Saturday, March 24, 2012

Cemeteries of Norfolk County - Canton, Massachusetts

My neighbors to the north in Canton share a little history with my hometown of Stoughton.  Back in 1993 I went and transcribed all the pre-1797 gravestones in Canton.  This would represent burials that occurred in what is now Canton, when it was still Stoughton.

Have you ever driven by a cemetery and wondered about it?  So this week I will discuss the cemeteries in Norfolk County town by town in brief. This information is a brief outline from the second edition to my book A Guide to Massachusetts Cemeteries.  

I have added over 3,000 gravestones to Find-a-Grave most of which are in Norfolk County.  If you want to see the oldest gravestones from Sharon, Stoughton and Canton take a look at the inventory I have on my Find-a-Grave account.


Burr Lane Indian Cemetery site off Burr Lane.

Canton Corner Cemetery (1716) on Washington Street.

Chapman Street Indian Cemetery site, Chapman Street.

Gridley Cemetery Site (aka) Small Pox Cemetery Site (1764) on Kinsley Place, off Washington Street.  A great article about this cemetery written by my friend and fellow historian George Comeau can be seen online.

Knollwood Memorial Park (1898) 319 High Street.

Proprietors Cemetery (aka) Old English Cemetery (1742) across from 2018 Washington Street.

Punkapoag Village Indian Cemetery (17th century) in woods off Indian Lane.  Marked by a boulder with the incorrect date of "1650" as it should be 1657.   Should I mention the Canton town seal also has the incorrect date of 1650?  Well maybe on another blog.  I also have strong personal feelings that the Canton Historical Society should deed this cemetery back to the Tribal Council of the Punkapoag Indians, as this is their ancestral burying ground.

St. Mary's Catholic Cemetery (1847) Washington and Randolph Streets.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Dedham's Majestic Towered Train Station now only a memory of a handful of commuters.

Once upon a time Dedham, Massachusetts there stood a majestic 19th century train station.  It was the second to last granite towered railroad station in Norfolk County.  The Dedham Railroad Station was built in 1883 and was designed by Sturgis & Brigham Architects.  Charles Brigham of that firm would later design the surviving towered train Station in Stoughton. 

This imposing station of granite and brownstone was abandoned at the height of the Great Depression in 1933, and sadly torn down in 1951.  Hopefully the now closed station in Stoughton  will not meet the same fate as its sister station in Dedham.

In the 1970's when renovations were being done at the Stoughton Station the late Freeman Fogg of Stoughton rescued three clock faces from the Stoughton tower.  One was at his property on Sumner Street, the other down the Cape.  The other is in my back shed!  As a historian you just never now when something might come in handy!!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Train Stations of Norfolk County.

I must say I am spoiled having spent the better part of 19 years taking the Commuter Rail from Stoughton.  And most of the time I got to spend my mornings in the majestic 1888 granite tower train station.  There is so much history inside that lovely station.  But sadly for the past couple of years it has been boarded up.  Last year the Train canopy that protects the passengers has been repaired, the gaping holes are gone... and so are the pigeons.  Perhaps they have flown over to my fellow blogger Heather McGinley's roost down the street. 

Would love to hear some stories about the stations that are no longer.  I have only had the honor to go in Canton, Sharon and Stoughton stations.  Can anyone add something here... let's get on board shall we?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Happy 100th Birthday Girl Scouts of Norfolk County!

Today I had the honor to speak to a group of nearly 100 Girls Scouts from Stoughton, Massachusetts.  I told them how life was different for kids back in 1912 when Girls Scouts started out.  I told them a little about the local history of their town.  I was honored to watch all of them recite the Girl Scout Promise on today the 100th Anniversary of the creation of Girl Scouts of America.

I was also delighted to receive the above wrapped present.  Inside... you guessed it!  Girls Scout Cookies!!

Happy 100th Birthday Girl Scouts of Stoughton... Norfolk County.... Massachusetts... and around U.S.A.

Do you think the cookies are only 100 calories each??  :)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Understanding the Slave Census of 1754 for Massachusetts

Many people think about genealogical research and assume the 1790 Census would be the first census for what is now Norfolk County, or the Direct Tax of 1771.

That actually is not the case at all.  The first census to list inhabitants did not list them by name, and did not even require a count of those under sixteen. This  This often under utilized historical census is on microfilm at the Massachusetts State Archives.  The following example for Stoughton does give names - however of the Board of Assessors of the town of Stoughton - not of the slaves from the community.  The sad fact is that most people you speak too will not even realize that slavery existed in the north.  Well before the Civil War New England had an active African and Native American slave population.  In Massachusetts it was active through the end of the American Revolutionary War.  This early census is not complete - taking into account it is only listing those who were over 16 years of age.  What about the children that were not counted?  How many were there?

