Archive for the ‘History/Mystery’ category

Tales from a Dedham Graveyard 2- “Snatched from the tomb…”

October 16, 2016

shuttleworthThis is the monument to the Shuttleworth family. The elder Jeremiah ran a general store and operated the post office out of  his house on High Street, which was located where the Dedham Historical Society building now stands.

shuttleworth-house123   The Shuttleworth House, late 19th century.The house was later moved to Bryant Street and torn down in the 1970s.

Hannah Shuttleworth became the niece of Dr. Nathaniel Ames the 2nd  (son of the famed almanac publisher) when he married her father’s sister Metiliah.  When he died in 1822, Dr. Ames’ substantial estate went to the unmarried Hannah, his closest living relative.  Upon her death in 1886, Hannah bequeathed $10,000 to the Dedham Historical Society, for the purpose of building a headquarters. She also donated funds that allowed for the construction of the Dedham Public Library on Church Street, as well as $30,000 to the Town of Dedham to be used as aid to the poor.

Don Gleason Hill, town clerk and president of the Dedham Historical Society, understandably wanted to honor this generous benefactress and desired to have a portrait hung in the new society headquarters. However, no photograph of Miss Shuttleworth had been made in her lifetime. That didn’t stop Hill from executing a plan that, in his own words created a portrait that was “literally snatched from the grave.”

Hill describes the plan in an introduction to Dedham Records, published in 1888 on the occasion of the town’s 250th anniversary:

“The morning following her funeral, a cold blustering February day, Gariboldi, the statuary manufacturer, was summoned from Boston, and inside the receiving tomb a plaster cast of her face was taken, and from this alone, with the descriptions which a few friends who knew her best could furnish, Miss Annie R. Slafter, of Dedham, made the crayon portrait which now hangs in the place of honor  over the great mantel in our Historical Society room.”

040The portrait “snatched from the grave.”  Dedham Records, 1888.

The receiving tomb in which Miss Shuttleworth lay before burial was in fact, the Ames family tomb, featured in the previous post.

 

Tales from a Dedham Graveyard

October 2, 2016

It’s October, and in honor of my favorite holiday I will be featuring stories and pictures from Dedham’s graveyards. Here is a picture of the tomb of Dr.Nathaniel Ames in the Village Avenue burying ground:

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Ames Family Tomb (now covered)

Ames was a prominenent Dedham citizen and renowned almanac publisher who died in 1764. In the fall of 1775, during the siege of Boston, a young Colonial Army lieutenant named Jabez Fitch visited the grave on one of his many excursions into graveyards and tombs in the Boston area. The following diary entry describing Fitch’s visit should help get you in the Halloween mood:

About 12 O’clock…went into the burying yard, where we found Doctor Ames’ tomb open … We several of us went down into the tomb, opened the old doctor’s coffin and see his corpse. The under jaw was all fallen in, the other part of the bone of the head retained their proper shape, the teeth were whole in the upper jaw, but the whole back and rest of the body, as far as we could see, was covered with a black film or skin, which I suppose to be the winding sheet in which the corpse was buried, being blended with the moisture of the body.

I also observed one of the arms to have fallen off from the body and the bones laying by the side of the coffin. While I was thus in a sort conversing with the dead and viewing those melancholy curiosities, I could not help reflecting that nothing of the philosophy and astronomy which once adorned the mind of that person and made him appear great among his contemporaries, was now to be seen in this state of humiliation and contempt… After sufficiently gratifying our curiosity, we moved on…

New book on Millen Brothers Case

April 4, 2015

 

tommy gun 2

The Millen Brothers/Abraham Faber case is the second most frequently used search term that leads people to this blog (the Sacco and Vanzetti case being #1).

The Millen brothers Murton and Irving, along with pal Abraham Faber robbed the Needham Trust Company in February, 1934 in dramatic fashion, complete with sub-machine gun fire and a daring getaway through town with hostage bank employees standing on the getaway car’s running boards and hanging on for dear life. The gang murdered two Needham policemen, Francis Haddock and Forbes McLeod and escaped with $14,000 in cash.

A new book on this sad chapter in Norfolk County history was released last week, and it is the definitive work on a topic that continues to fascinate locals some 80 years on. Tommy Gun Winter, written by Nathan Gorenstein and published by ForeEdge is a must read.

