Those buried under the "Witch Bonney" monument
While it’s spooky season and Lowell was dubbed the most haunted town in Massachusetts last year, there’s myth and then there’s the reality.
We’ll be focusing on the illustrious Witch Bonney monument at one of the city’s most beautiful treasures, Lowell Cemetery. This monument was created by Frank Edwin Elwell, also known as “an American Sculptor.” The title of the sculpture is “New Life.” Elwell was the Curator of Sculpture and Ancient Egyptian Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Frank Bacon was the architect of the structure surrounding the female figure.
Photo credit: Wikicommons – Marty Aligata
The statue of a woman with her arms outstretched has been the site of many different activities with people leaving pennies, performing a ritual, and more. There’s legend that on October 31st the dress that clings precariously on her chest loses its grip on reality for just that night. Others have talked about having strong electromagnetic fields around the statue which causes GPSes to malfunction or car key batteries to be fully depleted.
And while none of the 4 people listed on the tomb lived during the witch trials, nor have any of them been identified as acting in a witch or warlock way, they were definitely people who lived in Lowell and had an impact on the community. It is also important to note that Lowell Cemetery didn’t even come into existence until the 1840s.
So, let’s review who these people were:
Photo credit: Life from the Roots blog
Please note that the names of female interred are their maiden names – limited information was available for both of these women.
Arthur Perkins Bonney – no photo or likeness found at this time.
b. July 9, 1828
d. March 25, 1896
Born in Plymouth, Massachusetts, to Isaac and Abigail (Stetson) Bonney. Originally named America, he was granted a name change on May 10, 1848 to Arthur.[i] His mother descended from Governor William Bradford of the Plymouth Colony. During his childhood, the family moved to Lowell and he attended Dracut Academy in Centerville. He undertook his legal training with Thomas Hopkinson and Seth Ames and in 1848, he was admitted to the bar. He became a member of the firm “Hopkinson, Ames & Bonney,” and after Hopkinson was promoted to judge, it became Ames & Bonney. In 1852, he could be found at 19 Appleton Block and was listed as a Justice of the Peace. In 1859, Arthur was promoted to the Massachusetts Supreme Court and opened a practice with Joshua N. Marshall. From 1858, Mr. Bonney held a commission as master in chancery for Middlesex County.[ii] His Civil War draft registration record lists him as living at 2 High Street in 1862, though it does not appear that he served. In February 1868, he was admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States, where he argued several cases.
In 1873, the Lowell & Andover Railroad was organized under his direction. He was active with the First National Bank, where he was president from 1864 to 1880. From 1880 until 1896, he was president of the Merchants’ National Bank. He served as counsel for the Proprietors of the Locks and Canals. He also represented various manufacturing enterprises in Lowell, including mercantile and railway enterprises in the Midwest. He stopped appearing in court in 1875, but served as advisory counsel to a number of corporations and business enterprises in the city. He had been City Solicitor for Lowell and a member of the State Senate.
The losses of his wife and daughter who predeceased him took a toll on his health and he followed them into the grave shortly after they lost their lives with his official cause of death being heart disease. His brother, Milton Bonney, also lived in the city and published a number of small religious books. He was also an honorary graduate of Amherst College.
He married Emeline A. Call on September 5, 1851 overseen by William Barry of the Unitarian Church. Clara Augusta Bonney was their daughter.
Emma August Call (wife of Arthur Perkins Bonney) – no photo or likeness found at this time.
b. August 15, 1828
d. September 14, 1892
photo credit: Lowell High School Broadsides on American Ancestors – accessed at Pollard Memorial Library
Originally born in Hopkinton, NH to Dr. Royal Call and Mary A. (Huntley) Call, Emeline spent most of her young childhood in New Hampshire. Circa 1840, Emma had moved to Lowell and her father, Royal Call, a physician, had a home was valued at 15,000 in 1850. She attended Lowell High School where she appears to have been a very present and successful student (she is listed in the third column of the broadside posted above). She married Arthur in 1851 and their daughter, Clara was born in 1855.
Emma as she appears to have been called later in life lived until 1892 where she died in her home of anemia.
Charles Sumner Lilley
b. December 13, 1851
d. April 16, 1921
photo credit: Biographical History of Massachusetts: Biographies and Autobiographies of the Leading Men in the State, Volume 4 – Samuel Atkins Eliot, 1913
From 1886 to 1888, he had an office in Boston with a partner, G.A.A. Pevey. On November 29, 1893, Governor Russell appointed him an associate justice of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, which he held until 1900. In politics, he was a Democrat. He was a member of the Board of Alderman of Lowell in 1879 and part of the State Senate in 1800, 1881 and 1886. In 1881, he was the chairman of the joint special committee appointed to revise the laws related to marriage and divorce. In 1884, he was a member of the Governor’s Council.
Charles was active in the Lowell community serving as a director of the Union National Bank, trustee of the Central Savings Bank, director of the Lowell Mutual Fire Insurance Company, and president of Lowell Cemetery. In 1905 he wrote What is the Monroe Doctrine?
He married Clara Bonney in April 1891 and they had one daughter, Clara Bonney Lilley.
Clara Bonney (wife of Charles Sumner Lilley)
b. June 19, 1855
d. July 19, 1894
photo credit: Lowell Cemetery
Clara Bonney was born in June of 1855. She attended Lowell public schools and appeared to be an even better student than her mother, with better attendance and rankings. She married April 15, 1891 at her father’s residence on Fairmount Street. Rev. George Batchelder of the First Unitarian Church performed the ceremony in the drawing room and the couple was unaccompanied by either best man or bridesmaid. A reception followed. – Boston Globe April 15, 1891
Her only child, Clara Bonney Lilley, was born in April 9, 1894. She died shortly thereafter of pyaemia, a type of bacterial sepsis. It is unknown if this was related to her experience with childbirth or something else.
The Arthur P. Bonney Estate, Bonney Castle, Lilley Castle – 236 Fairmount Street
Main house – photo credit: Massachusetts Cultural Resource Inventory
Carriaged house – photo credit: Massachusetts Cultural Resource Inventory
At different times in their lives, this family lived and celebrated in what was nicknamed the Bonney and then the Lilley Castle at 236 Fairmount Street.
The castle is one of the earliest of Lowell’s major late 19th century stone mansions. It included cross gables, tall chimneys, a porte-cochere, stained glass transoms and ornamental sandstone panels. Originally erected by Abel Atherton in 1883, it was purchased in 1887 by Arthur Bonney. Following his death, his son-in-law, Charles, continued to live in the house. It was converted into apartments and also had a time were it was used as a rest home. The lovely carriage house was converted to a private residence.