Memories of an Older Framingham — Part II

Originally published in the 1985 Framingham Historical & Natural History Society Newsletter by Phyllis Waite Watkins (1909-2005)
Mount Wayte

Mount Wayte (Waite) c. 1950

The woods, fields, and hills were an invitation to discovery. A few lopsided sandwiches and away to adventure! Mount Wayte was a good place. One could sit on the steps of the little temple and tell weird tales of the “Holy Rollers” and their strange ceremonies. The place had a peculiar fascination because of the Eames Massacre in 1676 and the fact that it had been part of the Wayte Grant in 1658, the marker for which is in the basement of the Academy.

Any place was a good place for a picnic, especially if it provided good cold water to drink. Indian Head provided both a well and the chance of finding Indian arrow heads. Nobscot was good if one didn’t believe that bears lived there and would catch you if you didn’t hurry. Actually, Nobscot is the highest point in the Town and Indian Head next, with the third being Bare Hill, or Normal Hill as we call it.

Half-way along Union Avenue at Newton Place was Bean Pot Hill. People said that there was a huge bean pot on the top of the hill where they actually baked beans. The hill is no more; they did more than level it – they made a depression where once it stood and built houses on it.

Learned’s Pond was the place to swim, canoe and skate. Mr. and Mrs. Stalker used to waltz, silent except for the hiss of their blades on the ice, like figures in a dream. For the swimmers there was quite a choice – Big Sandy off Warren Road, Nurses Dock by the Hospital, and Little Sandy off Dennison Avenue. Oddly enough, Little Sandy now is the Public Beach, complete with life guards. Of course, there were private places like the dock at “Bridgemere” the home of the Bridges which stood where the Marion High School now stands. The more intrepid swimmers went to “The Ledge” off Salem End Road. But it was very, very deep and one dove in.

The clear sparkling Sudbury River was a most pleasant place to swim. Once there had been a blue boat-house at a spot near Maple Street and the place still was known as “Blue.” There we could climb trees, swing out on a branch and drop into the cool, clean water below.

Sudbury River at Gordon's Bridge

Sudbury River at Gordon’s Bridge

There was skating on the reservoirs in winter. In summer the boys went in for an illicit dip.

Where Bowditch Athletic Field is now, there used to be a racetrack. I believe they had sulky racing. The racing the children did there was unofficial and with a great disparity in their mounts. There were wonderful flat fields on the land now occupied by Cushing Hospital. It was a perfect spot for young riders to play “cowboys and Indians.”

Traffic was slow and one had time to see each wagon, or pung, or car as it passed by. One bore the legend “W E Chenery Coal.” There was no punctuation and for a long time I assumed that it was a fancy was of saying “We Deliver Coal!”

The runners of the pungs (wagons on runners) stuck out beyond the body of the box and it was great fun to run and jump on the runner holding on to the back of the sleigh. This was called “hooking a pung.” One could pull a sled behind them also if the driver was willing. Both feats were somewhat dangerous!

There were sleigh rides where we snuggled into the fragrant hay, sang songs and went to the Wayside Inn for a light supper and hot cocoa.

Because of the many horses, street cleaners were a necessity. They were in evidence during the day with wide brooms, shovels, and pushcarts. But, nightfall brought even more of the workers plus water wagons which sprayed the roads to lay the dust and wash away any waste materials. One of the leading baritones of the day scored quite a success with a song about them. The words were, loosely, “For I am a city sweeper and I sweeps the street-ses clean. In the midnight hush with me whirlin’ brush and drawed by me trusty pair, on the streets that’s dark and bare.”

Trades people delivered in those days. Freddie Bastien came in his freshly painted wagon pulled by a gorgeous Morgan horse, his sturdy bull dog alert besides him. Heaven help anyone who tried to get near the wagon after Freddie had dropped the round, iron piece that acted as a hitching-post for the horse. That dog took his duties seriously! Freddie came into the pantry and checked to make sure the house was provided with flour, sugar, and other staples. If any child had a cold there would be a small bag of hard candy “for tickly throats.” Outdoors and indoors Freddie wore a visored cap. He gave a little salute with one finger to its brim but never removed it.

