Dedham (Mass.).

Proceedings at the celebration of the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the incorporation of the town of Dedham, Massachusetts, September 21, 1886 online

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w"" the Mill house dams & workes thereunto
belonging viz : the one halfe of the sd premises
And Twenty acres of upland yet to be
layd out and Ten acres of Meadow not
yet layd out all which sd premises are
alienated as followeth : viz : the one halfe
to M^ Jn° Allin one fourth part to Nathan
Aldus the other fourth part to John Dwight."

This sale was made also in 1642, as appears by a reference
in the deed from these grantees to Nathaniel Whiting.

John Elderkin, according to Savage, soon after left
Dedham, and after residing in Reading and Providence
he removed in 1648 to New London, Conn., where he built
the church and the first mill, and from thence in 1664 to
Norwich, where he also built the first church and mill.

By deed dated " 29"^ 7 Mo. 1649," and recorded in the
Suffolk Registry of Deeds, Lib. 4, fol. 285, Nathaniel Whit-
ing acquired from John Allin Pastor, Nathan Aldus, and John
Dwight all the rights to the mill which they purchased of
Elderkin ; and Whiting thus became the sole owner.


The town took pains to see that the mill was worked so
as to accommodate the people, for in 1650 the following
entry appears on the records : —

" Severall complaints being made of the
insufficient p'formance of the worke of y" Mille
Nathaniell Whiteing the Miller being present &
tendering a refference to issue the grievances by
twoo men to be chosen by the Towne ; and tvvoo
by himselfe. The Towne accepting thereof make
choice as followeth :

Eleazer Lusher ) chosen by John Kingsbery ) chosen by

Nathaniell Coalburne ) y"= Towne Geo. Barber ) Nath. Whiteing."

Upon the death of Nathaniel Whiting, under his will,
proved in 1683, the mill passed to his wife Hannah; and
under her will, proved in 1714, to their son Samuel; and
under the will of Samuel, proved in 1728, to his son Zacha-
riah Whiting, who in 1732 conveyed it to Nathaniel Whit-
ing his cousin (son of Timothy and grandson of the original
Nathaniel). Nathaniel in 1756 conveyed it to his son
Joseph Whiting, who in 1804 conveyed the same to his
son Hezekiah. In the partition of Hezekiah Whiting's
estate in 1821 this mill privilege was set off to his three
sons, Joseph, Hezekiah, and Charles, and in 1823 Joseph
Whiting and the guardian of Hezekiah and Charles, then
minors, conveyed the same to Jabez Chickering; and here
it leaves the Whiting family, in which for so many years it
had remained. Chickering the same year conveyed to the
Dedham Worsted Factory, which the following year con-
veyed to Benjamin Bussey, and in 1843 the executors of
Bussey's will conveyed the same to John Wiley Edmands,
and in 1863 Edmands and Colby conveyed this privilege to
the Merchants' Woollen Company, the present owners.

At this privilege now stands the large brick mill on
Bussey Street, the largest in the town. At the time the


Merchants' Woollen Company purchased the privilege, the
dam was nearly under the bridge on Bussey Street, across
the brook, but below the site of the original dam ; for as
dams are renewed, or rebuilt, it has generally been the cus-
tom, when it can be done, to build each new dam a little
below the old one, so that the position of the dam has
been several times slightly changed; and in 1874, at the
time of the change in the line of Bussey Street, the present
dam was placed a few rods below the old dam, and the
bridge carried a short distance up stream. All evidence
upon the land of the site of the original dam has disap-
peared; but, fortunately, at the time these recent changes
were made the foundation of the original dam was discov-
ered. It extended across the brook from near the west end
of the south abutment of the present bridge to a point a
short distance west of the west end of its north abutment.
In order to mark permanently this very interesting his-
toric spot, the Committee have, with the consent and hearty
co-operation of the Merchants' Woollen Company, erected
upon the company's land on the east side of Bussey Street,
near the south bank of the brook, a stone, upon which the
following inscription has been cut: —








It was ascertained, upon careful inquiry, by a tradi-
tion resting upon the concurrent statements of several per-
sons of known accuracy and reliability not now living,
whose memory extended back into the last century, that


the Pillar of Liberty was first placed on the corner of
the Meeting-House Common, at the junction of High
and Court streets. It is not known when and by whom it
was removed across Court Street, but it is reasonable to
infer that it was done in 1828, as the inscription upon
the northerly face contains the recital, " Replaced by the
Citizens, July 4, 1828." For this reason the Committee,
with the assent of the Parish Committee of the Unitarian
Church, determined to remove the stone to this spot.