If you are interested taking a look of a chapter of your local history take a look at this series the next time you are researching at the Massachusetts State Archives.

Here is a glimpse at Stoughton's 1754 Slave Census.

  Stoughton Ss
                                                            In Obediance to the Order of ye Great &
                                                            General Court of ye Nineteenth of November
                                                            Last, We have Taken An Exact Act of the
                                                            Negro Slaves Within ye Town of Stoughton
                                                            & find that there is Six Males & Two Females,
                                                            of Sixteen Years old and upward.

                                    Stoughton Janry                                       Elkanah Billing  ]
                                     ye 1st 1755                                  Wm Royall           ]     Assessors
                                                                                         Joseph Billing     ]
                                                                                         Daniel Richards  ]

Note: Though only eight slaves are listed above sixteen, there is no accounting of the slave children who obviously resided in Stoughton.

Source: Massachusetts Slave Census of 1754 [Stoughton, p. 97].

Friday, March 9, 2012

Digging for the Records of the old Dedham Jail

I have seen the records for Charlestown Prison, Charles Street Jail (Boston), and Deer Island Prison (Boston). But you think I could lay my hands on the inmate registers for Norfolk County from the early 19th century.  In the Vital Records recently published for Dedham, Massachusetts there are a few pages of inmates ca. 1810.  If one of my hardworking colleagues has ever had the pleasure to page through these records let me know.  Working on an upcoming lecture on Prison records and would like to address the local population.  The U.S. Federal and State census list the inmates, but I seek the full listing from the start the first door swung shut.

An interesting history with some photos can be seen on the website for the Sheriff of Norfolk County.  Whose office is getting a call from me next week, perhaps they can tell me where the old Sheriff records are held!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Read All About It!  

The first newspaper in Dedham, Massachusetts was The Minerva published Tuesday, October 11, 1796.  The paper was published by Nathaniel and Benjamin Beaton.   This was the first newspaper published in a town after the county was incorporated in 1793.  The Minerva would later be known as The Columbian Minerva which was published by Herman Mann from 1797 to 1804.

There have been a long run of successive newspapers for the county seat.  This includes the Norfolk Repository (1805-1814), The Dedham Gazette (1813-1819), The Village Register (1820-1829), The Norfolk County Republican (1829-1830), The Dedham Patriot later the Dedham Gazette started in publication in 1830.  In 1831 the newspaper known as the Independent Politician and Working Men's Advocate began production.  In 1832 it was renamed the Norfolk Advertiser and Independent Politician, and yet another name change reverted it back to the Norfolk Advertiser again.  The paper would eventually be renamed the Norfolk Democrat until its merger with the Dedham Gazette in 1854.  The current news for Dedham can easily be found online for readers of The Dedham Transcript.

Many fine Norfolk County newspapers can be searched at the Boston Public Library Microtext Department, as well as participating libraries with access to Early American Newspapers by Readex.

On microfilm at the Boston Public Library they have the following Dedham titles since 1796.

  • The Minerva and Columbian Minerva - 1796-1804.
  • Norfolk Repository - 1805-1809
  • Dedham Gazette - 1813-1819, 1850-1870 
  • Village Register - 1820-1825
  • Norfolk County Republican - 1829-1830
  • Neponset Valley Daily News - 1999-
  • Norfolk County Gazette - 1870-1877, 1879-1898
  • Dedham Transcript and Norfolk County Advertiser - 1870-1871
  • Dedham Transcript - 1871-1973
  • Daily Transcript - 1973-1999
  • Dedham Standard - 1882-1890
  • Dedham Times - 1993-

The New England Historic Genealogical Society offers as part of their membership access to Series 1 of the Early American Newspapers as a premium database.  This is a quick way to search any word in some of the above Dedham newspapers.  I used this subscription to locate early news for my hometown of Stoughton.  Since Stoughton did not introduce a newspaper until the early 1860's using the newspapers of neighboring communities assisted me greatly.  I use the method of examining the neighboring towns to find coverage for a when the community in Norfolk County I want did not have their own newspaper.

Wishing you Happy Reading !!

