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

. (page 6 of 13)
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 6 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

heart-burnings and some bitterness in the beginning,
these found no encouragement from the pulpits.
There was a calm on the surface of the troubled
waters, though there might have been whirlpools
and eddies below ; and long before the faithful pas-
tors were borne to their final rest, through no diplo-
macy but the silent force of their example, a treaty
of amity had been concluded which has been well
kept and, as we trust, is never to be broken.

In 1830 the population of the town was upwards
of three thousand. There had been a slow but
steady advance in population and prosperity. The
formation of a bank, an insurance company, and an
institution for savings, were further evidence of its
growth. The manufacture of woollen goods at the
mills had been put upon a firm basis by the capital
and capacity of Benjamin Bussey and his efificient
agent, Thomas Barrows. Two cotton-mills had


been built, and they were operated by Frederick
A. Taft and Ezra W. Taft, skilful and experienced
manufacturers. In the South Parish, George Wins-
low, Willard Everett, Lyman Smith, and Joseph
Day had begun those enterprises which afterwards
transformed that farming neighborhood into a pros-
perous village. In Dedham village there was a silk-
factory and shops for making stage-coaches. The
Citizens' Stage Company, owning three hundred
horses, with coaches and equipments, had its head-
quarters here. This line ran from Boston to Provi-
dence, leaving Boston at five o'clock in the morning,
and connectinof at Providence with the New York
steamer at half-past eleven. Subsequently the time
was reduced one hour. It has been stated that ex-
press riders once carried a message of President
Jackson from Providence to Boston in two hours
and forty-five minutes. Sometimes a procession of
twelve coaches filled with passengers, heralded by
the horn, would draw up here for breakfast or a re-
lay of horses. At the sessions of the courts the
county lawyers brought their satchels with their
papers, and tarried at the taverns until their cases
were disposed of. Sometimes a leader of the Suf-
folk bar would appear, to electrify the jury and the
spectators. In the winter, balls and sleighing-parties
made the two taverns centres of life and gayety. In
the summer, families from Boston found Dedham a
pleasant place of sojourn. Mrs. Kemble and Mrs.
Hawthorne in their published diaries give us some


glimpses of Dedham life at this period. Books and
pamphlets were printed here. There was a young
men's lyceum, which produced original plays. Each
political party had a county newspaper. Of the
dreaded order of lawyers there were not less than
five in practice. Theron Metcalf, who came in 1809,
delivered law lectures to students in 1828. Horace
Mann began his brief professional career in 1826.
In the same year Lafayette was received here at
nearly midnight by a concourse of people who had
waited all day to see him, amid the ringing of bells,
the firing of a salute, and an illumination of the
houses. In 1833 President Jackson with his cabinet
rode through long lines of men, who received him
with uncovered heads, as he made his journey to-
wards Boston. Such was Dedham village in 1834.
The prediction made by Fisher Ames forty years
before had been fulfilled. It had grown to be " a
smart village."

Fifty years ago to-day the town observed its two
hundredth anniversary. It was entered into with
spirit, and was a memorable occasion. The town
had then attained the height of its local importance,
and the arrangements made were quite imposing.
The Governor of the Commonwealth, Edward
Everett, and his brother, Alexander H. Everett,
both descendants of Richard Everard, were present.
The felicitous speech of the Governor added much
to the impressiveness of the occasion. A senti-
ment to the memory of Rev. Samuel Dexter was


spoken to by Franklin Dexter, his great-grandson,
an eminent lawyer. There were also present a few
surviving soldiers of the Revolution ; and among
these the venerable Ebenezer Fisher, then in his
eighty-sixth year, who had filled high political ofiices,
and who was the great-grandson of Daniel Fisher,
— the same who had the affair with Sir Edmund
Andros in 1689. The orator of the day, Mr. Haven,
was a son of Dedham, and the lineal descendant of
two ministers of the Dedham church, — Dexter and
Haven. He was then a critical student of Massa-
chusetts history, and afterwards during a long life
he held a position which enabled him to attain a
wide reputation as an historical scholar. His cen-
tennial address was a learned, concise, and accurate
survey of our history. Thus was the memory of Ded-
ham men of nearly every generation honored here by
their distinguished descendants fifty years ago.