Mr. Strong came, too, his refrigerated wagon holding great sides of beef, lamb, and pork. The family trooped out to help select the meat!

Each household had its square ice card to place in the window telling the iceman the poundage one desired. Young athletes vied for the delivery jobs, as lifting a large block of ice and carrying it on the leather protective piece over the shoulders was the equivalent of a good workout in the gym lifting weights and paid money as well. This was the ice cut from the local ponds during the previous winter, packed in sawdust and stored in large ice-houses. The delivery man gave children the pieces left over from chipping a block to the proper size. On each street children ran to meet him and watch his dexterous use of pick and tongs.

Another treat was the FUDGE made and sold by a lady who had a little needle and thread shop on Pleasant Street. A peanut vendor sold hot, unshelled peanuts in striped brown, red, and green paper sacks with serrated tops: FIVE CENTS A BAG. He stood in the little park in front of the Baptist Church in downtown Framingham. At the railroad station one could buy small glass locomotives filled with colored candies – if your parents would let you.

Kendall Hotel at sunset, 1907

Kendall Hotel at sunset, 1907

There seem to have been more private parties from dancing school on. The Kendall Hotel downtown was available, also the Village Hall, and the Country Club if one’s home was not large enough to accommodate the guests and small orchestra. No matter where the parties were held, they were well chaperoned and each couple had to bow and curtsey to the people in the receiving line.

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Memories of an Older Framingham — Part I

Originally published in the 1985 Framingham Historical & Natural History Society Newsletter by Phyllis Waite Watkins (1909-2005)

From Arch Street looking toward the Amsden Building in South Framingham was like looking through a green, leafy tunnel as Union Avenue was about half as wide as it is now, and the branches of giant trees met overhead. Later, they were sacrificed in the name of progress for with the appearance of the trolley cars, the Avenue had to be widened. (As a young man, my Father rode on the first trolley from Boston to Newton and lived to see a man walk on the moon. Truly, an age of miracles!)

Eames Square

Eames Square postcard from 1906

Farm Pond extended about as far as Franklin Street. The land from there to the Avenue was filled in gradually but to this day the ground will shake if a heavy truck passes by. From Newton Place to the north, it was country. Franklin Street was not extended to Main Street until about seventy years ago.

Once there was a minor earthquake and although most of the Town felt it as a very minor tremor, pictures fell from walls, glasses shattered and people were aroused from their beds around Eames Square where the Old Red Eames House was originally located. These things were told to me by Henry Stearns, a neighbor and dear friend.

Union Avenue and Main Street provided a variety of scenes. There were the trolley cars, the wagons, the buggies, the early automobiles, bicycles, riders on horseback, children on ponies, and people on foot for it was not considered much of a walk from the Centre to South Framingham.

One day a pony stopped dead on the trolley tracks and would not budge. The young rider tried every trick she knew but nothing worked. There she sat, miserable with frustration and embarrassment until along came the trolley car. Even that had no effect on the pony. There she stayed to the amusement of the passengers, until the conductor left his post, came out, and pulled the pony off the tracks. (Ed. Note, the rider was the writer!)

trolley cars

Trolley Cars from 1906

On Sunday mornings we children went to Sunday School, then boarded the open trolley car and rode west along Worcester Road to meet our parents at the Country Club for Sunday lunch. We were allowed to order drinks; it was a mark of great sophistication to have a “horses neck,” a mild concoction as I remember it made of ginger ale, ice and a twist of lemon. It was a small, friendly clubhouse and sometimes we were allowed upstairs and into the secret room in the chimney where, in older times, people hid from the Indians. On Sunday afternoons we went for walks. The woods near the Country Club held an abundance of wild flowers and we gathered loads of Lady Slippers to take home.

Downtown, the Elks had a beautiful club and in the dining room was an ancient black man in livery who served the children weak coffee with gobs of sweetened, whipped-cream floating on it. As a very young boy, he had the honor of waiting on the great Abraham Lincoln. That must have been the high point of his life. He was regarded with awe – truly a link with history.

