Elsie Derby Wells
150 Hubbard Street

Age 82

Interviewed May 19, 1979

Concord Oral History Program
Renee Garrelick, Interviewer.

The picture "The Memories of Antietam" has special meaning to me because when I first came to town, I lived on the Jarvis farm and it was right across the street from where Elizabeth Roberts had her studio. She was finishing the picture at that time as she had started it much earlier. In the picture was my husband's grandfather, Joseph Derby. At the time Miss Roberts did the picture he was very old, and she mentioned she had a hard time getting animation in his face because he was so old. However, he was very much interested in what went on around him in the town of Concord.

In the picture, Mr. Derby is holding the cane that was presented to the oldest citizen of Concord passing from one oldest citizen to another, and he was very much pleased to have this cane. Miss Roberts had given Mr. Derby the early sketches she had done for the picture, which I have now framed and she also gave him a photograph of the corner of the picture in which he was which I also have framed. We have loaned that to the Journal at various times to use in their publications.

Mr. Derby was a citizen of Concord for a good many years and he took active part in all that went on in the town at that time. Mr. Derby was born in 1820 and lived his early years at the old Derby homestead in West Concord, which the house has been torn down and is now a small shopping center. He married Louisa Jarvis first and after her death, he married her sister, Lucy Jarvis. They lived at the Buttrick farm and raised two children there. His grandchild, Jarvis, was also born at the farm. Lucy was a Hubbard and was born in Hubbardville on Sudbury Road. Her grandfather had built three or four houses there and that's why it was called Hubbardville.

Mr. Derby was a trustee of the Concord National Bank. One afternoon he was going into the bank for a meeting and was the first one to use his key to open the door and discovered there had been a robbery. Of course, in those days there were no cars, so the robber had to escape in a horse and buggy. I think they caught him in Natick.

Mr. Derby died in 1914 which was before Miss Roberts finished that painting, and presently the town is collecting money to restore the painting.

Lucy Hubbard Jarvis's father was the son of Deacon Francis Jarvis, who owned the Wright Tavern in 1790. Even before that he had built a house for his bride and farmed the land across from the house. The house was where the Colonnade is now. He farmed the land from the old cemetery up to Nashawtuc Hill. He got tired of farming and he bought the Wright Tavern and established a bake shop there. He had several children born there and among them was Dr. Edward Jarvis, who was quite famous as a specialist on insanity. Deacon Jarvis ran the bake shop for many years there but got tired of that so he bought from Major John Buttrick the Buttrick farm on Liberty Street. He lived there for many years and one of his children married Lucy Hubbard, and that brought in the Hubbard family. It was not unusual for families around here certainly in the first part of the twentieth century to be related to one another.

When I first came to town, my husband's mother said to me, "Don't ever talk about anybody because they're all cousins."

We have portraits of Francis Jarvis, Sr., who was called Deacon Jarvis, and his son, Francis Jarvis, who was my husband's ancestor, and one of Stephen Jarvis, who went to New Orleans and established an apothecary shop there. He died of yellow fever there and his wife came back to Concord to live.

We can trace the Derby family back to the Derby homestead when the first Joseph Derby married Patty Clark. Their children were Joe, Ben, Hen, Nat, Ed, Erb, and one daughter, Martha. They lived on the farm and they all married except the youngest one, Ed, who stayed on the farm until he died at a ripe old age.

Ben Derby had a son, Ben, who became postmaster in Concord and he was very much respected and a well known figure in town.

The Buttrick farm, which Francis Jarvis, Sr. bought in 1831 was passed on to his son and to his grandson and later to his great-grandson. The farm was where I grew up and it stayed in the Jarvis family almost one hundred years. It was a truck farm and we raised chiefly asparagus and apples but also a regular market garden farm. We spent the produce to Boston, it was collected every night. We also had many many milk cows.

It was pretty hard to run a farm in those days and it got harder and harder. During 1921, we had a big ice storm which practically leveled the apple orchard, and Dad Derby got discouraged and just overnight decided to sell the farm. Of course, Stedman Buttrick was living in the house across the street and because of his ancestors having owned the house, he was the logical one to buy the house, so it went back into the Buttrick family.

When I came to Concord in 1921, life was, of course, much slower, and I think probably a little more interesting. One had time to plan and do things, and life was centered mostly around the church. We didn't have movies to go to and in those early days there were not too many cars. We used a horse to go to town and we could put the horse anywhere because there were no cars around. Later when we drove cars, there was no problem with parking; we could put the car anywhere.

We used to go calling. We even wore white gloves and we had calling cards and left them at each house, even if we saw the people.

There was one organization in the church called The King's Daughters, and many people belonged to that. We sewed for the mission mostly. There was also the Concord Charitable Society, which was quite an institution in town. We gave a great many things. There was a need in that time because there were many farmers who worked for other people. They needed many things, such as furniture, food and clothes for the children, and we even furnished teeth to people. We met around in different people's houses and it was always a very grand occasion.

We would dress up in costumes of the older days at almost any occasion but especially in the gala days. My husband and I often took part in a mock wedding celebration they had here, and I wore a gown that was sent from New Orleans to my husband's grandmother for her wedding. My husband wore an old costume that had been in the family for many years. It was really a lot of fun to do that.

Text mounted 5th October 2013-- rcwh.