Our Town Article – Bridgewater Historical Society - January 2012
Mary Johnson Allen
With the recent passing of Mary Johnson Allen, a long time trustee and president of the Bridgewater Historical Society, a brief retrospective on her life, her contributions to Bridgewater and her love of the town and its’ residents seems appropriate.
She was born the daughter of George Douglas Johnson, former first selectmen, and Mathilda Branson Johnson in Bridgewater on Nov. 25, 1918. As a young child, her early memories were going to the creamery with her father with the milk he made. He later raised tobacco and Mary cared for the young plants as did many kids around town. It was hard work. Mary started school at the one room Mallett School and transferred to Burnham School when it opened in 1930. She joined 4H when she was 10 and continued as a member for 18 years. She graduated from New Milford High School in 1936 and married Robert Grover Allen at age 18. They built their home on Wewaka Brook Road and raised chickens during World War II. Her father drove the school bus to New Milford where Bridgewater children attended high school and Bob took over his job. When she was too old to be a 4H member, she became a leader and continued as one for 36 years.
During those years she helped girls with homemaking skills like sewing, canning and creating other useful items. Mary even ran a woodworking course for the boys for a few years because there was no male leader. She was always cheerful and the kids enjoyed learning from her, remembering what she had taught them years later. Often their children became her students and continued the tradition.
Mary and Bob had a son Jimmy who was also in the chicken business, then the dairy business and was known for his Christmas trees. He planted Christmas trees and sold them for years. Mary would help him and made wreaths in her spare time. It was a Bridgewater Christmas tradition to buy your tree at their farm.
Mary’s family always took an interest in the town, it was a way of life, and she became active wherever she was needed in various commissions and committees. Mary served on the zoning board of appeals for 35 years and the recreation commission for 30 years being recognized in 1998 as the “Grand Lady of Recreation”. She was instrumental in creating the recreation facilities we enjoy today.
Another significant contribution was Mary’s many years of service to the Bridgewater Historical Society. She would scavenger tag sales looking for items that deserved to stay in Bridgewater. She used her own money and never sought reimbursement. She encouraged preserving local history with stories and pictures. She acknowledged the changes in town over her lifetime, but believed it should retain its’ rural character and supported land conservation. With all her contributions to the town and the love and caring for its’ people, it’s no wonder she was deemed “Person of the Century” in 2000.