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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was therefore an offshoot from the Dedham set-
tlement. They had also found the fine ponds and
lands at Wollomonopoag, afterwards Wrentham.
In 167 1 it was voted that a plantation be set up
there. They had some negotiations with Philip of


Mount Hope as to his claims of title ; but the settle-
ment went forward, and hither went their sons and
sons-in-law to find their new homes. The affairs of
the new plantation for a time were directed by Ded-
ham men, and so it may be regarded as peculiarly
a child of Dedham ; but in 1673 it was made a sep-
arate town under the name of Wrentham, given, no
doubt, by reason of Mr. Allin's connection with
Wrentham, England.

These new settlements had been planted within
the territory of the original grants to the Dedham
proprietors. They planted another settlement, a
hundred miles away in the wilderness. In 165 1
the Gjeneral Court, with the assent of the Dedham
proprietors, had granted two thousand acres of land
for the Indian town at Natick. A dispute after-
wards arose respecting the boundaries of this grant,
which was the subject of a lawsuit that resulted
substantially in favor of Natick. To compensate
Dedham, the Court granted to the proprietors eight
thousand acres of unlocated lands, wherever in the
colony they might select them. Accordingly they
sent out messengers to make explorations. The
" chestnut country," near Lancaster, was reported
to have good land, but hard to cultivate, and there
were not enough meadows. John Fairbanks, an
enterprising explorer, informed the Selectmen of
some good land twelve miles from Hadley; and he,
with Lieutenant Daniel Fisher, was sent out to find
it, and they returned with the report of a good land.


This was Pocumtuck, the present town of Deerfield.
Whoever has seen the lovely valley where old Deer-
field lies, with the broad interval and the graceful
sweep of the river around it, must applaud with
enthusiasm the choice of the Dedham explorers.
In 1670 the proprietors assembled at Dedham, laid
out the town in lots, and selected a site for the
meeting-house. All the proprietors were Dedham
men, excepting Captain Pynchon, of Springfield,
and four others. In 1672 further orders were passed
for organizing the settlement. But the remoteness
of Pocumtuck rendered its becoming a separate
town inevitable. The shares of the proprietors
were finally sold, and Deerfield became a separate
town in 1682.

Edward Johnson, in his history entitled "Wonder
Working Providence of Zion's Saviour," writing
about 1 65 1, thus describes the Dedham settle-
ment : —

" Dedham is an inland town about ten miles from Bos-
ton, well watered with many pleasant streams, abounding
with garden fruits, fitly to supply the market of the most
populous town, whose coyne and commodities allure the
inhabitants of this town to make many a long walk. They
consist of about a hundred families, generally given to
husbandry, and through the blessing of God are much
increased, ready to swarm and settle on the building of
another town more to the inland. They gathered into a
church at their first settling ; for, indeed, as this was their
chief errand, so it was the first thing they ordinarily minded
to pitch their tabernacles near the Lord's tent. . . . They


have continued in much love and unity from their first
foundation, hitherto translating the close clouded woods
into goodly cornfields, and adding much comfort to the
lonesome travellers in their solitary journey to Canectico,
by eyeing the habitations of God's people in their way,
ready to administer refreshing to the weary."

Such was the work accomplished by the emigrant
settlers during a period of a quarter of a century.
When we add to these achievements the hand-to-
hand contest with the forest and the soil, the care
of the herds upon which their subsistence de-
pended, the monthly assembly for military training
and the weekly lecture, the settlement of boundary
lines and of Indian claims, we are able to form
some estimate of the variety and magnitude of their
labors. Lord Bacon says that in " the true marshal-
ling of the degrees of honor, the first place is to be
given to the founders of States and Common-
wealths." Let then the highest tribute of this day
be paid to the men who planted here in the wilder-
ness the best civilization of their time, illumined
by a simple and genuine religious faith.

We naturally desire to know something of the
personal history and character of these men. First
in order of precedence should be named Edward
Alleyn, the leader of the pioneers. Of his English
history we know nothing. He was the first Town
Clerk and the first Deputy to the General Court;
and he died suddenly while attending the Court in
1642. He apparently was a layman, and his brief


career was sufficient to stamp his name indelibly
upon our history.

