Oliver N Bacon.

A history of Natick, from its first settlement in 1651 to the present time; with notices of the first white families, and also an account of the centennial celebration, Oct. 16, 1851, Rev. Mr. Hunt's address at the consecration of Dell Park cemetery, &c. .. (Volume 2) online

. (page 10 of 22)
Online LibraryOliver N BaconA history of Natick, from its first settlement in 1651 to the present time; with notices of the first white families, and also an account of the centennial celebration, Oct. 16, 1851, Rev. Mr. Hunt's address at the consecration of Dell Park cemetery, &c. .. (Volume 2) → online text (page 10 of 22)
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Massachusetts Teacher, 3 ; Waverley Magazine, 3 ; Boston Atlas,
4 ; Country Gentleman, 1 ; Exeter News Letter, 1 ; Saturday
Evening Post, Phila., 2 ; Boston Medical Journal, 2 ; Boston States-
man, 4 ; The Trumpet, 5.

A few copies of several other periodicals less known than the
above, making seventy-eight in all, should bo added to the list in
order to render it complete.

The following list of letters, received and sent from the office for
the week ending April 7th, is supposed to be an average list through-
out the year.

Letters received.

Letters sent ftom.

Monday, April 2,


Monday, April 2,


Tuesday, April 3,


Tuesday, April 3,


Wednesday, April 4,


Wednesday, April 4,


Thursday, April 5,


Thursday, April 5,


Friday, April 6,


Friday, April 6,


Saturday, April 7,


Saturday, April 7,


Making 1073 letters which pass through the office weekly.

The average income of this office to the Government for the last
four years has been seven hundred dollars.

The Post Office at South Nalick was established in 1828. The
following is a list of its Postmasters: — Messrs. Dexter Whitney,


Chester Adams, Ira Cleavland, Moses Eames, John Cleland, John
J. Perry.

Until 1835 the malls were brought to town by that " old stage
coach." What a frequent subject has this been for romantic
description and adventure. Who does not remember the mingled
emotions which held alternate sway in his heart as it peered over
the distant hills on its way from the far-off city ? The tin horn sounds
its approach, and a cloud of dust revolving on its axis announces its
arrival. The most important man, the man most talked of in the
whole village, was the stage-driver. He supplied in part in his own
person the daily newspaper, giving an authentic, ncver-to-be-ques-
tioned account of all failures, marriages, fires, murders, deaths, and
duels. But those vehicles are almost passed away.

" The old turnpike is a pike no more,
Wide open stands the gate,
We have made us a road for our horse to stride,
Which we ride at a flying rate.
We have filled the valleys and levelled the hills,
And tunnelled the mountain side,
And round the rough crag's dizzy verge
Fearlesslv now we ride ! "


Before proceeding to notice the buildings which the present
century has seen erected on the soil of Natick, let us glance at the
town in its commencement.

All the topics of political moment had been settled. A form of
government had been adopted, and all the machinery for town organ-
ization set in operation. All the sacrifices which the inhabitants had
made in the cause of liberty were forgotten. All were farmers. From
the centre to the circumference, that sound of the hammer which is
now so familiar was unheard. The fields yielded a rich return to tlie
granary, but in morality and virtue, in intelligence and refinement,
that period could not for a moment be compared with this. There
was more gaycty, and drinking, and gambling, — less reading, social
intercourse, and intellectual refinement. Samuel Morse kept the
village hotel, and the amount of liquor sold at his bar was immense.
Minister and doctor, deacons and church-members, we have reason
to believe, were at times all drinking together. At weddings and


funerals, on all festive occasions, the flow of ardent corresponded
■with the flow of animal spirits. But a change, such as is not often
seen, came over the place during the second ten years of the present
century. A revival of religion during the ministry of Rev. Martia
Moore altered the character of the town from that of wild thought-
lessness and intemperance to steadiness and sobriety. Many who
were idle became industrious ; many who were intemperate became
sober ; some who were unjust in their dealings became honest. Men
began more to reverence God's day and word, and to increase in love
and reverence for his ordinances. It is the testimony of eye-witnesses,
that the change at that time in the character of the place was so
radical that scarce a feature by which -it could be recognized
remained. At the time alluded to no public buildings, except the
school-houses and one meeting-house, were in town.

