The Paul Family of Dedham

Posted January 14, 2023 by Jim Parr
Categories: History/Mystery, Lost Dedham

Tags: , ,

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.

Dance Fever

Posted December 23, 2022 by Jim Parr
Categories: JP's Dedham

This is me tearing up the dance floor with my mother in April, 1972 at my sister’s wedding reception at the Legion. As you can tell by my joyful expression, ballroom dancing was a favorite activity of mine, and I credit that love of the Terpsichorean arts to this man:

Russell Curry ran a Junior High Dance class in Dedham from the early 1950s through the 70s. The classes were held in the Oakdale School gym. According to the Transcript, Curry offered “instruction in ballroom dancing, Virginia Reel and a ‘Rock’ step, social graces, including introductions, reception lines, and general party behavior.” The boys wore suitcoats and ties, the girls wore dresses and white gloves, and upon arrival would sit on opposite sides of the gym until the dance selection was announced. Then the boys would take that long stressful walk across the floor to choose a partner. The only part of the class more stressful than this was “ladies’ choice.” At some point in the evening, the boys would take the arm of their partner and join the long receiving line to greet the evening’s chaperones, who were seated at the stage end of the gym.

“Hello Mr. and Mrs. Chaperone, my name is James Parr and this is Abbie Normal.” Handshakes all around, and then back to the dance floor to tackle the Rock step to the strains of “A Horse With No Name.”

Surprisingly, the classes were more popular with girls than boys, as evidenced by this Transcript headline that ran just 2 days before classes were to start in October, 1971.

Several of my DHS ’77 classmates and I are described in the article as the “brave crew of boys” who had already signed up for seventh-grade beginner classes. I remained part of the brave crew for the rest of seventh grade, but did not continue my studies the following year.

Arlington born Russell Curry was a well-known figure in the Boston dance scene beginning in 1938 when he joined his mother’s Curry School of Dance, an enterprise she had started in 1920. During World War II, Curry worked with the USO traveling to local army camps teaching dance steps to servicemen. In the 1950s, he began instructing young people across New England in social etiquette and dance. During his heyday, Curry taught over 15,000 students a year in 50 communities across New England.

In this news photo from 1944, Russell Curry and his partner Virginia Touse demonstrate a new dance called “The Boston” at the Hotel Bradford.

Curry retired some time in the 1970s and moved to mid-coast Maine where he continued to teach and choreograph shows for the Boothbay Region Playhouse. He died in Damariscotta in 1997 at the age of 79.

Despite my somewhat unenthusiastic participation in dancing school, I actually learned a few things and could demonstrate a decent waltz step, fox trot or cha-cha if called upon. I bet there are many other members of that “brave crew” and their one-time dance partners out there who could make the same claim.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year …

Posted December 23, 2022 by Jim Parr
Categories: JP's Dedham

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Back in the 1960s, my brothers and I had paper routes in town, delivering the Globe, Record American, and Herald Traveler. We got our papers from East Dedham News, which was operated by a man named Bob Stadelmann who was located in East Dedham Square. After the redevelopment of that area, Bob moved his operation to Sprague Street in the Manor. Eventually, I took over the routes by myself, delivering afternoon dailies and the Sunday editions in my Tower St. neighborhood.

Christmas was indeed the most wonderful time of the year for paperboys, for that’s when we got our holiday tips. You can’t imagine the excitement felt by 10-year old me on a cold Sunday morning in December as I placed the thick newspapers between the doors of my customers and found a card-sized envelope that might contain an extra buck or two. This card came from a Mrs. Donavan:

This next card was a cardboard stocking with slots on the inside that held ten dimes. It impressed me so much I’ve kept it for over 50 years! (After removing the dimes). Lillian O’Connor lived about three doors down from me on Tower Street but apparently did not know my name.

I gave up my paper route in high school but continued selling Sunday papers for East Dedham News. Bob’s son Mark would pick me up in his van and drop me off with a stack of papers at this island at the intersection of High and Milton streets, where I would stay until noon, or until I ran out of papers.

The intersection of High and Milton/Bussey

This job was such an important part of my high school experience, I mentioned it in my senior yearbook profile. I also wrote a poem called “Sunday Morning Lament.” It begins:

I sit all alone on an island in the street.
The wind at my back, the cold in my feet….

and continues…

A rip or a wrinkle in the funnies won’t do.
They all want a paper that’s clean and brand new.

Despite my poetic protestations, it was a good part time job for a high schooler. I sold a lot of papers, made a lot of money in tips and met some interesting characters, one of whom passed me a counterfeit $10 bill one morning. I was so scared, I gave him his paper and his $9.45 in change and stuffed the phony bill in my apron. Later I showed it to my mother who hid it deep in the top drawer of her dresser where it stayed for decades.

My change apron, from the bicentennial year 1976
Returning home to Tower St. with unsold papers, ca. 1975

Christmas 1972

Posted December 16, 2022 by Jim Parr
Categories: Lost Dedham

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Enjoy these ads that ran in the Transcript during December 50 years ago. I’m sure blog readers will remember most of these Dedham businesses- a few of them still exist!

The Walnut Street Water Tower

Posted December 9, 2022 by Jim Parr
Categories: Lost Dedham

Tags: ,

It’s been twenty-one years since workers dismantled the 103 ft. water tower on Walnut Street that had stood there since 1881. At the time, it was the oldest steel water tank in the country, but because it had no real historical significance (and was sitting on prime real estate in Oakdale) there was little objection to its removal.

Here’s a postcard from the early 20th century featuring the picturesque East Dedham Standpipe:

You can see the picturesque standpipe in this 1895 view from the top of the courthouse.

