Sunday, May 17, 2009

About Muddy River Musings

About the Author

Ken Liss has been president of the Brookline Historical Society since June 2009. A retired librarian and a former journalist, he has lived in Brookline since 1996.
As a researcher and amateur historian interested in the history of Brookline, MA -- originally called Muddy River -- I've had the opportunity to share some of what I've found through formal programs and presentations. But many of the most interesting things I find are just bits and pieces of Brookline's past, uncovered while digging through sources or, serendipitously, when not even looking.

They may not fit right away into a formal presentation or a broader theme, but these little tidbits help tell the big story of the town, what it is and what it has been.

I started this blog to share, informally, some of what I find as I wander through what I call the thickets of historical research. It will be an idiosyncratic assortment: people, places, and events, big and small, that I've found interesting, amusing, poignant, or peculiar, or that otherwise caught my eye.

I hope others will enjoy coming along on these rambles through the past while adding to their own knowledge of Brookline and its history.

- Ken Liss


  1. Ken,
    I left a comment on a post of yours the other day. I am the owner of 30 Upland Road, the house where Theo Ruggles created her snow sculpture out of snow and went on to an illustrious career as a sculptor. I am eager to learn more about her father, Cyrus W. Ruggles, for whom (we understand) the house was built. All we know is he was the postmaster at the time, as well as a "businessman" and a constable. Can you suggest where else I might look for information on him?

    Bill Weber (

  2. Hi Ken -- I'm working on a story about Brookline history for the TAB this week - can you shoot me an email or give me a call?

    John Hilliard
    Brookline TAB

  3. Hi Ken...Good to see you at Devotion House this morning. Just wanted to remind you of our conversation about Mary Boylston whose name appears on the Revolutionary War Memorial just on the right as you enter Town Hall. I am eager to know more about her and how she warranted that space on the Memorial. Some have suggested that, when they were having trouble recruiting men to meet Brookline's quota to fight in the Revolution, Mary offered cash bonuses and maybe even land grants to folks who stepped forward. I'll let you know what else I discover. Keep me posted. Marcia

  4. Ken,
    I have been on the Brookline Historical Society site dozens of times as I am always doing research on my Chandler ancestors at 411 Washington Street. Your Civil War blog stated that Lt.Col. Charles Lyon Chandler's body was never recovered from his field burial. This explains my unsuccessful efforts to find a grave in Brookline. I hope one day to learn the identity of the young lady whose picture he took into battle. I am preparing to expand the current article on Lt.Col. Chandler.
    Roger Chandler Jr

  5. Hello again Ken,

    I am back a day later. The family of William Shaw came from a town called Mud Creek. The name would become Wolfeville, Nova Scotia. It was named after an early settler named Nathan DeWolfe. He is also a relative of William and I. Also, I grew up in Weymouth which was the second largest town in Massachusetts. The largest was Brookline in 1955. Weymouth is a city today.

    Just a little more info.


    Richard McGuinness

  6. Hi,
    Nice blog! I am a Brookline Realtor and I love much of the historic buildings in Brookline. I am infatuated with The Stoneholm. I am sure that I am not he only one. Do you have any information that you can share about it? Thank you so much.

    Howard Koor

    1. Hi Howard and thanks (and apologies for not responding sooner). The Stoneholm is quite a treasure. It was designed by a Brookline architect, Arthur H. Bowditch, who lived on Pill Hill. It opened in 1909 with such amenities as marble fireplaces, parquet floors, and crystal chandeliers. Bowditch also designed the Coolidge Corner Building (1912) across Harvard Street from the S.S. Pierce Building, and Pelham Hall (1926) on the corner of Beacon and Pleasant Streets.