Norwood's First Firefighters
By the time of the Revolutionary War, cities and towns across the colonies had begun to form and train fire companies to protect their homes and communities from the ever-present danger of fire. Prior to the formation of these volunteer companies, villages and towns depended on untrained, willing civilian assistance whenever a forest or structural fire broke out.
According to local historian Win Everett, in the early spring of 1833, a fire began to ravage the woods surrounding the sparsely settled area between West Dedham and South Dedham. All available men from both villages were summoned to help. Despite their efforts, the flames spread through old native trees and meadows from around today’s Clapboardtree Street toward Tiot center. It leveled a huge swathe of land and reportedly reached almost to the current Railroad Avenue destroying several houses in its path. The conflagration’s smoke and flames were surely visible from the hilltop in the Parish cemetery.
Shortly thereafter, on April 22, 1833, Dedham selectmen established South Dedham’s first fire company – Washington No. 7. The fire house was located near the center of the village, approximately where Cushing Hall of St. Catherine’s School now stands.
Benjamin D. Morse (lot 54) and Charles E. Morse (lot 103) were among the first group of Tiot-men to sign up. By 1838, they had been joined by Jarvis Fairbanks (lot 104), Benjamin Fairbanks (lot 115), and Moses Guild (lot 53), among others.
Harrison Rhoades (c. 1832-1907) (lot 25) was born about the time of the 1833 fire; eventually he too joined the fire company. He became a “suction horseman” for the company in South Dedham and Norwood. In that capacity, Rhoades had to know where every available water supply was. In the event of a fire, Rhoades would direct firefighters to the nearest cistern, well, or brook so that the fire hose could be inserted and water pumped out to fight the blaze. He is credited with building several large fire-reservoirs to supply water, reservoirs which reportedly stood long after the town had a water system built in 1886. Rhoades died of pneumonia on February 19, 1907 at the age of 75.
The bell that hung in the Washington No. 7 station – and which was loudly rung on July 4, 1868 in defiance of orders from Dedham – now hangs silent inside the town hall’s tower among the carillon bells.
Harriet Wales Fletcher Morse
Harriet Wales was born on December 30, 1827 in Orford, N.H., the daughter of Samuel and Hannah Wales. She was educated at the Academy at Bradford, Vermont, and began her teaching career in the public schools of Orford. By the age of 29, she had married and was widowed.
From 1856 to 1858 she was a teacher in the Everett School of South Dedham. In July of 1858, the widow Harriet Wales Fletcher married Charles E. Morse of West Dedham, a widower with two sons. Once she married, Harriet had to give up her teaching job.
A little more than a year later, in December of 1859, Charles Morse died of tuberculosis, leaving his two sons, C. Willis and Arthur C. Morse, in her care. She provided for the two until they completed college. In 1874, Mrs. Harriet Morse opened a private school at her home at 880 Washington Street in Norwood. Her school had an excellent reputation and she kept the school open until 1905, teaching 3 generations of local children.
She was a woman of fine intelligence and strong character. According to her obituary, her former pupils “bear testimony to the fact that she appealed to what was highest and best in her scholars.” She was described as a woman “of fine presence, refined yet eminently dignified in her bearing, and was endowed with a stern and inflexible conscience….She was not uncharitable by nature, but had some of the old Puritan hatred for wrongdoing [and] she measured others by no more strict standard than she did herself and was of an inflexibly honest character.”
Harriet Morse was held in high esteem by her friends and was respected by all. When she died in 1907, she was considered “the last remaining representative in this vicinity of the old-time teachers.” Funeral services were conducted at the Congregational Church by Rev. Arthur Pingree and her pallbearers were selected from among her former pupils.
Hartshorn Tavern ca. 1865
Norwood House ca. 1900
Rev. George Hill
Terror at the Tavern,
South Dedham 1865 Tragic Murder/Suicide
OPPV recently repaired Marston gravestone
Susanna Tenney Marston was the wife of Dr. Carlos Marston, a homeopathic physician who had an office in Hartshorn’s Tavern. The family, which included an adopted daughter, Cora, had an apartment in the tavern as well.
From all reports, Susanna Marston had a long history of instability and depression. Just prior to the tragic events of September 1, 1865, her behavior became so erratic that neighbors began to avoid her. She was often incoherent and had a distressed look about her. As her condition worsened, a nurse attendant was hired to care for Susanna but Dr. Marston remained concerned.