Two notable church anniversaries also occurred
in the bi-centennial year of the town. By a some-
what remarkable coincidence, on the tenth day of
January the Third Parish completed the first cen-
tury of its corporate existence, and on the twenty-
third day of June the church of the Second Parish
had been formed for a century.^ Both of these oc-
casions were appropriately observed by historical
discourses from the pastors, which were printed.^

^ No allowance is made here for the difference between old and
new style.

* Centennial Discourse, by Rev. John White, Jan. 17, 1836. Cen-
tennial Discourse, by Rev. Calvin Durfee, June 26, 1836.


They were prepared with great care and fidelity,
and were complete and succinct histories of the
churches in those parishes. The two hundredth
anniversary of the church of the First Parish came
two years later, Nov. 18, 1838, making allowance
for difference of style. For this occasion Rev. Dr.
Lamson prepared and delivered three historical dis-
courses, which embodied a full and comprehensive
history of the church down to his own time. These
were afterwards printed with copious notes, in
which were collected many historical facts from
original sources by the patient investigation of the
learned pastor. These sermons have an especial
value, since they cover a period of two hundred
years, when the history of the town was so largely
merged in the history of the church. Rev. Dr.
BurQ:ess also delivered a concise and accurate his-
torical discourse upon the history of the church,
which he afterwards printed in a unique volume,
containing a sermon of every minister of the church
to his own time, collected with much difificulty, that
they might serve as a memorial of the event for the
generation living at the end of the third century.
Certainly on this anniversary we must all recognize
the pious reverence for the memory of the fathers,
which prompted all the pastors of the Puritan
churches of the town thus to perpetuate its ecclesi-
astical history in discourses which together form
the best memorials we have of the close of the
second century.


The opening of the railroad in 1834 was the
prelude to another period of change in Dedham
village. The people made contributions of lands
and money to build the branch to Readville. They
thought it would be like a turnpike over which
any line of coaches might run upon the payment
of tolls. They were pleased with its novelty, but
failed to comprehend its great possibilities. For
a time a two-horse compartment car was drawn to
Boston. Then a connection was made with the
Providence trains, but it was some time before a
locomotive drew a train of cars from Dedham to
Boston. The stage-coaches for a time competed
with the railroad, and as late as 1841 an omnibus
was driven regularly from Dedham to Boston. But
the day for stage-coaches was soon over, and with
them went out the busy shops and the old-time
tavern life. Nothing ever took their places. But
the railroad doubtless led to the removal from Bos-
ton to Dedham of some valued citizens. In 1839
the Dowse estate came into the hands of Edmund
Quincy, known to the world as an accomplished
author, and to us who knew him here as an ideal
gentleman. The Riverdale estate about the same
time was purchased by Thomas Motley, Sr., and
here his son the historian dwelt for a time. The
fine houses on East Street were built soon after,
and occupied by gentlemen who became honored
citizens of the town. While the local industries
had declined, the town still maintained its position


as a centre for the interests of the county. The
great political procession of July 4, 1840, estimated
to include seventy-five hundred persons, was a no-
table event among the boys of that day. In the
days of the anti-slavery agitation, all its leaders
whose names have become historical were accus-
tomed to attend their annual county conventions
here, and there were some excited sessions in the
old Town House. In 1849 the Norfolk Agricul-
tural Society, organized and directed by its efficient
president, Marshall P. Wilder, held its first exhibi-
tion, at which Daniel Webster and a rare company
of distinguished men made addresses. The exhi-
bitions of this society for many years were great
events, and are among the pleasantest memories of
thirty years ago.

