Archive for the ‘History/Mystery’ category

Where in Dedham?

March 11, 2023

Be the first to identify the location in the picture below and win a set of historic Dedham note cards! You must post your answer in the comments below, not on Facebook. I will announce the winner and identify the location in another post. Good luck!

50 Years Ago- Dungaree Day

February 10, 2023

I will be wearing dungarees next Wednesday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dungaree Day at Dedham High School. First, for any readers not of a certain age, dungarees are what we called jeans back in the day (my mother shortened the term to “dungies”). Language changes. The Wrangler Wranch in the Dedham Mall where I sold dungarees during high school was originally called Mr. Slacks. Besides, “Jeans Day” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Dungaree Day took place at Dedham High School on February 15, 1973. It was a student protest that was one of the culminating events in a years-long battle between students and school authorities over a dress code that students found to be outdated, arbitrary, and unfair; a protest that saw high schoolers emulating college protestors across the country and administrators making public statements that could have been lifted from the script of Footloose. No summary I could write could accurately explain the event and the prevailing cultural attitudes of the time that precipitated it. I was still in 8th grade at St. Mary’s (dressed in shirt and tie every day, no less) and only heard about it from older friends and siblings who were there. So here is some coverage from the Dedham Transcript of February 21, 1973.

Articles in the Patriot Ledger corroborated this account and added more details. When the police arrived, students were outside chanting “We want dungarees!” After the protest students either changed out of the offensive clothing or went home. No students were suspended for protesting, but one was sent home for “gross disrespect” and smoking. A smaller protest took place the following day with a small group of students carrying signs outside before classes began.

The Dungaree Debate was nothing new in Dedham. It had only been a couple of years earlier that the necktie requirement for boys and skirts for girls had been abandoned. For several years at School Committee meetings, concerned adults had pointed out examples of dress code scofflaws followed by pleas of “Why do we have a dress code if we don’t enforce it?” For example, police chief Walter Carroll remarked at the March 1970 meeting: “The dress code should not be relaxed. A disciplined school is a happy school.” At another meeting, Committee Chair Walter Flanagan’s comment “Dungarees are not permitted but I know they are wearing them at the junior high and the high school” prompted Superintendent Harry McKay to respond: “I’ll look into it. If they wear dungarees to school, they should be sent home.” In 1965, just a few years into his tenure as DHS principal, Thomas O’Donnell was interviewed for a Patriot Ledger story about dress codes at different area high schools. Referring to Dedham’s dress code (adopted by the student council in 1958) that stipulated hair length and style among other rules, Mr. O’Donnell seemed satisfied, stating: “The students cooperate, and so do the parents.” By 1973, the ban on dungarees was about all that remained of that old dress code, and the students needed to let the administration know it wasn’t 1958 anymore, times had changed, and the dress code was obsolete.

Mr. O’Donnell started as principal in 1962. He retired at the end of the 1972-1973 school year after serving the Dedham Public Schools for 41 years.

At a School Commitee meeting in November 1972 the dress code had been discussed but not modified. The idea for Dungaree Day was proposed at a December meeting of the Student Activities Union, which had formed in September as an alternative to the traditional Student Council. According to the Transcript, the majority of the 200 students at the meeting were against the idea and favored working through proper channels to try to lift the ban. But students had been working through “proper channels” for some time with no results. The Student School Committee, an advisory committee to the town’s elected school committee had voted in November 1971 to abolish the Student Dress Code. The School Committee took no action. Students at the Junior High won a significant victory in November 1970 when the Student Council convinced administration to allow girls to wear pants (only from November-April and NO DUNGAREES!) but the dress code was still very restrictive.

The Junior High dress code from September, 1970. In November, it was revised to allow girls to wear pants from November-April, then revised again to allow pants and pant suits year-round, but NO DUNGAREES! The necktie requirement for boys was also dropped.

