Unique Series Honors Town’s 75th Anniversary
This year Norwood celebrates its Jubilee. In honor of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the town, the MESSENGER is opening the pages of a unique history book, never before written. It is written by an old friend of the community who has been around these parts from time immemorial. (Editors Note: Probably written by Win Everett)
Uncle Ezra is writing what he calls a history book. He is being aided (and handicapped) by Aunt Huldah. Who is Uncle Ezra? Well, Uncle Ezra is a whole lot of people. Uncle Ezra is a professional sitter professional smoker, professional drinker, pro-professional sitter, professional whittler, professional straw-chewer, and every other professional time-killing avocation. He says he was used by Sir Walter Raleigh as a guinea pig to see what the first pipeful of tobacco would do to him.
Anywhere men have sat and talked and gossiped, remembering the past with nostalgia and delight and looking to the future with fear and doubt, there you would find Uncle Ezra. While in some home nearby, awaiting Uncle Ezra’s footsteps, would be Aunt Huldah. She, too, is as redoubtable a sitter as Ezra. With the Quen’s ladies in the Mediaeval castles, in rush-thatched cottages, in the dark, stuffy hold of the “Mayflower,” in the crude kitchens of Young Boston; in the cruder kitchens and the rough church of new-born “Contentment” which lovely name was changed to the more prosaic one of “Dedham,” at the afternoon teas, at the sewing and husking bees, at the sewing circles, at the little “Noon House” of the second church of the South Dedham Congregational church, at “bandage parties” during the Revolution, at the places women picked lint for the wounded of the Civil war, at Red Cross meetings, at Historical Society meetings, at Community Committee meetings, at lodges and church gatherings—there no tongue wagged more briskly or mind went back over the years more accurately than Aunt Huldah’s.
“Ezra,” asked Aunt Huldah recently, “might I ask how you are getting on with your history book?”
“Huldy,” answered – Uncle Ezra, “do I detect in your tones the poison of sarcasm? You might ask that question, as you have asked it at least a million times to my knowledge. I’ll answer it. I’m having a darn hard time with It! And you know it! I’ve seen and heard a heap of history. What happens? I make some notes on a piece of paper. Then, for instance, I drop into the Greyhound Tavern or the Roebuck Tavern in Roxbury to see a man about buying a dog or to borrow a buck. Or Paul Ellis’s or Aunt Em’s Tavern in South Dedham to wait for a stage. I’ve. the paper someplace—”
“Yes, I know Ezra. On the bar!” I snapped Aunt Huldah. “If you would only put it In your hat you could get it home.—maybe.”
Uncle Ezra continued as if no one had spoken. “Take the Mayflower, for instance. By yummy! I want a better journal than Bradford on that trip. Had all the dirt in it which he left out. It would be banned in Boston today. Best seller from coast to coast. What happens? No, Huldy, not what you think. There wasn’t no bar on the Mayflower; but just as I jumped onto Plymouth Rock, them papers slipped into Massachusetts Bay, It’s discouraging.”
‘Now Huldy, look at this paragraph- from a piece in a book called ‘Towns of New England and Old England, Part One, page 104. Issued by the State Street Trust Company’ A smart banker by the name of Forbes really did the dirty work in getting out these here magnificent books. Their pictures and text were one of the greatest services which any institution ever did for the Commonwealth in historical education.. And it was all for free! Here’s what it says;”
“As Edward Alleyn, Richard Everard (the old name for Everett), John Gay, John Ellis, and Samuel Morse were paddling up the Charles River in the year 1635, they complained that there were so many turns in the river that it seemed to get them nowhere. They were, however, much impressed with this part of the country and succeeded in obtaining from the General Court at Newtowne (later called Cambridge) a grant of a tract of land south of the Charles River to twelve men, including themselves, and this grant was later increased so that it included the present Dedham, Norwood, Westwood, Dover, Natick, Needham, Wellesley, Walpole, Medfield, Millis and parts of Hyde Park, Read ville, West, Roxbury, Sherbom, Bellingham and Franklin. It was agreed among the first settlers, whose numbers soon increased, that every married man should have a house lot of twelve acres of land, and as early as 1654 there were as many as ninety-five small houses along the river near the location of the present Court House.”
