Over its first thirty years, the Christian Hill neighborhood experienced a great deal of growth. Many factors come into play as this neighborhood was being established. The railroad came through town, making it easier to ship goods. Businesses large and small established themselves near the railroad. These businesses needed workers, and these workers needed places to live. Several forethinking men saw this need and began to build homes within walking distance to these businesses.
George F. Bagley
George F. Bagley was one of many builders who lived and worked in South Dedham/Norwood. In early censuses of the Christian Hill neighborhood, there are many residents who list their occupation as “Journeyman Carpenters.” The other most frequently listed occupation in the area is “Furniture Maker.” The fact that there are so many journeyman carpenters in the area illustrates the building boom South Dedham/Norwood experienced in the latter half of the 1800s. Bagley is one of many builders, but we know of one home that he is attributed to building, and that is the home at 25 Beacon Street. When the Dexter family moved into their new home, the local paper ran a story about the family, and their new home, noting Bagley was the builder.
Bagley was born in Boston in 1845 to Perkins H. and Charlotte (White) Bagley. Bagley’s father was a builder, it is highly likely where Bagley learned the trade. In 1860 Bagley was an apprentice carpenter, living with his parents in Boston. After his service in the Civil War, he returned to Boston and married in 1867 to Lydia DeLuce. By 1870 he and his father formed a construction partnership P.H. Bagley & Son, in Boston. Bagley moved his family to Norwood by 1873 where the birth of his third child is recorded. He and Lydia became the parents of six children, but only three grew to adulthood. Bagley’s move to Norwood may be an indication that builders were needed in Norwood. In 1880 he was working as a carpenter. He is attributed as the builder of the beautiful Queen Anne style home of WW Dexter. Bagley died in 1927 in Norwood.
Day was born in Walpole in 1807 to Ebenezer Day and Adah Boyden. He grew up on his father’s 30-acre farm in North Walpole (“on the road to Medfield”). His father died in 1822, leaving behind a lot of debt, the majority of his real estate and personal estate was sold to pay these debts, which meant there was very little left over for the family to support themselves. Joseph Day, essentially was a self-made man, having started with nothing. By the time he died in 1876, owned a very successful tannery in Boston, invested greatly in South Dedham land and was very wealthy. During the late 1820s/early 1830s Day worked for John Smith, a South Dedham tanner. In 1832 he had gone into business with Isaac Ellis making wrapping paper (actually would have been packing paper, versus gift wrap) in a mill on a dammed-up pond on Hawes Brook (across from today’s Big Y Supermarket). It is unclear when Day left this concern, but by the 1840s and up until his retirement, he was a partner is several Boston tanneries. His most recent company being Day, Winslow & Co., which was eventually taken over by his son Lewis. Day was also very involved with the development of Christian Hill. It appears he partnered with George Bird Talbot in selling more affordable smaller house lots, some that already had “buildings there on.” He seems to have held many mortgages too. He was also partnered with Joel M Baker and Lyman Smith and they sold larger properties to wealthy buyers who ended up building large elegant homes in the neighborhood.
In November of 1830, Day married Hannah Rhoades (1808-1863) in South Dedham. She was the daughter of Lewis Rhodes and Hannah Ellis (Hannah Ellis was the sister of Isaac Ellis). Joseph Day and Hannah Rhoades were the parents of five children, four that grew to adulthood, but only one had a child. After the death of Hannah, Joseph married the widow Jane (Bigelow) Brown. Bigelow-Brown was the daughter of Lyman Bigelow and Jane Brigham, Over the years, Day held many local leadership positions – he was a Dedham assessor, a director of the Dedham National Bank, a state senator and a representative to the Massachusetts General Court. By the time Day died in 1876, he had outlived three of his children. He originally owned a large family plot in the Old Parish Cemetery, but when Highland Cemetery opened, he had the family stone and his loved ones moved there. Day is buried at Highland.
