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season prevented the making of hay on the meadows, and there was great distress here on that account. The inhabitants went from this town to the Wrentham meadows to cut grass that
Origin of Mother Brook. About a quarter of a mile north of the new court house in Dedham, Mother Brook starts out of Charles river and runs in a proper and direct course round the high lands near the village, and then at the only place where it could find a passage, goes easterly and joins the Neponset river, forming in its course between the two rivers five mill seats of great value. This stream thus leaving its principal bed and running off to join a neighbouring stream has been represented as a natural curiosity; at least the inhabitants have no knowledge of its having been caused by man. When I discovered the record of its being an artificial work, a natural, but groundless fear was excited, that it would do harm to publish the truth concerning it. Abraham Shaw had been encouraged to build a water mill in the first year of the settlement and a committee was appointed to designate the place. Shaw soon after died, but the committee suggested the measure of forming this new stream, which is recorded in these words : “ 28th day, 1st month, 1639. Ordered that a ditch shall be dug at common charge, through upper Charles meadow unto East Brook, that it may both be a partition fence in the same, and also may form a suitable course unto a water mill, that it shall be found fitting to set a mill upon in the opinion of a workman to be employed for that purpose.” The water mill was soon after built, as we shall see hereafter. The source of East Brook was more than one hundred rods east of the Norfolk and Bristol turnpike where it crosses this stream. At this point a curious observer may see the truth of this account, in the original state of the ground; he will in vain seek for any natural bed of this stream. In addition to this evidence the tradition of cutting the canal for this stream, has been preserved in one family, which from fear of consequences, have refrained from divulging the fact.
Description of the village in 1664. The first settlers agreed that each married man should have a house lot of twelve acres; part upland, and part meadow. In locating the lots by such a rule, they must necessarily be near each other, on the margin of the meadows near the modern village. Such in fact was the case. In 1664, ninety-five small houses near each other were situated within a short distance of the place where the new court house now stands ; the greater part of them east of that place, and around Dwight's brook. A row of houses stood on the north side of High street, as that road was then called, which extends from the bridge over Dwight's brook westwardly by the court house. The total amount of the value of these houses was 691 pounds. Four only of the houses were valued at 20 pounds. The greater number were valued from three to ten pounds. The greatest number of these houses were built soon after the first settlement commenced. There were then very few carpenters, joiners or masons in the colony. There was no saw mill in the settlement for many years. The only boards which could be procured at first, were those which were sawed by hand. The saw pits, now seen, denote that boards were sawed in the woods. The necessary materials, bricks, glass and nails, were scarcely to be obtained. These houses therefore must have been principally constructed by farmers, not by mechanics, and have been very rude and inconvenient. They were probably loghouses. Their roofs were covered with thatch. By an ordnance of the town, a ladder was ordered to extend from the ground to the chimney, as a substitute for a more perfect fire engine. Around these houses nothing was seen but stumps, clumsy fences of poles, and an uneven and unsubdued soil ; such as all the first settlements in New England present. The native forest trees were not suitable shades for a door yard. A shady tree was not then such an agreeable object as it now is, because it could form no agreeable contrast with cleared grounds. Where the meeting house of the first parish now stands, there stood for more than 30 years a low building, thirty six feet long and twenty wide, twelve feet high, with a thatched roof, and a large ladder resting on it. This was the first meeting house. Near by was the school house standing on an area of 18 feet by 14, and rising to three stories, The third story however was a watch house of small dimensions. The watch house was beside the ample stone chimney. The spectator elevated on the little box called the watch house, might view this plain, on which a part of the present village stands, then a common plough field, containing then about two hundred acres of cleared land, partially subdued ; yet full of stumps and roots. Around him at a farther distance, were the herd walks, as the common feeding lands were called, in the language of that time. One of these herd-walks was on Dedham Island north of Charles river, and one was at East street and more fully in view. The other herd walk was on South plain. The herd walks were at first no better cultivated than cutting down the trees, and carrying away the wood and timber, and afterwards, when it was practicable in the spring of the year, burning them over under the direction of town officers called wood reeves. Land thus treated would in the spring appear barren ; for nothing would be seen but black stumps, the burnt soil, and the rocks. It would scarcely appear better when the wild grass and the cropped shrubs next succeeded. The meadows were not yet cleared to any great extent. Beyond these herd walks, was a continued wilderness, which was becoming more disagreeable to the inhabitants, for the cattle and goats and swine seem to have allured the wolves to their neighborhood. The dense swamps about Wigwam were not yet cleared. The numerous dogs in the plantation, which were so troublesome to the worshipping assembly, were not a sufficient guard against the wolves. The inhabitants for many years after this period encouraged their hunters by additional bounties to destroy these troublesome enemies.