Gorenstein, who is related to the Millen brothers (he is the great-grandson of William Millen, brother of the Millens’ father Joseph), has written a carefully researched and extremely readable account of the events leading to the robbery, the crime itself, the trial, and the aftermath. The central character in this drama is Murton Millen, who masterminded the short but destructive crime spree of the “gang” and was the actual shooter. Gorenstein explores the psychological and family troubles of Murton which had a profound effect on his life. The other players in the tragedy are fully revealed as well; Murton’s wife Norma, brother Irving, and friend Abe Faber each had troubles of their own, and Gorenstein expertly shows how these troubles drew them to the charismatic personality and destructive power of Murton Millen.

For a quick summary of the crime,  read my previous two-part post, “75 years ago- an execution in Charlestown.” For the ultimate and only guide you’ll need to understand the events of 80 years ago in these parts, read Tommy Gun Winter.

ALSO: Author Nathan Gorenstein will be speaking at the Dedham Historical Society on April 19th, and the Framingham Barnes and Noble on April 20th!

http://www.nathangorenstein.com/

It’s been a long time…

October 9, 2014

Too long since my last post. So here’s a short one that’s a little bit of a mystery in keeping with the season. This article appeared in the Globe October 30, 1926:

East dedham Halloween 1926007

This is not the East Dedham that we are all familiar with, but rather south east Dedham at the end of Greenlodge Street. Purgatory Swamp is situated in the Fowl Meadows, that great expanse of wetlands on either side of the Neponset River. You can see the meadows clearly from the Neponset River Parkway near the old Stop and Shop Warehouse in Hyde Park and from the highway as you exit 95 North to get on 128. The major part of Purgatory Swamp is in Westwood, off of Canton Street. I don’t know much about the old stone quarry, but there is a Quarry Rd. in this area off of Vincent Rd.

If you know any more about the quarry or about this Hallowe’en event from 88 years ago…let me know.  More posts to come! Thanks for your interest!

Dedham Tales- An Anniversary

February 16, 2013

Who is this man?  Where in Dedham is he sitting?  Why did he come here?  Answers coming soon…

Shiretown 3.13

Sacco and Vanzetti 85 Years Later

August 23, 2012

85 tears ago today, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were executed in the electric chair at Charlestown State Prison. The following excerpt from my book Dedham:Historic and Heroic Tales from Shiretown gives a good summary for those who are not familiar with the case, and features some interesting and little-known facts for those who are.

With the exception of Jason Fairbanks’s brief journey to the shores of Lake Champlain after his escape attempt, the affair was strictly a local one: Jason’s crime, trial, imprisonment, execution and burial all happened within a few miles of his birthplace. The county’s most well-known trial and one of the most controversial criminal cases of the twentieth century, on the other hand, featured international players and a worldwide audience. The defendants, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, were immigrants from Italy. The defense attorney was from California. The judge lived in Worcester. Supporters of the defendants ranged from poor immigrants in working-class cities across the globe to wealthy and prominent writers, poets and celebrities.

Sacco and Vanzetti were self-professed anarchists who were arrested in May 1920 for the murder of two South Braintree shoe company employees during the robbery of the company’s payroll. After a six-week trial in the Norfolk Superior Court in the summer of 1921, the men were found guilty and sentenced to death. Those in agreement with the verdict cite ballistics evidence, eyewitness testimony, the behavior of the defendants at the time of their arrest (both men were carrying weapons and lied to police about their recent activities) and the lack of credibility of the alibi witnesses.

Critics of the verdict contend that anti-immigrant bias led to a conviction based on the defendants’  nationality and political views. The comments made by trial judge Webster Thayer outside the courtroom where seen as especially prejudiced. Worldwide demonstrations and protests supporting the men and decrying the legal process followed the convictions and intensified as their execution date approached. After an appeals process that lasted for five years, Sacco and Vanzetti went to the electric chair in the state prison at Charlestown on August 23, 1927. The case remains as controversial today as it was over eighty years ago, with historians and legal experts still debating the evidence, the behavior of the judge and jury, and the verdict. Dozens of books have been written on the topic, some concluding that the verdict was correct, others that neither of the men was guilty and still others that only one of the pair was guilty.

While the protestors could not save the lives of Sacco and Vanzetti, their efforts did bring about important changes in Massachusetts legal procedure. Legislation was passed that gave the Supreme Judicial Court more power to review cases and reverse death sentences. Other procedural changes allowed judges a wider range of questions to use in determining the potential prejudices of a juror. Governor Michael Dukakis observed the fiftieth anniversary of the executions by issuing a proclamation declaring a Sacco and Vanzetti Memorial Day. While the governor’s remarks acknowledged that prejudice during the trial had failed the men, he neither pardoned them nor declared their innocence.

