MIDDLE POST ROAD
Francis D. Donovan
FIRST EDITION - Copyright © 1991 by Francis D. Donovan. Printed in the United States of America All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or parts thereof, in any form, except for inclusion of brief quotations in a review.
"I think there is no view
more appealing than looking
east from atop Village Hill
along the Old Mendon Road."
- Rev. Rufus K. Harlow
POST ROADS & POST-RIDERS
Akin to the old question - "Which came first?" - we can be reasonably sure that in most instances, the post-rider travelled through dense forests along trails marked by blazed trees. But he also rode over what might loosely be termed roads - poorly graded ways that became mires in wet weather, and at best, gave little freedom from rocks, roots, and fallen trees.
But "post" means just that; letters and small packages could be carried by the post-rider, free at first, and later at a charge of a few pence. The post-rider had an additional function; he was a carrier of news and messages between villages or families, and his recommendations on hostelries and routes were sought by merchants and travellers.
Once a week, at least, the post-rider came through Medway on his trip between Hartford and Dedham, perhaps stopping at Collins Hathon's tavern at the top of Village Hill for a cold mug of cider or ale, and there exchange news and gossip, and leave his "post" or parcels for the residents, and acquire more to take with him.
He was a travelling newspaper, advisor, and all-around glamorous figure to the townsfolk along his way.
How our Medway people must have awaited his arrival!
THE MIDDLE POST ROAD IN MEDWAY
The old road has had many names; it has been known as The Road to the Wilderness, The Old County Road, The Middle Post Road, and more recently, Village Street in Millis and Medway.
There is a certain horror that historians and lovers of history find in the names of highways and byways. Streets and roads are generally indiscriminately named. Sometimes their names commemorate a noted personage, as Lincoln Street, Truman Highway, or Pulaski Boulevard. In Medway, Sanford Street is named for one of our town's greatest benefactors.
All too often, however, abominations such as Broad Street, and even worse, Main Street identify our public ways. Many examples of this form of appellative pollution can easily be found across the United States.
In the late 1800's, stirrings of commerce were displacing the old provincialism, and this thinking - or lack of thinking - extended to the general naming of things.
Not the least of these evils was employed in Medway in 1869, when, by edict of the town meeting, the streets of Medway were "officially" named.
Thus in Medway, Pine Hill Road became Winthrop Street, Vine Lane became Kelley Street, Candlewood Island Road was named Oakland Street, and The Old Hartford Turnpike was named Main Street.
Along with all of this, the earliest road in our town, laid out in 1670, and known for years as The Old Mendon Road, became Village Street.
This ancient way came from Medfield, where it crossed the Charles River between Millis, (the Old Grant in Medway, and later East Medway until 1885), and Medfield, at the "Great Bridge" close to the later (1862) railroad trestle.
THE "GREAT BRIDGE" - 1895
This structure connected East Medway and Medfield via Dover Road and Bridge Street.
Note the difference in construction at the middle of the bridge, marking the dividing line of the two towns -
Medfield's half on the left, Medway's on the right.
The bridge was also known as Brastow's Bridge at the time of burning by the Indians. It was also known as Morse's, and is now the Dover Road Bridge.
A few hundred feet westerly of the bridge on a knoll is a small building which once housed the transmitter for radio station WBZ. In 1940, the Federal Communications Commission established a monitoring station there which operated for several years.
Beyond this spot, and on the right-hand side of the road is an ancient Adams place, dating from 1700.
The Old Mendon Road followed the course of Dover Road at one time to a different location at Main Street from where it intersects now. A new connection with Main Street was made easterly of the former one to eliminate a traffic hazard. The course of the former road can still be seen.
Route 109, which is Main Street in Medfield, Millis, and Medway, marks the course of the Hartford & Dedham Turnpike. This road, "laid out in as near a straight line as can be made," between Dedham, Massachusetts, and Hartford, Connecticut was never successful as a turnpike or stage route, and was bankrupt only a few years after it opened in 1809.
At the intersection of Village Street and Route 109, the ancient Abraham Harding house still stands. Abraham had started a framed house - the first one west of the Charles River - and it was spared by the Indians who burned five dwellings near it in 1676.
Not far beyond the Harding place is the location of a "dry bridge," and this one outlasted many of its contemporaries. These "bridges" were actually stone-lined tunnels under roads to allow passage of cattle to pasture without crossing the road. Because they carried no water, and were not drains, they were called dry bridges.