In the autumn of 1848, during the presidential
campaign, there was a political meeting which de-
serves to be commemorated. It was held by the
friends of General Taylor in the old hall now stand-
ing on Court Street. It was an ordinary political
meeting, but held in the afternoon and during the
session of the court. The hall was but half filled.
The speaker was a Western member of Congress,
who had come to Boston to make campaign
speeches. Probably few of his audience had ever
heard his name. He spoke but a half-hour, as he
was obliged to take the train. He was a tall, gaunt
man, whose free manner and careless disposition of
attire bespoke the Western stump-speaker. His


speech was enlivened by a peculiar humor, and it
went directly home to the understanding and appre-
ciation of his audience. Probably all recollection
of the speech and the speaker soon faded from the
memory of many of his hearers. But there was
one of them^ who in after years loved to recall the
fact that the plain man whom he heard that day
was a man who will be remembered while Ameri-
can liberty shall last. It was Abraham Lincoln of

In the spring of 1861 Dedham was enjoying a
good degree of prosperity, partly from local indus-
tries and partly from being the residence of business
men from Boston. No event had occurred during
the preceding decade to disturb its harmony, and
the outlook ahead disclosed no reason for apprehen-
sion. There had been no military company here
since 1842. Few of our young men had been
drilled in the manual of arms, or knew anything of
military tactics. They were looking forward to a
peaceful career in their respective callings. Even
the ^tmsi-mi\it3.vy organizations of the presiden-
tial campaign in the preceding autumn had not in-
spired in them any thought or desire of becoming
real soldiers. For a number of years the military

1 Hon. George H. Monroe, of Roxbury, a native of Dedham and
a resident here in 1848. He escorted Mr. Lincoln to Dedham, and
gave an interesting narrative of his visit and speech in the " Boston
Herald," April 22, 1885. Mr. Lincoln was entertained during his
brief stay in the mansion of Freeman Fisher, now the residence of
John R. Bullard.


spirit had to some extent been under the ban of
public sentiment in Massachusetts. Many good
people indulged the belief that wars had ceased
to be necessary for the arbitrament of difficulties.
The coming shadows of a possible conflict after the
presidential election did not arouse them from the
dream of peace. Even when the clouds began to
thicken, and the sky to grow dark, and the rumbling
of the distant thunder to be heard, they did not real-
ize that the tempest was at hand. It was only when
the bolt of war fell that they were startled into
action ; but then they sprang to their feet, ready to
do battle for Union and Liberty.

It was my great privilege eighteen years ago
this month, on a public occasion,^ while yet the
memories of the war were fresh, though the mate-
rials of authentic history were meagre, to give an
historical account of what Dedham and Dedham
men did in the Civil War. It was such a story as
might be told in many a Massachusetts town, but
it had a peculiar pathos and interest for us. Year
by year, ever since, the comrades of the Grand
Army have called us to refresh our memories over
the grave of the soldier. We need not linger over
them to-day. The events of those years were too
deeply impressed upon all who in any way par-
ticipated in them to be soon forgotten.

But it would be an unpardonable omission not
to say of old Dedham, on her two hundred and
• 1 Dedication of Memorial Hall, Sept. 29, 1868.


fiftieth anniversary, that In the Civil War she was
thoroughly, nobly true to her traditions. In una-
nimity of action, without regard to political affilia-
tions ; In the alacrity and steadfastness of her sup-
port to the National Government In every call for
men ; In the tenderness and interest with which she
followed her soldiers to the field and cared for their
families at home ; in the readiness of her citizens
to make any required contributions of money, —
and, above all. In the precious sacrifice of her sons
on a score of battle-fields, she paid the full tribute
of patriotism, " In good measure, pressed down and
shaken together and running over." She was as
faithful and true In 1861 to 1865, as in 1675 ^^^
1775. The centuries had not abated her spirit,
though they had changed her habits and opinions.
When the day of trial came, she was the same town

We have already reached the boundary-line be-
tween the domain of history and the memory of
the present generation. Perhaps the greatest social
revolution in the history of the American people
began with the close of the Civil War. But no
man living can now foresee its issue, or rightly
estimate the true proportions of its events. As
the soldier amidst the din and smoke of battle
knows little or nothing of the grand movements
in which he Is bearing a part, so we cannot un-
derstand the real meaning of what transpires in
our own time. The accomplished historical scholar


who stood In this place fifty years ago, closed his
retrospect of the history of Dedham with the War
of the Revolution, and so we will close ours with
the War of the Rebellion.