John Dwight was an active citizen, and was a
Selectman for sixteen years. He brought with him
from England his son Timothy, a child of five years,
who, when he reached manhood, became more promi-
nent than his father. He was the Town Clerk for
ten years, and a Selectman for twenty-four years.
He died in 1718, and was the last survivor of the
first settlers. The name of Dwight has long since
disappeared in Dedham. But Timothy Dwight
was the progenitor of a numerous family, some of
whom intermarried with Dedham families, while
others bearing the name made their homes in
the Connecticut valley, whose descendants have
been eminent in many professions and callings.
Each succeeding generation down to the present
one has added a new lustre to the name of Timothy

The Rev. John Allin, the pastor, was born in
1596, but the place of his nativity has not yet been
ascertained. He was educated at Caius College,
Cambridge, where he took his Master's degree in
1 61 9. He was instituted rector at the Church of
St. Mary at the Quay, in Ipswich, in 1620. He was
married at Wrentham, Oct. 10, 1622, where his
eldest son was born. He was probably deprived of

^ Dr. Timothy Dwight, the distinguished President of Yale College,
1795-1817, and his grandson Dr. Timothy Dwight, chosen to the same
office in 1886, are descendants of Timothy Dwight, of Dedham.


his living in 1637.-^ While there is doubt concern-
ing some facts of his English history, there can be
no doubt concerning his character and influence
here. As a divine he was eminent for his learning,
ability, and graces of character. With Shepard, he
was a champion of the Puritan churches, and with
Eliot he was a co-laborer in the conversion of the
Indians. He also bore a prominent part in direct-
ing the civil affairs and public enterprises of the
town. He was possessed of a large landed estate,
and his second marriage with the widow of Gov-
ernor Thomas Dudley added to his worldly sub-
stance. Joseph Dudley, who afterwards was high
in office but obnoxious to the people, was educated
in the family of Mr. Allin.

Major Eleazer Lusher was without doubt the
ablest and most efficient man among the settlers.
He was a founder of the church, the Town Clerk for
twenty-three years, and a Selectman for twenty-nine
years. He was Captain of the train-band, and Ma-
jor of the Suffolk Regiment. He was one of the
original founders of the Ancient and Honorable
Artillery Company. He was a Deputy from the
town to the General Court, and afterwards one of
the Assistants of the Colony for eleven years. He
was also often employed in the affairs of the Colony
by special appointment, and in 1671 was the chair-

^ Some new facts of interest concerning the English history of Rev.
John Allin have been brought to light by Professor William F. Allen,
of Madison, Wisconsin. These will be found in the N. E. Historical
and Genealogical Register for January, 1887.


man of a committee to collate the laws of the
Colony. Edward Johnson describes him " as a
man of the right stamp, of pure mettle, a gracious,
humble, heavenly-minded man." ^

Captain Daniel Fisher was admitted to the church
in 1639. He was a Selectman for thirty-two years,
a Deputy to the General Court, and Speaker of the
House of Deputies for three years ; afterwards he
was one of the Assistants, in which office he died
in 1683. He was a man of high patriotic spirit, and
is said to have been learned in the law.^ Toward the
close of the long struggle for the preservation of the
Colonial Charter, Daniel Fisher became prominent.
He was one of the four whom Randolph accused of
high crimes and misdemeanors.^ His children were
imbued with the same indomitable spirit. It was his
son Daniel of whom the familiar story has been told
of leading Sir Edmund Andros through the streets
of Boston, April 19, 1689. This dramatic incident
rests upon a tradition in his family for authority, but
it also corresponds with the historic account of the
events of that day, and may be accepted as authen-
tic* He was the great-grandfather of Fisher Ames.
Lydia Fisher, the sister of the second Daniel, when

1 Wonder Working Providence (Poole's ed.), p. no.

2 Dexter's Centennial Sermon, p. 26, note.

^ Palfrey's History of New England, vol. iii. p. 365.

