Revisiting the story of Capt. Jack Early

The following article appeared in the Wellesley Townsman on February 4, 2016.

Researching Wellesley’s history can often be outrageously frustrating. This is probably true for local historians of any city or town. Unless your community’s history is well documented – such as the case with Concord, Salem, or Boston – so much of your time is spent trying to reconstruct the past from snippets of information found within a multitude of online and hardcopy resources. Sometimes you find success, but more often than not, you’re left unsatisfied with the thoroughness of whatever story you’ve tried to uncover.

I have to admit that I was actually quite pleased with my Townsman article on Capt. Jack Early that was published on September 17th of last year. It told the story of a Wellesley-born World War I hero who came home to become the first Commander of the Wellesley Post of the American Legion and the youngest Selectman in the town’s history only to pass away in 1921 at the age of 25. It wasn’t just the subject matter that made the story so great. There were also a lot of primary resources available, which gave the article significant depth.

But then, just a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon an additional resource that makes this article look pathetically mundane. To my utter surprise, there exists a collection of 25 photographs that document Capt. Early’s funeral and burial from beginning to end.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, here’s what I wrote about that part of the story: “Ten days later [after Jack Early’s death], a funeral was held at St. John’s Church in Lower Falls. It very well may have been the most widely observed funeral in Wellesley’s history. Every business in town was closed for its duration. Each flag in Wellesley was put at half-staff. Teachers stopped classes so that students could attend memorial exercises. At the North School (at the current site of Warren Elementary School), the pupils lined Washington Street as Capt. Early’s casket was carried from his family’s home at 93 Washington Street to a horse-drawn caisson and brought down the hill to the church. Following the service, a large procession escorted his remains four miles to the family lot at the Calvary Cemetery in Waltham where he received a burial with full military honors.”

The series of photographs show all that and more. It truly does take you back to that day — September 19, 1921 – and places you among the townspeople who participated in this historic event.

According to the current owner of these photos — a local resident with a deep passion for the history of the Wellesley Police Department – the collection was found in the attic of 156 Walnut Street in the 1950s and eventually ended up in his hands. Who the photographer was, however, remains a mystery.

(The collection also contains a set of images of the funeral procession of Corporal Raymond J. Moore, a soldier killed in action in France in 1918 but whose remains did not arrive back in Wellesley until 1921. His funeral was held two weeks before Capt. Early’s.)

Included here are five of the photographs documenting Capt. Jack Early’s funeral procession from his family home on Washington Street to the Calvary Cemetery in Waltham.

Men line the walkway leading from the family home of Capt. Jack Early at 93 Washington Street. In the distance, schoolchildren can be seen standing outside the old North School (now the site of the Warren playing fields).

Men line the walkway leading from the family home of Capt. Jack Early at 93 Washington Street. In the distance, schoolchildren can be seen standing outside the old North School (now the site of the Warren playing fields).

The casket of Jack Early is carried from his late residence to a horse-drawn caisson on Washington Street.

The casket of Jack Early is carried from his late residence to a horse-drawn caisson on Washington Street.

Veterans and townspeople line Washington Street facing St. John’s Church. Note the gas pumps on the current site of the Gulf station.

Veterans and townspeople line Washington Street facing St. John’s Church. Note the gas pumps on the current site of the Gulf station.

Veterans act as pallbearers following a Solemn High Mass of Requiem at St. John’s Church.

Veterans act as pallbearers following a Solemn High Mass of Requiem at St. John’s Church.

Members of the Wellesley Post of the American Legion firing a three-volley salute in honor of Capt. Jack Early at his burial at Calvary Cemetery in Waltham.

Members of the Wellesley Post of the American Legion firing a three-volley salute in honor of Capt. Jack Early at his burial at Calvary Cemetery in Waltham.

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