Surely we cannot leave the contemplation of this
honorable and inspiring history without being in
some measure touched with a sense that we who
have succeeded to the heritage have a weight of
obligation resting upon us. We have seen to-
day, in the light of authentic history, how, in the
two hundred and fifty years since civilization and
Christianity were first planted here, one period has
been evolved from another; and though great
changes have been wrought in habits, opinions,
and systems, yet, after all, as a community, we
bear the family likeness. The most striking im-
pression one gets from a close study of the history
of any old Massachusetts town is of the wonder-
ful stability of its people. If we sometimes com-
placently reflect, in the pride of our material
prosperity, that the early days were days of small
things, we have seen that they really were days
of great achievement. If we regard ourselves as
more tolerant in our forms of religious faith, let
us never forget that the Puritan fathers believed
what they professed, and practised what they be-
lieved. If we think ourselves emancipated from
the restraints of their narrow and provincial views
of life, still we must acknowledge that they knew.


better than we, how to lay strong and deep the
foundations of civil society. But let us forbear to
draw parallels to our own advantage. Let us rather
prove our fidelity to the sacred trust committed to
our hands, by striving to see how far we can excel
the fathers in public spirit, in devotion to the
common interests of society, and, if need be, in
heroic self-sacrifice in the day of trial. As we
step forward to-morrow into another half-century
of our history, we can find no better formula to
embody our best aspirations than those simple
words, written for all time, that Edward Alleyn
put into the Town Covenant two hundred and fifty
years ago, and to which the townsmen of the first
century subscribed.

Let us " become freely subject to all such orders
and constitutions as shall be necessarily had or
made, now or at any time hereafter, from this day
forward, as well for loving and comfortable society
in our said town, as also for the prosperous and
thriving condition of our said fellowship, especially
respecting the fear of God, in which we desire to
begin and continue whatever we shall by His loving
favor take in hand."

104 "^^^ TOWN OF DEDHAM.



(Bay Psalm Book, 1650.)

Tune — "St. Martin's."
( The audience are requested to rise and join in the singing^

We, with our ears have heard, O God,

Our fathers have us told,
What works Thou wroughtest in their days

Ev'n in ye days of old.

How Thy hand drave ye heathen out,

Displanted them Thou hast ;
How Thou ye people did'st afflict.

And out them Thou did'st cast.

For by their sword they did not get

The land's possession,
Nor was it their own arm that did

Work their salvation.

But Thy right hand, Thine arm also,

Thy countenance of light ;
Because that of Thine own good will

Thou did'st in them delight.



By Rev. Seth C. Beach.

Rev. Arthur M. Backus, to whom this part had been assigned, was
detained by illness.



A T the conclusion of the exercises in the church
the procession re-formed and marched to the
large tent on Richards Field, which was filled with
eleven hundred ladies and gentlemen. Upon the
platform were seated the presiding officer, Hon.
Frederick D. Ely, Gov. George D. Robinson,
Mayor O'Brien, President Dwight, Hon. John D.
Long, Dr. George E. Ellis, Dr. William Everett,
Lieut-Gov. Ames, Hon. George White, Hon. A.
W. Beard, Hon. R. R. Bishop, Ex-Governor Fair-
banks, of Vermont, Hon. J. Q. A. Brackett, Hon.
George W. Wiggin, and many others.

After the company was seated, the President
rose and said : —

Ladies and Gentlemen, — At the dinner given in
honor of the two hundredth anniversary of the in-
corporation of this town in 1836, Rev. John White,
then a settled minister at West Dedham, invoked
the divine blessing. I now invite you to join with
his successor, Rev. George W. Cooke, in invoking
the divine blessing on this occasion.



Our Father's God, we invoke Thy blessing on this
occasion. Bless us as Thou hast blest our fathers, with
high thoughts and pure motives and noble purposes.
Bless, our Father, in the future, this town, as Thou dost
bless it on this occasion. We thank Thee for these
blessings Thou hast given us; help us to be worthy of
those Thou wilt give to us in the future. A7nen.