The Rev. George Hill of the Universalist Church was a good friend. He visited the Marston’s apartment on the evening of August 31, and the two men discussed what Marston should do about his hopelessly insane wife. It was decided that she must be taken to an insane hospital, a particularly unpleasant environment in the mid-19th century. Perhaps, Susanna Marston, who the two men thought was asleep in her room, overheard the discussion. In any event, after Rev. Hill left, Dr. Marston went to the room of the nurse, told her that both Cora and Mrs. Marston were asleep for the night, and suggested she bolt her door so Susanna would not annoy her during the night. She did.
At about 4 am, Susanna Marston somehow gained possession of her husband’s blue steel revolver and shot the doctor in the head. She next went to her adopted daughter Cora’s room and shot her too. She then returned to her own room and took her own life. The shots were heard by the milkman making his rounds. He woke tavern owner Dick Hartshorn and they ran to the doctor’s apartment and found the bodies. The nurse, still bolted in, was still asleep. Dr. Fogg was called and he confirmed the deaths, making it official as “murder and suicide.”
All three died on 1 September 1865. All three are buried in this plot.
The story of the tragedy appeared in newspapers and tabloids including the Boston Traveler, the New York Herald, and Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. Local historian and newspaper man, Win Everett, recounted the startling events in the Norwood Messenger in 1934. The drawings seen here were found on the site Murder by Gaslight, The Dedham Tragedy.
Fisher and Nichols Sts. intersection
Eliphalet Fisher was born on May 1, 1797 in Dedham. He was a ‘gentleman’ farmer living on the family’s Tiot farm which they had owned for a few generations before he was born. The farm was located roughly near today’s 120 Fisher Street in Norwood. He married Susan Farrington of Walpole on May 5, 1822.
Eliphalet Fisher was known as a kind man who allowed his daughter-in-law and her children to live at the farm while his son, Edwin Eliphalet Fisher, ran a sporting store in Concord, NH. The grandchildren at that time were Jennie born in 1863, Grace born in 1864, and Willard born in 1870. Nicknames were an important part of these children’s lives. Their nickname for Grandfather Fisher was “Bobo.” There were several endearing stories about him. For example, sometimes Eliphalet allowed his granddaughters to curl his hair at night and he slept in the curlers in order to amuse them with his frizzy mop of hair in the morning.
His granddaughter, Grace Fisher, was born in Norwood, graduated from Bridgewater Normal School, and taught at the Berkeley School in Boston from about 1882 to 1889. She was a friend of Fred Holland Day’s and part of his literary club. Grace later moved on to teach at St Luke's School in Brustleton, PA (outside of Philadelphia) in 1890-92. She married Henry Hollis in 1893.
Eliphalet Fisher died on May 17, 1875. He is buried here in Old Parish alongside his wife who died in 1883.
The “Children’s Epidemic” of 1775
Small pox, a contagious and painful disease with a very high mortality rate, was a constant threat in colonial Massachusetts. In late 1774, isolated cases appeared in Boston and several outlying towns, and gradually spread during the spring and summer of 1775. By the fall, it had reached epidemic proportions in and around the city, which was then under British occupation following the military encounters of April 19 of that year. The outbreak was so severe that George Washington refused to allow anyone from Boston to come into his army’s encampment. But the deadly disease did reach the village of South Dedham, with devastating consequences.
The population of the South Parish was around 450 in 1775. Records show that from 1765 through 1774, between 6 and 7 residents died each year, the majority were adults.
August through December of 1775, however, was different. During those months there were 23 deaths, 17 of them children (14 occurred in September and October). Several homesteads, including those of Silas Morse, Benjamin Fuller, Nathan Morse, and Jeremiah Kingsbury, suffered the loss of more than one child.
Three of these children are buried in Old Parish. Moses Kingsbury, was 16 when he died on October 5; his sister, Abigail, who died a few days later, was 9. David Colburn, the 4-year-old son of David and Rebecca Colburn, died on September 27. Moses and Abigail are buried at the crest of the hill, surrounded by family. A short distance away, David Colburn’s small gravestone stands alone.
Rev. Edwin Thompson
East Walpole "safe" house of Edwin Thompson.
Edwin Thompson was born in 1809 in Lynn, Massachusetts where he was educated at a Quaker School. As a teenager he took up the abolitionist cause and quickly became active in the Young Men’s Anti-Slavery Society of Lynn. By the early 1830s, he was engaged as a speaker throughout Massachusetts often in the company of abolitionist leaders William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips. Thompson was among the abolitionist lecturers who influenced escaped slave Frederick Douglass to take on a public role in the anti-slavery cause.