The stone itself, though differing in color and character
from our Dedham ledge-stone, was no doubt originally
obtained somewhere between Dedham Village and West
Dedham, as similar stone can now be found there. Both
faces bearing the original inscriptions were probably ham-
mered and smoothed in 1766, although they now present
uneven surfaces. But on the easterly face there were /ob-
vious tool-marks, showing that an attempt at some time had
been made to sink a panel, which perhaps was abandoned
by reason of the hardness of the stone. The Committee
decided not to touch the sides bearing the inscriptions,
except to bring out the letters by painting them. It would
have been practically impossible to recut the letters with-
out sacrificing their form, which was peculiar to Colonial
times ; the hardness of the stone would prevent any suc-
cessful result from such an attempt. At the celebration of
1836 the letters were made legible by renewing them with
black paint, which will explain the allusion in Mr. Haven's
address ; ^ but this was washed out by the storms of a quar-
ter of a century. The Committee are assured that the
brown paint now used will last much longer ; it was obtained
from Concord, where it has been used for a similar pur-
pose. Following the suggestion of a panel on the east-
erly face, a bronze tablet has been inserted, bearing the in-
scription hereafter given. The stone has been set upon
^ Haven's Centennial Address, 1836, p. 43.


a deep foundation and surrounded by a curb of blue stone
firmly bedded.

The story of this monumental stone is interesting and
instructive, and can be told with historic certainty. It is
the memorial of so brief a period in the years just preced-
ing the American Revolution, that it is easy to miss its
full significance. The Stamp Act, the first of the oppres-
sive parliamentary measures, was passed March 22, 1765.
The news of its passage fired the hearts of the people of
Boston and the surrounding towns with intense indignation.
It was the subject of frequent town-meetings. The Stamp
Commissioner was forced to resign, and a mob sacked the
house of Lieutenant-Governor Hutchinson. The act was
to take effect Nov. i, 1765. That day in Boston was ush-
ered in by the tolling of bells and the display at half-mast
of the flags of the vessels in port; the English ministers
were hung in effigy; business was practically suspended;
the courts were compelled to proceed without stamped
paper as the act required, because none was permitted to
be sold ; and all the officers of the Province were obliged
to disregard the requirements of the act.

Meantime the friends of America in the English Parlia-
ment had been constantly laboring for the repeal of the
Stamp Act. Foremost among these was William Pitt,
afterward the Earl of Chatham. It was he who main-
tained that " America being neither really nor virtually
represented in Westminster, cannot be held legally or con-
stitutionally or reasonably subject to obedience to any
money bill of the kingdom." The Stamp Act was repealed
March 18, 1766, and the news was received in Boston
on the 1 6th of the following May. The repeal was hailed
with the greatest demonstrations of joy. A day (May 19)
was set apart "for general rejoicing, in which the booming
of cannon, the ringing of bells, the decoration of houses
and steeples with flags and streamers, and the release of


prisoners confined for debt, testified the popular feeling-
In the evening there was an illumination of the houses, and
a display of fireworks on the Common, excelling anything
of the kind before seen in New England. A wooden obelisk
was erected under the Liberty Tree, on the four sides of
which were allegorical representations designed and exe-
cuted by Paul Revere. This unfortunately took fire from
the lanterns upon it the same night, and was consumed.

In all these stirring events the towns around Boston
were in full sympathy. In Dedham, the Sons of Liberty
prepared to mark the event by a permanent memorial.
Dr. Nathaniel Ames, the younger, was an ardent patriot
and a leader. He records in his diary that May 21, five
days after the news of the repeal arrived, the stone-cutter
was at work on the Pillar of Liberty. From entries in
the same diary it appears that for eleven or twelve days
in May, June, and July stone-cutters were thus employed.
On June 30 he records, " Daniel Gookin turns the Pillar
of Liberty." This was a wooden column about ten or
twelve feet high, which rested upon the stone as a pedestal.
On the 14th of July the Sons of Liberty voted to raise
the Pillar on July 22. It was raised on that day, in the
words of Dr. Ames, " in the presence of a vast concourse
of people." The Pillar was painted on the 28th of the
same month.