After an hour spent at dinner, the President
addressed the audience as follows : —


Ladies and Gentlemen, — By the courtesy of the
Committee who have this celebration in charge, it becomes
my delightful privilege to speak the word of welcome on
this occasion. To the Honorable Representative of the
National Administration ; to His Excellency the Governor,
and His Honor the Lieutenant-Governor of the Common-
wealth ; to His Honor the Mayor of the city of Boston ;
to the President of the Massachusetts Historical Society;
to the distinguished principals and teachers of institutions
of learning; to the respected officers and citizens of this
county and of neighboring cities and towns ; and especially
and supremely to the sons and daughters of Dedham
who to-day return to the old homestead from their chosen
abodes in other parts of the country, — I tender, in the
name of our town, a cordial and hearty greeting. We
appreciate the honor of your presence ; we shall treasure
the words of wisdom and good cheer that you will speak;
we trust that you will carry away with you favorable
impressions of our ancient but vigorous municipality;


and when this day shall be numbered with the days that
are past, may its recollections inspire us all with a more
deep and lasting appreciation of the character and strug-
gles of those plain but thoughtful men who two hundred
and fifty years ago cut a pathway through the forest, and
first planted the seeds of civil government on the spot
where we now stand.

Frequent as celebrations similar in character to the
present have been in recent years, they have never failed
to awaken a lively interest in the minds and hearts of
the people. Their novelty has indeed disappeared, but
their significance remains undiminished and unobscured.
The lapse of time consigns the ordinary transactions of
human life to the realm of oblivion ; it brings into clear
perspective the great achievements of valor, of endurance,
of masterly common-sense. The former are buried out
of sight by the ever-busy processes of Nature ; the latter
stand out more and more in insulated grandeur, and
become memorial columns in the majestic progress of
human society. To them the people look back as plen-
teous sources of present prosperity and happiness, and at
stated periods imprint them on the memory of succeed-
ing generations by fitting and appropriate ceremonies.

Perhaps few events in the public life of the American
people are more worthy of commemoration than the
founding of a New England municipality. In our com-
plex system of government the town is the unit which
lies at the foundation of the entire fabric. In theory
indeed it is the creature of the State; practically it is
the safeguard and support of the sovereignty to which it
owes allegiance. United by proximity of residence, asso-
ciated in the school, the church, and the town-meeting,
the inhabitants of a town readily and effectively meet any
emergency to which the State may be exposed. In peace,
these pure democracies furnish to the Commonwealth its


revenues ; and when war comes, its revenues and fighting
men. It is the achievements of men leagued by the ties
of town associations and town government which have
enkindled the pride of our beloved Commonwealth, and
crowned her name with glory and honor. It was the men
of Lexington who with heroic and fervid patriotism stood
on the village green, and received the fire of the British
soldiery. It was the minute men of Concord and Lincoln
and Acton who

" Fired the shot heard round the world."

It was the men of Dedham who swiftly responded to the
cry of alarm, " in such numbers," says Bancroft, " that
scarce one male between sixteen and seventy was left at

This admirable frame of local administration is only one
of many conspicuous monuments of the wisdom and pru-
dence of the colonists of New England. Scarcely was

" A clearing cut
From the walled shadows round it shut,"

when the meeting-house and the school-house arose at the
side of the humble dwelling of the settler. From these
rude, unpretentious buildings piety and education went
forth hand in hand to Christianize and civilize the land.
Beneath their benign influence an active, brave, resolute,
intelligent, and moral population, imbued with independ-
ence and enterprise, sprang up, subdued the wilderness,
wrung bountiful harvests from the stubborn soil, and laid
deep and sure the foundations of a State whose abundant
and abounding blessings it is our happy privilege to enjoy.
Two hundred and fifty years ago, on the banks of yon-
der river bordered by meadows of waving grasses and
fragrant flowers, the founders of Dedham planted these
beneficent institutions. Their deeds of valor, of wisdom,


of prudence, of enterprise, of devotion to liberty have this
day been recounted by more eloquent lips than mine.
Around you on every hand behold their monuments.
They breathe in the rippled waters of the Charles, flowing
through strange channels to unaccustomed labors; they
live, not in obelisk or pyramid, but in vast cathedrals of
industry, whose busy shuttles, singing songs of praise and
rejoicing as they fly, bear plenty and comfort and con-

1 2 3 4 6 8 9 10 11 12 13

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 6 of 13)