Senior Susan Prodnak voiced her opinion on the dress code in a letter to the Transcript in December:

“Almost everyone agrees that the dress code is pretty ridiculous. Basically it is that you’re allowed to wear any color dungarees from saffron yellow to shocking pink with the exception of blue. If you are discovered in such blue attire, you are forced to miss several classes, and possibly several days of school.”

The Class of ’74 commemorated Dungaree Day in a collage in the yearbook.

The issue of dungarees seemed to come up at every school committee meeting before and after the Dungaree Day protest. In their public statements, administrators consistently voiced the same three arguments against the offending clothing: 1. Dungarees are play clothes and if students wear play clothes to school, they will be less focused and in a more playful frame of mind. 2. Dungarees are the uniform of the counterculture and the drug culture and the rebellious youth of America. Allowing students to wear them would result in a lack of respect and discipline and lead to disruptive behavior. 3. Rules are rules. Dungarees are against the rules; students need to follow the rules and face the consequences when they don’t.

The dungaree debate was resolved in July 1974 when the Massachusetts Legislature passed legislation known as the “Students’ Bill of Rights.” Among other protections for students was the ban on dress codes, unless the code was instituted for hygiene, health and safety purposes. The bill essentially put an end to dress codes in all Massachusetts high schools, as long as local school committees approved. Dungarees were allowed for the first time at DHS in the 1974-1975 school year, my sophomore year. The student conduct code was officially approved by the school committee the following October. Although my rights to freedom of expression had been affirmed by both the Massachusetts Legislature and the Dedham School Committee, they were overruled by a higher power, my mother, and so I never attended a day at DHS while wearing “dungies.”

Do you have any Dungaree Day memories? Share them in the comments below!

Coming in Part 2- This was not the first kerfuffle at Dedham High over a dress code, nor would it be the last. Stay tuned.

Where in Dedham: Lyons Bridge

January 27, 2023

This is the bridge spanning the Charles River at Lyons Street (Dedham) and Greendale Avenue (Needham). The plaque of the state seal can be found on the southwest bridge abutment (just beyond the guardrail on the left in the above photo). There has been a bridge at this site on the river since at least the 1740s;  this particular bridge was built in 1879 and is named for a 19th century landowner, Elisha Lyon. At one time Common Street intersected with Lyons St. just south of the bridge, but was dead-ended with the construction of Rte. 128.

Section of Needham (pink) and Dedham from an 1858 map. Common Street runs from the lower right by the property marked D. O’Brien to Lyons Street just south of the bridge. You can see the property marked E. Lyon on the Needham side by the bridge. Also notice the property of J. Wilson, from which Wilson Mountain gets its name.

There is a small parking area off Lyons Street and a walking path that travels under Rte.128 and connects with trails behind the Newbridge on the Charles complex. For those of you who have only glimpsed this picturesque spot while speeding down the southbound lane of 128, it’s worth a trip to truly appreciate its scenic charm.

Congratulations to Michael Nee for answering correctly! Thanks to all who participated.

View of the bridge from the Dedham bank of the Charles.
The path under 128.

Where in Dedham?

January 20, 2023

Be the first to identify the location of this photo, and win a copy of my latest book. Remember, do not respond on Facebook! The winner will be the first person to correctly respond in the comments section at the bottom of this page! Parr family members and co-authors not eligible. I will post the correct answer and announce the winner later tonight. Good luck!

New Feature: Where in Dedham?

January 18, 2023

This is a fun new feature of the blog that I will post from time to time. The first person to correctly identify the location of a posted photo will win a copy of my most recent book “Murder and Mayhem in Metrowest Boston.” Because I share my blog posts on several Facebook groups, the correct answer must be posted in the comments directly on the blog (found at the bottom of the post where it says “Leave a Reply”). Now, it is true that subscribers to the blog may have a slight advantage as they receive the post directly in their email as soon as it is published, so there’s that. To subscribe, scroll to the bottom of this page and enter your e-mail in the box. Then confirm your subscription by responding to an email you will receive from Word Press.

Sorry, no Parr family members may participate!

The first mystery photo will be posted on Friday, January 20th at 6:00 pm. Good luck!

