m. 26 Sep 1824
m. 31 Aug 1871
Facts and Events
From NEHGR, p. 73:3 (January 1919)
WILLIAM RICHARD CUTTER, A.M. By Hon. Edward Francis Johnson, A.B., LL.B., of Woburn, Mass.
William Richard Cutter, librarian, genealogist, elected to resident membership in the New England Historic Genealogical Society in 1870 and made a life member in 1911, a member of the Council of the Society for the three years 1904-1906, Corresponding Secretary of the Society in 1910 and 1911, and its Historian for eight years (1906-1913), died at his home in Woburn, Mass., 6 June 1918, in the seventy-first year of his age.
He was born at Woburn 17 August 1847, the youngest child of Dr. Benjamin and Mary (Whittemore) Cutter, and was sixth in descent from Richard1 and Elizabeth (Williams) Cutter of Cambridge, Mass., through William2 and Rebecca (Rolfe), Dea. John3 and Lydia (Harrington), Ammi4 and Esther (Pierce), Dea. Ephraim5 and Deborah (Locke), and Dr. Benjamin6, his father. Elizabeth Cutter, widow, mother of Richard1, came to New England about 1640, and died at Cambridge 10 January 1663/4. Her daughter Barbara was the wife of Mr. Elijah Corlet, the Cambridge schoolmaster, and in her will, dated 16 February 1662/3, when she was "aged about 87 years," she stated that she had "sojourned about twenty years" with them. The Cutters lived in that part of Cambridge called Menotomy, which is now the town of Arlington.
Mr. Cutter's father, Benjamin Cutter, was graduated at Harvard College in the Class of 1824, obtained from his alma mater the degree of Master of Arts in course and in 1827 the degree of Doctor of Medicine, and in 1857 received the latter degree also from the University of Pennsylvania. In 1828 he became a practising physician in Woburn, and followed his profession there until his death, in 1864. He was a leader in the educational and civic movements of the times, and, among other activities, was founder of the Woburn Young Men's Library in 1835 and founder and first president of the Middlesex East District Medical Society, which was organized at his house on 22 October 1850. He gave much time to antiquarian and genealogical researches, and began the compiling of the genealogy of the Cutters in New England, which was afterwards finished by his son, William Richard Cutter. His wife, Mary (Whittemore), was a daughter of Amos and Rebecca (Russell) Whittemore and a granddaughter of Amos Whittemore, the distinguished inventor. After Dr. Cutter's death a public memorial service was held, and the citizens of Woburn erected a monument to his memory in the Woburn cemetery, "in testimony of his worth as a man, physician and Christian."
William Richard Cutter was educated in the public schools of Woburn until his fifteenth year, when he was sent to the Warren Academy in that town, where he remained until April 1865. He then spent two years at Norwich University, in Vermont, and received from this institution, many years later, in 1893, the degree of Master of Arts. In the fall of 1867 he entered the Sheffield Scientific School of Yale University as a special student, remaining there about two years. In the meantime, having access to the large college library at Yale, he became interested in the study of history and more especially of genealogy. He spent much time in collecting material for the revision and enlargement of the Cutter genealogy begun by his father, and brought it out in 1871 under the title, "A History of the Cutter Family of New England." A Supplement to this work was published in 1875.
In 1871 Mr. Cutter moved to Lexington, Mass., and while residing there prepared and published a "History of the Town of Arlington," for which much material had been collected by his father, and also communicated articles to the New England Historical And Genealogical Register. One of the most important of these articles was entitled "A Yankee Privateersman in Prison in England, 1777-1779," and contained the journal kept at Forton, England, by Timothy Connor. It was published in several instalments, with notes by Mr. Cutter, in the Register during the years 1876-1879 (vols. 30-33). The original manuscript of this journal is now in the archives of the United States. In Lexington Mr. Cutter was clerk of the Hancock Congregational Church, clerk of the School Committee, and clerk and treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the Cary Free Public Library.
