Howland Road

OK, Mr. History Person,
Since now I know who the different Howlands were [from the Navigator’s “Encyclopedia Fairhaven”], which one is Howland Road named after? Just curious.
Best, —B.F., Arsene Street

To be honest, I’m not quite sure.

The most likely choice was the one who owned the property at the time the Coggeshall Street Bridge was built and the road was run to it from Main Street. That was John H. Howland (born 1834) who was a Selectman during the time Henry H. Rogers was Superintendent of Streets. But his father, John Milton Howland (born 1810) had owned that property previously and his father Capt. John Howland (born 1776) was also associated with that property. (The ship John Howland that rescued Manjiro Nakahama was named after that first Capt. Howland.)

The large red home at the southwest corner of Main Street and Howland Road was the home of at least two of those three John Howlands.

In 1890, the construction of the Coggeshall Street Bridge was begun. On January 11 of that year, Town Meeting voted to accept the layout of a street leading west from Main Street to the eastern end of the proposed bridge. (Oddly, an “Oxford Heights” map printed in the 1895 Bristol County Atlas shows that roadway named Coggeshall Street, but the 1899 Fairhaven directory lists it as Howland Road, from the Acushnet River to Main Street, and has no Fairhaven Coggeshall Street at all. Our Coggeshall Street was run from Adams Street to Alden Road sometime later and the whole stretch became Howland Road in the 1990s.)

Howland Road was named after one of the John Howlands or the Howland family in general.

Fort Phoenix Tunnel?

Dear Mr. History Person,
Is there really a tunnel that runs from Fort Phoenix under the harbor? If so, when was it built and why?
—T.L.P., Acushnet

Time to put to rest one of the most frequently asked Fort Phoenix questions.
Many folks have very strongly held beliefs that there are "secret" tunnels crisscrossing Fairhaven and most of them lead to Fort Phoenix. Some people think there’s a Fort Phoenix to Fort Taber tunnel. Some people maintain a tunnel runs from Fort Phoenix all the way across town to a house in the vicinity of Adams Street and Linden Avenue.

Most of these folks are wrong.

The biggest obstacle to most of the Secret Fort Phoenix Tunnel theories is that the fort was built atop a solid granite ledge. It’s tough to get deeper than a couple of feet anywhere around the fort without hitting bedrock. And before Henry H. Rogers had huge chunks of granite ledge quarried to build the Unitarian Church and Fairhaven High School, there was considerably more rock to the north of the fort than we see today. It even pokes out of the ground again in that high outcropping near Doane Street and in other spots. It would be pretty tough with primitive equipment to bore very far through that stuff, especially in light of obstacle number two.

The second obstacle to the Secret Fort Tunnel theories is the "secret" part. A couple of months ago I wrote about how laying the pipe to run the Herring River underground in 1903-1905 required huge sums of money and years of labor by hundreds of Italian workers using "modern" steam powered equipment, including a narrow gauge railroad for carting around the fill. For the life of me I cannot figure out how people think that in the 1700s or 1800s a tunnel could be dug across town or under the harbor "secretly."

The third obstacle is simply the question why? Why engage in such an expensive and massive undertaking so somebody could get from Adams Street to the fort?

Fourth, how have these tunnels never been discovered and made public during all of the subsequent digging and building, especially during the construction of the New Bedford-Fairhaven Hurricane Barrier in the 1960s?

No, there have never been historical secret tunnels at Fort Phoenix. But there is a modern one. And it crosses under the harbor. And like all tunnels worth their salt, it took a huge amount of money, time and equipment to build.

The coffer dam in the harbor during the building of the Hurricane Barrier. The dark area is water. Coming up from the lower left is the Fairhaven side of the barrier, and yes, those are cars parked on it.

That tunnel is part of the Hurricane Barrier itself. It was built beneath the channel, 35 feet deep, under the gates. It makes it possible for workers from the Army Corps of Engineers to cross back and forth between the New Bedford and Fairhaven sides. If one understands how the Army Corps built a cofferdam in the middle of the harbor, pumped it dry, and drove trucks and earthmoving equipment on the dry river bottom, one will understand how impossible it would have been to secretly build a tunnel to Fort Taber in historical times.

So yes, Virginia, there is a tunnel. But it’s modern. And it was never a secret.

Julia & Amanda Sears

Dear Mr. History Person,
On Union Street near the Fairhaven Post Office I saw a house with a plaque that reads, “Julia A. Sears, built 1911.” Who was Julia Sears? How much did her house cost to build?
—D. McK., New Bedford

I’m going to do this in a roundabout way. Before we get to Julia Sears, we need learn about her younger sister, Amanda F. Sears, who had a much longer association with their adopted town.

Amanda Frances Sears was a Fairhaven schoolteacher in the 1800s. Born 1841 in Dennis, MA, she was the youngest of seven daughters of Capt. Constant Sears and Deborah Hopkins. Her sisters were Thankful, Emily, Mary Ann, Sarah, Betsey and Julia. Older sister Sarah married Capt. Milton B. Crowell in 1857. In 1870, Sarah and Milton Crowell settled in Fairhaven, buying the house that stands on the southeast corner of Linden Avenue and Main Street. It seems that Amanda came along at the same time.

Amanda Sears taught school at the “Pink Schoolhouse” in North Fairhaven, the Old Stone Schoolhouse in Oxford village and was principal at the Center Street Grammar School, which stood next door to the Methodist Church. When Henry H. Rogers built Rogers School, the Center Street School was closed and Miss Sears taught eighth grade at Rogers School, retiring in 1887.

Julia Ann Sears, born in 1839, left Dennis, MA, and for 32 years taught at the Peabody College for Teachers in Nashville, TN. She summered in Fairhaven with her sisters Amanda and Sarah. According to my 1902 Fairhaven street list, Julia and Amanda were living with their sister Sarah Crowell on Main Street, though Julia still taught in Tennesee until 1907. Sarah was a widow at that time, Milton Crowell having died in 1891.

In 1905, Julia Sears bought the lot on the south side of Union Street where a livery stable had once stood. The Fairhaven Star reported her house was being built in June of 1911. I cannot find a record of how much it cost to build.

Amanda Sears died in 1924 and Julia died in 1929. Julia left $700 in trust to the Town of Fairhaven in her sister Amanda’s name and $1000 in trust in her own name, to fund academic prizes for Fairhaven students. These prizes are still awarded today.