The Norfolk County Courthouse on High Street in Dedham, 1922

While many people have a basic knowledge of the  case, the facts that follow will shed more light on the episode  and its connection to Dedham:

*Although the names Sacco and Vanzetti are forever linked in history, they spent much of the seven years following their arrests in separate jails.Vanzetti had been tried and convicted of attempted robbery in Bridgewater in 1920, and was sentenced to seven years in the state prison in Charlestown, where he was held until his 1927 execution, with the exception of his stay at the Dedham Jail during the trial, sentencing and appeals. Sacco spent the entirety of his time in Dedham, save for a short trip to Bridgewater for observation after a hunger strike and two weeks in the Death House in Charlestown prior to his execution.

*Residents living near the jail sometimes saw Sacco’s seven-year-old son Dante standing on the sidewalk outside the jail grounds, playing a game of catch with his father, who was exercising in the prison yard behind the wall.

*The all-male jury (women were not allowed to serve on juries in Massachusetts until 1950) was sequestered for the six-week trial in the courthouse. They slept on cots in the grand jury room and bathed in the basement of the same jail where Sacco and Vanzetti were being held. On the Fourth of July 1921, the members of the jury were taken on an outing to the Scituate shore, where they enjoyed a lobster dinner.

*Part of the testimony in the trial was given outside, on Norfolk Street behind the courthouse. The alleged getaway car had been parked there, and jurors, attorneys and witnesses gathered on the street and sidewalk to view the auto and listen to testimony.

*Mrs. Sacco stayed at the home of Supreme Court justice Louis D. Brandeis on Village Avenue for a time during her husband’s imprisonment, as a guest of Mrs. Brandeis.

*Over 600 men were questioned as potential jurors before a full panel could be seated.  The most common reason for being excused from the jury was opposition to the death penalty.   One sugar dealer attempted to get out of duty by feigning deafness, and was caught after he casually answered the judge’s questions, sending Sacco and Vanzetti into fits of laughter.After five hundred interviews yielded only seven jurors, Norfolk County deputies scoured the area, finding potential jurors at club meetings, band concerts, and on the job.  One juror from Quincy was taken from his wedding dinner and forced to postpone his honeymoon until the trial was over.

*A cap found at the crime scene was claimed by the prosecution to be Sacco’s. In a scene similar to that of the famous ill-fitting gloves in the 1995 trial of O.J. Simpson, defense lawyers had Sacco try to put the cap on, with comic results, as the ill-fitting cap rested on top of his head like a child’s party hat.

*A convicted murderer jailed alongside Sacco in Dedham confessed to the murders in November 1925. While awaiting a retrial in a separate murder case, Celestino Medeiros slipped a note into Sacco’s cell alleging his own involvement with a group of Italians in the South Braintree robbery and murder and declaring Sacco and Vanzetti innocent. Trial judge Webster Thayer dismissed the confession as a poorly crafted fabrication told by “a robber, a liar, a rum-runner,” among other things. Medeiros was found guilty in his retrial and was executed at Charlestown just minutes before Sacco and Vanzetti.

*During the trial, Sacco and Vanzetti sat in a wrought-iron “cage” used for defendants in capital cases throughout the commonwealth. The structure was more like a fancy Ferris wheel car than an actual cage, with tall sides and an open top and front. The cages were removed from all Massachusetts courthouses in 1960 as part of a civil rights initiative by state attorney general Edward McCormack. The cage was also used in the 1934 trial of bank robbers Murton and Irving Millen and Abraham Faber.

The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts has an excellent exhibit on the Sacco & Vanzetti case at The John Adams Courthouse, One Pemberton Square, Boston. You can also view the very informative “virtual exhibit” at their website by clicking on the link to the right.

You should also check out my previous posts for related stories:

May 18- A Tragic Anniversary

May 18, 2010

A Tragic Anniversary – Part 2

May 19, 2010

50 Years Ago- The “cage” is removed

May 23, 2010

75 years ago- An execution in Charlestown

June 7, 2010

An Execution in Charlestown- Part 2

June 18, 2010


A Bunny Tale Part 2

August 13, 2012

Here is the inspiration for Catherine Gruetzke-Blais’s design for her “Regal Rabbit.”

