Wagner Memorial Park is a well-landscaped park with a Greek-revival monument and benches, located in the Arts & Cultural District of Manchester, New Hampshire. The park was created on an entire block of land (one and one-half acres) located between Prospect, Myrtle, Maple and Oak Streets. Before it became a park it was part of a larger farm belonging to the Weston Family.
The land was given to the city by Ottilie “Matilda” (Wagner) Hosser to honor her parents, Edward & Wilhelmina (Seelig) Wagner. According to a history article written in 2012 by Aurore Eaton, and published in the Union Leader newspaper, when Ottilie died in 1944 her will offered the land to the city along with $150,000 to build a memorial park to her parents that would be a place of “peace and love,” a reminder of the friendship between the German American people. Aurore notes in her article, “Understandably, the city was reluctant to make these feelings known while the park was being constructed in 1944 and 1945, in the middle of World War II.”
But lets backtrack a bit. Before the land belonged to the Wagner family, it and the land surrounding this block was the farm of the Weston family. James A. Weston who lived there prior to the house being purchased by the Wagner family, was the son of Amos & Betsey (Wilson) Weston who removed from Massachusetts to New Hampshire in 1803. It was in the fledgling town of Derryfield, and later Manchester, that James grew up, married, and worked. He became a civil engineer, designing for several railroads. He had six children who grew up in the large farmhouse.
According to a 2013 Manchester Union Leader article by Aurore Eaton, Weston’s house was the first to be insured on 6 April 1870 by the newly formed New Hampshire Fire Insurance Company. She states that it was a large, wood-framed house that sat at the corner of Maple and Myrtle Streets. The Sanborn Insurance maps of 1897 and 1915 both show the outline of the house and demonstrates where it sat within the current park lot (the 1915 version is shown here).
James A. Weston was politically active, being mayor of Manchester, and later governor of New Hampshire. He had many social connections and involvements, and so I leave it up to you to read through his biography if you are interested. James A. Weston died 8 May 1895 in Manchester, New Hampshire, and is buried in Pine Grove Cemetery.
In 1902 Edward Wagner family bought the Weston mansion from the late Governor James Weston’s family at 621 Maple St. [See his biography and history below under the genealogy]. Edward died the following year, and shortly afterwards his daughter Ottilie and her husband George Hosser moved into the residence, watching after her mother Mathilda until she died in 1923. George Hosser died five years later in 1928. Between 1928 and 1944 when she too died, Ottilie (Wagner) Hosser made several arrangements to honor the memory of her parents, and that of her husband.
A plaque was placed in WAGNER MEMORIAL PARK that is inscribed as follows: “A gift to the city of Manchester by Ottilie Wagner Hosser, in memory of her parents, Edward Wagner and Menna Seelig Wagner. He will dated December 14, 1942 stated that the park shall never be used as a playground, but shall be kept and maintained as a public park. Her will ordered that three trustees be appointed by the probate court to carry out the future care and maintenance of the premises, to elect and appropriate memorial thereon, and to beautify and adorn the park with tress and shrubs in central conformity with plants and directions given the trustees during her lifetime. As it was her desire that the city of Manchester should not be obligated to incur any expense in the maintenance of the park, she established a trust fund the income only to be expended by it for the maintenance, lightning and beautification of the park and memorial erected thereon.”
Ottilie’s husband George must have been a member of a masonic order, because Washington Lodge #61’s history on their web site includes the following notation: “On October 16, 1936, a second ceremony of dedication came to pass from the fact that in the Main Lodge room a complete refurnishing and redecorating had taken place through the generosity of Mrs. George Hosser in memory of her late husband, Brother George Hosser, a member of a Lodge in N. B.”
When Ottilie died in 1944 her will arranged for the building of Wagner Memorial Park (as outlined at the beginning of this story). Her will also arranged a scholarship that still exists today: “Edward Wagner and George Hosser Scholarship Fund (CSS Number: 0667)
Established under the will of Mrs. Ottilie Wagner Hosser of Manchester, NH. Its purpose is to assist needy young men to secure a college education.Preference is given to Manchester, New Hampshire residents who have graduated from Manchester high schools and are pursuing an undergraduate program. First time applicants must be under 25 years of age.”
Because of the unusual beauty of this park, it has become a focal point over many years for photographers, and for those seeking a lovely backdrop for events such as weddings and graduations. Jona Mulvey recently shared a photograph of Ash Street School’s 8th Grade Graduation Class of 1960. [partial list as this is a segment of a larger photograph].