Before the Pillar was raised an effort was made to sur-
mount it with a bust of William Pitt, as appears by the
following entry in Dr. Ames's diary of 1766: —

"July 2. Went to Boston. Bespoke Pitt's Head for Pillar
of Liberty-"

But the bust was not procured upon this request. For
another entry in the same year is as follows : —

" Dec. 15. Sons of Liberty met. Agree to have Pitt's


Dr. Ames writes Feb. 15, 1767, that he "went to Boston
with Mr, Haven and Battle. Spoke Pitt's bust of Mr.

This Mr. Skilling was a well-known wood-carver of that
day, who executed similar busts and figures to adorn the
entrances of some fine houses in Boston. Finally, Feb-
ruary 26, Dr. Ames again went to Boston, and "brought
the bust of Pitt for the Pillar of Liberty."

The original inscriptions in Latin and English were un-
doubtedly composed by Dr. Ames. He was accustomed
to make entries in Latin in his diary, and the style of the
English is characteristic. He writes: "Aug. 6. Howard
altered erepsit into evulsity traces of which alteration are
now discernible.

It strikes one strangely, perhaps, to find on this stone,
erected by the Sons of Liberty, an expression of satis-
faction that their loyalty to King George HL had been
confirmed by the repeal of the Stamp Act. But it must
not be forgotten that it was then ten years before the
Declaration of Independence, and if any entertained the
thought of independence as a contingency which might
occur, certainly no one avowed it. The patriots fondly
indulged the hope, rather, that in the repeal of the Stamp
Act all their trials were ended, and that the oppressive
policy of the British ministers toward America had been
reversed. But their joy was short-lived, and by the pas-
sage of the act imposing a duty upon tea and other articles
passed in June, 1767, the series of measures was continued
which brought on the Revolution.

As the conflict approached, the Pillar of Liberty nat-
urally ceased to be an object of interest. Dr. Ames
records, "May 11, 1769. The Pillar of Liberty was over-
thrown last night." Perhaps this was due to the revulsion
in popular feeling. It is not certain that it was afterward
replaced. But there were those living not many years


since who remembered in the last decade of the eighteenth
century both pillar and bust lying upon the ground, and
the latter being kicked about by the boys of that period.
It is certain that no one took pains to preserve them, and
they are now irrecoverably lost.

We may, however, now feel assured that this historic
stone which stands to-day as the memorial of ante-Revolu-
tionary times is so securely placed that on the ter-cente-
nary of the incorporation of Dedham it will still remain in
good preservation to testify to the patriotism of 1766, and
to its grateful appreciation in 1886.

The following are the inscriptions now upon the stone,
given in the chronological order of their being placed
upon it: —

T Ke Tillar of Liberty

ErccldBytKe Sons of Liberty
mihis ^Aclmty-

Laus DEO RE(Ji,etiminuniaJr
Ykacjims Orci

Inscription of 1766
[westerly face.]


Tke Fillar of Liberty
To HieHonorof Wiui.f ?iTTEfc|?
^y- olKer Patriots wKo faved
AMERICAtVommipcnHing Sfaue
ry^v^comfirm^ ourxaoft loyal
AffecKon^oK^ E o RGB IS Jby pro
cunng aKepealof the i'taiirp^t.

Inscription of 1766

[northerly face.]

EifectedTiei-e July 22,1766,
byDocir Hatk^Ame* ^"f
Col. Ebenr Baifcle,Maj ALijali
Uraper^ olJicKpAiTioisfilondly

lo ^[i e m^Kts of fhe Colonic 5 at
ihsiii d.ay
Heplaced ByiKe Citizens

J«ly 4. iSaS.

Inscrtption of 1828

[northerly face,]



JULY 22, 1766. IT SUPPOR-


Inscription on Tablet of 1886

[easterly face.]