Thompson embraced the Universalist faith in 1833 and was the minister at South Dedham from 1841 until 1846. While the leader of this community’s Universalists, in April of 1844, he spoke – alongside Frederick Douglass – at a meeting of the Norfolk County Anti-Slavery Society held in Dedham. During this time period and through the Civil War, Thompson’s home at 12 East Street in East Walpole was a safe house for runaway slaves heading to Canada.
Well-loved, jovial, and without bias of any kind, Thompson, who was nicknamed “Little Thompson” due to his short stature, was also a leader in the Total Abstinence Movement. He organized a temperance chapter in South Dedham and convinced local tavern owner Joseph Sumner to join the cause by buying up Sumner’s existing stock of liquor.
Rev. Edwin Thompson died in his East Walpole home in May of 1888 at the age of 79. A few months earlier, in December of 1887, Frederick Douglass recalled how clearly he remembered the powerful effect Thompson and his friend, the anti-slavery poet John Greenleaf Whittier, had upon audiences in New Bedford during their abolitionist campaign.
Rev. Harrison Greenough Park (1806-1876)
Home of Civil War widow Julia Bird Park Hale - 1921
John Henry Hale Memorial Bernardston, MA
Harrison G. Park was born in 1896 and graduated from Brown University in 1824. Following his graduation, he studied theology and law. He was ordained as minister of the South Church of Dedham in 1829.
In 1830, he married Julia Bird, daughter of George Bird who began paper manufacturing in East Walpole. The couple lived in a house in South Dedham that was later occupied by Dr. Fogg, and later still, was the first headquarters of the Norwood Cooperative Bank. The couple had 4 children: Abigail, George, Harrison Jr., and Wisner, all born in the house. Julia Bird Park died in 1835. A few months later, in September, 1835, Park left the South Church of Dedham and served in parishes in Danvers, Massachusetts, and Burlington, Bernardstown, and Westminster, Vermont.
In 1837 he married for a second time. His wife was Elizabeth Bird, daughter of George Bird, and sister of his first wife, Julia. The couple had 6 children: Julia, Ebenezer, Henry, Montgomery, Calvin, and Francis.
The eldest child of this second marriage, Julia Bird Park (1838-1921) was born in 1838; she was named after Elizabeth’s sister/Park’s first wife, Elizabeth. Julia Park was married in 1863 to John Henry Hale of Bernardston, Massachusetts, a community in which her father had served as pastor. The couple settled in Westminster, Vermont.
John Henry Hale (1837-1864) enlisted in the Civil War. He was killed in the Battle of the Wilderness in 1864. He is buried with his wife Julia Bird Park Hale in the Old Parish Cemetery alongside her family. (An additional interesting note. There is a stone engraved to John Henry Hale’s memory in Bernardston. After contacting parties there, it seems that this stone, which also lists the name of John Henry’s brother, was erected as a memorial to the two at a later date.)
The Park family suffered another loss during the Civil War as well. Elizabeth and Harrison’s son, Henry Martin Park (1842-1864), enlisted in the 40th Massachusetts Volunteers at the age of 20. The 40th was organized at Camp Stanton in Lynnfield, Massachusetts in August of 1862 and mustered for a 3-year enlistment. The Regiment was attached to the 2nd Brigade. Stationed primarily near Washington, DC, they marched in pursuit of Lee to Berlin, Maryland in July of 1863 and also sailed to Folly Island, SC in August of that year. They were in Hilton Head, SC during January of 1864. By May of 1864 the Regiment was back in the Richmond, VA area. Henry M. Park was wounded three times in battle. On May 20th, 1864, he was taken to the hospital at Fortress Monroe in Virginia and died there on June 18, 1864. He is buried in Old Parish Cemetery with his father and mother.
Two more of Harrison Park’s sons, Wisner and Ebenezer, enlisted in support of the union during the Civil War as well. Both survived. Wisner became a Captain during the conflict and participated in much of the hard service of the Army of the Potomac. He died in 1919 and is buried in the Canton Corner Cemetery. Ebenezer Burgess Park became dentist and well-respected citizen of Neosho County, Kansas.
After her husband’s death, Julia Bird Park Hale returned to South Dedham, where her father occasionally preached at local services. Rev. Park died in 1876 just shy of his 70th birthday. For many years Julia lived with her widowed mother, Elizabeth Bird Park, and her sister, A. Elizabeth Park, who was a school teacher. Later, she lived on Nahatan Street with her sister-in-law Rachel Park and her niece, Ida Park.