ROW 1 – Marsha Floden, Beverly Gagnon. Joann Knoetner, Jona Mulvey, Candace Vultaggio, Judy Moher, Jane Meersman, Nancy Peterson, Heather Leland
ROW 2 – Howard Marx, Jay LaMarche, Jimmy Crocker, Larry ____, Paul Duguay, Bill Turnbull, ?, David Wardwell, Bobby Main, George Archambault
ROW 3 – Russell Janosz, Jason Meyer, Daniel Tobin, Michael Lamson, Gary Michaud
Editor’s note: Between 2010-12 several of the unique benches were stolen from the park, removed from their granite mounting blocks. One bench was damaged and one had to be removed when a tree fell on it. They were made either of brass or copper, as I have read conflicting stories on what the material of the benches are. Each had a large ‘W’ in the back of the bench seat. Two more were stolen shortly after this story was posted in July of 2015.
According to Susan Woods of “Friends of Pretty Park,” a public group on Facebook, “There are 5 original benches and 5 replacements. The replacements are the ones around the rotunda.We hope to replace the replacements one of these days with something closer to the originals. Hoping there will be folks interested in making a tax deductible donation as a memorial.”
= PARTIAL GENEALOGY OF THE WAGNER FAMILY OF MANCHESTER NH =
Ferdinand G. Wagner, son of Ferdinand and Rosa Wagner, b. 29 January 1810 Prussia/Germany, died 19 April 1888 in Lawrence MA. [He was living at 14 Brook Street, Lawrence MA]. He became a naturalized citizen in 1869 Massachusetts court. He married Dorothea/Dorothy/Dora Hilbert, daughter of Benjamin Hilbert. She b. Nov 1813 Germany and d.23 January 1901 in Lawrence MA age 87. In 1900 She was a widow living with her son Ferdinand in Lawrence MA.
1880 US Census > MA > Essex > Lawrence
Ferdinand Wagner Self M 70 Germany
Dora Wagner wife F 66 Germany
Fred Wagner son M 24 Germany
Children of Ferdinand W. & Dorothy (Hilbert) Wagner:
1. Christina Wagner, b. about 1833 Germany; m. 18 Feb 1860 in Lawrence MA to August Hoffman, son of Gottlieb & Maria (?) Hoffman. He was b. abt 1834 in Prussia.
2. +Edward Wagner, b. 29 Jan 1834 in Langenbielau, Germany [Prussia]
3. Ferdinand Wagner, b. 1 March 1836 in Germany, d. 8 May 1911 in Lawrence MA. He is buried in Bellevue, Lawrence MA. He m. 19 Jan 1861 in Lawrence MA to Eva Graf, dau of John & Welhelmine (Gabel) Graf. She was b. Nov 1835 in Germany. They had a daughter Dora Wagner b. September 1877 in MA. He served during Civil War in Co. F, 6th Mass Infantry, receiving a pension in 1898, his wife Eva receiving it starting in May 1911.
4. Ernest Wagner, b. 1842 Germany, m. 23 May 1868 in Methuen MA to Lizzie Caldwell, dau of Thomas M. & Mercy F. (?) Caldwell. She was b. in Methuen MA; Barber
5. +Augustus Wagner, b. 11 Dec 1846 in Langen Bielou, Germany; d. 11 Feb 1927 at Sacred Heart Hospital in Manchester NH Manchester NH; home: 332 Orange Street, lived 60 yrs in Manchester, formerly in Lawrence MA. Buried in Pine Grove Cemetery. He married Mary Bastian.
6. Frederick Wagner, b. 19 May 1856 Germany. d. 21 July 1932 in Lawrence MA. Loomfixer, 53 Winthrop St. ; married –. He is buried Pine Grove Cemetery, LAWRENCE MA.
—— N E X T G E N E R A T I O N ——-
Edward Wagner, son of Ferdinand & Dorothy (Hilbert) Wagner, born 29 January 1834 in Langenbielau, Germany, died 17 Dec 1903 in Manchester NH. He married 28 March 1861 in Manchester NH to Wilhelmine/Wilhelmina “Minna” Seelig, daughter of George & Gertrude (Schultz) Seelig. She b 3 January 1842 in Hersfield, Germany and d. 9 July 1923 in Manchester NH. In 1858 they moved from Lawrence MA to Manchester NH. In 1863 Edward became a naturalized citizen. On his naturalization papers he states that he immigrated from Hamburg Germany 1 June 1854, and lived in Manchester from 1854-1900 when he applied for the passport. In 1879 he ran a saloon at 843 Elm Street in Manchester NH, with his brother Augustus doing the same at 801 Elm Street. Manufacturer of wholesale liquors and bottler 32 Manchester. Their house was located at 621 Maple Street. [SEE his photograph at the top of this page] [Note: Langenblielau is a village that was considered part of Germany up until 1945. It is now Bielawa, Poland].
