Milton and Ye Ragged Robin Tea Shop

By Muriel Bristol | October 13, 2019

In researching other Milton businesses, details of several Milton restaurants have emerged. Miss Elsye Maud Wallace established her Ye Ragged Robin Tea Shop, which appears to have been Milton’s second restaurant. (LaRochelle’s lunchroom in Three Ponds village appears to have been the first). Miss Wallace opened her tea shop around 1914 and it remained a going concern through at least 1922 (and probably as late as 1929).

Ragged Robin - 1917
Ye Ragged Robin Tea Shop Advertisement, 1917

Ye Ragged Robin Tea Shop occupied a refurbished one-story four-room cottage on Plummer’s Ridge, opposite the schoolhouse there. (Site of the so-called “Blue House” that sold at a tax auction this year). Miss Wallace, her sister, Alice J. Wallace, both theatrical ladies, and their widowed mother, Addie M. (Gilman) Wallace, resided initially right in the building. One of the rooms was given over to the tea shop, and the cooking took place in its kitchen. Additional tables stood out on the lawn.

Ragged Robin - Postcard
Ye Ragged Robin Tea Shop, Milton, N.H. Postcard

The ladies catered to the tourist trade traveling up and down the White Mountain Highway or “Boulevard.” It was advertised as being on the Yellow Line to the White Mountains. (The “Yellow Line” refers to the yellow and black bands painted on utility poles to mark the White Mountain Highway’s route).

The Proprietor: Miss Elsye M. Wallace

Elsye Maud Wallace was born in Milton, December 7, 1884, daughter of Dr. William F. and Adelaide M. “Addie” (Gilman) Wallace. Her sister, Lydia J. “Josie” Wallace, was born in Milton, November 15, 1886, but died in Bradford, NH, November 19, 1892. Her youngest sister, Alice J. Wallace, was born in Bradford, NH, July 23, 1893.

William F. Wallace, a physician, aged fifty years (b. NH), headed a Plaistow, NH, household at the time of the Twelfth (1900) Federal Census. His household included his wife (of seventeen years), Addie M. Wallace, aged fifty-one years (b. NH), and his children, Elsie M. Wallace, at school, aged fifteen years (b. NH), and Alice J. Wallace, at school, aged six years (b. NH). Addie M. Wallace was the mother of three children, of whom two were still living. They rented their house.

Elsye M. Wallace of Plaistow, NH, attended the New Hampton Literary and Biblical Institute in 1903. (They listed her residence as Rochester, NH, in 1905). Miss Wallace took positions in teaching initially – mostly voice instruction – but she embarked also upon a singing career.

In October 1904, the Boston Globe ran a contest for a $25,000 educational fund. The contest winner would be the contestant that received the greatest number of ballots (clipped from the newspaper). Her former classmates at the New Hampton Literary [and Bible] Institute promoted her candidacy.

New Hamptonites. Attention! Vote Counter – send in your votes for an old New Hamptonite, Miss Elsye M. Wallace. She’s In to win, so help her along. Enclosed find 40 votes. From one N.H.L.I. Graduate (Boston Globe, October 3, 1904).

Elsye M. Wallace appeared in the Rochester directory of 1905 as a teacher, boarding at 39 Leonard street.

NEWS OF THE GRANGE. What Branches of the Order Are Doing. REPORTS FROM ALL OVER THE STATE. Eastern N.H. Pomona held its twenty-second annual farmer’s festival, July 31, at the New College, Durham, where a basket picnic was served on the lawn, the college buildings and grounds inspected and, at half past two the audience of 300 people was called to order in the Gymnasium by Frank Smith, Farmington, master, who introduced Mrs. Lizzie Lyman Fall, Milton, lecturer, who had charge of these exercises: Invocation by the Rev. John C. Sanderson, Lansing, Mich.; welcome by Prof. F.W. Rane, master of Scammell grange; response by Geo. R. Drake, the first master; Elsye Wallace sang “Under the Rose” and responded to a recall with “The Slumber Boat”; address by H.O. Hadley, State Master, on “The Benefits of Organization”; John McDaniel Lee, recited “Christmas at Black Rocks” and “The Bewitched Cloak”, Miss Wallace sang “The Jean” and there were remarks by Richard Pattee, lecturer of Plymouth State Grange (Portsmouth Herald, August 7, 1906).

