THE HARTFORD & DEDHAM TURNPIKE
by Francis D. Donovan, © 1995
Part 1: Stage Roads & Turnpikes
First, it might be well to note the place of turnpikes in New England.
A "turnpike" was a private toil road operating under a charter, and financed by the sale of shares of stock. It was maintained by the tolls exacted from the turnpike users, and profits, if any, were to be the shareholder's return on their investment.
"Profits, if any" is well taken. Few of the 'pikes ever earned enough to pay for maintenance, and still fewer issued a dividend.
Turnpike proprietors did not actually construct their entire routes. They subscribed certain amounts of money to contractors to build sections of the 'pike, with a prospect of making money by providing a more direct and smoother route between centers of commerce.
There were no private corporations in the United States before the Revolutionary War.
Prior to the time of the turnpikes, post roads were in general use.
Post roads were originally developed to carry letters - "post" - or small packages.
The "roads" were, in most cases, little more than marked trails through forests, and it was not until later that sufficient clearing and grading was done to allow passage of stagecoaches.
The word "stagecoach," by the way, came about because the coaches made their journeys in distances, or "stages," as in from one town or settlement to another.
As early as 1668, Hon. Francis Lovelace arrived in New York as successor to Governor Nicolls, and in an effort to establish friendly relations between the English colonies in America, and especially with New England, he and Col. Nicolls visited Governor Winthrop of Connecticut to discuss the establishment of a "post."
A post service was agreed upon, and the first trip by the post rider was made on January 22, 1673.
The rider started at a fort at the lower end of what is now Broadway in New York City, and then went on to Spuyten Duyvil where he put up for the night after a fifteen-mile ride on his first day out.
His route then lay up the Sound to New Haven, and on to Hartford. Thence on to Springfield, where he crossed the Connecticut, and then he rode on to Boston after traveling for two weeks.
After two day's rest, he started on the return journey, on a schedule of two round trips per month.
In addition to being a carrier of mail and packages, he directed other travelers along his route, and one of his most important functions was to bring news of people and events along the way.
The post service was suspended August, 1673, and was resumed in 1685 after sporadic service. By that time, it was obvious that something better than post rider service had to be achieved.
In 1691, a proper postal service was established in the colonies connecting most larger centers of commerce, and it was at about that time that the post rider trails were becoming more passable, laying the groundwork for the turnpikes.
The first turnpike of record dates from 1346, when Edward III allowed a levy to be charged on travelers over Gray's Inn Lane in London.
The word "turnpike" is derived from the use of turnstiles made from four crossed bars; because the bars were pointed at the ends, they were likened to the ancient pikestaff weapons. Combining "turnstile" and "pike" resulted in "turnpike."
Once called "turnpike roads," the phrase was soon shortened to "turnpike."
The most ancient form of tolls were those exacted by bands of ruffians or robbers to allow passage over the old trails and ways. Later, "tributes" were demanded of merchants traveling over roads in various territories.
By 1767, a regular stage was running between Boston and Providence, established by Thomas Sabin of Providence. The stage ran weekly through Pawtucket, South Attleboro, and North Attleboro, then over the later Route 1A through Wrentham and Walpole to Dedham.
The section of this road between North Attleboro and Wrentham was laid out around 1751, and connected with an older road which ran through Walpole and Wrentham to Woonsocket.
It soon replaced the "old Roebuck Road," and the running time between Boston and Providence was reduced to 10 hours.
By 1800, the principal routes from Boston were: (1) The "Coast Path" - Boston and Plymouth; (2) the "Kennebunk Road," following the coast northerly; (3) the "Bay Road," Boston and Stoughton; (4) the "Old Connecticut Path," through Wayland, Marlboro, Worcester, Oxford and Springfield to Albany and thence over the "Iriquois Trail" to Lake Erie; (5) the "old Roebuck Road," through Dedham, East Walpole, South Walpole, Foxboro, North Attleboro, Pawtucket and Providence, connecting with the "Pequot Path" to Westerly, R.I. and New York City.
There was a single route from New Haven, Connecticut to New York City at about the same time.
There were three routes in use in our area. There was the "Upper Road," also known as the "Old Boston Road," from Boston through Worcester, Springfield, Hartford and on to New Haven; the "Middle Road," from Dedham through Medway (over our present Village Street), to Uxbridge, Douglas, Putnam, Pomfret, Coventry, Hartford, Wethersfield, Berlin, Meriden, Wallingford, North Haven and into New Haven.
The third highway was the "Lower Road," from Dedham through Walpole, Attleboro, Providence, R.I., Warwick, Bristol, Newport, Westerly, New London, and New Haven, generally following the present Route 1.
Another route connected at Providence which ran through Scituate and Coventry, Rhode Island, and Norwich and New London, Connecticut to New Haven.
Turnpikes, as distinguished from the sort of roads we have been discussing, were those on which gates barred the progress of travelers, and at which payments were demanded as tolls.
In Massachusetts, turnpike tolls were as follows:
|Coach, or other 4-wheeled spring vehicle,||$ .25|
|2-oxen wagon or cart||.10|
|Man & horse||.04|
|Sleigh or sled, 2 horses, or 2 oxen||.08|
|Horses, cattle, mules & driver, each||.01|
|Sheep or swine, dozen||.03|
While these sums may seem small, it should be remembered that tolls had to be paid at each section of the turnpike.
There were some exemptions to paying tolls. Persons going to Sabbath service were passed free as were individuals bringing materials to grist mills, farmers in their regular travel to fields and pastures, and persons with commerce within the toll section.
As the turnpike fever accelerated around 1800, it was the custom to designate each one as a regiment, such as "First Massachusetts," "Second Mass.," and so on to the "Sixteenth Corp." There was no "Seventh Mass.," and the Williamstown Turnpike Corporation was listed in place of the "Fourth Mass."
Our local turnpikes were not so designated, however. One of the best-known in our area was the Norfolk & Bristol Turnpike, running from Dedham to the Rhode Island border.
The present Washington Street generally follows this old 'pike, and the section between South Walpole and North Attleboro was, in the writer's boyhood, only a cart path, and the writer qualified for his Boy Scout 14-mile hike by walking the old stage route in 1929.
The "old" turnpike section between South Walpole and North Att!eboro had been abandoned in favor of the Norwood-Walpole-Plainville route, the later. Route l-A, and the only non-straight section of the .'pike.
At the intersection of the Norfolk & Bristol Turnpike and the ancient "Cape Road" which ran from Wrentham and points beyond to Foxboro and on to Plymouth and Cape Cod, (1ater, the intersection of Routes 140 and 1), stood the Shackstand Tavern, operated by "Pennyroyal" Cobb.
This was the inn later owned by Leon Pini, former manager of the Weber Duck Inn on Dedham Street in Wrentham, near the Norfolk-Wrentham town line.
Both of these establishments have been gone for many years.
The Norfolk & Bristol Turnpike started at Eliot Square in Boston at the Norfolk House, and ran through Dedham to the Phoenix House (burned in 1880), and the Norfolk House.
On the same route, South Walpole had the Fuller Tavern and the Polly Tavern standing opposite one another at the village square. ("We'll get 'em going and coming," said the owners).
The Fuller Tavern still stands as an apartment building, but the Polly Tavern, later the location of Whitcomb & Crocker General Store is gone.
It is claimed that Washington slept at the Fuller Tavern, but inasmuch as the tavern was not built until 1814, and General Washington died in 1797, the claim is indeed in doubt.
Because the Norfolk and Bristol Turnpike was typical of turnpikes of the period, we have illuminated it somewhat for the purposes of this book.
Stagecoach travel over turnpikes or stage roads never was a restful exercise.
TV and movies depict the stagecoach traveler riding smoothly along, gentle breezes wafting, males dressed in suits and ties, ladies in crisp white waists, immaculate skirts, shoes and hats ..... not so.
We have already mentioned that turnpikes were to be laid out "in as near a straight line as possible" - and besides being impractical, this design gave rise to other situations.
For example, when hills loomed ahead, the stage driver would whip his horses to a frenzied speed, to the fright, dismay, and sometimes injury of the passengers. Hats and baggage were sometimes lost thusly, to be picked up by a following stage, if there was one, and if the driver was willing to stop to do so!
There was also the matter of "speeding up" when the driver on one stage line tried to outrun a rival. Shouting and plying his whip, the driver of a six-in-hand would race with reckless abandon over the bumpy road, with his passengers being rocked and jolted, their protests unheeded
More than once, unexpected hazards made travel even more exciting - for instance in an event that occurred in 1811 on the Hartford & Dedham Turnpike.