Written with co-author Kevin Swope, Murder and Mayhem is a collection of true crime stories from Framingham, Natick, Wayland and other nearby towns spanning over 125 years. Published by The History Press/Arcadia.

The Paul Family of Dedham

January 14, 2023

Who put the Paul in Paul Park?/Part 3

The Pauls of Dedham made significant contributions to the town’s agricultural, civic and political life for almost two centuries. The loss of the 172 year old house in which they resided for eight decades is both surprising and disappointing, but the occasion offers an opportunity to shine a light on this old New England family.

The first Massachusetts settler, Richard Paul came from England sometime between 1620-1630 and settled in the Taunton area, where Pauls would reside for the next hundred years. In 1719 Richard’s grandson Samuel purchased about 100 acres situated between the Neponset River and Sprague Pond for his sons Isaac and Samuel. This area quickly became associated with the Paul family, and the bridge over the Neponset acquired the name it retains to this day, Paul’s Bridge.

Paul’s Bridge 2022. This bridge was built in 1849.

By this time this area of Dorchester had been annexed by Dedham and was known as the “Low Plain.” The house and land eventually came into the possession of Ebenezer Paul, (b. 1818) great-great-great-great-great grandson of Richard Paul. Ebenezer was a respected progressive farmer and member of the Allin Congregational Church (despite living on the edges of town some three miles from the town center.)

Farming pursuits were seriously curtailed in July of 1861 when the US government took over the bulk of Paul’s acreage for a training camp for Union soldiers. According to an article written for the Hyde Park Historical Record (Volume VI, 1908):

” …the first that Ebenezer Paul knew of any designs on his land as a camping ground was the sudden discovery one morn of two or three men sitting under one of the long rows of elms, a few of which are now standing, and his cows gazing upon them with interest. Later, it is said, they came and took the land, leaving him to apply to the State for compensation which he did, and I am credibly informed that he received three hundred dollars per year rental.”

The government also took over about 80 acres west of Sprague Pond owned by Isaac Tower (my childhood street was named for him) who after the war submitted a claim for rent and additional funds for damages done to his house and fences. The government paid the rent but denied the claim for damages.

The first two regiments to occupy the land were the Massachusetts 18th and 20th, and the site was known as both Camp Brigham and Camp Massasoit. Later it would come to be known as Camp Meigs and gain historical significance as the training ground for the 54th Massachusetts, the first Massachusetts regiment of African American soldiers who arrived in February 1863. The history of Camp Meigs and its association with the 54th Massachusetts Regiment is a rich and fascinating one that will not be explored here. There is a brief history of the camp in my book Dedham: Historic and Heroic Tales from Shiretown.

The Ebenezer Paul House (underlined in red) stood north of Milton Street (present-day Neponset Valley Parkway). This map shows the extent of the camp at Readville and its close proximity to both the Paul House and the Edson House. In 1868 most of the land east of Sprague Street would become part of the new town of Hyde Park, which was annexed by the City of Boston in 1912.
A section of Dedham from an 1858 map of Norfolk County. The red arrow indicates the original Paul house just west of Paul’s Bridge and the Neponset River. The blue arrow indicates the house at 390 Cedar St. where Ebenezer moved with his family in 1867. The house just east of that house (labeled N. Fales and S.F. Alden) was the home of Elizabeth Fales, who was murdered by Jason Fairbanks in 1801. It stood on the southeast side of Cedar St. near present-day Turner St. (See my earlier post “May 18- A Tragic Anniversary” from May 2010).

Ebenezer Paul sold his property and moved to the Cedar Street house in 1867, along with his wife Susan Dresser Paul and five children; Henry, (b.1851), Edward (b.1853), Isaac (b.1856), Ebenezer (b.1858), and Martha (b.1865). Upon his father’s death in 1898, Ebenezer Talbot Paul took ownership of the property and he and his wife Marietta Taylor Paul began the next chapter of the Paul family in Dedham.

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:


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!

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!