A short distance on, at the intersection of Birch and Village Streets is the original dwelling of the freed slave Boston, later known as Prince Royal.
The next place of importance in our journey is the Richardson Tavern' opposite the junction of Village Street and Norfolk Road (Route 115). Moses Richardson established an inn and tavern here around 1775. Tradition says that George Washington once dined here; this is doubtful, because existing records indicate that on his two visits to Boston, he traveled via Holliston or Wrentham. The little ell on the east end of the inn was where liquor was stored.
At Rockville Corners, the Medway & Dedham Street Railway left its Village Street course and turned onto Pleasant Street, where its right-of-way can still be traced. This in one of only a few places left where such evidence can be found.
For many years after the demise of the car line, a small shelter bearing a sign reading "Waiting Room" stood near the turn on Village Street.
Also at this intersection stood the dwelling of John Ellis who settled here in 1710. Ellis set out an English Elm that was the marvel of the area, with its spread of over one hundred and fifty feet. It was felled by the Dutch Elm disease many years ago.
For nearly a century, a large Jewish settlement occupied the area from this point to nearly the Medway town line. These pious people, fleeing persecution in Russia and Eastern Europe, became industrious and successful farmers and tradesmen in the 1880's, and established two synagogues here, one of which is now a dwelling.
Large summer resort hotels - Nathanson's, Delnick's, Cohen's - lined Village Street, and were filled in the summer months with vacationers. Each day, many of the visiting men could be seen walking along Village Street in traditional religious garb, studying their holy books.
Nearly opposite Farm Street at the Medway town line, in what was then an open field, a drive-in movie theater was under consideration, one of the first in the area. It failed for lack of financing.
At one time, Farm Street led to one of the oldest dwellings in the area - the Putnam Clark place on Stoney Plain, long since torn down.
Although Farm Street marks the present boundary between Millis and Medway, the original bound between the Old and New Grants was much farther along - at Oakland Street.
Just beyond the field on our left is a rather long brick building. Here, many years ago, Kate Cifre operated a restaurant known as Medway 50 Acres, specializing in fried chicken dinners.
Near the "50 Acres", and gable end to the road is a white house with an ell to the east end. The ell was originally a Harding house, dating to the mid-1700's.
Moving along the Old Mendon Road, we come to evidences of a little brook running to the river. Up until about 100 years ago, alewives came up this brook in great numbers, and were caught in weirs, furnishing a food supply from Indian times
Across the brook is the site of Timothy Clark's "Ordinary" or tavern of 1702, near where the dwelling at 54 Village Street now Stands.
TIMOTHY CLARK'S ORDINARY c. 1880
For nearly 150 years, this tavern supplied the needs of man and beast,
and was well patronized by travelers along the Middle Road.
The Middle Road - Village Street - was so named because it ran midway between the Lower Post Road which went through Walpole and Wrentham, and the Upper Road along the line of the present Route 20 through South Sudbury and on past the Wayside Inn.
It is thought that the location of Clark's ordinary may have had a bearing on the naming of Medway by the Great and General Court in 1713. Clark's hostelry was mid way between Dedham and Mendon, and was often referred to as the "mid way" place in almanacs and guides of the times. From "mid way" to "Medway" was an easy transition, and that may have been how the name was derived.
Our Middle Road was a busy thoroughfare -(which word, incidentally, came from "through" and "Fare"). Freight wagons, post riders and stage coaches used the road daily, and in good weather, night and day.
About across from the tavern location is the "Bent," or bend in the river. The "Bent Schoolhouse" once located at the intersection of Village and Acorn Streets in Millis got its name from the bend.
To the west of the "Bent" is Walker Street, once known as The Latic Road, "Latic" being a contraction of Populatic, and was so named because it connected Medway with the Populatic section of Franklin, then a part of Wrentham.
Near the southerly end of the Red Bridge, (called thus because of its color, and the fact that special permission has been granted by county and state to keep it that color), were the yard and depot of the short-lived Medway Branch RR from Norfolk, which operated between 1853 and 1864.
At the head of Walker Street stands the synagogue of Congregation Agudath Achim, further evidence of the Jewish population in this area near the turn of the century.
Synagogue of Congregation
From the old Clark Tavern location, the Old Mendon Road is hardly ever out of sight or sound of the Charles River, and at this point, we are near the area of much of our town's concentration of commerce and industry.