The Powder House upon examination was found to be
in a state of partial dilapidation, though its walls and curved
oaken rafters were in a sound condition. In repairing and
restoring it, the original design has been adhered to as
closely as possible. The shingles have been replaced by
new ones of the best quality, painted on both sides and laid
when dry ; a new solid door, having strap hinges and a
padlock, has been put in; the oak threshold has been
replaced ; all the wood exposed to the weather has been
painted ; the brick walls have been pointed anew where
practicable, and well oiled ; a bronze tablet has been in-
serted in the front wall bearing the following inscription:





The Powder House, as the quaint little brick structure
which crowns the great rock near Charles River has been
called since its erection in 1766, is better known to the
people of Dedham than any other spot within her borders.
It is not the " stern round tower of other days " from which
bards in classic lands have drawn inspiration ; neither has
it been the scene of any great historic event. It is a plain
building, erected by plain people, for a practical purpose,
but little more than a hundred years ago ; yet so thor-
oughly is it identified with the social life of this community
that it has come to be regarded as almost a sacred spot,
dear not only to the present dwellers in the village, but to
the sons and daughters of Dedham now scattered through-
out the length and breadth of the land.

The Powder House was not built, as many have sup-
posed, with any reference to its use during the Revolution-
ary War, though doubtless it well answered the purpose
of keeping the Provincial powder dry in those days when
ammunition was well-nigh worth its weight in gold. But
in 1766 there was no expectation of independence of the
mother country, and but little desire for separation ex-
pressed on the part of the Colonists. The pubhc sentiment
that produced the violent disruption of the ties that had so
long existed between Great Britain and her American Col-
onies was the quick growth of the following years. It,
too, may well be doubted whether the natural beauty of
the location entered at all into the calculations of the
builders. The Powder House was constructed in those
days when everything was sacrificed to convenience and
utility, in compliance with a long-felt desire that the public
ammunition should be stored in some public place, and not
subjected to the risk and inconvenience of being kept on
private premises.

But a few years after the settlement of the town, in mak-
ing provision for the common defence the storage of the


town's ammunition became a question of much importance.
The first mention of the matter which we find in the Town
Records is contained in the following entry : —

"3 of II mo. 1652.

" At a general meeting of the Towne the Selectmen are desired
to issue the case concerning the barrell of powlder delivered to
Ensign Phillips."

The next entry on the subject is as follows : —

"Assemb. 28, 12 Mt. 1661.

" Timothy Dwight is requested to procure a barrill of Powder to
Exchange that barrel that nowe is in the Town Store ; & what it
doe a mount to more than the ould powder is really wourth to
him, the Towne is to make good to him."

Nearly a century later we find the following entries on
the Town Records : —

"May 15, 1745.

" Voted, if it be the mind of the Town to choose a Committee
to procure a Stock of Ammunition by Calling in what is lent out
and procuring what is wanting.

"Voted in ye affirmative.

" Mr. Isaac Bullard, Mr. Samuel Richards, Maj. Eliphalet Pond,

"Feb. 24'!^ 1746-7.

"The Committee chosen to procure a stock of Ammunition for
ye Town make return. That they have laid out one hundred and
twenty five pounds old Tenor and have Procured two barrells of
Powder and Six Duzon of Flints & about one hundred and a quar-
ter of Bullets."

The following entries in the Town Records afford the
only information we possess as to who was the custodian
of this important item of town property : —

"May 27, 1755.

" Paid to Mr. Isaac Bullard for his care and labor about the
Town Stock of Powder, 6 shillings.

"May 22, 1759. To Isaac Bullard for Taking Care of the
Powder, 5 s. 4d."


The first vote on the subject of building a house for the
storage of ammunition which we find on the Town Records
is as follows : —

"March ist, 1762.

" It was put to the Town to see if the Town will build a Powder
house. Voted in the affirmative, and then the Town voted to refer
the further consideration of said powder house to next May

At the May meeting it was voted upon, as the following
extract from the Record will show: —

"May 18, 1762.

" Voted to have the Powder house builded on a great Rock in
Aaron Fuller's land near Charles River. Also The Town made
Choice of Capt. Eliphalet F'ales, Mr. Daniel Gay, & Mr. Ebenr
Kingberry a Committee to Build Said House."

It is evident that this committee took no action in the
matter intrusted to them, as in the warrant for the May-
meeting in 1764 appears the following article: —

"Sixthly, To Know the Mind of the Inhabitants, where the
Town's Stock of Powder &c. Shall be lodged."

At the town-meeting it was "Voted to refer the Sixth
article in the Warrant respecting the Town's Stock of
Powder &c. to next March Meeting."

But it was not until the next May meeting that the town
voted on the question, as will be seen by the following
record : —

"May 20, 1765.

