Archive for May 2010

2 Dedham Heroes- John A. Barnes III & Henry Farnsworth

May 31, 2010

A member of the 173rd Airborne Infantry Association keeps vigil at the John Barnes Memorial on May 30, 2010.

From Dedham:Historic and Heroic Tales from Shiretown:
John A. Barnes III grew up in the Greenlodge section of Dedham and graduated from Dedham High School in 1964. After graduating, he enlisted in the Army and trained at Fort Benning, Georgia before serving a one year tour of duty in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Bronze star, the Purple Heart and several other medals for valor. Barnes began a second tour of duty in the fall of 1967 in the active central highlands, where he was a grenadier with the 503d Infantry. On November 19, Barnes and his unit came under attack by a battalion of North Vietnamese. When an American machine gun crew was killed, Barnes quickly manned the gun himself, killing nine enemy soldiers while under heavy attack. As he paused to reload, Private Barnes saw a hand grenade land directly in the midst of a group of wounded Americans. In an act of extreme bravery and selflessness, Barnes threw himself on the grenade just before it exploded, saving his fellow soldiers.
Private Barnes was laid to rest in Brookdale Cemetery, and two years later was posthumously awarded the highest military decoration, the Congressional Medal of Honor. A portion of the citation accompanying the medal reads:
Pfc. Barnes’ extraordinary heroism, and intrepidity at the cost of his life, above and beyond the call of duty, are in the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.
On April 19, 1970, Memorial Field was rededicated as John A Barnes III Memorial Park. An impressive gathering of dignitaries, V.F.W. members from dozens of towns, and local marching bands processed to the corner of East Street and Eastern Ave., where a marble monument was unveiled. Congressman James A. Burke was one of several speakers who spoke of Barnes’ heroism.

Henry Farnsworth of Westfield St. was one of the first American casualties of World War I, having died in the Battle of Champagne in September, 1915 while fighting with the French Foreign Legion. Farnsworth attended Groton and Harvard, graduating in 1912. He lived a life of adventure in the short time between his graduation in 1912 and his death on the French battlefield, reporting from the Balkan War in 1912 and traveling to Mexico when U.S. troops arrived there in 1914. His exploits in the Balkans were published as “The Log of a Would-be War Correspondent.”

Farnsworth was working in the Boston office of his father, a wool merchant when war broke out in Europe. His need for adventure compelled him to sail to France and enlist in the French Foreign Legion on New Year’s Day, 1915. Soon his unit was on the front lines and in the trenches. He wrote this passage to his mother on March 15: “I long to be with you all again, once the war ends. I think it will be this summer some time; then for the rest and peace of Dedham.”

Farnsworth’s last letter home was dated September 16. On September 28, he was killed while fighting in the trenches outside of Champagne. Many of his fellow Legionnaires spoke of Henry Farnsworth’s remarkable spirit and bravery. His letters were later published by his father and can be found on Googlebooks. In 1920, an elaborate monument was dedicated to the memory of Farnsworth and 130 other foreign Legionnaires killed in the Battle of Champagne. The monument was paid for by the Farnsworth family.

Boston Globe/January 2,1921

Memorial Hall

May 30, 2010

From a turn of the 20th century postcard. This intersection was known as Memorial Square.

May, 2010

Memorial Hall was dedicated on September 28, 1868, as a lasting monument to the bravery of the forty-seven “sons of Dedham” who perished in the Rebellion, or Civil War as it is known today. It was made of Dedham granite, quarried just down the road in what is now Westwood. There were shops on the ground floor, with town offices and a large auditorium upstairs. Marble tablets bearing the names of the honored dead were placed in the vestibule. In his dedicatory remarks, hsitorian Erastus Worthington pronounced “Let this our Memorial Hall receive a benediction from us all today, God keep it ever from the lightning strike and the consuming fire.” The building was unceremoniously taken down in the spring of 1962, and the current police station built on the site. A new town hall was built on Bryant Street, and the marble tablets from Memorial Hall were placed in the lobby of the new building.

Dedham Square as it was… and might have been

May 28, 2010

In 1947 the Dedham Planning Board did a comprehensive study of the town and its issues regarding traffic, development, land use, etc.. The published study included dozens of aerial photographs of the town, including this one of Dedham Square:

In this picture, Memorial Hall is still standing at the corner of Washington and High- it will come down 15 years later. Most of the train station has been torn down, leaving only the tower. The railroad bridge that once spanned East St. at High St. is seen in the top right hand corner of the photo. The trolleys are gone from Washington St. but the tracks are still visible. The Knights of Columbus Building hasn’t received its brick makeover yet. There are several other smaller buildings along Washington Street and Eastern Ave. that have since disappeared, but the general appearance of the square is the same today. If the recommendations of the Planning Board had been followed, the square might have looked like this:

An interesting proposal that makes the square much less pedestrian friendly than it is today; the Dedham Institution for Savings and the K of C Building or now pretty much on an island. And I wonder what the monument in front of the bank might have been- it actually looks like a cross. Notice too, how traffic hasn’t really increased much. But Dedham did follow through on one aspect of the plan that had been a top priority for many years- the construction of a new town hall. It’s too bad that the historic Dedham granite 1868 Memorial Hall had to be sacrificed to achieve that. More on that building to come on this Memorial Day weekend.

