Sunday, August 25, 2013

32469. James Jeffrey

See? There's one of Florence's old surnames right there. But James Jeffrey has enough of a story to tell.

Let's see, where to start. I guess if we begin at the top of his tombstone, we briefly mention his masonic symbol, the Square and Compass. After that we get "Selectman of Hull, 1896-1932." Note that had he lived any longer - he died in 1932 - he probably would have been selectman longer.

I can actually say with surety that he would have been selectman for longer. For James Jeffrey was part of the Old Ring. He worked hand in glove with John Smith, the old "Boss" of Hull. He had his job with the local railroad, but he also was part of the political machine. The funny thing is that when I look back over the history of the town at that time I find that Smith, John Wheeler and John Mitchell reaped most of the spoils from the backwards politics (putting the notion very politely). Others, like Alfred Galiano and James Jeffrey may have had lined pockets, but if so, it was accomplished quietly, as far as the historic record goes. Not so for the other three; read the Town Reports and add up the dollar amounts.

The one thing that many old-timers have often told me about the old political machines and bosses was that they made the trains run on time. Jeffrey had a hand in doing that literally with his day job, and figuratively as selectman. He saw it all, from the late Victorian heyday of the town to the Great Depression, fixed ballots, fistfights in Town Hall, a firemen's strike...everything. But there's no denying one fact. He served his town for more than 35 years as a top political figure. He helped shape the community of today, for better or worse, and my guess is it was the former.

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