Coin celebrates a town’s 250th, and a State Police icon
That creation of the new Massachusetts State Police Museum and Learning Center at Memorial Square in Whitinsville has been a labor of love for John H. “Jack” Crawford and associates is reflected in the extensive array of artifacts and memorabilia they have made available for viewing by patrons on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Mr. Crawford’s work is not done, however. He is now busy promoting a freshly minted commemorative “challenge coin” as a way to raise monies for the museum.
“I already sold two coins at McDonald’s this morning and one man gave me an extra five dollars, which throws my accounting off!” Mr. Crawford said on November 12th just after opening the door of museum, which is situated in the old Whitinsville Bank Building.
The handsome coin pays homage to both the town of Northbridge on its 250th anniversary (1772-2022) and to Samuel Judson Fletcher, an adopted native son, who served as a state constable from 1867 to 1875.
The coin costs just twenty-five dollars and is available at the museum.
Mr. Crawford enjoys telling the story of Samuel Judson Fletcher. Born in Solon, Maine, Mr. Fletcher was educated at Brown University, graduating in 1857 with a degree in Engineering. He enlisted as a private with the Fifteenth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry on July 12, 1861. His brothers, James Brainerd Fletcher and George Fergo Fletcher, and his cousin Edward Fletcher Chapin, all served with him in Company H of the Fifteenth.
Samuel was promoted to first lieutenant and was shot through the jaw at Antietam, but survived. He was promoted to first lieutenant in November of 1862. On July 3, 1863, he was wounded at Gettysburg while leading his men into battle and was presented with a “Sword of Bravery” by the regimental commander. He was then promoted to captain.
Samuel’s brother James died at Antietam at the age of twenty-three, shot through the head; Samuel caught him as he fell. His brother George was killed in the Battle of Gettysburg at the age of nineteen.
Samuel was the only family member to return home alive.
On March 8, 1864, he married Emma A. Luther in Ashland. He mustered out of the Fifteenth on July 28, 1864. Residents of Northbridge elected him to the Massachusetts State Legislature’s Eighteenth Worcester District in 1865. He was appointed a state police deputy constable for Worcester County on July 26, 1867.
In May of 1870, Sam was stabbed and thought killed during a raid in Uxbridge. Several people were arrested and tried for assault.
He continued as a state constable until February of 1875 when the state detective force was established.
In April of 1875 he was appointed a constable in Northbridge.
He and his wife had four children, Nellie, Alice, Bertha and Edward.
Around 1912, the family moved to Gill, Massachusetts, where Samuel Judson Fletcher died at the age of ninety three on July 11, 1924.
He is buried at Pine Hill Cemetery in Sherborn, Massachusetts.
Mr. Fletcher is among those deputy constables of the Commonwealth featured in “The First to Serve,” by Ronald J. Guilmette, who retired in 1999 as a lieutenant colonel in the Massachusetts State Police.
Mr. Guilmette’s book was published in 2018.
The Massachusetts State Police Museum and Learning Center is dedicated to preserving the history and traditions of the nation’s first state police organization. It has been made possible by the generous support of a number of individuals and companies including Vincent Osterman, Access TCA and Sunshine Sign.
About thirty people have already ordered the commemorative challenge coin, of the one hundred that were initially minted.
For more information about the museum, go to mspmlc.org.