His name is Trooper and he is 4 months old. The Blais family had been looking for a Dalmatian puppy for several months at the time Catherine first heard about the Dedham Public Art Project, and you could say she was “seeing spots.”

The following photos show the transformation from plain white rabbit to Regal Rabbit.  Thanks to Catherine and her daughter Isabelle for the photos.

1.Patching and priming

2. Applying the base coat

3. Stippling for texture. If you look at the rabbit up close, the two-tone base gives it the appearance of marble.

4. Tracing a spot with a stencil made from a rubber shelf liner (top), collaging a paper spot onto the surface (bottom)

5. A few spots appear (top), more spots and some details (bottom)

6. Painting the details.

7. The eyes are made of glass tiles, set in like a mosaic.

8. DONE! Now he will answer Ernie Boch Jr’s invitation to “Come on down!”, and have a clear-coat applied by the Norwood auto dealership.

 

August 8, 2012


Regal Rabbit is installed at the East Dedham shopping plaza on the corner of High and Bussey Streets, not far from Pottery Lane where the original Dedham Pottery was made. He is sponsored by Delapa Properties. He’ll be there for a while crouching in the garden; go visit him and all of the other bunnies around town. They have certainly added a lot of color, creativity and history to our lives as we drive around doing our everyday chores and routines.

Thanks to Dedham Shines for sponsoring this project, to all the artists who participated, and a special thank yu to Catherine Gruetzke-Blais for letting me tag along on her creative journey.

A Bunny Tale

August 5, 2012

Dedham has been overrun with bunnies over the past few months; giant, multicolored, whimsical fiberglass bunnies peacefully crouching in parks, on sidewalks and by roadsides around town.  The bunnies are part of the Dedham Public Art Project,  sponsored by the non-profit organization Dedham Shines, whose mission is to promote “a vibrant community through programs that cultivate civic engagement and support for art, education, and culture.”  The bunny form is modeled after the familiar “crouching rabbit” figure featured on  Dedham Pottery original and reproduction pieces.

Fifteen artists in all were selected by jury to paint the bunnies, which will be auctioned off with proceeds going to Dedham Shines in support of the arts in town.  As of today, almost all of the bunnies have been installed  all across town. This is the tale of one of those bunnies, “Regal Rabbit,” designed and painted by Catherine Gruetzke-Blais of Framingham.

For more information about the Dedham Public Art Project,  and to see photos of all the bunnies that have been placed so far, click on the link to the Dedham Shines website at right.

June 25, 2012        The bunny who will become known as “Regal Rabbit” sits in the garage of Dedham Shines Co-President Jennifer Barsamian after traveling from Chicago where he was custom-designed and manufactured by Cowpainters, an art studio that specializes in producing fiberglass forms for public art displays.

Artist Catherine Gruetzke-Blais and Dedham Shines Co-President Monika Wilkinson lift the bunny (he’s actually  hollow and not too heavy) and head for Catherine’s mini-van.

With the bunny safely tucked in, Catherine gets ready for the ride home to Framingham, where her artistic vision will transform this plain white rabbit into something magical.

Next: The artist at work

My Kingdom for a Horse

December 7, 2011

Last night at the 201st Annual Meeting of The Society in Dedham for Apprehending Horse Thieves, I ended my term as president. It was a rather uneventful year, which is a good thing because it means that no horses were stolen on my watch. What follows is my farewell address, given to the 180 men and 5 women in attendance:


The president delivering his farewell remarks © Damianos Photography

Whenever I mention to people that I am a member of this esteemed organization, the first words out of their mouths are almost always “Are there even any horses in Dedham?” So I explain to them that about a hundred years ago the society shifted its focus from the apprehension of horse thieves to the consumption of a roast beef dinner and enjoyment of a clever entertainment at its annual meeting, although in the hundred years previous to that horse pilferers were pursued vigorously , not just in Dedham but in Norfolk County and beyond, besides which, the important fact is that this organization which is a remnant from our pre-law enforcement past has remained in existence for over two centuries and isn’t that an incredible achievement to which they respond. “Yeah, but are there even any horses in Dedham?” And thus my quest began.

