Harold Bertram Stuart was born on December 3, 1899, at 94 Armandine Street in Dorchester, to Charles Stuart, a carpenter, and Frances Dingwell, both originally of Prince Edward Island, Canada. Immigrants from the Maritime Provinces settled in large numbers in Boston around the turn of the twentieth century, many of them craftsmen facing unemployment thanks to industrialization of the Canadian lumber and fishing industries. Charles and Frances rented this home until Harold was at least 1. By 1910, they moved to 1160 Washington Street with their four sons. This was Harold’s address for more than two decades, sometimes shared with as many as three generations of Stuarts.
In 1913, Harold’s brother Warren, age 6, died at home after a bout with tonsillitis and pneumonia, and in 1917, his sister, Muriel, was born. The siblings ranged in age from infancy to adulthood. About a year after Muriel’s birth, on September 12, 1918, Harold registered for the World War I draft. A bank clerk at Boston’s National Shawmut Bank at 40 Water Street, he listed his mother as his nearest relative. On November 4, 1918, less than two months after he registered, Harold enlisted in the U.S. Army National Guard. A corporal, he was inducted at Camp Meigs, notable for its training during the Civil War of Massachusetts’s 54th, one of the first regiments of the U.S. Colored Troops sent into battle. In December, Harold entered the First Officers Training School Motor Transport Corps Training Department and was selected for Reserve for four months. Discharged on December 20, 1918, Harold saw no overseas service.
Resuming work as a bank clerk, Harold returned home to 1160 Washington Street, where, in 1920, he still lived with his parents, siblings, and a lodger named Anna Dingwell, his mother’s relation. On December 18, 1920, at the Baker Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church in Uphams Corner, Harold married 18-year-old Marguerite Foley, the daughter of Irish immigrants. The couple resided in the Stuart home, where their son, Charles Carlyle (Carl), was born on January 26, 1925. According to city directories from 1922, 1925, and 1926, Harold switched employers during this period, first working at 70 Federal Street in Boston and later at the O.C. Trust Company at 17 Court Street.
On June 15, 1927, Marguerite—called Margaret in her obituary—died at age 24 in Randolph; her funeral was held at home. Harold remarried sometime before 1930. The census for that year listed his wife, 26-year-old Myra L., as a member of the household, along with Harold’s parents, his son, and his niece Frances, whose parents lived in the same three-story building in a different apartment with address 1156 Washington Street. Harold’s second wife was born Myra Davey in 1903 in Prince Edward Island, like his parents. She immigrated to the United States in 1924.
Harold remained a bank teller through 1934. In 1935, he had a dramatic change in career. The 1935 city directory lists his occupation as “chocolate maker,” and through at least 1944 he worked for Baker Chocolate Company, a major employer in Dorchester Lower Mills and the nation’s first successful chocolate mill. (The family’s lodger, Anna Dingwell, had worked there as a “wrapper,” according to the 1920 census.) Around the same time Harold left (or lost) his bank job, he, Myra, and their son moved a few doors down to 1071 Washington Street, across the street from their church, Wesley United Methodist Church. They still lived here in 1940, with Harold a “mill hand” at a “chocolate mill” and Myra employed in “house work, private house.”
For many years, Washington Street vanished from the paper trail, with Harold and Myra’s whereabouts a mystery. In 1957, no address could be located in the city directory for Harold, now a janitor at Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company, but between 1959 and 1963, he and Myra reputedly lived at 54 Norfolk Street. Confusion surrounded this address as early as 1944, however, when a broker named Harold R. Stuart was recorded as living there with his wife, Martha.
Although there was clearly a mix-up in the directory, we determined that Harold and Myra lived out their years in Dorchester. Harold died on November 28, 1972, survived by Myra, his son, and three grandsons. By the time Myra died three years later, a great-grandson had been born. In the end, it seemed members of the Stuart family had always maintained a residence on Washington Street: Myra’s funeral was held at 1156 Washington Street, next door to their first home. Harold and Myra were buried in Dorchester’s Cedar Grove Cemetery.
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Berger, Chris. “Once Decrepit Old Chocolate Factory Now Sweet Rental Lofts.” Curbed, August 26, 2013.
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“Marriage Intentions.” Boston Post. December 7, 1920: 23.
Stevens, Peter F. “Lower Mills Was Once Center of Chocolate Universe.” Dorchester Reporter, May 1, 2014.
“Stuart (Harold B.).” Boston Globe, December 1, 1972: 34.
“Stuart (Margaret).” Boston Globe, June 16, 1927: 22.
“Stuart (Myra).” Boston Globe, October 17, 1975: 41.