Her father, Dr. William F. Wallace, died in Rochester, NH, September 5, 1906. Addie M. Wallace applied for a Civil War widow’s pension, October 15, 1906, based upon her late husband’s service in the Eighteenth NH Infantry.

Elsye M. Wallace taught in Southbridge, MA, during the 1907-08 academic year. She received a salary of $182.00. Southbridge also reimbursed her expense outlay of $15.59 for a set of music charts.

New Hampton, NH, held an Old Home Day festival on August 22, 1908, at which Miss Wallace performed.

The Bristol Cornet Band entertained the crowd with music throughout the day, which concluded with a musical event at Chapel Hall featuring violin and piano soloists and singing of several soprano solos by Miss Elsye M. Wallace of Rochester and Boston.

Miss Elsye Wallace of Boston, MA, appeared as a vocalist in a list of performances of the works of composer Mrs. H.H.A. Beach in 1908. She sang “O Were My Love You Lilac Fair.”

HAMPTON BEACH. Mr. and Mrs. Harry L. Priest and Miss Elsye M. Wallace, formerly of Rochester, were recent visitors in the Radcliff hotel from Plaistow. Miss Wallace is a well known vocalist and a pupil of Mrs. Helen Allen Hunt of Boston (Portsmouth Herald, June 14, 1909).

Elsye M. Wallace taught as a Voice instructor at Buena Vista College in Storm Lake, IA, in the 1909-10 academic year. She appeared in the Buena Vista College Bulletin of that year among its faculty members.

ELSYE M. WALLACE. Professor of Voice. Graduate of New England Conservatory 1906, studied with Mme. Sargeur Goodelle one year, with Mme. Ellis-Dexter three years.

John A.P. Harlan, own income, aged sixty-six years (b. IL), headed a Storm Lake, IA, household at the time of the Thirteenth (1910) Federal Census. His household included his wife (of forty-one years), Laura Harlan, aged sixty-five years (b. OH), and his roomer, Elsye M. Wallace, a voice music instructor, aged twenty-five years (b. NH). Laura Harlan was the mother of six children, of whom three were still living. He owned their house at 406 Otsego street, free-and-clear.

Dreamland Theater - 1908
Dreamland Theater, c1908

Miss Wallace sang at J.W. Greeley’s Dreamland Theater on Congress Street in Portland, ME, in February 1911. The industry periodical Variety reviewed her performance as having “pleased” the audience as a part of the “strongest bill this season.”

PORTLAND, ME. Portland (J.W. Greeley, mgr.; agent U.B.O.; rehearsal, Monday 10). – Australia Four, strong feature; Great Basalera, pleased; Irene Dillon, hit; Catherine Cronin Trio, clever; Rathskellar Trio, well received; Elsye M. Wallace, pleased. Strongest bill this season. Buffalo Bill’s “Wild West” is booked here June 12. HAROLD C. ARENOVSKY (Variety, February 1911).

PORTLAND, ME. PORTLAND (J.W. Greeley, mgr.; agent; U.B.O.; rehearsal, Monday 10). – “Aviator Girl,” strong feature; Allor & Barrlngton, laughing hit; Rathskeller Trio, tremendous; Gregsons, classy; Dan Mason & Co., well received; Elsye M. Wallace, pleased (Variety, March 1911).

Addie M. Wallace appeared in the Rochester directory of 1912, as a widow, with her home at 18 Silver street. Her daughter, Miss Elsye M. Wallace, appeared as having her home also at 18 Silver street.

HAVERHILL. The annual sale and fair of the Ladies’ Society of the Universalist Church was held at the Atkinson, N.H. Town Hall yesterday afternoon and evening. The drama “The Sunny Glen” was presented and Miss Elsye Wallace contributed vocal solos last evening (Boston Globe, November 19, 1913).

AMUSEMENTS. At the Lyric. For this week the Lyric offers a special program of good moving pictures, showing the famous Mutual features, which include the popular Keystone comedy subjects, the “Mutual Girl,” and some of those excellent. American Western pictures and during the week the late Mutual weekly, the latter showing the very latest news events of the country. Miss Elsye Wallace, lyric soprano, has been engaged as soloist, offering selections at each performance. Three shows will be given daily at 2.15, 7.30, and 9. The hot weather of the past week proved, beyond a doubt, that the cold air plant at the Lyric is a real success, for even on the hottest day the theater was cool and comfortable. The Lyric should be an ideal place to drop into at any time, enjoy some good pictures and escape the heat (Fitchburg Sentinel, June 15, 1914).

