In 1887, Samual C Gale wrote a letter to the Holden town officials stating: “I am now able to say, that unless prevented by some misfortune, I shall commence the present season to erect upon the Chenery lot a building adapted to both High School and Library purposes.”
“This building and ground, together with some books which we hope to add, my wife and I will present to the Town of Holden as a free gift …”
The result of this wonderful gift is the Damon Memorial Building, built in 1888, in honor of his wife Susan Damon Gale. Susan was the daughter of Colonel Samuel Damon.
The building was designed to house both the Gale Free Library and the Holden High School. The first floor was the library with the high school on the second floor. The Worcester architect Stephen C Earle designed the Romanesque style building.
The Damon Memorial was the second high school in Holden. The first opened in 1880 as part of the second floor of the Center School.
The Damon Building served as the high school until Holden High School opened on Main Street in 1926. In 1954 Wachusett Regional High School opened as the first regional high school in Massachusetts. (Assumption College)
One of the model public buildings of the towns of central Massachusetts is the Damon Memorial of Holden. It is architecturally an ornament to the village. The Memorial stands near the Common.
From the tower wall a rough boulder projects, bearing the words ‘Damon Memorial, 1888.’ The building is trimmed with brownstone, uncut as far as possible. The clock tower is an attractive feature of the building. Inside the arrangements for school and library have been made with great care and foresight.
The Memorial was appropriately dedicated August 29, 1888. In his address Mr. Gale, the donor, said: “Thirty-four years ago I came to this village to teach school. The frame school house, still standing and in use, was then new and was a subject of much interest and pride.”
“The only instruction I received from the school committee as to the management of the school was that I should keep the scholars from marking and scratching the new school house.”
“I entirely neglected my duty in this respect. At the end of the winter, marks and scratches were very abundant; and I knew it was all my fault, for no school master ever had better boys and girls.”
“After thinking over my offense for thirty-five years I concluded that the only suitable recompense that I could make was to give the town a new school house, which I accordingly have done.”
“I do not say, however, that there were no other and more serious considerations for the enterprise. Here my wife was born and reared, and this, in the opinion of at least her husband, entitles the place to monumental honors.”
“May I also especially mention her brother, the late Dr Samuel C Damon, a resident of Honolulu, Hawaiian Islands, a greathearted and broad-minded man, with a deep affection for his native town. He it was who first suggested to me the idea of aiding to establish here a public library.”
“It is in memory of him and of her other kinspeople and friends dear to us both, whose homes have been here in this and other generations, that we have sought to do this town some good thing, so important and permanent that the inhabitants will always kindly remember us.”
Charles E. Parker, who accepted the gift in behalf of the town, assured the donors that the simple conditions of the gift would be gladly observed.
At a town meeting, September 26, 1888, Holden formally accepted the gift and tendered its thanks and appreciation of the Memorial to the generous donors.
In addition to the building Mr. Gale added $3,000 for books, and John Wadsworth, of Chicago, sent $100 ‘as a slight recompense to Holden for having furnished him a wife.’
The Holden Library Association presented its library of fourteen hundred volumes to the town and the library opened in December, 1888, with forty-five hundred volumes, to which large additions have since been made. (Crane, Historic Homes, 1907)
Samuel Chenery Damon, son of Colonel Samuel Damon, was born in Holden, Massachusetts, February 15, 1815. He was graduated from Amherst College in 1836, studied at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1838-39, and was graduated at Andover Theological Seminary in 1841. He was an American missionary.
He was preparing to go to India as a missionary and was studying the Tamil language for that purpose, when an urgent call came for a seaman’s chaplain at the port of Honolulu in the Hawaiian Islands. He was ordained September 15, 1841, and he decided to accept the position at Honolulu.
He married Julia Sherman Mills of Natick, Massachusetts on October 6, 1841. Their children were: Samuel Mills, born July 9. 1843, died June 2, 1844; Samuel Mills, born March 13, 1845, who later was minister of finance under the monarchy in Hawaii; married Harriet M Baldwin, daughter of Rev. D. Baldwin, and their son (Samuel Edward Damon, born June 1, 1873) …
… Edward Chenery, born May 21, 1848; Francis Williams, born December 10, 1852; William Frederick, born January 11, 1857, died October 23, 1879.
Samuel Chenery Damon died February 7, 1885, at Honolulu, and his funeral the next day was attended by a very large congregation, including King Kalākaua and his ministers.