In retrospect that time wasn’t so long ago though for the Fourth of July parades still had a fair representation of Civil War Veterans. Oh, the Glorious Fourth with bands playing and flags flying, and dignitaries speaking, and salmon and peas for dinner, and firecrackers!

The Masonic Lodge was an active one. Once a year they had an entertainment for the children of members. The magicians were greatly appreciated but the aging soprano who sang, Oh, If Mother Hadn’t Married Daddy – Daddy Might Have Married Me!” was not well received.

Framingham had plenty of open fields for the Millwood Hunt to run. At the end of the season the owners of the properties were properly thanked for their courtesy. It was a splendid sight to see the horses at full gallop and hear the hounds in full cry! The sound of the horn was indeed like John Gilpin, “enough to rouse one from his bed.” Millwood Hunt was one of the oldest in the country and years later, when Framingham was no longer country, the members decides to disband and agreed that the name end with them although other towns were interested in taking it for their own use. The Millwood Hunt Club House still stands on the western end of Edmands Road.

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Dennison Tag Stringing from Framingham to Falmouth

Silk Tag Stringing in the 1860’s

Round Robin, Vol. 23, 1929. Dennison Mfg. Company, Framingham

It was only in 1915 that the silk tag stringing work was brought to Framingham. The following bits from a letter of J. A. Boyce, who had charge of this work during the twenty odd years that it was done at West Falmouth, reveals some of the changes which tag stringing has undergone:

“As the writer remembers it – sometime between the years of 1855 and ’60 – Mrs. Mathilda Swift came to West Falmouth to visit her husband’s family. She brought with her small cardboard jewelers’ tags to be strung with solferino and green silk strings. These tags she placed with near-by families to be strung. The work was done for her brother, E.W. Dennison, who was then manufacturing the tags.

The silk came in skeins and on spools and was wound by the stringer over pieces of heavy cardboard of various sizes, according to length of string required. The silk was wound on a hundred times over the card, cut with shears, twisted and knotted ready for stringing.

My mother, Annie R. Boyce, strung these tags with others, and when Mrs. Swift returned to the city the stringing was left in her care. For a year or more all work was done in Mrs. Swift’s name. Mr. Dennison, being pleased with the good work done, decided to have the stringing continued here – my mother to have full charge. Soon after this the cotton strung tags were introduced – tied with pink and green cord. Wooden hand winders were provided by the Dennison Co. to which we attached wooden cards of different sizes for various lengths of strings. Twenty or twenty-five turns of the wheel wound one hundred strings on a card, the strings cut with shears, knotted and put in paper bags, mostly six thousand in a bag.The Tag Shop, Falmouth

For several years all tag work was done in the house in which my mother lived. As the work increased it was moved to a small building on the premises. Up to 1872, all tags and boxes were brought twelve miles on the stagecoach from what was then known as Monument, the nearest railroad station. In 1872 the ‘Woods Hole Branch’ was finished and then all freight and express came by rail direct to West Falmouth.

About this time a two-story building was erected and joined to the smaller building before mentioned. Several years later the whole building, known as the ‘tag shop,’ was moved to a lot near the station where my father had built a house.

With still increasing business, sub-agencies were started in various parts of Falmouth, Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, Fairhaven, Brockton, Buzzard’s Bay, West Brewster, and Pocassett.

At first the strung tags were returned to the [Dennison] Company in bulk, but soon were largely boxed, wrapped and labeled in our shop before they were returned – first to Roxbury and later to Framingham.

Besides the stringing and boxing, we eyeletted a good many tags at the shop. Also had machines furnished by the Company for spangling* parchment tags, which were used on rings, etc. These machines were placed in various homes in town where the spangling was done.

At one time we made crepe paper sample cards. The largest number of tags strung in any one month, I think, was eleven million. The average month’s work was about five million. [Department 16 turns out about three million a day.]

On September 11, 1923, the building familiarly known as the ‘tag shop’ was burned, thus removing an old landmark.”