1863 Manchester NH Civil War Draft Records
Wagner, Edward 28 White Carpenter M Germany
1870 US Census > NH > Hillsborough > Manchester
Edward Wagner 36 Prussia Saloon Keeper
Minnie Wagner 28
Matilda Wagner 7
Gustavus Wagner 5
Per a 2012 history article by Aurora Eaton, then executive director of the Manchester Historic Association: “Edward Wagner came to Manchester in around 1860. After several months working in the mills, he opened a billiard parlor and saloon on Elm Street. He later started bottling lager beer and soda water in a plant on Manchester Street, and also delved in the real estate market. Wagner was a genial fellow, and generous with his wealth, supporting German-American organizations including the German School Society and the Turn Verein.”
Children of Edward & Wilhelmina (Seelig) Wagner:
1. +Ottilie “Matilda” Wagner, b 17 Aug 1863 Manchester NH
2. Charles S. “Gustavus” Wagner, b. 13 July 1865 Manchester NH; d 4 June 1893 Manchester NH
Augustus Wagner, son of Ferdinand & Dorothy (Hilbert) Wagner, born 11 Dec 1846 in Langen Bielou, Prussia/Germany; died 11 Feb 1927 at Sacred Heart Hospital in Manchester NH; He lived 60 yrs in Manchester, formerly in Lawrence MA. According to his naturalization papers, he immigrated from Hamburg Germany on 1 September 1857. He married 4 November 1872 in Lawrence MA to Mary Bastian, daughter of John & Kate Bastian. She was b. 4 August 1851 in Nassan, Germany and d. 15 June 1918 in Manchester NH. In 1879 he is shown running a saloon at 801 Elm Street, and also in 1880. Both Buried Pine Grove Cemetery. Resided 332 Orange Street.
Children of Augustus & Mary (Bastian) Wagner:
1. George Augustus Wagner, b.28 May 1873 Manchester NH; d. 7 Sep 1945 Manchester NH; m1) 1 June 1901 in Milton MA to May B. Willey, dau of George F. & Elizabeth (Twombly) Willey; m2) 25 May 1910 in Manchester NH to Anna Martha Barndollar, dau of Frank & Fannie Elizabeth (Nixon) Barndollar. She was born in Pierre, So Dakota. 1896 Grad of Boston University, LL.B. Lawyer; Manchester NH City Solicitor 1899-1909. Chairman Republican City Comm 1910-13; Secretary of Republican State Comm 1914-1916; member Masons; located 814 Elm and 283 Orange Streets, Manchester NH. [partial bio from 1918 Boston University alumni listing]. By 1920 he as Judge of Hillsborough County Probate, Lawyer 814 Elm room 500 h 332 Orange. ONE CHILD: Philip Augustus Wagner, b 24 April 1917 Manchester NH, d. 25 March 1932 age 14 yrs 11 days 1 month suicide by illuminating gas.
2. Minna Wagner, b 6 Sep 1874 NH, d. 14 June 1949 in Manchester NH [at Russell Convalescent Home]. She m.(as his 2nd wife) 23 January 1900 in Manchester NH to Louis/Lewis Harlow, son of Barnabus L. & Catherine W. (Cunningham) Harlow. He was b abt 1868 in Plymouth MA and d. 19 Sep 1937 in Manchester NH. In 1930 living in Milton, Norfolk Co. MA. They had one child, Lewis Augustus Harlow, b 5 May 1901 in MA, and d. Aug 1985 in Boston MA. [In 1932 he was a conductor of Music, res 36 Belcher circle]
—— N E X T G E N E R A T I O N ——-
Ottilie “Matilda” Wagner, dau of Edward & Wilhelmina “Minna” (Seelig) Wagner b. 17 August 1863 in Manchester NH, d. 6 June 1944 in Manchester NH; m. abt 1889 to George Hosser, son of Karl & Charlotte (Grud) Hosser. He was b 20 June 1856 Germany and d. 30 Oct 1928; buried Pine Grove Cemetery. He immigrated 1880, res Lawrence MA and Manchester NH, naturalized citizen in 1892. He naturalized 1892 in Manchester NH. They had one child that died when only a few months old She is buried in the Wagner tomb in Pine Grove Cemetery, Manchester NH with her husband and baby. She is the donor of Wagner Memorial Park, aka “Pretty Park,” as described in this story.
Index of Hillsborough County Wills
George 1928 Manchester NH 43236
Ottilie Wagner 1944 Manchester NH 60946
1900 census living 374 Central Street, he is bookkeeper
States that were married 11 years
1917 Manchester Directory
Hosser George (Ottilie) mgr 32 Manchester h 621 Maple
1937 621 Maple
Child of George & Ottilie (Wagner) Hosser:
1. Ernest Hosser, b 28 July 1907, d. 10 Aug 1907 Manchester NH, buried with his parents in Pine Grove Cemetery, Manchester NH.