Resuming our journey westerly along Village Street, an area known as the "Flat" lies before us extending from Walker Street to Oakland Street.
On our left is the Charles River, and most of the early industries of the town were located on the narrow strip of land lying between the river and Village Street. Mill sites were numerous all the way to the Sanford Mill on Sanford Street.
At the westerly end of what is now Canal Street (so-called because it was built over a filled-in canal), stood Captain William Feltt's cotton mill. Next came three Barber Mills a textile grouping that was later known as the Eaton and Wilson Mills.
A network of canals furnished waterpower to the mills in this area starting near Sanford Street and ending near Walker Street. Only the dry beds of these canals now remain.
Next after the Eaton & Wilson Mills came the first wadding mill of 1817, owned by Eaton & Wilson at a later date.
Above this mill, on Village Street, and nearly opposite School Street was the J. W. Thompson Boot Factory, built in 1873. The shop was originally built for the boot manufacturing firm of Parsons & Seavey by Messrs. Eaton and Wilson. Parsons & Seavey never occupied the building, and it was unoccupied for several years after the Thompson firm left it to move to Millis. In the 1950's, it was occupied by the Lucoflex Plastic Fabricating Company, and then the Pontollilo Hat Co. It was again untenanted for several years, and was razed. The site is now occupied by condominiums.
Near this spot, and a few rods southwest, an ancient dwelling stands high on the banking above the river. This house was the first dwelling of Major Luther Metcalf, and was built around 1784, a few years after his marriage to Mary Whiting. He built the little one story house on land now occupied by the Village Inn. When the inn was built in 1792, Metcalf had his first house moved to the location near the river.
Just below, and easterly of the Thompson boot shop site is a long, low building, now No. 103 Village Street. This structure was one of two built around 1812 to house the workers in Captain Feltt's mills. The easterly building was torn down in 1897 to make way for a carbarn for the Medway & Dedham Street Railway, but the carbarn was never put up.
While we have been looking at the river side of our Old Mendon Road, there are many points of interest on the north side.
On the Flat, there are a group of dwellings standing in what was once known as the Mason Neighborhood, due to the fact that several branches of the Mason family lived there. This section contains some of Medway's finest early-1800 houses, generally now in good repair, and clearly evidencing the beauty of their architecture.
Number 86 Village Street was the residence of Orion T. Mason, State Representative and Senator, and Medway's premier historian.
Number 90 Village Street, formerly owned by the Grants, was at one time occupied by the Salvation Army, and then was unoccupied.
Its owners have, over a period of years, managed to reclaim it, and restore it to the fine house it once was.
Still on the northerly side of the road, we come to Oakland Street, or as it was once known, Candlewood Island Road. The name came from a profuse growth of a genus of pitch - pine tree which furnished an excellent basis for lamp oil. Some of the trees can still be seen in the area.
Just westerly of the intersection of Oakland and Village Streets is the beginning of the New Grant line. This ancient division of 1659 marks the western boundary of the Old Grant of territory given to the settlers of Medfield. The line ran about mid way between Oakland and School Streets, past Christ Episcopal Church, along the edge of Black Swamp east of Ellis Street, and on to the Holliston town line near Hill Street.
From about School Street westerly, Medway's early manufacturing and commercial activities existed on both sides of our old Middle Road.
The locale was also marked by the presence of two of Medway's finest houses.
One of them still remains as St. Joseph's Church Rectory built in 1852 as the William H. Cary mansion.
Cary was a prominent mill man and land holder. His business and social standing was such that when he established a new mill in Bellingham, the section in which he put up his mill was named Caryville, as was the railroad station.
The present rectory was built as the Cary mansion on the site of the vintage 1740 Ichabod Hawes house. When the Cary house was built, the Hawes house was moved to its present location at No. 12 Barber Street.
Because Rev. Joel Hawes, D.D., was so prominent as a preacher in Hartford, Connecticut, and once lived here, the house was better known under the Hawes name than Cary.
Directly across Barber Street from the rectory, and where a garage now stands, was possibly the most magnificent house in Medway - the Lovering-Cary place. It was built by Dr. Oliver Dean and George Barber in partnership, Dean living in the west half and Barber in the east part.
BARBER STREET, VILLAGE HILL
The Lovering-Cary mansion is at the left, where there is now a garage.
At the right is the Joel Hawes place of 1852, now St. Joseph Rectory.
