The Town Pound Keeper
Alvin L. Ellis (1819-1876)
Martha B. Dean Ellis (1822-1869)
Alvin L. Ellis was born in South Dedham in 1819. He was the son of Isaac Ellis (1790-1844) and Abigail Fairbanks Ellis (1795-1836). He married Martha B. Dean on March 20, 1840), daughter of Dexter and Martha Dean. Alvin and Martha had twelve children. The family was plagued by tuberculosis, then referred to as consumption. It was a very common disease and, at the turn of the 20th century, was the leading cause of death in the United States. Alvin, Martha, and several of their adult children died of the disease. One son, Alfred Ellis was a minister; one daughter, Abby, was a school teacher.
During his adult life, Alvin L. Ellis worked as a butcher, a packer, a teamster, and in 1870, a depot master for the railroad. When the new town of Norwood was founded in 1872, Alvin Ellis became its first official “town pound keeper.”
Just about every town in New England had a town pound. In fact, they were so necessary to the orderly functioning of a community that they were required by law. If an animal strayed and was found destroying private property, it was brought to the pound, where it was corralled with other wayward creatures and watched over by a town-appointed “pound-keeper” (sometimes called a “pound-master,” or “pounder”) until its owner could retrieve it—for a fee. Beginning in the 1840s, South Dedham’s Pound was located on Nahatan Street, near the corner of today’s School Street; it remained the site of the Pound when Norwood was incorporated.
Through the years 1872 to 1875, Ellis also served as a constable for the new town. He remained the Pound-keeper until his death on January 8, 1876, his wife having pre-deceased him on August 15, 1869. All that remains of the town pound today is an uneven patch of land, and a stone ledge pierced by a few iron staples, once used to hold the animal pens in place.