In 1882 he was elected librarian of the Woburn Public Library, succeeding George M. Champney, deceased, and assumed his duties on 1 March. He continued at the head of this library until 1 October 1909, when he resigned as librarian and was made librarian emeritus by the Board of Trustees. He continued work in the Library until 1 March 1912, thus rounding out a full thirty years of service to this institution. Thereafter he acted in an advisory capacity only, being annually chosen librarian emeritus. As librarian, Mr. Cutter recognized his position as a servant of the people of Woburn, and gave freely and willingly of his services, treating all classes with a uniform courtesy which was inbred. He was instrumental in securing some notable gifts for the Library, the Baldwin Collection among others, and it was partly in recognition of Mr. Cutter's services that his brother-in-law, Dr. Harlow, gave the munificent bequest which is now so helpful to the institution. In accepting his resignation as librarian the trustees of the Woburn Public Library expressed "their appreciation of your long and faithful services as librarian and the deep personal interest you have always taken in the welfare of the library. They especially recall your efforts in securing for it valuable additions and benefactions."
Mr. Cutter served as secretary of the trustees of the Warren Academy since 1886 and as clerk and treasurer of the Burbeen Free Lecture Fund of Woburn since 1892. For several years he was a member of the Society of Colonial Wars in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. At the time of his death he was president of the Rumford Historical Association of Woburn and a member of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, with which he had been connected for more than forty-eight years, to whose Register he was a prolific contributor, and to which, as has been stated at the beginning of this memoir, he rendered efficient service also as Councillor, Corresponding Secretary, and Historian in the course of the ten years 1904-1913. His membership in the First Church of Woburn was coeval with the present church edifice, and dated back to 1860.
In addition to the numerous articles which he contributed to the Register, Mr. Cutter was the compiler or editor of many important historical, biographical, and genealogical works. He prepared for publication the last three volumes of the "Memorial Biographies" published by the Historic Genealogical Society, and at the request of the late Charles Francis Adams he edited for the Massachusetts Historical Society part of the second volume of Chamberlain's "History of Chelsea." In 1906 he was chosen by the Lewis Historical Publishing Company to be editor of some of its publications, one of them being a four-volume edition of "Historic Homes and Places and Genealogical and Personal Memoirs relating to the Families of Middlesex County." Of special importance to his native town were his contributions to its local history. His history of Woburn, published in 1890 in Kurd's "History of Middlesex County," contains more facts about that town than any other one publication. His "Contributions to a Bibliography of the Local History of Woburn," published in 1892 as an appendix [Volume 4, p. 179] to "Woburn Births," his annotated "Diary of Lieut. Samuel Thompson of Wobum, Massachusetts, while in Service in the French War, 1758," (worldcat listing) his article in the New England Magazine for February 1890, entitled "A Model Village Library," and his "Woburn Historic Sites and Old Houses," published in 1892, are some of his other printed contributions to the history of the town. He also assisted in editing for publication in the Woburn Journal the first volume of "Woburn Records" and the manuscript list of "Real Estate in Woburn 1st Parish in 1798," and the newspapers both of Woburn and of Winchester contained numerous articles from his pen. His knowledge of local history undoubtedly surpassed that possessed by any other citizen of Woburn. As illustrative of his early bent and his instinct for the preservation of local records it may be mentioned that as early as 1866 he made a transcript of the epitaphs in the first burial ground at Woburn, and thus preserved many family records which otherwise might long since have passed out of existence.
From his father Mr. Cutter inherited his love for this antiquarian and genealogical work. His zeal in its prosecution was indefatigable and unselfish. He was always willing to assist others in their searches in family history, and gave generously to them of his time and labor. His love for the work was superior to any pecuniary reward to be obtained from it, and he never exacted or expected a consideration for any information in his possession. He had also a natural aptitude for genealogy. To him it was a branch of knowledge only so far as it rested on things proven. His "transcendent capacity of taking trouble," which was Carlyle's definition of genius, his refusal to accept hypotheses, and his insistence on facts placed him in the front rank of the genealogical profession. Such was the height of his ambition, and he lived to attain it.
Mr. Cutter married, 31 August 1871, Mary Elizabeth Kimball, who survives him, daughter of Daniel. Their only child, Sarah Hamlen Cutter, was born in 1873 and died in 1890.