history has shown. Green transferred to the 101 Infantry as a mechanic and was sent overseas to France. During the battle at Vaux on July 15, 1918, Green and seven others died of wounds received during a night attack by the German Prussian Guard.

The second square is located next to old train station on the corner of Main Street and Homer Ave, and was named after Richard T. Murphy. Born on April 3, 1882 in Hopkinton, Richard and his family moved to Ashland when he was very young. While receiving his education here he developed an interest in sports and eventually played for the Ashland Independents baseball team. He also worked for the Lombard Governor Company as a machinist.

Murphy enlisted on July 17, 1917 joining Company L, 101st Regiment Infantry of the 26th Division at Camp McGuiness in Framingham. In September of that year his division went overseas to France where by July of the next year he was cited for bravery by Major General Edwards of the 26th for “”gallant conduct and devotion to duty while under heavy shell and machine gun fire at Vaux, the second battle of Marne.” Shortly thereafter, Murphy was hit by a machine gun bullet as he and thirty others pushed four hundred yards behind enemy lines to repel a German attack on Company L. He was transported to the Base hospital where he died on July 26th.

Both Murphy and Green were originally buried in France. However, in 1921, the families of both men requested their bodies be returned home and where they received full military honors. On June 17th, Gordon Green”s remains were escorted to Ashland Town Hall where he was to lay in state for four days. That Sunday a memorial ceremony was held for Green, and attended by townsfolk and veterans from Ashland and our surrounding neighbors. His casket was placed on a caisson, slowly making the trip to Wildwood Cemetery. Richard Murphy was returned that following September where he also to lie in state. His funeral service was held at St. Cecilia’s, and he was eventually buried in St. John’s Cemetery in Hopkinton.

Located directly across from the library on Front Street, our third square is dedicated to our own Ben Montenegro. From other visits we know that Ben was, and still is, instrumental in organizing events for the benefit of all of us in Ashland. From his former position as Ashland’s Highway Surveyor to his involvement in the Ashland Day Committee and many other committees as well, Ben is responsible for many of the improvements downtown and beyond. Now retired and still enjoying life in Ashland, Ben has a lot to be proud of. I recently stopped for dinner at TJ’s Restaurant with my wife and ran into Ben, his wife, and another couple. After a brief “hello, how are you?” I walked to our table. The couple with the Montenegros commented to Ben: “Do you know everyone in Ashland?”

I’m willing to bet he does.

Steve Leacu for Ashland Directions
July 2011