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  • Patricia Fanning

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.”


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