“As you no doubt remember, Huldy, I was a stowaway in that first canoe, which entered the Dedham territory—you coming up later with the rest of the women.”
A deep chuckle and the rustling of paper called Aunt Huldah’s attention of Uncle Ezra, who was sitting beside the fireplace.
“It beats me how you can find any fun in those musty old papers you are forever pouring over, Uncle Ezra,” said Aunt Huldah in a cold tone.
“Wimmin wouldn t,” answered Uncle Ezra in a provocative tone, giving Aunt Huldah a sly glance.
“No, they wouldn’t,” snapped Aunt Huldah. “Deeds, wills, and such. Dry as the dust on ’em! I remember reading the Magna Carta Libertatum when King John signed it in 1215. Created a lot of talk. Tiresome old thing Oh, sure! It got the King out of the hair of us peasants after a long time. Nothing funny in it. What were you laughing about?”
“Tombs.” said Uncle Ezra, shortly.
“Tombs! Can’t see anything funny in a tomb!” gasped Aunt Huldah.
“No, Huldah, not in ‘em. But concerning them there is often an amusing contrast. Now here is a deed of sale dated 1808, for the land adjoining the old Parish burying ground in Norwood, on which property some of the most prominent citizens of the village wanted to build four tombs. Also mention of the first civic project for the good of the townspeople which was ever carried through in Norwood-—a decent gate, fence, and a way into the cemetery. ‘These to be maintained by private subscription for the good of all the townspeople.’ Listen. I’ll read it to you.”
“Know all men by these Presents that I Benjamin Fairbanks of Dedham County of Norfolk and Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Gentleman, for a valuable Consideration from Jabez Chickering, John Dean, Oliver Ellis, Royal Ellis, and to myself, the grantor reserving an equal right Eliphalet Fales, Eliphalet Fisher, Jesse Gay, William Gay, Oliver Gay, Moses Guild, Abner Guild, Jacob Guild and his brothers, William Phipps.
The receipt of which I do hereby acknowledge, do hereby give, grant, sell and convey unto the above named a piece of land lying in Dedham aforesaid and bounded in part by the burying ground in the South parish—southerly by land of the grantor, westerly by the Turnpike and northly by land of William Phipps—; Each of the grantees to have a part sufficient for a Tomb and a right in the way to the same, which way may be used to the old burying ground— It is expected that the Tombs be on a line in front and that they be built in a degree of uniformity— to be contiguous to each other and that the grantees complete the fence the gate and the way. And it is expected that any other person or persons shall have a place assigned for a Tomb or Tombs on the payment of five Dollars each— and the money so raised shall be used to keep the way the gate and the fence in good repair
To have and to hold the afore-granted premises to the grantees their heirs and assigns to their use and benefit and for the purposes above expressed forever.
Paid witness whereof I the said Benjamin Fairbanks have hereunto set my hand and seal on this fourth day of October in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and eight.
Signed sealed and delivered in the presence of
“Here’s another document signed by Benj. Fairbanks which lists the subscribers of the above proposals and conditions as Jesse Gay, Eliphalet Fales, John Dean, Oliver Morse, Eliphalet Fuller, Royal Ellis, Abner Guild, Jacob Guild, William Phipps, Oliver Gay, Rev. Jabez Chickering, Oliver Guild and Oliver Ellis. “The Proprietors of the ground for Tombs were; Rev Chickering, B Fairbanks, Dr. Jeye Gay, Jacob Guild and brothers, Oliver Ellis, Capt. William Gay, Mrs. Royal Ellis and brother, John Dean, Oliver Gay, Moses Guild, Capt. Abner Guild, William Phipps, Elipbt. Fisher.
“The tombs, the fence, the granite posts of the gate and the road into the cemetery are all there today in the old cemetery on Washington Street, opposite Howard Street, for those who want to see them. But as near as I can figure, few people in Norwood ever give this spot, where the founders of the town are buried, a kind look or a thought.”
Editors Note: Old Parish Preservation Volunteers have been doing great work restoring the cemetery for the past several years. Recently, Norwood Town Meeting voted to approve funding through the Community Preservation Coalition to enact a master plan which will replace the fencing, add benches, and make Old Parish Cemetery more accessible to the public.
(All articles were originally published in the Norwood Messenger unless otherwise noted)
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