* This fact was first stated in Worthington's History, 1827, p. 51.
It rests upon the authority of a family tradition, communicated to the
author by Hon, Ebenezer Fisher, a great-grandson of the Daniel
Fisher referred to. The statement has since been often quoted, and
its truth has never been questioned.


a young woman of nineteen, went to Hadley to
become the confidential attendant of Goffe and
Whalley, the Regicides, who were then concealed
in the house of Rev. Mr, Russell. This was in
1671 ; and she was probably selected for this some-
what perilous mission through the intervention of
her brother Daniel, who had occasion to pass
through Hadley on his way to Deerfield. The
place where the Regicides were then concealed was
known to but few persons in the whole Colony, and
Lydia Fisher deserves to be remembered as a wo-
man who kept not only a simple secret, but a great
colonial secret, on which the lives of the Regicides
themselves and perhaps other lives depended.^

There were other men worthy of special mention :
Michael Metcalf, at one time the schoolmaster;
Lieutenant Joshua Fisher, the keeper of the ordi-
nary, and town surveyor; and Francis Chickering,
Deputy to the General Court. But this was a

1 Lydia Fisher was born in Dedham, July 14, 1652; was married to
Nathaniel Chickering Dec. 3, 1674, and died in Needham, July 17, 1737.
The fact of her attendance upon the Regicides at Hadley in 1671, for
about a year, is attested by the family papers. It has been asserted
that her father, Captain Daniel Fisher, concealed the Regicides near
his house in Dedham for a time, and that Lydia here ministered to
them and rode behind one of them on a pillion to Hadley. The Regi-
cides left Boston Feb. 26, 1661, and arrived in New Haven March 7.
They remained in concealment in that vicinity until they went to
Hadley Oct. 13, 1664. It is very probable that on their nine days'
journey to New Haven they rested at Dedham, but they did not tarry
long. Lydia at that time was less than nine years of age, and Goffe
and Whalley did not go from Dedham to Hadley, but from New
Haven, and more than three years afterwards. — Palfrey's History
of New Eiii^Iand, vol. ii. chap. xiii.


society in which no distinction was recognized, save
that founded upon service rendered to the Colony,
the town, or the church. The elders, the deacons,
and the officers of the train-band were the only
title-bearers. The pastor himself was only desig-
nated as Mr. Allin, though the prefix implied some
social distinction. In the village of 1664 we find
all the names of the well-known Dedham families
now represented among us: Avery, Bullard, Ba-
ker, Bacon, Colburn, Eaton, Everett, Ellis, Pales,
Fairbanks, Farrington, Fuller, Guild, Gay, Kings-
bury, Morse, Onion, Richards, Wright, Wilson,
Whiting, — all had houses here in 1664.

But the time came when the leaders of the first
generation were to rest from their labors. In 1675
all save Captain Daniel Fisher, Timothy Dwight,
and Richard Everard had passed away. Another
generation had succeeded, and the rule of peaceful
life was about to be broken.

In 1673 the Selectmen were summoned by the
General Court to prepare the town for defence
against the Indians, who were then incited to hos-
tilities by Philip of Mount Hope. The train-band
was called out for frequent exercise. The great
gun, called a "drake," given to the town by the
General Court in 1650, was mounted. A barrel of
gunpowder and ammunition were procured. A gar-
rison was maintained and a watch set. Many fled to
Boston for safety. The Wrentham settlers packed
their goods and brought their families to Dedham.


All Indians in the town were ordered to depart.
Dedham had some natural advantages for purposes
of defence, but these precautions saved the settle-
ment from attack. Philip had met the Dedham
men in the negotiation of treaties, and perhaps saw
good reason to avoid them. But Dedham soldiers
did good service in the war. Near its close a party
of Dedham and Medfield men captured Pomham,
a Narragansett sachem, with fifty followers, in Ded-
ham woods, which was considered an achievement
of material importance to the final issue. Nor did
those nearly connected with Dedham wholly es-
cape the bloody horrors of that war. Besides the
burning of Medfield and the deserted houses at
Wrentham, in the fearful massacre at Bloody Brook,
Robert Hinsdale, one of the founders of the Ded-
ham church who had removed to Hadley, perished
with his three sons while moving their crops from

The close of Philip's War marked the beginning
of great changes. There had long existed a desire
to extend the area of the settlement to the west
and south. In 1682 a vote was passed that no one
should move more than two miles from the meet-
ing-house. This was an attempt to repress the
disposition to leave the village. It was not un-
til fifty years afterwards that new parishes were
formed. But when the fear of the Indians had been
quieted, the young men could no longer be re-
strained from leaving the settlement. Gradually


the first rude houses which constituted the first
compact village gave way, and in their places here
and there the plain was dotted with more sub-
stantial farm-houses. All were farmers, and there
was no village settlement again for more than a