Many residents today can share the writer's recollection of this beautiful building, three stories high, with half-circle fanlights over the double front doors, the huge fireplaces, marble stairs and mantels, inside shutters and glistening hardwood floors, ivory wainscot and rooms papered with imported wall coverings.
The house had two circular stairways leading off the front hall which were impressive to observe and were unusual in Medway.
This house, truly representative of those of the Merchant Princes of the day, was where George Barber died in 1850, and the widow Cary took possession of his portion of the house.
Dr. Dean, then agent for the Medway Cotton Manufacturing Company, wanted to expand the operations of the mill. He proposed building a larger dam at what is now Sanford Street, flooding the valley of the Charles River all the way back to West Medway at Chicken Brook, and build a second canal with new mill houses along the banking of Village Street.
Dean was unable to convince investors or the directors of the worth of his plans, whereupon he resigned to become superintendent of the Amoskeag Company mills at Manchester, N.H. He soon acquired a fortune and retired in 1834. He was the founder and benefactor of Medway's Dean Library.
The grand Lovering-Cary mansion, too large for single-family occupation, and expensive t operate and maintain, occupied a prime commercial spot, and was torn down many years ago.
Before resuming our journey along the Old Mendon Road, we should take notice of another dweller in the magnificent Lovering and Cary mansion.
When Dr. Oliver Dean moved to New Hampshire in 1826, his part of the house was purchased by Warren Lovering, Esquire.
The Squire was one of Medway's brightest, and probably most unfortunate residents. He was born in Framingham in 1797, and came here with his parents in 1789. A brilliant student, he graduated from Brown University in 1817 with high honors, and began a lucrative law practice in Medway.
The Squire advanced well up the ladder of success, becoming Postmaster, then serving six terms in the State Legislature, three years on the Governor's Council, six years as a Massachusetts Banking Commissioner, and State Committeeman for the Whig Party.
He sought office as a Congressman, but was not elected. He married late in life, and a separation from his wife changed him into an embittered, soured old man. His law practice suffered, and at an age when he should have enjoyed the respect of his fellow townsmen, and had the time to devote to civic affairs, he had neither the interest or status to do so.
His condition became such that no one would take him in, or even look after him, so upon his own request he took up residence at the Poor Farm in East Medway, as a paying boarder.
He died practically unnoticed at the Farm in 1876 at the age of 80.
Looking across Village Street from the Lovering mansion site, and slightly down the hill, was one of the oldest store buildings in Medway. Known as the Cary block, and now No. 119 Village Street, it was built around 1816. It was used in part as a store and dwelling. It was owned by Captain William Feltt and William H. Cary, Sr.
Many persons kept store in this building, starting with Gilbert Clark. In 1825, W. H. Cary and J. W. Clark were in business there, and they afterward acquired a fortune in Boston.
In the 1850's, Wales Kimball followed a series of merchants, and he moved to the Fisher Block when the Mason Brothers moved to their store in the "new Sanford Hall" in 1876.
Kimball was followed by the Kenney brothers, and around 1888, James T. Adams opened his store which lasted longer than any of his predecessors.
It is in the rear of this building that the ancient Metcalf dwelling of 1784 stands, which we noted previously.
Just across from the Cary Block and on a knoll stands a large building, gable-end to the road, once known as the "White House."
It probably got its name from its association with the affairs of the White Mill, forerunner of the later Sanford Mill. It is almost identical to the house lower down on Village Street, one of the tenements remaining from the street railway days. Like its counterpart, the White House was built to house mill workers. It was put up around 1812, and through the 1920's, it was still owned by heirs of Jencks & Crooks, the cotton mill owners.
Directing our attention again to the south side of the road, just a few steps above the Cary Block were two large buildings; the one next to the Cary place was built as a store building, and the next one up the hill was built for a dwelling.
Both were built between 1815 and 1817 by Sewall Sanford, father of Milton Sanford.
Through her marriage to Dr. Edwin A. Daniels, Caroline (LeFavor) Daniels came into ownership of the two places. She came here in the summer to open up the houses, although she did not have any tenants in them for many years.
The upper house, now joined to the lower one as a hardware store, was a handsome structure with inside shutters, marble-faced fireplaces, and spacious rooms.
The site has been in mercantile use from the days of Eliab Blake in the 1830's.