"The town having at their meeting on the I8'^ day of May,
1762, voted to build a Powder House on a Great Rock in Aaron
Fuller's Land near Charles River and appointed a Committee for
that purpose, and said Committee not having complied with the
Request of the Town respecting that Business, the Town did at
this Meeting Vote to join Two more Persons to said Committee,
and did direct them to get Said House erected — To be Eight


Feet Square on the outside and Six Feet high under the Plates,
the Materials to be Brick and Lime Mortar. Then Deacon Na-
thaniel Kingsbury and Capt David Fuller were chose for the other
Two Committee Men."

But the work proceeded slowly, as the first evidence of
any action taken on the part of the committee is found in
the following entry in the town books : —

"Nov, 12, 1765.

" To Capt. David Fuller, three pounds four shillings to purchase
materials for building a Powder House."

Although the Town Records afford no direct evidence
as to the beginning of the erection of the Powder House,
the recently discovered diary of Dr. Nathaniel Ames, the
younger, contains the following entry, it being the only
allusion to the matter which can be found in its ample
pages : —

" June 7'^ 1 766. Powder House begun in Dedham."

From this record of Dr. Ames, and the fact that the
builders began to receive pay for their work early in
1767, we infer that the building was begun and finished
in 1766.

In the town treasurer's books we find the following
entries : —

"March 2, 1767.

"To Ebenezer Kingsbury for Timber & Boards & Carting
Bricks for the Powder House, j£i. 14s. 8d."

"March 20, 1767.

"To Ebenezer Shepard, one pound. Eighteen Shillings & four
pence tliree farthings, for Work done on the Powder House."

" April 6, 1767.

" To Capt. David Fuller, Three pounds. Eight Shillings Eleven
Pence & three Farthings in part of acct. for Materials & work for
the Powder House and Boarding the Workmen."


"May 28, 1767.

"To Capt. David Fuller, Two pounds and three pence three
farthings in full for Materials and Work for the Powder House &
Boarding Workmen."

The last entry concerning the erection and use of the
Powder House in the town books is the following: —

"Feb. 26, 1768.

"To Capt. David Fuller, one Shilling and Two Pence half-
penny for removing the powder &c. to the Powder House Last

This order, which was drawn Nov. 16, 1767, taken in
connection with the entries before quoted, proves conclu-
sively that the Powder House was erected in 1766, and
was first used in the spring of 1767.

In these days of costly public and private buildings it
is an interesting fact to know that the total expense in-
volved in the construction of this historic edifice amounted
to £\2. 6s. 4d. if., from which it may be safely inferred
that neither architect nor contractor had any part in its
erection. Only once since its erection has the old house
been threatened with destruction. In 1859, the building
being sadly out of repair, an attempt was made to secure its
removal by the town ; but the opposition to this measure
was so strong that it resulted in the insertion of the follow-
ing articles in the warrant for the April town-meeting : —

" 8'^ To see if the town will appropriate a sum not exceeding
fifty dollars, to repair and preserve the Powder House, on Powder
House Rock.

" 9'^ To see if the town will sell or otherwise dispose of the
Powder House, on Powder House Rock."

At this meeting, the town having refused to expend any
money in repairs, Article 9 in the warrant was dismissed,
with the understanding that the necessary work involved
in repairing the house would be done by private subscrip-


tlon, which in the course of a few weeks was satisfactorily

This picturesque relic of Colonial times, with more than
a century of sacred associations clustering thickly about
it, and overlooking one of the loveliest of landscapes, is
warmly commended to the watchful and fostering care of
those who in the years to come shall fill our places and
improve upon our work.


Dedham, Sept. 21, 1886.




'T^HIS ancient white-oak tree is doubtless older than the
■^ settlement of the town. It is still a vigorous tree, and
it was chosen as an emblem of the age and vigor of the
town, to be placed upon its corporate seal. It stands on
East Street, in front of the site of the Avery House, one
of the oldest houses of the town, which was taken down
in 1885. An offer of seventy dollars was made for its
timber in building the old frigate " Constitution." This
tree was given by Mr. Joseph W. Clark to the Dedham
Historical Society, by a deed of conveyance, June 29, 1886,
with the purpose and on the condition that it be carefully

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Online LibraryDedham (Mass.)Proceedings at the celebration of the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the incorporation of the town of Dedham, Massachusetts, September 21, 1886 → online text (page 11 of 13)