The public buildings which a writer is now called upon to describe
are the meeting-houses belonging to five different religious societies,
the town-house, and school-houses of the several districts.

The house belonging to the first religious society was commenced
in the summer of 1853, and completed in November of 1854. The
buildino; committee under whose direction it was erected consisted
of Edward Walcott, John W. Bacon, Dexter Washburn, Leonard
Winch and Willard A. Wight. The plan was drawn by G. J. F.
Bryant, architect, Boston. It is built in the gotbic order of archi-
tecture, with turrets, and a spire which rises to the height of one
hundred and seventy feet from the ground. It contains on the
floor, in the body of the house, eighty-eight pews, and in the gallery
above, twenty-eight, making one hundred and sixteen in all. In the
basement there is a vestry, lecture and committee room conveniently
arranged for meetings of the parish and church. The pews are
made of black walnut, and are capable of seating eight hundred
people. The organ was manufactured by Mr. George Stevens.
The entire cost of the edifice, aside from the land on which it stands,
and the bell, was about $29,000.

The Unitarian meeting-house at South Natick is a well-built
modern structure, containing about sixty-five pews. It was erected
in the summer of 1828, and dedicated on the 20th of November.
It stands near the site of the first Indian meeting-house, but the
society worshipping in it are not understood as making any preten-
sion to being the successors of the " Praying Indian " church of


The meeting-house belonging to the Universalist society was
begun in the spring of 1835 by the first parish of Natick, and dedi-
cated in December of the same year. Its first cost was not far
from ^7,500. It was sold to the Universalist society in 1853, and
by them removed to its present site. It has since been repaired,
and is now a very commodious place of worship.

The Baptist house was erected in 1852, and dedicated in January
of 1853. It cost, including the land on which it stands, |5,000.
It has a commodious vestry below the audience room of the house,
but above the level of the surrounding land.

The Methodist meeting-house was erected in 1834-5. Dedicated
on the 4th of July, 1835. Twenty feet addition to it was made in
1851. It now contains eighty pews, and cost, together with the land,
$6,000. With the exception of the Congregationalist, it is the
largest in towrf.

By far the largest public building in town is that erected by the
inhabitants of the central district for a school-house. Its length is %
eighty feet, its width fifty. It is built in a substantial manner, three
stories high, with slated roof, and furnace in the basement. When
all of it shall be required to accommodate the scholars of the district,
it will contain twelve apartments, each capable of holding sixty
scholars. The entire cost of the building, with the land, was

Most of the other school-houses in town are new, some of very
humble, others of greater pretensions. Two new ones in Felchville
and Walnut Hills districts, costing each about $2,500, are models of
school-house architecture.

The town-hall was built in 1835, and seems doggedly determined
to retain its position and dimensions, notwithstanding its glaring
deficiency both in size and situation. It will undoubtedly not be
long before the debt and respectability of the town will be increased
by the erection of a building which will keep pace with the taste
and outrun the purse of those who may erect it.

Four other meeting-houses, now either torn down or used for other
purposes, have at different periods been erected in town. We have
an account, by Eliot, of the building of the first house in the year 1651.
" We must," says he, " of necessity have a house to lodge and meet
in, and wherein to lay our provisions and clothes, which cannot be in
wigwams. I set the Indians therefore to fell and square timber,


and when it was ready, I went, and many of them with me, and on
their shoulders carried all of it together." A further description of
this house may be found in the first chapter of this volume.

In 1721 another house was built. Mr. Peabody officiated in it
the whole of his ministry, and Mr. Badger the first two years of his.

A third house was begun in the same neighborhood in 1754, but
was not completed until thirteen j^ears after. After the close of
Mr. Badger's ministry and the erection of a church in the centre of
the town, it was abandoned to the storms, until in an election-day
frolic it was demolished and distributed among the woodpiles of the

The building now standing on Summer street and used by Mr.
Henry Morse as a shoe manufactory, was the meeting-house of
1799, " our meeting-house."

" No steeple graced its homely roof
With upward-pointing spire,
Our Tillagers were much too meek
A steeple to desire.
And never did the welcome tones
Of Sabbath morning bell
Our humble village worshippers
The hour of worship tell."