It seems that on the 'pike, near Douglas, the stage driver's neck was gashed by a branch. The driver, rendered unconscious, bled to death, all unknown to the passengers. The horses followed their regular path by habit, and it was not until the coach passed a regular stopping place that those inside the coach realized that something was wrong. A young man who was a passenger climbed out of the window, reached the driver's seat, and drove the horses to the next stop.
We like to think that this incident, taking place in our local area, might have been the inspiration for the multitude of like performances seen almost daily on TV and in the movies.
Earlier than this incident was another that took place on the old Middle Road - our present Village Street.
It was at the time of the American Revolution when tempers ran high, and patriotism flourished.
It seems that a Major John Pitcairn of his Majesty's forces seized the Wright Tavern in Concord, Massachusetts for his field headquarters. This was shortly before the battle at the "rude bridge." The Major demanded food for his officers, and while stirring his brandy and sugar remarked, "In this way, we will stir the blood of the Yankees before night."
What has this to do with our Middle Road?
At about the same time, a known Tory, Adoniram Steele stopped at Richardson's Tavern on the Middle Post Road in East Medway on Militia Day. He stepped into the tap room, and realizing he was in an awkward situation, in a group of armed militiamen, offered to buy a round "for these brave Colonials." Every one of the militiamen walked out of the tap room.
The taverns of those days left much to be desired in the way of creature comforts.
The Wayside Inn is an excellent example of an inn of the turnpike days, with its narrow stairs, various sized rooms, with no particular pattern of access or appointments - much like an inn described by a traveler in the early 1800's:
"Being shew'd the way up a pair of Stairs which had such a narrow passge that I had almost stopt by the Bulk of my Body; But arriving at my Apartment found it to be a little Leanto Chamber furnisht among other Rubbish with a High Bedd and a Low one, a Long Table, a Bench and a Bottomless Chair. Little Miss went to scratch up my Kennell which Russelled as if shee'd bin a Barn among the Husks and suppose such was the Contents of the Tickin - nevertheless being exceedingly weary down I laid my poor Carkes never more tired and found my Covering as scanty as my bed was hard. Anon I heard another Russelling noise in the room - & called to know the matter - Little Miss said she was making a bed for the men; who when they were in Bed complain'd their Leggs lay out of it by reason of its shortness - my poor bones complained bitterly not being used to such Lodgings, and so did the man who was with us; and poor I made but one Grone which was from the time I went to bedd to the time I rise which was about three in the morning Setting up by the fire till light..."
To better understand the trials of coach travel on our Hartford and Dedham Turnpike, let us read a portion of a diary written by a traveler on such a turnpike in 1810:
"From where Stoughton begins, t'was a hard and unpleasant ride to Dedham to the stage Post; cold and rain plagued my man-servant and me & I cursed my conscience for forbearing to bring some warming Rum in my Greatcoat pocket."
"At Adams's, and lately Hale's in Dedham, which we raised at four o'clock in the morning dismayed I was to hear the raucous cries of the carrier & not heeding them, I dispatched my servant ere he brought my baggage & with a draught of some Kill-Devill I was restored."
"In my hunger - not having had a morsel since six of the evening before, I sought the tap-room table where some sustenance might be had. To my dismay the offering was some boiled mutton with what appeared to be last year's turnip, ail of which being consumed, laid in my stomach & and the crier's call of 'all to coach' came at an inopportune time."
"It seemed propitious to embark for Hartford & in the Inn-yard, the cold rain still obtained, and I had not one to bring my baggage to the Coach, until a lecherous creature from the Inn, deep in liquor, staggered to my side with offers to handle my portmanteau."
"Ah, what woe this simple episode foretold! The wretched sot grasped my portmanteau, and with an unexpected strength, flung it to the top of a stage, unfortunately, as I soon learned, a conveyance bound for Boston."
"'Hartford!'" I cried, "'Hartford!'"
"The Boston stage driver in anger at the delay, flung the piece of baggage to the ground where it found the wettest spot in the Inn-yard, further blessed with horse excrement."
"At the moment, the landlord ran into the yard, shouting and gesticulating, and in the torch-flare, leaned into my face and demanded his two shillings, which upon my remonstrance increased his demand with great fervor and heard not my protestations that I had paid ny just due in the tap-room, and with the rain and the unhappiness of the moment all seemed lost until the boniface ran to the scene and explained I had settl'd ye account & another was the culprit."
"I hasten to add my Hartford stage driver was heeling his four to make the turn of the Inn-yard & all were aboard but me and shouting and running achieved in halting my stage's departure."
"There were nine souls in the conveyance, a voyage I now likened to a voyage on the river Styx."
"From the stage-place to Ames's was but a matter of minutes, and soon to wheel on the Turnpike through the West Woods & a Great longing that my vitals would be more comforted was denied by the jolting and rocking passage of the coach-and-four."
"The cold settled in, and the dampness increased, with a few rivulets coming through the seams of the coach & I prayed my seat-mate, a female of forbidding size and mein share the lap-robe. Most unpleasantly, she refused with acid comment, and I bethought myself she was flattering herself to think that, in my own misery, and that of my surroundings, she might be attended of my amorous advances under the robe, and more so in her unattractive person I would be so inclined."
"At the Medfield tolls & dawn at hand the mutton and ale rested not easily, & at Richardson's we scarce disembarked when the driver shouting his lost time importuned his passengers to board.and continue. A piece of bread was mine, and a morsel of boiled beef & we whirled to Medway and Mendon where at which latter place I entreated Taft at the tavern to let me occupy a room to rest and gather my senses which he agreed & I spent two hours and boarded the next stage to Thompson, alas, I would have to await a connecting stage, having lost my through journey stage & which necessitated my paying another fare & along the way my portmanteau was torn and the contents wetted."
"At Thompson, I lost a shoe Buckle, but was past caring .... ,,
Part II: The Old Turnpike In Medway
The Hartford & Dedham Turnpike was, as Historian Alvin Harlow said of the New York & New England Railroad, "born with the seeds of death in its bloodstream.."
Initially, it was not wanted, it was built too late to be an effective communication link, it was built with expectations of revenue far in excess of true potential, and it is not used today for its original purpose. As a matter of fact, the ill-fated New York & New England Railroad, the later Midland Division of the New Haven Railroad, and whose route the Hartford & Dedham Turnpike nearly paralleled has long since been abandoned.
Perhaps the final ignominy came in 1869 when the town, in a burst of misplaced modernistic fervor, remaned its streets, and the turnpike was named Main Street. At least some dignity might have been left to the old way, could we call it "The Turnpike" here in town.
Petitioners labored for six years in the State legislature for authority to build a turnpike between Dedham, Massachusetts and Hartford, Connecticut. A stage route - the "Middle Post Road" - already existed between the two points, but a new and more direct route was desired, and in 1803, a petition was granted by the legislature.
When chartered in 1804, our Turnpike was designed to close the gap left by a Connecticut Corporation, the Ninth Massachusetts and the Norfolk & Bristol, in a through 97-mile route between Dedham and Hartford. The route was to run over the. present High Street in Dedham to Westwood Center, and on through Medfield and West Medway.
The rights granted by the state, however, were not accepted by the towns along the way, and a corporation could not be formed.
Perseverance won out, and a new petition was filed in 1804, and on March 9th of that year, the Hartford & Dedham Turnpike was chartered and incorporated.
Then came a delay of almost two years while a group of stockholders sought to have the new corporation dissolved. The problem was that the corporate name for the turnpike was the "Hartford & Dedham Turnpike," and the dissidents wanted it to be called the "Dedham & Hartford Turnpike." "After all," said the protestors, "there is little Connecticut money pledged to this venture. Let Connecticut not have precedence in the Company's name!" But Hartford & Dedham Turnpike it remained.
The new road was to be "built in as near a straight line as possible" between Dedham and Hartford, and looking at the course of the 'pike today, it had a remarkably direct course.
Part of its undoing was, of course, in this "straight line" concept. The planners blithely disregarded hills along the way - inclines that should have been circumvented rather than assaulted. These grades resulted in stage drivers "making a run for it" - getting up speed to top the hill, while the passengers were jolted, rocked, and frightened near out of their wits by the shouting, whip-plying driver urging his four on over the bumpy road.
The approximately 17-mile section between Dedham and West Medway cost $1,940 per mile to build.
Hartford & Dedham Turnpike Stock originally sold for $50 per share, but the price soon dropped to $10, and in a few years, the stock was worthless.