*Spangles are small four-pronged metal caps which were fastened to the ends of small parchment tags. Labor Bulletin, Issues 97-104. Massachusetts. Dept. of Labor and Industries. Division of Statistics, 1914

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Miss Sanderson’s Class at Village Hall

Originally published in the Spring 1985 Framingham Historical & Natural History Society Newsletter by Steve Herring

Village Hall daguerreotype

This is the earliest known photograph showing Framingham’s Village Hall. This photo shows Miss Lucy Sanderson and her class posing in front of the columns at one end of Village Hall about 1855.

The original of this photo is a daguerreotype, the early photographic method where a negative image on glass is mounted in a case where, when viewed from the proper angle, a positive image can be seen. This is an unusual daguerreotype for its size and subject. It is an outdoor view, rather than the usual studio portrait, and twice the size of most daguerreotypes.

In 1855 the Village Hall was serving many town functions. In addition to the offices of town government, it housed the library, the Centre district school, and its basement was home for the Fire Department’s handtub. The building was 20 years old then. In 2016 we observed its 182nd anniversary.

Miss Sanderson taught in Framingham district schools from 1850 to 1858, and at the Centre District (#1) from 1852 to 1856. She was the adopted daughter of George Bullard (1798-1868) who was Town Treasurer at the time. In 1858 Miss Sanderson married William O. Cogswell of New Salem, N.H. For reasons unknown to us, she died a year later at the age of 26.

The children are not identified. Except for the odd style of their clothes and some extremely close haircuts, they could be children of today. There are probably many residents of Framingham today who great and great-great grandparents are in this picture.

Mr. Danforth’s Farms Becomes the Town of Framingham

From Temple, History of Framingham, 1640-1880. Framingham, 1887 (adapted, Oct. 1958)

“My father says we’re going to be made a real town.” Henry Rice was watching the water pour over the falls of the Sudbury River where the wheel of the grist mill was busily seal, dark

Peter Bent tossed a small branch into the water and the two boys watched it sweep over the edge of the falls in the rushing current. It was the year 1693. “Yes,” he said, “I heard my father talking about it, too. He says a letter has been written to the governor. The court is meeting in Boston now and they hope the letter will be read.”

The two boys had been given the special treat of going with the men to John Stone’s mill while a new supply of flour was ground. Inside the mill, the men were talking about the same thing while the miller poured sacks of grain into the opening between the heavy grinding stones.

“We’ll never become a town this time,” said Mr. Bent. “Why not?” asked the miller.

“I hear Mr. Danforth does not approve of the plan. You know how important he is. If he says he doesn’t like it, the court will not give us permission to be a town this time. We’ll have to try again.” Mr. Bent spoke as if he would not give up.

Sure enough, the Governor, Sir William Phips, and the General Court did not approve the plan. But as Mr. Bent suggested, they did try again. In fact, in the next few years these people kept many men and horses busy delivering letters back and forth from Boston to the people who wanted to become a town.

In the year 1700, Peter Bent and Henry Rice met again at the grist mill. Now instead of coming with their fathers they were grown up and could bring the family grain by themselves.

“Well done!” said Peter.

“We finally convinced the governor!” exclaimed Henry.

They were talking about the letter that had won the farms at Framingham the right to be an incorporated town.

“I think the part about our not having a church of their own made them decide,” Peter said.

“It has been very hard to attend church in other communities. Sometimes when the weather is bad we cannot go at all, it is so far,” Henry added.06_01_005329

“We need a Meetinghouse badly and now we will be able to collect money and build one. Being a town gives us the right to do this.” The miller joined the two young men and added his thoughts on becoming a town.

“Being an incorporated town will give us the right to do many other things,” reminded Peter. “We will be able to get together and make rules that everyone will have to follow. We can have a school for our children, too.”

The two men, Peter Bent and Henry Rice, picked up their sacks of flour, said goodbye to the miller and set off for their homes. They were all very pleased that the court had finally ordered the farms or Plantation of Framingham to be a Township and enjoy all the privileges of a town. That very summer they had their first town meeting and began to take care of the business of a real town.