As the " old meeting-house " is dear to the memory of some now
living, and a description of it and of the mode of worship within it
will be the most effectual method of representing the manners and
customs of the people of that period, I shall give a detailed account
of it. It was two stories high, and painted yellow. There was no
tower, but an entrance on the south side for both stories of the
building. The windows were small, had heavy sashes and small
glass. The doors were composed of numerous panels. There was
only one entrance from the vestibule in front. Pews lined the sides
of the house, each containing about fifty square feet of surface in
the form of a square. Facing these wall pews of the lower floor
were four aisles which enclosed the body pews, also of the same
dimensions. The broad aisle, from the door to the pulpit, divided the
house into equal halves. The galleries surrounded three sides of
the house, and rested on large pillars in different parts. Pe^YS sim-
ilar to those in the body of the house lined the galleries, while in
front, on a sloping descent, were the singing seats and free seats
for all.


The pulpit was on a level with the galleries, far above the pews,
and was entered by a flight of stairs with a balustrade of highly
wrought balusters. Behind the pulpit was a curtainless arched
window, and beneath it a vacant space into which every boy was
allowed to look, that he might be deterred by the dread of an impris-
onment there from sundry tricks which were not uncommonly
committed by the youth who had not their parents' eyes upon them.

In front of the pulpit were the deacons' seats, in a sort of pew
where they sat facing the congregation, with the communion table
hanging by hinges in front of them. The seats of the pews were
hung by hinges, so that they might be turned up as the congregation
rose for prayers ; and such a " slam-bang " as they made when
turned carelessly back at the close, constituted no inconsiderable
episode in the services.

Let us glance now at the congregation assembled on the Sabbath.
Perchance the wintry blast howls around and shrieks through the
crevices in the windows and walls. Thick boots, foot-stoves, and a
continual thumping on the sides of the pews, scarce suffice to keep
up the circulation in the half frozen limbs of the worshippers, and
the officiating clergyman protects the hands he raises in prayer by
shaggy mittens. In summer the sturdy farmer throws off his coat
and stands to listen to the word of God.

Look in now upon the worshippers as they gathered Sabbath after
Sabbath to worship " the God of the Fathers." There in the body
pews, on the right of the broad aisle, are Adam Morse, Capt. Broad,
Dea. Samuel Fisk, and William Farriss, with their families; on the
left, Capt. "William Stone, Gapt. David Bacon, Ephraim Dana,
and the family of Mr. Moore, the minister. In the large corner
pews at the northeast and northwest, are Josiah Walker and Dexter
Drury. Between them and the pulpit are a company of young
men unprovided with seats elsewhere. Along the eastern aisle by
the wall are Daniel Wight, Jonathan Bacon, Abel Drury ; Travis,
Washburn, Goodnow, and Whitney, may be seen opposite ; while on
the western wall are Lealand, Haynes, Ross, Perry, Morse, with a
goodly band of the rising generation interspersed.

In the gallery are Mann, Bice, Bacon, and all others who were
unprovided with seats below. At intermission, those who are too far
distant from their homes to return, despatch their lunch of apples or
doughnuts in the pew ; or if in summer, they stroll in bands into the


graveyard, hold an hour's converse with their sleeping friends
there, and learn the lesson of their own mortality.

As those who were actors in these events recall them, it must
seem like a dream ; and a full recital of the events of that period,
with the manner of worship, would bring the same smile to the
cheek as will play upon the faces of those who a hundred years
hence shall be told of the manners and customs of the worshippers
of this day.

•'Alas ! there came a luckless day,
• Our meeting-house ' grew old —

The paint was worn — the shingles loose —

In winter 't was too cold;

They called it an old-fashioned thing,

And said it must be sold."

It had stood for thirty-four years, through the ministry of two
faithful pastors, and seen gathered into the enclosures of the church
the results of three glorious revivals. It was sold in 1834 to Dea.
Samuel Fisk and others.


There are five burying grounds in Natick. The one in the
west part of the town was the gift of William Boden, Esq. It was
granted in 1815, contains about one acre of land, fifty-five grave-
stones, one tomb the property of Capt. William Stone, and a monu-
ment erected by the town to the grantor in 1855.

The central burying ground was appropriated to this purpose in
the year 1805. A few persons had a few years before been interred
near where Walcott block now stands. This ground now contains
seventy-five tombstones and two tombs. Keziah Perry was the first
person buried within it. On her monument we read the inscription,
" She was the first grain sown in this ground."