In the Massachusetts Register of 1816, the Hartford & Dedham Turnpike is not even listed. Apparently, the 'pike was in such a state of disrepair that it was not being used as a stage route. In 1821, the Turnpike was closed to travel other than local use, and bickering over maintenance costs between towns, county and State preceded this by several years.
In 1830, the Dedham - West Medway portion of the 'pike became free, and in 1838, the rest of the route was opened to free travel. Medway was assessed $160 as its portion of damages to be paid to the corporation for its road.
There are not many places today where the old Turnpike - now our Route 109 - can be seen. One section is near the Westood-Medfield town line; traces of the 'pike can be seen north of Route 109, where it ran near the old fork factory dam.
The 1807 Turnpike Corporation's new construction covered the section from about Walpole Street to Mill Brook Street, and a section from Bridge Street in Medfield across the Charles River on a causeway up over Thrasher's Hill to Dover Road in East Medway, now Millis.
A longer section was built from Pleasant Street in Millis across Black Swamp, over Drybridge Hill in Medway, and through West Medway to an intersection with the Middle Post Road at the Bellingham town line.
The 'pike continued on through what was then known as Milford (now South Milford). It then went on to Mendon on a route some distance away from the Post Road.
For many years, the old Turnpike was driveable, but little more, from Douglas through the Douglas Woods, to East Thompson, a delightful ride for those courageous enough to undertake it. The roadway has now been vastly improved. The grade between Putman and Pomfret was one of the steepest on the pike's route, as it is today.
To return to our local area: two bridges were built over the Charles River on the causeway between Medfield and East Medway, the first one having been washed out after only a few month's service.
Little difficulty was encountered in building the causeway at the Charles, although a tremendous amount of gravel fill was required. To prevent erosion, willows were planted along both sides of the causeway, those on the north side being removed in later years for a right-of-way for the Medway & Dedham Street Railway.
In fact, picture postcards of the period show this section of road as "The Willows At Medfield."
Coming west, the turnpike went up over Thrasher's Hill (where trolley cars frequently stalled).
West of Thrasher's Hill, the new 'pike crossed the old Middle Post Road (Dover Street to Village Street) at the still-standing ancient Harding place.
In fact, at the time of the 'pike's inception, there were few dwellings along the route between the Charles River and Black Swamp.
There was the Jonathan Adams place, later owned by Mr. Gavin atop Thresher's Hill. Next was the Abraham Harding place at the junction of Main and Village Streets.
At LaCroix's Corner - now the Red Barn Shopping Center - the Rev. David Deming's house was located, sold to Rev. Nathan Bucknam before 1720.
Across from this was the Elihu Fuller house, probably the home of Timothy Hammond in earlier days.
In 1806, Farm Street was laid out to LaCroix Corner and the Bare Hill meeting house.
The next obstacle for the builders was the Great Black Swamp.
The contractor thought this would be an easy project after building the long causeway at Charles River meadows, but it didn't work out that way.
The Turnpike was built with hard-packed gravel on a clay base, and the long causeway between East Medway and Medway across Black Swamp was the most difficult section to build.
Tons of gravel and stone fill simply disappeared into the muck, and it was not until rip-rap fashioned from tree trunks and branches, granite slabs, lumber and boulders finally settled as a base, that a graded surface could be made.
At the east end of Black Swamp, a toll-keeper's house was established, at the old Bullen place. The house still stands on the brow of a little hill, next to the shops of the Braman Screw Machine Company.
Jameson's History of Medway indicates that there was a toll gate "Near the Hammond place," close to the later railroad crossing at Route 109 in Millis. However, records in Dedham indicate that tolls were collected at "Bullen's in East Medway." It would appear, therefore, that with the Hammond location well east of the crossing (one of the buildings houses the Sportsmen's Lounge), the Bullen place is much more likely as the toil gate location.
The John Bullen house, lately occupied by Phil Braman, was built around 1800 by Bullen who was an incorporator of the Turnpike, giving strength to the idea of the place being the site of the toll gates.
Also, Orion T. Mason, Medway's premier historian, said that the granite pivot posts were standing on each side of the road near the present entrance to the Braman Screw Machine Company until removed in 1910 by the County in a road-widening project.
The late Everett Adams, who resided near the Turnpike owned an original toll receipt book, kept around 1810-1813 by his ancestor Silas Adams.
The toll reckoning was kept by dividing pages in the receipt book in half; in the left-hand columns were listed the types of conveyances or persons or animals of passage - ""man on horse," "one hay Waggon," "Horse and chaise," "two Cartel teams," and, of course, "coaches."
In the right-hand columns, the number of such passages were recorded by marks, with a total of the day's receipts entered.
The Embargo Act of 1807 did help to increase business over our Turnpike, as the Act stimulated domestic production requiring better and faster transportation.
In 1813, an average of 15 tolls were taken daily. Mr. Adams noted that an early toll house and gate existed at the top of Thrasher's Hill near Bridge and Main Streets. The Adams house at that location was turned around to face the turnpike and facilitate the toll operations.
It is likely that the toll-gate was moved to the Bullen place around 1812, as it would not be practical to operate two toll houses so close together simultaneously.
Meanwhile, stages were still rolling over the Old Mendon Road. - but not rolling very fast. The familiar pictures showing the coach-and-four dashing along a smooth road, with the driver's companion tooting a horn don't really depict the way things actually were.
Most historians and artists ignore the fact that the early roads - post and turnpike - were clogged with stages, freight, farm and goods wagons, as well as private conveyances. On many occasions, these vehicles blocked following and sometimes opposing traffic, especially when drawn by plodding oxen.
Then there were the droves of cattle, swine and sheep that used the roads.
Finally, regulations on the usage of the roads were imposed.
One of these was the requirement that livestock had to be moved at night, and this, of course, resulted in complaints from dwellers along the road when the drovers, some intoxicated, shouted their commands to their four-legged charges along the way.
The most advantageous change was in the widening of the roads, so that vehicles could pass slower traffic.
By 1809, our Turnpike was well established, and carried a satisfactory amount of traffic, although its funded debt was still ominously high.
There was little building along its route until well after 1810, and in Medway, the first dwellings along the route were the Dr. Ide place of 1816 opposite the site of the first meeting house, and the Tavern and Congregational Church of 1814-1816 on Rabbit Hill.
Rabbit Hill - so named because it was once riddled with rabbit warrens - is indicative of the grades along the turnpike route.
The plan of the Hartford & Dedham Turnpike shows that it was indeed laid out in a nearly straight line, but the profile of the 'pike shows a rather different story, and explains the basic problems with the route's design.
For example, near the Westwood-Medfield town line, the elevation of the turnpike stands at 267 feet above mean sea level. At Nebo Street, it has dropped over 30 feet, and at Bridge Street, just before crossing the Charles River, it has dropped another 20 feet.
Then, at the summit of Thrasher's Hill, the road rises 30 feet, and reaches another low at Black Swamp. with sharp inclines at Drybridge Hill and Rabbit Hill, and so on.
Thrasher's Hill was often avoided by drivers by going over Bridge Street and Brastow's Bridge to Dover Road, and Drybridge Hill was similarly avoided by using Coffee, Lovering, Maple and Winthrop Streets.
These practices were soon ended by Medway officials on the basis that the turnpike corporation contributed nothing to the upkeep of town roads.
Dover Road in East Medway was part of the old Middle Post Road, known previously as "The Road to the Wilderness," when it went as far as Mendon, and over which the residents of that town fled during the Indian attacks of 1666-67.
Later, as a post road, it carried stages to the western points of Uxbridge and beyond.
It generally followed the course of Village Street in Medway, and ran close to the later Turnpike.
Returning to the "straight line" idea for the Turnpike, there were two projects in the 1860's with the same thought in mind.
The Charles River Railroad, later known as the "Air Line" was one of them, and the other was the Boston, Hartford & Erie RR.
At one time, the Air Line - later the Woonsocket Division of the New York, New Haven & Hartford RR - ran through Millis and Medway on to Bellingham and into Woonsocket. Here the road was projected to go on to Putnam and Hartford, but formidable grades and hills barred the way.
The Air Line wandered in a snake's trail out of Woonsocket and finally ended in Harrisville, RI, with some four miles of its route lying in useless duplication along the Pascoag Branch.
The Boston, Hartford & Erie, however, did achieve its Putnam - Hartford plan, and in the route west of Blackstone and Douglas ran for miles closely parallel to our Turnpike.
