Crawford Donation to Library Speaks Volumes  
Thursday, May 17, 2007
His grandfather was the agent at Stevens Linen Works for 40 years, his father was the last agent and first local owner of the industry, and Hugh W. Crawford provided employment through the former Stevens Linen Associates for hundreds of area people.

Crawford tenure at Stevens Linen was probably 90 years, and for most of this time, the public library in Dudley was a family interest. Miss Margaret D. Crawford was the librarian from 1909 to 1931, and others in the family served as trustees, including Pearle L. Crawford, who devoted years and boundless energy to the reading-research center. Her contributions were such that the library was named in her honor.

Now, Hugh W. and Harriet K. Crawford are in the forefront of a special library appeal, pledging a $2 million contribution.

While conversion of the former Town Hall for library use is the hope, last week’s Dudley election was a major step, in which voters authorized a Proposition 2-1/2 override.

The vote awaits action at a special town meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday. A 264-vote plurality in the election hints at a “go” signal, but progress doesn’t come with a guarantee.

In this case, with the promise of a modern library, the Crawfords’ $2 million pledge can’t be overemphasized. It was made likely in honor of Mr. Crawford’s mother, but also from an old Stevens commitment. The existing library sits on land given to the town by the industry.

Make this an observation, but Dudley can buy state-of-the-art library facilities for $1.4 million. Commonwealth grants and an ongoing capital campaign, along with the Crawford munificence, read like a bargain for the town’s library fans.

Alfred Beland, elected in Webster to represent the town on the Bay Path school committee, is a strong advocate of vocational education.

The owner of AB Engineering Co. of Oxford, Mr. Beland is a graduate of Worcester Boys Trade School. His sons, John Beland and Eric Beland, both business associates, graduated from Bay Path Regional Vocational Technical High School in Charlton.

Mr. Beland replaces Charles Tomaso, who made a good showing for selectman at a special election last year.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, the Ed Collier photo in the May 8 Telegram & Gazette — a lone person surrounded by empty voting booths — tells it all.

Turnout at Webster’s election May 7 was about the same as last year’s special election for selectman: something like 1,400 votes. More than 9,000 registered voters stayed home. Citizenship took one heck of a beating.

A lot of people wonder about the history of Jericho, the village in Dudley loosely defined by Oxford Avenue, Charlton Road, and Sunnyside, and with Pine Street for one of the pass-throughs.

Where did the name come from?

It’s a perpetual question, without any season, and Jericho theories abound. The latest: “It was named for an old Indian chief.” Sounds plausible, but I couldn’t find a Chief Jericho in Dudley history.

The question pops up from time to time, most recently during the annual election May 7. Mary Engelhardt posed the query. I’ve never found an answer, and neither have others.

Eva Lachance, Dudley library director from 1931 to 1958, searched the Jericho identity question longer than anyone. Local history was Mrs. Lachance’s avocation. The search for the origin of Jericho became a passion of sorts during her years as librarian, her assistant and successor, Florence Dupre, once told me. She never found the answer.

The longest-standing question in Dudley lore — “How did Jericho gets its name?” — is a real conundrum.

“I’ll be all right,” Peter F. Slota said five days after losing his seat on the Webster Board of Selectmen. “It was just an election. I’ve still got my health, my family, and my business, the important things.”

Mr. Slota added, “I know I did a good job. I’ll take
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