George Bird Talbot
Talbot was born in 1819 in Stoughtonham (now Sharon) to Josiah Talbot and Polly Richards. The Talbot and Richards families could trace their roots back to the original settlers of Dedham and Dorchester. Talbot and his ten brothers and sisters grew up on the family farm in Sharon. Talbot was a merchant. In 1835, when he was sixteen years old, he found a job as a clerk in a Foxboro store, then he found a position at Oliver Ames & Son in Easton. By 1840, he had moved to Boxboro, where it is most likely he met his future wife, Augusta Bigelow (1823-1852); they married in April of 1840. Bigelow was the daughter of Lyman Bigelow and Jane Brigham. In 1842, Talbot took over the management of his father-in-law’s mercantile business in Boxboro. In 1848, he established his own grocery and dry goods business in Boston, Talbot, Winchester & Upham, a business he ran for twenty-five years. Biographies on Talbot, say he settled in South Dedham in 1853, but he appears in the census there in 1850, plus the death of his wife in 1852 is recorded in Dedham town records. Although it should be noted, in Norfolk county deeds, and for his 1853-second marriage to Mary Martha Bicknell (1824-1897), he states he lives in Melrose. Around the time Talbot moved to South Dedham he began to acquire parcels of land. He divided the land up into smaller house lots, had modest homes built, sold them and held the mortgage. It appears that some of these transactions were a partnership with Talbot’s brother-in-law Joseph Day. Much of the homes along Cottage, Vernon and Nahatan Streets can be attributed to Talbot’s fore thinking. He noticed as businesses were being established, most along Railroad Avenue, there would be a need for workers who would need a place to live.
Talbot not only contributed to the physical growth of the town as a builder of homes, but he was an active participant in several local organizations. He was a member of the Orient Lodge and was one of several people who advocated for the construction of the Universalist Church in the Hook. He is the George B. Talbot who filed a petition, signed by 210 residents, with the state to have South Dedham set off as its own town. When Talbot died in 1902, he left behind seven children, and a large estate. He is buried in Highland Cemetery.
Thayer was born 1822 in Mendon to Otis W Thayer and Sena Thayer. The family moved to Medfield when Thayer was just a toddler. After his father died in 1837, young Tyler apprenticed himself to Jonathan E. Gleason, a carpenter in 1838. The Gleason agreed to a five-year apprenticeship term, plus $1000 payment and a set of carpenter’s tools at the end of the term. Unfortunately, the Gleason’s carpentery business failed and Thayer was left with nothing. Thayer found jobs as a journeyman carpenter working for five dollars a day, and saving those earnings. In five years time, Thayer had managed to save $1500, enough to establish his own business. In 1842, Thayer arrived in West Dedham (now Westwood) and formed a partnership with William Shattuck. Within five years Thayer bought out Shattuck and continued the building business.
In 1848 he married Nancy Shattuck, William’s youngest sister and the newlyweds moved into Nancy’s parents house in West Dedham. In 1856 Thayer came to South Dedham and by 1860 his owns a sizable property and calls himself a “master carpenter.” Many of Norwood’s finest homes built in the later part of the 1800s are attributed to Thayer. He also is believed to be the person who suggested the name Norwood when it was established in 1872. Thayer was one of the signers of the petition to establish Norwood, and went on to serve the town in many official capacities. Thayer died in 1909 and is buried in the family plot in Medfield.
Over his career as a builder, Thayer erected two or Norwood’s four churches, several of Norwood’s commercial buildings such as Village Hall, and more than one half of the dwelling in Norwood, plus he built many homes in neighboring towns. In the year of 1883, he used 555,500 liner feet of lumber, 530,000 shingles, and provided jobs for eighteen men.
Advertisements from builders from the 1890 Norwood Business Directory. These Advertisements help to illustrate there was a demand in Norwood for builders, painters, architects, etc in the late 1880s.
One might expect to find a large variety style of homes in any neighborhood in a New England town. After all the area was settled…
The Joseph Day house, circa 1990 (Source: MACRIS database) Joseph Day had Tyler Thayer build this Italianate style house in 1855 for him and his…