top of page
NETTLEHAM LINCOLNSHIRE & ISLAND POND VERMONT.
ONE MAN CONNECTS THESE TOWNS. HIS NAME?
JAMES H. O'GORMAN.
When the little boy in the center of this photograph was ten years old he dreamed of visiting the small English town where his grandfather Charles Frederick Maw had been born. That town was Nettleham in Lincolnshire, England, and the little boy was none other than James H. O'Gorman who, today, is all grown up and serves as the IPHS Memorial Chairman and Trustee. His mother, Muriel, can be seen in the photo below. On 23 August 2020 his dream came true. After a wait of more than 44 years, James finally flew to England!
His grandfather, Charles Frederick Maw was born in Nettleham in 1883 to David and Hannah Maw. David worked as gardener to the Bishop of Lincoln, and Hannah ran a busy laundry at 17 The Crescent where she employed eleven ladies to help her. David's own father, John Maw, was a shoe maker with a sense of adventure. John served at the Battle of Waterloo and, despite losing his leg he quickly had a wooden one fitted, became a Chelsea Pensioner, and lost no time in finding a girl to marry. The couple then returned to Nettleham where John took up his old trade of shoe making!
Growing up in Nettleham was idyllic for Charles. He went to school, ate apples from the orchards, played in the safe shallow stream running through the village, and travelled by pony and trap with his father David into nearby Lincoln where he visited the ancient cathedral and, in time, found a job in the high street. But working in a haberdashery wasn't for Charles, he had inherited his grandfather John's sense of adventure and - in the flash of an eye, he was off! Charles emigrated to Canada when just fifteen years old. He tried his hand at logging and railroading. Charles was a good looking fellow, a tall and healthy Lincolnshire lad with bright blue eyes, a mop of blonde hair, and an enquiring mind. It wasn't long before he met an English girl in Canada named Ada. They got married and had the first of their four daughters, Winnifred. In 1923 Charles and Ada crossed the border into Vermont with their daughters Mildred and Dorothy. Sadly, they had to leave Winnie behind for she had died in 1918 at the age of 9, a victim of the Spanish Flu' epidemic that swept across Canada and the rest of the world, killing millions. Today, Winnie's grave can still be visited in the beautifully peaceful churchyard of St. Anne in Richmond, Canada.
Charles worked in Island Pond for decades, it was here another daughter was born, Muriel Norma Maw. He returned only twice to Nettleham to see his parents Hannah and David and his sisters Fanny, and Lillian who also emigrated to Ontario in Canada . After many years of hard work on the Grand Trunk railroad in Island Pond Charles rose up the ranks to became foreman of the roundhouse. He also served as a selectman for a whopping 37 years, the equivalent in England of being a town councilor. Charles also became a lay minister, president of the board of commerce, and head of the YMCA, and was ahead of his time. It was Charles who first suggested a road ought to be built around the lake which gives the town of Island Pond its name. Initially, a few people pooh poohed the idea, saying the road should be called Charlie's Folly but, as the years passed, they had occasion to eat their words. In no time at all, a road was built around the lake. This gave people an opportunity to build homes and camps close to the water, it gave access to the State Park, much of which was created out of land donated by Chief War Eagle, its owner, and the road itself began to attract tourists. So much for 'Charlie's Folly'! Today, the road is called Lakeshore Drive and the homes on it whose gardens fringe the lake are a much needed source of property tax revenue for the town of Brighton which incorporates Island Pond.
As the decades passed, Charles Maw's name became forgotten. His grand work on behalf of the town, and his efforts on behalf of the development of this community had never been acknowledged, and he had slipped into obscurity, never having been recognized for his marvelous achievements. It was Sharon Biron, the president of the IPHS who first noticed Charles Maw's name when she became curator of the historical society's museum. She said: "One name kept cropping up, in every historical document I looked at which related to the development of Island Pond, there was Charles Maw's name. In photos of all the most important events in the life of Island Pond, there appeared Charles Maw! It made me want to find out more about who Charles had been. We already knew the names of the early settlers who came here in the late 1700s. We also knew who the first doctors and teachers were here, and the names of the members of the first masonic and Oddfellows lodges. But none of them had served so fully 'across the board' as Charles Maw. My investigation showed that there was no organization with which he hadn't been connected, there was no charity or local effort with which he had not been involved, including the rail pensioner's society and the court. Charles had served as Justice of the Peace, was for a brief time state's attorney, had risen to become Master of the Lodge, and had even officiated at funerals in his role as lay minister - never mind being the driving force behind the creation of Lakeshore Drive which, by rights, probably ought to be renamed after him. But what is so very remarkable is the emotional and psychological support Charles gave to soldiers from Island Pond. All throughout their service in WWII the men wrote letters to Charles - from their battle positions in Germany, France, and Japan. Charles faithfully wrote back to every one of them, keeping the correspondences up until nearly every man had safely returned home to Island Pond, many of those men worked here on the railroad and it was Charles who kept their jobs open for them. As soon as I read those letters, I thought to myself "What a wonderful man Charles must have been". Lincolnshire Lads like him were few and far between over here. Charles was a rarity and so civic minded, so community minded, we could do with a lot more like him these days please!"
