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Settling into Life in East Walpole and South Dedham

This 1832 maps shows how the bulk of the Bird paper mill was in South Dedham. Boundary lines were redone in the mid 1850s. (Source: Elijah Hewins, (surveyor) Map of the Town of Walpole, Mass (Boston, MA., 1832)

Records at the Norfolk County (MA) deeds office note that when George Bird began acquiring land and water rights on the Neponset River in the 1810s, there were not any buildings on these parcels of land. George Bird not only built a mill and all the necessary out buildings to operate a paper making business, but he also built a new house for him and his family to live in.  An 1832 map of Walpole indicates this home was located on the lower mill property on what is today, Washington Street. The house could possibly be the house at #112, on the Hollingsworth & Vose property, but it should be noted that an 1898 birds-eye view map of East Walpole has three houses on that lot, all but one today of those houses is still standing. It would be very difficult to identify those homes, as they were all part of the 1871 sale of the lower mill to Hollingsworth & Vose. Later maps show he lived on what today is Mansion Dr., next door to Warren Lewis, over looking Bird Pond and the upper mill, this property became the Endean estate. But one thing is for sure, by 1819 he was living in Walpole, because deeds from that year forward say “George Bird, Gentleman of Walpole,” and the 1820 census confirms the family was indeed living in there by then.  As He established a home in East Walpole, he would have enrolled his youngest children in the Little Red Brick School, found a new church to attend and participated in the life of the community. As his business grew successful, he would have become an important person in the South Dedham/East Walpole area, he would have begun to live the life of a respected country gentleman.

!850 Census of Walpole, shows George Bird, papermaker, living with his wife Martha and grandson Harrison G. Park (jr), next to the family of Warren Lewis.

When researching George Bird’s life and business experiences there are surprisingly very few records. This is true about the details of his life once he moved to East Walpole. Census records are helpful as they illustrate where he was living at a particular time, maps help to verify this, and deeds tell the story of the property and water rights he bought and sold. We know from published Dedham histories and the 1810 census, George was living in Mill Village in Dedham and by 1820 he had relocated to East Walpole. Interestingly, in the 1830 census George he had returned to Dedham, while son George (Jr.) is living in Walpole with his young family and perhaps providing living quarters for mill workers, because he records an extra five males ages 15 to 30.  In the 1840 and 1850 censuses he and his wife are back in Walpole living next door to Warren Lewis. The 1898 bird’s-eye view map shows a large home, perched high above Bird Pond just about where Mansion Drive meets Hildene Drive, the house is long gone, however it appears either the stone foundation or the remnants of a walled garden is all that is left of this estate. Perhaps the reason George and Martha had returned to Dedham by 1830, was they were having this new house in Walpole constructed.

The 1828 Church was located on Washington Street at the end of Chapel Street (Fom the collection of the Norwood Historical Society)

It is interesting to note although the Birds lived in Walpole, their names continue to appear in Dedham community activities. Martha Bird made sure all her children were baptized. She took her first four children from Dorchester to her church, the First Church of Needham to be baptized and her four youngest to the First Church of Dedham. She had been living in Walpole for about nine years when she finally transferred her membership on April 17, 1827 from the Needham church to the Second Parish Church in South Dedham. The family had been attending this church for a few years as the marriages of George (Jr.), Hannah and Josiah were conducted there in the early 1820s. Although there is not a record of George officially joining this church, it does appear he was a member there. His name appears on a list of “subscribers being owners of a tract of land in Dedham in which a new meeting house is built to wit in the South Parish” agreed to give Calvin Guild power of attorney to auction off the pews. This appears to be a possible to pay off some of the costs of the new church. The construction of a new church was deemed necessary by their pastor, William Cogswell. He was concerned that the South Dedham parish was growing, as was the membership of the church, and that the old church was outdated.  To make his point, one Sunday, as the parishioners were arriving for Sunday services, Cogswell was tearing apart the church. The new church, called the “1828 Meeting House” served the community for over sixty years. Cogswell left soon after the new meetinghouse was dedicated and the next minister to serve in South Dedham was Rev. Harrison G. Park, who was George Bird’s son-in-law. Although the elder Birds names do not appear in many church records, this church seems to be the one they chose to attend.

This portion of the Bird’s Ee View map, show a large house in the upper right corner, which is most likely George Bird’s house. (Source: “Bird’s Eye View” East Walpole, Norfolk County, Mass 1898. (Boston, MA: The Bert Poole Co., 1898)

On September 21, 1836, Dedham held a large celebration to mark its 200th anniversary of it’s settlement and George Bird was there to help. The festivities kicked off at sunrise as all the church bells in town were rung, this was followed by a 100-gun salute. At ten, a parade of infantrymen marched through the town, ending at the First Church of Dedham where an ecumenical service was held. The rest of the day was filled with speeches and musical programs and topped off by a sit down dinner for 600 guests at a pavilion erected for this occasion, and it was here where George Bird assisted with presiding over the meal. George Bird lived for over thirty years in East Walpole, but it seems the village of South Dedham was where he participated the community. Martha Bird died in 1852, and George followed her a year later. Local newspapers printed their death notices, and the Second Parish Church of South Dedham noted their deaths in their records. It was in the Old Parish Burial Ground where the Birds chose to be interred. They have a family tomb dug into the cemetery’s hill. Here George and Martha rest with their son Josiah and his wife for eternity.