And finally, here is the “standpipe” on a pictorial map of town from 1954. I’m sure lots of people have their own special memories of this old Dedham landmark, feel free to share them in the comments!

A Few Thanksgiving Tidbits

Posted November 24, 2022 by Jim Parr
Categories: Dedham Then and Now

Tags: , ,

Culled from newspapers over the years…

Boston Globe, November 21, 1968
Boston Globe, November 30, 1956

Boston Post, November 29, 1907

HAPPY THANKSGIVING FROM DEDHAM TALES!

The more things change…

Posted November 18, 2022 by Jim Parr
Categories: ...all the old familiar places, Dedham Then and Now

Tags: ,

While I continue working on Part 3 of the Paul family story, enjoy this little diversion about Oakdale Square.

Oakdale Square doesn’t look all that different after 80 years, does it? The top photo is from a real estate postcard dated April 9, 1940. The bottom photo was taken November 11, 2022 after the 7-11 removed all traces of their presence here. When I was a kid, it was Danny’s Supermarket.

When the building was being constructed in 1925 (as 6 separate stores), the Dedham building inspector tried to halt construction due to neighbors’ complaints that the structure would create a “blind corner” for motorists. The builder, John Picone, of Newton, took his case to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts where it was heard by Associate Justice Harry K. Braley, who ruled in his favor.

Here’s an aerial view which was included on the Dedham Planning Board’s 1947 Master Plan for improvements in town. As you can see, Stop & Shop now occupies the vacant store. The original Oakdale School is seen at the lower right. It stood where the Veterans’ Park is today.

Paul Park Bonus Material!

Posted November 14, 2022 by Jim Parr
Categories: ...all the old familiar places, JP's Dedham

Tags: ,

Just when you thought you knew everything there was to know about the Paul Park neighborhood, check this out!

The wife of Ebenezer

was Marietta

His mother was Susan

and his grandmother was Martha

Who put the Paul in Paul Park? /Part 2

Posted November 12, 2022 by Jim Parr
Categories: ...all the old familiar places, JP's Dedham

Tags: ,

So, who DID put the Paul in Paul Park? The quick answer to that question is this man:

Ebenezer Paul bought the house on Cedar Street and surrounding acreage from the Fales estate and moved here with his wife Susan and children in 1867. He farmed the land, and over the years added to his substantial holdings by purchasing adjacent lots. At the time of his death in 1898, Paul’s land holdings extended from Oakdale to Endicott, the Manor and Greenlodge. Upon his death, son Ebenezer Talbot Paul took ownership and management of the property and began subdividing it for housing lots in the 1920s. Here is the 1925 plan for a development which includes the site of my childhood home on Tower Street:

Interestingly, the development was named Ashcroft Wood, but nobody I know ever called it that. Hemlock Street was never built, and Sycamore does not connect with Alden. Neither does Beech connect with Turner, probably due to the huge rock located in what was known as “Ogden’s Woods” back in the 60s.

Here is a plan for another development named “Farview.”.

Mt. Vernon Street was later named Kimball Road, although it is essentially the same street intersected by the railroad tracks. The Cedar Street house can be seen on the left, and although it looks as if old Ebenezer was surrounding himself with a multitude of neighbors on his once quiet farmland, most of the houses on these streets were built in the 50s, long after his death in 1930. As a result of these real estate deals, Paul died a wealthy man, with an estate valued at about $1.3 million in today’s dollars. His wife Marietta passed away in 1949 at age 92. They had no children.

In December, 1951, the Town of Dedham purchased just under 3 acres from the Paul estate for $2,625 (about $30,000 in today’s dollars) for recreational purposes.

Paul Park was dedicated on June 8, 1952 in a ceremony attended by several hundred people. Music was provided by the elementary school orchestra under the direction of Miss Rhona Swarz and the elementary school band under the direction of Robert Shreve. Musical selections included When Johnny Comes Marching Home, And the Band Played On, and The Star-Spangled Banner. Director of Recreation William Ryan described plans for further development of the park including a baseball diamond, bubbler, merry-go-round, swings, slides, fire places, sand-boxes, and picnic tables. Fifteen years later I would sit at one of those picnic tables and make a loop potholder for my mother. Thank you, Ebenezer.

STILL TO COME:

  • More Paul Family history
  • Shenanigans at 390 Cedar Street
  • The Mystery of the Missing Plaque

Who put the Paul in Paul Park? /Part 1

Posted November 11, 2022 by Jim Parr
Categories: ...all the old familiar places, Lost Dedham

The impending demolition of this house on Cedar Street has inspired me to make a post to this blog after a very long time. Having grown up on Tower Street not too far from this residence at 390 Cedar, I remember it well from passing it by on countless trips to church, school, work, or Endicott Pharmacy. While it clearly is being readied for the wrecking ball with its windows gone and construction fence surrounding the property, the house never really looked much better than this in all the years I lived in the neighborhood. It was obviously much older than the surrounding mid-century ranches and colonials, and its Greek revival styling hints at a more respectable past. In a series of posts over the next few weeks, I will offer a glimpse into that past and reveal the stories of the families associated with the house.

390 Cedar St. on November 10, 2022

A little farther east from this spot, on the corner of Cedar and Tower Streets, lies Paul Park. During the summer in the 1960s, Paul Park was practically my second home. My brothers and sisters and I would make the short walk there with neighborhood friends to spend the day making pot holders and plaster of Paris animals, playing red rover, checkers, and mancala (which we called simply KAY-la for some reason), and holding Jimmy Fund White Elephant Sales under the supervision of the young park instructors of the Dedham Rec Department. I’m sure none of us knew that the park where we spent so much time and loved so well owed its name, in fact its very existence, to the family who once lived in that spooky, rundown old house at 390 Cedar Street.