Ye Ragged Robin Tea Shop – 1914-c1929

Ragged Robin - 1922 - 2 - Postcard
Interior Ye Ragged Robin Tea Shop, Milton, N.H. 2P

Miss Elsye M. Wallace opened Ye Ragged Robin Tea Shop in or around 1914. She provided details of the shop, its creation, and its menu in a 1922 interview (“Making a Living in the Country”: excerpted below). She, her sister, and their mother appear to have lived in the shop, as late as 1917, but later to have run it from Rochester. She continued to pursue her singing career during the winters, working largely as a vaudeville singer, or “theatrical” actress. The tea shop was a fair-weather enterprise, which makes sense, as the automobiles of the time had limited winter capabilities.

The tea shop’s name might have been inspired by the wildflower of the same name – the Ragged Robin (Lychnis Flos Cuculi) – or by a popular musical with the same name of a few years previously.

“Ragged Robin,” the successful Irish play being presented this season by Chauncey Olcott is adding fresh laurels to the wreath of that ever popular star. Mr. Olcott has a budget of new and beautiful songs, there is a fine cast and a wealth of handsome scenery and costumes (Washington Herald, January 2, 1910).

Ye Ragged Robin Tea Shop’s sign featured a silhouette of a robin sitting on a branch.

Addie M. and Elsie M. Wallace appeared together in the Rochester directory of 1917 as having moved to Milton. (The prior directory was that of 1912, i.e., their relocation took place between the editions of 1912 and 1917). Addie M. Wallace appeared in the Milton directory of 1917, as a widow, who had her house at the R.R.T.S. [Ragged Robin Tea Shop], on Plummer’s Ridge, opposite the schoolhouse. Her younger daughter, Alice J. Wallace, had her home there, while her elder daughter, Elsye M. Wallace, appeared as proprietor of Ye Ragged Robin Tea Shop, on Plummer’s Ridge, opposite the schoolhouse.

Rolf Alexander Osterman of Milton registered for the WW I military draft in Milton, June 5, 1917. He was a farm laborer, aged twenty-six years, employed by James F. Doe of Milton. He was of medium height, with a medium build, gray eyes, and light brown hair.

Elsye M. Wallace married in Plaistow, NH, August 16, 1918, Rolf A. Osterman, both of Rochester, NH. He was a soldier, aged twenty-seven years, and divorced. He was born in Lynn, MA, February 16, 1891, son of John L. and Lilly (Scott) Osterman.

Vaudeville - Detail - OS201223
Orth and Coleman’s Tip Top Merrymakers, 1920

William H. Wingate, a shoe factory supply man, aged forty-eight years (b. NH), headed a Rochester, NH, household at the time of the Fourteenth (1920) Federal Census. His household included his wife, Laura M. Wingate, aged forty-seven years (b. NH), his children, Gladys Wingate, a bookkeeper, aged twenty-two years (b. NH), and Carlton Wingate, a machine shop machinist, aged twenty years (b. NH), his mother-in-law, Addie M. Wallace, aged sixty-eight years, his brother-in-law, Rolf Osterman, a theater actor, aged thirty-four years (b. RI), and his sisters-in-law, Alsie M. Osterman, a theater actress, aged thirty-six years (b. NH), and Alice J. Wallace, a theater singer, aged twenty-six years (b. NH). They resided at 18 Silver street.

Ragged Robin - 1920 - ALA
Automobile Legal Association (ALA) Green Book Advertisement, 1920

Alice J. Wallace married in Milton, November 2, 1920, Phillip A. Kimball, he of Union [Village, Wakefield,] NH. and she of Rochester, NH. He was a physician, aged thirty-one years (b. Tamworth, NH); she was in the Theatrical trade, aged twenty-seven years (b. Bradford, NH). Rev. Owen E. Hardy of Milton performed the ceremony. Phillip A. Kimball was born in Tamworth, NH, October 8, 1889, son of Samuel O. and Sarah F. (Gilman) Kimball.

Elsye Wallace and her husband performed with Orth and Coleman’s Tip Top Merrymakers at the Oneonta Theater in Oneonta, NY, beginning in December 1920. The company performed a bill of musical comedies, with vaudeville acts between them. She was billed in the vaudeville portion of the program as one of the Three Queens of Song and, possibly, was a member also of the Faust Trio (performing High-Class Operatic Selections). Oysterman Rolf was one of the Two Nifty Boys (Oneonta Star, December 23, 1920).

