In 1907, a town committee was charged with publishing a military history of Watertown. Using a variety of sources, including Bond’s Genealogies and the Massachusetts State Archives, the authors compiled service records, information about regiments and battles, and lists of the deceased. A similar volume with a focus on the 17th and 18th centuries was published by the Historical Society of Watertown in 1939. You’ll find both books—Watertown’s Military History and Watertown Soldiers in the Colonial Wars and the American Revolution—in the Local History Room, along with lists of soldiers and veterans. On microfilm, you can consult the 1890 Massachusetts Census Index of Civil War Veterans or their Widows, compiled by Bryan Lee Dilts (1985). Ancestry Library Edition offers additional resources, including draft registration cards and service records, in its military collections.
Digitized materials on the U.S. Army operations in Watertown between 1816 and 1995—the Arsenal, followed by a Materials Research Center and laboratory—include a 1928 history and photographs in Digital Commonwealth collections from the WFPL and the National Archive at Boston. Other histories (e.g. 1977, 2007) are available in print in the Local History Room. The library also houses documents and publications related to the conversion, environmental remediation, and redevelopment of the Arsenal for civilian use after 1995.
Veterans’ Graves Registration
During the 1930s, the American Legion sought to create a record of the gravesites of all deceased veterans who are buried in the United States. This project was soon taken over by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and a registration card including a wealth of information was produced for each veteran. The information from the cards for veterans buried in Watertown cemeteries was transferred by the Historical Society of Watertown to a downloadable spreadsheet to make the data more accessible. Further information can be found here.
Tributes and Memorials
The program from a Welcome Home Day celebration in 1919 is available as a digital file and in the Local History Room. Other print materials of interest are the Commemorative Album of Greek-American veterans published by the Taxiarchae Greek Orthodox Church in 2004 and the program from the 1889 dedication of the Soldiers’ Monument in Watertown’s Saltonstall Park.
In 2017, three photographs of veterans from the library’s collection were professionally restored, preserved, and framed. One depicts a group of Civil War Veterans in Beacon Square (near the corner of Main and Mt. Auburn streets) c. 1912–1938. The others are from the town’s Memorial Day exercises in 1919, with one capturing the May 30 ceremony near the Soldiers’ Monument and the other portraying veterans from Isaac B. Patten Post 81, Grand Army of the Republic. All three photographs are on display in the hallway outside the Watertown Savings Bank Room, on the first floor of the library.