Go to George Bird Exhibit main page –>

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“Business” Sources:

Richardson, etc. to Bird. Norfolk County, MA: Deeds. bk 41/pg 138. Feb. 12, 1812. (3 acres land & water rights)

Webb to Bird. Norfolk County, MA: Deeds. bk 49/pg 227. Aug. 20, 1814. (right to raise the water level)

Willett to Bird. Norfolk County, MA: Deeds. bk 49/pg 117. Aug. 22, 1814. (1 acre land & water rights)

Pettee to Bird Norfolk County, MA: Deeds. bk 47/pg 48. Feb. 22, 1814. (land & water rights)

DeLue, Willard. The Story of Walpole 1724-1924. (Norwood, MA: Ambrose Press, 1925)

Lewis, Isaac Newton. A History of Walpole from its Earliest Times. (Norwood, MA: Plimpton Press, 1905)

Hurd, D. Hamilton, The History of Norfolk County, Massachusetts, with Biographical Sketches of Many of its Pioneers and Prominent Men. (Philadelphia: JW Lewis & Company, 1884).

Elliot, William. A Patentee’s Manuel: Containing a List of Patents Granted by the United States for the Encouragement of the Arts & Sciences From 1790 to 1830. (Washington, DC: S. A. Elliot, 1830).

Our Land and Its Settler’s: The History of Walpole (Walpole, MA: Privately printed, n.d.)

Francis William Bird: A Biographical Sketch. Norwood, MA: The Norwood Press, 1897.

Fanning, Patricia J. Norwood: A History (Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2000).

Tolles, Bryant Franklin, Norwood: The Centennial History of a Massachusetts Town (Norwood, MA: The Norwood Printing Co., 1973)

“United States Census, 1850,” database with images, FamilySearch.org. George Bird, Walpole, Norfolk Co., Massachusetts, citing family 303, NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, DC: National Archives and Record Administration, n.d.)

“United States Census, 1820,” database with images, FamilySearch.org. George Bird, Walpole, Norfolk Co., Massachusetts, citing page 384, NARA microfilm publication M33 (Washington, DC: National Archives and Record Administration, n.d.)

“Massachusetts Deaths, 1841-1924,” database with images, FamilySearch.org. George Bird, 19 Aug 1854, citing Walpole, Norfolk Co., Massachusetts, v 85, p186 (Boston, MA: Massachusetts State Archives, n.d.)

“Life in Walpole” sources:

“United States Census, 1820,” database with images, FamilySearch.org. George Bird, Walpole, Norfolk Co., Massachusetts, citing page 384, NARA microfilm publication M33 (Washington, DC: National Archives and Record Administration, n.d.)

Tolles, Bryant Franklin, Norwood: The Centennial History of a Massachusetts Town (Norwood, MA: The Norwood Printing Co., 1973)

Francis William Bird: A Biographical Sketch. Norwood, MA: The Norwood Press, 1897.

Dedham 2nd Parish to Guild. Norfolk County, MA: Deeds. bk 87/pg 118-119. Nov. 21, 1828. (power of attorney)

“United States Census, 1830,” database with images, FamilySearch.org. George Bird Jr, Walpole, Norfolk Co., Massachusetts, citing 52, NARA microfilm publication M19 (Washington, DC: National Archives and Record Administration, n.d.)

“United States Census, 1830,” database with images, FamilySearch.org. George Bird, Dedham, Norfolk Co., Massachusetts, citing 238, NARA microfilm publication M19 (Washington, DC: National Archives and Record Administration, n.d.)

“United States Census, 1840,” database with images, FamilySearch.org. George Bird, Walpole, Norfolk Co., Massachusetts, citing page 210, roll 192, NARA microfilm publication M704 (Washington, DC: National Archives and Record Administration, n.d.)

“United States Census, 1850,” database with images, FamilySearch.org. George Bird, Walpole, Norfolk Co., Massachusetts, citing family 303, NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, DC: National Archives and Record Administration, n.d.)

“Bird’s Eye View” East Walpole, Norfolk County, Mass 1898. (Boston, MA: The Bert Poole Co., 1898)

Elijah Hewins, (surveyor) Map of the Town of Walpole, Mass (Boston, MA., 1832)

H.F. Walling (surveyor) Map of the Town of Walpole, Norfolk County, Mass (Boston, MA., 1852)

William Cogswell, The Third Record Book of the Second Parish, 1825 – 18??. Transcribed by Laurie L. Kearney.

DeLue, Willard. The Story of Walpole 1724-1924. (Norwood, MA: Ambrose Press, 1925)

Erastus Worthington. The History of Dedham from the Beginning its Settlement (Boston, MA: Dutton & Wentworth Printers, 1827)

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