Little Stories From a Small Town
by Mabel Knipe
-Frank W. Proctor -
In the early years of the twentieth century, the town of Fairhaven was
beginning to flex its muscles, to estimate its considerable potential, and to chart its own destiny. Mr. Rogers died in 1909. He, who had given the town a unique personality in gifts of civic vision and personal affection, was suddenly there no longer. With all the assets of his munificent friendship, the little town was on its own – looking somewhat apprehensively into a new century.
Yet the citizenry approached their problems with real zest, and, on some fronts, with unusual wisdom. For instance, Fairhavenites had recognized “tourism” as a healthy asset. The great Rogers buildings and the pleasant climate of the town attracted visitors from all over the nation, who stayed – happily serviced – in the lovely Tabitha Inn.
However, the thrust of this potential was sadly threatened in those years by the prosaic problem of the common mosquito! Large areas of the town, especially the marshlands of Sconticut Neck, teemed with these pests which rapidly proliferated, and were beginning to make the out-of-doors summer months a misery. If this state of affairs continued, “tourism” would become a casualty, and loss of revenue from visitors would negatively affect town coffers!
Led by the editors of THE FAIRHAVEN STAR Charles D. Waldron and his son, Henry, a battle was declared against mosquitoes, and coordinated attack was planned.
At that time, there lived in a small home on Sconticut Neck, a remarkable new resident. Frank Proctor had come from Boston where he had been a fine jurist. He had given up his work there because of ill health, finding in Fairhaven, a salubrious climate.
Splendidly educated, he had travelled extensively, was a good navigator, knew astronomy and meteorology, and was a keen observer of political affairs. Fairhaven’s mosquito problem intrigued this man of inquiring tendencies – and on his own, he began a personal study of the mosquito – its habits, breeding places, and life history. He came to
understand well the problems of Fairhaven’s marshlands, and joining in the town’s crusade – became a knowledgeable pioneer in the work of mosquito extinction.
He canvassed outside funds to wage the battle; contributed unstintingly of his own personal means; and gave prodigally of his strength and endurance. It is said that, during those years of combat, Proctor’s individual work and experience more than doubled the pecuniary value of large areas of Fairhaven – which had heretofore been rendered virtually useless by the profligate breeding habits of the mosquito.
Few people in Fairhaven have ever heard of Frank W. Proctor. He is described as “unassuming, studious, withdrawn and physically unimpressive.” Yet, at his death in 1910, he left a legacy of more healthful and pleasant environs to his adopted town – as well as example of self discipline and civic charity.
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These pages and their contents are the property of the Millicent Library,
Fairhaven, Massachusetts U. S.A.
Created by Carolyn Longworth, Library Director
Monday November 11, 1996