Great political changes also were now occurring
in the Colony. The charter brought over by
Winthrop, for the preservation of which Daniel
Fisher had striven, was dissolved by a judgment in
the English Court of Chancery. The colonies of
Plymouth and Massachusetts were united in the
Province under a royal Governor. The autonomy
of the Puritans, so strictly maintained under the
first Charter, received its first serious shock in the
guaranties to Protestants of every name given by
the Provincial Charter. Dedham was now entering
upon a long period of great depression. The men
who had succeeded to the management of affairs
were by no means the equals of the founders in
education or capacity for public affairs. In spite
of the care the fathers had taken to educate their
children, the wilderness had proved to be a rough
training-school. Their youth had been spent in
clearing and subduing the soil, in planting orchards,
and in building roads and fences over a wide extent
of territory. There was an indifference to the
means of education. The town was indicted in
1674, and again in 1691, for its neglect to support a
1 Worthington's History, p. 15.


school. Mr. Dexter, in his Century Sermon of 1738,
laments the " disesteem of learning too evident in a
prevailing temper to be wholly without a grammar-
school, and the negligence of the parents to send
their children when they have one." He makes the
significant assertion : " I think it is beyond dispute
a rare thing to find among us men of common char-
acter that can use a pen as many, many of our fa-
thers could." ^ But this low state of education was
perhaps due to circumstances which could not be
controlled. The dispersion of the compact settle-
ment caused the maintenance and attendance of
a school to be attended with serious difficulties.
Before 1730 there was but one church and but one
schoolmaster, who was employed but a few weeks
in one place. There were many hardships in the
general condition of the people. They were all de-
scendants of the first settlers. There were no new-'
comers, and a strong jealousy existed towards them,
— a natural outcome of the policy of the founders.
They saw little of other people, and there were
but few marriages except among themselves. The
road to Boston was rough and circuitous ; over it
they carried the produce of their farms in panniers.
They also carried to Boston oak-bark, hoop poles,
oak and pine timber for building purposes, oak
staves, ship timber, charcoal and wood for fuel to
some extent.^ In this way they gained a subsist-

1 Dexter's Century Sermon (1738).
* Worthington's History, p. 39.


ence for themselves and their families. As a nat-
ural consequence from such a condition of society,
they had warm controversies among themselves
upon town and parish matters. But it must also
be said that this hard school of self-denial and
sacrifice did not efface from the character of this
generation their strong religious faith and their
firm attachment to the church and town. If their
views of life were narrowed by circumstances, they
were still jealous of their civil rights, and kept them-
selves informed in public affairs. They had no
Lusher, whose memory as a wise counsellor was
long cherished, to direct their affairs ; yet they had
good men in Samuel Guild, John Metcalf, and
Joseph Wight, who filled long terms of office as

Between 1671, when Mr. Allin died, and 1723,
when Mr. Dexter came, there had been two minis-
ters of the Dedham church, — Adams and Belcher.
A new meeting-house had been built in 1673, and
repaired in 1702. The South Parish was incorpo-
rated in 1 730, and the West Parish in 1 736. In 1 748
a fourth parish was incorporated under the name of
Springfield, which is the present town of Dover.
All persons were taxed for parochial purposes, and
all were required to attend public worship under
penalties. Under the Statute of 1727-28, however,
persons attending divine service according to the
Church of England might have their taxes paid
to a minister of that church, if such service was


performed within five miles of their residence. In
1734 the ministerial taxes of six persons in Dedham
were remitted because they carried on the worship
of God in the way of the Established Church of
England. In 1731 Dr. Timothy Cutler, rector of
Christ's Church, Boston, began the service of the
English Church, and preached in a private house
in the westerly part of the town. He sometimes
had congregations of fifty persons, and there were
eight or nine communicants. From this time until
the Revolution, these services were held at irregular
intervals in different places in the town ; and finally
a church was built in Dedham village, and opened
for service in 1761. Thus it will be seen, that, in
about a century from the founding of the town, the
English liturgy, the great rock of offence to the
fathers, and so carefully excluded in the time of
the Colony, was publicly used in Dedham under
the protection of law, and accepted by some
of the descendants of the settlers in the third