Just up the hill was another building, almost identical to its neighbor, the Sewall Sanford house, and now part of a store dealing in hardware and mill Supplies. At one time the buildings were separate, but have
been connected in recent years. This building and its next door neighbor just up the hill - the Cowell Fisher Block - were built in 1845 by Amos Fisher.
These two buildings combining business and residence have had an uninterrupted mercantile history since they were built. Wales Kimball, previously noted, was an early tenant, and the line of businesses through the Petnov family, Allen T. Richardson, and former Selectman Kenney have continued the heritage.
Between the Fisher Block, which is still standing, and Sanford Street was another large building. It, like its easterly neighbor had an impressive facade, with four huge pillars in front. Both buildings were situated with gable ends to the street, and were almost identical.
The westerly building, the site of which is now marked in part by the village post office, burned in 1932. At that time its best remembered tenant was the Beehive Grocery, owned by partners Ellsworth and Abbott.
Across Sanford Street from "Beehive Corner still stands the counting house - or office building - of the Medway Cotton Manufacturing Company. It was built around 1817 for bookkeeping and counting rooms, and
storage and meeting space. In the 1870's, the place was owned by Messrs. Jencks and Crooks, owners of the mill on Sanford Street.
Next to the counting house, and gable end to the street was a smaller building built around 1848 for the mill superintendent's office and living quarters. After 1900, it was made into a tenement, and was known as the Keirnan place for many years. It was torn down several years ago, and the site of the house is now occupied by St. Joseph's Church parking lot.
Just up the hill from this place stood a district school, built in 1816. It was located about where the church now stands. Its two stories accommodated a school on the first floor, and the upstairs hall - the first such in Medway - was used for lectures, meetings, and religious services.
When the high school was built in 1851 on School street (the location of which is now a playground), the old Village Street building was used as a place for a classical institute, a straw shop, and sundry other uses under various owners. Around 1876 it was taken down and rebuilt on North Street, and is now a dwelling there.
Construction on St. Joseph's Church began shortly after the schoolhouse was removed, and a remaining portion of the school was moved to the back of the lot where it was used temporarily for church purposes.
The church was dedicated in 1886, and the spire was added in 1890.
The church was built in 1885, and this picture was taken
shortly after the steeple was added in 1890.
Because Father Cuddihy of Milford served Medway as missionary priest, it was proposed that the Medway church be constructed with Milford granite. However, transportation costs ruled this out.
About opposite St. Joseph's,and at the northeasterly corner of Village and Broad Streets stand the remnants of the New Medway Hotel.
This hostelry, built in 1900 on the site of the Quinobequin Hotel which burned in 1899, once had three stories, and two huge towers with conical tops at each end of the building. A series of fires and remodeling resulted in the appearance of the place today.
The Quinobequin Hotel was built on the site of Job Harding's store and tavern of 1784. It started out as a small building, and was enlarged to accommodate Medway's first postoffice. It had various owners, among them Laban Adams, later proprietor of the famed Adams House in Boston, and father of Oliver Optic (William T. Adams), who was the author of many popular books for boys.
In 1853, the old Job Harding-Collins Hathon tavern was cut in half, and the two sections now stand as apartment houses at Peach and North Streets.
An inn and hotel named the Quinobequin was built on the former tavern site, and in 1891, its name was changed to The Gladstone. The Gladstone was destroyed in a fire in 1899, and construction was immediately begun on the new Gladstone Hotel, which, after successive fires, was renamed the Medway Hotel, and finally, the New Medway Hotel. It is now used for commercial and residential purposes, much reduced in size. The top floor has been removed, and a long two-story ell that ran along Broad Street is now gone.
BUILDING THE "NEW MEDWAY HOTEL" - 1901
This view is taken from the intersection of Village and Broad Streets. Looking down Village Hill, the first building on the right is the Kiernan place, once the mill superintendent's house. Just beyond is the Medway Cotton Manufacturing Company counting house, and beyond that, "Beehive Corner" at Sanford Street. At the left foreground is the New Medway Hotel under construction, with the Norman and Woodward residences beyond it.
A street car is coming up the hill near Sanford Street.
At this point in our journey, we have noted most of our important business and dwelling locations that formed the mercantile world of Medway on the Mendon Road except one - the commercial and civic activities of Sanford Hall.
The first Sanford Hall, a wood frame mansard roof structure was built largely through the generosity of Milton H. Sanford, mill-owner, for whom the building was named.
When it was dedicated in 1872, it housed the stores of. A. W. Richardson and the Mason brothers, the Medway Savings Bank, a post office, and town offices on the first floor.
