From the Files of the Rochester Historical Society

Of all the items found in the Historical Society, the many scrapbooks that have been donated give us a good look at everyday life in Rochester’s past. For every scrapbook in the museum, there are at least twice as many in the homes of Rochester’s residents. These are not the “scrapbooking” collections popular today; rather, they are clippings from newspapers that tell the stories of the many events in the community. They are selected because they refer to local people and local areas that reflect the interests and connections of the scrapbook’s creator.

            One example is the scrapbook of Walton “Sonny” Jenkins. It is a collection of newspaper articles about Rochester and Cuttyhunk happenings from 1939-1945. The Rochester Historical Society was allowed to copy it in 2012. Starting in 1939, the articles chronicle weddings, like that of Winifred Schofield to Herbert Hartley, the arrest of a Rochester man and his brother for a series of local burglaries, the medals awarded to three members of the Cuttyhunk Coast Guard Station, and deaths like that of Rochester’s oldest citizen and last surviving Civil War veteran, George H. Randall.

            Then, as the fighting in Europe intensified and the United States entered World War II, the type of clippings began to change. Unlike the wars of our more recent past, everyone was involved in the reality of the war. Rather than being fought by the members of the National Guard or fulltime Armed Services soldiers, sailors, and marines, this war was fought by both drafted and enlisted civilians from every town and city. Now the scrapbook chronicles the farewell parties for boys who were drafted or had enlisted, or girls, like Miss Mary Nute, who had been inducted into the SPARS and was headed to Florida for training.

            While there continued to be clippings about new pastors for area churches, car accidents, and school graduations, more and more were war related. Pages are filled with pictures of soldiers, like the three Rochester brothers – David, Donald, and Walton Jenkins – who were serving in the Maritime Service and in Aviation. The wedding stories are of couples marrying during furloughs and before being sent overseas.

            One article warns residents not to remove stamps from sugar rationing books, and another tells about the Rochester National War Fund Drive chaired by Mrs. Lorenz B. Rounseville. Others tell of Second Lieutenant Edward C. Humphrey who was missing in action, and First Class Private Sewell A. Peckham, who was cited for bravery after being wounded during the Japanese surprise air raid on the island of Oahu in Hawaii, and others who died or were in prisoner of war camps. All of these stories are mingled with everyday tales of sheep shearing, house fires, and the news of a new postmaster.

            The new exhibit at the Rochester Historical Museum, opening on October 2, will include military memorabilia and tools among other items. We are looking for any items that people would be willing to loan to us for the exhibit. If you have an item, please call Connie Eshbach at 508-763 4932.

By Connie Eshbach

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