Remembering Grandparents Day 2015: Clarence Leroy Webster (1882-1969)

Tin-type photograph of Clarence L. Webster circa 1882

Tin-type photograph of Clarence L. Webster circa 1882

National Grandparents Day falls each year on the first Sunday after Labor Day. The creation of this recognition day was a labor of love for Mrs. Marian Lucille (Herndon) McQuade of West Virginia. In the past I’ve focused on my grandmothers, so this time I am writing about the only grandfather that I actually knew.

“Gramp,” as I called him, was born Clarence Leroy Webster in Canisteo, Steuben County, New York in 1882 to Isaac and Anna Lee (Smith) Webster. His mother died when he was 6 years old. His father remarried when he was 12 years old, and within a few years, while still of a tender age, he was pretty much shown the door and told to fend for himself.

Clarence L. Webster, circa 1887

Clarence L. Webster, circa 1887

He left New York, and attended school in Amherst Massachusetts for telegraph operators. His first assignment was in Amherst MA, but later was transferred to Merrimack NH.

By 1910 he was boarding with Augustus & Ida Gilson of Merrimack New Hampshire. Augustus was the foreman of the local stave and cooper shop. At the same time my Gramp was station agent for the B&M Railroad, in the Reeds Ferry section of town.

Every day he would have had to pass by the house where his future wife, Mattie Kilborn, lived. She was staying with Anson A. & Cynthia L. Platts who had no children, and in the 1910 census call her their “adopted daughter.” Also living in the house is a boarder, Nathaniel Lowell, a laborer in the cooper shop of which the earlier mentioned Augustus Gilson was forman. Mattie was a teacher in the local village school.

Clarence L. Webster circa 1910 at the Reeds Ferry Depot, Merrimack NH

Clarence L. Webster circa 1910 at the Reeds Ferry Depot, Merrimack NH where he was station agent and telegraph operator. His B&M hat and pocket watch, along with the original of this photograph is now part of the NH Historical Society’s permanent collection.

A year after that census, on 17 April 1911 Clarence L. Webster married Mattie Almira Kilborn, and they lived on the corner of Depot and Pleasant Streets, with the Platts until they passed away. My grandparents had a long life together sharing their love of each other, their children, and their town. They had four children: Anna Louise, Berwin Howard, Margaret Katherine, and Ruth Lucille.

My grandfather was a 62-year member of the Odd Fellows, and in fact the Odd Fellows meeting place was right across the street. So it was one of the few places in New Hampshire that you could get there from here! He was a past noble grand of the Souhegan

Harry Wilkin and Clarence L. Webster of Merrimack NH with guns ready to go hunting, circa 1910.

(L to R) Harry Wilkins and Clarence L. Webster of Merrimack NH with guns and dog, ready to go hunting, circa 1910.

Lodge (IOOF) and its secretary for more than 50 years. He also held membership in the Puritan Rebekah lodge. Both of these organizations were important in his day, as social and civil organizations. He attended the First Congregational Church in Merrimack.

Things I do know about him apart from his work and social organizations, is that he was a sportsman who loved to fish and hunt, and who had passed those skills along to my father. He liked animals, and owned both dogs and cats. I remember that he loved to laugh, and that to the horror of my grandmother, he once played piano and harmonica at the same time, to entertain us.

Clarence L. Webster with his son Berwin H. Webster in the 1960s.

Clarence L. Webster (my grandfather) with his son (my father)  Berwin H. Webster in the 1960s.

I remember a few times when we would visit him, and he and my father taking a “walk around the block” when in fact they were going out for a beer together (something my grandmother disapproved of). They’d return and you could smell a bit of the alcohol on their breath.

After my grandmother, Mattie died, my grandfather was ailing and could not take care of himself and the house. He went to live at the Odd Fellows Home in Concord, New Hampshire where he felt comfortable being around like-minded people. My grandfather died in 1969, when I was 16 years old, and is buried beside my grandmother in Last Rest Cemetery in Merrimack, not far from the church they attended. He left two children, 11 grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

I wish he had lived longer, so that I could have known him better.

***ABBREVIATED GENEALOGY OF CLARENCE LEROY WEBSTER***

Matthew Webster & Elizabeth Ashton
Governor John Webster & Agnes Smith    [immigrant ancestor, Colonial governor of CT, elected 1656]
Thomas Webster & Abigail Alexander
Captain John Webster & Elizabeth Dewey
John Webster & Mary Dewey
John Webster & Mary Bliss
John Webster & Ame Martin
John Webster & Polly Graves
Aaron Webster & Nancy Thompson
Isaac Webster & Anna Lee Smith
Clarence Leroy Webster & Mattie Almira Kilborn

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