Bait Business Reels in a Tale of Partnership  
Thursday, June 30, 2011

“I should have sent this to you when you first mentioned the shiner ponds on Tufts Hill Road,” Carolyn A. Smith said in a recent letter. “Freddy Cozzens was my father’s brother,” she continued, adding a few lines about his bait business.

His mother was Catherine Wilga-Cozzens, and they lived at 9 Eddy St. in Webster, said Mrs. Smith, taking care to pair Grandma and Uncle Freddy to her early years.

“One of my fondest memories of childhood was spending time at Grandma’s with Uncle Freddy. He had shiner tanks in her basement and we’d put feed in them,” recalled the wife of retired Webster police Detective Roger E. Smith.

The tanks had pumps with filtration systems, she said, adding there were tons of shiners in them. “I don’t remember what the feed was but it was truly a feeding frenzy when we dropped the food into them.” Customers were in Grandma’s basement on a frequent basis, she added. Netting the shiners and placing them in bait containers was another of her juvenile pursuits.

Uncle Freddy and Aunt Josephine built their home on Fabyan Road in Dudley, just above the shiner pools, in the late 1950s, Mrs. Smith said. “I remember walking around the ponds with him. He worked at Cranston Print Works Co. in Webster, as sportsman Ronald Mayes first reported. Uncle Freddy was accomplished in many ways,” said Mrs. Smith. “He built his own house, could repair anything, always helped Grandma with her gardens, and was a wonderful uncle to a little girl fascinated with his bait ponds.”

It was a part-time operation, and just now a source of wonder, what with talk of a partnership, always with Caroline’s wonderful uncle and quite a few others as probables.

Richard Spahl, owner of the Ed Spahl & Son Garage on Thompson Road in Webster, said he remembers Freddy Cozzens’ bait shop, even a partnership, but hasn’t any idea “who the other person was.” It was a popular place, he said.

Robert Marshalkowski of Emerald Avenue is on the partnership side of things. Martin Nowak, once one of the town’s most active fishermen, was associated with Mr. Cozzens, he said.

Peter Slota, who started the shiners discussion in the first place, wondering what the pools at the foot of Tufts Hill were originally built for, said he’s heard mostly conjecture. People have accurately associated the abandoned ponds with the production of bait, but sources have not mentioned anyone other that Mr. Cozzens. His widow, Aunt Josephine, said, “Yes, he had a partner,” but couldn’t add much to the discussion. “Everyone’s dead,” she lamented.

Mr. Marshalkowski’s information of a partnership with “Marty Nowak” is about as certain as anything. Everyone says Freddy Cozzens had a partner in what was a successful bait business, but no one says it wasn’t Mr. Nowak. It turns out, though, that an early source to the shiners business, retired Webster DPW Director Francis J. “Lolly” Walkowiak, set the story behind the same facts. Carolyn Cozzens Smith is sticking to her Uncle Freddy comment with four words: “Thanks for the memories!”



Then, Donald Claprood of Holden, a longtime insurance agency owner in that town, confirmed reports about a long-departed relative, Joseph Claprood, who was massacred with Lt. Gen. Custer at Little Big Horn in 1876.

Information found by Mr. Claprood, a native of Webster, identified James Nuttal, Joseph Claprood’s brother-in-law, as one of the massacre story contacts. Donald A. Wayman, active in veterans’ circles, and a town researcher; said there might have been an association between Mr. Nuttal and people in his family because of his Civil War research. Mr. Nuttal also had ties to the Snow family, the identity used by Joseph Claprood to circumvent an age barrier to military service.

Mr. Nuttal was buried in an original veterans section to Mount Zion Cemetery, along with deceased from the Wayman family. Researcher Wayman has some likely theories, but the problem is in searching original facts to the matter.



Mr. Wayman uncovered a blogspot with a reference to Webster’s Mount Zion Cemetery. The objective of John Galluzzo’s effort is a 30-minute visit in every town and city in Massachusestts. He thinks it’s possible, but substitutes are sometimes necessary. His goal in visiting Webster was to find some open shorefront on Webster Lake. “Too bad,” he says. “I really wanted to dip my toes into Lake (Webster).” The impact of honor — a Civil War memorial — proved a good substitute.



Our next-door neighbor at Beacon Park is sporting a new business card these days. John F. White is the vice president of Commercial Lending at Savers Bank in Southbridge.

This means a return to the region after helping to establish a new bank in the western part of the state. His public service ties include Nichols College, the Chamber of Commerce, and a number of help agencies.
-Courtesy Of
Telegram & Gazette

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