ln 1806, when the Norfolk and Bristol turnpike was laid down along present Washington Street, it brought even more business to the tavern.
This area around the tavern came to be known as “The Hook”, taking its name from a metal hook’ in front of the tavern. Post riders hung sacks of mail and bundles ordered from Boston on that hook as they galloped past. Other horsemen, in a hurry to quench their thirst, just threw their reins over the hook on their way into the tavern.
The stagecoach from Boston to Providence stopped at Ellis’ South Dedham Inn and also at David Morse’s tavern in East Walpole, then at two taverns in South Walpole. These stops may have caused a long and bumpy ride for the passengers.
In good weather the trip took about 12 hours, usually leaving Boston about 4 n.m. and arriving in Providence at 4 pm. the same day. Today, a bus following a similar route makes the same trip (with fewer stops) in a little more than an hour.
The stagecoaches and post roads brought new ideas and new people to the town, some for a little while, some to stay. Abraham Lincoln recalled riding through South Dedham as a passenger atop a stagecoach from Boston to Providence. As he rode up a little hill, a low-hanging limb from one of Parson Balch’s elm trees knocked off his tall stovepipe hat, and the stage stopped for him to retrieve it.
Drawn by the accelerated flow of life around “The Hook” the younger people of the village began to settle in that area, around what is now the Town Square. Gradually, stores were built up across from and around the tavern. Two distinct sections were forming within the Parish of South Dedham: “Old Tiot.” the original settlement, and “The Hook”. These two acres were separated not only by geography but by ideas.
That was the way things stood in the momentous year of 1828, when religion joined transportation in building “The Hook”. In a bitter, unpleasant, yet vitally important move, 35 young people, about half the church membership at the time, left the fold of the Congregational Church in Old Tiot, They came to the new frontier of “The Hook” to found the Universalist Church.
Joseph Sumner, who had bought Ellis Tavern earlier that year offered the Inn as a meeting place. Curiously, it was here that the town’s first temperance movement begin.
In 1840, Rev. Edwin Thompson became the leader of the Universalists. He regarded the tavern as the chief source of liquor drinking – and therefore of evil – in the town. He made a personal plea to Joe Sumner to stop selling the stuff, and Sumner finally agreed to end the business whenever someone would buy out his stock. Rev. Thompson himself had little money, but he bought all of Sumner’s liquor and poured it on the ground. Sumner was as good as his word and in fact, he became the president, of the Temperance Movement in South Dedham.
By Marguerite Krupp, Originally published in the 1972 Centennial Magazine