Medfield Massachusetts, 1890

Medfield is a beautiful old town in the western part of Norfolk County, about twenty miles southwest of Boston. Dover bounds it on the north, the same and Walpole on the east, the latter and Norfolk on the south, and Millis on the west. The assessed area is 8,222 acres,— of which 2,174 acres are forests, composed chiefly of maple and chestnut.

Noon Hill and three smaller hills in the southwest mark the angles of a rhomb. Almost the entire northwest corner, from Castle Hill in the north to Mount Nebo in the east, is occupied by high, rocky woods. Charles River forms the entire western line of the town; receiving, as affluents, a large brook from the northeast, and Stop River, coming up nearly to the centre from Norfolk. Vine Brook runs through the centre, where it turns two or three small mills. Through the eastern section flows Tubwreck Brook from Great Spring in Dover, ending in two ponds on the east of Mount Nebo; and the outlet of these— Mill Brook—flows southerly to Neponset River, The rock formation of the town is largely gneiss and granite. The soil is clayey loam.

The aggregate product of the 88 farms, in 1885, was valued at $95,759. The largest factory is the Excelsior Straw Works, which employs about 700 persons, making hats, bonnets and other straw goods. There are a saw mill, a turning-mill, a box and a carriage factory. According to the last State census, findings and trimmings were made to the value of $12,000; iron and other metallic goods, $18,632; wooden goods, $21,570; wood and metal goods, $12,352; and straw goods, $350,000. The value of the aggregate manufactures of the town was $460,081. There were 298 dwelling-houses and 1,594 inhabitants,— of whom 381 were legal voters. The valuation in 1888 was $1,181,130, with a tax-rate of $10.50 on $1,000.

Medfield Centre is the principal village, having its streets finely ornamented with elms and maples. It contains the chief factory and the post-office, and a station on the Framingham and Mansfield line of the Old Colony Railroad. The other station on this road is at Mansfield Junction, where it crosses the Woonsocket Division of the New York and New England Railroad; the latter having also "Farm Station" in the north part of the town. Chenery Hall, a fine brick building for the use of the town and for the public library, was the gift of George Chenery, a native and resident of Medfield. The library now contains upwards of 3,000 volumes. The local newspaper is the "Bulletin." There are a primary, a grammar and a high school, occupying three good buildings valued at nearly $10,000. The Congregationalists, Baptists and Unitarians each have a church edifice.

This town was detached from Dedham and incorporated as Medfield, May 23,1651. The name is supposed to have been formed from a natural feature of the place—the extensive meadow fields along the Charles. In the early days it was the scene of much suffering from the Indians. Early on the morning of February 21, 1675, King Philip, at the head of 200 or 300 painted warriors of the Narragansett tribe, entered the town while its unsuspecting inhabitants were asleep, and commenced a cruel massacre. The inhabitants quickly rallied and drove the savages from the place, but not until 18 persons had been killed and more than 50 dwellings burned. It is said that Philip rode about upon a handsome charger directing the devastation. The Baxter house, built in 1696, at a recent date was still standing at the centre, being the oldest house in the town.

Among the eminent persons who were natives of Medfield are Hannah Adams (1755-1831), Lowell Mason (1792-1872), and Hon. Joseph Breck (d. 1873), for many years president of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society.

pp. 449-450 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890