By Ken Doherty
This beautifully maintained residence at 38 Pleasant Street, across from the Searles Building, dates back to about the early 1870s. At the time, it was one of the finest houses in Methuen. It was also the home of two of Methuen’s more notable citizens.
It’s not known for certain when the house was built. Deed records show that Charles E. Goss purchased the lot in 1873, but there is no mention in the deed of any existing buildings on the property. It’s likely that he built the house in 1873 or shortly after. The accompanying photo shows the house during the town’s 150th anniversary celebration in 1876.
Charles was a blacksmith by trade and a very prominent public official for many years. He was born in Gilford, N.H., in 1822. He and his wife Mary came to Methuen about 1845. His blacksmith shop was located on Charles Street near the present site of the war memorials. The business was profitable and he soon became a prosperous and well-regarded citizen in the community.
Soon after settling in Methuen, Charles took an active role in public service. In 1848, he accepted the position of town constable. He served in that position for the next 24 years. He also served as a truant officer for many years. Starting in 1856, he took on additional responsibilities as a fire warden.
In 1858, Charles extended his public service beyond Methuen with an appointment as Essex County deputy sheriff. He held that position for almost 40 years until shortly before his death. He also served as an inspector at the Customs House in Boston from 1857 to 1861 and as a gauger of liquors for the Revenue Department for 15 years.
Meanwhile, he also served on a variety of boards and committees in Methuen. He was a member of the board of directors for the Lawrence and Methuen Horse Railway when it was first introduced to the town in 1868. That railway ran down Broadway between Osgood Street in Methuen to Essex Street in Lawrence. He played a role in the planning for the town’s new high school (the East School) at the corner of Lawrence and Park streets in 1868. He then served on the Methuen school committee from 1871 to 1875.
When the town replaced the fire wardens with a Board of Fire Engineers in 1871, the board selected Charles to be their chief engineer, effectively making him Methuen’s first fire chief. In that capacity, he played a key role in the construction of the town’s first underground water system used for fire protection. That system was fed by pumps at the Methuen Company cotton mill on Osgood Street. Charles served on the Board of Fire Engineers from 1871 to 1876.
Sadly, the Goss’ lost their only two children at a young age: 6-month-old Charles B. died in 1850, and 17-year-old Mary Ella died of tuberculosis in 1869. Charles’ wife died in 1891 at age 74. He was in his seventies by that time and was struggling financially. He had retired from blacksmithing many years earlier. His main source of income appears to have been from his duties as deputy sheriff. But then the nation’s economy crashed with the Panic of 1893, causing great distress for many Americans. Charles fell behind on his taxes and mortgage and lost the house to foreclosure in 1894.
The property changed hands several times over the next few years until it was acquired by Edward A. Archibald in 1900. He was the founder and owner of the widely renowned Archibald Wheel Company of Lawrence.
Edward was born in Truro, Nova Scotia in 1838. He came to Methuen in the 1850s where he worked as a carriage maker for Elbridge G. Butters. In 1869, he started a wheel manufacturing business in a former saw and grist mill located on Harris Brook on Salem Street near Pelham Street. It was there that he invented and patented a very popular iron-hubbed carriage wheel. He quickly outgrew that location and moved to a much larger facility on West Street in Lawrence in 1871. Archibald’s wheels were widely known for their strength and durability and were the favored choice of the U.S. Army and fire departments throughout the country for many years
Edward died in 1910 at age 72. His widow, Margaret, continued to reside in the house until just before she died in 1926. They are buried at the Walnut Grove Cemetery. Their many children owned several homes in the Central Street area.
Charles E. Goss died in 1909 at age 87. He was survived by an adopted daughter. The family gravesite is at the Walnut Grove Cemetery. His former home on Pleasant Street is still one of the finer-looking older houses in Methuen.
In 2017, home owner Shirley Sirigos earned the Methuen Historical Society’s Preservation Award. This do-it-yourselfer bought the then run-down 1860s French Second Empire-style house in 1992 and, with help from her son-in-law, brought it back to life – including the mustard-yellow exterior paint which was original to the property.
Ken Doherty is a lifelong resident of Methuen. He served on the Methuen Fire Department from 1980 to 2010. He is the Fire Department historian and a former member of the Methuen Historical Commission. He wrote “Á History of Methuen and its Fire Department” in 1996. He is retired and still living in Methuen with his wife, Paula.