It shows, therefore, that the "straight line" concept, while not really practical was an accepted idea.
To return to our Turnpike: after crossing Black Swamp, the roadway gained solid ground at what is now Oakland Street - formerly "Candlewood Island Road."
At one time this spot was to be the location of the "new Meeting House," being adjudged the (then) geographical center of Medway. Several town meetings and legislative petitions were taken up in the process, with the "New Grant folks" winning out over East Medway.
Just westerly of this location, Coffee Street -named for Ishmael Coffee, a black Revolutionary War soldier from Medway - crossed the new Turnpike, and went on to cross Oakland Street, becoming Cedar Street at that point. It then went up to Stoney Plain to the ancient Putnam Clark farmstead, and joined what is now Forest Road.
This was the old trail the settlers from North Medway and West Medway used to attend worship and town meetings in the meeting house on Bare Hill near the head of Pleasant Street in Millis.
From Dedham, there were no dwellings along the 'pike when it was built, and it would be several years before there would be any.
Coming into Medway, and on the northwest corner of what is now Main and Holliston Streets, stands the Simeon Partridge house, dating to about 1845. Simeon's son Henry, born in this house on July 4, 1845 was a graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and followed the occupations of surveyor and farmer. He was a Selectman, School Committee member, and town historian.
Opposite this place is a Gulf gasolene station, one of the oldest commercial establishments in town.
It was once owned by George Smith, a self-taught skilled cartographer, who spent many hours in the station drawing his maps. These maps were unique in that in most of them, Medway was the center of the County, State, Nation, or even the Universe, with distances to far-away places such as Moscow or Shanghai measured in air-miles from Medway.
Just beyond the Partridge place, and at the foot of Drybridge Hill stood the first "Drybridge School." (The second of the name was located at Holliston and Lovering Streets).
Drybridge Hill, by the way, gained its name from a cattle underpass built so that Simeon Partridge's cattle could be brought out to pasture south of the Turnpike without crossing the road.
Atop Drybridge Hill, and located where the Colonial Plaza is today, was the Aaron Hobart residence. This dwelling was reputed to be one of the first Sears & Roebuck prefabricated cottages, and was razed to make way for the plaza.
A small house and bootshop built around 1860, and later occupied by Peter Gallagher stood about where the Shell gasolene station is now. It burned in 1900.
The next house on the north side of the 'pike was the Hurd place, standing where the Medway Shopping Center sign is now. The house was formerly owned by Henry Wheat, and was built around 1850.
Many residents recall seeing Geneva (Parker) Hurd in her long brown and grey dresses and bonnets tending her garden, or walking to the village in her long shawl (which she wore winter and summer) for groceries. She was the sister of George Henry Parker, owner of Woodland Park, a popular recreation area across the Charles River from the present police station.
Eva Hurd's place was the last in town to be without electricity, running water, central heat, telephone or bathroom, but in spite of that, Eva lived to a healthy 92 years of age. She died in 1952, and the house was torn down a few years later when land for the shopping plaza was purchased.
The Medway Shopping Center was in operation by 1965, with a Mammoth Mart and Fernandes Supermarket as the anchor stores.
The Drybridge Crossing complex was completed in 1988.
The next house to the Wheat/Hurd place was the Washburn place near the Medway Block Company location. It was razed in 1994.
It was occupied for a time by Rev. George Y. Washburn, and later the place was owned by Earl Hill.
Rev. Washburn's wife was Barzillai Pond's daughter, and she was the first woman from Medway to "go away to college." She attended Mary Lyon's Female Seminary, now Mt. Holyoke College.
There was another building which stood nearby, a house made from a barn, just easterly of the Washburn place, and it was torn down many years ago.
Across the Turnpike from these places stood the Peter Kenney place, removed in 1967 to make way for the new postoffice.
Just west of the Kenney place was Montgomery's Garage, later Bell & Meyer's Garage, now occupied by Medway Auto Sales and an auto supply store.
IMG1: The Beckwith - Gilendorff place. Now situated diagonally across Main Street at Elm Street. 1947
IMG2: The Turnpike Road, easterly from Winthrop Street.
IMG3: Baptist Church, West Medway, Mass. 1913
IMG4: Baptist Church, West Medway Mass, 1909
IMG5: Sumner Robbins store, Main and Evergreen Streets, about 1900; later Gordon Dress Company, and now a real estate office building
IMG6: "Horribles" parade, Main and Winthrop Streets, 1901
IMG7: Residence of Rev. Jacob Ide, D.D.
Erected 1814-1815 by Malachi Bullard
IMG 8: The Turnpike west from the Dr, Ide place, with Cephas Thayer's "Stone Mill" at extreme left. 1914.
IMG9: "Stone Mill" and original Turnpike arch bridge, from Oak Street, 1907
IMG10: Rare view of the Thayer shop, 1907
IMG11: The Turnpike east from Lincoln Street, 1913
IMG12: Original 1896 Oddfellows Block with West Medway Postoffice. Destroyed by fire in 1964
This is how it looked in 1912.
IMG13: Oddfellows Block, 1957; Post Office, barber shop, and "supermarket."
IMG14: Lampman Drug and Crosby's General Store, 1957.
IMG15: This is the only known photograph of the
Dr. Charles Bemis place, Taken by F. Donovan
IMG16: Wilkinson Oil Cup Shop,
later Silver Elastic Braid Co. 1956
IMG17: The Turnpike, west from Lincoln Street, 1913.
IMG18: The Newell Bullard place, 1910.
IMG19: The Bullard Boarding House and Coombs Store
IMG20: Winter on Rabbit Hill, 1900.
IMG21: The Doctor Butler place, 1919.
IMG22: Looking west along Main Street, 1902.
IMG23: View of Main Street West Medway,1895
IMG24: Second Church of Christ in Medway, built 1816.
IMG25: Congregational Church Square, east , 1885
IMG26: Congregational Church Square, west, 1885
|Both Views, 1920.|
At the northeast corner of Main and Pond Streets, there formerly stood an ancient house, the Parson David Sanford place.
It was one of two houses at that location. It faced Pond Street, and stood about where the Cumberland Farm store is now. It was torn down after Rev. Sanford died in 1810.
This old house, probably built around 1750, was occupied by Mr. Sanford's predecessor, Rev. David Thurston, who, upon his own request, was dismissed from the church in 1770.
Mr. Sanford was the second Pastor of the Second Church of Christ in Medway - of which more later - and was a well-known figure of his day.
He was a preacher of great ability and a patriot, and served in Colonel Robinson's Regiment in 1776. In 1779, he was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention at Cambridge. He was a pioneer in the anti-slavery movement, and in temperance movements.
Three of his daughters married clergymen, but none of his sons served in the ministry. His grandson, Rev. David Sanford served churches in Newmarket, NH, and Dorchester, before being settled as Pastor of the Village Congregational Church in Medway.
The second house (of 1812) was one of the first to be built near the Turnpike. It was a spacious, square low two-story house with a porch around three sides and was torn down around 1950 to make way for the Cumberland Farms Store.
The Italian villa style house, shorn of its former elegance, now standing at the southwest corner of Elm and Main Streets was moved to its present location in 1973. It formerly stood across the road where through successive generations, it was owned by Barzillai Pond's forebears, and it was sold by the Ponds to its last owner, W. W. Ollendorff.
An earlier dwelling stood on the site owned by Eleazer Thompson, and that house was taken down when Dr. Beckwith built the "fine house" around 1865. The Thompson place, a much less pretentious dwelling, dated to 1822.
The Ollendorff house had some unusual construction features, not the least of which is its upper-story painted wide-board exterior, devoid of shingles or clapboards so common in other houses of the time. Originally it had, like the Thurston place, wide verandas on three sides. It had a large attached barn and stable, with a well-equipped farm workshop included, and extensive truck gardens. The billiard-room, a separate structure at this estate, was moved around 1925, and is now a dwelling at No. 36 Cottage Street.
William Ollendorff was a prominent man in Massachusetts industry and politics. He was involved in management of the textile mills in Caryville, and was President of the Medway & Dedham Street Railway.
He was very active in civic affairs, having served as Police Chief and Selectman, among other offices, and was a State Councillor, Representative, and State Committeeman.
His house reflected the quiet gentility of this man and his beloved wife Alice.
After the Ollendorff place was moved, three new houses were built at the old location, in architectural styles radically different from other dwellings along the Turnpike.
Across the Turnpike was the Elbridge Ware place, later the Nowlin residence, at what is now No. 129 Main Street. A long ell on this house, since removed, once housed George Pond's bakery, the only such establishment in town.