Julia never remarried. She died in 1921 at 83, certainly one of the oldest Civil War widows in Norwood.
Mary Dean Chickering (1797-1897)
Mary Dean was born in the John Dean House on Dean Street in South Dedham on June 14, 1797. She was the daughter of John Dean (one of six children) and his wife, who was often in poor health. Mary taught school in Sharon, Walpole, West Dedham, and in the Old Brick School house on Pleasant Street. She taught at the Clapboardtree District School in South Dedham from 1818 until 1825, one of the earliest references found to a woman teaching in the district schools. She resigned her teaching position when she married Mr. Dean Chickering on December 14, 1825 at the age of 28. It was a notable coincidence that the Christian name of her husband was identical to her maiden surname: Dean Chickering married Mary Dean. Mr. Chickering was a widower with one daughter at the time of their marriage.
Dean Chickering and Mary Dean Chickering lived in the house at the head of Hoyle Street on Walpole Street; the house became known as the “Chickering Place” and is still standing today on the corner of Chickering Road and Walpole Street. At the time they lived in the house, it was painted yellow. The couple had one son, John Dean Chickering. Eventually Mary Dean Chickering came to know 3 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren. Dean Chickering, a Deacon of the Congregational Church, died at the age of 65, after 30 years of marriage.
Throughout her life, Mary Dean Chickering was very active and never had a serious illness. Her son’s wife died young and Mary cared for her grandchildren.
On the occasion of Mary’s 100th birthday, a reception was held at her home. Between 3 and 5 in the afternoon, 125 people gathered there to pay their respects in small groups. Mrs. Chickering, the oldest woman in Norwood at that time, shook hands with all, and, although her memory was not perfect, she recognized many. She was given a bouquet of flowers, a cake, and 100 peppermints (her favorite candy). A lengthy newspaper article noted that her habit was to get up a little before noon, spend time in her sitting room and outside in her yard in good weather. It was said that she could recall stories told to her by elderly people who remembered events that occurred long before the American Revolution. Mrs. Chickering herself remembered the stage-coaching days and was amazed by the bicycles which passed her house daily; she called them “a wonder and a mystery.”
She was a very kindly, good-hearted woman. Although her eyesight was impaired, even at 100, her hearing remained good. Less than a month after her 100th birthday party, Mary Dean Chickering died after a fall in her home. It had been noted at her centenary celebration that “Her life has been a quiet and useful one, and though devoid of great events, has been full of help and care for others.”
Josiah “Shout” Talbot (1785-1873)
Josiah Warren “Shout” Talbot was a very interesting personality. The master of the South Dedham school in 1836, he was the son of Josiah and Mary (Richards) Talbot of Fayette, Maine, and was educated in the schools of Sharon and “various Academies.” He studied for the ministry with a clergyman in Roxbury, was ordained by the Boston Association of Universalists in 1836, preached in several towns and then settled in East Boston.
He was married to Mary L. Bigelow, from Boxboro, Massachusetts, in 1838. She was the sister of L. W. Bigelow, the Village Hall dry goods merchant of South Dedham.
The Talbots came to South Dedham in 1860, bought the old Lewis Rhodes farm on Centre Street (Washington Street) where he researched pomology (apple breeding). He studied varied subjects and popular sciences, such as phrenology, a theory linking personality traits to head and skull shape and characteristics. Talbot became in turn, a minister, orator, apple and grape expert, and general horticulturist. He was also a spring-bed manufacturer, and a photographer. The Norwood Historical Society’s Baker family file has a cabinet card-sized photograph marked: J. W. Talbot, Norwood, Massachusetts, Photo Studio.
Talbot was a respected teacher and minister and citizen of South Dedham. In 1872, he was chosen to present the petition for separating South Dedham from Dedham to the Massachusetts Legislature.
Talbot gained the nickname “Shout” after being struck by lightning as a child and losing his hearing in one ear.
He died on July 26, 1873 at the age of 88.
Hannah Balch Chickering (1755-1839)
Hannah Balch was the youngest daughter of Rev. Thomas Balch, first pastor of the Second or South Parish of Dedham, and his wife, Mary Sumner Balch. In 1777, three years after the death of her father, Hannah Balch married Rev. Jabez Chickering (1753-1812). Chickering had succeeded her father to become the second pastor of the South Dedham parish in 1776. At the time of her marriage, Hannah was 23 years old.
