Charles Andrews and Martha Gibbons

Main Street looking West. Palmer, Mass.

Charles “Charlie” Henry Andrews, the grandfather of Ruth and father of Blanche Louise, was described by his great grandson as a nice man, very easy going. He was tall, 5’11” and 185 pounds according to his World War I draft registration, with coppery colored skin, black straight hair – what was left of it since he was balding, brown eyes, and he had a big moustache. He chewed tobacco and smoked a pipe. A big Yankees fan, he did not like the Red Sox. He thought the Red Sox were foolish for trading Babe Ruth, and that they were prejudice against black baseball players. In fact, the Red Sox was the last professional baseball team to integrate, although they had the opportunity to sign Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, and other talented black players and chose not to do so. They did not integrate their team until 1959, long after Charlie’s death. Charlie did not particularly like black people from the South. He said there were African-Americans fighting with the Confederates, and shooting at his people, who fought for the North. His father-in-law, as well as several of his and his wife’s uncles fought in the Civil War for the North.

Charlie was born September 11, 1877 in Vernon, Connecticut, the son of George Washington and Jeanette (Freeman) Andrews. He was the second child and first son of his parents’ eleven children. As a young man, he worked as a farm laborer on the local farms. He met Martha “Mattie” H. Gibbons, and they married on January 10, 1895 in Monson, Massachusetts. Charlie was 17 years old, and Mattie was 25. Mattie was pregnant with their first and only daughter, Blanche Louise, at the time of their marriage. They initially lived in Vernon, and moved to Monson by 1900. They were living in Palmer in 1906, where they made their home for the remainder of their lives.

Charlie worked as a laborer and as a teamster. He drove horses, and then drove trucks when they replaced horses and wagons. He worked for Palmer Trucking, Palmer Finishing Company, and as a laborer for the highway department. In 1940 he was working for the WPA (Works Progress Administration) at Westover Field in Chicopee. In 1948 he was a driver for the Palmer Coal Company.

By 1941 he was living at 50 Water Street in Palmer, where he lived until his death. Charlie was 69 years old when he died in his sleep on November 24, 1948 from a heart attack (coronary thrombosis). A secondary cause of death was hypertensive heart disease. He had not been feeling well for a short time before his death

                 Obituary Charles Andrews The Journal-Register (Palmer, Mass.)  December 2,1948

Palmer – Charles Andrews died at his home on 50 Water street last Wednesday after a short illness. He was born in Vernon, Conn., September 11, 1877, the son of George and Janet (Thompson) Andrews and had been a resident of this town for the past 55 years. He is survived by a brother, Herbert Andrews of Manchester, Conn., one granddaughter, Mrs. James DeBois and 10 great grandchildren, all of Palmer.

The funeral was held Saturday afternoon at 3 o’clock at the Beers Funeral Home with  Rev. Enoch Hughes, pastor of the Second Congregational Church, officiating. Burial was in Oak Knoll Cemetery. The bearers were Arthur Salsbury, Sr., Arthur Salsbury, Jr., Leroy Johnson, Frederick, Nathan, and Thomas Wallace.

(Note: Maiden name of his mother is not correct, it was Freeman. However, one of his mother’s sisters had married a Thompson. The pall bearers were all related to Charlie’s wife.)

One of the relatives I would have liked to meet was Martha “Mattie” Gibbons. She was a “spitfire”, did not take anything from anyone. Sounds a little like her DeBoise descendants! She was short; maybe 5’ or 5’1”, brown skinned, and had long hair. She smoked a corncob pipe, and was known for using her shotgun. One of Richard’s encounters with the shotgun was when he was around 3. Older brother Jimmy lived with Charlie and Mattie. Brother Billy, who was around 8, brought Richard with him to his grandparents to see Jimmy’s paper airplanes. Jimmy made airplanes and had them hanging in his room. Jimmy was not home at the time. Billy thought it would be fun to set the airplanes on fire and watch them fly out the window of Jimmy’s room. Mattie caught her two great grandsons having a terrific time, and luckily they had not set the house on fire! She began yelling at them and chasing them with a shotgun, firing buckshot towards them. Richard remembers running from the shotgun, and trying to get through the “picker” bushes near the house. No one was hurt, but James and Ruth were very upset at Mattie for shooting at their children. That was the last time Billy and Richard tried flying burning planes!

Another time she had an encounter with the police who were responding to a complaint among quarrelling neighbors, which involved Mattie. Mattie again brought out her shotgun, and they left her alone. James called her a “witch doctor”. He told a story of driving to the Worcester Police Station and telling the police that they were looking for him, which they were. He insisted, and he was very serious, that she put a curse on him that made him go to the station.

Mattie was born May 2, 1869 in Monson. She was the only daughter of James Wallace and Anna Marie Gibbons. James and Anna were not married, and did not marry until April 15, 1891. James married another woman, and had another family. More about her parents in a later blog! Mattie was an only child, and spent her early years in Brookfield. Her mother worked as a live in housekeeper with several families in the Brookfield area. James Wallace had a great aunt and cousins living in Brookfield, which might have been how they met since there were not many black families in Brookfield or Monson.

Mattie was 17 years old when she gave birth to a daughter, Anna Martha Gibbons Wallace, who was born March 14, 1877. No father was listed on any of Anna’s records. Unfortunately, Anna died when she was 12 years old from diphtheria.

Mattie took care of others. She cared for her mother and father as they became older. She continued to support her daughter when Blanche was a single mom, giving her and her granddaughter a place to live, and watching her granddaughter when Blanche was working. She and her husband took custody of their granddaughter, Ruth, upon Blanche’s death. Mattie insisted that her great grandson, Jimmy, live with her and Charlie following his birth. As difficult as that was for James and Ruth, it was during the Depression, times were tough for them, and Charlie and Mattie were able to provide for Jimmy in a way they could not. They all lived close by, and Charlie and Mattie continued to be supportive to Ruth and her family, even though Mattie did not approve of Ruth’s choice of a husband.

Mattie died January 7, 1943 in Monson from heart failure due to myocarditis – inflammation of the heart muscle, and chronic nephritis – kidney disease. She was 72 years old. She and Charlie are buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, along with their daughter Blanche.

Obituary – Monson Register, January 14, 1943

Palmer – Mrs. Martha G. Andrews of Water street wife of Charles Andrews, died at the home of her granddaughter, Mrs. James DeBoise of Palmer road, Monson, on January 7th, after a long illness. She was born in Monson, May 2, 1870, the daughter of James and Anna (Wallace) Gibbons, and had lived in Palmer nearly all of her life. Her father James Gibbons was a Civil War veteran. Besides her husband, and  granddaughter, there are six great grandchildren.                  

Funeral services were held at the Beers funeral home Saturday, at 2 o’clock, with Rev. Gage Hotaling officiating. The bearers were Arthur Salisbury, Ralph Johnson and Robert Wallace, all of Palmer, and Ernest Andrews of Hartford, Conn. Burial was in Oak Knoll cemetery.

(Note: she was the daughter of James and Anna (Gibbons) Wallace. Salisbury, Johnson, and Wallace were all related to Martha. Ernest was Charlie’s brother.)

DeBoise family members, if you know of other stories about Charlie and Mattie please add them in the comments.

The next blog will be on Charlie’s parents, George W. Andrews and Jeanette Freeman, the parents of Charlie Andrews.

Until next time,


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