The next important site south of the Ware place was the old Mechanic's Hall, in which a furniture store is now located.
The building has been enlarged, but still carries the general lines of the former structure.
The first use of the building was probably for Universalist Church services, whose congregation later migrated to the nearby Baptist Church.
As Mechanic's Hall, the place was used for meetings, lyceums, and tradesman's classes. It was the second such hall to stand on the site, the first,, built in 1819, being taken down around 1840.
Across the road from Mechanics Hall is an empty lot marking the site of Pond's Boot Shop, and the factory building was later the George Elder residence. It was razed several years ago.
At one time, Cottage Street extended across Main Street for some distance beyond the Pond Boot Shop, and it was planned by Charles H. Deans, Esq., an attorney and conveyancer, to build several houses along the road.
Deans, who we shall notice later, suffered severe financial reverses, and after only two houses were built, the project was abandoned. The two houses burned in 1900, and thus ended one of Medway's earliest "developments."
The house standing at the northeast corner of Temple and Main Streets was built as the Baptist Parsonage in 1873.
On the opposite corner, and still on the north side of the Turnpike is the Flossie Ware place, built about 1838, and next to that westerly is the Deacon John Smith house of 1836.
The Smith house was once connected by a long ell to a large four-story boot shop that stood north of the house. The factory later housed the Congress Shirt & Gaiter Company, and burned to the ground in 1910.
Across the road from the Smith place and well back from the street stands a large brown barn. This barn marks almost the exact site of the first schoolhouse in the New Grant, built in 1738. The barn, which was erected long after the schoolhouse disappeared, was used by Ambrose Marean in his livery and express business.
An empty lot and cellar hole west of the Smith place marks the location of the 1832 Baptist Church, which was destroyed in the 1938 September "Great New England Hurricane."
The writer recalls seeing it at that time, and with its flimsy construction, it is a wonder that it lasted well over 100 years.
Opposite the Baptist Church lot is a large building, recently containing a real estate office, and it was built as a store and factory around 1840 by Sumner Robbins, a merchant of the time.
It was known as the "Plainville Store," because of the section of town along Cottage Street which was known as "Plainville." Robbins ran his store here for over 40 years.
There was a boot shop upstairs, and the building was occupied by various businesses over the years, with a firm known as the Gordon Dress Shops occupying it just prior to the real estate offices.
"Plainville" was the section of West Medway around Cutler and upper Cottage Streets, and the present American Legion Hall on Cutler Street was once the "Plainville Schoolhouse."
There were many such colloquial place names in Medway, one of them being "Sodom," the section of Winthrop Street near Main Street, so named because of the large number of Baptists residing there.
On the same side of the 'pike and across Evergreen Street is the Hastings place, later the Willis Clark residence. It was built about 1860 by Sally Hastings, sister of Deming Jarvis, owner of the Sandwich Glass Works.
Just westerly of the Hastings house was where the first meeting house and church in the New Grant were located. The meeting house - so called because town meetings were held in it, along with religious services - was built in 1749, and lasted until 1816 when it was taken down, and the timbers and lumber from it were used in building the present Parish House on Rabbit Hill.
A "noon house" equipped with settees stood in the dooryard of the meeting house, where churchgoers could go for lunch, and in winter warm themselves before an open fire.
Sabbath service in those days was an all-day affair, and the barn-like "meeting' house," unheated, could get mighty cold in winter.
Just westerly of the meeting house location was Hastings Spring, a never-ceasing source of crystal-clear cold water well known for its medicinal qualities. People came from miles around to drink the waters, and the inhabitants used to go there for water in time of drought.
The water was also used in elixirs of the time, among them Dr. Haynes' Arabian Balsam, manufactured in a laboratory on Lincoln Street.
Before the Turnpike was built, Oak Street ran about as it presently does from Highland Street, and ran in front - or southerly - of the old meeting house. It connected with what is now Evergreen Street and went along over Vine Lane - now Kelley Street - to access Medway Village.
As we have mentioned previously, it was over this old way that the settlers from north and west Medway walked to the meeting house on Bare Hill in East Medway.
Across from the site of the Meeting House is the Rev. Jacob Ide place, built in 1816.
Dr. Ide had one of the longest pastorates in New England, serving the Congregational Church in West Medway from 1814 to 1865.
The house is one of the earliest still standing in the "Rabbit Bill" vicinity, and through a fortunate succession of owners, has been well maintained, and is a splendid example of 18th Century Federal architecture.
Dr. Ide and his wife Mary (Emmons) Ide lived in the old Nathaniel Cutler house at Winthrop and Maple Streets - now gone - for the first year of the pastorate. At the Turnpike house, Dr. Ide trained many young men for the ministry, and here he provided a library where the townspeople could borrow books.
Just to the west of the Ide place is a small house, the Torrey-Ide place. This house was built in 1850 by the Massachusetts Abolitionist Society, for Mary Ide Torrey, and represents a story that could fill a book.
Mary Ide, born in 1817 was the daughter of Rev. Jacob and Mary Ide, and she married a Rev. Charles Turner Torrey in 1837.
Charles Torrey was a Congregational minister, and never enjoyed good health. The demands made upon his ministerial office were further complicated by his active participation in the anti-slavery movement.
He traveled frequently between the north and south and personally conducted several groups of slaves over the famous Underground Railway.
In one such trip, Rev. Torrey attempted to liberate a slave and his family, and was apprehended by the authorities, charged with criminal action, and imprisoned at Annapolis, Maryland, in 1842.
He was in and out of prisons for the ensuing years, and by 1846, Mary Torrey, by this time in poor health herself, was spending much of her time in getting her husband out of prison.
Perhaps too late, Mary Torrey was able to see a "Torrey Committee" formed in Boston, for Charles Torrey died in prison in Baltimore in May, 1846.
We must recognize one factor here, and that is that if Charles Torrey had admitted that his efforts and beliefs were in error, he would have been freed, and his life span increased. He steadfastly refused to do so, however, and even though Mary Torrey knew that her husband would desist if she asked him, she never made the request.
How difficult it must have been for her - the long separations from her loved one, the knowledge of his failing health, and after ail was over, she had only her memories and her little house in Medway.
The Widow Martyr Torrey, as she was known, died in the house in 1869.
The former United Shoe Machinery plant on the south side of the Turnpike opposite the West Medway Park marks the site of Cephas Thayer's Stone Mill of 1838.
Originally, there was no pond north of Oak Street, but Thayer put in two dams on Chicken Brook, one near Oak Street, and the other at his mill. The pond formed by the Oak Street dam is now our West Medway Park pond.
Chicken Brook, a natural and fairly constant waterway furnished power for several industries along its course.
There was Partridge's Saw & Shingle Mill at Sanderson's Pond between Winthrop and Maple Streets, a trip-hammer shop and coach lace manufactory near the present 19 Winthrop Street, another saw mill downstream, and a small tannery nearby.
The Stone Mill was built from a single granite boulder quarried in back of the residence at 179 Main Street.
Traces of the original Thayer shop, now incorporated in the main building, along with the sluice waterway can still be seen about where the card rooms were located when the building housed the Buckholdt Woolen Company after WWII.
The writer, who worked as a yarn weigher in the mill many years ago, recalls watching master spinners Bill Hilferty and Leo Bourque at their craft, a trade almost non-existent now.
The mill was later the home of the United Awl Co., a USM subsidiary, and after that the place was occupied by Footwear Associated Products.
The building is now being considered for conversion to condominium units.
At the bridge on Main Street over Chicken Brook, we are at the easterly slope of "Rabbit Hill."
Our Turnpike led up over this hill, noted, along with its multitude of rabbit warrens, for outcroppings of rocks, with no dwellings nearly to the Bellingham town line until around 1815.
The hill was used as a pasture by Jabez Shumway, who owned the land, and who deeded the land for the Second Church in 1814.
Just up the street, and on the north side of the road is a garage which at one time was White's Livery Stable. It was here that the fire department horses were stabled, and special equipment was installed so that the harnesses could be dropped onto the horses by the pull of a latch.
The present building is the second on this site. The first was a barn that was used after James Coombs' stable burned in 1881. Then that burned and the Sumner Robbins stable was moved from the rear of the Oddfellows Block, and this building is now a garage.
Another place that many residents will remember here was the Brookside Lunch, a small restaurant that served the best apricot pie in ail New England.