During Rev. Jabez Chickering’s ministry of 36 years, 78 parishioners were added to the church, 203 couples were married, and 351 were baptized. The church building itself was the second meetinghouse, located on Lenox Street, where it, along with the Noon House, had been built in 1769. Their parsonage was located at 17 Walpole Street in the same residence as Rev. Balch; it was the home that Hannah grew up in.
Hannah and Jabez Chickering had six children, all raised in South Dedham: Lucy, Joseph, Jabez, Elizabeth, Thomas, and Hannah.
Their eldest son, Joseph (1780-1844) followed in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps and became a minister. He was the pastor of the Congregational Church in Woburn for 17 years and the pastor of the church in Phillipston for 13 years.
Their youngest son, Thomas Balch Chickering, born in 1788, chose a military career. He rose to the rank of Lieutenant and fought in the War of 1812. He died at the age of 28 in 1816 while still in the service at Louisville, Kentucky.
Hannah’s youngest child and namesake, Hannah, was born in 1802 when Hannah Balch Chickering was 47 years old.
Rev. Jabez Chickering died in 1812 at the age of 58. (Interestingly he had served the South Parish from 1776 until 1812, between two wars.)
Hannah Balch Chickering died on April 17, 1839 at the age of 84.
Francis Tinker 1816-1896
Francis Tinker, apothecary and for 23 years the town clerk, passed away on June 6, 1896 at his home on Cottage Street. He was 80 years, 5 months, 1 day old.
Francis Tinker was born in Worthington, MA and lived for many years in Ashby, MA where he was postmaster, town clerk, librarian, and wrote a history of the town. He moved to South Dedham around 1867, and opened a small drugstore at the corner of Nahatan and Washington Streets. For a time, he lived on Maple Street.
In 1872 at the incorporation of Norwood, he was elected the first town clerk. He recorded all proceedings in a clear, even, legible hand. He held that office for 23 years until age and ill health caused him to resign. His resignation was accepted at the town meeting of 9 March 1895. He served as trustee to the library too, assisting in its re-organization and making its first catalog after the library was owned by the town.
A lover of books, especially history, Tinker prepared a sketch of the town for publication in the History of Norfolk County. His history also appeared in Norwood’s History and Directory of 1890. He was the clerk for the Congregational Church and prepared a history of the settlement and growth of the church. He was avidly interested in the Revolutionary War and the War of Rebellion and kept a list of the names and service of all from South Dedham who served.
The Norwood Advertiser and Review, then the only local paper, wrote on June 6, 1896: “He was a mild, peaceable man, but intensely patriotic, approving of war for the sake of liberty, country, honor and home, but in no other sense. In character, Dr. Tinker was quiet, sincere, conscientious, modest but firm. His words were few; his voice low and pleasant; his principles decided and humane; his religious faith unwavering, but tolerant and kindly towards that of others who differed from him. He possessed a good-natured vein of humor, enjoying a joke and a pleasant anecdote as well as anyone. Socially he was genial and pleasant, full of kindly feeling and easily moved by distress and pathos. He was an abolitionist and a Republican in politics but in no sense a politician. He had no enemies, and perhaps no man in town has so many friends. He was Deacon of the Congregational Church, and leaves his widow, one son, and two grandchildren.”
After his death, condolences were sent from the Library Board of Trustees dated 13 June 1896: “Francis Tinker was a member of this board from the time of transfer to the library to the town and its establishment as a public library, immediately after the town was incorporated, and continuously up to his death. He had also been librarian till 1880 and treasurer of the trustees until 1892 and had rendered long and faithful service upon our purchasing committee. His acquaintance with and interest in literature, his excellent judgment and natural inclination toward elevating thought, as well as his unselfish interest in our town, its people, and especially its youth, have been of the greatest value. Of all his public duties, it was those connected with this library to which he clung the longest, notwithstanding the infirmities of age and health.”
In 1931, Deacon Francis Tinker was immortalized in Win Everett’s first historical reminiscence titled, “Have a Drink of Deacon Tinker’s Choklit Sody” published in the Norwood Messenger on September 18. In the article, Everett described Tinker: “dear, kindly, and gentle-voiced Deacon Tinker with his black skull-cap on his pure white locks.” Tinker’s store sold stationery supplies of all kinds, and “sundries” including wallets, combs, pocket mirrors, button hooks and scissors. “Behind the soda fountain” Everett continued, “was a black curtained door – the Prescription Dept…white-faced men, women and children came running to that door and scuttled away with a clutched bottle and trembling lips. It was the Gate of Sorrow – and Hope – for an entire community.”