After making her 'historical discovery' Sharon realized that the IPHS Trustee Muriel O'Gorman was none other than Muriel Maw O'Gorman, the last living daughter of Charles and Ada. Sharon then contacted Muriel's son, James O'Gorman, to discuss the idea of a Charles Maw exhibition in the museum. The exhibition was opened to the public by Mike Strait, chairman of Brighton select board in 2019. This paved the way for James O'Gorman to design a fitting and proper memorial for the late Charles Maw, a brass plaque was chosen, and will be sited on the town green in Island Pond this year. Finally, in August 2020 the time came for James O'Gorman to make the trip 'back' across the Pond to his grandfather's home town of Nettleham!
"The church of All Saints in Nettleham where my grandfather and his parents worshipped is beautiful' said James, pictured above with Mrs. Sally Bradley of All Saints Church, Nettleham. "The church is ancient, dates back to the times of Edward the Confessor, and the village has been home to kings and bishops since the medieval period. I visited the cemetery and quickly found the cross headstone of my great grandparents David and Hannah, and I was very hospitably received by Alan & Joyce Bratley who have lived at The Crescent since 1971 after they bought it off a descendent of the Maws. Their home was once my great grandma Hannah's laundry business. Alan and Joyce showed me a certificate that had hung in their home for fifty years, it's a Port Sunlight award certificate recognizing Hannah's skills as a laundrywoman. I was also extremely fortunate to meet All Saint's docent Sally Bradley, whose beautiful cottage is beside the river flowing along the middle of town. Sally was a font of helpful information. I plan to bring my fiance and my mother Muriel 'home' to Nettleham to meet Sally, and Alan and Joyce, so they can see where Charles was born. My mother is 90 and has waited all her life to find out what Nettleham is like, it's quintessentially English, it has the friendliest inhabitants. For me, life has come full circle. Since I was ten years old I wondered about Nettleham, now I've visited and loved it. My grandfather Charles was a special man, I know he was proud of his roots and would love Nettleham as it is today, it is an outstanding village, a very beautiful place much like Island Pond. My grandfather would love to know that I saw his parents' grave and gave their headstone a good clean."
"I'm very proud of Charles Maw's input here, the photos below shows him at a railway retirement evening and giving a speech here in Island Pond in 1967. Charles made so many improvements to Island Pond and helped so many people." said Sharon Biron. "I'm glad his time has finally come, it is right that he be recognized in this way. His efforts were remarkable, in fact, he was a very capable and remarkable man, and it is a tragedy he suffered a stroke before passing away in 1970 when his grandson, James, was just 6 years old. Charles left an impression on James who loved to play in the attic of his grandfather's home on Birch Street. There in the attic were old English flags and magazines from Nettleham, copies of Lincolnshire newspapers, and photographs of Hannah and David. Today, those artifacts are housed in the Island Pond Historical Society museum. Also shown below is a photo taken in Nettleham at the turn of the century, showing Charles' sister Lillian on her marriage day, Amazingly, Charles was also instrumental in my ever meeting James. After losing my husband Mark in a plane crash here in island Pond in August 2018 moving on and meeting someone new was furthest from my mind. But now James and I are engaged as you can see from our photo, below. He is a wonderful man, and he has a wonderful smart bright son, Austin, who graduated with a degree in business from the University of Vermont earlier this year. And now we all have so much to look forward to, including Muriel, who will visit her late father's birthplace for the first time ever later this year. Because of Charles, James is indeed Island Pond's modern day link with Nettleham in Lincolnshire!"
bottom of page