At the southeast corner of Lincoln and Main Streets is the "new" Oddfellows Block, built to replace the 1896 block which burned on December 20, 1964. The old building at one time housed Oddfellows Hall, the West Medway postoffice, a grocery store and barber shop, and was the mercantile center of West Medway.
Across Lincoln Street from the Oddfellows Block is the Simon Whitney house, and at one time, Mrs. Whitney kept a small store in the front part of the house, selling millinery and sewing supplies, and also had a small rental library.
Simon operated a funeral parlor in the back of the house, a business continued by John Hofstra and his family afterward.
Next to this is a house probably built by Simeon Clark in 1850, occupied for many years by the Stearns family, and beyond that is a parking lot and package store, marking the site of the Newell Bullard place.
The "fine house" was built in the 1840's by a Dr. Haynes, an ordained minister, and later the manufacturer of "Dr. Haynes Arabian Balsam," an elixir "warranted to bring health and vitality to the weak and puny..."
The mixture was compounded in large vats in a laboratory opposite the Medway Auto Sales garage on Lincoln Street, and made Dr. Haynes a wealthy man.
Newell Bullard bought the place and established two boot shops, one of which is now a two-apartment house beyond the former funeral parlor on Lincoln Street. The other boot shop burned, and the barn on the Bullard property once housed the Golden Meadow Ice Cream Company. A package store is now in the building.
Retracing our steps to the White Livery location, the house next to it was the Valentine Rathbone Coombs place, built around 1840, and is similar to the next two houses, ail built before 1850.
The present health foods store was once "Bing" Crosby's store, where one could purchase hardware, notions, sewing materials, or just about anything else one desired.
Mrs. Crosby loved cats, and consequently, there were several in the store at all times. As one of the neighbors once remarked, "T'would be a foolish mouse that went to live at Crosby's store."
The dwelling at the store was later that of Enoch Fuller. The store section was built on around 1930, and, according to old Enoch, "cost more than my house!"
Next to this was Fred Smith's block, built by Leonard Hazeltine (pronounced "Hezzelton") in 1872. The West Medway library was upstairs, reached by a beautiful winding iron stair, along with the original Oddfellow's Hall and Kent's Barber Shop. The first floor was occupied by Moses Drug Store, later Benjamin Adam's drug store in which was located the postoffice. On the other side of the downstairs room was Hazeltine's grocery. The building was later occupied by Lampman's Drug Store, and was remodeled to the present store building after 1970.
The next building to the west was the Dr. Bemis place, razed by the town many years ago.
Across Mechanic Street from this place, and back from Main Street, now a vacant lot, was Willard Daniels' Boot Shop. Originally, it was a small shop, built about 1860, which was moved forward, and the larger shop being built around 1880. The small building was occupied by the Wilkinson Company, manufacturers of oiling devices for steam engines. Wilkinson moved into the larger building after the boot business declined, and after a period of disuse, the shop was occupied by the Medway Elastic Braid Corp., makers of suspender materials, corsetry, and elastic cord and braid. Both buildings were razed several years ago after being vacant for many years.
A note about Mechanic Street might be of interest at this point, for this lightly-traveled way was at one time an important road.
We have already mentioned Oak Street - once known as the "Middle Road," carefully so named to distinguish it from the "Middle Post Road" - as the route that went past the 1749 Meeting House. From a point nearly opposite the Addison Thayer place on Oak Street, another road led off to the south. It turned west nearly opposite the Daniels place, and proceeded a short distance up the hill.
Between Nos. 185 and 187 Main Street, the lane followed what is now a long driveway to the old John Coolidge place, went in front of what is now the public library, and eventually, following Awl Street connecting with Franklin Street. It was this pathway that the settlers from North Franklin and North Bellingham followed to attend worship in the 1749 Meeting House, and its course between Oak Street and Main Street is now Mechanic Street.
The Coolidge place, later owned by Grace Rambeau, was once owned by a man who sold a previous dwelling for money to buy a set of false teeth.
On the south side of the Turnpike, across from the Daniels shop is a small cottage type dwelling, built in 1917. At one time it was the residence of Dr. Samuel Butler, and in recent years, the home of Abraham Handverger, Town Moderator and Town Counsel.
Next to this, westerly, is the Leander Daniels place which we have already mentioned in connection with Mechanic Street.
This house, built in 1869, surrounded by its decorative cast-iron fence is typical of the "mansions" built by industrialists of the time, as Leander Daniels was at one time the very prosperous owner of the boot shop across the street from his home.
Across the road, at the northwest corner of Main and Mechanic Streets is another dwelling owned, but not built by Leander Daniels. It dates from the 1840's, and a small building in the rear was once a machine shop, supplying parts to textile industries in town.
Next to this, westerly, and one of several such dwellings built in the 1830's and '40's, is the Benjamin Ward place, dating to about 1838.
Mr. Ward lived there but a short time, married one of the Barber girls and settled on the Barber farm.
Moses Thompson next dwelt there, then the house was owned by Sarah Bullard.
Sarah's husband Albert died after the Civil War, and his son Henry, a printer, took over the property, and established his print shop in a small building still standing to the rear of the main house.
Henry did job printing, and published the Medway Magnet, Medway's earliest weekly newspaper. He sold the paper, and it became the West Medway Journal, and is now a part of the Milford Daily News.
Henry Bullard continued his printing business for several years, and it is said that one evening after supper, he got up from his easy chair, went out to his print shop, and wrote "30" on a piece of paper, took off his glasses, carefully placed them on the paper, and slumped over, dead of a heart attack.
"30" is the time-honored newspaperman's symbol for "The End."
In recent times, the house was owned by Edward N. Chapin, Professor of Entemology at Harvard. He was an internationally-known authority on beetles.
Next to the Bullard place was the residence of Squire Charles H. Deans, an attorney, conveyancer, and holder of many mortgages on Medway properties, whose waspish temperament and hard bargains in real estate wreaked havoc on many Medway families.
His biographer would be hard pressed to treat him gently.
The house, built by Clark Pond about 1834, had an interesting feature in the matter of its front staircase. The staircase was smaller than it should be because Clark Pond forgot about it until the house construction was well under way.
Across the Turnpike from the Deans house is another Hazeltine place, built around 1875. This owner changed his name to "Hazelton," following suit with others of the name who were apparently dissatisfied with their surname.
This house was one of the largest with a mansard roof in Medway.
Coming up to Coolidge Lane, the building at No. 187 has a varied history.
It was for many years a meat market, owned in order by Joseph Bullard, Curtis Sparrow and Emerson Bullard. It was then Livingston's Harness Shop, and then, for a long period, was unoccupied.
A Miss Jenny House sold the place to Perley Porter who operated a second-hand shop there for many years.
Perley was a typical Yankee, with a biting wit and the ability to drive a sharp trade.
A story about him relates to a person who, noticing two wooden Adirondack chairs outside Perley's establishment, inquired as to the price.
"One hundred dollars each," said Perley.
When the individual expressed surprise at the obviously inflated Price, Perley explained.'
"They ain't for sale," he said. "I sit in 'em out there all the time. But if you want 'em bad enough to pay a hundred dollars, I'll sell 'em."
Next to Perley Porter's is the former Lowell Mann place. It was built probably around 1850 for a Morocco tannery, with a small meeting hall upstairs.
Hides were washed in the little brook in back of the house, and dried on racks in the back yard.
There was a well in the front yard on which a locked cover was placed after it was discovered that some of the neighbors were drawing water from it. Shortly thereafter, someone pried the cover open, and threw a couple of buckets of manure into the well, ending its effective use forever.
Leander Daniels owned the place at one time as a rental property, and it was he who put the porch on the front of the house.
During the Harding presidency, West Medway organized a torchlight parade, and Miss Anna Hart, dressed as the Goddess of Liberty, stood on the porch holding a flaming torch.
Anna was engaged to Lowell Mann's brother, who died shortly before they were to be married.
From that time on, Anna always wore black clothing. On the south side of the Turnpike, and at the southeast corner of Main and High Streets is the Sewall Kingsbury place, built by Simeon Fuller around 1840.
This is one of three double-parlor houses in Medway, and at one time was was used for funerals.
It was here that the street railway tracks turned from Main Street to go down High Street and on to Medway Village. Life was made miserable for the residents for many years here, by the screeching of the trolley car wheels grinding on the sharp-radius curve to make the turn. One of the less-than-brilliant suggestions made at the time to quiet the noise was to oil the tracks .....
Nearly opposite this place is the Tavern House, built between 1813 and 1816. The ell was the first part built in 1813 by Malachi Bullard to house his workers who were building the Second Congregational Church.