The second floor was entirely taken up by a spacious hall where social functions and meetings - including town meetings - were held.
Lectures, lyceums, meetings, minstrel shows, graduations, banquets, dances, and many other events took place in the "Hall," as it came to be known.
An important part of the building was the Dean Library, established in 1871 by a gift of Boston & Albany RR stock, the income from which was to be used to operate the library.
All of this was lost, including the contents of the library, when fire leveled the building on June 24, 1911.
A new brick building, the present Sanford Hall, rose on the site and was dedicated on September 13, 1912.
As in the first hall, the first floor was occupied by stores, bank, post office, and town offices and police station. The upper floor was used as before, and for many years, movies were shown there.
The movie projection booth was located in the balcony at the north end of the room, and more than one youngster found a great thrill in being able to look in through the projection room door and watch the operator change reels. Even more exciting was to see the activity there when the film broke.
When the new Sanford Hall was built, an embossed tin ceiling was installed in the upstairs hall, and it was considered to be the most tastefully decorative of its kind in the area. It was lost to view by the installation of a new suspended ceiling.
Sanford Hall is now used exclusively for town offices. Town meetings are now held in the Medway High School auditorium.
In 1991, the police vacated their quarters in the Sanford Hall, and moved into a new police station located on the site of the West Medway railroad station.
TRUSTEES SUPERVISING BUILDING
THE NEW SANFORD HALL
December 27, 1911
L - R: Will Hitchcock, Insurance Agent; James Adams, Grocer; Frank Plummer, Straw Shop Foreman; Will Upton, Treasurer, Medway Savings Bank; Sumner Clark, Tax Collector; L. L. Ruggles, Contractor's Representative.
The bank vault, which is still in service 80 years later, can be seen behind Mr. Upton.
Across Broad Street from the Quinobequin site, and opposite the town hall stands a fine mansard roof house with a cupola. This place, built in 1869 was the residence of Hon. Clark Partridge, Representative and Senator. As a young man, he started a store in Medway, and at the age of 28 started the first boot factory here. He filled many town elective offices, and amassed considerable wealth. He invested heavily in Chicago real estate, and was nearly ruined financially in the second great fire in that city.
It was through the marriage of his daughter Mary to David P. Wilder of Chicago, that Mary and her sister-in-law resided here, and the house was known as the Wilder place after Partridge's death in 1885.
The house that originally stood on this location was moved in 1869 down Broad Street and is now a dwelling at No. 29.
The Partridge/Wilder place is now Saint Anthony Center, affiliated with St. Joseph's Church.
Next to St. Anthony Center stands the Village Congregational Church of 1836. Rev. Rufus Kendrick Harlow was Pastor here, and he was well known for his travel articles written from various sections of the United States and Canada.
In back of the church, on what is now an open space on Church Street, stood the huge Medway straw shop, destroyed in a spectacular fire in 1936.
Just west of the church is a park, located in "Congregational Square."
THE VILLAGE CHURCH - 1912
The steeple was severely damaged in the New England hurricane of 1938, but otherwise, the church is little changed from its 1836 decor.
The church parsonage, at one time the residence of Abram Harding, stands directly across Village Street.
Just beyond Holliston Street at Village Street is a large dwelling, No. 180, which was one of three houses built for various superintendents of the Sanford - later Fabyan woolen mill.
Across from this, at No. 179, is the former residence of Hon. Milton Metcalf Fisher, and it is now owned by Attorney P. Joseph Kenney.
Mr. Fisher, known through most of his life as Deacon Fisher (of the Village Church), was truly a self-made man. With humble beginnings, he managed to attend Amherst College, and entered upon a career as educator and industrialist. He commenced the straw business in our town, was a County Commissioner, established the Medway Savings Bank, was an active promoter of our railroad, and was prominent in Anti-Slavery movements in New England.
Among his idiosyncrasies is one deserving of mention; each year, in the last few years of his life he prepared lengthy and detailed obituary notices. When he died in 1903, at the age of 92, he thus left an invaluable legacy of history of the town and himself to historians and genealogists.
It is said that a local newspaper, seeing of the obituaries, and thinking it was genuine, published it, adding some laudatory editorial comment on the illustrious life of the Deacon.
This rather pleased the old Deacon. "How pleasant, indeed, to be able to read one's own obituary! And I must make some changes in my next one."