50 Years Ago- The “cage” is removed

May 23, 2010

Dedham Transcript/May 26, 1960

In the last week in May, 1960, Massachusetts Attorney General Edward McCormack oversaw the removal of an iron “cage” from the courtroom in the Norfolk County Superior courthouse. The cage was actually an enclosure where defendants sat during trial. It was the American version of the British prisoner’s dock, which is still in use in Britain and Canada. The unfortunate design and choice of materials for the prisoner’s dock in Massachusetts gave it the appearance of a cage, and this was frequently observed during the Sacco-Vanzetti trial and appeals in the 1920’s. The cage in the Dedham courthouse looked like an elaborate Victorian ski-lift. It was removed from storage and displayed last year during the 150th anniversary celebration of the Massachusetts Superior Court.

The first picture is a postcard from the early twentieth century; the cage can be seen on the left. The second picture shows Irving Millen, Murton Millen, and Abraham Faber in the cage during their 1934 trial for robbery and murder. The complete tale of their crime is documented in my book.

A “new” Frosty’s pic!

May 22, 2010

I came across this picture today in a book about building Rte. 128. The caption states that the road in the background is old Rte 128; the year is 1955. The dump track has just passed the large ice cream cone shaped sign for Frosty’s; the store is to the left of the sign. This confirms my thoughts that the 1963 ad from my earlier posting was for the grand re-opening, after the original Frosty’s had to be moved due to highway construction.

The Italian Kitchen

May 21, 2010

I don’t ever remember being inside this restaurant, but I know we would order take-out pizza from here when I was a kid. The Italian Kitchen opened in 1934, and this first ad is from a 1936 Transcript booklet published during the town’s 300th anniversary celebration. The second ad appeared in the Transcript in 1986. The two ads are strikingly similar considering they were printed 50 years apart.

Here’s a post card from the 1940’s, which is pretty much how I remember the place. The second pic shows the empty lot as it looks today, next to Gilbert’s package Store on the “Providence Pike.”

More Mall!

May 20, 2010

These scans are ads from the Dedham Transcript’s 1986 supplement celebrating the town’s 350th anniversary. The first pic shows that odd little sunken garden where people could sit and relax. Also visible is one of my favorite stores- Paperback Booksmith. I would browse there while my father did the grocery shopping at Stop and Shop down the other end. I remember once spotting this creepy looking paperback with a silver reflective cover and being immediately drawn to it- Stephen King’s The Shining.

This ad lists all the stores that were still in business in September, 1986. Woolworth’s was still hanging in there in ’86, but. alas, looks like Wrangler Wranch had reached the end of the trail.

A Tragic Anniversary – Part 2

May 19, 2010

The hanging scene on the Common, from a broadside published shortly after the execution
Jason Fairbanks had been in jail awaiting execution for only 10 days after his conviction when he was liberated by a group which included his brother, several nephews and friends. Word spread quickly across the county and New England of the daring escape, and the town of Dedham was torn apart by the friction between Jason’s supporters and his detractors. A reward for his capture was offered, and it took only 10 days for three men with fast horses to catch up with Jason and one of his accomplices in a New York town on the shores of Lake Champlain. Jason was returned to Massachusetts and imprisoned in Boston until his execution date.

On the morning of September 10, he was transferred to the Dedham jail, and from there Jason Fairbanks walked the short distance to Dedham Common where a crowd of thousands waited. After signalling he was ready by dropping his handkerchief, Fairbanks was hanged. Dozens of articles, broadsides, books and poems were written and sold on the day of the execution and for months afterward. The following year a traveling wax museum began touring the country, featuring the tragic figures of both Jason and Elizabeth, along with other famous and infamous characters from history and literature.
For a more detailed account of the affair, visit the Fairbanks House website:
where you will find a paper written by Fairbanks descendant Dale Freeman as well as a reprint of two 1801 publications for sale in the on-line gift shop.

Ad from the Windsor, Vermont Federal Courier

May 18- A Tragic Anniversary

May 18, 2010

May 18, 1801- Nehemiah Fales is startled by the sight of 20 year old Jason Fairbanks running toward the Fales home in the present day Cedar St./Turner St. area of town. Jason is bleeding profusely from various wounds and claiming that Elizabeth, Fales’ 18 year old daughter has killed herself in a nearby thicket of birch trees called Mason’s Pasture. Nehemiah and his brother Samuel run to the spot where they find Betsey lying on the ground, her life ebbing away from severe stab wounds to her chest, arm, back and hands. She dies shortly after her distraught mother arrives at the scene.

Jason Fairbanks is so severely wounded himself that he can not be removed from the Fales home until a few days later, when he is carried across town on a litter, past the family home on East St. to the Dedham Jail, where he is held for the murder of Betsey.

The trial of Jason Fairbanks began on August 4th of that year. Jason’s lawyers tried to prove that his weakened condition and withered arm made it impossible for him to have inflicted the numerous and violent wounds on Betsey, and that she had killed herself in a fit of romantic despair. The prosecution contended that these same wounds could not have been self-inflicted, and that Jason murdered Betsey in a rage when she spurned his attentions. Jason was found guilty on August 8th and sentenced to be hanged. But a group of his friends had other plans. TO BE CONTINUED…

The Greenleaf Building

May 16, 2010

Boston Globe/ November 6, 1899
What a handsome structure- too bad it’s gone. The Greenleaf Building was built by Luther C. Greenleaf and designed by his architectural firm of Greenleaf and Cobb, who also designed the Ames School building. The building was finished in 1900, and housed the post office, waiting rooms and offices for the trolley company, stores, a banquet room, offices, and an apartment for the janitor. For some reason (which I am still investigating), some time in the 1940’s the building was either razed, or reduced to the one-story building that occupies the site now. A Boston Edison retail store occupied the corner space for a long time. I used to wait for the “pay bus” right in front of that store while I was in high school. Look for more Lost Dedham posts to come…

Postcard from early 1900’s

May, 2010