The same company performed at The Palace theater in Olean, NY, in March 1921. It was billed as an Engagement Extraordinary, with A Direct Carload of Genuine “Pep,” Palatably Served. It “Introduced” Lewis Orth, Al Coleman, Jack Ryan, Rolf Osterman, George Barker, O.P. Murphy, Miss Elsye Wallace, Miss Lillian, Miss Rose Bentley, Miss Velma Lee, and “a Gay Galaxy of Girlies.” Al Lemons appeared as The World’s Champion Wooden Shoe Dancer. The main event here, as in Oleonta, was Lew Orth’s seven-act Big Musical Scream “In Phun Inn”: “The Palace’s Most Pretentious Program” (Olean Evening Herald, March 21, 1921).

Ragged Robin - 1922 - 1Making a Living in the Country. THE tourist of to-day, who rushes through the country at top speed, is not looking for a big hotel where he may leisurely eat a course dinner but for quiet spot along the highway, where he may be quickly served with delicious vegetables fresh from the garden, cool salads, drinks tinkling in tall thin glasses, or varieties of dainty sandwiches which the wayside tea house affords. Seven years ago, with almost no capital, absolutely no experience, and very little encouragement from my friends, I opened a little tea room on the road to the Mountains in New Hampshire, and called it “Ye Ragged Robin Tea Shop.” The one-story house had only four rooms, but it was over a hundred years old, quaint, and in good condition. Paint and paper did wonders to the interior. In the north room, which I planned to use for my tea room, I put white curtains with blue and white checked gingham overhangings at the windows, and high, straight-backed chairs, as old as the house, were cushioned in the same material. (See page 35). Blue and white rag rugs were used on the painted floor. On one side of the room was a cupboard, in which I placed my dishes. Modern they were, but of a pattern reminding one of the posy-decked china of our grandmothers. Gradually I have added to my store and often my guests exclaim at the “old-fashioned” ware they glimpse through door. Next the cupboard is a tiny fireplace, on whose long mantel are candlesticks reminiscent of Colonial days. An old mirror by the entrance door is favored by ladies who may wish to adjust hat or veil on leaving. As the room was tiny and the capacity limited, I decided to put tables outside under the maples in front of house, where, on hot days the traveler can enjoy the view of hill and lake and the glimpse of gardens through trees.

Ragged Robin - 1922 - 2I HAVE learned by experience, through traveling about the country during the winter months, that the most pretentious meal may be spoiled by unpleasant surroundings and the simplest lunch seem a feast, when served daintily on pretty china, with spotless linen, sparkling glass, and the added brightness of fresh flowers. The kitchen is, of course, the most important part of the ménage. Mine is small, but doors and windows keep it cool and well lighted. As coal and gas are not available, the cooking is done on a big wood-burning range and a kerosene stove. My dishes are all cooked to order, and the wood makes a quick and very hot fire at the time when it is most needed. We depend wholly on tourists, and the number can never even be guessed at. They arrive at all hours, and expect one to be prepared to serve them at a moment’s notice. I am glad to say we have never disappointed them. Business men, hurrying back from weekend visits on Monday morning, are glad to stop for crisp bacon and eggs, and a pot of steaming coffee, or one of those deliciously browned omelets which have helped to make our place popular with them. Tea rooms will always appeal to women, but a wafer-like sandwich and a pot of tea will never satisfy our masculine friends. To win over the men you must provide something more substantial. One of our specialties is good coffee. We make it fresh for every guest, buying the whole bean and grinding it as it is used. Served with thick cream, it is an ever-satisfying accompaniment to breakfast, and a fitting climax to any lunch. 

Ragged Robin - 1922 - 3THE question of help has always been a serious one with me. I believe it is essential that the girls who serve should not only know how to place the dishes correctly on the table, but that they should also possess a pleasing personality, making the guests feel at home. I always supervise the work in the kitchen, so that everything which is served will be up to the standard. We have tried to make our little place attractive on the outside as well, by planting masses of flowers; and among these, of course, are ragged robins. Every year the garden blooms in profusion from early spring until after the frosts. As the demand is also growing for quarters where tourists may spend the night, we have decided to build screened sleeping porches for use this year. Our advertising consists of our road signs, with the little red robin on them, post cards of the house, and our space in the ALA Green Book. But the best advertisement of all is good food, quick service, and home atmosphere. As you leave our little tea room, you will see in the guest book the names of friends from all over this country and the old world; and if ever you come to see us, we hope you will agree with the English gentleman who wrote after his name: “A delightful place to stop for a dainty lunch.” ELSYE WALLACE OSTERMAN

Boston attorney Robert G. Dodge and his wife, Alice W. (Childs) Dodge, stopped at the “Ragged Robin, Milton, N.H.,” on their silver wedding anniversary, September 11, 1925, and posed for photograph there (Spieldenner, 2011 (p. 287)).