Three years later, under the ownership of Peletiah Smith, the larger part of the place was built to attract Turnpike trade and became a tavern kept by Peletiah's daughter. A large barn on the east end held Henry White's livery stable which burned in 1881 which was not rebuilt.
In later years, James Coombs had a grocery store in this building, and the writer recalls that Mr. Coombs stocked the tastiest, largest, and cheapest rope licorice and molasses slabs for miles around. Later, Coombs store became Anderson's Market.
Next is the Second Congregational Church, a 1941 Federation of the Congregational and Baptist Churches. This stately church was built between 1814 and 1815 on land given by Jabez Shumway. At the time it was built, there was only one dwelling in the vicinity (now No. 200 Main Street), and no dwellings to the east nearer than Dr. Ide's.
The 1814 church was in stark contrast to the old 1749 Meeting House; the older building was unpainted, weatherbeaten, and unpretentious in architectural detail. The new church, gleaming white, with many windows and a tall steeple is little changed from the way it appeared when built, excepting for the addition of ells on the east and west sides of the main building.
The ell on the west side, known as the Chapel, was added under the pastorate of Rev. S. W. Segur around 1875, and the east ell was added in recent years.
The imposing structure of the church, and its magnificent location on the hill, has drawn the admiration of church members and passers-by, and photographers have used it as a subject for over 100 years. This vista has, unfortunately, been marred by a seldom-used incongruous fenced enclosure prominently situated on the formerly pristine church green.
Across from the church are, in order, the church parsonage, the Thayer Library, the Torrent engine house, and the Parish House.
This entire area comprises Medway's historic preservation district, and reflects an earlier time in superb location and condition.
The parsonage was built in 1850 by Christopher Slocumb, he having moved the house that stood there originally to Slocumb Place, later the Douglas residence.
This building, the Parish House, and the Squire Fuller house had hip roofs as built. Mrs. Charlotte Adams Slocumb sold the Slocumb place to the church for a parsonage.
The library, built about 1876, originally stood broadside to the Turnpike. It was inherited by Addison P. Thayer who refurbished it, and his family donated it to the town for library purposes in 1918. Anna Fales was the first librarian here, and the name "Elizabeth Cole Library" was given it to honor one of the longest-serving librarians here.
Before that, it was occupied by John Cushing for his tailor shop, Deacon Wiley had a general store there at one time, and along with his store business, he pulled teeth - "12-1/2 cents for adults, children free."
John Cushing's Medway Magnet advertisement, "Cushing guarantees to give you good fits," tickled Medwayites for years.
The Torrent Engine House, built in 1876 once housed the "Torrent No. 1" a small horse-drawn tub engine, sold many years ago by the town for $150.00.
The library building was turned gable end to the road in 1875 to make room for the Torrent Engine house.
The Parish House of 1816 was built largely from timbers and lumber from the old 1749 meeting house which stood near Evergreen and Main Streets.
As noted, the Parish House originally had a hip roof and had a 1-1/2 story ell in the rear. It was for many years the home of the Medway Historical Society, and at one time the town lockup was located in the basement.
Squire Asa M. B. Fuller conducted his watchmaking and jewelry business here for many years. H. N. Hixon, Town Historian operated an antiques business here, and it was he who was responsible for the Historical Society occupancy. It is now used by the church, and has been carefully and tastefully renovated.
Across Franklin Street, and now No. 201 Main Street is the Squire Fuller place, so-called, for Asa Metcalf Blake Fuller, a long-time resident here. The house was built in equal-share partnership by Messrs. Haseltine and Forristall in 1825. Squire Fuller bought the house around 1880 when Mrs. Haselton, the last descendant to own the place, died.
The house originally had a hip roof, and a large barn in back of the house was taken down in the early 1900's, and an ell on the east that contained a millinery store was removed at about the same time.
While at this location, mention of post offices on the Turnpike might be in order.
In the beginning, there was only one post office in Medway located in the Village, opened in 1803 in the tavern on the Old Mendon Road.
In 1819, a post office was established in the Hammond place, previously referred to, in East Medway.
The third post office, and the second on the Turnpike was established in West Medway in Adams' Drug Store, later the Lampman pharmacy on Main Street.
Then the West Medway office had several locations -at the Parish House, then the office and store of Squire Fuller, and finally at the Oddfellows Block at Main and Lincoln Streets.
The first postmaster at the West Medway office was Olney Forristall, and the last was Leonard H. Potenza when the office closed and was consolidated with the new Main Street postoffice in September, 1968.
Opposite the Fuller place, at the northwest corner of Highland and Main Streets is the first house to be built on Rabbit Hill west of the Dr. Ide place.
This house was built in 1815-16 by Elias Mann who died August 21, 1822 at the relatively young age of 33. His widow, Abigail, married widower Simeon Fuller, and they built the large dwelling at the southeast corner of Main and High Streets - known for years as the Mary Stella place - to which we have already referred.
Simeon Fuller "kept store" in the later James Coombs location opposite his house. He was followed here by Messrs. Cheever, Coombs, and finally, Anderson.
There was another store at about this time located at the southwest corner of Milford and Highland Streets, and the first store on Rabbit Hill was kept by Simeon Fuller in a back room of the Elias Mann house.
This old house is, therefore, the proud possessor of two Medway "firsts."
From this point westerly along Main Street, we have probably the best example of "old Medway" in town. The roadway is tree-lined, and the well-maintained dwellings pleasantly reflect a particular period in Medway's history.
On the north side of the 'pike, and just beyond the Mann place are two stately Greek Revival houses with large pillars.
The first one was built in 1840 by Elial Metcalf who died in 1851 of what was probably appendicitis. An autopsy was performed on Elial in the house to determine the actual cause of death. Little Johnny Cushing looked out of his window next door, saw what was going on, and promptly fainted.
Alvin Wight bought the place from Elial's widow around 1863 and lived there until he died in 1896. Mrs. Robbins, Alvin's daughter inherited it and lived there until she was 90.
>Wight was the owner of one of three yoke of oxen in town - the others were Deacon Edmund Shumway and Alvin's nephew George Wight.
The next house was the Cushing place, built between 1838 - 1840 by John Cushing, a merchant tailor. He conducted his business here until opening a shop in the Thayer Library building.
Across the Turnpike from the Metcalf and Cushing places is the Captain Elisha Cutler house of 1828.
At one time, the Lyman Pond family lived in one-half of the house, and the David Partridge family in the other half. Mr. Partridge operated a box shop in an ell, and around 1850, a chaise repair shop existed in the cellar of the house.
The widow Paris Mann owned the place at one time, and "Aunt Chloe" Partridge was the last of the family name to live there.
The house was stuccoed in 1940, by Ralph Hunter, who bought the place around 1920. Recently, by dint of considerable effort, it has been restored to its original appearance by its present owner.
The first West Medway fire company engine house stood just to the rear of this place, and beyond that was Lyman Pond's shop, later made over into a dwelling now standing at No. 10 Highland Street, just beyond "Cutler Row."
Behind this was "Shumway's Grove," a pine-woods recreation and picnic area, enjoyed by generations of Medwayites. It was a favorite recreation place for lodges, clubs, and church groups, and at one time had two large roofed shelters and many picnic tables and benches. It was owned and maintained by the Shumway family who resided nearby on Village Street.
The house at No. 207 Main Street was built in 1828 by Stephen Adams, maker of cabinets and coffins, on land he purchased in 1826. His display room was in the westerly end of the first floor of the house.
In 1914, Herbert N. Hixon bought the place from Miss Julia Adams, and lived there for the rest of his life.
Bert Hixon and Orion Mason were the acknowledged Medway historians, and contributed much in the way of lectures and papers on the subject.
Bert Hixon died in 1967, nearly 90 years of age, survived by his wife Constance.
Unfortunately, Mr. Hixon's extensive library and historical document collection, which he had wanted to go to the Medway Historical Society, were precipitously dispersed after he died, and none of it remained in town.
Some of the items have been seen in dealer's shops, so it is assumed that that was the ultimate destination of the collection. operated large greenhouses here and on Milford Street, and the small house west of his dwelling was his office building. It was made into a house in 1917 for his chauffeur, and is now a dwelling. James G. Anderson, Medway Superintendent of Schools bought the little house in 1935, and lived there for many years.
The land on which all this sits was purchased by Edward and C. Thompson Adams in half shares.
C. Thompson Adams owned the land opposite his place on the south side of the 'pike, which was purchased around 1850 by one of the Coolidge family, who built the rambling house now there.
