Archive for May 2010

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


St. Mary’s May Procession

May 13, 2010

Each May, hundreds of kids from St. Mary’s School and parish would parade down High Street to honor Mary in the May Procession. The girls wore flowing, gauzy, pastel colored robes and the boys wore white shirts with satin capes, unless you were in second grade and wore your First Communion suit or dress. Eighth grade boys led the procession carrying a statue of Mary. A May Queen was chosen from the eighth grade girls, and she had the honor of crowning the Mary statue. A selection of Marian hymns was sung, including “Oh Mary we crown thee with blossoms today- Queen of the angels, Queen of the May.”
Here are two pics of me in the procession, the first taken in 1967 with me looking oh so reverent in my First Communion suit (far left smiling at the camera). and in 1971 as a less than reverent sixth grade altar boy. There’s a family story behind this photo, which may be related in an upcoming post. But probably not.

Working at the Mall

May 13, 2010

My first job at the Mall was as a stockboy at Woolworth’s during my junior year. A few of the neon letters in the outdoor sign were always broken, so we called it oolwo’s. They let me have a bookcase they were going to throw out, and I still have it in the classroom in which I teach in Framingham. And I still have this name tag for some reason.

Wrangler Wranch
Senior year I moved down the mall to Wrangler Wranch, across from Bradlee’s. This was one of the Mall’s first stores and was originally called Mr. Slacks. It was a fun job, even though I was a lousy salesman. I remember making a little boy cry when I told his mother that maybe a “husky” size would fit him better. I used to go into Pewter Pot and get a chocolate chip muffin heated up in the microwave smothered in butter. I think I worked here through my senior year in college, when my retail career at the Dedham Mall ended.

Note the Wrangler corduroy flares and groovy Earth shoes


May 10, 2010

Recently I saw a news story about bobcat sightings in Chelmsford.

In its early days, Dedham offered a bounty for bobcats (as well as for wolves and rattlesnakes!). In 1957, Joseph Demling of Macomber Terrace not only spotted a bobcat out by 135 near the Needham line, but killed it and brought it to town hall to collect his bounty! After researching the ancient laws covering such situations, the astonished town treasurer Andrew Galvin, Jr. paid Demling a $10.00 bounty. Thankfully, the law also required that Dedham be reimbursed for the bounty by Norfolk County.

Transcript– November 8, 1957

DHS Alumni Choir to perform!

May 9, 2010

Not only have I written a book, but I also recorded an album. Some of the members of my group are getting together for a Reunion Tour, Tuesday May 11th at 7:00 at the DHS Auditorium, singing that classic hit “Happy Together,” among others. Maybe you were part of this amazing recording session back in 1976?

Yeah, that’s mold on the album cover.