Carlos Slafter.

A record of education : the schools and teachers of Dedham, Massachusetts, 1644-1904 online

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Privately Printed.

Dedham Transcript Press


Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1905,

by Carlos Slafter, in the office of the Librarian

of Congress at Washington.



It is the design of this volume to show the origin and
growth of school privileges in an old New England town.
As the chief factor of every school is the teacher, special
attention has been given to ascertain who have held that
responsible office in Dedham ; for it is not to be doubted that
their influence has shaped in a large degree the moral and
intellectual character of the town. In making up this record
we have often thought how difficult it would be to estimate the
work of this long procession of public servants, under whose
care the minds of Dedham citizens have been nurtured. We
have therefore judged such a record worthy of preservation as
a vital part of our town's history. As constant care was
exercised that fit persons only should have charge of school
instruction, it has been a chief pleasure in preparing this work
to feel that it is done in behalf of men and women whose
names ought not to be forgotten.



In 1634 the territory of Dedham, excepting the grassy
meadows bordering on the Charles and Neponset rivers, and
perhaps a few Indian cornfields, was still covered with a dense
forest. A year later a small number of enterprising men from
Watertown had discovered its value and desired to make it
their permanent home ; and, to express entire satisfaction with
their choice, would have called it Contentment. The next
year, 1636, the town, in answer to their petition, was incor-
porated by the General Court of Massachusetts Bay, but it was
named Dedham. The eight following years were a constant
and hard struggle in subduing wild nature and making the
place a safe and comfortable home for English emigrants. At
the close of that period a little village or hamlet, consisting
mostly of log houses covered with thatch, was clustered
around the spot where the county buildings now stand ; and
the area now occupied by Dedham Village was mostly
cleared and under cultivation. A road connected the little
settlement with Boston by way of Roxbury, and others were
opened through East Street and to the estates occupying the
tillage land of the Central plain. Thus the vigorous town was
planted and had taken firm root in a congenial soil.

We come now to the next step in the quiet and orderly
progress of this young community.

The founders of Dedham evinced in many ways their
capacity for wise forethought. They evidently regarded them-
selves as the builders of a town for whose future character
they would be held responsible. While they made many good
regulations for securing private and individual rights, they
never forgot to plan for the benefit of coming generations.


Accordingly, as soon as they had established homes of a very
primitive style, with very few comforts and no luxuries, they
turned their thoughts to the subject of education ; and there is
no doubt that the presence in the little settlement of several
men who had been trained in the universities of the mother
country had a most favorable influence in shaping the measures
which they adopted.

In the town records of 1638 four persons have ]\Ir. pre-
fixed to their names, to indicate that they had taken the
Master's degree at a University. These were John AUin, the
first minister of Dedham ; Timothy Dalton, the first minister
of Hampton, N. H. ; Thomas Carter, ordained in "VVoburn,
1642, and Ralph Wheelock.

On the second day of January, 1642-3, fifty-one persons
were present at a gLMieral meeting of the Town, in which the
allotment of land was considered ; and in the record of its
proceedings is the following statement :

It was with an unanimous consent concluded that some portion
of land in this entended division should be set apart for publique use:
viz for the Towne, the Church and a fre Schoole ; viz 40 acres at the
leaste or 60 acres at the most.

This " unanimous consent" indicates a truly commendable
liberality and public spirit, and that there were in the town
wise counsellors to control its plans for public improvements.
It also leads us to expect further steps in the same direction ;
and we are not surprised at the memorable action of a town
meeting two years later. This is so fitly described in the
Records that we give it here without abridgment, and also
include the names of those who were present and participated
in the good work.

1644. At a meeting the first day of the Eleventh Month, Assem-
bled those whose names are under written with other the Inhabitants
of this Town : M"" Jn