The place was purchased in 1915 by Walter Cabot who had married Bert Hixon's sister Catherine. Previous to the Cabot occupancy, Rev. Asa Hixon lived there until he died in 1861, and he was followed by Albert Cyrus Adams.
After Waiter Cabot died, Mrs. Cabot lived in the house, and shortly before her death, through the efforts of Bert Hixon and Francis Donovan, she deeded her garage and the land on which it stands to the Medway Historical Society.
The Society has vastly improved the building, and it now is an active center for meetings and a museum.
There are many interesting stories to be told about the houses that line both sides of the Turnpike in this section.
There is the Widow Catherine Adams place - now No. 227 Main Street - built by Mrs. Adams in 1830. As built, the house was only one room deep, and measured 36 feet by 16 feet.
Herbert Hixon's mother and father lived there at one time, and some idea of the terrain thereabouts can be gained from the fact that enough boulders were quarried here to build the Safepak - later Ruberoid - plant in Millis.
It was not, as C. Thompson Adams once observed, "a good place to raise asparagus."
Over there on the north side of the Turnpike, just beyond the Adams place is the Ruggles house, built in 1897 on land owned by Stephen Adams.
Arthur Ruggles was a tinsmith, and one day, having done some work in Medway Village, took refuge from a thunderstorm in the alcove of Sanford Hall. Lightning struck the building, and followed the iron framework of the alcove, knocking Arthur senseless, and removing the soles of his shoes. He was revived by the rain failing on him, and walked home after the storm subsided.
Next is a former Wilkinson place, built around 1900, and in recent years, occupied by the Hodgson family.
The Albert Fales place was built about 1870, and the barn in the rear was made into a house in 1920. Mr. Fales was a Civil War veteran, and worked in the Medway straw shops.
Two O'Donnell places are next - Frank O'Donnell's, built in 1876, and Peter O'Donnell's, built in 1870.
The 1873 Benjamin Daniel's - in recent years the McDonald - place was bought by Captain Simon Fisher soon after it was built. Captain Fisher died in 1888, a well-liked old man, and was the last Medway Captain of the old militia days. He was the son of Lewis Fisher, who had been brought up by Eleazer Hill, all of Fisher Street.
When he died, he left his property to his widow and his daughter, and the property included a barn that "cost nigh a hundred dollars to build."
The house known in recent years as the Wilmarth place is one of the oldest in the row from the Adams place, being built from Elihu Hixon's 1831 barn. Elihu had sold the barn to Juliana Hixon, cousin to Bert Hixon's father. Juliana had the barn moved in 1853, and made over into a house.
The Hixon land ran to Milford Street, and the Main Street end was sold in lots at auction.
Horace Wilmarth and his son and wife owned the place, and later it went to Harvey and Russell, Horace's sons.
On the north side of the road, just beyond the head of Country Lane (originally Cross Street, then Brigham Lane) is the Merrifield place where H. N. Hixon was born. The house was built by Lawson Force around 1823. Just beyond it is the Madden place, residence of George Madden, father of the George Madden of Madden & Curtis's boot shop.
Next is the Cromwell ("Crummell") Snell house, built by Mr. Snell in 1832 for a total of $550, including the house, grading the yard, and putting in a well.
Crummell's son Henry was the owner of a billiard parlor in the Walker Block at Wood's Corner.
Henry's wife loved cats, and kept a great number of them around the house, at no small expense and discomfiture to Henry. When the economy of the town declined due to lack of work in the shops, Henry's business declined too, and after an argument with his wife regarding the upkeep of the cats, it is said that Henry went back to his pool hall, locked the door, and left town.
There are many interesting stories to be told about the houses along our way - the McDowell place, for example, where the henhouses were lath-and-plaster inside, with golden cockerel weather vanes atop them.
There is the Grant house, where Alpheus Grant married Heppie Jackson, daughter of old Father Jackson who organized the Methodist Episcopal Church on Cottage Street, now the Masonic Temple. When the Rev. Jackson died from a fall while helping build the church, Heppie remained indoors in this house for six weeks in mourning, not even coming out on Sundays to attend church services.
Next is the fine old Federal dwelling at No. 258 Main Street, built around 1820 by Squire Levi Adams. Now an antiques shop, it was here that Isaac Hixon choked to death on a morsel of beefsteak in 1860. Perhaps that accounts for the recurring stories in recent years of a ghost inhabiting the place. Several years ago, when the place was being used as a dormitory for college students, many sightings of a spectre were reported. It is interesting, however, to note that the ghost sightings surfaced shortly after the writer mentioned the Isaac Hixon demise in a talk on Medway history around 1960.
Across the road is the John O'Donnell place, built by Zenas Brigham around 1830.
Originally, Summer Street ran between Nos. 258 and 260 Main Street.
No. 260 Main Street marks the site of one of Medway's earliest taverns - that of Squire Levi Adams. Until the exchange of lands in 1829, this place was in Holliston, and so appears on many of the old stage route guides.
Summer Street was relocated, and the old portion of the road was named, appropriately enough, Old Summer Street.
The best-known, and longest-lived tavern on our Turnpike was that established by Squire Levi Adams in 1814, on what was then Holliston territory. Levi was born in Holliston in 1773, son of Jesse and Thankful (Watkins) Adams.
There was a small public house near the present intersection of Village and Summer Streets on the old Middle Post Road. This was started in 1737 by Joseph Hill, and when Squire Levi built his new inn and tavern in 1814, this became an ell to the new building. Nine years later, in 1823, Squire Levi added a second story to his inn, and it remains in that form today.
Although a tavernkeeper, Squire Levi was a generous, public-spirited man, and was on many occasions a benefactor to the town and to the Congregational Church.
As with many taverns of the day, there are tales told about Squire Levi's, one of the most interesting being the story of the "Hog Pond Ghost."
It is said that around 1830, a silverplate salesman stopped overnight at the tavern. In the taproom, he apparently talked about his wares, and when he left the taproom, he was never seen again.
In those days, there was a little muddy pond, or slough, called the "Hog Pond," where drovers let their animals drink, and it was located across the Turnpike from Squire Levi's.
With the missing salesman, and his wares, it didn't take long for a yarn to start, told by several people, saying that they had seen a wraith-like figure hovering over the pool - ostensibly the ghost of the merchant traveler. But with the area now filled and graded, it is likely the bones of the traveler - if they are there - will rest peacefully.
Another story of the old tavern days relates to the difficulty that stage drivers had in getting their passengers to board the coach before they had finished their meals.
On one such occasion, the call to "Board, mount up, all aboard!" was answered by all but one wayfarer.
This individual calmly sat at the trestle table enjoying his food, and ignored the pleas of the innkeeper and stage driver to get aboard, and finally, the stage left without him.
Soon after the Stage had left, it was discovered that the inn's silver was missing, and immediately, suspicion centered on the stage passengers.
A rider was sent in pursuit of the coach, and in a little while, it returned with its cargo of angry and protesting passengers.
"Now, we shall find out where the silver is!" said the innkeeper. "That we will!"
Finishing his last morsel of food, and washing it down with a last draught of cider, the belated diner rose and walked toward the inn door.
"Your silver is over there, in that kettle," said he. "You'll find it all there."
"And a very good day to you, Sir," said he as he walked to the waiting coach.
Across Summer.Street from the tavern, an empty lot now marks the site of the old MacCallum place.
It was the residence of Granville MacCallum, a Scot who was employed in the textile mills here, and was an ardent Mason.
When he died in 1888, it was his wish that his remains be accompanied to Evergreen Cemetery by a delegation of Masons and a brass band.
The result was that his was one of the largest funeral processions ever seen in town, made up by citizens, Masons, clergy and children, and, of course, the brass band.
We have now traversed the old Hartford & Dedham Turnpike within the confines of our town; we have looked in on its people, and we have seen their joys and sorrows.
We have noted where dwellings are, and where they were, and we have followed a thread of history along our way.
The course we have followed is one which has been spared radical change - unlike many other sections of our town - and west of Drybridge Hill, it is almost as it was for the past one hundred years.
But the gravel-and-clay highway is no more, the old Tavern no longer welcomes wayfarers, nor can the coach-and-four be found along our Way.
Progress, for good or i11, has prevailed, but fortunately, not to an unbridled degree on our old highway.
These were the times of the Turnpike, its toll houses and its people, and the days of that misty past when dusty travelers enjoyed the hospitality of the inns.
It was a time which in many ways is like the present, but there are enough differences now to make the period unalterably past.