Elsye M. Osterman of Milton divorced Rolf A. Osterman of Milton in Strafford County, NH, October 19, 1928. She accused him of adultery. She had her name changed back to Elsye M. Wallace in Strafford County Probate Court in 1929.


Rolf A. Osterman appeared in the Milton directory of 1930, as having a house at Union, R.D. [Rural Delivery]. Elsye M. Wallace did not appear in 1930, nor did Ye Ragged Robin Tea Shop. Her sister, Alice J. (Wallace) Kimball, and mother, Addie M. (Gilman) Wallace, were living in Bristol, NH, clear across the state.

Philip Kimball, a physician, aged forty-one years (b. NH), headed a Bristol, NH, household at the time of the Fifteenth (1930) Federal Census. His household included his wife (of ten years), Alice J. Kimball, aged thirty-seven years (b. NH), his child, Wallace O. Kimball, aged eight years (b. NH), and his mother-in-law, Addie M. Wallace, a widow, aged eighty-one years (b. NH). They resided in a rented household, for which they paid $20 per month. They had a radio set.

Dr. Phillip A. and Alice J. (Wallace) Kimball, their son, Wallace O. Kimball, and her mother, Addie M. (Gilman) Wallace, moved from Bristol, NH, to Union village, in Wakefield, NH, before November 1933. Addie M. (Gilman) Wallace died in Wakefield, NH, November 16, 1933, aged eighty-four years.

Rolf Alexander Osterman of Milton registered for the WW II military draft in Milton, April 27, 1942. He was aged fifty-one years and employed by Mr. William Stanton, 114 Charles Street, Rochester. His mailing address was the Scenic Theater, Rochester, NH. He was 5′ 4″ tall, weighing 174 pounds, with blue eyes, brown hair, and a light complexion.

Elsye Wallace Osterman, of Milton, NH, sold her Ye Ragged Robin Tea Shop property to Harold E, and Elvira E. Raynor, both of Malden, MA, for $1 and “other valuable considerations,” October 9, 1947. (The US Revenue Tax on the transaction was $3.30). It was described as “a certain tract of land with the buildings thereon, called the ‘Tea House,’ situate in said Milton on Plummer’s Ridge, so called” (Strafford County Deeds, 552:129).

Elsye M. Wallace appeared in the Boston directories of 1947, 1948, and 1953, as having a house at 1435 Commonwealth avenue in Allston, Boston, MA.

Ralph Osterman appeared in the Rochester directory of 1948, as an employee of the Colonial Theatre, with a house at 6 North Main street (apartment 206).

Elsye M. Wallace submitted a claim to the Social Security Administration, April 11, 1950. She died December 21, 1953.

Rolf A. Osterman died in Rochester, NH, in June 1969. Alice J. (Wallace) Kimball died in Springfield, MA, July 1, 1971.


Find a Grave. (2011, September 6). Addie Mary Gilman Wallace. Retrieved from

Find a Grave. (2013, August 4). Alice Wallace Kimball. Retrieved from

Find a Grave. (2013, August 4). Elsye Wallace. Retrieved from

Find a Grave. (2011, September 6). William F. Wallace, M.D. Retrieved from

Musical Courier Company. (1908). Musical Courier: A Weekly Journal Devoted to Music and the Music Trades. Retrieved from

Spieldenner, Sharon (2011). Guide to the Greenwood Farm Collection, 1840s to 1993. Retrieved from

Town of Southbridge. (1908). Reports of the Town Officers of Southbridge for the Year Ending February 1, 1908. Retrieved from

Weirs Times. (2017, August 24). Homecoming Day Came to Stay in New Hampton. Laconia, NH: Weirs Times

Wikipedia. (2019, September 24). Lychnis Flos Cuculi. Retrieved from

Woman’s Home Companion. (1922, April). Making a Living in the Country. How These Women Met the Opportunity. Retrieved from

Author: Muriel Bristol

"Lady drinking tea"

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