I spent a better part of this past Monday tracing the locations of Manning family homes and businesses throughout Rockport. What started out as a simple, self-imposed assignment about a small-time, small-town reed organ builder has become much more. The first complications were the repeated use of given names within the Manning family with no designations of Sr. or Jr. or II or III. This was true with the lady's names, as well. After composing a timeline and then receiving a genealogy from a distant Manning relative, much of that finally got sorted out in my mind. Yesterday, I came across another Manning - Bertha. Bertha Manning was a music teacher who boarded at the 2 Railroad Avenue residence and shop of William N. - 'my' guy. I shall have to check back through the genealogy because I don't recall seeing Bertha there!
Anyway, William Norwood Manning moved to Rockport with his family when he was 11 years old. They took up residence at the Manning Farm located on Nugent Stretch, the 'main' road from Gloucester to Rockport.Only the stone summer kitchen remains today and is open to the public, during the summer, as the Babson Museum. At the age of 14 William became a paid violinist for the Universalist Church in Rockport, about 2 miles from his home.
The entire Manning family became very intertwined in business deals with fathers, sons, and uncles as owners, partners, and shareholders. The family included doctors, lawyers, civil engineers, farmers, fishermen, dentists, inventors and musicians. The family was also involved in the manufacture of isinglass. William operated a storefront on Main Street (indicated by one red location on the map - you may have to click and enlarge to see the color indicators) were he specialized in jewelry, watches, piano-fortes, violins, and clocks...and in the repair of all of those. His business was in the easterly side of the store with a shoe store occupying the westerly portion. (After Mannings vacated the store, and probably no longer owned the building, the easterly half became the A&P Grocery store and the westerly half was devoted to Oker's Tailor Shop. Interestingly, in 1932, Mr. Oker was found murdered in his shop. Later, as a local woman was to testify as to the identity of the murderer, she was murdered and her residence set ablaze to cover the crime. These two murders have never been solved.) Sometime around the turn of the century (1900), William moved his residence and his retail and repair business to number 2 Railroad Avenue (see red on map) and remained there until his death in 1930 at age 96.
The Manning Organ Company was in production for about three years. It occupied the upper stories of the American Hide Seat Company factory in Millbrook Meadow (Mannings also held stock in that company as well as several others to follow in that location).(see red on map-Isinglass factory) When the organ company failed due to poor economic times, the equipment, patents, and organs were auctioned off. The building was then occupied by The Lawrence Spool and Bobbin Co., then the Russia Cement Co., and finally by Leander Haskin's Isinglass Company. That company moved in 1915 and the factory was deserted. It burned in July of 1932.
The present day site of the organ factory at Millbrook Meadow, now a town park.
The Mannings owned other properties in town and several will be noticed on the map in the general vicinity of Poole's Corner, the intersection of Main and Beach Streets. The Manning house on Beach Street was later joined with the house to it's north, becoming a large family complex. After the death of it's owners, the house became an inn under the name of Manning House until it was torn down in 1965 to build the 'new' "Captain's Bounty Motel".
So there's just a taste of what I've been up to. Tomorrow morning I hope to get to town early, before too many parked cars, and photograph William's original shop. Then I'll head to Railroad Avenue to photograph his last home and shop. It's been more difficult than expected finding the locations of these buildings. Not only have the streets been renumbered several times, the odds and evens have changed sides. Buildings have been added and some taken away. Many times the records of Rockport are conflicting!
I have found many interesting items in the six boxes of Manning family papers at the historical society, including Uncle Charlie Bolles Manning's first letter, written as a child, to his 'papa' about the escape and subsequent retrieval of his pet squirrel and a delightfully detailed drawing of the sailing vessel on which one of the elder doctors Manning served. I've yet to finish the boxes and also will be checking out the photo files. In addition, next Monday I hope to open up the Manning organ and photo the realization of some of W. N.'s patents.
For now, it's on to some writing of the article