The herd walks in 1659 contained 532 acres, and the inhabitants then had feeding therein 477 cattle. The roads were very imperfect. We hear of persons passing on the bridge and cause way at Dwight's brook, when the water thereon was as high as the horses belly, so late as the year 1700.
A law of the colony as well as the dangers of the people, compelled the first settlers to build their houses near each other. The necessity of adhering to this law, continued more than 50 years. In 1682 complaints were made in town meeting, that some had built houses a mile and an half from the meeting house. It was prohibited at that time. But the law soon after began to be disregarded, and the inhabitants soon abandoned their first habitations;
and built houses in all parts of the present town. Sixty or seventy years time swept away the humble village of the first settlers; and the place was occupied by a few farmers for about a hundred years. When Dedham became the seat of justice for the county of Norfolk, then began the second village on the place of the former one.
The present village including Connecticut corner, contains upwards of one hundred houses. Nearly all of them are two stories high and convenient. More than four fifths of the houses are painted, a few are elegant, so far as that term can with propriety be applied to a wooden house. The public buildings are three houses for public worship, a stone jail and new stone court house. It may be estimated that the present town contains a quantity of land equal to a tract of six and an half miles in length and five and a half miles in breadth. The Norfolk and Bristol turnpike runs from the Roxbury line, in a south westerly direction through the town, intersecting it lengthwise, leaving somewhat the greatest section on the west of it. There are sixty-seven miles of other roads. The extensive and valuable meadows on Neponset river are skirted with forests, sometimes with the evergreens of the low-land, and then with forests of oak and walnut. There are several smooth plains of some extent. The uplands in some places have rocky or uneven surface unfit for cultivation. These places will always present the same appearance ; for they will be used only for growing wood, for which they are valuable.
Excepting these wood lands, which are not too extensive for their appropriated use, the surface is agreeably varied with rising grounds of a smooth surface. The ground most elevated in the town, is that where is situated the meeting house of the third parish. From that place the spectator has an extensive prospect. This spot may be considered as a place devoted forever in the affections of the people in that neighbourhood ; since their late pastor the Rev. Thomas Thatcher, on the occasion of pulling down the old meeting house for the purpose of building a new one thereon, so appropriately applied to it the text of his discourse, “ Our Fathers worshipped on this Mountain.” A tract of the best land in town is situated on the hills north of this meeting house. The stranger passing on the main roads in town, sees nothing, the buildings ex
cepted, above ordinary interest. Yet if he have a taste for a variety of rural scenes,* he may be delighted with places on Dedham Island, with the banks of the Mother Brook at the mills, with the thick woods south of Wigwam, and even with that forest called Muddy Pond woods, and wood lands south of it, and particularly with that high ground north of the third parish meeting house, called Fox hill. A village is about to arise at a place called the Mills, one mile and a half east of the Court house. The water power of five dams across Mother Brook, will soon move a considerable quantity of machinery; and there must soon be a considerable increase of houses and population at that place, possibly it may in a short time exceed that around the court house.
In the tables which I shall annex to this sketch, I shall give a more definite description of the rising manufacturing establishments at this place.
* Rura mihi et rigui placeant in vallibus amnes Flumina amem Sylvas que inglorius.- Virgil.