At what time the north cemetery was laid out the records do not
tell. We find the record of a vote passed by the town in the year
1758, " To fence the English burying grounds with stone walls."
We may safely conclude that this is the oldest in town. It now
contains one hundred and thirty gravestones and two monuments. It
was enlarged in 1853, and now contains about three acres of land.

The graveyard at South Natick was granted to Mr. Peabody and
his successors, and for the use of other English inhabitants, June


22d, 1731. By the exertions of the ladies of the village it has
been surrounded by a handsome stone wall and planted -with trees
and shrubbery, so that of the smaller grounds in town it is by far
the most attractive and ornamental.

By a vote passed at the April meeting of 1849 twelve acres of
land were purchased of Edward Walcott, Esq., to be used as a
town burying ground, and having been laid out by a committee of
the town on the 8th day of July, 1849, the citizens of the place
assembled to consecrate it and set it apart as a cemetery. The
prucession, consisting of the clergymen of the place. Sons of Tem-
perance, Odd Fellows, Firemen, children of the public schools,
ladies, and citizens, marched under the direction of Hon. Henry
Wilson to the cemetery grounds.

The divine blessing was implored by Rev, Alfred Greenwood. A
hymn, written for the occasion by Miss Eunice Morse, beginning —

" 'T is \\ell in these secluded shades
This pleasant spot to consecrate,"

was sung, after which Rev. Samuel Hunt of the First Church made
the following address :


This is a new and unwonted spectacle. Never before have the
inhabitants of this town assembled, to set apart, with religious ser-
vices, a public burial-place for the dead. Like the great body of our
countrymen, they have been too vtiUlarian in their notions to deem
such an expenditure and exhibition called for, or even appropriate.
To answer the purpose of interment, all that has hitherto been con-
sidered necessary has been a place, no matter how contracted and
dreary, or how much exposed to the careless tread and thoughtless
gaze of a rude and selfish world. If the dead could be buried out
of our sight we have seemed content, as if it had been a matter of
calculation to make the churchyard an accurate counterpart to the
desolate and lacerated hearts of surviving friends.

A change, however, has been visible in the public mind. More
attention is paid to the last, long home of earth's weary pilgrim.
The old burial grounds have begun to exhibit signs of improvement.
Their dilapidated fences have been repaired. The fallen posts and


broken rails have been replaced by more substantial walls and gate-
ways ; while the bushes and briars have begun to disappear before
the scythe and mattock of an improving taste. A better style of
the " monumental stone " has appeared ; while it is no rare sight to
see shrubbery and flowers, planted by the hand, and watered by the
tears of affection, adorning the final resting-place of the departed,
and perfuming even the chill atmosphere of the graveyard by their
grateful incense. Nor this alone. The attention of our cities and
larger towns has been turned to the procurement of extensive tracts
of land, picturesque in scenery and presenting an agreeable diversity
of prospect, to be fitted up as ornamental burying grounds, set
apart and ensured, with all the rights and immunities of owner-
ship, to their proprietors as cemeteries, or — as the classical etymol-
ogy of the word imports — places of rest for all coming time. Com-
mencing with Mount Auburn, about twenty years ago, which has
been regarded rather as a model. New York has its Greenwood
Cemetery, and Philadelphia its Laurel Hill, while other cities and
towns with less pretensions, have made a similar provision for this
solemn but universal want of the race.

Yielding to this prevailing taste and growing custom the inhab-
itants of this town have, by a vote of very general unanimity,
procured this very pleasant and appropriate spot, which we this day
meet to consecrate with rehgious services, as the sacred depository of
the dead. Convenient of access to the village and the town, pre-
senting, for the choice of different tastes, the broad and smooth
plain or the undulating forest, lying on the border of yon beautiful
and peaceful lake, and, although within hearing of the rushing
world as it hurries past on its pathway of iron, yet so retired that
mourners in the privacy of their grief may visit, without fear of
intrusion, the graves and monuments sacred to the memories of their
much loved but departed friends.