Monday, March 5, 2012

East Stoughton, Massachusetts - now Avon.  A stroll to the oldest surviving gravestones. A good colleague Marian Pierre-Louis (Genealogist and Blogger - follow her amazing website on New England gravestones The Symbolic Past) today asked me about the oldest gravestone in Avon.  I had to think about it, and go into my book manuscript for Stoughton.  So to answer her I thought I would share it with the rest of Norfolk County.  The oldest surviving gravestone for what was once East Stoughton (now Avon) is the small slate gravestone of an eleven year old girl.  She died the year Massachusetts fired the first shots of the American Revolutionary War.  Her name was Dorothy Littlefield.  The following is the inscription that I did, and so did Waldo Chamberlain Sprague a few decades before -

In Memory of / Dorothy, daughtr of / Mr. Nathel Litelfield / & Hannah his wife / who Died Septr 1st / 1775 in ye 11th / Year of her / Age.

Her gravestone is on along with fifty other interments from the East Main Street Cemetery.I sent a note to the submitter that the stone is actually 1775 not 1773, you have a look.

The following other early gravestones can be seen in this cemetery that I transcribed.

In Memory of / John fon of Lieut / Moses Wales & / and Elifabeth his wife / he Died March 30 / 1776 aged 2 / years 10 months 11 days.

Here lies the body of Joseph Blancher died Sept. 25, 1777. [Visible in 1936 “Very thin slate stone loose and was still lying against front wall”].  This stone is missing or buried under the ground now.

In Memory of / Polly, daughr of / Mr. Nathaniel /  Hammond; & / Elisabeth his wife, /  She died March 12th / 1778 : Aged 4 / Months & 2 / Days.

In Memory of / Wales fon of Mr. / Nathaniel Hamond / & Elizabeth his / wife,  he Died Octr / 26th 1780,  1, Year / 3 Months, &  22 / Days Old.

In Memory of / Mr Nathaniel Ham- / mond who died Feb. 13, / 1781 Aged 26 / Years & 10 Months / &  7 Days. / Ye thoughtless mortal hear my Gift / Attend into my [faded] / For You Before Grant Death just / & Lie as low I [faded]

In Memory of / Dorothy Daughter of Mr / William & Mrs Deborah Curtis / who died Augt. 2, 1781 in ye 14th / year of her age.

In memory of / Mrs. Hannah wife of Mr. John Battles who died / June 6th 1784 / in her 55th Year. 

In Memory of / Abigal Daughter of / Mr Enoch & Mrs / Rebekah Penniman, /  who died April 27th / 1785 aged 1 day.

[In] Memory of / [Doroth]y Daughter of / [Mr.] Samuel & Mrs [broken] Littlefield  who / died March 30 1786 age / 2 yrs. /

In Memory of / John fon of Mr William & / Mrs Hannah Curtis who / died April 6, 1786 aged 1 / years & 4 months.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

My way of getting the old news out before blogging.   One of the things I find rewarding are the history columns I have written over the years discussing the local happenings in communities around Norfolk and Bristol Counties.  Living in Stoughton I have written for about three Stoughton papers - Stoughton Journal (still active), Stoughton Chronicle, and Stoughton Patch now gone. Also for a little over a year I had a weekly column in the Stoughton Patch, however this was cut because of budget issues.  So how to expand my interest in local history and genealogy close to home.  That is why I have created this blog, and I hope that if you have any interesting stories - or local historical society news you will share it with me.  Okay a couple of you have joined the Norfolk County Massachusetts History and Genealogy group on Facebook.  It is a learning process for me so please come and visit and LIKE the community page.

I am still trying to figure out how to edit the HTML code, to add "Like Us on Facebook".  My brilliant friend Heather McGinley will need to walk me through the steps as she has achieved this feat!!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Leap Year Babies in Randolph, Massachusetts in 1912.  
An interesting story of the two residents of Randolph, Mass. a century ago on the anniversary of the births!

Leap Year Babies in Randolph in 1912.  Miss Jennie May Lynch, one of the two persons born in this town on February 29 from 1844 to the present time observed her second birth day anniversary by entertaining a large number of young friends at the home of her parents on North Street. There were music games and refreshments.  Although 8 years old, this was her second birthday anniversary as she was born in town Feb. 29, 1904, being the second child of James and Julia E. (Cahill) Lynch.  Miss Mary Frances Barry, who is better known as Miss Moullie Barry, is the only other one having been born in Feb. 29.  Although she is 28 years old this was only her sixth birthday anniversary owing to their having been no leap year in 1900.  She was born in this town on Feb. 29, 1884, being a daughter of William C. and Mary (Meaney) Barry.  She resides with her mother on West Street and is employed in a shoe factory in Brockton.  Owing to illness in the family, there was no formal observance of the day.

Source: The Stoughton Sentinel, March 9, 1912, p. 4.

Do you have an ancestor who may only be 40 years old that lived in the 19th century?  Check your genealogy files and comment about any of your young ancestors!