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  • Patricia Fanning

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.”


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