Paesiello Emerson

A significant gift to our Museum many years ago was a very large collection of negatives that have been forever known as the Emerson Negatives.  These negatives, both glass and nitrate, some a century old, represent the efforts of one photographer, Paesiello Emerson. The moment has arrived to share the rest of the story about this man who created all these wonderful images of Longmeadow and other places. The diversity of the images his lens caught will surprise you. Although the Emerson family lived at 476 and 450 (the latter house is gone) Longmeadow Street, beginning in 1872, and the name of the side street where their property extended all the way to the river was renamed Emerson Road (from Depot Rd), to honor the family; little was known about Paesiello Emerson, the photographer, until now.

Paesiello was born in Hopkinton Ma., 10 Feb 1832, the oldest child of WilliamGoddard Emerson and Susan (Perkins) Emerson. For reasons not yet uncovered, his father (born 25 Jan 1806), legally changed his name from William Goddard Babcock to William Goddard Emerson by an act in the Massachusetts Legislature, 11 Mar 1828, before his marriage to Susan Perkins. Other children were born to William and Susan but all died, young or without issue, as well as Susan, shortly after the birth of her last child. Paesiello was age 11 at his mother's death in 1843.  Within seven short years, William married a second time to Lovina H. Fay, moved to Holyoke, and had another son, William Francis, while Paesiello remained behind and began work as a bootmaker in Ashland; a nearby town to Hopkinton with many boot and shoe shops.

By 1860 Paesiello was himself married to Nancy Elizabeth Hartshorn, a daughter of a boot manufacturer, and had a son, Chester, who died soon after his fourth birthday. Paesiello in 1863, at age 31, enlisted as a private in the 5th Independent Battery, Massachusetts Light Artillery. His unit was in action at Rappahannock, Wilderness, Spottsylvania, and near Bottoms Bridge on the 8th of June 1864 when Paesiello was wounded by a ten pound parrott shell from which he recovered and saw further action until his unit returned home after the surrender in 1865. (I bet he always had good boots.)

Paesiello resumed his bootmaking in Spenser, MA and his only other child, Alfred E., was born in October 1868. By 1900 many events had taken place that eventually led to Paesiello moving to Longmeadow to live with his half-brothers and half-sister.  His father, stepmother, and their three young children, William, Annie, and Henry moved to Longmeadow in 1872, having purchased the home of Captain Luther Colton at 476 Longmeadow Street now known as the Cooley-Emerson house as it was built by a Cooley in 1760. William Goddard Emerson died 19 April 1887 followed by his wife Lovina 19 Dec 1897. MeanwhilePaesiello's wife, Nancy, had died and his son Alfred had married in Spenser.

Shortly after 1900, Paesiello moved to Longmeadow, and his son and wife moved to Springfield and had two sons, Arthur and Harry. It is at this time when Paesiello's photographic activity began; Paesiello reaching his 70th birthday in 1902. Not only are there extensive photographic images of Longmeadow a century ago, but the collection includes images of Paesiello's hometown of Hopkintown, his later town of Spenser, more than 20 other communities, as well as Bermuda, Cuba, and other distant locales. A passenger manifest in May 1912 documents his voyage to Bermuda at age 80 and explains the many images of Bermuda in our collection. Paesiello's other activities included his memberships with the Springfield Sons of the American Revolution Chapter (based on his Babcock ancestor), membership in the E.K. Wilcox Post Grand Army of the Republic in Springfield, a singer with the Springfield Orpheus Club, and a member of First Church in Longmeadow.

In August 1925 he was presented with the gold-headed ebony cane as the oldest resident in Longmeadow. At his death on 28 Dec 1927, he bequeathed his photographic collection to his half-sister Annie, who later gifted the entire collection to the Longmeadow Historical Society. Paesiello, in addition to his three half-siblings, was survived by his son Alfred E. Emerson, his two grandsons, Arthur and Harry, and a great granddaughter Dorothy. (Half-brother William F. served as a Town Clerk in Longmeadow for 17 years and other town positions; married and had five children.

Half brother Henry never married, was devoted to farming on the Emerson property, having the largest raspberry field in the area as well as asparagus, poultry, and eggs. Henry was the last of the family to live in the Emerson home, alone, until his death in 1943, two years after his sister, Annie, School teacher and historian, also not married, had died).

Paesiello, mistakenly once thought to be an unmarried bachelor photographer until the commencement of this research, not only has two living great granddaughters, Dorothy and Marion, living in Arizona and Texas respectively, but five great-great grandchildren, and great great-great grandchildren. Thus, Paesiello Emerson, boot maker, soldier, photographer, who lived his final years to age 95 in Longmeadow, is reverently remembered with his incredible historic images, in our cemetery where his son and wife Ada and their infant child Inez are buried, in Ashland where he returned for burial beside his wife Nancy (who died in 1881) and their son Chester (who died after his fourth birthday), as well as with his continuing descendants in Arizona, California, and Texas.

By Linda C. Abrams   
Curator, Storrs House Museum
The Town Crier/ October 2010 Edition   


Longmeadow Historical Society

697 Longmeadow Street
Longmeadow, MA 01106
(413) 567-3600
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