Sunday, March 04, 2007

Who is Henry Wilson?

Today I ran the marathon course from Hopkinton to Boston College (mile 22). On the side of the course in Natick, a small wooden structure about the size of a shed, caught my eye. It was on the left hand side of the road and I could only make out a few words on the front of the cottage – Henry Wilson and Vice President. I had to know more…

Henry Wilson (February 16, 1812November 22, 1875) was a Senator from Massachusetts and the eighteenth Vice President of the United States under Ulysses S. Grant. Wilson was born Jeremiah Jones Colbath in Farmington, New Hampshire.

In 1833 he had his name legally changed by the legislature to Henry Wilson. He was adopted by a man with the last name Wilson when the Colbath family of twelve could not support itself. Henry Wilson moved to Natick, Massachusetts in 1833 and became a shoemaker.

And what about the shed? It was The Henry Wilson Shoe Shop, located on the corner of West Central and Mill Streets.

The structure is an example of what is called a “ten-footer.” Many homes had these small shops or ells where piecework on shoes was done.