Dedham Massachusetts, 1890


DEDHAM
is a fine old town, the seat of justice in Norfolk County, about ten miles southwest of Boston by the New York and New England Railroad, which passes through the eastern side of the town. The northeastern part has two branches of the Boston and Providence Division of the Old Colony Railroad, which has a beautiful station of Dedham granite in the principal village. The town is bounded north by Needham and West Roxbury district (Boston), east by Hyde Park and Canton, south by Norwood and Walpole, and west by Dover. The Charles River forms a part of the northwestern line, and the Neponset the eastern line.

The assessed area is 12,224 acres, including 3,494 acres of woodland. The largest ponds are Buckminster in the southwest, whose outlet swells Bubbling Brook, and Wigwam Pond in the north, which sends its stream to Charles River. Near the latter stream is Mother Brook, discharging into the Neponset its own waters and about one third of the Charles River, drawn from it by a canal one mile in length . This was the first canal cut in this country, having been opened within ten years of the settlement of Boston. Its purpose was to make available for power the fall of about sixty feet between the Charles and Neponset rivers. On this stream are two woollen mills, dye-works, a factory for hosiery, an iron foundery and machine shop. At West Dedham are malleable iron works, a wood-turning mill and furniture factory; at other points are a brass foundery, a tin shop, a carriage and a steam-car factory, piano parts, food preparations and several others, to the number of 44 establishments. The product in food preparations in 1885, as shown by the census, had a value of $188,705; while textile goods were manufactured to the value of $726,500.

The soil of this town is light and sandy, but highly productive under its good cultivation. The 97 farms in 1885 yielded a product valued at $192,294. The largest item was that of the dairies, which had the value of $85,713; the vegetables coming next, at $20,811. The valuation in 1888 was $5,273,965; with a tax-rate of $14.60 on $1,000. The population was 6,641, and the dwellings numbered 1,228. Dedham National Bank has a capital of $300,000; and the Institution for Savings, at the close of last year, had deposits to the amount of $2,000,149. The "Standard" and the "Transcript" of this town are weekly journals of good standing and a fair circulation

There is a complete system of graded schools, which are provided for in thirteen buildings having a value of about $60,000; to which has recently been added a new high school building in a central location in which have been embodied all known improvements. The Methodists have a church here; the Baptists have one at East, and another at West, Dedham; the Congregationalists (Trinitarian) have one at the chief village and one at Islington; the Unitarians have one at West Dedham and one at Dedham village; and the Roman Catholics have just completed here a fine stone church at a cost of about $125,000; while the American Episcopal Church has two in the town, that in Dedham village being a beautiful stone edifice containing a chime of bells. The village has its green, about which are several fine buildings. West of this village are the agricultural grounds and race-course.

[Dedham Station, Old Colony R.R., Prov. Div.]

The scenery of the town is varied and picturesque. The geological structure is sienite, in which asbestos and galena appear. The highest point of land, 400 feet above sea-level, is about one mile southwest of the centre. The view from the Old Powder House of the river and the neighboring scenery is charming. The town generally has an appearance of being well kept, and the roads are noticeably good. In most of the villages the streets are adorned with numerous trees, mostly elms, some of which in Dedham village are a century old. Probably the oldest tree in town is the' "Avery Oak," which in 1636 was already a venerable tree; and it is yet well preserved. The Bussey Farm, and Bussey Bridge, of tragic memory, are in this town. Here also are the Fairbanks mansion, built in the first year of settlement; the Quincy house; the Avery and the Motley homesteads; with later buildings, as the substantial old court house, with its massive columns and yellow dome; the county jail; the house of the boat club on the bank of the Charles; the beautiful building of the Dedham Historical Society; the ample town-hall, erected in 1867 as a memorial of the fallen brave; the old cemetery and the beautiful modern one; and the new library building with its 10,000 volumes, making a list of attractions such as few towns can show.

[Historical Society Building, Dedham.]

This town was originally settled in 1635, and called "Contentment." Its Indian name was Tiot. On the 8th of September, 1636, it was incorporated under its present name, which was adopted out of regard for the old town of Dedham, in Essex County, England, from which several of its founders came. But the original designation, "Contentment," was engraved on the town seal, together with the symmetrical old "Avery Oak." The town at its incorporation embraced Medfield, Needham, Walpole, Dover, and parts of Dorchester, West Roxbury, Hyde Park and Norwood. A subsequent grant of land in the Pocumtuck valley was the beginning of the present town of Deerfield, also. The early records are very full and perfect. The collection of the historical society embraces a great amount of genealogical, as well as historical, treasures. Among the early settlers were John Rogers, Daniel Fisher, Samuel Morse, Ralph Shepard, Francis Austin, Michael Metcalf, John Ellis, Samuel Guild, Captain Daniel Fisher, Thomas Carter and Major Eleazer Lusher.

The first water corn mill in Dedham was constructed in 1640, the first saw mill in 1664, the first fulling mill (on Mother Brook) in 1681. The first school-house was built in 1640, and the first meeting-house in 1637. The latter was a low, thatched building, against which a ladder was kept for the event of a fire. " The greatest tax-payer had the highest seat." The Rev. John Allen, ordained in 1639, was the first pastor; and was followed by Revs. William Adams in 1685; Joseph Belcher, 1693; Samue1 Dexter, 1724; Jason Haven, of Framingham, 1756; and Joshua Bates, 1803. The first minister of the second parish was the Rev. Thomas Balch, ordained in 1736, and succeeded in 1776 by the Rev. Jabez Chickering. The Rev. William Clark became rector of the Episcopal society in 1768; but a few years later was removed for refusing to swear allegiance to the State in the Revolution. The Rev. William Montague became rector of the church in 1791, and remained until 1818. The Baptist society was incorporated in 1811, and the Rev. William Gammell ordained pastor.

The prelude to King Philip's War was enacted here in April, 1671, when the first white man was shot by an Indian in Dedham woods. When the war fairly broke out, the town was prepared; and a watch was kept in the belfry of the new church (built 1673) for the stealthy enemy; but no attack was made. A party of men from Dedham and Medfield, who had taken the field, on July 25, 1676, killed Pomham, and took fifty of his followers; which aided much in bringing the conflict to a successful issue. There is an old Indian burial place near Wigwam Hill. The last person buried there was Sarah, wife of Alexander Quabish, who died in 1774.

A number of soldiers went from Dedham into the "Spanish War" in 1740, not one of whom returned. The town was also well represented at the siege of Louisburg in 1745; and at the news of the battle of Lexington, April 19, 1775, the whole military force of the town repaired to the scene of action. For the war which followed Dedham furnished more than 100 men. The whole number of men raised and mustered into the military and naval service during the war of the Rebellion was 672. Forty-seven of these were lost. They have, as their memorials here, the town-hall and a handsome monument in the cemetery.

Some of the eminent men this town has given to the world are the following: General Joseph Dwight (1703-1765), a distinguished soldier and judge; Joshua Fisher, M.D. (1749-1833), an able physician and naturalist; Fisher Ames, LL.D. (1758-1808), one of the most eloquent orators and profound statesmen of his age; Warren Colburn (1793-1833), a distinguished mathematician; Samuel Foster Haven (1806), archaeologist and author.

pp. 265-266 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890

Gazetteer