In the various military expeditions during the
French wars, Dedham men were called to bear a
part. In the West Indies, at Ticonderoga, Fort
Edward, Fort William Henry, at the memorable
siege of Louisburg, and at the Bay of Fundy they
performed military service, and many never re-
turned.^ Among the names of soldiers who served
in these companies will be found those of old Ded-

1 Haven's Centennial Address, Appendix, pp. 66, 67.


ham families. It must be remembered that at this
period the military spirit was maintained in full
vigor, and that all able-bodied men were trained in
the manual of arms. In 1757 it has been estimated
that one third -of all the effective men of the Prov-
ince were in the field in some form or other.^ In
these French wars the men of Massachusetts became
accustomed to actual service in arduous campaigns,
and so acquired a knowledge of the art of war
which well prepared them for the great conflict of
the Revolution, twenty years later.

While the eighteenth century prior to the Revo-
lution was a period of depression, hardship, and
sacrifice in Dedham, and, excepting the military
expeditions of the French wars, was not fruitful of
events, yet it was during this period that two of the
most notable men in its history came here to make
their residence, and at a time when they were much
needed. These were Dr. Nathaniel Ames and Sam-
uel Dexter, — men of pronounced character, and in
different ways destined to exert a strong influence
in succeeding times.

Dr. Ames came from Bridgewater, when a young
man, in 1732. He inherited from his father a love
of the science of astronomy as it had then been
developed, and in 1726, when less than sixteen
years of age, had published his first almanac, on the
titlepage of which he styled himself a " Student in
Physic and Astronomy." He continued to publish

* Minot's History, vol. ii. p. 37.


these almanacs for forty years, and his son Nathaniel,
for ten years more. Dr. Ames was a man of an
acute and vigorous mind, and his almanacs abound
in quaint verses and scientific essays.-^ His first
wife was Mary, the daughter of Joshua Fisher; but
she died, leaving an infant son, Fisher, who also
died in less than a year after his mother. It was
from this infant son that Dr. Ames inherited his
landed estate in Dedham. He then married Deb-
orah, the daughter of Jeremiah Fisher, who was the
mother of five children. At the decease of Dr.
Ames, in 1764, his two eldest sons, Nathaniel and
Seth, had just been graduated at Harvard College,
and Fisher, the youngest, was only six years of age.
The younger children were left to the care of their
mother, a woman of great energy and force of char-
acter. Fisher Ames was fitted for college under
the instructions of Mr. Haven, the minister of the
church, and was graduated in 1774, at the age of
sixteen. Such was the beginning of a family and a
name in Dedham which afterwards became the most
conspicuous and illustrious of any in its annals.

Samuel Dexter was a son of the fourth minister
of the Dedham church. He had been bred to
business, and having acquired a fortune as a mer-
chant in Boston, he returned to his native town to
live in November, 1762. He soon built a fine
mansion on land adjoining the parsonage, which

1 An elaborate notice of these almanacs may be found in Tyler's
"History of American Literature," vol. ii. pp. 122-130.


is still standing, in admirable preservation ; and
though it has been much improved, it has not
been radically changed in form or arrangement.
Mr. Dexter immediately assumed a leading place
in the local affairs of Dedham. He gave liberally
for the support of schools, and for the new meeting-
house erected about the time of his coming. He
was usually the moderator of town-meetings just
previous to the Revolution, and the resolutions
then adopted were drawn by his hand. He was
for several years a Deputy to the General Court,
and was several times negatived as a Councillor
by the royal Governor. In the beginning of the
Revolution he was for five years in the Provincial
Congress, and a member of the Supreme Executive
Council of State, which assisted and supported the
military operations in the vicinity of Boston.

The decade which preceded the first conflict of
arms in the Revolution was one of intense excite-
ment, deep anxiety, and popular indignation. These
found expression in town-meetings and through
committees of correspondence, and finally in prep-
arations for actual war. In all this period the men
of Dedham, true to the traditions of their fathers,
were thoroughly aroused. They had suffered much

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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 4 of 13)