I know there used to be horses in Dedham; I’ve seen them myself. The last time I remember seeing a horse that wasn’t part of a parade was at the Animal Rescue League on Pine Street. I know that the original purpose of that facility when it was founded was to rescue worn out and abused horses and give them a peaceful last few days here on earth. When the end was near, the horse would quietly walk into an inviting stall filled with hay, which was actually electrified and called “The Blessed House of Release.” In the 1980’s the Equine Rescue and Rehabilitation program was reestablished at Pine Ridge and that’s where I saw a horse happily cantering just a few years ago. But alas, due to construction at the site, all the horses have been moved to their Brewster facility.

The other time I recall seeing horses in town was right in my own neighborhood of Tower Street, between Paul Park and the Capen School. At at the end of my street there lived two horses, Big John and Jodie. Jodie was a Shetland pony, and Big John was a …big horse. I’d often see them being ridden and every so often being chased by their owners down my street. But that was over 30 years ago.

Then I thought of The Dedham Country and Polo Club on Westfield Street. I know that it was founded in 1910 and that polo was once played along the banks of the Charles at Samuel Warren’s estate called Karlstein. A quick look at their website however showed me that the main interests at the club these days are weddings and golf, and the only place you’ll see a horse is on their logo.

While I was on the internet I googled “horses in Dedham” and hit pay dirt. I should have started here to begin with. I found an ad for a horse for sale in Dedham! A five year old dark bay mare clean limbed and straight moving, great jumper, and only £1600! When I refined my search to Dedham, Massachusetts, USA…nothing.

I thought I should ask former president and friend Frank Walley. Like me, Frank is the great grandson of a blacksmith. The family business is now insurance, and when I talked to Frank he told me that while he has insured many a Mustang and Bronco over the years, they were not of the Equine variety.

So now I’m starting to get frustrated. I can’t believe that there is not a single solitary horse to be found in the hometown of the woman who grew up to star on TV as the wife of a man who owned a talking horse! I’m talking (of course, of course) of Connie Hines (DHS 1948) who played Carol Post on the old Mr. Ed show back in the sixties.

I have to admit that I was aware all along where I could easily find an answer to the question “Are there even any horses in Dedham?” We all know that in order to keep a horse, donkey mule, pony, llama, bovine, goat, sheep, alpaca or other large animal, here to known as “large animals,” one must provide an acre of land for the first animal, 2/3 of an acre for each subsequent animal, furnish an MMP (Manure Management Plan and), locate the facility for housing the animal 100 feet from any wetland or well, public or private, and obtain a permit from the town’s Board of Health. One phone call to town hall could end this quest, and with trepidation I made that call. And was told that at present there are no permits on file for permission to stable a horse in town. Lots of chickens, no horses.

But I have not given up. During my quest I came upon a story from a few years ago about a couple who had been harboring a paint mare named Fancy in a garage on Congress Place off of Bussey Street. The neighbors were upset because the horse was there without a permit and they did not want a “large animal” living in their quiet suburban neighborhood. Eventually Fancy found a temporary home in Westwood, but the story gives me hope. If there could be one illegal horse hidden in town, there could be two, a dozen, even hundreds hiding out in garages, garden sheds and in-law apartments. We just can’t be sure. So the next time someone asks me “Are there even any horses in Dedham, I will reply, there just might be, and if there are, they can rest assured knowing that I and the rest of the members of SIDFAHT are ever vigilant.

Thanksgiving in Old Shiretown

November 23, 2011


Post card from 1909

Most Dedhamites will be spending this Thanksgiving sharing a meal with friends and family or watching a football game on TV. Two centuries ago, Thanksgiving was celebrated with different traditions, such as the annual “Turkey Shoot.” The shoot of 1822 is described by resident Herman Mann in his diary:

“A number of the marksmen of this village met this morning with their rifles for the purpose of recreation as well as improving themselves in gunnery. It was agreed to fire upon sides; and two of the reputed best gunners were designated to choose. Twenty-six dead turkeys had been procured by the Company and every man was to fire ten shots. The turkeys hit were to be retained and divided among the party who won them. A piece of ground was selected and the turkeys set off about 30 rods. There were nine gunners upon each side and the turkeys were all hit before five rounds were completed. Pieces of paper were then substituted and placed on a plank at the same distance. The party that hit the least number of marks were to defray the supper expenses of their opponents.”

In later years, the dead turkeys were replaced by clay pigeons. In 1895, the most successful shooter of the day was a woman named Miskay, who, according to the Boston Globe, won the first turkey shot for while competing against 12 others of “the sterner sex.”

Happy Thanksgiving to all from Dedham Tales!