I have said that this is an unwonted spectacle. It is to us and
our countrymen, with the recent exceptions to which I have referred.
And I have alluded to utilitarianism as one of the reasons why we
have been accustomed to treat our dead with such neglect. It is
not impossible that the rigid Puritanism of our Pilgrim Fathers may
have contributed somewhat to the same result. Leaving as they
did their home of civilization and religious institutions for this west-
ern wilderness, for conscience' sake and a supreme regard for truth



and right as contrasted with form and ceremony — believing, too,
that the great business of time is to prepare for eternity, and that
the only death, that is much to be feared, is the death of the soul,
they may have exhibited for the mere rites and place of sepulture
more indifference than is desirable. For, admitting all this and
more, that the death of the body is an event so grim and terrible,
in all its features, that no attending circumstances can greatly
aggravate or alleviate it ; that it makes no essential difference whether
man meets it on the bosom of affection, in the gentle precincts of his
family, or among distant and hostile strangers, — from the stern power
of disease or the hand of violence ; whether his ashes mingle with his
kindred's dust in some rural place of rest like this, or his bones bleach
and moulder amid the rank luxuriance of the battle-field, it is still
death, and only death ; it is the close of a life that at longest is brief
as the passing shadow, an entrance upon a stage of being immeasur-
able and without end— admit all this, and does it follow that it is
wrong or useless to make the associations that linger around the
grave as little repulsive as possible — the last resting-place of friends
who have gone before us — the strait and narrow house we soon must
occupy ?

But whatever may have been our views or practice, it is no new
thing for the human family to select with great care, and guard and
adorn with vigilant painstaking, the last long home of the sleeping
dead. As far back as the days of Abraham, we read of that ancien°
patriarch purchasing " the field of Ephron in- Machpelah, with all the
trees that were therein, and the borders round about, as a burying-
place, and there was Sarah his wife buried ; and there," the sacred
narrative continues, " they buried Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah, and
Leah. ^ And when Jacob had made an end of blessing his sons, he
also said unto them, I am to be gathered unto my people ; bury
me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron." In
later days the same anxiety to provide some fitting place for the
dead has been manifested by those nations most distinguished for
their civilization and refinement. The Egyptians set apart extensive
fields in the neighborhood of their cities, in which the beautiful of
nature and the adornments of art were called in to render attractive
the last resting-place of the dead. The polished Greeks consecrated
a part of the groves of Academus, renowned the world over for its
school of Plato, as the burial-place of the most illustrious of their


great men. Among the Romans the same custom obtained, it being
one of the laws of the "^en Tables that the dead should be neither
buried nor burned -within the limits of the city. The Turks, cruel
and sensual as they are, pay great respect to the city of their dead,
planting the funeral cypress at the foot and head of each grave, and
thus securing those dark and shady groves of which travellers so
often speak. So the French, with their accustomed taste and senti-
ment, have filled their gorgeous Pere la Chaise with the ashes and
monuments of their distinguished countrymen ; to say nothing of the
more recent monuments in the same direction in London and Liver-
pool, and those instances in this country to which I have before
referred. It is then no uncommon service in which we are nov/
engaored. And as it is not uncommon, so I think it not difficult to
be shown that there is nothing in it forced, unnatural, or unrea-

One important advantage we may hope from the establishment of
a cemetery or ornamental burying ground, as this is expected to be,
is the aid it will afford in perpetuating the memory of departed
friends. It may sound strange to some mourner here, whose heart
is still bleeding from the freshness of his grief, to whom the world
seems all dark and desolate and deprived of half its former seeming
worth, that any appliances are necessary to perpetuate memories it
seems impossible to forget. Strange, however, as it may sound, the
sentiment has the support of all former observation that the danger
all lies in the opposite direction.

That anguish will be wearied down. For
What pang is permanent in man ? From the highest
As from the vilest thing of every day-
He learns to wean himself. For the strong hmirs
Conquer him.

And the past customs of society have seemed to aggravate what
perhaps we may call this natural predisposition to forget and become
insensible to the bereavements of Providence. Huddled in confined
and crowded fields, desolate and drear in their every aspect,
survivors have been repulsed from, instead of being invited to

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Online LibraryOliver N BaconA history of Natick, from its first settlement in 1651 to the present time; with notices of the first white families, and also an account of the centennial celebration, Oct. 16, 1851, Rev. Mr. Hunt's address at the consecration of Dell Park cemetery, &c. .. (Volume 2) → online text (page 10 of 22)