The Village Inn on our Middle Road is one of the longest-lived of Medway's older commercial enterprises.
The Inn, built as a dwelling and shop by Luther Metcalf, cabinet maker and furniture manufacturer, is little changed externally.
The Village Inn - 1900
Metcalf's original shop was moved from this site in 1790, and is now a dwelling at No. 214 Village Street.
The 1792 building continued as a dwelling and shop until about 1853, when the Metcalf heirs, discouraged by dwindling income from the Medway cotton mill, sold the property. It became an inn and boarding house for mill workers, and this custom has been carried on.
A few doors up from the Inn is the impressive Addison Bullard place at No. 204 Village Street.
This house, at one time an investment interest of the firm of Hurd & Daniels, equals its counterparts of the area in space and appointments.
Addison Bullard was a prosperous mill owner, and among other holdings, owned the Caryville Mill.
Julius C. Hurd entered into partnership with Alfred Daniels in batting manufacture, and both acquired considerable wealth. Around 1845, Hurd built the house now No. 204, and in 1853, he and Daniels were the principal investors in the ill-fated Medway Branch Railroad. When the railroad was abandoned in 1864, Hurd and Daniels lost not only their financial investment, but considerable pledged collateral as well. They were forced into bankruptcy, and among properties they lost was the 1845 Village Street house. It was taken over by Addison Bullard who had had a previous interest in it as creditor.
It took years, but Hurd and Daniels paid off every creditor to the defunct railroad, and subsequently acquired substantial holdings and wealth in the textile business.
Across the road from the Village Inn and the Hurd estate, and on the north bank of the Charles River, is where Medway's 200th Anniversary Pageant was held in 1913.
The pageant, and exhibition of tableaux, directed by Agnes Donovan of Boston, took place on July 4, 5, and 6, 1913, and attracted participants and spectators from miles around.
The writer's father, among others who witnessed or were involved in the affair considered it to be on a scale seldom attempted in rural areas.
Reenactments of periods in Medway history, all in costume, and accompanied by musical and choral selections, required the participation of scores of people, young and old.
Fortunately, the weather was fine, and the audience, estimated to number nearly 1000 each day, enjoyed the show in a natural amphitheater provided by the terrain.
Many items issued as souvenirs, including watch fobs, three-foot-long photos, banners, and programs, are now treasured mementos of that great occasion.
Medway's 250th anniversary celebration in 1963 was similar to that of the 1913 event.
Continuing on the Middle Post Road, past the former Anderson School, built in 1918 and closed in 1981, we come to a very old dwelling, dating possibly to the 1740's. This place, now No. 208 Village Street gives evidence of its early construction by its long, low lines. Originally the Leftenant Daniel Ide house, it was later owned by Charles Hill. It was virtually unchanged until about 1920, when extensive remodeling removed much of the interior evidence of antiquity.
At one time, Cottage Street crossed the Woonsocket Division of the railroad at a grade crossing, and connected with Village Street. The crossing was abolished, and Cottage Street was routed westerly and joined Village Street at the Subway.
Today, a garage and dwelling stand at either side of the former Cottage Street, and the house, long in a state of disrepair, has been restored.
While the present house dates back to the 1850's, and was known as the Chadwick place, a much earlier house, that of Job Plimpton stood almost on its site. The Plimpton house dated to the 1730's, and the bridge over the Charles River, known as Plimpton's Bridge, received its name from that family.
In the early days of Medway, Shaw Street and Walker Street were the only access by roadway to "Latic" - the Populatic section of Franklin. The Sanford Street-Lincoln Street bridge connection came much later, well after 1800, although a legend persists that a stone house standing on the Franklin side of the river on Lincoln Street was built as a fort to protect the bridge in Revolutionary times.
Beyond the former Cottage Street extension to the Old Mendon Road, we arrive at one of Medway's most historic sites - the location of the home of Henry Garnsey, first settler in the New Grant.
Garnsey came to Medway from Dorchester, Mass. in 1700, and built his house where there is now a little park just east of Chicken Brook.
His house stood for over 200 years, showing signs of its great age in its last years. After serving as a dwelling, it was used as a bass viol manufactory, a tin shop, and before being torn down in 1923, it was used to store firewood.
Across Chicken Brook from the Garnsey place, and where a single railroad trestle abutment now stands, was the "subway."
Years ago, Village Street ran almost due west from the Chicken Brook bridge, and connected with High and Lincoln Streets at what has long been known as "Wood's Corner." The West Medway railroad station was on the north side of the tracks where the police station is now, and Village Street made a grade crossing over the railroad.
When the street railway came through in 1897, the railroad, at that time the "Air Line" of the New York & New England RR, refused permission for the electric road to cross the tracks at Village Street.
The street railway company, with assistance from the town, then dug what was almost a tunnel through the railroad embankment and installed a trestle for the railroad tracks, creating a new right-of-way under the steam railroad.
The town abolished the grade crossing near the station, and foot, wheel, and street car traffic went via the "subway."
Street cars, making their tenuous way around the sharp curves made a screeching sound something like that heard in the Boston subways, and this reinforced the name in Medway.
Many years after the railroad was taken up and the depot removed, Village Street was re-routed to its old course, and Medway's new police station stands about where the depot was located.
Railroad passenger and freight service into Medway lasted until the 1960's, and the tracks were taken up back to Millis in 1967.
Across the river from the railroad station was Woodland Park, a popular recreation area. Special railroad and street car excursions brought crowds there to enjoy the zoo, dance pavilion, baseball games, and swimming and boating in the river.
Between the river and the railroad stood the Campbell Paper Company mill, at the West Medway or "Upper" Dam. Two large houses near the railroad yard built in the 1830's were tenements for mill workers.
The first railroad stations at Medway and West Medway were built when the railroad came through between 1862 and 1863. These were small arched-roof buildings. New depots were built in Medway in 1885 and West Medway in 1887, and the former stations were used as freight houses.
This was the residence of Cephas Thayer, owner of the "Stone Mill" on Main Street in West Medway,
and was built in 1820. It remained in the ownership of Thayer's descendants until the 1950's.
Across Village Street from the railroad station, at a site now marked by a boulder, stood the Grand Army Block. This building was a meeting hall for the GAR and Charles River Masonic Lodge, and housed the town offices. It burned to the ground in February, 1918, but the records of the town and the organizations were saved.
Just to the west, and across Norfolk Avenue was the Stanley House, a popular lodging house. This place, in addition to the present house at 316 Village Street, once the "Traveller's Rest", were well patronized by drummers who came to Medway and North Franklin on their sales trips. The building now standing at Village Street and Norfolk Avenue was once the ell to the Stanley House.
A busy commercial center once existed a little farther west. A large three story Partridge boot shop stood in the depot yard. In the area of Lincoln, High, and Village Streets were hardware and grocery stores, and a print shop.
Just before Haven Street, at No. 329 Village Street is the residence of Ambrose Saunders, Trial Judge and Conveyancer. Beyond Haven Street, and on a little knoll stands a house built of fieldstone; this was the home of Elmer Videtto. He built this house, also Christ Episcopal Church in the village.
GAR BLOCK and STANLEY HOUSE
Looking toward Woods Corner from the West Medway railroad station yard.
The street car is standing on Village Street.
Our way westerly takes us past only one more ancient site before the Bellingham town line, and that is the location of the Shumway place.
JABEZ SHUMWAY HOUSE
Built 1723, pictured in 1900.
The original Jabez Shumway house, built in 1723, is now gone, but its location is marked by a stone wall on the north side of the road a few rods west of Franklin Street.
Jabez owned a large tract of land that included most of the area from Village Street to Milford Street and Highland Street, and he deeded part of this land for the Congregational Church on "Rabbit Hill" in 1814.
The entire area was mostly a stony pasture with scrub growth, and largely inhabited by rabbits - hence the name.
There was another Shumway house next to the first one, still standing, although much changed in appearance. The older Jabez Shumway house was torn down over the protests of the Medway Historical Society in 1910. At the same time, a well sweep, the only one remaining in town, was removed.
We have now followed our Old Mendon Road through town. Perhaps once or twice along the way we saw for a moment the sights as they were in the past - but it would be impossible to capture or relate all of the events our Road has known.
Its dusty length knew the tread of the early settlers fleeing the Indians, and the rattle of stage coach wheels might echo if the air is still.
Its commerce of teams and wagons hauling the boots and shoes, the straw goods, the paper mill products, boxes, textiles, and all the rest, and its way crossed and recrossed by the railroad and street car line must all have left their mark.
Although its surroundings, width, and surface are far different now, our old Middle Road still serves its destined purpose, almost exactly on its original course, over three hundred and twenty-one years later.
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